The White House announced Thursday night that an airstrike ordered by President Trump had killed al-Qaeda’s leader in Yemen.
“The United States, our interests, and our allies are safer as a result of his death,” the White House said in a statement. “We will continue to protect the American people by tracking down and eliminating terrorists who seek to do us harm.
At the direction of President Trump, the U.S. conducted a counterterrorism operation in Yemen that successfully eliminated Qasim al-Rimi, a founder and the leader of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula and a deputy to al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. https://t.co/ayOmTpzH04
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 6, 2020
Reports broke last week that Qassim al-Rimi, the leader of the group, had been killed after months of surveillance. While the White House released few details on the nature of the operation, an intelligence official told the New York Times that the CIA had carried out the mission with an unmanned drone, after learning of his location from an informant in November.
Al-Rimi was one of the last remaining members of al-Qaeda to be with the group since before 9/11, joining Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. In 2005, he was sentenced to five years in prison in Yemen for plotting to kill the American ambassador, but escaped a year later.
“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,” the White House statement reads.
Al-Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate AQAP had been widely regarded as the group’s most dangerous wing. In 2015, it claimed responsibility for the 2015 attack on the offices of French magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris that killed twelve people.
Audio released Sunday showed al-Rimi claiming “full responsibility” for the December 6 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola by a Saudi national, who left a trail of anti-American social media posts in the wake of killing three people.