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On December 5, 2013, in an attack that went largely underreported by the world’s media, al Qaeda gunmen, dressed in government military uniform, casually slaughtered 52 innocent civilians in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital. The Al-Oradi hospital sits within the same compound as the Yemeni ministry of defense, where al Qaeda alleged that drone strikes were directed from. Instead of targeting the ministry, however, the attackers killed the security guards manning the side gate of the hospital, then spent hours calmly stalking its corridors, shooting doctors, nurses, and even patients lying in their beds. In grim pictures captured by surveillance cameras, one gunman is seen approaching a group of terrified hospital staff. At first they don’t flinch, and almost seem to be awaiting instructions, until the attacker reveals a hand grenade, pulls out the pin, and tosses it at them as if he were throwing a ball to a puppy.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) usually avoids targeting civilians and even provides some form of governance in the small areas they control in Yemen. This goes some way to explaining why it enjoys some level of support in this war-torn country. But when this footage was aired on national TV, even AQAP supporters were horrified, and it was compelled to make an apology. In a video statement, its military leader, Qasim al-Raymi, acknowledged “our mistake and guilt,” claiming that the nine attackers had been ordered not to enter the hospital. He continued: “We offer our apology and condolences to the victims’ families. We accept full responsibility for what happened in the hospital and will pay blood money for the victims’ families.” Al-Raymi added: “We are continuing our jihad.”
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