A new video apparently released by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism analysts scrambling. The video, which had been circulating on jihadist websites and was brought to light by terrorist watchdog group Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC), shows what appears to be the largest gathering of al-Qaida militants in years, and is one of the more brazen al-Qaeda propaganda pieces to be released in some time.
Appearing front and center in the video is AQAP leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi. Known as al-Qaida's crown prince, al-Wuhayshi is second within the group's global power structure, below only Ayman al-Zawahiri. He is seen on camera giving a speech to the militants, telling them, "We must eliminate the cross ... The bearer of the cross is America," according to CNN.
His appearance in the video is especially notable given that the meeting seems to be out in the open, running counter to speculation that AQAP leaders had gone underground and were communicating solely by courier.
In a statement to NBC News, a U.S. intelligence official confirmed the significance of both al-Wuhayshi's actions and the number of militants, calling the expansive gathering of senior leaders and fighters "atypical of AQAP’s propaganda videos."