Nightly News   |  August 03, 2013

Al Qaeda in Yemen remains a threat

NBC News counter-terrorism analyst Michael Leiter and NBC’s Richard Engel join Lester Holt with more on the al Qaeda threat.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> by nbc news counterterrorism analyst michael leichter and richard engel on the ground in egypt. michael, let me begin with you. we've been led to belief over the last several years that al qaeda has been severely weakened. what's happening on the arabian peninsula ?

>> lester, it is true that al qaeda has been severely weakened in pakistan and also in afghanistan, but really since 2008 we've seen a rise of al qaeda 's affiliate in yemen , and the united states has worked quite hard and made some gains against that affiliate, but they are still the most potent al qaeda affiliate out there in the world. very prominent bomb makers there, and people who have proven themselves quite operationally able both within yemen and overseas.

>> richard, you've been to yemen . you know the government there is working with the u.s. to defeat al qaeda there. how have they become so strong, and is the center of power for al qaeda essentially shifted there?

>> the yemeni government doesn't control all of its territory. that's one of the main problems. the yemeni government is very los to the u.s. and wants to work with washington, wants to work with the fbi. like the other people, we have also been told that the source of this current threat goes squarely back to yemen . as to the timing, there are three main reasons. one, the chatter. the information about a specific threat. two, tomorrow the -- tomorrow is the holiest day of ramadan, the muslim holy month, and al qaeda has traditionally tried to use this specifically very holy day during ramadan to try and increase its inspiration. lastly, there was an attack, a drone attack, in yemen mid last month that didn't get a lot of attention in the western media in which one of the top leaders of al qaeda and the arabian peninsula , which is based in yemen , was killed, so we've been told had plot, this alert may be al qaeda and the arabian peninsula 's attempt at carrying out revenge.

>> thanks to both of you.