DUBAI (AFP) – Al-Qaeda’s military chief in Yemen Qassim al-Rimi on Monday announced the creation of an “Aden-Abyan Army” to free the country of “crusaders and their apostate agents,” in an Internet audio tape.
“We are preparing to implement the first steps of the Aden-Abyan Army to defend the nation and its religion… and free this land of crusaders and their apostate agents,” the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader said.
“This army is in its early stages,” he said, calling for help from jihadists and their supporters in the audio message whose authenticity could not be verified immediately. It was posted on the Al-Malaham site linked to AQAP.
Aden and Abyan are the two southern provinces in Yemen where AQAP is becoming more and more active.
Earlier on Monday, the US ambassador in Yemen said Washington was committed to working with the Yemeni government in Sanaa to defeat Al-Qaeda.
“The United States is committed to working with the government and people of Yemen to defeat Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and to secure Yemen’s borders,” Gerald Feierstein told reporters.
“We will continue to train and equip Yemen’s counterterrorism forces to eliminate the immediate threat that AQAP poses to our collective security,” he said.
In the audio tape, Rimi said “snipers and explosives” had been used in recent months to target police and security forces in southern and eastern Yemen, adding that the group was “encouraged” by the success of such attacks.
But he warned his group had “so far kept its main cards up its sleeve, and would only use them according to the changing circumstances.”
Rimi said for now the group was “avoiding direct confrontation” with the forces of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in urban areas, but “we have a presence in several mountainous areas, deserts and coastal areas.”
AQAP was conducting a “war of attrition to widen the front with the enemy in order to weaken it,” he added, comparing his group to Afghanistan’s Taliban and the Al-Qaeda-inspired Shebab group in Somalia.
“The mujahedeen (holy fighters) are advancing with firm steps towards their goal: to apply Sharia in the Islamic Peninsula (Arabian Peninsula) by means of jihad,” said the AQAP military leader.
Yemen says it has been on the offensive against AQAP since the group claimed responsibility for a failed bid on Christmas Day in 2009 to blow up a US airliner over Detroit by a Nigerian allegedly trained by Al-Qaeda.
The United States has become increasingly concerned about the threat posed by Islamist militancy in the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, and has warned of the potential for Yemen to become a regrouping ground for Al-Qaeda.
Twin bombings hit a sports centre in the port city of Aden on Monday, killing one person and wounding at least eight people, security and medical officials said. It was not immediately known who carried out the attacks.
Aden and Abyan are set to host part of the 20th Gulf Football Championship involving Yemen, Iraq and six Gulf monarchies from November 22 to December 5.