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Fahd al-Qusa’: Survey Says….

I woke up this morning to a program about Sudanese musicians on al-Jazeera with a breaking news banner saying there had been an explosion near the British Embassy in San’a. I had to wait a couple of hours, but the news is finally coming in and it seems as though rockets targeted a British diplomatic car, missed, and injured three bystanders. The attack, according to News Yemen, took place in the neighborhood of Nuqum, which is of course near where the British Embassy is. This comes two days after AQAP posted a new hour and 4 minute video on its attempts to get Muhammad bin Nayyif.

But the real reason for my post is the confusion on the status of Fahd al-Qusa’ al-Awaliqi, (or Quso as the journalist kids have it) one of the USS Cole suspects, who has been released from prison and rejoined al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In recent days there have been conflicting reports on exactly what has happened to al-Qusa’, who remains on the FBI’s most wanted list. There are, to my mind, three possible scenarios, doubtful, possible, probable:

1. The first report, from late September 2010, which came right before the Friends of Yemen meeting in New York, claims that al-Qusa’ was arrested by Yemeni security forces in the operation in al-Hawta. I haven’t seen much more on this and a Google Arabic search yields four articles, all of which seem to stem from the same source. For my money if the Yemeni government had actually captured al-Qusa’ on September 22 or 23 it would have done much more to publicize it. I rate this scenario doubtful.

2. The second scenario is that Fahd al-Qusa’ was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan. This was first reported, or at least I first saw it on a news website I don’t know much about that was following a German news agency – the trail of sources here has me a bit skeptical. Today, this news has been picked up by some Yemeni news websites, like News Yemen. There is no new reporting here, just an Arabic version of the English translation of the German original. You see the problem.

Like first scenario I have my doubts about this one. If true it would suggest a much closer level of cooperation and transfer of individuals from Yemen to Afghanistan/Pakistan than was previously believed. This would be big news, huge news actually and would be problematic for a number of different people in a number of different areas, and would have repercussions on court cases in the US. I would like to rate this scenario doubtful as well, but since I’m locked in to the scale I posted above and since I suppose this could be true, I will rate this scenario possible.

3. Finally, the only scenario that has not been the subject of any recent news reports is the one I judge to be the closest to the case, and that is that Fahd al-Qusa’ is still alive and a member of AQAP living at or around his home in Shabwa in the al-Awaliq tribal territory. I rate this scenairo probable.


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