From The MEMRI Archives: At Time Of His Death In Drone Strike, Senior AQAP Leader Sheikh Nasr Al-Ansi Was A Pioneer In Social Media Recruiting – On Facebook, In Twitter Q&As, And More

June 28, 2016

The Yemen-born Sheikh Nasr Al-Ansi, who was killed at age 39 in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in May 2015,[1]  was a senior military leader and top propagandist and recruiter for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In the months prior to his death, he had appeared in several AQAP videos,[2] having risen to prominence after other key AQAP figured were killed, also in U.S. drone strikes.

Al-Ansi had fought in Bosnia against the Serbs in 1995, in Kashmir in 1996, and in other places;[3] he was a veteran of the jihad in Afghanistan, where he trained at Al-Qaeda training camps in the late 1990s, meeting and working with Osama bin Laden. He worked with Al-Qaeda’s Al-Sahab media foundation, and in 2001 was sent by bin Laden to the Philippines to build Al-Qaeda’s military and administrative capability there. Upon his return to Afghanistan was arrested and imprisoned for six months. Al-Ansi joined AQAP in 2011, likely becoming deputy to AQAP leader Nasser Al-Wuhaishi in 2013, following the death of previous deputy Sa’id Al-Shihri in a U.S. drone strike earlier that year.[4]

Prior to his death in a May 2015 U.S. drone strike, Al-Ansi had emerged as a leader in recruitment for AQAP, and was considered a high-value target.[5]

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In 2013, according to reports, Al-Ansi was active recruiting for AQAP on Facebook, recruiting individuals from the Gulf region, especially from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as well as communicating with recruits via email and over the phone. A December 2013 report said, citing a Yemeni security source, that Al-Ansi had good “persuading” skills.[6]

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In a series of three videos of an interview with Al-Ansi released in November 2014 via Twitter by the AQAP media company Al-Malahim, Al-Ansi discussed a wide range of topics. In the first installment, released November 6, he reiterated AQAP’s call for jihadi groups to Attack Western targets wherever possible and urged Muslims living in the West to carry out lone-wolf attacks. He answered questions, inter alia, on the success of the U.S. method of drone strikes such as it used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Iraq, and Syria, which he said was doomed to failure, and pointed to the recent establishment of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent to underscore that the idea of global jihad remains popular and full of potential.[7] In the second video, released November 9, he noted that the mujahideen were successfully carrying out attacks on the “Crusaders” and that striking the Americans was the same as striking the Jews and that the mujahideen had never abandoned their da’wa against the Jews.[8]

On November 11, AQAP announced, via Twitter, that it would be accepting questions, also via Twitter, to be featured in an upcoming interview with Al-Ansi.[9]

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Endnotes:

[1] CNN, January 14, 2015; MEMRI JTTM report AQAP Confirms Death Of Top Official Nassir Al-Ansi, May 7, 2015.

[2] The last of these was AQAP’s claim of responsibility for the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. MEMRI JTTM report AQAP Claims Responsibility For Paris Attack; Says Attack Was Planned By AQAP And Al-Zawahiri In Consultation With Anwar Al-Awlaki; Threatens More ‘Tragedies And Terror’, January 14, 2015.

[3] Shabakataljahad.com/vb/showthread.php?t=41588.

[4] MEMRI JTTM report AQAP Figure Recruited Kuwaitis, Saudis, And Others Via Facebook, Email And Over Phone, December 13, 2013.

[5] MEMRI JTTM report AQAP Confirms Death Of Top Official Nassir Al-Ansi, May 7, 2015.

[6] MEMRI JTTM report AQAP Figure Recruited Kuwaitis, Saudis, And Others Via Facebook, Email And Over Phone, December 13, 2013.

[7] MEMRI JTTM report In New Video, Senior AQAP Official Reiterates Call For Attacks On Western Targets, Urges Muslims In West To Carry Out Lone Wolf Attacks, November 6, 2014.

[8] MEMRI JTTM report In Second Part Of Interview, Senior AQAP Official Sheikh Al-Ansi Says: Striking The Americans Is The Same As Striking The Jews, November 10, 2014.

[9] MEMRI JTTM report AQAP Uses Twitter To Conduct Interview With One Of Its Top Officials, November 11, 2014.