Tariq al Dhabab. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.
The al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula commander who took control of a town in central Yemen late last week has released a short videotape urging Muslims “to unite and be patient” as “the Islamic Caliphate is coming.”
Tariq al Dhahab, the leader of the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula forces that seized the town of Rada’a in Baydah province last weekend, made the statement in a 54-second-long video on YouTube that was released on Jan. 18. The statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
“So, be patient, perseverant, and stationed,” Dhahab told the “Muslim Ummah,” or community. “The Islamic Caliphate is coming, with permission from Allah, and it will be established, even if we sacrifice our own skulls, money, children and homes.”
Dhabab’s forces seized control of Rada’a last weekend after more than 200 of his fighters stormed the city, took over government buildings and a historic fort, and freed more than 250 prisoners, including many al Qaeda fighters, from a jail. Dhahab’s fighters raised the black banner of jihad over the fort and swore allegiance to al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri.
Two policemen were killed during the brief assault. Some residents of Rada’a said the government put up little resistance. Others, including Dhabab’s own brother, Sheikh Khalid al Dhahab, accused the Yemeni government of supporting AQAP’s takeover of the town.
Baydah province is the home of Nasir al Wuhayshi, who was Osama bin Laden’s personal secretary and was instrumental in founding al Qaeda’s branch in the Arabian Peninsula.
On Jan. 18, tribal leaders in Rada’a and Baydah province gave AQAP 24 hours to leave the town and threatened to use force if their demands were not met. But Dhahab ignored their demands and instead said his forces would quit the town if the government frees more than 400 al Qaeda prisoners currently being held in Sanaa and imposes sharia law in Rada’a.
Tariq al Dhahab is a brother-in-law of Anwar al Awlaki, the American citizen who served as a senior cleric and operational commander for AQAP before he was killed in a US drone strike in August 2011. Dhahab was recently transferred to Yemen from Syria, which had captured him while he was attempting to enter Iraq, according to Reuters. It is unclear if Yemeni authorities released him or if he escaped from a Yemeni prison.
For more information on AQAP’s expansion in Yemen, see LWJ report, AQAP fighters seize control of Yemeni town, swear allegiance to Zawahiri.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.