Spy v. Spy
Late on Friday afternoon, AQAP posted this video “appeal” from a Saudi diplomat. The man, Abdullah al-Khalidi, is the deputy Saudi consul in Aden. He was kidnapped several weeks ago – the circumstances of which are still a bit murky – and eventually ended up in the hands of AQAP.
Whether he was sold to AQAP – which for me is the more worrying scenario – or whether AQAP actually kidnapped him remains unclear. Whatever the original case, he is clearly in AQAP’s hands now.
The video bills itself as an appeal to King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia to release al-Qaeda linked prisoners Saudi is holding. But a large part of the appeal is Khalidi explaining what goes in Saudi’s consul in Aden. Given the current climate in Yemen – and what we already know about Muhammad bin Nayif’s networks of spies and agents attempting to infiltrate AQAP, it really isn’t a surprise that Khalidi claims that a large part of the consul’s work is actually intelligence, including calling in targeting coordinates for US strikes – which were written about today in the New York Times.
It is, of course, impossible to know if Khalidi’s claims were coerced or if they bear any relation to the truth.
On Saturday there was another glimpse into the back-and-forth being waged between AQAP on one side and the US, UK and Saudi intelligence on the other.
Several news outlets in Yemen featured this statement from AQAP. The statement #52, which was the next in the sequential ordering AQAP gives its statements, claimed that AQAP had been penetrated by the NSB, which is one of Yemen’s two main intelligence arms.
That statement, which used the same (albeit easy to reproduce) letterhead, was never released on the forums and it is unclear how news outlets obtained copies.
Today, AQAP revealed in a second statement numbered 52 that the one news outlets in Yemen published on Saturday was a forgery. It reminded its audience to only trust statements put out by al-Fajr and released on the forums.
Coming so soon on the heels of the double agent who penetrated al-Qaeda and the State Department’s much-heralded counter ad, it seems clear that somebody or several somebodies is mixing it up with AQAP.
The fabricated statement that used AQAP’s style letterhead and numbering was clearly done by someone who knew what they were doing – and this is the first one that forced AQAP to respond. Something they have yet to do to the news of an undercover agent who was able to penetrate their ranks.