The most serious terrorism threat to the U.S. comes from members of a Yemen-based offshoot of al-Qaeda, said a senior FBI official.
Leaders of the group called al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, known as AQAP, have published articles on the Internet describing their intent to strike the U.S., said Mark F. Giuliano, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s assistant director for counterterrorism.
“While core AQ remains a serious threat, I believe the most serious threat to the homeland today emanates from members of AQAP,” said Giuliano, in remarks prepared for delivery today at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Several key AQAP figures were born and educated in the U.S. and understand the country’s culture, vulnerabilities and security protocols, he said. The group exploits social media to share its knowledge with people of a similar mindset, he said.
“They realize the importance and value of reaching English-speaking audiences and are using the group’s marketing skills to inspire individuals to attack within the homeland,” he said.
AQAP claimed credit for the December 2009 attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight on its approach to Detroit and the October 2010 attempted bombings of air cargo flights headed for the U.S. from Yemen, he said.
Efforts by the U.S. to disrupt al-Qaeda have taken a toll on the group, making training, moving money and communicating “very difficult,” he said. Still, “core al-Qaeda” continues to present a “high threat” to national security, as it has the intent and capability to attack the U.S.