The Minister of the Interior, Mutahir al-Masri, is claiming that AQAP has suffered significant losses in recent weeks - something that AQAP disputes - and that Yemen will continue to take the fight to AQ.
Relatedly, the most illuminating part of the AQAP statement yesterday, at least for me, is the final paragraph in which AQAP warns against trusting government sources and cautions people to wait for detailed and accurate statements coming out from AQAP for a true accounting of events.
It is a sad state of affairs when one trusts AQAP's statements more than the Yemeni government's press releases. I wrote about this phenomenon in a recent piece for the CTC Sentinel:
"The clarifications and running commentary throughout the video by Qasim al-Raymi, one of al-Qa`ida’s military commanders, is a calculated attempt by the organization to seize the moral high ground in Yemen. In a country where many are often distrustful of government spokesmen and official statements, al-Qa`ida is attempting to show that its statements are grounded in fact. This was most forcefully illustrated in the video by footage of Yemen’s minister of information, Hasan al-Lawzi, discussing the government’s version of the events in Marib, which was then followed by al-Raymi’s suggestion that people are beginning to turn to jihadist web forums for a more accurate accounting of events."
For those looking for the original AQAP statement - News Yemen has republished it here.
News Yemen also has a piece about the "Thanksgiving" dinner at 'Aidh al-Shabwani's house on Saturday, and thankfully, for those of us who are not native speakers (or readers) of Arabic, it corrects some of the grammatical and spelling mistakes of the Mareb Press article, which makes this much easier to read and understand. According to both articles, most of the AQAP members who were reported to have been killed did not suffer any injuries. Only Qasim al-Raymi is mentioned by name as having been wounded.
In what should be worrying news, 'Abdillah Haydar Shay'a, who, like Waq al-waq, cautioned against believing the news of al-Raymi's death before it was confirmed (he says he wants to see pictures of the bodies before believing anything) is warning that AQAP is planning something "big." The response, he says, will be an operation and not a statement.
This is, of course, classic jihadi rhetoric - the proof will be in what you see and not what you hear - and for those with a long memory or who have been following Yemen for more than just the past three weeks this should sound eerily similar to what AQ in the South of the Arabian Peninsula (one of the precursors to the current organization) said after the death of Hamzaal-Qu'ayti and four others in Tarim in August 2008. Of course, in September 2008 there was an attack on the US Embassy in San'a.
Not that AQAP will once again attack the US Embassy, but rather that it does not have a history of empty rhetoric. I would warn against taking threats like this too lightly.