US kills Al-Qaeda branch leader in Yemen
President Donald Trump has confirmed that the US had killed the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) - days after the terror group claimed responsibility for a mass shooting at a US naval base, AFP reported.
The US "conducted a counter-terrorism operation in Yemen that successfully eliminated Qassim al-Rimi, a founder and the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," Mr Trump said in a White House statement on Thursday.
AQAP claimed responsibility on Sunday for a Dec 6 shooting at US Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. A Saudi Air Force officer killed three American sailors in the attack.
The announcement came with Mr Trump touting US resolve following the killings of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October last year and top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani three months later.
Washington considers AQAP to be the worldwide terror network's most dangerous branch.
"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," Mr 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."
Mr 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 United States' 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 US$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," Mr Trump said of the operation on al-Rimi.
"We will continue to protect the American people by tracking down and eliminating terrorists who seek to do us harm."