World / Middle East

Al-Qaida confirms US strike killed leader of Yemen affiliate

(Agencies) Updated: 2015-06-16 15:40

CAIRO - Al-Qaida on Tuesday confirmed that Nasir al-Wahishi, its No. 2 figure and leader of its powerful Yemeni affiliate, was killed in a US strike, making it the harshest blow to the global militant network since the killing of Osama bin Laden.

In a video statement released by the media wing of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni affiliate is known, a senior operative read a statement announcing the death of al-Wahishi, who once served as bin Laden's personal secretary, and said his deputy, Qassim al-Raimi, has been tapped to replace him.

Yemeni security officials had earlier said a US drone strike killed three suspected militants in the al-Qaida-held southern port city of Mukalla last week. US officials had said they were trying to verify whether al-Wahishi had been killed.

Al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate has long been seen as its most lethal, and has been linked to a number of foiled or botched attacks on the US homeland. In addition to leading the Yemeni affiliate, al-Wahishi also served as deputy to Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaida's top leader, who succeeded bin Laden in 2011.

The death of al-Wahishi is the latest in a series of targeted killings of the Yemen affiliate's top leaders, including its most senior military leader Nasr al-Ansi, religious ideologue Ibrahim al-Rubish and others in recent weeks.

Al-Wahishi's death is a major setback for AQAP, but the group's master bomb-maker, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, is believed to still be alive. He is thought to have designed bombs that were slipped past security and placed on three separate American-bound airplanes, although none of them exploded.

Al-Raimi, the new leader of AQAP, is thought to be the brains behind a series of attacks, including a foiled plot to mail bombs to the United States and multiple attacks against Yemen's US-backed government. In writings and videos, he has vowed to topple the Sanaa government and strike America.

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