U.S. Officials: Al Qaeda ‘extremely active’ in Somalia and Yemen

(Kristina Wong)

National security officials warned Congress on Wednesday that Al Qaeda’s branches in Yemen and Somalia remain “extremely active.”

“Al Qaeda’s official branches in Yemen and Somalia continue to remain extremely active,” National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen told lawmakers during a hearing.Al-Qaeda logo

Olsen said in prepared remarks that the Yemen-based group was the Al Qaeda affiliate “most likely to attempt transnational attacks” against the United States, according to Reuters.

“Of course, over the past five years Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has sought on three times to take down an airplane bound for the United States,” he said at the hearing.

President Obama touted the counterterrorism efforts against the al Qaeda affiliates during his speech to the nation last week, portraying them as a model for taking on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out [ISIS] wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years,” Obama said on Sept. 10.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson echoed Olsen’s remarks, warning that while ISIS was the “most prominent terrorist organization,” his Department has to stay focus on a range of terrorist threats.

“From my homeland security perspective we have to stay focus on a range of threats. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, for example, is still active,” Johnson said.

Olsen said that while ISIS sees itself of the global jihad movement, Al Qaeda core “for now remains the recognized leader of a global jihadist movement.”

“Terrorist groups are now active — now active in at least 11 insurgencies in the Islamic world,” he said.

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* Originally published on The Hill on 17/09/2014

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