The White House on Thursday said it has conducted a “counterterrorism operation”, killing Qasim al-Rimi, a founder and the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP. The operation was conducted on orders of United States President Donald Trump.
“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 said in a statement. “His death further degrades AQAP and the global al-Qa’ida movement, and it brings us closer to eliminating the threats these groups pose to our national security.” The statement did not mention when al-Rimi was killed.
The assassinated al-Qaeda leader joined the terrorist group in the 1990s, and worked in Afghanistan for Osama bin Laden. He was a deputy to the group’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The United States, its interests, and allies were safer after al-Rimi’s death, the White House said. “We will continue to protect the American people by tracking down and eliminating terrorists who seek to do us harm,” it added.
In 2009, the AQAP was created from two regional offshoots of the al-Qaeda in Yemen. The aim of the group was to overthrow United States-supported governments and eliminate all western influence in the region.
Speculations about al-Rimi’s death started doing the rounds late last month after which the AQAP had released his voice message on February 2, BBC reported, adding that it may have been recorded earlier. Al-Rimi’s group had assumed responsibility on Sunday for a shooting incident at the United States Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida on December 6. A Saudi Air Force official had reportedly killed three American sailors, and injured eight people in the episode, according to AFP.
The Trump-led United States administration has conducted multiple assassinations in the last few months. On January 3, an airstrike by the United States at Baghdad’s airport killed Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. This triggered a tense conflict between Iran and the United States. Tehran targeted at least two airbases housing US troops in Iraq following the assassination, and erroneously shot down a Ukrainian aircraft carrying over 170 passengers.
On October 27, Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself during a United States military raid. Two days later, Trump said that American forces had also killed the person who would have succeeded Baghdadi as the chief of the terrorist group.