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al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
القاعدة في جزيرة العرب
Participant in the al-Qaeda insurgency in Yemen
The black flag of jihad.
Active January 2009-Present[1]
Ideology Salafist Jihadist
Leaders Nasir al-Wuhayshi
Area of
Yemen; Sana'a and the Abyan region: Zinjibar, Ja'ar, Shuqrah and surrounding areas.
Strength 500–600 in Yemen[2]
Part of al-Qaeda
Originated as al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda in Yemen
Allies AQIM
Opponents  Saudi Arabia[4]
United States[5]
Battles/wars Battle of Zinjibar, Battle of Dofas, 2012 Abyan offensive, 2012 Sana'a bombing, 2013 Sana'a attack

al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP; Arabic language: تنظيم القاعدة في جزيرة العرب‎, Tanẓīm al-Qā‘idah fī Jazīrat al-‘Arab, "al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula"; تنظيم قاعدة الجهاد في جزيرة العرب, Tanẓīm Qā‘idat al-Jihād fī Jazīrat al-‘Arab, "Organization of Jihad's Base in the Arabian Peninsula"), also known as Ansar al-Sharia (Arabic language: جماعة أنصار الشريعة‎, Jamā‘at Anṣār ash-Sharī‘ah, "Group of Helpers of the Sharia"),[6] is a militant Islamist organization, primarily active in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. It was named for al-Qaeda, and says it is subordinate to that group and its now-deceased leader Osama bin Laden, a Saudi citizen. It is considered the most active[7] of al-Qaeda's branches, or "franchises," that emerged due to weakening central leadership.[8]

Ideology and formation

Like al-Qaeda, it opposes the Al Saud monarchy.[9] AQAP was formed in January 2009 from a merger of al Qaeda's Yemeni and Saudi branches.[1] The Saudi group had been effectively suppressed by the Saudi government, forcing its members to seek sanctuary in Yemen.[10][11] It is believed to have several hundred members.[1]

Transformation into active al-Qaeda affiliate

Anwar al-Awlaki (1971–2011), believed to have been the driving force behind the group's expansion

The percentage of terrorist plots in the West that originated from Pakistan declined considerably from most of them (at the outset), to 75% in 2007, and to 50% in 2010, as al-Qaeda shifted to Somalia and Yemen.[12]

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton formally designated al-Qaeda in Yemen a terrorist organization on December 14, 2009.[13] On August 24, 2010, The Washington Post journalist Greg Miller wrote that the CIA believed Yemen's branch of al-Qaeda had surpassed its parent organization, Osama bin Laden's core group, as the Al Qaeda's most dangerous threat to the U.S. homeland.[14]

On August 26, Yemen claimed that U.S. officials had exaggerated the size and danger of al-Qaeda in Yemen, insisting also that fighting the jihadist network's local branch remained Sanaa's job.[15] A former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden warned of an escalation in fighting between al-Qaida and Yemeni authorities, and predicted the government would need outside intervention to stay in power.

However, Ahmed al-Bahri told the Associated Press that attacks by al-Qaida in southern Yemen was an indication of its increasing strength.[16]


USS Cole after the October 2000 attack

Al Qaeda was responsible for the USS Cole bombing in October 2000 in the southern port of Aden, killing 17 U.S. sailors.[9] In 2002, an al Qaeda attack damaged a French supertanker in the Gulf of Aden.[9]

The Global Terrorism Database attributes the 2004 Khobar massacre to the group.[17] In this guise, it is also known as "The Jerusalem Squadron".

In addition to a number of attacks in Saudi Arabia, and the kidnap and murder of Paul Johnson in Riyadh in 2004, the group is suspected in connection with a bombing in Doha, Qatar, in March 2005.[18] For a chronology of recent Islamist militant attacks in Saudi Arabia, see Insurgency in Saudi Arabia.

In the 2009 Little Rock recruiting office shooting, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, formerly known as Carlos Leon Bledsoe, a Muslim convert who had spent time in Yemen, on June 1, 2009 opened fire with an SKS Rifle in a drive-by shooting on soldiers in front of a United States military recruiting office in Little Rock, Arkansas, in a jihad attack. He killed Private William Long, and wounded Private Quinton Ezeagwula. He said that he was affiliated with and had been sent by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.[19][20][21]

A young, dark brown-skinned man in a white T-shirt shirt. He is not smiling and has short black hair.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called Christmas Day bomber. He pled guilty in a US court on October 12, 2011

AQAP said it was responsible for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it approached Detroit on December 25, 2009.[22] In that incident, Abdulmutallab reportedly tried to set off plastic explosives sewn to his underwear, but failed to detonate them properly.[9]

On February 8, 2010, deputy leader Said Ali al-Shihri called for a regional holy war and blockade of the Red Sea to prevent shipments to Israel. In an audiotape he called upon Somalia's al-Shabaab militant group for assistance in the blockade.[23]

The 2010 cargo plane bomb plot was discovered on October 29, 2010, when two packages containing bombs found on cargo planes, based on intelligence received from government intelligence agencies, in the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. The packages originated from Yemen, and were addressed to outdated addresses of two Jewish institutions in Chicago, Illinois, one of which was the Congregation Or Chadash, a LGBT synagogue.[24] On October 30, 2010, On November 5, 2010, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula took responsibility for the plot.[25] It posted its acceptance of responsibility on a number of radical Islamist websites monitored by the SITE Intelligence Group and the NEFA Foundation, and wrote: "We will continue to strike blows against American interests and the interest of America's allies." It also claimed responsibility for the crash of a UPS Boeing 747-400 cargo plane in Dubai on September 3. The statement continued: "since both operations were successful, we intend to spread the idea to our mujahedeen brothers in the world and enlarge the circle of its application to include civilian aircraft in the West as well as cargo aircraft."[25][26][27][28] American authorities had said they believed that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was behind the plot.[24] Officials in the United Kingdom and the United States believe that it is most likely that the bombs were designed to destroy the planes carrying them.[29]

In November 2010 the group announced a strategy, called "Operation Hemorrhage", that it said was designed to capitalize on the "security phobia that is sweeping America." The program would call for a large number of inexpensive, small-scale attacks against United States interests with the intent of weakening the U.S. economy.[30]

On 21 May 2012, a soldier wearing a belt of explosives carried out a suicide attack on military personnel preparing for a parade rehearsal for Yemen's Unity Day. With over 120 people dead and 200 more injured, the attack was the deadliest in Yemeni history.[31] AQAP claimed responsibility for the attack.[32]

During the June 2012 al Qaeda retreat from key southern Yemen stronghold, the organization planted land mines, which killed 73 civilians.[33] According to the governor's office in Abyan province, 3,000 mines were removed from around Zinjibar and Jaar.[33]

On 5 December 2013, an attack on the Yemeni Defense Ministry in Sana'a involving a series of bomb and gun attacks killed at least 56 people.[34] After footage of the attack was aired on Yemeni television, showing an attack on a hospital within the ministry compound and the killing of medical personnel and patients, the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula released a video message apologizing. Qassim al-Raimi claimed that the team of attackers were directed not to assault the hospital in the attack, but that one had gone ahead and done so.[35]

On 9 May 2014, several soldiers from Yemen were killed after a skirmish sparked when a vehicle attacked a palace gate.[36]

The group also publishes the online magazines Voice of Jihad and Inspire.[citation needed]

Ansar al-Sharia

In the wake of the 2011 Yemeni revolution and the Battle of Zinjibar, an Islamist insurgent organisation called Ansar al-Sharia (Yemen) (supporters of Islamic Law), emerged in Yemen and seized control of areas in the Abyan Governorate and surrounding governorates in southern Yemen and declared them an Islamic emirate. There was heavy fighting with the Yemeni security forces over the control of these territories, with Ansar al-Sharia driven out of most of their territory over 2012.

In April 2011, Shaykh Abu Zubayr Adil bin Abdullah al-Abab, AQAP's chief religious figure, explained the name change as a re-branding exercise "the name Ansar al-Sharia is what we use to introduce ourselves in areas where we work to tell people about our work and goals."[37]

On 4 October 2012, the United Nations 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee and the United States State Department designated Ansar al-Sharia as an alias for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.[6] The State Department described the establishment of Ansar al-Sharia as an attempt to attract followers in areas of Yemen where AQAP had been able to establish territorial control and implement its interpretation of Sharia.

U.S. drone attacks

Predator drone

In 2010 the White House was reported to be considering using the CIA's armed Predator drones to fight Al-Qaeda in Yemen.[citation needed]

A CIA targeted killing drone strike killed Kamal Derwish, an American citizen, and a group of al-Qaida operatives (including Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi) in Yemen in November 2002. Drones became shorthand in Yemen for a weak government allowing foreign forces to have their way.[38]

On September 30, 2011, a U.S. drone attack in Yemen resulted in the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, one of the group's leaders, and Samir Khan, the editor of Inspire, its English-language magazine. Both were U.S. citizens.[39]

The pace of U.S. drone attacks quickened significantly in 2012, with over 20 strikes in the first five months of the year, compared to 10 strikes during the course of 2011.[40]

Over the period 19–21 April 2014, a series of drone attacks on AQAP killed dozens of militants, and at least 3 civilians.[41][42][43][44][45] A spokesperson for the Yemeni Supreme Security Committee described the attacks, which included elements of the Yemeni army as well as US drones, as "massive and unprecedented".[46] The attacks were alleged to have targeted AQAP leadership, with a major AQAP base in Wadi al-Khayala reported to have been destroyed.[47]

Alleged members

Naser al-Wuhayshi, one of 23 men who escaped from a Yemeni prison in February 2006, was announced as the leader of AQAP.[1] Another prisoner, Qassim al-Raimi, is AQAP's military commander.[20] The group has taken advantage of Yemen's "slow collapse into near-anarchy. Widespread corruption, growing poverty and internal fragmentation have helped make Yemen a breeding ground for terror."[48] More than two years later, on April 25, 2012, a suspected US drone strike killed Mohammed Said al-Umdah, a senior AQAP member cited as the number four in the organization and one of the 2006 escapees. He had been convicted of the 2002 tanker bombing and for providing logistical and material support.[49]

Yemeni analyst, Barak Barfi, discounted claims that marriage between the militant group and Yemeni tribes is a widespread practice, though he states that the bulk of AQAP members hail from the tribes.[50]

AQAP is a popular choice for radicalized Americans seeking to join Islamist terror organizations overseas. In 2013 alone, at least three Amer­i­can cit­i­zens or per­ma­nent res­i­dents - Marcos Alonso Zea, Justin Kaliebe, and Shelton Thomas Bell - have attempted to join AQAP.[51] They count among over 50 Americans who have attempted to join terrorist groups oversees, including AQAP, since 2007.[51]

Reportedly, as many as 20 Islamist British nationals traveled to Yemen in 2009 to be trained by AQAP.[52] In February 2012, up to 500 Internationalistas from Somalia's Al Shabaab, after getting cornered by a Kenyan offensive and conflict with Al Shabaab national legions, fled to Yemen.[53] It is likely that a number of this group merged with AQAP. The following is a list of people who have been purported to be AQAP members. Most, but not all, are or were Saudi nationals. Roughly half have appeared on Saudi "most wanted" lists. In the left column is the rank of each member in the original 2003 list of the 26 most wanted.

English Arabic
Yousif Saleh Fahd al-'Uyayri (or Ayyiri, etc.) يوسف صالح فهد العييري leader, writer, and webmaster, killed June 2003 in Saudi Arabia[54]
3 Khalid Ali bin Ali Hajj خالد علي بن علي حاج leader, killed in Riyadh March or April 2004[55]
1 Abdulaziz Issa Abdul-Muhsin al-Muqrin عبد العزيز عيسى عبد المحسن المقرن leader, killed in Riyadh 18 June 2004[56][57][58]
5 Saleh Muhammad 'Audhuallah al-'Alawi al-Oufi صالح محمد عوض الله العلوي العوفي leader, killed 17 or 18 August 2005 in Madinah[59]
2 Rakan Muhsin Mohammed al-Saikhan راكان محسن محمد الصيخان killed 12 April 2004 in Riyadh
7 Saud Hamoud 'Abid al-Qatini al-'Otaibi سعود حمود عبيد القطيني العتيبي senior member, one of 15 killed in a 3-day battle in Ar Rass April 2005[60][61]
4 Abdul Kareem Al-Majati عبد الكريم المجاطي Moroccan, killed with Saud al-Otaibi at Ar Rass,[60] was wanted in the USA under the name Karim El Mejjati
6 Ibrahim Muhammad Abdullah al-Rais إبراهيم محمد عبدا لله الريس killed 8 December 2003 in Riyadh
8 Ahmad Abdul-Rahman Saqr al-Fadhli أحمد عبدالرحمن صقر الفضلي killed 22 April 2004 in Jeddah
9 Sultan Jubran Sultan al-Qahtani alias Zubayr Al-Rimi سلطان جبران سلطان القحطاني q.v., killed 23 September 2003 in Jizan
10 Abdullah Saud Al-Siba'i عبد الله سعود السباعي killed 29 December 2004[62]
11 Faisal Abdul-Rahman Abdullah al-Dakhil فيصل عبدالرحمن عبدالله الدخيل killed with al-Muqrin[57]
12 Faris al-Zaharani فارس آل شويل الزهراني ideologue, captured 5 August 2004 in Abha[63]
13 Khalid Mobarak Habeeb-Allah al-Qurashi خالد مبارك حبيب الله القرشي killed 22 April 2004 in Jeddah
14 Mansoor Muhammad Ahmad Faqeeh منصور محمد أحمد فقيه surrendered 30 December 2003 in Najran
15 'Issa Saad Muhammad bin 'Ushan عيسى سعد محمد بن عوشن ideologue, killed 20 July 2004 in Riyadh
16 Talib Saud Abdullah Al Talib طالب سعود عبدالله آل طالب at large; (last of the original 26)
17 Mustafa Ibrahim Muhammad Mubaraki مصطفى إبراهيم محمد مباركي killed 22 April 2004 in Jeddah
18 Abdul-Majiid Mohammed al-Mani' عبد المجيد محمد المنيع ideologue, killed 12 October 2004 in Riyadh[64]
19 Nasir Rashid Nasir Al-Rashid ناصر راشد ناصر الراشد killed 12 April 2004 in Riyadh
Sultan bin Bajad Al-Otaibi سلطان بن بجاد العتيبي spokesman[65] and writer for al-Qaeda, killed 28 or 29 December 2004[66]
20 Bandar Abdul-Rahman Abdullah al-Dakhil بندر عبدالرحمن عبدالله الدخيل killed December 2004[66]
21 Othman Hadi Al Maqboul Almardy al-'Amari عثمان هادي آل مقبول العمري recanted, under an amnesty deal, 28 June 2004 in Namas[67][68]
22 Talal A'nbar Ahmad 'Anbari طلال عنبر أحمد عنبري killed 22 April 2004 in Jeddah
23 'Amir Muhsin Moreef Al Zaidan Al-Shihri عامر محسن مريف آل زيدان الشهري killed 6 November 2003 in Riyadh[69]
24 Abdullah Muhammad Rashid al-Rashoud عبد الله محمد راشد الرشود q.v., ideologue, killed May or June 2005 in Iraq
25 Abdulrahman Mohammad Mohammad Yazji عبدالرحمن محمد محمد يازجي killed 6 April 2005[62]
26 Hosain Mohammad Alhasaki حسين محمد الحسكي Moroccan, held in Belgium[62]
Turki N. M. al-Dandani تركي ناصر مشعل الدندني cell leader, a former # 1 most wanted,[70] died by suicide July 2003 in al-Jawf[71]
Ibrahim bin Abdul-Aziz bin Muhammad al-Muzaini إبراهيم بن عبد العزيز بن محمد المزين killed with Khalid Ali Hajj[55]
Abdul-Rahman Mohammed Jubran al-Yazji عبدالكريم محمد جبران اليازجي killed 2 June 2004 in Ta'if[72]
Mohammed Othman Abdullah al-Waleedi al-Shuhri محمد عثمان عبدالله الوليدي الشهري [70]
Mansour Faqeeh منصور فقيه surrendered[73]
Hamid Fahd Abdullah al-Salmi al-Shamri حمد فهد عبدالله الأسلمي الشمري [70]
Ahmad Nasser Abdullah al-Dakhil أحمد ناصر عبدالله الدخيل [70] (dead)
Turki bin Fuheid al-Mutairi a/k/a Fawaz al-Nashimi تركي بن فيهد المطيري killed with al-Muqrin[57]
Jubran Ali Hakmi جبران علي حكمي [74]
Hani Said Ahmed Abdul-Karim al-Ghamdi هاني سعيد أحمد عبد الكريم الغامدي [74]
Ali Abdul-Rahman al-Ghamdi علي عبد الرحمن الغامدي surrendered 26 June 2003[75]
Bandar bin Abdul-Rahman al-Ghamdi بندر عبد الرحمن الغامدي captured September 2003 in Yemen[76] and extradited to KSA
Fawaz Yahya al-Rabi'i فواز يحيى الربيعي q.v., killed 1 October 2006 in Yemen
Abdul-Rahman Mansur Jabarah عبدالرحمن منصور جبارة "Canadian-Kuwaiti of Iraqi origin",[70] dead according to al-Qaeda; brother of Kuwaiti-Canadian Mohamed Mansour Jabarah
Adnan bin Abdullah al-Omari captured somewhere outside KSA, extradited to KSA November 2005[77]
Abdul-Rahman al-Mutib killed in al Qasim December 2005[78]
Muhammad bin Abdul-Rahman al-Suwailmi, alias Abu Mus'ab al-Najdi محمد بن عبد الرحمن السويلمي killed in al Qasim December 2005[78]
According to Saudi authorities,[79] these 12 died or were killed while committing the Riyadh compound bombings on 12 May 2003. Several were previously wanted.
Khaled Mohammad Muslim Al-Juhani خالد محمد مسلم الجهني leader of this group
Abdul-Karim Mohammed Jubran Yazji عبد الكريم محمد جبران اليازجي
Mohammed Othman Abdullah Al-Walidi Al-Shehri ومحمد عثمان عبد الله الوليدي الشهري
Hani Saeed Ahmad Al Abdul-Karim Al-Ghamdi هاني سعيد أحمد عبد الكريم الغامدي
Jubran Ali Ahmad Hakami Khabrani جبران علي أحمد حكمي خبراني
Khaled bin Ibrahim Mahmoud خالد بن إبراهيم محمود called "Baghdadi"
Mehmas bin Mohammed Mehmas Al-Hawashleh Al-Dosari محماس بن محمد محماس الهواشلة الدوسري
Mohammed bin Shadhaf Ali Al-Mahzoum Al-Shehri محمد بن شظاف علي آل محزوم الشهري
Hazem Mohammed Saeed حازم محمد سعيد called "Kashmiri"
Majed Abdullah Sa'ad bin Okail ماجد عبدالله سعد بن عكيل
Bandar bin Abdul-Rahman Menawer Al-Rahimi Al-Mutairi بندر بن عبد الرحمن منور الرحيمي المطيري
Abdullah Farres bin Jufain Al-Rahimi Al-Mutairi عبدالله فارس بن جفين الرحيمي المطيري
Abdullah Hassan Al Aseery عبد الله حسن عسيري Died trying to assassinate a Saudi prince in October 2009.
The following five were reported killed in Dammam in early September 2005.[80]
Zaid Saad Zaid al-Samari a former most wanted, killed by Saudi forces in 2005[81]
Saleh Mansour Mohsen al-Fereidi al-Harbi
Sultan Saleh Hussan al-Haseri
Naif Farhan Jalal al-Jehaishi al-Shammari
Mohammed Abdul-Rahman Mohammed al-Suwailmi
Naser Abdel Karim al-Wahishi Appeared in threatening YouTube video in January 2009, where he claimed to be the group's leader.[82]
Sa'id Ali Jabir Al Khathim Al Shihri Former Guantanamo captive who appeared in threatening YouTube video in January 2009, where he claimed to be the group's deputy leader.[82] Killed in a drone strike in Yemen 2013.[83]
Abu Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi Former Guantanamo captive who appeared in threatening YouTube video in January 2009, and who voluntarily turned himself in to Saudi authorities a month later.[82]
Abu Hureira Qasm al-Rimi Appeared in threatening YouTube video in January 2009.[82] Is the group's military commander.
Ibrahim Hassan Tali al-Asiri Operative and bomb maker.[84]
Abu Abdurrahman - al Faranghi[85] A convert—allegedly trained as a bombmaker[86]—hunted by CIA, MI5 and Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste, since 2012. (His legal name in Norway has not been revealed by media.)

See also

  • Barry Walter Bujol


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  57. 57.0 57.1 57.2 CBC report on al-Muqrin and three others killed, and AQAP's acknowledgement
  58. ""Bitter School Dropout Who Became a Flamboyant Killer" by Rob L. Wagner, ''Saudi Gazette'', June 20, 2004". 2004-06-20. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  59. Al-Qaeda Chief in Kingdom Killed, Arab News, 19 August 2005
  60. 60.0 60.1 Death of Top Terrorists in Al-Rass Gunbattle Confirmed, Arab News, 10 April 2005
  61. "Battle of Al-Ras" by Sabria S. Jawhar and Rob L. Wagner, Saudi Gazette, April 12, 2005. (2003-05-12). Retrieved on 2011-12-29.
  62. 62.0 62.1 62.2 KSA wanted list, Embassy of Saudi Arabia to the USA
  63. Saudis' Most Wanted Is Captured, CBS News, 6 August 2004
  64. Report of death of al-Mani', CNN, 13 October 2004
  65. SITE notice about Sultan al-Otaibi
  66. 66.0 66.1 Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Sultan al-Otaibi and Bandar al-Dakhil, 31 December 2004
  67. Top Saudi militant surrenders, The Tribune (of India), 29 June 2004
  68. Islam Today report of mediation in the surrender of Othman al-'Amri. The mediator was Safir al-Hawali; see Salman al-Ouda.
  69. Death confirmed of wanted terrorist suspect Alshihri, Embassy of Saudi Arabia to USA, 22 February 2004
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  71. Royal Crackdown, by John Walsh, Harvard International Review, Fall 2003; about Turki al-Dandani. Details are at present available only in Arabic.
  72. Newsmax on the death of Abdul-Rahman Yazji
  73. New Pictures of Most Wanted 7 Released, Arab News, 20 August 2004
  74. 74.0 74.1 Riyadh Daily, 12 May 2003 (in Arabic)
  75. Key Riyadh bombings suspect gives up, CNN, 26–27 June 2003
  76. Summary of several captures in the Arabian Peninsula, BBC, 4 March 2004
  77. Report on al-Omari, BBC News, 8 November 2005
  78. 78.0 78.1 Saudis 'kill militant fugitive', BBC, 28 December 2005
  79. Saudi government identifies 12 dead bombers re the Riyadh residential compound attack
  80. Saudi Arabia says 5 militants slain belonged to al-Qaeda, Associated Press, 8 September 2005
  82. 82.0 82.1 82.2 82.3 Maggie Michael (January 23, 2009). "Report: Ex-Gitmo Detainee Joins Al-Qaida in Yemen". ABC News. Archived from the original on October 24, 2009. 
  84. Department of State's Terrorist Designation of Ibrahim Hassan Tali Al-Asiri, U.S. Department of State, 24 March 2011
  85. Vikås, Marianne; Coombs, Casey L. (2012-07-02). "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}" (in Norwegian). p. 12. 
  86. Leon Watson (2012-06-26). "Norwegian man trained by Al Qaeda in Yemen is planning an attack on the West, say security forces". Retrieved 2012-10-09. 


  • Johnsen, Gregory (2012). The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America's War in Arabia, Scribe, Melbourne. ISBN 9781922070012.

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