Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen is on a mission to distinguish its brand of terrorism from the Islamic State group's. In stark contrast to the Islamic State group’s graphic videos, a senior al Qaeda commander denounced beheadings, calling them “very barbaric,” and said al Qaeda’s strategy for jihad is the only sustainable way to beat the United States, according to a statement released Monday.
"Filming and promoting it [beheadings] among people in the name of Islam and jihad is a big mistake and not acceptable whatever the justifications are," al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) commander Nasr Ibn Ali al-Ansi said.
In what could be described as a move to appear the more civilized, and credible, of jihadist groups, AQAP held its “first international press conference," and answered questions from journalists asked via social media. Al-Ansi quoted passages from the Quran and from Osama bin Laden, condemning beheadings, and criticized the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, for what he called a lack of central focus in fighting the United States.
“Sheik Osama bin Laden used to say anyone with sound instincts cannot stand watching scenes of killings,” al-Ansi said.
#AQAP leader: scenes of cutting heads are repeated over & over & seen by those who shouldn't see them incl. women, children, the weak
— Mohammed Al-Amrani (@yementribune) December 8, 2014
The statement is an obvious criticism of the Islamic State group’s signature practice: beheading hostages. The two groups have the same goal of fighting the United States, he said, but al Qaeda is the one with a sustainable strategy. Last week AQAP released a statement denouncing the ISIS caliphate, stating it was illegitimate and “driving a wedge” among jihadi groups.
"The general way we preach is different,” al-Ansi said, adding AQAP has achieved a “solid” knot of fighters because commanders are not instructed to rule with fear.
Though the group’s strategies differ, al-Ansi maintained AQAP would support ISIS’ “jihad against crusaders” but called on ISIS to end inter-jihadi group fighting.
Ironically, al Qaeda was the first terror groups to behead an American journalist, and then release a video of the execution. Al Qaeda member Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheik was accused of luring U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl to his capture by the group in Pakistan. Pearl was then beheaded -- al Qaeda ranking member Khalid Sheik Mohammed has confessed to the killing, and is currently on trial for it -- and a video depicting the gruesome killing, “The Slaughter of the Spy-Journalist, the Jew Daniel Pearl,” appeared in 2002.
AQAP is one of the largest branches of the al Qaeda global brand and is considered the most dangerous threat to the United States. The “press conference” was filmed before a recent U.S. raid to rescue several hostages in AQAP custody. The raid was unsuccessful and AQAP shot and killed two hostages.