Al Qaeda’s most lethal branch said today that its top cleric, a man with a $5 million American bounty on his head, has been killed in Yemen, as the Arab nation falls deeper into chaos.
The group said in a statement posted online that former Guantanamo Bay detainee Ibrahim al-Rubaysh, also spelled al-Rubaish, was killed in a “crusader strike” over the weekend “after he spent almost two decades carrying out jihad against America and its agents.”
Al-Rubaysh is described by the U.S. as a senior “sharia” official in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) who “provides the justification for attacks conducted by AQAP.” He is also accused of being the group’s “senior advisor for AQAP operational planning, and is involved in the planning of attacks.”
Al-Rubaysh was held in Guantanamo Bay prison from 2002 to 2006. AQAP said after he was released he “quickly joined his brethren at AQAP.”
The spiritual leader appears to have played a similar role in AQAP as Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was a top cleric and recruiter in AQAP before he was killed in a CIA drone strike in September 2011. After his death, the U.S. said al-Awlaki too was involved in the terror group’s external operations.