Another top terrorist leader has been eliminated by U.S. forces, President Donald Trump said on Thursday.
Trump said that U.S. forces at his direction conducted a counter-terrorism operation in Yemen that killed Qassim al-Rimi, the founder and leader of Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
“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 Qaida movement, and it brings us closer to eliminating the threats these groups pose to our national security.”
The president confirmed earlier indications that al-Rimi had been killed n a suspected U.S. drone strike which destroyed a building housing Al Qaida jihadists in eastern Yemen.
The strike also killed a deputy of Al Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, though the White House did not specify who.
Al-Rimi had claimed responsibility for last year’s terrorist attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola, where a Saudi aviation trainee killed three American sailors.
Al-Rimi had said in an 18-minute video that his group was responsible for the Dec. 6 shooting at the base. He called the shooter, Saudi Air Force officer Mohammed Alshamrani, a “courageous knight” and a “hero.” The shooter opened fire inside a classroom at the base, killing three people and wounding two sheriff’s deputies before one of the deputies killed him. Eight others were also hurt.
AQAP has long been considered Al Qaida’s most dangerous branch for its attempts to carry out attacks on the U.S. mainland.
The death of al-Rimi marks the third significant terrorist killed in a U.S. operation in recent months.
The U.S. in October killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and in January carried out a strike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
“We will continue to protect the American people by tracking down and eliminating terrorists who seek to do us harm,” Trump said.