US killed al Qaeda leader in Yemen, White House announces

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US President Donald Trump | Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Qasim al-Rimi, a founder and leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and deputy to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was reportedly killed by an air strike last month.

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The United States killed a key leader of an al Qaeda affiliate group during a counter-terrorism operation in Yemen, the White House confirmed Thursday.

Qassim al-Rimi, a founder and leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and deputy to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was reportedly killed by an air strike last month, but the Trump administration held off officially announcing his death until Thursday.

Al-Rimi had worked in Afghanistan under Osama bin Laden and directed his organization to commit terrorist attacks on civilians in Yemen, according to a White House 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 said. “The United States, our interests, and our allies are safer as a result of his death. We will continue to protect the American people by tracking down and eliminating terrorists who seek to do us harm.”

President Donald Trump had appeared to confirm a report by The New York Times — which first reported al-Rimi’s death — on Saturday through a series of Twitter retweets.

Under al-Rimi, AQAP had plotted to commit terrorist attacks against the United States and Europe, though never successfully on American soil. Trump has made counter-terror strikes a cornerstone of his administration, often boasting about them to kick off his rallies.

Last year, U.S. forces successfully killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria. Trump has frequently touted the scale-back of ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria as a result of his administration’s moves.

The U.S. and Iran also dramatically escalated tensions after Trump ordered the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani of the elite Quds force.

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