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Senior Qaeda leader calls for attacks on Jews, Americans over Jerusalem

Hong Kong, China | AFP | A senior Al-Qaeda leader has called on Muslims “everywhere” to rise up and kill Jews and Americans in response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In a video released Monday, Khalid Batarfi said Trump’s decision was “a declaration of a new Jewish-Crusader war” and every Muslim had a duty to “liberate” the holy city, the SITE Intelligence monitoring group reported.

“No Muslim has the right to cede Jerusalem no matter what happens,” said Batarfi, a top commander with the group’s powerful Yemen-based branch. “Only a traitor would give it up or hand it over.”

“Let them (Muslims) rise and attack the Jews and the Americans everywhere,” he said, in the 18-minute video entitled “Our Duty Towards Our Jerusalem”.

Separately, the US State Department named Batarfi a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” and added him to its sanctions blacklist, describing him as the leader of the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) jihadist group.

Breaking with decades of US policy, Trump on December 6 said his administration would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the city.

On Monday, US Vice President Mike Pence pledged to move the embassy by the end of 2019, in a speech to Israel’s parliament that saw Arab lawmakers expelled after they shouted in protest.

Jerusalem is the third holiest city for Muslims, and the first holy city for Jews.

The US decision to recognize Jerusalem triggered protests across the Muslim world, and was also criticized by several US allies.

In the video, Batarfi dismissed US allies’ protests as not genuine and “nothing but dust thrown in the eyes”.

“The greatest responsibility lies upon the Muslims in America and the Western countries in the world,” he said.

“The Muslims inside the occupied land must kill every Jew, by running him over, or stabbing him, or by using against him any weapon, or by burning their homes.”

Batarfi is a senior figure in Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, described by the US as the worldwide jihadist network’s most dangerous branch.

According to the US terror designation he formerly led the group in Yemen’s Abyan Governorate and was a member of its ruling “shura”. He escaped from Yemen’s Al-Mukalla Central prison in April 2015 when AQAP fighters attacked it.

The group has abducted foreigners and claimed responsibility for the deadly 2015 attack in Paris on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, targeted for its cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

The United States has intensified its air attacks on AQAP since Trump took office in January.

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