By Oren Adaki
On Feb. 17, the media wing of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Malahem Media Foundation, released the latest installment of its video series documenting the group’s attacks, called “From The Battlefield.” This most recent episode features footage of a double suicide attack on the Yemeni military’s First Military Command base in Hadramout and other smaller attacks in the province. Although the video does not provide dates for the attacks, AQAP claimed credit for a coordinated attack on the base carried out by two suicide bombers driving explosive-laden vehicles (also known as vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, or VBIEDs) that took place on Dec. 9, 2014.
The video begins with footage of an AQAP fighter rigging a vehicle with explosives, followed by a short prayer asking Allah to shield the car from the sights of the disbelievers and to “make this car a thorn in the throats of the enemies of Allah.”
The video then turns to what appears to be another AQAP fighter detailing the attack plan to the suicide bomber. The fighter points out exactly what street the suicide bomber is to take to lead to the main gate of the base as well as precisely where to detonate the explosive device stashed in his vehicle. The fighter explains that immediately after the first bomber detonates, the second suicide bomber should take another route to reach the headquarters of the First Military Command base where the second bomb would be detonated.
Indeed, the details of the plan outlined in the video are identical to those featured in AQAP’s statement claiming credit for the attack on Dec. 9, 2014. There, AQAP claimed that the first suicide attacker, identified as Humam al Qarqa al Awlaki aka Julyabeeb al Awlaki, detonated his Suzuki Vitara laden with a half ton of explosives at the gate of the base at around 8:40 a.m. About two minutes later, the second suicide attacker, Nasser bin Ganam al Si’ri, also known as Mansour al Si’ri, detonated a Toyota Hilux carrying 1.25 tons of explosive material inside the command headquarters.
AQAP’s latest video also features the two suicide bombers identified in the initial statement just minutes before they carried out the double attack. From his explosive-laden truck, Julaybeeb al Awlaki asks Allah to “turn our body parts into shrapnel that tear apart” the bodies of the Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies in the Yemeni military. The second bomber, identified in the video as Mansour al Sharouri, leans out the window of his truck and declares, “Oh enemies of Allah, in only a few minutes we will bring you slaughter, with Allah’s permission!”
Notably, AQAP includes a phone conversation between one of the group’s fighters and the first suicide bomber illustrating that the terrorist organization made the decision to delay the attack in light of “the presence of some Muslims close to the target.” AQAP’s protection of the Sunni Muslims of Yemen, and consideration of their plight at the hands of the Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies in the Yemeni military, is a recurrent theme in AQAP propaganda.
The video then shows footage of the first suicide bomber detonating his explosive device at the main gate of the base, noting that a group of Yemeni soldiers were gathered there. The second bomber follows shortly thereafter and a second explosion is seen on screen to shouts of “Allahu Akbar” by the AQAP camera man.
The last minute and a half of the video features other various attacks that took place in Hadramout province. Here, AQAP once again emphasizes its concern for the lives of innocent Sunni Muslims. In three instances shown, AQAP delays the execution of what appear to be improvised explosive device (IED) attacks on highways in Hadramout due to the presence of Muslims. In those cases, it appears that AQAP waits to target Yemeni military vehicles so as to protect the lives of innocent bystanders. The AQAP camera man comments at the end, “This is so that people know that we do not target Muslims.”