Terrorism Profiles

Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

Posted By November 13, 2015 No Comments

Alternative Names:

Ansar al-Shari’a (AAS), Al-Qaida of Jihad Organization in the Arabian Peninsula, Tanzim Qa’idat al-Jihad fi Jazirat al- Arab, Al-Qaida Organization in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al-Qaida in the South Arabian Peninsula, and Al-Qaida in Yemen (AQY).




The foundational leader of AQAP was Nasser al-Wuhayshi.  In June 2015, Wuhayshi was killed in an apparent US missile strike, and AQAP announced Qassim al-Raimi as his successor. 


AQAP is hierarchical, compartmentalized, and decentralized, analysts say, which allows it to withstand attacks and arrests.

Funding Sources:

Financing for AQAP follows the patterns of other Al Qaida affiliates. It includes sources such as bank robberies, drug proceeds, and charities. In addition, tens of millions of dollars are generated through kidnappings for ransom as well as personal donors in Saudi Arabia. 


AQAP was formed in January of 2009 through a union of the Saudi and Yemeni branches of Al Qaida core. Analysts rate AQAP as the most lethal al-Qaeda affiliate as it can carry out domestic insurgency while still focusing on Western targets. In recent years AQAP was able to capitalize on instability in Yemen, establishing strongholds on the country’s south and east and sometimes taking control of entire villages.

Ideological Roots:

See Al Qaida.


The primary goal of AQAP is to purge Muslim countries of Western influence, remaining consistent with principles of militant jihad. AQAP’s specific objectives include overthrowing the regime in Sana’a; assassinating Western nationals and their allies, including members of the Saudi royal family; striking at related interests in the region, such as embassies and energy concerns; and attacking the U.S. homeland. The group has vowed to target oil facilities, foreigners, and security forces as it seeks to topple the Saudi and Yemeni governments, and establish an Islamic caliphate.


AQAP-linked operatives rely mainly on bombings. Significant examples include:

  • Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab attempted to bomb a Detroit-bound jet on Christmas Day, 2009, but failed due to a technical malfunction
  • two attempts to down Chicago-bound cargo planes with bombs disguised as printer cartridges which were intercepted in October 2010 based on Saudi intelligence
  • May 2012 attempted bombing of a U.S.-bound airliner was foiled by a double agent
  • claimed responsibility for the January 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris that killed twelve people. 
  • In addition to these bombing examples, the group has also engaged in guerilla-style raids on military and security targets. 

 Updated November 13, 2015