Al Qaeda held a meeting recently that was the largest in years, and it has many worrying about what they may be planning and how they were able to hold such a large meeting without the CIA or other U.S. intelligence agencies knowing about it or using a drone to fire on the meeting. In attendance at the meeting was the crown prince of al Qaeda, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, seemingly calm and collected without any fears of a U.S. drone strike, an opportunity missed according to terrorism experts. The U.S. will not confirm that they did not know about the meeting or it just was not possible to get a drone there, but regardless, the terror group’s meeting has many wondering if a new set of plans is in the works.
A new video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years. And the CIA and the Pentagon either didn’t know about it or couldn’t get a drone there in time to strike.
U.S. officials won’t comment on that, but every frame of the video is now being analyzed by the United States.
In the middle of the clip, the man known as al Qaeda’s crown prince, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, appears brazenly out in the open, greeting followers in Yemen. Al-Wuhayshi, the No. 2 leader of al Qaeda globally and the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has said he wants to attack the United States. But in the video, he looks unconcerned that he could be hit by an American drone.
The video started appearing on jihadist websites recently, drawing the attention of U.S. officials and global terrorism experts. U.S. officials say they believe it’s authentic.
“This is quite an extraordinary video,” Paul Cruickshank, CNN terrorism analyst, said.
The video shows al-Wuhayshi addressing more than 100 fighters somewhere within Yemen, Cruickshank said, a restive nation on the southwestern portion of the Arabian Peninsula. The al Qaeda leader, he said, is “taking a big risk in doing this.”
But he doesn’t mince words about his mission.
In a speech to the group, al-Wuhayshi makes it clear that he’s going after the United States, saying “We must eliminate the cross. … The bearer of the cross is America!”
U.S. officials believe the highly produced video is recent. With some fighters faces blurred, there is worry it signals a new round of plotting.
“The U.S. intelligence community should be surprised that such a large group of al Qaeda assembled together, including the leadership, and somehow they didn’t notice,” said Peter Bergen, CNN national security analyst.
There is good reason to worry.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, also known as AQAP, is considered the most dangerous al Qaeda affiliate. The CIA and the Pentagon have repeatedly killed AQAP leaders with drone strikes. But the group is now emboldened.
“The main problem about this group is that it has a bomb maker who can put bombs on to planes that can’t be detected,” Bergen said.