Intercepted al Qaeda leaders’ records sparked embassy closures: report

Intercepted al Qaeda leaders’ records sparked embassy closures: report

PanARMENIAN.Net - The Obama administration’s decision last week to close nearly two dozen diplomatic missions and issue a worldwide travel alert came after the United States intercepted electronic communications in which the head of al Qaeda ordered the leader of the group’s affiliate in Yemen to carry out an attack as early as this past Sunday, Aug 4, The New York Times reported citing American officials.

The intercepted conversations last week between Ayman al-Zawahri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden as the head of the global terrorist group, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the head of the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, revealed what American intelligence officials and lawmakers have described as one of the most serious plots against American and Western interests since the attacks on Sept 11, 2001.

American officials said that it was highly unusual for senior al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan to discuss operational matters with the group’s affiliates. The communication between the two men seems to indicate that Zawahri — whom administration officials have portrayed as greatly diminished and hindered in running a global terror network while deep in hiding — still has a strong influence over a group in Yemen that has become al Qaeda’s most powerful offshoot.

In recent weeks, counterterrorism officials said, Zawahri has elevated Wuhayshi to what one official described as the new “general manager” of the global terror network, making him the second most important man in the organization.

The identities of the two Qaeda leaders whose discussions were monitored and the imminent nature of the suspected plot — in the intercepts, the terrorists mentioned Sunday as the day that the attacks were to take place — help explain why the United States, as well as other Western governments, took such extraordinary steps in the past few days to close embassies and consulates in the Middle East and North Africa.

Wuhayshi fled to Iran from Afghanistan in 2001, but was extradited to Yemen in 2003. In 2006, he was part of a mass breakout from a prison in Sana that led to a resurgence of al Qaeda’s operations in Yemen. In recent years, the Qaeda group there, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has tried to carry out several high-profile attacks.

The State Department on Monday defended its decision on Sunday to extend the closing of 19 diplomatic posts in the Middle East and North Africa through at least Saturday because of continued fears of an imminent attack.

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