In February 2006, 23 al Qaeda members broke out of a prison in Yemen. Their escape was the stuff of movies: they fled through a 44-meter-long tunnel that led into a woman’s bathroom in a nearby mosque. The prisoners used broomsticks and broken fans for shovels, and soccer balls with plastic tubing for breathing while they dug.
Among the escapees was Nasir al-Wuhayshi. He previously served for six years as Osama bin Laden’s personal secretary and was groomed by him for leadership. His escape relaunched “Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula” (AQAP), now acknowledged to be the most dangerous terror group in the world.
According to a New York Times report, other al Qaeda leaders treat Wuhayshi with deep veneration. A Yemini journalist says, “When they see him, they kiss him on the forehead, like a great sheik. They all love and respect him.” Wuhayshi led AQAP to attempt the failed Christmas Day bombing of 2009 and the cargo plane bomb plots of 2010. He was promoted this week by al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri to the organization’s number two position.
As you know, the United States recently closed 22 embassies and consulates due to escalating terror threats. We now know the reason: Zawahiri directed Wuhayshi to launch an attack on Western targets. The intercepted communication resembled the “chatter” or streams of intelligence that preceded 9/11.
In response, the Obama administration authorized a series of drone strikes in Yemen designed to disrupt AQAP’s terrorism plot. There is no indication that they killed any senior AQAP operatives. On Wednesday, Yemeni security forces foiled a plot by al Qaeda to seize oil and gas export facilities and a provincial capital in the eastern part of their country. However, this plot did not appear to be related to the threat that led to the closing of Western embassies.
You may not have heard of Nasir al-Wuhayshi before this morning, but global response to his terrorist capabilities qualifies him to be the world’s most dangerous man. How should Christians respond to terrorism and other threats? “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Turn fear into intercession, and you’ll frustrate the author of fear himself.
Erasmus (1466-1536), in his classic Handbook of the Militant Christian, advised us to “use temptation as a means to virtue. If your inclinations are to be greedy and selfish, increase your donations to charity. If you tend toward boasting, make a deliberate effort to be humble in all things. This way you can find in temptation a renewed determination to increase in piety. This procedure is the one that most galls Satan. It makes him afraid to tempt you because nothing is more hateful to the Author of Evil than that he should be responsible for some good.”
How will you anger Satan today?