(CNN) – Some intelligence experts believe al Qaeda in Yemen was responsible for last week’s massacre in France and that intelligence agencies were blind to the development of that plot. If so, there may be frightening repercussions for the United States.
Al Qaeda’s in Yemen’s video claim of responsibility for the attack in Paris raises significant concern far beyond France, CNN has learned. U-s and French intelligence services are urgently working to determine if al Qaeda in Yemen AQAP secretly communicated with the Kouachi brothers after one or both returned from Yemen in 2011. If that communication happened, it was so secret it wasn’t detected despite the vast eavesdropping capabilities of the U.S. And that means the number one al Qaeda terrorist organization targeting the U.S. and threatening to bomb aircraft can plot and plan without the U.S. knowing about it.
Marie Harf, deputy state department spokeswoman said, “AQAP is the most dangerous affiliate associated with AQ core, particularly in terms of external plotting outside of their region where they’re located.”
It remains possible the Paris attackers had no direct orders from AQAP. But the us believes the al Qaeda in Yemen is now using advanced encryption technology as just one method to keep their operations secret from u-s spying. That alone gives AQAP huge room to maneuver.
Thomas Sanderson, CSIS said, “They could have seeded parts of Europe and other parts of the world with these individuals who have been trained and instructed to attack when they feel appropriate or they could have an ongoing cadre of individuals that come in and out of Yemen and set them off at a time of AQAP’s choosing.”
The U.S. calculates AQAP was already on the upswing in power for many reasons: Senior leaders Nasr al Wuhayshi, and master bombmaker Ibrahim al Asiri are all in secure locations in Yemen all still very much in charge. Its safe haven areas are large and secure. It’s continuing to recruit foreign fighters. All of this is raising questions about whether us drone attacks in recent years have even made a dent in the group.
The bottom line is, no one knows how much of a direct role AQAP played in the Paris attacks, but U.S. intelligence agencies at this point are already focusing on whether al Qaeda in Yemen may have even more planned.