SANAA (Reuters) - Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has denied a claim by Yemen’s president that 70 percent of its fighters in Yemen are foreigners, according to SITE Intelligence Group which monitors radical websites.
President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi said on Tuesday that 70 percent of al Qaeda fighters in Yemen were foreigners naming Brazil, the Netherlands, Australia and France among the countries where militants came from.
Yemen launched a new military offensive this week against Islamist militants in the south of the country. At least 13 militants, including a commander from Uzbekistan, were killed on Thursday, the third day of the offensive, security sources said.
“The vast majority of the mujahideen are from the sons of this Muslim country, where they were brought together by the brotherhood of faith, and they, with grace from Allah, are rooted in their tribes and among their Muslim brothers,” al Qaeda’s Yemeni wing said in a statement, translated by SITE.
The statement said the only foreigners in Yemen were U.S. soldiers who carried out drone attacks, ambassadors from the United States, Britain and other “Crusader” states who controlled Yemen’s policies, and foreign businessmen who stole the country’s resources.
Hundreds of people have been killed in bombings, suicide attacks and raids by the militant group against military and government facilities and foreign nationals, hampering the U.S.-allied country’s efforts to restore stability since a popular uprising in 2011 that forced a change of government.
Stability in Yemen, which shares a long border with the world’s top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, became an international concern after AQAP tried to carry out attacks abroad, including an attempt blow up a U.S.-bound airliner.
The United States acknowledges using drone strikes to target AQAP in Yemen but does not comment on the practice. Critics say the strikes and civilian casualties are increasing sympathy for AQAP and resentment against Washington.
Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Janet Lawrence