On Nov. 12, a Twitter account linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a video interview with Jalal al Marqishi, also known as Hamza al Zinjibari, in which the AQAP commander talks about recent developments in the fight against the Shiite Houthi rebels and comments on the nature of the US-Houthi relationship.
Al Marqishi speaks of a “quantum leap” achieved by the efforts of the jihadists in their ongoing battle against the sweeping military advances of the Houthis, whom AQAP deems to be heretic. He claims that recent AQAP operations throughout the country have forced the Houthis to retreat and and given AQAP the upper hand.
Al Mariqishi makes specific reference to an operation earlier this month in which the AQAP fighters stormed Houthi positions in Radaa from three directions, and notes that the attack enabled the jihadists to reach the “depth of the city” and forced the Houthis to retreat to its outskirts. Al Marqishi also cites the triple suicide attack carried out by a four-man team of AQAP fighters on Nov. 8 in the Manasseh area of Radaa. During that attack, four AQAP fighters stormed a local school, believed by AQAP to be used as a Houthi gathering point and weapons storage facility, and immediately clashed with the Houthis on site. The first AQAP attacker launched a missile at a Houthi checkpoint in front of the school and subsequently detonated his suicide belt amid a Houthi crowd, killing some 25 people immediately. Two other suicide bombers also detonated their explosives shortly after the first, while the fourth AQAP attacker managed to emerge unscathed from the clashes at the school that lasted for about 12 hours.
Marqishi goes on to claim that in a battle that occurred just an hour before the recording of the interview, AQAP repelled a Houthi advance on the town of Khabza in the Radaa region, killing more than 30 Houthis and taking an impressive cache of weapons as booty.
At this juncture, Marqishi turns to address suspicions of possible US-Houthi collusion against AQAP. He claims that the UN Special Adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, is a “broker” between the US and the Houthis who personally oversaw the Houthi takeover of Sanaa and many other Yemeni cities and military bases.
Al Marqishi explicitly claims that the US has been providing direct air support for the Houthis by using drone strikes to facilitate Houthi advances against AQAP. To prove this theory, he cites the Oct. 24 drone strike in Manasseh targeting AQAP fighters, noting that it paved the way for the Houthis to take the area. Additionally, al Marqishi says that during fierce battles in Radaa between AQAP and Houthi forces, US drone strikes killed prominent members of the terrorist organization, including Shawki al Ba’adani, Abu Osama al Hodeidi, Abu Osama al Sana’ani, and Muhid al Qurashi. Later the same night, additional US drone strikes killed Nabil al Dahab and Maysar al Adani, as well as other AQAP supporters from the town of Khabza.
Al Marqishi concludes this section of his interview by emphasizing the veracity of US-Houthi cooperation. He says, “We confirm by way of field information and information reported to us that this agreement is true and we have witnessed its reality.”
In the final section of his interview, al Marqishi addresses the role of Yemen’s Sunni tribes in AQAP’s campaign against the rebels. He notes that the Sunni tribes play a large role in the campaign and provides examples of tribal efforts to stem the Houthi advance. Al Marqishi cites the Sunni tribes’ pushing the Houthis out of Jawf province, as well as the Tayfa tribe of Radaa who “fight alongside the mujahideen.”
Al Marqishi addresses Yemen’s Sunni tribesmen, saying, “We would like to tell the Sunni tribes that the American and Iranian project is a singular project that seeks to humiliate the Sunni tribes, control their land, and enable the rafidha [derogatory word for Shiites] to take Yemen.”
In an effort to paint the current Houthi rebellion as inherently sectarian in nature, al Marqishi claims that the Houthis have prevented Sunnis from attending Friday prayers in areas they control and have even stripped Sunni tribesmen of their arms.
Al Marqishi concludes his interview by calling on the Sunni tribes to support AQAP’s offensive against the Houthis. “We call upon all tribes to be cohesive and work shoulder to shoulder with the mujahideen to fight the rafidhi [Shiite] Houthis because there is an international conspiracy against the Sunnis,” al Marqishi says. “The Sunni tribes must realize this and gather around the mujahideen.”
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.