(CNSNews.com) – Al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based affiliate, which on Saturday shot dead an American journalist and a South African teacher to prevent their rescue by U.S. Special Forces, wants the world to know that it opposes beheadings and other forms of brutality practiced by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL).
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) supports ISIS in its jihad against “crusaders,” but does not agree with its beheadings policy, one of AQAP’s leaders, Nasr bin Ali al-Ansi, said in a video posted online Monday. The film was described by AQAP as the group’s first “international press conference,” ad al-Ansi responded to questions asked via social media.
“Some of our brothers are affected by scenes of cutting [off] heads,” al-Ansi said in Arabic, according to a translation by Yemen Tribune. “We don’t approve such scenes and we totally deplore them.”
“It’s totally wrong to cut off heads and [publicize the acts by posting images online] as if they’re part of religion,” he said, adding that Mohammed “ordered us to be kind even when killing.”
“It’s not part of kindness to cut heads and publish pictures, such pictures will be seen by the family, children and relatives of the victim.”
Al-Ansi, a veteran associate of Osama bin Laden, recalled that the al-Qaeda founder had deplored the filming of acts of killing. He said when bin Laden sent him to the Philippines – reportedly in 2001, to liaise with and train Islamists there – he had instructed him to tell the Filipino jihadists to stop filming killings as he “abhorred” it.
AQAP is viewed as the most dangerous affiliate of al-Qaeda, whose leader bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan in 2011.
ISIS grew out of al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, succeeded in seizing parts of Syria and Iraq and has declared a “caliphate” in those areas, demanding loyalty from jihadists everywhere. Its leader had a serious fallout last year with bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The ISIS-al-Qaeda relationship is closely watched by terrorism researchers. An AQAP statement of solidarity with ISIS last August was interpreted by some as an expression of support, although others say AQAP’s current leadership remains loyal to Zawahiri.
In the AQAP video, al-Ansi said his group’s supports ISIS’ fight against “crusaders” and the governments in Baghdad and Damascus, but it calls on ISIS to stop fighting against other jihadists groups and for an Islamic court to be set up to resolve differences among them.
“We don’t see the declaration of caliphate as legitimate,” he said. “We don’t see it sinful to disagree with ISIS concerning the legitimacy of the caliphate they declared.”
On beheadings of captives, which have become a grisly ISIS trademark, al-Ansi acknowledged that there had been recent instances where AQAP fighters had beheaded Yemeni soldiers.
They had done so in error and had apologized, he said, adding that the group had since outlawed the practice.
In the video Al-Ansi also accuse the United States of encouraging both the Yemen military and Shi’ite Houthi rebels, who have seized large parts of Yemen, to fight against AQAP.
“Americans tried to keep us busy fighting with the army in Yemen and now are trying to keep us busy fighting the Houthis. Let America not think that the mujaheddin will forget about it or forget its crimes.”
According to AQAP’s propaganda arm, al-Malahem Media, the questions for the “press conference” were accepted in mid-November. The video therefore does not refer to last weekend’s attempt by U.S. Special Forces to rescue American journalist Luke Somers.
Somers had been held hostage for 14 months, and last Wednesday AQAP released a video in which al-Ansi threatened he would die in three days unless President Obama “meets our demands.”
During a rescue mission launched early Saturday, Somers and another hostage, South African teacher Pierre Korkie, was shot by their captors. U.S. military officials said they were evacuated alive but died of their wounds.
“There is zero possibility that the hostages were victims of crossfire,” a military official was quoted as saying afterwards. “This was an execution.”
Despite al-Ansi’s suggestion that al-Qaeda and its founder shunned beheadings, al-Qaeda’s Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed to having decapitated Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002.
Al-Qaeda terrorists are also accused of beheading American engineer Paul Johnson in Saudi Arabia in 2004.
In the southern Philippines, the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group has beheaded dozens of hostages, including Catholic priests and nuns and kidnapped American tourist Guillermo Sobero in 2001.
And despite al-Ansi’s assertion that Mohammed “ordered us to be kind even when killing” the founder of Islam is said to have been responsible for at least one beheading.
According to historical texts Mohammed ordered that a Jewish leader, Kinana al-Rabi, be made to suffer to reveal the whereabouts of hidden treasure. He was tortured to the point of death, and then beheaded. Mohammed subsequently took Kinana’s widow, Safiyya, as his eleventh wife.
A verse in the Qur’an (8:12) declares: “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.”