Earlier this year, National Counterterrorism Center director Michael Leiter called AQAP "the most significant risk to the U.S. homeland." In March, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said AQAP was al Qaeda's most dangerous branch.
AQAP has claimed responsibility for the failed "underwear" bombing of Northwest flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009, and last November's parcel bomb plot, in which bombs were shipped via FedEx and UPS from Yemen to targets in the U.S. The bombs were intercepted before they could detonate.
Just four days after bin Laden was killed in by Navy SEALs in a raid on his Pakistan compound, the U.S. attempted to kill AQAP leader Anwar al-Awlaki with a drone attack in southern Yemen. While several AQAP members were reportedly killed, Awlaki survived the missile attack.
President Obama has authorized the CIA and the military to kill Awlaki, a U.S.-born radical cleric linked to accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan and alleged underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Officials of the Yemeni government, which has been fighting AQAP with U.S. aid, said in September that soldiers had surrounded Awlaki in the village of Houta, but then said soldiers had instead captured two-dozen al Qaeda fighters and a "vital terror headquarters."
In his statement, AQAP leader Wahishi also threatened Arab leaders who are cooperating with the U.S. in the hunt for al Qaeda. He pledged "intensive and harmful revenge" on the U.S and any "allies who celebrated the death of bin Laden, including the Yemeni and Saudi governments."