American counter-terrorism officials are examining a new video put out by a terrorism tracking watchdog group that appears to show a very large gathering of al-Qaeda members who recently escaped from a Yemen prison.
The 15-minute video, posted on YouTube by the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC), is described as showing dozens of militants who escaped from a Yemen prison in Sana in February being greeted by al-Qaeda’s number two in command, Nasir al-Wuhayshi.
Former Guantanamo Bay detainee and top Sharia official for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Ibrahim al-Rubeish, is also featured in the clip, which is titled "The Beginning of Rain."
U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News on Tuesday evening the video seems recent and authentic, and it is being examined by intelligence analysts. They also confirmed that it shows recently escaped militants meeting al-Wuhayshi.
The officials say that, for now, drawing any larger conclusions from the spot would be speculation. There’s nothing in this video to indicate this gathering was intended to plot terrorist attacks against any target, much less the United States, they said.
“The depiction of such a large gathering of fighters and the appearance of senior leaders are atypical of AQAP’s propaganda videos,” a U.S. intelligence official told NBC News.
TRAC posted the video on April 4, but it was unclear when the footage was actually taken.
TRAC is a non-profit organization dedicated to “the study of political violence of all kinds,” according to their website. Representatives for the group did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday night.
— with Hasani Gittens
First published April 15 2014, 5:51 PM
Jim Miklaszewski is the chief Pentagon correspondent for NBC News. On 9/11, he was the first at the scene to report that the Pentagon had been attacked and has since led the network's coverage of the war in Afghanistan.
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Since joining NBC in 1985, Miklaszewski was a White House correspondent during the Clinton and Bush administrations, covering President Clinton's transition from Little Rock, his many trips abroad including Moscow and the Middle East and his reelection. He was also an NBC floor reporter at the Democratic and Republican conventions in 1996 and 2000.
In the Bush White House, Miklaszewski reported on the Gulf War with Iraq, summits with Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin and the Bush reelection campaign in 1992.
Miklaszewski has logged considerable foreign experience with battlefront coverage of wars in Lebanon, El Salvador and the Falkland Islands. He also covered the United States air raid on Libya, and the "tanker wars" in the Persian Gulf.