Det har vært tre oppsiktsvekkende store fangerømninger fra fengsler i Libya, Irak og Pakistan den siste tiden, og i alle tre tilfeller har et stort antall al-Qaida-medlemmer rømt.
Dette skjedde samtidig som det ble kunngjort at Nasir al-Wuhayshi, leder av al-Qaida i den arabiske halvøy, AQIM, er utnevnt til nestkommanderende i al-Qaida.
Det var kommunikasjon mellom Zaymin al-Zawahiri og al-Wuhayshi som førte til at USA stengte 21 ambassader og konsulater verden over.
Prison breaks last week in Iraq and Libya appear al-Qaeda-related and one in Pakistan was perpetrated by the Pakistani Taliban, which is closely linked to al-Qaeda, said Thomas Joscelyn, a terrorism analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Hundreds of inmates were freed in each, including many al-Qaeda operatives, he said.
Together the news looks like a «coming-out party» for al-Wuhayshi, the new chief of AQAP, whom Zawahiri last week named his second in command, Joscelyn said. Al Wuhayshi, who had been a deputy of Osama Bin Laden since before 9/11, was himself broken out of a Yemeni prison in 2009.
«Under his leadership of AQAP, he was able to seize turf in Yemen while simultaneously launch plots against the United States,» Joscelyn said.
Al Wuhayshi’s rise in the organization shows that Obama administration officials, such as CIA Director John Brennan, were wrong to try to distinguish between «al-Qaeda central» and the movement’s affiliates in other countries, Joscelyn said.
«If this guy is now general manager of al-Qaeda operations and its affiliates — this shows (that) just because he’s in Yemen doesn’t make him any less of a core al-Qaeda member,» Joscelyn said.
Joscelyn tror ikke nødvendigvis at stengningen av ambassader betyr at al-Qaida oppgir planen. Da USS Cole ble angrepet utenfor Jemen i oktober 2000, var det etter et mislykket forsøk på å angripe USS Sullivan i januar.