The Middle East has been a volatile region for decades and is certainly no stranger to violence. However, it is rather unfamiliar with apologies – especially from the perpetrators of violence themselves.
While tantalizing sand dunes and the majesty of Arabian architecture are regular fixtures in this region, it is unfortunate to add that so too – at least in the past half century – have been terrorist attacks. The assault on a civilian hospital in Yemen on the 5th of December was one such example. As horrid as the attack may be, taking the lives of 52 people and injuring scores more, the Middle East has seen much more gruesome incursions by Islamists preying on civilian casualties to garner influence.
But in a rare moment, just this week the commander of the Al-Qaeda in Yemen have issued a video apology expressing his group’s regrets over the casualties of their assault.
“We are sorry”, that is how leader Qassim al-Raimi succinctly puts it – his face wrapped with seriousness but lacking any hint of sympathy.
He goes on explaining that one of their fighters disobeyed orders and attacked a civilian hospital when the target was supposedly a Defense Ministry building housing drones. “We rid ourselves of what our brother did,” al-Raimi further declares. “We did not order him to do so and we are not pleased with what he did.”
“Not pleased” is how a mother would feel when her son breaks her favorite porcelain jar; but that seems to be the mildest way to condemn someone who opened fire and lobbed a grenade at innocent civilians. To add insult to injury, al-Raimi makes a statement that nulls any sympathy one might begin to feel: “we are continuing with our jihad”.
The fighter who carried out the attack on the hospital was killed, along with eight more militants, by responding Yemeni forces. But the damage was already done; 52 people including foreigners from Germany, India, the Philippines and Vietnam. As plenty as the casualties may sound, that is a petty number for al-Qaeda – who have created a culture of fear and bloodshed in the Arab peninsula, carrying out regular attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and even in North Africa such as Somalia and Libya.
One can make a case that it was only one fighter, who apparently went rogue, who carried out the dastardly attack on civilians. As Qassim al-Raimi explained, the assault was intended on a military building. But reviewing the conduct of the attack, can we really buy that excuse? There were three suicide bombers used in the operation, one detonated the gates allowing his unit into the compound, another one was apprehended before he was able to detonate himself while the third one was caught on video blowing up the hospital lobby.
Employing that many resources can only mean that a major assault was planned, and the fact that a rational, thinking person such as that lone fighter could open fire on innocent civilians could only be driven by ideological devotion – a hatred no doubt radicalized by the teachings of al-Qaeda. But that is exactly the point, this is al-Qaeda – the faction that calls for the desolation of Israel, the death of all Americans and the undertaking of similar terrorist attacks on countries which are not on board with their jihad.
This is the group that took the lives of 202 people in the tourist mecca of Bali, as a response to the UN intervention of the genocide that was about to occur in East Timor. This is the same organization that was behind the deaths of 52 people in the infamous ‘7/7’ bombings in London, where militants bombed a busy train station during the morning rush hour. And of course how could we forget, the celebrations among their supporters when their militants successfully crashed two hijacked planes into a the World Trade Center in 2001?
This is the group that cheers the death of citizens of countries that oppose their extreme interpretation of Islam and foments anger into their next generation – ensuring an everlasting hatred for anyone they deem as an enemy. So why should we expect anything different from them?
And this was proven in the ‘apology video’ the al-Qaeda sent. Despite the fact that they intended to apologize, Qassim al-Raimi did not hold back his terrorist agenda and made threats in the same video: warning that future attacks will take place on places that “cooperate with the American drones by spying, planting chips, providing information or offering intelligence advice” and that they already have a “long list of such places.”
The timing could not have been any more suspicious either, nearly three weeks after the attack took place. It can be suspected that protests from within their network drove the organization to make a public show of regret, and if that was the case then this is no more than an audacious PR act. But what a bad PR stint this is, perhaps they hired Justine Sacco from IAC?
It’s disgusting enough that after taking the lives of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends and co-workers they can appear on video and salt wounds by saying a simple sorry; but they go on to spread fear by saying that their attacks are just and more will come.
This is why I write this essay, to point out that the al-Qaeda terror network are not sorry at all. For the only thing they can be sorry for is the fact that they only exist to create hatred and to cause bloodshed. For as long as there is such a group as al-Qaeda suffering in the Middle East will never end. They do need to apologize to the victims of the attacks and to the families of the dead, but an apology is also due for all the victims of all past attacks they have done in their existence.
So sorry al-Qaeda, you might feel apologetic but sorry is not the right word. You are not sorry, for sorry entails something greater than an individual appearing apologetic for the first few minutes then going on to say that deaths will come in the future. You say you are sorry for a lapse in your assault plan, but the fact that an assault was planned in the first place – anywhere and on anyone – is already something anyone should regret doing.
If you intend to show remorse and reconcile, the only option is to cease your terrorist campaigns. And the rationale that such groups such as al-Qaeda, Taliban and al-Shabaab and other terrorist networks exist because of foreign intervention in their internal affairs is ludicrous – would we have allowed the people of East Timor be massacred because they wanted a state independent from Islamist Indonesia? Would it have been decent to allow Saddam Hussein to slaughter ethnic Kurdish people simply for his xenophobia? And can we really fathom if innocent men and women are subjected to an intense interpretation of the Qu’ran – regardless if they are Muslim or not – such as what happened in Mali before the French forces regained control?
If these militants are sick of foreign troops raining on their parades they should realize that before ideological beliefs comes human rights, something every human being is entitled to. And if these rights are trampled on then the international community will butt in.
We do not need to be sorry for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – no. Instead, the al-Qaeda and their jihadist counterparts should be sorry for their existence and all the hatred they create.