US forces kill top terrorist leader in Yemen, Trump says
By JOHN HARNEY | Bloomberg | Published: February 6, 2020
WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — American forces have killed a terrorist commander in Yemen, President Donald Trump announced Thursday night.
Trump said in a statement that Qasim al-Rimi, the leader and a founder of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, had been “successfully eliminated.” The statement did not say how the operation was carried out, or provide further details. But a drone strike with al-Rimi as the target was reported late last week.
Al-Rimi and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula “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 death of the militant leader comes nearly five weeks after Trump ordered an airstrike that killed Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian general, in Baghdad.
The president’s statement said that al-Rimi had joined the original al-Qaida in Afghanistan in the 1990s when it was led by Osama bin Laden. American intelligence officials said in 2015 that al-Rimi took over al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula after the death of his predecessor, Nasir al-Wahishi, who was reportedly killed by a U.S. drone strike. Al-Rimi, who had a multimillion-dollar price on his head, played a crucial part in recruiting the current generation of AQAP militants, according to the State Department.
For the past four years, Yemen has been engulfed in a devastating civil war that has brought the already-poor nation to the brink of famine, with tens of thousands of people killed and millions more displaced.
The conflict became part of the broader struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran for supremacy in the region. A Saudi-led coalition began a military campaign against Houthi rebels, who are supported by Iran. Human rights groups have documented many instances of coalition bombings of hospitals, schools and other civilian targets.
In the chaos of the war, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, a branch of al-Qaida, expanded its activities in Yemen, and at one point seized control of the province of Abyan.