By Patrick Goodenough | February 7, 2020 | 4:30am EST
(CNSNews.com) – The White House has confirmed that the leader of al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based affiliate – often considered the terror franchise’s most dangerous branch – has been killed in “a counterterrorism operation in Yemen.”
The statement did not say exactly when al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Qasim al-Rimi was killed, but the New York Times, citing unnamed security officials, recently reported on an airstrike targeting him in January.
A report on Yemeni website al-Masdar early this week (in Arabic) cited “a source familiar with the movements of al-Qaeda” as saying the drone-fired missile had struck a car in al-Bayda region of central Yemen on January 29. It said Rimi was killed along with a second man in the vehicle, named as Abu al-Bara al-Ibbi. A man with that name is an AQAP cleric and former judge of the terrorist group’s shari’a court in Taiz. There has been no corroboration of these claims.
Confirmation of Rimi’s death comes just days after AQAP released a video clip claiming responsibility for December’s deadly shooting by a Saudi military officer training at Naval Air Station Pensacola. Rimi featured prominently in that video.
“Our message to the terrorists is clear,” President Trump said in his State of the Union address this week. “If you attack our citizens, you forfeit your life.”
AQAP is responsible for several terrorist plots, including an attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound aircraft on Christmas Day 2009. It failed when the Nigerian terrorist was restrained after trying to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear.
The following year, an AQAP plot to ship bombs to the U.S., hidden in packages on commercial cargo planes, was foiled.
An AQAP-associated threat was cited as the reason for the temporary closure of more than 20 U.S. embassies in 2013, and in 2015, AQAP claimed responsibility for the killing of 12 people at the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The two shooters were French-Algerian Muslim brothers, who had visited Yemen in 2011.
The White House described Rimi (Raymi) as AQAP leader and “deputy” to overall al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. It said he joined al-Qaeda in the 1990s and worked for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.
“Under Rimi, AQAP committed unconscionable violence against civilians in Yemen and sought to conduct and inspire numerous attacks against the United States and our forces,” it said. “His death further degrades AQAP and the global al-Qaeda movement, and it brings us closer to eliminating the threats these groups pose to our national security.”
“We will continue to protect the American people by tracking down and eliminating terrorists who seek to do us harm.”
Rimi is the third major Islamic terrorist to be killed in recent months. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died during a U.S. Special Forces raid in Syria last October; and Iran’s Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimaniwas killed in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad last month.
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