AQAP notes death of local leader in drone strike

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula released a statement from a local leader in southern Yemen who was killed in a US drone strike two weeks ago.

The statement by Ali bin Lakraa’ al Kazimi, who is described as “the former leader of its cell” in the Al Mahfad district in Abyan province, was released by “Ansar al Sharia News” yesterday and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. Ansar al Sharia is AQAP’s political front in Yemen.

Kazimi was killed in a US drone strike that targeted an AQAP training camp in Al Mahfad on April 20. More than 30 AQAP fighters are said to have been killed in the drone strike and accompanying Yemeni airstrikes.

A Yemeni official told The Long War Journal that the April 20 airstrikes in Al Mahfad were intended to “destroy the [AQAP] base and sites in Al Mahfad, deter their recruiting and training capability,” and kill “KSA [Saudi] fighters who returned from Syria.” The Yemeni official said that “dozens [of Saudis have] infiltrated the border and joined AQAP.”

In Kazimi’s posthumous statement, he railed against the “Americanized Yemeni army, which wants to insult and humiliate the tribes in accordance with the guidelines of the Americans,” according to the SITE translation.

This is a common argument made by AQAP in an effort to turn Yemeni tribesmen and soldiers against the government. For instance, in a video released by AQAP in October 2013 featuring suicide attacks, a scene was included in which an AQAP officer lectures captured Yemeni soldiers.

“Do you know that you and the Americans are in the same trench? The [American] spying drones are in the sky and you are on the ground,” an AQAP leader tells the group of Yemeni soldiers in the video.

“What is the difference between you and the Americans? Haven’t you thought about this issue? Haven’t you considered yourselves and the Americans in one front? When Americans bombard our brothers with unmanned drones, who collect their bodies? It’s you the soldiers. You take their bodies. You and the Americans are in one front,” the AQAP leader chides the Yemeni soldiers.

Kazimi offered “condolences” to the families of the Ba Kazim tribe who have been killed in US drone strikes, and called on “all the free sons of the Ba Kazim tribe to stand in line alongside their mujahideen brothers.”

The Yemeni military has recently launched a new offensive against AQAP in southern and central Yemen. Military forces have massed in Abyan and Shabwa provinces in the south, and in the central province of Baydah. All three provinces are known havens for AQAP. [See LWJ report, Yemen expands southern offensive against AQAP.]

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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