With recent drone strikes hitting top al Qaeda leaders, fear has started to grow inside the organisation that the US has a network of spies operating.
U.S. airstrikes on the terror group are sowing paranoia within al Qaeda’s ranks about who among them may spying for the Americans, intelligence officials and terrorism analysts say.
Jihadist social media accounts on Wednesday claimed that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror group’s Yemen division, had executed an alleged spy. Humam al-Hamid was blamed for the drone strike last week that killed AQAP’s top man. The claims that Hamid had tipped off the Americans to the leader’s location couldn’t be independently verified. But U.S. intelligence officials are aware of the allegations and say it shows how attacks on AQAP—which have increased in the last two months—are having a secondary effect: fomenting distrust inside the terror outfit.
“Reports of AQAP’s execution of purported spies suggests unease among the group amid high-profile losses,” a U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast. From the American perspective, that’s a good thing, because it throws the group off balance and makes it harder to plan attacks.
“Such distrust is often difficult to overcome and can create friction at a critical time,” the U.S. official said.
U.S. intelligence officials have long said that AQAP poses the greatest threat to the United States because the group has built bombs that can be placed on airplanes without alerting security systems.
For several weeks now, terrorism analysts have been tracking jihadist suspicions, mainly expressed through social media, that AQAP had been penetrated by spies. These agents, the jihadists fretted, were tipping off the Americans and their allies to the locations of key figures, including the group’s spokesman, who was killed in a drone strike in April. Read more »