AQAP issues bounty for key Yemen figures

Story highlights

  • The value of the bounty in American dollars is about $774,000
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula wants a Houthi leader and a former Yemeni president killed or captured

(CNN)Al Qaeda has fired a verbal salvo in a multifaction battle over Yemen, saying it's offering 20 kilograms of gold to anyone who kills or captures two prominent Shia Muslim opponents, including the leader of the rebels who overtook Yemen's capital.

Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in a news release and wanted poster distributed online, offers the reward for the death or capture of Houthi leader Abdelmalik Bedrudin Al-Houthi and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
    Converted to currency, the gold reward would be worth about $774,000. AQAP referred to Al-Houthi and Saleh as the "two heads of evil."
    AQAP is one of several factions fighting to control Yemen. With Sunni Islamic roots, AQAP is a bitter enemy of the Houthi faction, which is Shia and widely believed to be supported by Iran.
    Yemen has been descending into chaos in the weeks since Houthi rebels -- minority Shiites who have long complained of being marginalized in the majority Sunni country -- forced Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi from power in January.
    The Houthis, allied with fighters loyal to Saleh, have since faced resistance from not only AQAP, but also a number of groups including forces loyal to Hadi.
    Also opposing the Houthis are Saudi Arabia and other predominantly Sunni nations, which last month began airstrikes against the rebels.
    At least 540 people -- including 311 civilians -- have died as a result of the fighting, the United Nations said Wednesday. A U.N. expert on refugees said other nations should prepare for "massive displacement" of Yemenis seeking safety.
    "The international community must prepare for a worst case scenario," Chaloka Beyani, a professor of International Law at the London School of Economics, said. "While efforts to reach a diplomatic solution are essential, the picture on the ground is extremely bleak and humanitarian responses must be stepped up as a matter of urgency."
    About 1,000 people have already fled their homes during the two weeks of conflict.