As American airstrikes against the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) intensify, the group is sending direct and indirect threats towards the U.S. The latest intimidation comes in the wake of an airstrike that killed more than 40 AQAP militants on March 23. AQAP released an audio recording on March 31, in which one of its leaders, referred to as Saad bin Atef al-Awlaki, vowed that the group will continue to target the U.S.: "The nation has awakened... and it will not cease to attack America and confront it. Oh, Americans, you have started a battle in which you will lose, for every martyr you kill is replaces by dozens." Al-Awlaki also blamed the U.S. for "fighting to control other people and forcing them to convert their religion."
Similar sentiment was expressed at an event held by AQAP in Mukalla to commemorate the martyrs of the U.S. airstrike. "This crusader enemy does not like to see a strong Sunni people. They want a weak pro-American regime that does not follow Islamic Sharia. They want a regime clean of Jihad," one AQAP militant was recorded saying while speaking before a large crowd.
Five years ago, AQAP was considered by U.S. officials to be the Al-Qaeda branch that presented the greatest threat to America's national security. A joint American-Yemeni campaign against the group degraded its capabilities in 2012. Since then, however, America's focus has shifted to countering the growing influence of the Islamic State and AQAP has taken advantage of Yemen's civil war and the Saudi-led anti-Houthi campaign to expand its control in Yemen's southern regions. In recent months, AQAP's advances have become too alarming for the U.S. to ignore and attacks against the group have intensified. This development could lead to a renewed attempt by AQAP to strike American targets in the region or in the U.S.
An Al-Qaeda event protesting against U.S. airstrikes