Al Qaeda Leader in Yemen Pledges Allegiance to Zawahiri

Nasser al-Wahishi of AQAP embraces bin Laden successor.

July 26, 2011, 5:58 PM

July 26, 2011 — -- In a ten-minute audio message posted on Islamist web sites Tuesday, the head of al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate vowed loyalty to Osama bin Laden's successor and promised to keeping fighting against Yemen's American-allied government.

On behalf of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Nasser al-Wahishi officially recognized Ayman al-Zawahiri as the new global leader of al Qaeda. Zawahiri, a 60-year-old Egyptian doctor, was proclaimed the terror group's chieftain one month after bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs in a May 1 raid on his Pakistani compound.

"I give you allegiance of obedience in good and hard times, in ease and difficulty," says the message, "and in fighting the enemies of Allah as much as I can -- myself and your loyal soldiers who are with me [on] the Arabian Peninsula."

Both Saudi Arabia and Yemen consider Wahishi among their most wanted terrorists. Wahishi served as Osama bin Laden's secretary in Afghanistan until 2001. He was arrested in Iran and handed over to Yemen. With 22 other captives he escaped from a Yemeni prison in 2006.

In the new audio messages, Wahishi also says that AQAP would keep fighting until it overthrows the government of embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled for more than three decades. Saleh was badly wounded by shrapnel in June, and has endured months of public protest against his regime, but has not relinquished power.

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"My soldiers and those soldiers with me in the Arab gulf," says Wahishi, "will not give up nor give in until Islam is ruling by God's will and strength."

The audio's release comes a day after Yemeni government forces killed a top AQAP commander and nearly 20 other militants in southern Yemen, according to government claims that were later confirmed by tribal leaders.

AQAP Linked to Attacks on U.S. Targets

AQAP and radical Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki have been linked to multiple terror attacks on U.S. targets in the past two years, including the Fort Hood massacre, the failed "underwear" bombing of Northwest flight 253 over Detroit and the printer bomb plot, in which bombs shipped by cargo plane were intercepted before they reached their targets in the U.S.

With the aid of the Saleh government, the U.S. has used airstrikes to try to kill Awlaki. A U.S. missile strike in Southern Yemen just days after bin Laden's death just missed Awlaki.

Wahishi's message says that the revolts in Arab nations have "blown America's dreams to the winds" and given Muslims "a natural chance to rid themselves of the West's cross."

"Our war against the Zionist Crusaders remains," he says, "for they have chosen this war." "We are people of war; we were born from its womb and we grew up in its midst. It is as if we were only created to fight them and bother them."

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