SANAA, Yemen – The leader of the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda—the jihadist group responsible for 9/11—apologized this week for an attack carried out by his organization that left 52 people dead. Qassim al-Rimi, commander of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, said in a video message posted to jihadi websites that the attack on Yemen’s Defense Ministry was not intended to spill over into the complex’s hospital or prayer facilities, and promised that al Qaeda would “make up for the suffering [they] caused by making this a wonderful, toy-filled Christmas for all Yemeni children.”
Al Qaeda has taken responsibility for the attack, which they claim was launched in order to combat America’s drone program. Analysts say that this is a rare example of the jihadi group actually apologizing for their actions, as well as the first time they have offered to buy children presents as atonement.
“Now we acknowledge our mistake and guilt,” al-Rimi said, and explained that one of the militants charged with carrying out the attack—which killed several foreigners as well—had disobeyed orders by entering the hospital and executing nurses and others inside.
“We rid ourselves of what our brother did,” al-Rimi continued. “And just to prove how sorry we are, I pledge here and now that we, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, will be donating Christmas presents to each and every child in Yemen—double presents for children who lost parents in the attack.”
Some Yemeni citizens are feeling ambivalent about al Qaeda’s decision. Nashwan Hamed, a father of four, said that, while the attack was “appalling and monstrous,” he’s happy to see that al Qaeda is trying to make amends. “It’s horrible, all those people dead,” Hamed said. “But on the other hand, my youngest son really wants a LeapFrog Ultra, and if the jihadists can give him one, I think we’ll call it even.”
While Christmas is not traditionally celebrated in Yemen—an almost entirely Islamic country—al-Rimi said that al Qaeda “didn’t know how else to sincerely express [its] sorrow” over the attack. “Hopefully, the fact that we’d lower ourselves far enough to celebrate a Christian, American holiday will be an obvious demonstration of our regret,” al Rimi explained.
Beyond forgiveness, the al Qaeda commander did have another “favor” to ask of Yemeni adults. “Please, whatever you do, don’t give the infidel Santa Claus credit for the gifts your children receive,” al-Rimi implored. “They need to know that it was al Qaeda that gave them that sweet new skateboard, and that we always admit it when we’ve done wrong.”