ADEN: Al Qaeda has accused an “unresponsive” United States of refusing to free blind sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman in return for the release of an American hostage it was holding in Yemen.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Qassem al-Rimi said the group had offered to release journalist Luke Somers, kidnapped in Yemen in 2013, in exchange for the freedom of radical preacher Abdel Rahman.
“The mujahideen in the Arabian Peninsula kidnapped an American citizen, demanding nothing in exchange but the blind and handicapped sheikh,” Rimi said in an audio recording released late on Monday.
“The Americans were unresponsive … America categorically refused the hostage exchange, to the point where they even sacrificed their citizen,” Rimi said.
The recording could not be independently authenticated.
Somers and fellow hostage Pierre Korkie, a South African teacher, died after a botched rescue attempt by US commandos in December 2014.
Abdel Rahman, born in Egypt in 1938, died of natural causes last month at a federal medical centre in North Carolina where he was serving a life sentence on multiple terrorism-related charges.
Abdel Rahman, whose radical speeches were pinned as the inspiration behind the first World Trade Center bombing, was also convicted in 1995 of conspiring to bomb landmarks in New York, including the United Nations, and of plotting to assassinate then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
AQAP and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb released a joint statement after the sheikh’s funeral in his home town of El-Gamaleya, northeast of Cairo, calling for “the most violent vengeance” for his death.
Washington regards AQAP as the militant network’s most dangerous and says it has been plotting attacks on the West in recent months.
More than two years of civil war in Yemen have created a power vacuum that Al-Qaeda has exploited to consolidate its presence in the impoverished country.