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.