On Thursday (February 6), the White House announced that the leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen, Qasim al-Rimi, had been killed in an airstrike. In a statement, the White House said: “At the direction of President Donald J Trump, the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation in Yemen that successfully eliminated Qasim al-Rimi, a founder and the leader of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and a deputy to al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.”
It added, “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 “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who had tried to detonate a bomb on a Detroit-bound airplane in 2009, was a member of AQAP. This branch of al-Qaeda was also responsible for the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in 2015.
Al-Rimi was designated a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the US Department of State in May 2010, and in the same month he was added to the United Nations (UN) Sanctions Committee’s Consolidated List of individuals who are associated with the al-Qaeda or the ISIL (Islamic State). Al-Rimi had carried a reward of $5 million since October 2014.
Qasim al-Rimi was named the emir of AQAP in June 2015, after he swore allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and called for renewed attacks against the United States, according to the Department of State.
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In the 1990s, al-Rimi trained terrorists at an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, before returning to Yemen. In 2005, Rimi was sentenced to five years in prison in Yemen for plotting the murder of the US Ambassador to Yemen. He escaped from the prison in Sana’a in 2006, after which al-Qaeda in Yemen resumed its operations.
AQAP was formed in 2009 in response to a heavy Saudi crackdown against al-Qaeda elements in Yemen. According to the Stanford Centre for International Security and Cooperation (SCISC), the organisation was based in Yemen, and emerged from the merger of the Yemeni and Saudi branches of al-Qaeda.
In an audio released on February 5, 2017, al-Rimi threatened US President Donald Trump and, in a video released subsequently in May 2017, he urged his supporters in Western countries to conduct “easy and simple” attacks. He also praised Omar Mateen who killed 49 people in a June 2016 mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando in Florida.
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