Trump confirms killing of Al Qaeda leader in Yemen
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump confirmed on Thursday that the US had killed the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — days after the militant group claimed responsibility for a mass shooting at a US naval base.
The US “conducted a counterterrorism operation in Yemen that successfully eliminated Qassim Al Rimi, a founder and the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),” Trump said in a White House statement.
AQAP claimed responsibility on Sunday for a December 6 shooting at US Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida, in which a Saudi Air Force officer killed three American sailors.
The announcement came with Trump touting US resolve following the killings of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi in October last year and top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani three months later.
The militant group has thrived in the chaos of years of civil war between Yemen's Saudi-backed government and rebels who control the capital.
“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,” Trump 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.”
'Eliminating terrorists'
Trump did not give any details about the circumstances or the timing of the operation.
But it follows the killing of Al Rimi's predecessor Nasir Al Wuhayshi in June 2015, as part of the US's long running drone campaign in Yemen.
The following year top regional AQAP emir Jalal Belaidi, alias Abu Hamza, was also killed in a drone strike in the war torn country.
Belaidi was responsible for multiple provinces in Yemen, the US State Department said after the killing.
It had offered a $5 million reward for information on Belaidi over his alleged involvement in plotting bomb attacks on Western diplomatic officials and facilities in the capital Sanaa in 2013. “The United States, our interests, and our allies are safer as a result of his death,” Trump said of the operation. - AFP