SANAA - A deadly Al-Qaeda attack this month on a Yemeni defence ministry hospital was a mistake and the militant network is ready to pay blood money, a top commander has said.
The brazen daylight attack on the defence ministry complex on December 5 left 56 people dead, including patients and foreign medics from the Philippines, Germany, Vietnam and India.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has already claimed responsibility for the attack and late Saturday its military chief said in an online video the assault on the hospital had not been authorised.
“The attack was on the ministry of defence, it was not on the hospital,” said AQAP military commander Qassem al-Rimi.
Rimi said the militants were told to stay away from the hospital and a prayer hall in the sprawling defence ministry complex, but that one lone jihadist disobeyed orders.
“We told them (jihadists) to be cautious, not to enter the prayer place or the hospital. Eight of our brothers were cautious, and one did not. May Allah forgive him and have mercy on him,” said Rimi.
AQAP admits its mistake and offers “apologies and condolences” and accepts “full responsibility” for the attack, including the paying of blood money to compensate the families of the victims, Rimi said.
AQAP, which is considered by Washington as the most dangerous affiliate of Al-Qaeda, is also willing to pay for the medical treatment of civilians wounded in the hospital attack, he added.
“Whatever our ‘Sharia’ commands us we will do. Because we are preachers of Sharia and not frauds,” he said, according to an English translation of comments he made in Arabic.
Following the December 5 attack Yemeni state television aired footage from a hospital security camera showing a heavily armed gunman shooting in a hospital corridor.
At one point he lobs a hand grenade at a group of doctors and nurses and in further footage a gunman can be seen executing a man and a child.
AQAP said earlier this month that its militants struck at the defence ministry a control centre for US drone attacks against jihadists in Yemen.
The Washington-based think tank New America Foundation says there have been 93 strikes by drones since 2002 in Yemen, killing between 684 and 891 people, among them between 64 and 66 civilians.