AQAP destroys tombs in southern Yemen

As the Yemeni military presses its offensive against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula strongholds in Abyan province, the terror group released a video of the destruction of a tomb in Jaar just before AQAP fighters withdrew from the city. The scene is reminiscent of the Afghan Taliban’s destruction of statues of Buddha in March 2001.

The videotape was released by the Madad News Agency and showed members of Ansar al Sharia, AQAP’s political front, demolishing tombs in the villages of Al Tareyyah, Al Darjaj, and Sayhan near Jaar in Abyan province. The videotape, which was recorded in May and released on June 5, was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. Ibrahim Suleiman al Rubaish, a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay and now a senior AQAP leader, is featured in the video.

AQAP members are shown destroying the al Ja’dani shrine in Al Tareyyah. The AQAP fighters and some members of the village ripped apart the items inside the dome, and lit objects on fire. A backhoe was then used to demolish the domed structure.

Rubaish, who has risen to become a leading ideologue and theologian for AQAP after his release, was present at the demolition, and gave a speech that explained why AQAP destroyed the tomb.


Ibrahim Suleiman al Rubaish, while giving a speech on the destruction of tombs outside of Jaar, Yemen.

“Here are the mujahideen by the grace of Allah the Great and Almighty carrying out what Allah commanded them to do and reviving their jihad in the Cause of Allah…. So, just as they fought democracy and representative councils which make laws alongside Allah, they are destroying the domes which are being worshipped other than Allah, along with the graves and mausoleums, which people try to get close to other than Allah the Great and Almighty,” Rubaish said, according to SITE.

“We fight the idolatry of the palaces and the graves – both are the same,” Rubaish said later in the video after AQAP fighters and villagers moved off to destroy other tombs in the area.

AQAP was driven out of Jaar and Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan, by the Yemeni military three days ago. The coastal town of Shaqra in Abyan was liberated from AQAP control today. AQAP controlled Jaar, Zinjibar, and Shaqra for a 11 months before the Yemeni military launched the offensive in May.

AQAP’s destruction of the tombs near Jaar, and the rationale for doing so, was similar to the Taliban’s destruction of two massive statues of Buddha (one was 175 feet tall, the other was 125 feet) in Bamiyan province in March 2001. The two statues were carved into limestone cliffs sometime between 300 and 500 A.D. The Taliban used “explosives, tanks, and anti-aircraft weapons” to destroy the statues, according to USA Today.

The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas was ordered by Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, after his government decreed that the statues were “idols.”

Other Islamist terror groups, including al Qaeda in Iraq, Shabaab in Somalia, the Pakistani Taliban, and Ansar Dine in Mali have targeted graves and religious sites as part of their efforts to erase symbols that they perceive to be against Islam.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • John Farallo says:

    this is all I have to say about that

  • mike merlo says:

    it’s just a matter of time before Timbuktu & Egyptian antiquities meet the same fate

  • Witch Doctor says:

    @Mike Merlo…
    You are too right my friend. In Egypt we could have predicted this as soon as we heard the “Muslim Brotherhood” was on the scene.
    Watching these idiots destroy and burn symbols against Islam remind me of some of the stupid stuff I see teenagers doing as they grow up. There is the difference, teenagers grow up, idiots who have no tolerance for others get blown up.
    I hope backhoes seen near Mosques and their operators now present an even greater target rich environment for us to drop hellfire rockets on their backward thinking selves.
    Happy Hunting!
    P.S. Check the new URL. It was hard to get accepted, but Martyr 9/11 seems to be a real sucker.

  • Thomas says:

    How is this possibly reminiscent of the Taliban’s destruction of the Buddhas? The buddha statues were viewed as pre-islamic idols, whereas these are shrines of muslim saints.
    The Taliban, being a traditional deobandi movement, have refrained from desecrating tombs of saints. Whereas the AQAP being a salafist movement, are furiously anti-sufi.
    Theres no connection between the two. Otherwise, the Taliban would have destroyed the tombs in the town of Mazar-e-Sharif, and given it a new name since it literally means “Holy Shrine”.

  • Eddie D. says:

    They know they are not going to have their way so they are destroying everything they can. They remind me of spoiled brats.

  • mike merlo says:

    re: Thomas
    AQ, the Taliban and a host of other ‘associates’ in Pakistan have been busy for years destroying & desecrating Tombs & ‘places of significance’ of saints, pirs and notables of consequence. Lest people forget Shia ‘structures’ of consequence in Iraq were and are regularly targeted by Salafists. Actually throughout the world of Islam incidents of vandalism are so frequent & numerous in targeting these ‘structures’ they barely receive mention even in the host countries national media outlets.
    If I’m not mistaken the Taliban engaged in some vandalism targeting places of interest in
    Mazar-e-Sharif & other parts of Afghanistan outside their Helmand/Kandahar stronghold. Their rationale for standing down was a combination of tenuous control & the Northern Alliance.

  • Thomas says:

    @ mike merlo
    Al-Qaeda is a ‘salafist’ group, which explains why they would bomb or break tombs/shrines. There’s no contradiction there, since they are vehemently anti-sufi.
    However, the Taliban is a ‘deobandi’ group, which itself is a fundamentalist branch of sufism. They oppose the “worshiping” of tombs, but don’t oppose tombs itself.
    That is why I feel its not an accurate description to compare the two. Since they have a clear religious/interpretational division, despite the political/militant alliance.

  • mike merlo says:

    @ Thomas
    There is little or no difference between Salafist’s & Deobandi’s. One need only to research how the Deobandi’s came about in the first place. A while back some one posted a comment on The Kharajites as point of reference in trying to understand & trace the roots of the present dilemma bedeviling the world.
    Destruction of the Tombs & related ‘recognitions’ actually dovetails quite nicely with the Deobandi ‘world view.’

  • Witch Doctor says:

    @Mike and Thomas;
    Both of you gentlemen are correct in some ways. While the Taliban are Deobandi which is an offshoot of Sufisim they do not believe in destroying tombs. They do not believe in worshiping anything that is anti-Islam which makes destruction of culture and artifacts okay.
    The Muslim Brotherhood, which I believe Mike was hinting at regarding his Egypt comments draw their beliefs from the Salafi school of thought. With this being said one of their basic ideals is to install Sharia law wherever possible. This can not be good for the hopes of a new Egypt.
    Good comments by both of you sirs and I enjoyed reading them.
    Happy Father’s Day to all.

  • Witch Doctor says:

    After writing my last comment I happened to glance at the CBS page and saw that the Muslim Brotherhood claims victory in the preliminary election. See for yourselves:;cbsCarousel
    Not good!

  • Rogg Gollibo says:

    I think all the comments here summed it up. Just a bunch of thugs at this point; they’ve lost their guidance (albeit tempoarirly); lost their bombmakers (albeit temporarirly). We can only hope “our boy” from Daphne hops across the gulf to Yemen, and gets hit via a drone.
    I think we need to continue and just drone the he** out of them till we can say “There used to be a bunch of AQAP here; but we systematically removed them like you would any kind of termite or roach.”


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