While the threat posed by Yemen has been written about a lot recently — especially since the attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to bring down a Detroit-bound plane — this report goes into more detail and paints a fairly bleak picture.
“The group seeks to recruit American citizens to carry out terrorist attacks,” Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry writes in a letter accompanying the report. “These Americans are not necessarily of Arab or South Asian descent; they include individuals who converted to Islam in prison or elsewhere and were radicalized.”
The report quotes “US diplomats and law enforcement officials” as warning “that a significant threat to US interests could come from American citizens based in Yemen. Most worrisome is a group of as many as three dozen former criminals who converted to Islam in prison, were released at the end of their sentences, and moved to Yemen, ostensibly to study Arabic.
“US officials told committee staff that they fear that these Americans were radicalized in prison and travelled to Yemen for training. Although there is no public evidence of any terrorist action by these individuals, law enforcement officials told committee staff members that several have “dropped off the radar” for weeks at a time.”
The report also warns of “a group of nearly 10 non-Yemeni Americans who traveled to Yemen, converted to Islam, became fundamentalists, and married Yemeni women so they could remain in the country. Described by one American official as ‘blond-haired, blue-eyed types’ these individuals fit a profile of Americans whom Al Qaeda has sought to recruit over the past several years.”
There is also several mentions of Anwar al-Awlaki, the US-born cleric who moved to Yemen and was until recently thought killed in a US air strike. Al-Awlaki has been linked by email to Major Nidal Hasan, charged in the Fort Hood shooting.
According to the report: “US law enforcement officials said they are on heightened alert because of the potential threat from extremists carrying American passports and the related challenges involved in detecting and stopping homegrown operatives.”