Nasir al Wuhayshi was the personal secretary of the now-deceased Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. Now, al Wuhayshi is the leader of Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is based in Yemen.
Like his old boss contemplated before he was killed by Navy SEALs in early May, though, al Wuhayshi is thinking that his organization could use a rebrand, an Arab diplomat tells Fox News. After all, al Qaeda has too much “baggage” attached to it.
The diplomat tells Fox that AQAP “is trying to attract more foreign fighters to its cause” and “is increasingly going by the name ‘Ansar al Sharia,’ which means Army of Islamic Law.”
When bin Laden died, it was discovered in his papers that he had thought about rebranding the entire organization to the catchy "Taifat al-Tawhed Wal-Jihad," which means Monotheism and Jihad Group, or the even snappier "Jama’at I’Adat al-Khilafat al-Rashida," which means Restoration of the Caliphate Group, as possible new names. Now his former underling is following through with the concept.
"After (Osama) bin Laden's death and the Arab Spring, the name (al Qaeda) seems to have negative connotations and baggage," said the diplomat, Fox reports.
The site notes that the number of jihadists going to Pakistan since bin Laden died has decreased, but there has been uptick of such travelers to Yemen and “the number of foreign fighters in Yemen now exceeds 1,000.” That would put the number in Yemen at “more than four times the number of al Qaeda members believed to be in the tribal areas of Pakistan,” Fox adds. Somalia is also considered a hotbed with more than 750 foreign fighters now training there.
"The al Qaeda core is no longer beneficial to be associated with ... because their main leader is gone," said Rick "Ozzie" Nelson, director of homeland security and counterterrorism at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, according to Fox. "One thing about AQAP is it's got remarkable name recognition, which can serve to help recruiting.”
However, it also attracts plenty of attention from anti-terror organizations as well. One hopes that simply changing its name won’t change that surveillance.