On April 25th, the federal government released an intelligence advisory about the upcoming anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death. He was killed in Pakistan last year on May 2nd. At this time, there is no credible threat information to indicate a possible attack coinciding with next week’s anniversary. Generally information is released around the time of a significant anniversary that a potential threat may occur. This happened in September last year, close to the 10th anniversary of 9/11. However, terrorist attacks have rarely coincided with an anniversary or historic event.
Al Qaeda affiliates called for retaliatory strikes against the United States following bin Laden’s death. Two of these groups, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen and al-Shabaab in Somalia, remain the most threatening to American interests at home and abroad. As a result, we continue to see a strong campaign targeting militants in Yemen and Somalia. Recently there has been an expansion of American drone activity in Yemen, in an effort to better contain AQAP’s development and exploitation of the country’s political instability. Earlier this week on April 22nd, it was reported a senior al Qaeda commander, Mohammed Saeed al-Umda, was killed by a drone strike in Yemen with two of his associates. Officials are claiming the Central Intelligence Agency conducted the strike.
Al-Umda is described as the “fourth-most wanted” militant leader in Yemen for providing logistical and financial support to AQAP. He was convicted in 2005 for taking part in the 2002 Limburg Oil Tanker attack in the Gulf of Aden. His reported death is considered another successful blow to AQAP’s leadership as he commanded several of the group’s military operations within Yemen.
Reportedly, the bin Laden advisory focuses on the potential for lone wolf operatives or small groups to conduct attacks. Recently, there have been numerous autonomous plots and attacks including the 2010 Stockholm bomber, the 2011 Frankfurt airport attack, the 2011 Saudi national student in Texas who plotted to attack New York City targets, and the 2011 arrest of a naturalized U.S. citizen targeting New York and New Jersey police cars and post offices. While lone-wolves tend to be less sophisticated in their methods and abilities to carry out attacks, these operatives are typically more difficult to detect and disrupt. MSA Security urges its clients to remain vigilant about the current threat environment.