UAE vows to wipe out al-Qaeda in Yemen
LONDON - The United Arab Emirates has stressed it is actively fighting the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), known as the most brutal wing of the international terror group.
In a series of tweets, Anwar Gargash, the UAE's minister of state for foreign affairs, said that while AQAP remains a threat, it has been weakened and marginalised.
"AQAP is not just a threat to Yemen, but to the whole world. It has, and continues to, threaten us all. The UAE will never negotiate with, fund, or support terrorists unlike some other state actors in the region," Gargash tweeted on August 13.
"Our Counter Terrorism operations in Yemen are succeeding. AQAP is at its weakest since 2012, and we have marginalised their operational space, their funding channels & recruitment efforts. We mourn our fallen martyrs who died achieving this progress," the UAE minister said in a follow-up tweet.
Gargash called the UAE's commitment to defeating AQAP in Yemen "ironclad and unwavering."
"Regardless of political developments in Yemen, the UAE will continue until we have defeated AQAP completely," he added.
Gargash was responding to an investigative report by the Associated Press that claimed that many of the victories in recent years against AQAP by a Saudi-led coalition have been a result of backdoor deals with the terror group, in effect paying its fighters to leave key cities and towns.
The AP report said the US government was aware of the arrangements and quoted a US-based academic calling successful anti-terror operations by the Emirates a “farce.”
In a press conference on August 13, Emirati Brigadier-General Musallam al-Rashedi highlighted the UAE’s work in battling AQAP, while also dismissing the AP report.
"They are not willing to negotiate, most of these hard-core guys. They are willing to go and fight," al-Rashedi said. "We have guys who have been injured, killed by AQAP and there's no point in negotiating with these guys."
He added that since 2015, the UAE has trained and equipped some 60,000 Yemeni fighters, 30,000 of whom were directly involved in the fight against al-Qaeda.
He said al-Qaeda's activities have dramatically decreased. The group launched just five attacks in southern Yemen in the first half of 2018, as compared to 77 over the same period of 2016, he said.
Emirati operations and a long-running American drone campaign against the group have hit its capabilities hard.
Some 1,000 AQAP fighters have been killed in Yemen since 2015, including 13 of the group's top 18 leaders and a further 1,500 have been captured.
Rashedi said that since the start of 2016, the jihadists have lost "half the territory" they controlled in southern Yemen.
"Their capacity to carry out terrorism globally has been seriously hampered," he said.
The Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda has been linked to many high-profile international terrorist operations, including the November 2009 Fort Hood, Texas, shooting and the January 2015 attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.