Al Qaeda's biggest gathering in years captured on video: Why officials are scrutinizing footage

U.S. intelligence analysts are examining a video that appears to show the largest al Qaeda gathering in years.

The recording recently appeared on jihadist websites, and shows men meeting in a rugged, mountainous area. Many carry black flags and rifles.

Officials believe the video is recent and genuine.

The video, according to CBS News homeland security correspondent Bob Orr, is "part pep rally and part propaganda tape."

Intelligence officials say it's highly unusual to see a large gathering of militants in an area that's been so frequented targeted by U.S. drone strikes, and it's very rare to see senior commanders appear in that kind of setting, Orr reported. The leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, is seen on the tape restating his vow to strike the United States. Because the tape celebrates a February prison break by al Qaeda fighters in Yemen, analysts believe the video was made relatively recently.

Orr added it's also notable that the tape shows some al Qaeda fighters with their faces blurred out, an obvious attempt to conceal their identities. The worry now, Orr explained, is that those operatives could be involved in some kind of future plotting, so U.S. officials are taking a hard look at the tape, trying to pick up any clues that could point to specific threats.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is the most powerful al Qaeda franchise on the globe, and the video represents a serious threat, Orr noted. "(This is) the group that tried repeatedly in recent years to hit us here in the U.S. It's the group behind the two underwear bombs, also behind that plot a few years ago to put explosives inside computer printers on cargo planes. And sources also remind us that (al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's) master bomb builder -- a man named Ibrahim al-Asiri -- is still working to perfect undetectable bombs. We don't see Asiri in this latest video, but intel officials assure us, he remains in Yemen and continues to pose a very real threat."

  • Amanda Cochran

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