The Yemeni leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qaeda’s second in command globally, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, who was once an associate of Osama bin Laden, has been killed in a suspected US drone strike.
In a video statement released early on Tuesday by the media wing of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group confirmed his death and said his deputy, Qassim al-Rimi, had been named its new leader.
The death will be seen as a major blow to one of the most active branches of the network founded by Osama bin Laden that had claimed the attack on a French satirical magazine and plotted to blow up a US commercial airliner on Christmas Day 2009.
CNN said the attack occurred on Friday in the Hadramout region in eastern Yemen.
Some supporters of the group have published mourning notices on social media.
“Nasser al-Wuhayshi, may God accept him,” one supporter identified as Abu Gandi wrote on Twitter under the hashtag Martyrdom of Abu Baseer al-Wuhayshi.
The United States was assessing reports of his death. US officials told the Washington Post they were reviewing intelligence linked to a June 9 drone strike that targeted Wuhayshi and other AQAP operatives.
Michael McCaul, the chairman of the committee on homeland security, later said in a statement: “If confirmed, the death of AQAP’s leader is a major blow to Islamist terrorists who are plotting daily to attack America. And it delivers a clear message to fanatics: if you try to bring terror to our shores, we will bring justice to yours.
“But as we know from the case of Osama bin Laden, killing al-Qaeda commanders is not enough. We can chase these fanatics to the gates of hell, but to win, we must destroy their terrorist sanctuaries and defeat their insidious ideology.”