The leader of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), the terrorist group's Yemeni arm, offered a rare apology for attacking a hospital and prayer center during a strike on Yemen's Defense Ministry last week.
AQAP commander Qassim al-Raimi said in a video statement that has not been absolutely confirmed, but that the Associated Press writes was released by AQAP's news media branch, that attackers were told not to target the hospital ,but that one made a "mistake," adding, "We told them (militants) to be cautious, not to enter the prayer place or the hospital. Eight of our brothers were cautious, and one did not. May Allah forgive him and have mercy on him. He continued,
“We offer our apology and condolences to the victims’ families. We accept full responsibility for what happened in the hospital and will pay blood money for the victims’ families... We rid ourselves of what our brother did... We did not order him to do so, and we are not pleased with what he did.”
The apology, posted online on Saturday, is apparently a response to video footage broadcast on Yemeni television showing al-Qaeda operatives attacking doctors and throwing explosives at patients in the hospital. Fifty-two people were killed in the attack. According to CNN, such an apology is rare but not unprecedented:
In November, Syrian rebels with al Qaeda ties apologized for mistakenly beheading a wounded rebel fighter after assuming he supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In 2009, an al Qaeda spokesman released a video message offering condolences to "unintended Muslim victims" killed in attacks. And in 2007, Bergen said, former al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden said that Muslim victims killed by al Qaeda in Iraq "are not the intended targets."
CNN reports that al-Qaeda memos recovered from Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound reveal the group's anxieties over poor media portrayal. According to CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen, "Al Qaeda leaders seem to be waking up to the fact that if they position themselves as the defenders of Muslims, their large-scale killing of Muslim civilians needs to stop."
Despite the mea culpa, Raimi stressed that AQAP is "continuing with our jihad," adding that all military posts and camps that “cooperate with the American drones spying, planting chips, providing information or offering intelligence advice," are fair game for attack.