Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is leveraging a recent US counterterrorism (CT) operation in Yemen to spread anti-American rhetoric and motivate supporters in the West. On January 29, US forces raided an AQAP-controlled area in Bayda Province, killing three tribal chiefs linked to the group and the daughter of deceased US-born radical cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi. In a rare audio statement, AQAP leader Qasim al-Rimi mocked the US President for the operation.
- On February 4, AQAP released a statement asserting the raid would increase Muslims’ anger and enthusiasm for striking the United States. AQAP and its supporters later circulated photos of eight-year-old Nawar al-Aulaqi, who was killed, stating, “American forces committed a horrific massacre against Muslims in Yemen, after an airdrop operation…in the center of the country that resulted in the death of dozens, many of them women and children.”
- On February 4, Rimi condemned the operation, praised fighters for their resistance, and acknowledged the deaths of 14 men and 11 women and children. He accused the United States of trying to “break the pride” of Sunni Muslims and stated the White House “did not learn from the past lessons.”
- In an effort to discredit US CT efforts and policy, AQAP and its sympathizers in recent weeks have re-released some Aulaqi sermons on social media. Citing one from 2010, AQAP asserted the West is at war with Islam and “[it] will eventually turn against its Muslim citizens.”