Al-Qaeda deputy leader Qassim al-Rimi killed in US airstrike

7 February 2020, 00:10

Qassem al-Rimi, deputy leader of al-Qaeda has been killed in Yemen
Qassem al-Rimi, deputy leader of al-Qaeda has been killed in Yemen. Picture: Getty

By Kate Buck

The deputy leader of al-Qaeda has been killed in a US counter-terrorism raid in Yemen, the White House said.

Qassim al-Rimi, the terrorist group's Arabian Peninsula leader and deputy to al Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed in the operation which was ordered by US President Donald Trump.

Al-Rimi had claimed responsibility for last year's deadly shooting at Florida's Naval Air Station Pensacola, where a Saudi aviation trainee killed three American sailors.

Al-Rimi founded the peninsula's affiliate, which has been long considered the global network's most dangerous branch for its attempts to carry out attacks on the US mainland.

Mr Trump said the US and its allies are safer as a result of his death.

In a statement, he added: "We will continue to protect the American people by tracking down and eliminating terrorists who seek to do us harm."

Donald Trump confirmed the killing on Thursday
Donald Trump confirmed the killing on Thursday. Picture: PA

He did not offer any further details about Al-Rimi's death.

Al-Rimi had said in an 18-minute video that his group was responsible for the December 6 shooting at the Florida base. He called the shooter, Saudi Air Force officer Mohammed Alshamrani, a "courageous knight" and a "hero".

The shooter opened fire inside a classroom at the base, killing three people and wounding two sheriff's deputies before one of the deputies killed him. Eight others were also hurt.

The shooting focused public attention on the presence of foreign students in American military training programmes and exposed shortcomings in the screening of cadets.

In January, the US sent home 21 Saudi military students, saying the trainees had jihadist or anti-American sentiments on social media pages or had "contact with child pornography", including in internet chat rooms.

Mr Trump's announcement confirmed earlier indications that al-Rimi had been killed.

In late January, a suspected US drone strike destroyed a building housing al Qaida militants in eastern Yemen.

Also, on February 1, Mr Trump retweeted several other tweets and media reports that seemed to offer confirmation that the strike had killed al-Rimi.