The crucial intercept that prompted the U.S. government to close embassies in 22 countries was a conference call between al Qaeda’s senior leaders and representatives of several of the group’s affiliates throughout the region, the Daily Beast reports.
U.S. intelligence was afforded a rare glimpse into the communication between al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and the organization’s affiliates in Africa, the Middle East, and southwest and southeast Asia.
The Daily Beast has learned that the discussion between the two al Qaeda leaders happened in a conference call that included more than 20 al Qaeda operatives.
The Al Qaeda members included representatives or leaders from Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Uzbekistan branch and al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula.
“This was like a meeting of the Legion of Doom,” one U.S. intelligence officer told The Daily Beast.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said, “This may punch a sizable hole in the theory that al Qaeda is on the run.”
“The core seems to be able to able to reconstitute itself. The core also seems to be able to coordinate and manage the affiliates,” the senator added. “There was a gross underestimation by this administration of al Qaeda’s overall ability to replenish itself.”