In a recently released statement, al-Qa‘idah in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has officially taken responsibility for the two bombings that targeted Huthi supporters this week. If it's legit, this proves my original thesis wrong. The original Arabic statement can be found on the Jihadology blog. Below is my English translation of the statement in full:
“After repeated appeals from the Sunni people to their brothers the mujahidin for defense, and after the failures of the apostate governments in San‘a and Riyadh—with all their armies, resources, and funds—in addressing the apostate “Huthis” (failures that have abandoned the People of the Sunnah to a fate unknown); the mujahidin of the Arabian Peninsula have decided to begin these martyrdom operations in defense of the land of our Prophet (PBUH) and his Companions (may God bless them all); and in defense of our brothers among the People of the Sunnah, after we have seen them killed, their honor violated and their homes destroyed, driven from their homes and neighborhoods, receiving no assistance.
So we call upon the sons of the People of the Sunnah to enlist in the brigades for the defense of the land of the Prophet (PBUH). The Shi‘i peril is near, and if it is not dealt with, these apostate Shi‘ah will do as they have done to the Sunnis of Iraq and Afghanistan. Hasten, before it is too late; and know that the armies of Saudi Arabia and Yemen do not represent the People of the Sunnah.
Thanks to God we have formed special units to defend our brothers, and to guarantee the extermination of the malignant seeds that have been planted by the apostate Iranian Shi‘ah in Sa‘dah and the adjacent areas, under the leadership of the apostate Huthis.
The People of the Sunnah should know that the apostate Huthis are a legitimate target for us. So we caution our brothers to avoid the Huthis’ gatherings and processions. We call upon those at risk to abandon the apostate Huthis, before it is too late. We have prepared for them, and we will not rest until we have cleansed the land of their filth and their crimes against the People of the Sunnah, and until there is no fitnah, and the only religion is the religion of God, and all evildoers are overthrown and destroyed.”
In the coming week we'll see more analysis of this statement on Waq al-Waq and other blogs, including this one. The first thing that strikes me about this statement is that AQAP claims to be acting in self-defense. No one associated with al-Huthi has ever attacked AQAP. Earlier this year, Huthi supporters took a couple of prisoners linked to AQAP and, in an attempt to advance the peace process, handed them over to the central government. Other than that, the two groups have had no contact.
I think some observers—foremost among them Brian O'Neill—will argue that AQAP is trying to appeal to its international fan base by targeting the Yemeni Shi‘ah (though really, Yemenis almost never refer to Zaydis as Shi‘ah). Their goal is to attract foreign jihadis to their organization. But I have a feeling that this move will end up hurting AQAP, in that it will destabilize the networks of tribal and local support they've built up over the years. Maybe I'm misjudging the Yemeni populace at large, but I really don't think many Yemenis will tolerate sectarian violence on a large scale. Nevertheless, the government is likely to try to exploit conflict between its enemies to its own benefit.