The formation of a new jihadist group in the Sinai and its recent attack on Israel illustrates how al-Qaeda is exploiting opportunities arising from the Arab Spring. Al-Qaeda is also capitalising on the establishment of an Islamic Emirate in northern Mali to support its local affiliate in developing a capability in the longer-term to allow it to strike the West. Meanwhile, there are unconfirmed reports that a US drone strike in Pakistan killed the senior al-Qaeda figure Abu Yahya al-Libi while al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is now overtly recruiting volunteers for jihadist attacks online.
The key points are:
-New Sinai-based jihadist group credibly claims attack on Israel; reflects growing organisation of unaffiliated, Bedouin militants in Sinai; al-Qaeda exploiting consequences of Arab Spring to gain stake in Israel-Palestine conflict, boost legitimacy and support, fulfil Islamic prophecies; increased threat to Israel from Sinai
-Al-Qaeda Central will build jihadist capabilities in Mali with goal of helping al-Qaeda in Maghreb strike West; franchise will remain focused on North Africa for now; al-Qaeda exploiting post-Arab Spring opportunities across North Africa, but tailoring approach to circumstances in individual countries
-US claims Abu Yahya al-Libi killed in drone strike in Pakistan, but reports neither confirmed nor disproved; al-Libi has unique combination of eloquence, religious training and military experience which al-Qaeda would struggle to replace; if confirmed, his death would undermine group’s propaganda machine
-Al-Qaeda openly recruits volunteers for attacks; reflects risk from infiltration highlighted by foiled ‘underwear bomb’ plot, damage to recruitment from death of Anwar al-Awlaki; move also intended to increase jihadist sympathisers’ engagement with al-Qaeda, spread fear in West