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US confirms killing of AQAP chief in Yemen

By AFP

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A Yemeni police wanted poster shows on October 11th, 2010, images of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula military chief in Yemen Qassim al-Rimi. [AFP]

US President Donald Trump on Thursday (February 6th) confirmed the US had killed the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The US "conducted a counterterrorism operation in Yemen that successfully eliminated Qassim al-Rimi, a founder and the leader of AQAP," Trump said in a White House statement.

The announcement came with Trump touting US resolve following the killings of "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October last year and top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani three months later.

Washington considers AQAP to be the network's most dangerous branch.

The extremist group has thrived in the chaos of years of civil war between Yemen's Saudi-backed government and the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah).

"Under al-Rimi, AQAP committed unconscionable violence against civilians in Yemen and sought to conduct and inspire numerous attacks against the US and our forces," Trump said.

"His death further degrades AQAP and the global al-Qaeda movement, and it brings us closer to eliminating the threats these groups pose to our national security."

'Eliminating terrorists'

Trump did not give any details about the circumstances or the timing of the operation.

But it follows the killing of al-Rimi's predecessor Nasser al-Wuhayshi in June 2015, and the 2016 killing of top regional AQAP emir Jalal Belaidi, alias Abu Hamza.

Belaidi had been responsible for multiple provinces in Yemen, the US State Department said after the killing.

It had offered a $5 million reward for information on Belaidi over his alleged involvement in plotting bomb attacks on diplomatic officials and facilities in Sanaa in 2013.

"The US, our interests, and our allies are safer as a result of his death," Trump said of the operation on al-Rimi. "We will continue to protect the American people by tracking down and eliminating terrorists who seek to do us harm."

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