By B. Raman
Al Qaeda’s first comment on the commando-style attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi in Libya has not come from its command and control in North Waziristan in Pakistan headed by its Amir Ayman al-Zawahiri, but from its Yemen branch called Ai Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), also referred to as Ansar al-Sharia (Supporters of Sharia)
Of course, Zawahiri had issued a video message on September 10, 2012, one day before the Benghazi attack confirming the death of his No.2 Abu Yahya al-Libi, a Libyan cleric, in a US Drone strike in the Waziristan area on June 4,2012.The message called President Barack Obama a liar, who was trying to mislead the Muslims..
The presumption among many analysts was that the Benghazi attack was to avenge the death of al-Libi and that it had been planned before the Islamic world came to know of the film Innocence of Islam which has sparked off violent anti-US protests in many countries.
One expected that the first comment of Al Qaeda on the Benghazi attack would come from Zawahiri or from Al Qaeda headquarters in North Waziristan. It has not. It has come from Yemen, indicating a possible co-ordination of the anti-US protests by AQAP.
The AQAP’s comment is not in the form of claim of responsibility for the Benghazi attack. It is in the form of a justification for the attack.
According to SITE, an intelligence group in the US which, inter alia, monitors the web statements of Al Qaeda, the AQAP said: “The killing of Sheikh Abu Yahya only increased the enthusiasm and determination of the sons of (Libyan independence hero) Omar al-Mukhtar to take revenge upon those who attack our Prophet. The uprising of our people in Libya, Egypt and Yemen against America and its embassies is a sign to notify the United States that its war is not directed against groups and organisations… but against the Islamic nation that has rebelled against injustice.” It called for more violent demonstrations against US embassies in the Middle East and Africa, and urged Muslims in the West to attack American interests in their countries of residence. “May the expulsion of embassies and consulates lead to the liberation of Arab lands from the American hegemony and the arrogance,” said the statement. The AQAP is led by Nasser al-Wahishi.
On September 15, 2012, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as the Pakistani Taliban is known called upon Muslim youth in Pakistan and other countries to protest against the movie. While one violent incident attributed to the Afghan Taliban has been reported from Southern Afghanistan, reportedly resulting in the death of two US Marines, there have so far been no violent incidents in Pakistan, but anti-US demonstrations have been held in different cities of Pakistan.
The wave of protests till now has been against the film itself and the US for allowing it to be produced and clips to be disseminated from the US, but clerics in different countries, while calling for the protests to be peaceful, have been demanding a UN ban on any insult to sacred symbols of Islam and other religions. They have been saying that insults to Islam and its Holy Prophet cannot be justified under the pretext of freedom of expression. Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, grand imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar, the highest seat of Sunni Muslim learning, underlined the need for an international resolution to “criminalise attacks on Islamic symbols and on those of other religions”. In the days to come, this could become a major issue in the protest campaign of the Muslims.
The protests are not showing any signs of subsiding. Our intelligence agencies and police should closely monitor the dissemination of provocative anti-US statements through the Internet and maintain a high level of security for US missions in New Delhi and other cities. They should be alert to the possibility of copy-cats of the ugly demonstration outside the US Consulate-General in Chennai on September 14, 2012.