August 5th, 2013
06:04 PM ET

Source: al Qaeda leader urged affiliate to 'do something'

By Barbara Starr

A message from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to his second in command in Yemen told him to "do something," causing U.S. and Yemeni officials to fear imminent terrorist action, CNN has learned.

For weeks, U.S. and Yemeni officials watched a rising stream of intelligence about the possibility of a major terrorist attack in Yemen but grew increasingly alarmed after intercepting a message within the past several days said to be from al-Zawahiri, who is believed to be in Pakistan. The message was sent to Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror group's Yemeni affiliate. U.S. intelligence believes al-Wuhayshi has recently been appointed the overall terror organization's No. 2 leader.

U.S. officials cautioned that there may be multiple sources of intelligence including intercepts of electronic information from phone calls, web postings, but also interrogation of couriers or other operatives.

CNN had the information over the weekend and decided not to report the details about al-Zawahiri's involvement based on U.S. government concerns about the sensitivity of the information. Now that it has been widely reported in other media, including the New York Times and McClatchy, CNN has now decided to report it as well.

The United States has heightened its security stance by issuing a worldwide travel alert and closing a number of embassies and consulates over a large area of the Middle East and Africa this week.

The White House said the substantial security steps reflect an "abundance of caution" over intelligence information that indicated final planning by al Qaeda in Yemen for possible terrorist attacks on Western targets to coincide with the end of Ramadan this week.

The intercepted message further intensified concerns already heightened by increased terrorist chatter detected by intelligence agencies, as well as a series of prison breaks that freed al Qaeda figures.

A senior official with Iraq's interior ministry told CNN on condition of not being identified that top officials of al Qaeda in Iraq, including Adnan Ismail Najim Abdullah al-Dulaimi, escaped from Abu Ghraib prison during a jailbreak there last month and remain at large.

Yemen is an area of particular concern.

Three sources said the United States has information that members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are in the final stages of planning for an unspecified attack.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Monday that U.S. anti-terrorism efforts had decimated al Qaeda's global leadership and greatly diminished its core in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. But the threat still posed "has shifted to some of these affiliates, in particular AQAP."

Over the weekend, Interpol warned that al Qaeda has been tied to the prison breaks on July 23 in Iraq, on July 26 in Libya and four days later in Pakistan.

Separately, American special forces units overseas have been on alert for the past several days for a mission to attack potential al Qaeda targets if those behind the most recent terror threats against U.S. interests can be identified, a senior Obama administration official told CNN.

The official declined to identify the units or their locations because of the sensitive nature of the information.

The units, along with several others, were put on heightened alert by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week.

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Al-Zawahiri • AQAP • Yemen
soundoff (985 Responses)
  1. M.A.P.

    Islam is dead.

    August 7, 2013 at 8:32 am | Reply
  2. USMC1369

    Did Ayman al-Zawahiri really sat these things or was this made up by the C.I.A.? Either way, unfortunately, the people are dumb enough to fall for this manure from Washington!

    August 6, 2013 at 7:42 pm | Reply
  3. keith cossairt

    and this makes us tremble ? come on Barry.

    August 6, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Reply
  4. Eril

    This is a picture of a Dead Man Walking

    August 6, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Reply
  5. desert voice

    What al Zawahiri actually said, according to my "inner voices", was "Do something, before they skin me alive."

    August 6, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Reply
  6. drturi

    SOS to the NSA, CIA and FBI Elites Please share with the world!

    August 6, 2013 at 3:38 pm | Reply
    • as you were

      nut job

      August 7, 2013 at 10:50 am | Reply
  7. drturi

    What about offering the world a very specific date...SOS to the NSA, CIA and FBI Elites Please share with the world!

    August 6, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Reply
  8. joezez

    The terrorists know how to blow up your clothes!!!!

    Remove your clothes now!

    August 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Reply
  9. Anon

    There is a huge difference between being a Muslim, and being a jihadist, or a terrorist. The Media spends every waking hour of the day shaping the minds of the nation. It's teaching our youth to fear all Muslims, and to not seperate between the Muslim people, and the extremist. I do not condone what extremists do, but for you all to group all of Muslims into the same category as extremists, and terrorists is a little bit far fetched, as well as extremely wrong. Until you learn to differentiate the small percentage of people that are responsible for the horrendous acts, you do not deserve to speak your mind. All of you idiots who are saying "Destroy all of these nations that harbor blah blah blah" think about if other nations didn't like white supremist Americans, would it be correct for them to think they need to neutralize our entire nation? I didn't think so...

    August 6, 2013 at 11:52 am | Reply
    • Mohamed

      just pay your taxes

      August 6, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Reply
  10. John Doe

    I wonder if NSA ever redirect the spy satelite over America's Top Models house.

    (TV show joke, cut paste the last 9 words and google if you don't know)

    August 6, 2013 at 11:50 am | Reply
    • Derke

      I don't think we really need to google ANYTHING to understand your lame joke.

      August 6, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Reply
  11. Jake 2

    Why can't we find this slow fat old guy?

    August 6, 2013 at 11:35 am | Reply
  12. DK

    I would imagine the conversation was something like this:
    "Do something!!"
    "We're trying!! But everytime we send someone outside to "do something" we hear a loud "boom" and they don't come back! Why don't you come here and 'do something'?!"
    "Hello? Hello?" (crinkles paper by the phone) "I think I'm losing you! I will call you back!"

    August 6, 2013 at 11:35 am | Reply
    • EatYouAlive


      August 6, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Reply
  13. Richard Moore

    How many times are they going to bring this guy back from the dead?

    August 6, 2013 at 11:30 am | Reply
    • Francesco

      As many times as necessary to keep the status quo!

      August 6, 2013 at 11:36 am | Reply
  14. JDunker-oo

    It is time to vaporize the people of Yemen, and Pakistan..

    August 6, 2013 at 11:23 am | Reply
    • truthbringsfreedom

      Would you think it all right if Yemenis said the same thing about Americans? Of course not. Might does not make it right to kill innocent people. I have no problem killing people who are proven to be plotting the deaths of others, but let's at least discriminate between the evil and the innocent. lest we are evil ourselves.

      August 6, 2013 at 11:37 am | Reply
      • Aladeola

        Does the suicide killers or the terrorists distinguish between the innocent and those that are their true enemies?

        August 6, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • KRJ9

      If you had graduated from the 5th grade you would know how stupid that sounds

      August 6, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Reply
  15. Big B

    I like "Just Do It" better...

    August 6, 2013 at 11:09 am | Reply
  16. bdby

    the minders are at it on this site. I posted a respectable comment but it does not gel with CNN brass hence deleted.

    August 6, 2013 at 10:52 am | Reply
  17. Francesco

    Would any of these recent scare tactics have anything to do with Snowden – attempts to point the finger at him???? Prove Snowden wrong with more attempts to make Obama and the NSA look good?

    August 6, 2013 at 10:40 am | Reply
  18. Hal

    "Do Something" Sounds like my wife on a Saturday morning after a pot of coffee!

    August 6, 2013 at 10:37 am | Reply
  19. futureman

    Zawahiri passes gas, we jump!

    August 6, 2013 at 10:23 am | Reply
  20. sarcasm0

    How do those missiles taste, boys?

    August 6, 2013 at 10:12 am | Reply
  21. Joseph McCarthy

    Judging by all these ignorant anti-Zawahiri comments here, it appears that the Tea Partiers are out in force on this web page! These people here seem to wear their ignorance on their sleeve!

    August 6, 2013 at 9:57 am | Reply
    • Mr. Hand

      Are Libs fans of Zawahiri??

      August 6, 2013 at 10:13 am | Reply
    • AnAmerican

      Eff you.

      August 6, 2013 at 10:25 am | Reply
      • Joseph McCarthy

        Thank you AnAmerican, for your Tea Party salute. Now that's what I call "showing your true colors"!

        August 6, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Big Bear

      Goodbye, Maybe you can still get a plane ticket to Yemen! Most people.. I say Most "US People" here ...Are anti-Zawahiri..and anti-terrorist. You obviously have a different belief ?

      August 6, 2013 at 10:52 am | Reply
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