A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

BAAD - Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) - 2012


Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is a highly active al-Qa’ida affiliate that mainly operates in Yemen. It was founded in 2009 as a merger between al-Qa’ida in Yemen (AQY) and al-Qa’ida in Saudi Arabia under the current leadership of Nasser al-Wuhayshi with greater allegiance to al-Qa’ida core.[2] AQAP’s main predecessor, al-Qa’ida in Yemen, formed in the early 1990s, in response to the United States’ presence in Yemen as well as in response to internal sociopolitical issues within Yemen.[3] U.S. military actions influenced the group’s first coordinated attack in which they bombed the USS Cole, a navy vessel that was destroyed in Yemen’s Aden port.[4] The United States and Yemen cooperated on aggressive counterterrorism measures which strained the organization’s leadership and resulted in a period of weakness until 2006.[5] AQY was restored after Nasser al-Wuhayshi led an escape out of Sanaa’s maximum-security prison along with 23 other convicted terrorists in 2006.[6] Under al-Wuhayshi’s new leadership the group worked to reorganize itself, as well as recruit new members.[7] In 2008 the group carried out one of its largest operations, attacking the American Embassy in Sanaa and killing 12 people.[8] In 2009, as a result of al-Wuhayshi’s efforts to expand AQY’s insurgency and al-Qa’ida in Saudi Arabia’s efforts to escape Saudi Arabia, AQY merged with al-Qa’ida in Saudi Arabia. After this merger, both AQY and al-Qa’ida in Saudi Arabia continued their operations as al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).[9]

AQAP is a Sunni Islamist group that seeks to break down the secular political structures throughout the Middle East and create theocratic regimes while establishing an Islamic caliphate in the Arabian Peninsula.[10]  The group also aims to spread their jihadist movement to Israel to liberate Muslims in Palestine, implement sharia law, and expel foreign forces and influence from the Arabian Peninsula. AQAP generally targets Shiite Muslims, specifically Houthis in North Yemen, Jews, foreigners, as well as foreign and government security forces.[11] AQAP has its own media branch, Al-Malahem Foundation, which releases videos, audio clips, and publishes the group’s magazine, Inspire.

AQAP’s most well-known attack was an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound flight on December 25, 2009; however, it was ultimately unsuccessful.[12] Within a month of this incident, the organization was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the United States.[13] AQAP has expanded with the creation of their insurgent arm, Ansar al-Sharia (AAS), in spring 2011 in an effort to increase support in southern Yemen.[14] In 2013, AQAP engaged in peace talks with the Yemini government; however, no agreement was reached.[15] View full narrative

Quick Facts for 2012


1558 (Total of 1998 through 2012)


Approximately 1,000

Territorial Control:
Controls Territory (1)

Funding through Drug Trafficking:

Sorry, but there are no organizational details available for this group at this time.


Primary Ideology

  • Ag = Anti-Globalization
  • An = Anarchist
  • En = Ethnic
  • Ev = Environmental
  • Le = Leftist
  • Re = Religious
  • Ri = Rightist
  • Se = Separatist
  • Su = Supremacist
  • Vi = Vigilante


  •  Ally
  •  Suspected Ally
  •  Rival
  •  Violence
  •  Mixed Relations


  •  Blue 0 - 1479 fatalities
  •  Green 1479 - 2958 fatalities
  •  Yellow 2958 - 4437 fatalities
  •  Orange 4437 - 5916 fatalities
  •  Red 5916 - 7396 fatalities

Lethality is calculated as the total number of fatalities from 1998-2012.


Icon sizes depict approximate relative sizes of the organizations.

  • Smallest 0 - 10 members
  •   11 - 100 members
  •   101 - 1000 members
  •   1001 - 10000 members
  • Largest > 10000 members

Other Notes

Icons with no color coding or ideology icon have no detailed data at this time, and are provided as relationship information only.