Medics and staff, who survived the attack that targeted the Defense Ministry, look at wreckages left by the attack, during a tour for journalists and survivors at the Defense Ministry, Sanaa, Yemen. Image Credit: EPA

Sana’a: Al Qaida’s active branch in Yemen has belatedly taken credit for the deadly attack on minister of defence early this month, saying that a renegade operative targeted medics and patients.

A fortnight after the assault that killed 52 mostly local and foreign medics and patients, Qassim Al Raymi, the commander of Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, known as AQAP, said in a video posted late Saturday on Al Qaida affiliated Al Malahim website that the attackers did not mean to target civilians in the complex.

Al Raymi said the main target of his nine operatives was the “controlling rooms” of US drones in the military complex.

“We warned them [operatives] in advance that there is a prayer place and a hospital in the complex and they should not enter them. Eight of them listened to the warning and one did not,” he said.

Horrific footage of the attack broadcast by the national TV showed a man in a military uniform randomly shooting at women and medics. The footage caused public outrage.

Al Qaida’s commander said that his organisation accepts responsibility for the attack and pledged to pay condolence payments for victims’ relatives.

Al Raymi threatened to attack military compounds and camps of they continued to deal with the Americans.

“We reiterate here that any ministry, military camp or barracks and so are proven to be dealing with the US drones will be legitimate target.”

Commenting on Al Qaida’s statement, Saeed Obaid Al Jumahi, a leading analyst on Al Qaida told Gulf News that statement was an attempt to justify that attack in the wake public outrage after the TV footage.

“Al Qaida has never been in such terrible trouble before. As the attack on medics and patients cannot be justified, it took them two weeks to come up with adequate explanation,” he said.

He added that Al Qaida’s chose its military commander to give an account for the attack as he was orchestrator.

“It is normal that Al Qaida choose the military commander to appear on video, justifying the attack as he was in charge of training and sending the cell to the ministry complex and to give militarily justification to the botched attack.”

Al Jumahi thinks that the attack has showed that Al Qaida has some low-ranking members of Al Qaida are more radical than their commanders.

“The man was not in a fit of hysteria when he was killing patients and medics. He was normal and looking at medics in their operation uniforms and veiled women begging him not to shot them.”

According to Al Jumahi, saying that only nine Al Qaida operatives carried the attack contradicts what the official statements previously said that 12 members militants, mostly Saudis, attacked the ministry’s complex.

“If the government can prove that 12 militants not nine took part in the attack , then we can figure out that there is a great penetration into Al Qaida and some people kill in the name of Al Qaida.”

But despite Al Qaida’s official admission , many other observers still do not believe that Al Qaida carried the attack on its own.

Abdul Bari Taher, an independent political analyst, told Gulf News that he thinks that some parties aided and sponsored Al Qaida’s brazen attacks.

“This is part of a series of games. Al Qaida doesn’t have the ability to carry such big and sophisticated attack. Videos showed that the attackers were wandering around the complex as if they are in their houses.”