IRBIL, Iraq — President Trump is “foolish” and has ignited the “flame of jihad” with a raid in Yemen in which civilians were killed, al-Qaeda said Friday in its first official comments on the new U.S. administration.
That the raid came only days after Trump’s vow to eradicate Islamist terrorism in his inauguration speech, makes it “clear for us that the threat was not directed to the Islamic militants only, but to all the Muslims, men, women and even children,” al-Qaeda’s al-Nafeer bulletin said, accusing the Trump administration of intentionally killing women and children.
U.S. Central Command, or Centcom, has not specified how many civilians were killed in the raid Saturday, in which a Navy SEAL also died. Among those reported dead was the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric with al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen who was killed in a 2011 U.S. drone strike.
Civilian casualties also provide easy fodder for extremist propaganda, and Trump’s comments indicating that he will heavily bomb Islamic State militants have caused nervousness for some in the region. In the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, where about 750,000 civilians still remain in areas under Islamic State control, the United States has so far used strict rules of engagement.
But Trump’s executive order on defeating the Islamic State said a plan should recommended changes to U.S. rules of engagement and other “policy restrictions that exceed the requirements of international law.”
Analysts have also expressed fears that such policies as Trump’s travel ban on seven majority-Muslim countries could fan international extremism and stoke anti-American sentiment, causing more danger to the United States, rather than protecting it. On online forums and social media, Islamist militants have hailed the ban as proof that the United States is at war with Islam.