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.


‘‘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.