The List

Yemen's Most Wanted

Meet the new al Qaeda bad guys that keep U.S. counterterrorism officials up at night.

Nasir al-Wuhayshi

Rap sheet: As leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Wuhayshi has proven to be both a skilled politician and an innovative, often brutal, adversary. Once Osama bin Laden's secretary, Wuhayshi is a member of the younger and more radical generation of Yemen's al Qaeda cadres. In 2006, he broke out of a maximum-security prison, along with 22 other militants, in Yemen's capital city of Sanaa. In January 2009, he spearheaded the unification of al Qaeda's Yemeni and Saudi branches under his control.

Why he's a target: Wuhayshi is the head of al Qaeda in the region -- that alone is enough to put him at the top of any U.S. hit list. Since last year's merger, he has released a number of videos calling on Muslims to rebel against Arab regimes, notably the government of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Saudi royal family. He has also proved to be a prodigious writer, penning three articles in the latest issue of the jihadi group's magazine, Sada al-Malahim (Arabic for "Echo of the Battles").

But Wuhayshi's efforts have gone beyond propaganda and recruitment. Under his leadership, AQAP attempted to assassinate Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Saudi deputy interior minister in charge of the kingdom's counterterrorism efforts, last August. More recently, the media wing of AQAP issued a statement taking credit for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's plot to blow up Northwest Flight 253 in the United States on Christmas Day. The organization claimed the attack was in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes on al Qaeda targets in Yemen.

Anwar al-Awlaki

Rap sheet: Awlaki is ethnically Yemeni, but actually hails from New Mexico. As an imam, he preached in mosques throughout the United States, including in San Diego; Fort Collins, Colorado; and Washington, D.C. (While in San Diego, he was also arrested for soliciting prostitutes.) Technologically savvy, he also has a reputation as an "e-imam," having created a popular website where he doled out advice and posted "sermons" to spread his radical views. 

Awlaki's fluency in English gives him a unique reach in reaching a non-Arabic- speaking audience. He returned to Yemen in 2004, and was arrested by the Yemeni government for his links to al Qaeda in 2006. He spent 18 months in prison, but, following his release, his current whereabouts in Yemen are unknown. Most likely, he resides near his ancestral home in the southern province of Shabwa.

Why he's a target: During his years of proselytizing, Awlaki has contributed to the radicalization of an extensive list of prominent terrorists. When he was preaching in San Diego and Falls Church, Virginia, his sermons were attended by three of the Sept. 11 hijackers. Most famously, he had long-running email correspondence with Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the U.S. Army psychiatrist who went on a religiously motivated shooting spree at the Foot Hood military base last November, killing 13 people. "Nidal Hasan is a hero," Awlaki stated after the attacks. "The fact that fighting against the U.S. Army is an Islamic duty today cannot be disputed. Nidal has killed soldiers who were about to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in order to kill Muslims." He also appears to have had contact with Abdulmutallab.

"He's not just a cleric," noted White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan last Sunday. "He is in fact trying to instigate terrorism."

Said al-Shehri

Rap sheet: Shehri, a Saudi, was captured in December 2001 in Pakistan, where he claimed to be providing humanitarian relief for Muslim refugees. He was subsequently transferred to the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, where the U.S. charges against him included "participat[ing] in military operations against the United States and its coalition partners," as well as plotting to assassinate an unnamed writer.

Shehri was transferred to Saudi custody in November 2007. While in Saudi Arabia, he spent six to 10 weeks in Saudi Arabia's largest rehabilitation program, the Prince Mohammed bin Nayef Centre for Care and Counseling. His release from U.S. custody was perhaps influenced by his claim, recorded in his official Guantánamo docket, that if released "he would like to return to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, wherein he would reunite with his family ... he would attempt to work at his family's used furniture store if it's still in business."

Why he's a target: Soon after leaving the Saudi rehabilitation program, he surfaced by Wuhayshi's side in the January 2009 video marking the merger of al Qaeda's Yemeni and Saudi wings. As the second in command, he is one of the most influential Saudi figures within AQAP -- and an embarrassment to Saudi Arabia, which proudly touts its rehabilitation program's ability to "cure" Islamist militants.

U.S. officials have accused him of involvement in the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa last September, which killed 16 people. He has also recorded a cell-phone video urging Saudis to donate to AQAP and, in an article for Sada al-Malahim, the jihadi online magazine, called for more targeted assassination attempts like the attack on Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

Qasim al-Raymi

Rap sheet: Raymi has been associated with al Qaeda in Yemen since well before the creation of AQAP, previously serving as deputy to Wuhayshi for its predecessor group al Qaeda in Yemen. In February 2006, he escaped prison as part of the same jailbreak that freed Wuhayshi. On June 21, 2007, Raymi released the audio statement that announced the formal re-establishment of al Qaeda in Yemen with Wuhayshi at its head. He has successfully evaded authorities ever since, most recently escaping a raid designed to capture him in the southern Abyan province last December.

He also appears to have a healthy appetite for risk. In 2008, observers were surprised to spot him mingling for nearly two hours at a funeral in Sanaa -- apparently unafraid of being apprehended by Yemeni security services.

Why he's a target: As one of Wuhayshi's closest accomplices and the current military commander of AQAP, Raymi has left a long line of victims in his wake. In late June 2007, he released two statements, one of which was a warning to Saleh's government. Then, on July 2, al Qaeda launched a suicide attack on a convoy of Spanish tourists in Mareb province, killing 10 people. The Yemeni government has accused Raymi of being part of the terrorist cell responsible for the attack.

Hizam Mujali

Rap sheet: The Sanaa-born Mujali hails from a family of al Qaeda members: His younger brothers Arif and Yahya are also active in terrorist circles. Hizam Mujali was stopped at a checkpoint in 2003 and, while resisting arrest, shot and killed a Yemeni police officer. He was also part of the infamous 2006 prison break. However, he eventually turned himself back in to the Yemeni government, striking a deal that would allow him to keep his freedom on the condition that he did not rejoin al Qaeda. That condition appears to have recently been broken: The government targeted him in a raid it launched in Arhab Province this past December. Although they captured his brother Arif, Hizam managed to escape.

Why he's a target: Mujali's involvement in terrorism dates back to al Qaeda in Yemen's attacks under the leadership of Abu Ali al-Harithi, who was killed by a CIA drone strike on Nov. 3, 2002. Mujali was tried in a Yemeni court for his involvement in the 15-man cell that launched an attack on the French oil tanker Limburg on Oct. 6, 2002. In an attack that echoed the USS Cole bombing in 2000, a dinghy laden with explosives detonated beside the Limburg, killing one crew member. More recently, the Yemeni military has claimed that Mujali has reconnected with Qassem al-Raymi, with whom he fled after the military's raid in Arhab last December.

The List

Elections to Watch in 2010

From a popular uprising in Iran to a political sea change in Japan to democracy on a massive scale in India, national elections provided some of the most memorable moments of 2009. Here are 10 to watch in the coming year.



Type: presidential

Date: January 17

What to watch: What a difference five years makes. In 2005, current Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko took power in a popular uprising known as the Orange Revolution, defeating the Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovych after a disputed first-round result. But Yushchenko has had less success as a president than as a revolutionary.A faltering economy and ongoing corruption scandals have left Ukraine with the least popular government on Earth.

The president is trailing badly to Yanukovych and his one-time Orange ally Yulia Tymoshenko. In another odd twist, the one-time nationalist firebrand Tymoshenko has made nice with Vladimir Putin since the election and is now said to be the Kremlin's preferred choice. Interference by Russia in the event of a disputed election is another concern.



Type: parliamentary

Date: March 7

What to watch: After months of sectarian bickering and political wrangling, Iraq's parliament finally agreed in December on a law to pave the way for nationwide elections. The parliament will be expanded to 50 seats, with a number of districts gerrymandered to give more seats to the Kurds, who believe they were underrepresented in the previous arrangement. Although Iraq's parties still largely break down along sectarian lines, their political alliances have grown more complex.

Most notably, Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has formed an alliance with a number of Sunni parties to head off a challenge from Shiite religious parties led by hard-line cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. As always, security is a concern, and authorities claim that a recent spate of bombings in Baghdad are the result of insurgents attempting to derail the election process. Whatever the result, the elections will be a test of the Iraqi state's ability to function as the United States begins to draw down its combat forces.



Type: presidential

Date: May 10

What to watch: Filipinos will see a crowded field of familiar names on the ballot this year. Former President Joseph Estrada, overthrown in 2001in a popular uprising amid widespread corruption allegations, is planning to retake the presidency. He is likely to face billionaire businessman and politician Manny Villar, who as speaker of the House of Representatives presided over Estrada's impeachment proceedings. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, son of late president and democracy icon Corazon Aquino, has also announced he will run. Despite the soap opera, Vice President Noli de Castro will be tough to beat if he throws his hat in the ring.

Meanwhile, in the lawless southern Philippines, tragedy struck in November when 57 people were killed while trying to register a local candidate, part of a recent upsurge in clan violence that is expected to worsen as the election approaches.



Type: legislative and local

Date: May 22

What to watch: After 2009's presidential election debacle, Afghanistan will get another chance in 2010 with national legislative and regional elections. If anything, though, these elections could be an even tougher challenge with more than 3,000 candidates running nationwide. In Afghanistan's violence-wracked south, voting will be particularly difficult. It remains to be seen if the widespread fraud and mismanagement of the last parliamentary elections in 2005, combined with the disappointment of the presidential election, will dampen Afghans' once considerable enthusiasm for the election process.




Type: parliamentary


Date: May 22

What to watch: In 2005, candidates from the officially banned Muslim Brotherhood party -- running as independents -- managed to win one-fifth of the seats in parliament. Since then, however, the government has carried out a crackdown against the Islamist group, arresting hundreds of members and banning them from holding seats in the parliament's upper house. Vote-rigging in favor of President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party should be expected.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images



Type: presidential


Date: May 30

What to watch: President Álvaro Uribe -- whose crackdown on Colombia's drug cartels and FARC rebels have made him overwhelmingly popular -- is attempting to amend the country's term-limits laws so that he can run again. If he succeeds, Uribe, with an approval rating of nearly 70 percent, will be nearly impossible to beat, though winning a third time will likely result in a blow to his considerable international reputation and draw comparisons to his archrival, Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, who has also come under fire for amending term limits. If not, his designated successor, former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, would be considered the favorite over Liberal Party leader Rafael Pardo.



Type: parliamentary

Date: May

What to watch: Criticized for everything from his handling of the financial crisis to an ongoing lawmakers' expenses scandal to the release of a convicted Libyan terrorist, Prime Minister Gordon Brown is staggeringly unpopular, and his Labour Party suffered its worst defeat in 40 years in last June's local elections. Barring a miracle, Labour's 12-year dominance of British politics is coming to an end, paving the way for the rise of Tory leader David Cameron, a self-described "liberal Conservative" whose views, beyond opposition to Brown, remain somewhat unclear. The far-right British National Party, which has enjoyed recent success in local and European elections, is looking to make gains as well, thanks to widespread dissatisfaction with both mainstream parties.



Type: presidential

Date: October 3

What to watch: With President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva constitutionally barred from running for a third term, his relatively unknown chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, trails São Paulo state's popular centrist governor, José Serra, in opinion polls. However, Rousseff should benefit from campaigning with the hugely popular Lula, and the one-time guerrilla fighter can expect to win the support of smaller left-wing parties in the event of a runoff. Neither candidate should be expected to deviate much from Lula's market-friendly brand of center-left leadership.

Alex Wong/Getty Images


Type: legislative

Date: November 2

What to watch: Like all midterm elections, next year's Senate and House races will be widely seen as a referendum on Barack Obama's presidency. Down eight seats in the Senate and 79 in the House, the Republicans have a lot of ground to make up to retake control of Congress, but with major debates pending on health care, climate change, and Afghanistan strategy, there are plenty of opportunities to score points at the president's expense. Obama's escalation in Afghanistan and compromises on health care have also angered much of his liberal base. If Democratic candidates begin distancing themselves from the White House, it could be a bad sign for Obama in 2012.




Type: parliamentary


Date: Unknown

What to watch: Burma has not held an election since 1990, when the country's military rulers dismissed a landslide victory by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) and confined her to house arrest. The country has largely been an international pariah since then, though there are signs that the Obama administration is looking to improve relations. The junta has not yet revealed the date or procedure for the election or whether the NLD will be allowed to participate. In the likely event of voter fraud, it will be interesting to see whether popular protests erupt, or whether the regime's brutal crackdown during the 2007 monks' protest succeeded in intimidating the opposition.