Al Qaeda in Yemen has labelled the rival jihadist Islamic State (IS) group “deviant” and distanced itself from an IS-claimed suicide attack in Aden last week that killed dozens of soldiers.
“We explicitly declare that we were not involved in any way in this operation,” Ansar al-Sharia, al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, said in a statement received by AFP on Thursday.
The December 10 attack in Aden targeted a crowd of soldiers gathered to collect their monthly pay at a barracks in Al-Sawlaban near the southern city’s international airport.
The attack left 48 soldiers dead and 29 wounded, a health department chief said.
“At the request of the Ba Kazem tribe, which lost many of its sons in the attack, we are issuing this statement to prevent anyone trying to... sow discord between the tribes and their sons, the warriors of Ansar al-Sharia,” the group said.
“We see IS as a deviant group... that has shown its enmity towards Ansar al-Sharia and other Islamic groups,” it said.
The statement stressed that al Qaeda has repeatedly said it is determined to fight “Americans and their allies” while avoiding “the shedding of any Muslim blood”.
Al Qaeda and IS have exploited a conflict between the Yemeni government -- backed by a Saudi-led coalition -- and Shiite Huthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa, to bolster their presence across much of the south.
The rival jihadists have carried out a spate of attacks in Aden, Yemen’s second city and headquarters of the internationally recognised government whose forces retook the southern port from the Huthis last year.