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Al Qaeda leader says group fought alongside US-backed forces

Al Qaeda militants (above) “fight along all Muslims in Yemen,” Rimi said.
Al Qaeda militants (above) “fight along all Muslims in Yemen,” Rimi said. Hani Mohammed/AP/FILE 2013

CAIRO — The leader of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen said that his militants have often fought alongside Yemeni government factions — remarks that could embarrass the US-backed coalition fighting the impoverished Arab country’s Shi’ite rebels.

Qasim al-Rimi leads the group known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, considered by Washington to be the most dangerous offshoot of the global terror network. He succeeded Nasir al-Wuhayshi, who was killed in a US drone strike nearly two years ago.

On the US most-wanted list with a $5 million reward for his capture, Rimi has been a top target of US airstrikes, which have soared in the past four months in Yemen. He spoke Sunday to AQAP’s media arm.

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‘‘We fight along all Muslims in Yemen, together with different Islamic groups,’’ he said, adding that his followers have teamed with an array of factions — including the ultraconservative Salafis, ‘‘the Muslim Brotherhood, and also our brothers among the sons of [Sunni] tribes’’ — against Shiite rebels known as Houthis.

Rimi did not elaborate on what fighting ‘‘alongside’’ meant but Al Qaeda has emerged as a de facto ally of the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his backers, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, against Houthis in a civil war that has wreaked devastation and killed over 10,000 since late 2014.