By Paul Cruickshank
A purported new issue of an English-language al Qaeda magazine linked to the Boston terrorist attacks was posted on an al Qaeda web forum earlier this week, but its content beyond its cover page was scrambled, suggesting the possibility the forum was hacked by Western intelligence agencies.
The magazine, produced by al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate - al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which regularly includes how-to instructions for followers to carry out terrorist attacks in the West - has received significant scrutiny in recent weeks.
Investigators believe that Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev accessed Inspire magazine, and the material had instructions on bomb-making, a law enforcement official told CNN earlier this month.
According to analysts, the explosive devices the Boston bombers built had striking similarities to a bomb recipe in the first issue of the magazine - "How to build a bomb in your Mom's kitchen" - that has been downloaded by militants in multiple Islamist terrorist plots on both sides of the Atlantic.
By Paul Cruickshank, Tim Lister, Nic Robertson and Fran Townsend
Several Yemeni men belonging to al Qaeda took part in the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi last September, according to several sources who have spoken with CNN.
One senior U.S. law enforcement official told CNN that "three or four members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," or AQAP, took part in the attack.
Another source briefed on the Benghazi investigation said Western intelligence services suspect the men may have been sent by the group specifically to carry out the attack. But it's not been ruled out that they were already in the city and participated as the opportunity arose.
The attack on the compound and subsequently on a "safe-house" to which Americans had been evacuated left four U.S. citizens dead, including the ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.
Read the full story here.
By Carol Cratty
A former top leader of a Somali terror group, who also had ties to al Qaeda, secretly pleaded guilty in 2011 to federal charges and has provided the U.S. government with valuable intelligence information, the Justice Department said on Monday.
Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame was a leader of al-Shabaab in Somalia and arranged a weapons deal at one time with Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to court documents.
The U.S. military captured him at sea in April 2011 while he was traveling from Yemen to Somalia. He pleaded guilty in New York the following December to nine terrorism charges.
Among other things, Warsame admitted to conspiring to provide material support to al-Shabaab and al Qaeda's operation in the Arabian Peninsula, conspiracy to teach others how to make bombs, and receiving miltary-type training from a terrorist organization.
By Paul Cruickshank
AQAP, al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen, on Thursday released a tenth issue of its glossy online English language magazine Inspire.
Dated "Spring 2013" and compiled after French forces moved against jihadists in Mali in January, the magazine contains a familiar litany of propaganda articles railing against the West (with "crusader" France the latest target) mixed with how-to advice on launching terrorist attacks in the West, all illustrated with colorful graphics and catchy titles.
But the new issue also cleared up a mystery that has long puzzled counterterrorism analysts.
In late 2011, several weeks after a U.S. drone strike killed the magazine's original creative forces - American militants Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan - a new English speaker called Abu Yazeed began to appear in AQAP's videos. His face was partly in shadow, but one could make out glasses and a full beard. He spoke with an accent.
At the time, counterterrorism analysts had no idea who he was.
But the latest issue of Inspire lifted the veil in an obituary piece revealing that Abu Yazeed had been killed while fighting in southern Yemen.
It described Abu Yazeed al Qatari as a Yemeni in his early 20s from "a respectable family" who spent much of his life in Qatar.
It said that several years ago, Abu Yazeed had traveled to the UK to earn a degree in a subject he was "passionate" about - science - but he quickly grew disillusioned with the "hypocrisy of the West" and abandoned his studies to go back to Yemen to join up with jihadists. FULL POST
By Pam Benson
A Justice Department memo determined the U.S. government can use lethal force against an American citizen overseas if the person is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or one of its affiliates.
The paper provides insights into the Obama administration's policy of targeted killings carried out by the use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists. Several of those strikes have killed Americans, notably Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni American who had been connected to plots against the United States but never charged with a crime. Awlaki died in a drone attack in September 2011 in Yemen.
The 16-page white paper - titled "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qaida or an Associated Force" - is a policy paper rather than an official legal document.
NBC News first reported on the contents of the memo, which was given to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees last June. A congressional source verified the document's legitimacy to CNN.
By Barbara Starr and Greg Botelho
Yemeni authorities working with the U.S. Navy intercepted a ship carrying a "substantial" cache of "illegal arms" such as surface-to-air missiles, potent explosives and rocket-propelled grenades, a U.S. official and Yemen's government said Monday.
The incident took place in Yemeni territorial waters in the Arabian Sea last Wednesday, according to a statement issued five days later from Yemen's embassy in Washington.FULL STORY
By Michael Martinez, CNN
The second-in-command of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was killed in a recent counter-terrorism operation, the Yemeni government confirmed Thursday.
Abu Sufyan al-Azdi, also known as Saeed al-Shahri, died after being wounded in the governorate of Saadah on November 28, said the Supreme National Security Committee of Yemen. He was also one of the most wanted men in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Azdi was buried by militants linked to al Qaeda at an undisclosed location inside Yemen, the government said in a statement.
The confirmation comes a day after a prominent jihadist announced that al-Azdi died "after a long journey in fighting the Zio-Crusader campaign."FULL STORY
By Hakim Almasmari
A U.S. drone strike on a vehicle just outside the capital of Sanaa killed six suspected al-Qaeda militants Wednesday night, three Yemeni Defense Ministry officials told CNN.
The strike took place in Al-Masna'a village of Khawlan district, 35 kilometers southeast of the capital. Three of the killed were senior members of al Qaeda, two of whom were Saudi nationals, the officials said.
Security teams were deployed to the scene, one of the officials said.
"Yemen needs stability and these militants must be killed if Yemen has a chance to stabilize, " said a Defense Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to media.FULL STORY
By Larry Shaughnessy
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spelled out the future battle against al Qaeda, praising what has been done so far but warning much more work remains.
Speaking about the September 11 attacks in a speech at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank, Panetta said, "We will do everything possible to ensure that such an attack never happens again. That means counterterrorism will continue as a key mission for our military and intelligence professionals as long as violent extremists pose a direct threat to the United States."
He said efforts against the core al Qaeda group have been largely successful. "Al Qaeda's leadership ranks have been decimated. This includes the loss of four of al Qaeda's five top leaders in the last 2½ years alone - Osama bin Laden, Shaikh Saeed al-Masri, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Abu Yahya al-Libi."
By Tim Lister and Paul Cruickshank
Former CIA Director David Petraeus is expected to tell House and Senate committees Friday that soon after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, it suspected Ansar al Sharia was responsible. But just what is Ansar al Sharia, and why wasn't it identified as a prime suspect two months ago?
There is no easy answer.
Ansar al Sharia is more a label than an organization, one that's been adopted by conservative Salafist groups across the Arab world. The name means, simply, "Partisans of Islamic Law."FULL STORY