Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is offering gold worth more than $100,000 to anyone who will kill the Jewish U.S. Ambassador to Yemen, Gerald M. Feierstein, as well as more than $20,000 for anyone who kills a U.S. serviceman in Yemen.
According to the AP, the Yemeni-based AQAP has a media arm, the al-Malahem Foundation, which made the offers in an audiotape posted on its websites this past weekend. The offer is open for six months.
Al-Malahem Foundation also distributes the notorious English-language Jihadist magazine Inspire. That magazine was largely written by the Jihadi terrorists Anwar al-Awkaki and Samir Khan, both of whom were killed by the U.S. in the September, 2011 drone attacks.
According to Foreign Policy, the spring, 2012 issue of Inspire included a posthumously published article by Awlaki. In that article Awlaki explained why it is permissible to kill any and all kinds of civilians in jihadist attacks, so long as the jihadi intent is pure:
If combatants and non-combatants are mixed together and integrated, it is allowed for the Muslims to attack them even if women, children, the elderly, farmers, merchants and slaves get killed but this should only be done with the intention of fighting the combatants.
Gerald M. Feierstein was sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen on September 17, 2010. Prior to his posting in Yemen, Feierstein served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Feierstein has spent all of his foreign service abroad in the Middle East or Southeast Asia. Between 2006 and 2008, Feierstein served in various positions in Washington, D.C. in the Bureau of Counterterrorism. Since joining the Foreign Service in 1975, Feierstein has served in Pakistan, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Lebanon and Oman.
According to the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, the audio explained that the bounties were offered by Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) “to encourage our Muslim Ummah (nation), and to expand the circle of the jihad (holy war) by the masses.”
AQAP is regarded as the most dangerous branch of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group. In September, AQAP called for increased violence and protests directed at U.S. diplomats worldwide. The terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi Libya, which led to the death of U.S. Amb. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, is believed to have been carried out by AQAP.
On the day after the attack on the American compound in Benghazi, Mary Feierstein received a phone call from her diplomat husband, to assure her that he was fine. Mrs. Feierstein told a Philadelphia-area newspaper on September 13, that her husband was not worried about his safety.
But that was before Ambassador Feierstein was specifically targeted by AQAP.
Feierstein’s religion is of particular concern. On numerous websites, much is made of Feierstein’s Jewishness, with the usual claims of Zionist control of foreign countries and connections to the Mossad.
For those who believe that the West has largely – and perhaps fatally – failed to understand the fundamental difference in ideology between Islam and that of the West, Ambassador Feierstein’s words in an August interview with the Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat provide little comfort.
When the interviewer asked Ambassador Feierstein about terroristic threats made by the Huthists, a fundamentalist rebel faction supported by Iran and al Qaeda that dominates the Northern region of Yemen, Feierstein laughed it off as if the Huthists are nothing more than bloviating school yard bullies. In fact, the Huthists are religious fanatics who seek domination.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] In the north, the Huthists are raising the slogan of “Death to America, Death to Israel”. Do you think they are serious about this?
[Feierstein] (Laughing) Are they serious in wanting to kill us? I do not think so.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] You do not think so?
[Feierstein] No, I do not think so.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you consider the Huthists your enemies because they say that you are their enemies?
[Feierstein] No, and we say that for reasons of their own, the Huthists want to appear as or want to take the position of being hostile to the United States. We were never against the Huthists; we never agreed that they support terrorism. We did not participate in any military actions against them in the past few years. Our opinion is that the solution of this problem lies in national dialogue, negotiations, and reconciliation. In this practical way, the Huthists can come to the table, put forward their vision, and reach a solution. Thus, the United States was never against the Huthists and they know very well the reason why they are conducting this campaign against the United States. Nevertheless, we are worried about the growing cooperation between the Huthists and the Iranian government. If this continues, the Huthists would become Iranian agents in Yemen.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] In your opinion, why do they keep repeating the chant of “Death to America, Death to Israel” while they are not serious in implementing this slogan?
[Feierstein] I think that for one reason or another, they believe that the slogan helps in obtaining support. As you know, however, it is not bringing them any support I believe that they are doing so in view of their contacts with Iran.
It is entirely possible that the Ambassador, a counter-terrorism expert, was merely engaging in diplomacy-speak and is well aware of the terroristic dangers that abound in Yemen.
Later in the Asharq Al-Awsat interview, Feierstein’s interlocutor asked him about people saying he is really the President of Yemen. Again, Feierstein laughed off the dangerous suggestion, but there are many websites that assert that Feierstein is actually “a defacto new ruler of the Muslim Shia majority country (52%)” of Pakistan.
Feierstein and President Obama were both criticized by Yemenis for allowing the former president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh who was deposed in the wake of the “Arab Spring,” into the U.S. for medical treatment. Saleh is accused of being responsible for the brutal deaths of hundreds of protesters.
State Department spokesperson Mark Velasco told the New York Daily News on Tuesday, January 1, that “U.S. forces in Yemen were ready to face the threats made by Al Qaeda toward Feierstein and U.S. soldiers there.” He said, “We take these threats very seriously. Our embassy in Yemen already operates in a highly sensitive and difficult situation. We continue to support the government, military and people of Yemen.”
Feierstein most recently visited the U.S. in October, when he accompanied a delegation of Yemeni businessmen on a six-city tour of the country, with stops in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Houston and San Francisco.
Feierstein was born and raised in Philadelphia.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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