Source: Asharq Al-Awsat, By Arafat Mudabish
Asharq Al-Awsat met with Al Qaeda commander Fahd Mohammed Ahmed Al-Quso AKA Abu Huthaifah Al-Yemeni in the mountainous Shabwa governorate in south-east Yemen. An Al Qaeda commander, Al-Quso is the third most wanted terrorist by the US, behind Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. He is wanted for the bombing of the USS Cole in Aden which resulted in the death of 17 American sailors.
During his meeting with Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Quso expressed surprise at reports that he had been killed in a US drone attack in the Pakistani province of Waziristan in September earlier this year, confirming that he was very much still alive.
According to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, Fahd Al-Quso was born in Aden, Yemen, in 1974. He is on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist List due to his involvement in the attack on the USS Cole on 12 October 2000. He is also believed to have met with two of the suicide bombers who later carried out the 9/11 attacks on America.
After the attacks, Al-Quso was detained by the Yemeni authorities, but managed to escape from prison in 2003. He was recaptured in 2004 and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment on charges relating to the attack on the USS Cole, however much to Washington's chagrin he was released by the Yemeni authorities in 2007. The US believes that Fahd al-Quso is the head of an al-Qaeda terrorist cell in Yemen, and has links with the leadership of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Reports suggested that al-Quso had been killed in a US drone attack in Waziristan on 8 September 2010; however Washington did not verify this.
Asharq al-Awsat managed to meet with Mohammed Ahmed Al-Quso AKA Abu Huthaifah Al-Yemeni in the Shabwa governorate of Yemen, obtaining photographic evidence that he is indeed alive. Al-Quso refused to confirm or deny that Al Qaeda camps are present in this region, although he did reveal that an air strike that targeted his farm in the remote mountain valley of Rafd in eastern Shabwa province in December 2009 had resulted in 5 deaths, and the destruction of the farm.
As for reports about his death, al-Quso said he was surprised by this, and described these as being nothing more than "rumor." Al-Quso also told Asharq Al-Awsat that he was surprised about the reports that he was in Waziristan, particularly in light of "the situation in Yemen, which is similar to the situation in Pakistan."
He went on to say that "on the contrary, my presence in Yemen is better in light of the crisis situation with the Yemeni government."
Fahd Al-Quso AKA Abu Huthaifah Al-Yemeni – who the US is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his capture or conviction – did not deny that he had received offers from the Yemeni government inviting him to surrender himself in return for certain guarantees and promises that he refused to reveal, although it is likely that this would include a guarantee that he would not be extradited to the US. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that for him, and others wanted by the authorities "we will not give up our religion and the principles that we hold in our hearts…this is unlikely."
Al-Quso also told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Yemeni government had "overstated" the size and presence of Al Qaeda in Yemen in order to justify "the killing of innocent people in the air strikes that are taking place in some regions."
There had been ambiguity over Al-Quso's status after reports that he had been killed in a drone attack in Waziristan, however following Asharq Al-Awsat's interview with him, and the corresponding photographic evidence, there can be no doubt that Fahd Mohammed Ahmed Al-Quso AKA Abu Huthaifah Al-Yemeni is very much alive.
Al-Quso is listed as being considered "armed and dangerous" by the FBI, and the list of charges against him include; Conspiracy to Kill United States Nationals; Murdering United States Nationals; Conspiracy to Murder United States Military Personnel; Murder of United States Military Personnel Aboard the USS Cole; Use and Attempted Use of a Weapon of Mass Destruction Against Nationals of the United States Aboard the USS Cole; Conspiracy to Attack National Defense Utilities; Providing Material Support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization, amongst others.