DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda’s wing in Yemen said it would take revenge over raids against the group this month, which it said were carried out by U.S. jets and killed about 50 men, women and children, in an Internet statement on Sunday.
The statement, dated December 20, appeared on Islamist websites shortly after U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Washington was investigating whether al Qaeda was involved in a Christmas Day attempt to blow up a passenger jet.
“We will not let Muslim women and children’s blood be spilled without taking revenge,” Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said in the statement.
The group said five U.S. warplanes had carried out the December 17 attack, which the Yemeni government said its ground forces and warplanes had launched to foil a series of suicide bombings. About 30 al Qaeda militants were killed and 17 seized in the raids, Yemeni officials said.
The New York Times has said the United States gave military hardware, intelligence and other support to Yemeni forces to carry out the raids.
A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Saturday authorities were looking at the possibility that the Nigerian suspect had ties to al Qaeda in Yemen. Napolitano said there was no early evidence that he was part of a wider plot.
The United States and Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda will exploit instability in Yemen to stage attacks in the kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter, and beyond.
The Internet statement was issued before renewed attacks on al Qaeda on December 24, in which Yemen said it may have killed the top two leaders of the regional wing of the group as well as an American Muslim preacher linked to the man who shot dead 13 people at a U.S. army base.
Besides combating al Qaeda militants, Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, is fighting a war against Shi’ite rebels in the north and faces separatist sentiment in the south.
Reporting by Firouz Sedarat; editing by Robin Pomeroy