Center for Strategic Communication

“A Message for the American People regarding the Killing of an American hostage in Yemen.” Source: Al Malahem Media Foundation.

In a newly released video produced by the media wing of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the terrorist group’s senior officials addresses the American public and comments on the recent US rescue operation to free American hostage Luke Somers and South African hostage Pierre Korkie. Al Ansi criticizes the US government’s decision to carry out that operation and blames President Barack Obama for the deaths of the two hostages.

Last week, al Ansi appeared in a video message in which he threatened to kill Luke Somers if the US government would not meet AQAP’s demands. Al Ansi refers to this ultimatum in the most recent video, and alleges that President Obama made “the wrong decision” in carrying out the attempted rescue operation, “which was considered as a signature of the execution order of the American citizen [Somers].”

Although the previous AQAP video did not detail the terrorist group’s demands for the release of Somers, in the video released today al Ansi asserts that “Obama and his government know the fairness of our demands.” He suggests that the American government could have instead negotiated with AQAP regarding specific clauses or details of the ultimatum but instead chose to go ahead with a military operation.

Al Ansi alludes to several imprisoned terrorists who may have figured in the terrorist group’s ultimatum. “Is it not our right to request the release of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman?” al Ansi asks. Abdel Rahman, also known as the “Blind Sheikh,” was the spiritual head of the two leading Egyptian jihadist groups, Gamaa Islamiyya (IG) and Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ). The latter group was headed by Ayman al Zawahiri, who merged his organization into al Qaeda. Rahman has long been revered by al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden, who was influenced by the Blind Sheikh, repeatedly demanded his release. He was convicted for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a follow-on plot against New York City landmarks and is currently detained at Guantanamo Bay.

“Can they explain the fate of imprisoned Aafia Siddiqui,” al Ansi continues, “and can they free her after two long years of injustice, torture, and arrest?” Siddiqui was sentenced to prison in the US after grabbing a gun and firing at two Americans in July 2008 in Afghanistan. The Americans were attempting to question Siddiqui about her many nefarious ties. According to American intelligence and law enforcement officials, Siddiqui was a member of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s al Qaeda network and was involved in its plotting against the US after Sept. 11, 2001.

The demand to free Rahman and Siddiqui is a common one, especially from al Qaeda-linked groups, despite the slim to nonexistent chance that either will be released. In January 2013, the al Qaeda-affiliated group responsible for a raid on a natural gas field in eastern Algeria demanded the release of the two AQ figures from US custody. The same demand was issued previously by al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri in a September 2012 video.

Al Ansi also addresses the video appeal from Somers’ family released last week shortly after AQAP announced its ultimatum. Although Somers’ family had appealed to AQAP to spare Luke’s life, arguing that he was not responsible for any US government action in Yemen, al Ansi claims that “it was appropriate to appeal to Obama and his government, not to us.” He puts the blame squarely on Obama, saying that AQAP had desired a different outcome but that Obama’s decision forced AQAP’s hand.

Al Ansi concludes that “it is impossible to reach an understanding with the American government except in a single manner, a direct manner of killing and standing up to tyranny, which will put the lives of all Americans in danger, inside and outside America.”