SANAA (Reuters) - A regional wing of al Qaeda said it was behind the failed Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. passenger plane, which was meant to avenge U.S. attacks on the group in Yemen, according to a web statement posted on Monday.
The group told Americans to expect more attacks, after the failed bomb plot turned the spotlight on the poor Arab country.
The United States and Yemen’s neighbor Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda will use instability in the country to carry out attacks in the world’s main oil exporting region and beyond.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) said in the statement posted on Islamist websites that it had provided the Nigerian suspect with a “technically advanced device” but that it had failed to detonate because of a technical fault.
The group said the attack was in retaliation for recent raids on its militants that it said had been carried out by U.S. jets and had caused many civilian deaths.
“We tell the American people that since you support the leaders who kill our women and children ... we have come to slaughter you (and) will strike you with no previous (warning), our vengeance is near,” the statement said.
The Yemeni government says it carried out military raids on December 17, in which more than 30 al Qaeda members were killed, and another on December24.
Opposition groups said about 50 civilians were killed, including women and children.
The New York Times has said Washington gave hardware, intelligence and other support to Yemeni forces for the raids.
“We call on all Muslims ... to throw out all unbelievers from the Arabian Peninsula by killing crusaders who work in embassies or elsewhere ... (in) a total war on all crusaders in the Peninsula of (Prophet) Mohammad,” the statement said.
Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is charged with trying to blow up a Delta Airlines plane as it approached Detroit on a flight from Amsterdam with almost 300 people on board.
Besides al Qaeda, Yemen is also grappling with a Shi’ite revolt in the north and a separatist movement in the south with both complaining of social and economic discrimination, something the government denies.
On Monday, a spokesman for the northern rebels rejected as “fictitious” reports that rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi had been killed in the fighting, Al Jazeera TV’s website said.
Yemen’s national security chief Ali Mohammad Al-Ansi told a state-run website that 29 al Qaeda members had been arrested.
“There will be more operations awaiting terrorist elements and their nests,” the Defense Ministry website quoted an unidentified security official as saying.
Writing by Ulf Laessing and Firouz Sedarat; editing by Robin Pomeroy