WASHINGTON – Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operatives know they’re being watched in Yemen by U.S. intelligence and are taking specific steps to stay alive.
Those steps, outlined in the electronic brochure “Expectations Full,” include, “not traveling outside the base, speaking in a low voice, not shooting your gun and not using the cellphone.”
“One of the methods of the enemy is that they will employ a spy plane to hover over your location for a period of time,” author Samir Khan wrote for aspiring terrorists who want to join the terror organization.
In the pamphlet, readers are warned that foot soldiers should prepare for isolation, long periods with no electronic communication and constant surveillance, among other things.
Khan, AQAP’s former editor and publisher of Inspire magazine, was killed in a strike on Sept. 30, 2011. The same strike snuffed out the life of American born, al-Qaida agitator, Anwar al-Awlaki.
It is widely believed the two men were killed by a U.S. drone, while traveling from the Al Jawf Governorate of Yemen to neighboring Marib province.
Clearly familiar with drones, Khan wrote, “You will be able to hear it from its loud and annoying bee-like sound. Then after the enemy gathers enough intelligence on the target from both aerial spying and ground spies, they will attack the area with different types of missiles.”
Khan warns they should not be fooled when the explosions stop.
“After the assault, they use their spy plane to watch for any movement and they may or may not kill the remaining mujahideen.”
Avoiding drones is paramount to AQAP after almost a dozen operatives were wiped out in two weeks.
“Al-Qaida is petrified of drones,” says Phil Mudd, a former CIA analyst.
Khan’s guidance on drones is part of a 16-page instruction manual for Western, English speakers. The manual covers operational and tactical terrorism topics, including how to conceal your identity, dealing with aerial bombardment, treating injuries, and secrecy requirements.
The document posted on the the Ansar al-Mujahideen Network demonstrates that AQAP operatives are acutely aware that life could end at any moment.
Khan tells potential recruits the excitement of waging jihad is often overshadowed by days and sometimes weeks of operational and literal silence.
“In Iraq, for example, there was a group of mujahideen who stayed inside a house for three months straight and witnessed no fighting, even though the fighting was hot and active on a daily basis,” he wrote.
“Also a brother from Afghanistan told me that he remained there for a year and only took part in an operation once. These are not unique cases; this is completely normal.”
U.S. intelligence and military officials are reluctant to discuss drones. However, recently, White House counterterrorism official John Brennan confirmed their use.
“Yes, in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives, the United States government conducts targeted strikes against specific al-Qaida terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones,” he says.
Another U.S. official confirmed growing concern about the organization, saying, “AQAP’s footprint in southern Yemen increases the chances that the group will establish a regional safe haven. This would be a dangerous development because AQAP’s anti-government fight and its terrorist plotting against the West are its two main goals.”
Intelligence experts say home-grown violent extremists (HVEs) are the future of the al-Qaida organization and they are seeing more and more examples of people heeding the call to launch attacks in the United States.
In fact, Khan’s booklet chastises American sympathizers looking for a chance to go abroad to attack the U.S.
“If you’re coming from the West, especially America, you might be asked by the leaders of the mujahideen or those who know where you’re from might ask you why you didn’t partake in jihad inside your country. If you tell them, ‘To help the mujahideen,’ they might tell you that attacking the enemy in their backyard is one of the best ways to help the jihad,” he wrote.
“If you’re an idealist, if you’re a believer in al-Qaida, you’re saying this is a strategic concept that they refer to leaderless jihad,” Mudd says.
“That is, there’s no central organization that requires somebody who wants to do something in Washington, New York or Los Angeles to control that operation. That person in a U.S. city might simply absorb the ideology and say let me go shoot up a shopping mall or a military base,” he says.
AQAP is continuing its dual approach of trying to recruit American HVEs to attack the homeland and produce creative, deadly schemes in Yemen.
Most recently, a new and improved underwear bomb was intercepted by the CIA. Designed to avoid detection by metal screeners, it followed the same pattern of bomb-making genius as the printer cartridge bombs in October 2010.
As menacing at the bomb threat seems, Mudd says, “Our big threat is one guy, who’s a bomb maker. Now I agree, he’s quite sophisticated. But it’s one guy. That is not a strategic threat. So I think tactically, we made a lot of success. We’ve got to clean up some pieces here including the bomb maker.”
And if those pieces are not cleaned up, the U.S. official WTOP spoke to says AQAP, which is holding its own with the government of Yemen, is going to continue making advances.
“Unless its gains are reversed, AQAP will have more flexibility to conduct external attacks from a position of strength,” he says.