CAIRO (AP) — The deputy leader of al-Qaida in Yemen slammed Saudi Arabia's policy of allowing the U.S. to launch deadly drone strikes from bases in the kingdom, calling on Saudis to revolt against the ruling family in a new audio message released Wednesday.
Saeed al-Shihri's statement appeared to back up al-Qaida denials this week that he was killed in a drone attack. The Saudi national was reported killed by a U.S. drone strike earlier this year by Yemeni security officials, based on alleged Saudi intelligence.
In the 14-minute audio recording, al-Shihri accused the al-Saud ruling family of betraying Muslims in the Arabian Peninsula, which is home to Islam's holiest site in the city of Mecca.
"They made it permissible with their bases and forces that planes launch to kill people of faith in Yemen," he said of Saudi Arabia, which borders Yemen to the north.
"Instead of spending money to fight poverty and unemployment, and help Muslims defend themselves against enemies, it is spent to fight Muslims in every place," he said, referring to Saudi Arabia's vast oil revenues.
Washington considers the Yemeni branch of al-Qaida, known as al-Qaida in The Arabian Peninsula, as the most dangerous and active of the group's offshoots. The United States has expanded its use of drone strikes in Yemen from bases around the region, including from inside Saudi Arabia.
Among the most high-profile cases of killings by U.S. drones were those of U.S. citizens Anwar Al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, who used their English-language skills to try and recruit fighters in the West.
In his recording, al-Shihri, who fought in Afghanistan and spent six years in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, called the Saudi royal family "the greatest agent of America." He said that toppling the regime there will mean glory and empowerment for Muslims around the world.
He also denounced this year's appointment of Saudi women to the country's top advisory body for the first time, and said educational scholarships that send Saudi women abroad are aimed at corrupting society.
King Abdullah's decision to allow women in the Shura Council has not eased broader restrictions on them. Women in the kingdom are still not allowed to travel, work, study abroad, marry, get divorced or gain admittance to a public hospital without permission from a male guardian.
The al-Qaida commander also denounced the arrest of Saudi women in February who protested in the city of Buraydah to demand the release of thousands of people detained without charge on suspicion of involvement in militant activity. Protests are rare in the conservative kingdom.
He also accused officials of tearing off the women's niqab, or face covering worn by most Saudi women, during interrogations.
The date of when al-Shihri recorded his speech is not known.