A media group run by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has released dozens of new images from the city of Mukallah, the capital of Yemen’s eastern province of Hadramout. The city fell to the group in early April 2015. The photos, seen below, show the jihadists hosting a large rally, which they used to proselytize and recruit.
As The Long War Journal previously reported, AQAP opened a new Twitter feed for Al Ather “news” agency in January. The feed is intended to advertise Ansar al Sharia’s governance, enforcement of sharia law, and other activities in the populated areas that have fallen under the jihadists’ control since last year. Ansar al Sharia is simply a brand used by AQAP to market itself to the local population. By portraying themselves as the defenders of sharia law, AQAP’s leaders and members hope to woo more Muslims to their cause.
On Jan. 23, Al Ather “news” agency began publishing photos and videos of Ansar al Sharia’s supposed good works. The AQAP propaganda arm has continued to produce high-quality content since then, including the photos of the gathering in Mukallah.
It is widely believed that al Qaeda is a terrorist organization myopically focused on high-profile attacks in the West. But al Qaeda, like the Islamic State, is more than a terrorist group. Al Qaeda’s regional branches focus most of their efforts on waging insurgencies throughout Africa and the Middle East. And they need to build at least some popular support to be successful.
The images released out of Mukallah are now commonplace. Similar types of events have been held in Libya, Syria and elsewhere. Al Qaeda’s goal is to inculcate its radical ideology in the population. It uses events such as the one in Mukallah to convince a new generation of believers that it represents them and Islam. Of course, most Muslims disagree. But AQAP is using its new proto-state in southern Yemen to raise a new generation of jihadists who share al Qaeda’s beliefs. This is one of the reasons why Western countries and their allies find themselves fighting a long war, albeit one that is often misunderstood.
Below are 30 images released by Al Ather from the event in Mukallah, which began earlier this month and lasted at least two days. Two of the photos show Khalid al Batarfi, an al Qaeda veteran freed from a Yemeni jail last year, delivering a talk on a widescreen. The words “O Aqsa, We Are Coming,” a reference to Jerusalem, can be seen on the al Qaeda banner on the main stage.
As can be seen in the next two photos, Khalid al Batarfi, an al Qaeda veteran, delivered a lecture on a widescreen at the rally:
The words “A Aqsa, We Are Coming” can be clearly seen on the banner on the main stage: