The second in command of the Yemen-based wing of al-Qaeda, Saeed al-Shehri is calling on Muslims in the Arabian peninsula to wage jihad, or holy war, against Christians and Jews in the region.
The former Guantanamo Bay prisoner made his call to arms on a website often used by Islamist groups.
Shehri confirmed that the failed bomb attack on a US-bound plane on Christmas Day was sanctioned by Osama bin Laden.
He went on to say it was vital for al-Qaeda to take control of the waterway separating Yemen from the Horn of Africa – a major European trade route.
Such a move he claimed, would “tighten the vice around the Jews”, by cutting off American support for Israel through the Red Sea.
Yemen has said it will not allow direct foreign intervention in its fight against insurgents which, Western powers fear could play into the hands of militants battling to topple the government in the capital Sanaa.