In a new video released by the Yemeni-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on Saturday, the group’s leader Khalid Batarfi condemned the restoration of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Batarfi, a Saudi national, appeared for the second time in years, denounced the kingdom’s submission to the “Shia” and its failure to confront “Iran’s agents” in reference to the Houthi movement which leads the de-facto government based in Yemeni capital Sanaa. Riyadh has also recently initiated historic direct peace talks with the Houthis, leading to growing speculation of the government’s recognition and end to the eight-year war.
New #AQAP video capitalises on recent #Saudi-Houthi talks (& #Iran-Saudi deal) by pitching #alQaeda as the only true defender of #Yemen's Sunnis. Claims Houthis would have been stopped long ago if Saudi & #UAE had not meddled to serve own agendas. Urges locals to join the #jihad pic.twitter.com/lKJ19SMrQz
— Elisabeth Kendall (@Dr_E_Kendall) April 30, 2023
The AQAP leader said: “Saudi Arabia saved [former President] Ali Abdullah Saleh from the Yemeni people’s revolution in the Gulf initiative, and empowered the Houthis in Yemen through the Coalition and the failed Decisive Storm.”
He also took aim at the UAE, blaming its support for the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), after AQAP lost significant territory in their southern stronghold in the Abyan province at the end of last year.
Bararfi also called on Yemen’s Sunnis to support AQAP and to wage jihad against “the agents” of Iran and the US: “I call on all Sunnis, especially the Salafis and the young people of the Muslim Brotherhood, to support the religion and push back the enemies of Iran and America’s agents.”
Despite a resurgence of activity and their staunch opposition to the Houthis, last year AQAP began redirecting its activities toward Yemen’s southern governorates with more than 70 per cent of the group’s activity taking place in Abyan and Shabwa against STC-affiliated forces.