120 killed by suicide bomber at Unity Day parade in Yemen (May 21, 2012)

An AQAP suicide bomber dressed as a soldier killed more than 120, mostly soldiers, and wounded more than 350 at a Unity Day parade in Sana’a in 2012.

Successful terrorist groups spawn franchises: Al Qaeda is a good example.

SANA’A, YEMEN – It is often said that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ (hey! Did you know that this quote dates back to 1820 and was said by English writer Charles Caleb Colton?). This of course makes a lot of sense. Look no further than how people don sports jerseys in adulation of their favourite team or wear their hair to emulate the newest pop star. Full disclosure: I own 57 hockey jerseys. I am not sure what that says about me (aside from a predictable choice in clothing).

The same goes for terrorist groups. We often hear that a particularly successful violent extremist organisation will spawn copycats and in this regard the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) was particularly adept. I may have lost count, but here is a list of the primary ISIS ‘franchises’:

  • IS in Khorasan (Afghanistan)
  • IS in Hind (India)
  • IS in Yemen
  • IS Central African Province (active in Mozambique)
  • IS in the Greater Sahara
  • IS in the Sinai

I think you get the point.

Before ISIS itself got going it was actually a successor to what was known as Al Qaeda in Iraq. Al Qaeda (AQ) – remember them? Before the monsters of ISIS dominated the scene AQ was THE premier terrorist group. It too had ‘franchises’ such as :

  • AQ in India
  • AQ in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)
  • AQ in Yemen (AQY)

The latter AQY morphed into AQ in the Arabian Peninsula and ended up being one of the more sophisticated of the branches. It was behind the 2009 Christmas underwear bombing plot as well as a cargo plane plan the year after.

And on this day in 2012 a suicide bomber dressed as a soldier detonated his deadly package at a Unity Day parade in the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a. More than 120 people are believed to have been killed and 350 wounded. In a statement following the carnage AQAP claimed it was revenge for what it called the US war on its followers in southern Yemen and that the terrorist group sought to assassinate the defense minister and other top commanders at the parade rehearsal. The group also warned of more attacks.

We will take revenge, God willing, and the flames of war will reach you everywhere, and what happened is but the start of a jihad project in defense of honor and sanctities.

If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery it also appears to be linked to ever growing atrocity.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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