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Homeland Security

Nasir al-Wuhayshi: From Bin Laden Aide to AQAP Chief

by VOA News June 16, 2015

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) chief Nasir al-Wuhayshi was the United States' highest level Al-Qaida target since the 2011 raid in Pakistan that killed former leader Osama bin Laden.

The 38-year-old Wuhayshi was with bin Laden in Afghanistan in the late 1990s, rising to become his personal secretary as the terror group trained militants and directed major attacks against American targets including bombing the USS Cole and flying passenger jets into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

When the U.S. retaliated by invading Afghanistan, Wuhayshi fled to Iran where he was later arrested and sent to prison in Yemen. But he escaped in 2006, tunneling out with 22 others, and a year later was named the head of Al-Qaida's operation in Yemen.

AQAP emerged in 2009 with the combination of the terror group's Yemeni and Saudi branches, with Wuhayshi leading the way. He continued to focus on the United States, with a failed plot to bomb an airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day that year.

A few weeks later, the U.S. State Department officially designated him and AQAP as terrorists, placing a $10 million bounty for information leading to his arrest.

Praised 9/11 attacks

In recorded messages, Wuhayshi lauded the September 11, 2001 attacks and warned President Barack Obama that more danger awaited Americans. 'What is coming is greater and worse,' he said after bin Laden's death in May 2011.

But by then the United States was hitting back at AQAP with a campaign of drone strikes targeting the militants in Yemen. They hit leaders and other members, including Wuhayshi's brother Abdulrahman, who died in an airstrike at the end of 2011.

His standing further increased in 2013 when bin Laden's successor, Al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, elevated Wuhayshi to be the group's second in command.

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