The Last Refuge

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Pages: 368
Subject: Current Affairs, Politics, History
Imprint: Oneworld

The Last Refuge

Yemen, al-Qaeda, and the Battle for Arabia

Gregory D. Johnsen

An unrivalled, on-the-ground look at the modern-day politics of Yemen, and its place as Muhammed’s 'last refuge' against infidels, by a rising Princeton scholar who frequently comments on Muslim and Arab events for the BBC, The Times, the Guardian, and more.
9781851689408 (7 Feb 2013)
RRP £14.99

The Book

‘Exhausted and on the run, it looked like the end for the small band of men. Looking at the few who had followed him into the desert, Muhammad said, “When disaster threatens, seek refuge in Yemen”… Yemen was the last refuge.’


Far from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, in an unforgiving corner of Arabia, the US and al-Qaeda are fighting a clandestine war of drones and suicide bombers. The battles began in 2006, when twenty-three men tunnelled out of a maximum-security prison in Yemen’s capital to their freedom. Later they were joined by a dozen men released from Guantánamo Bay. Together, they formed the core of al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula – and now they and their recruits stand ready to hijack the Arab Spring, from the streets of Syria to hotspots much closer to home.


In The Last Refuge, al-Qaeda scholar Gregory D. Johnsen charts the rise, the fall, and the ultimate resurrection of al-Qaeda in Yemen – given new life through a combustion of civil wars, Afghan refugees, and Muhammad’s prophetic teachings. Johnsen brings us inside al-Qaeda’s training camps and safe houses as the terrorists plot poison attacks and debate how to bring down a plane on Christmas Day. Based on years of on-the-ground interviews and never-before-translated al-Qaeda battle notes, he delivers a riveting and incisive investigation of the state of the Middle East.

Additional Information

Subject Current Affairs, Politics, History
Pages 368
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Gregory D. Johnsen is a scholar at Princeton University and a regular contributor to The Independent, Newsweek, and other publications. He has consulted to the UK government, US senate, and Yemeni tribal shaykhs, and is interviewed frequently by the BBC, CNN, and many others. This is his first book.


“Gregory Johnsen has written the best new book on al Qaeda in 2012 and the best book on Yemen in years… A great read; Johnsen is a very good storyteller.”

- The Daily Beast

Table of Contents

Map of Yemen


Part I. Rise and Fall

1. A Far-Off Land

2. The Next Afghanistan

3. The Dogs of War

4. Faith and Wisdom

5. The Southern Job

6. Allies

7. A New War

8. Attrition

9. Victory

Part II. Forgetting

10. Rehab

11. A Revolt in the North

12. Prison Cells

13. Policy Shift

Part III. The Next Generation

14. The Great Escape

15. Resurrecting al-Qaeda

16. Echoes of Battles

17. The Merger

18. Targets

19. Out of the Shadows

List of Principal Characters


Note on Sources and Transliteration