Earlier today, Al Qaeda’s propaganda arm released a statement condemning the recent American counterterrorism operation in Yemen. US Central Command (CENTCOM) has confirmed that “civilian non-combatants were likely killed in the midst of a firefight during” the raid in Yemen on Jan. 29. The casualties “may include children,” CENTCOM stated.
As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, portrays the operation as part of an allegedly broader campaign against all Muslims.
“Only a few days after [President] Trump warned of Islamic Terrorism in his inauguration speech, we witnessed the American massacre in the Qiffah area in Yemen,” the seventh issue of Al Qaeda’s Al Nafir Bulletin reads.
The statement continues: “Hence, it is clear to us all that the threat was not directed at the Mujahideen of the Islamic Ummah [worldwide community of Muslims] alone, but instead it was directed against the Muslims in general, whether they are men, women, or even children, since the Americans in this massacre intentionally killed women and children, and even an infant in the womb was not spared from their brutality.”
The raid encountered multiple problems. A Navy SEAL, Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, was killed in the firefight. Several others were wounded. In addition, a MV-22 Osprey aircraft had to be destroyed after making an abrupt landing. Press reports have raised a number of questions concerning the level of planning behind the operation.
But there is no reason to believe that American forces “intentionally” sought to kill innocent women and children, as al Qaeda alleges. CENTCOM claims the civilians “appear to have been potentially caught up in aerial gunfire that was called in to assist US forces in contact.” CENTCOM also claimed that “armed women” were “firing from prepared fighting positions” and pointed out that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has a “horrifying history of hiding women and children within militant operating areas and terrorist camps.”
Nonetheless, al Qaeda used its statement to send a message to the new American president.
“And on this occasion we say to the stupid President Trump: The presidency of your country has had several presidents in years past, all of whom have promised the American people to kill the Mujahideen and excise them,” al Qaeda’s statement reads. “However, they all ended up leaving the White House before fulfilling their promise, despite some of them having a second term.” (Note: In reality, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama all had second terms.)
Al Qaeda’s bulletin concludes: “This is undoubtedly your fate, for the flame of jihad has ignited and reached all over the world.”
Al Nafir was first released in Arabic and then translated into English by the Global Islamic Media Front, which is affiliated with al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda and its online channels moved quickly to denounced the US for killing women and children. And these same social media sites posted photos of several children allegedly killed during the assault. One of them is purportedly the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al Awlaki, an American-born jihadi who became one of AQAP’s top ideologues and an operational planner. Awlaki was killed in an American drone strike in Sept. 2011. His 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al Awlaki, was killed in a separate drone strike in Oct. 2011.
Pictures of the girl, Nawar Anwar al Awlaki, and other deceased children have been posted on dozens of al Qaeda-related and other social media sites.
Al Masra, a newsletter affiliated with AQAP, also included an article in its 38th issue denouncing the raid. Although Al Masra describes itself as being “independent,” FDD’s Long War Journal assesses that it is actually produced by al Qaeda for its global membership.
AQAP remains a potent foe inside Yemen, as the group is waging a prolific insurgency and has been able to control significant territory at times.
Citing local residents, Xinhua reports that AQAP seized three towns in the Abyan province earlier today. Al Qaeda “gunmen” reportedly set up “checkpoints” in Lawder, Ahwar and Shuqra. AQAP captured much of southern Yemen in 2015 and held it for approximately one year, until an Arab-led coalition invaded the country in April 2016. Instead of sustaining significant casualties, AQAP’s forces simply melted away, living to fight another day. The al Qaeda arm continues to control significant turf through its partners, including local councils and committees.