In February, a month after Al Qaeda in Yemen merged with its Saudi counterpart to form AQAP, Dennis Blair, the US director of national intelligence, identified the country as a potential new haven for the group.
"Yemen is reemerging as a jihadist battleground and potential regional base of operations for al Qaeda to plan internal and external attacks, train terrorists, and facilitate the movement of operatives," said Admiral Blair (ret.).
The New York Times reported last week that Al Qaeda is finding a homeland in Yemen as militants from Pakistan have relocated to the south of the Arabian peninsula. However, both American officials and the Yemeni government subsequently have claimed that the article is unsubstantiated.
"Perhaps there is more communication between Al Qaeda in Yemen and groups in Pakistan," says Gregory Johnsen, a researcher on Yemen at Princeton University in New Jersey. "And while in Yemen we've certainly seen Al Qaeda growing stronger, there has been no evidence that they are coming from Pakistan."
Why analysts believe Al Qaeda is behind kidnappings
On Sunday, the bodies of three murdered foreigners who were working for a church-affiliated Dutch relief agency were found in the volatile Saada Province in northern Yemen – a region whose mountainous geography and lack of control by the central government makes it an ideal hideout for extremists. The victims, two German women and a South Korean woman, were abducted last Friday along with six other foreign nationals while picnicking in the region.