(Reuters) – Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch has mocked tough new counter-terrorism measures adopted by neighboring Saudi Arabia, saying they would not deter the Islamist group’s fighters and that they proved the kingdom was in the pay of the United States.
In an online statement, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) also said Riyadh’s designation of the Muslim Brotherhood – a group whose political wings have contested elections in several countries – as a terrorist organization proved that secular authorities would never tolerate Islamist groups.
AQAP, seen as one of the most dangerous al Qaeda branches after it plotted attacks on international airliners, is thought to have several hundred Saudi militants fighting alongside Yemeni counterparts against the government in Sanaa.
On Feb 3, Saudi Arabia announced tougher punishments for Saudis seeking to join Islamist militant groups abroad and on March 7 the interior ministry designated a number of groups, including the Brotherhood, as terrorist organizations.
In the group’s first public response to the measures, senior AQAP official Ibrahim al-Rubaysh said of the Saudi authorities in an audio tape posted online: “Their employers are the White House.” He added that Riyadh appeared to consider the U.S. authorities as “gods.”
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Yemen has a significant Shiite population and is currently suffering sectarian fighting. The government often accuses Iran of meddling.