A suspected US drone strike destroyed a building housing al Qaida militants last week in eastern Yemen, tribal leaders said amid reports it killed a senior leader of the terror group.
US President Donald Trump has retweeted several reports that the January 25 strike killed Qassim al-Rimi, but it has not been officially confirmed.
The Yemeni tribal leaders said the drone strike took place in the Wadi Ubaidah area in the eastern province of Marib. The area is known as a stronghold for al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
2)Will be interesting to see which #AQAP official warranted the intel & military resources required to carry out a precise U.S. drone attack…AQAP in recent years has dwindled. As it stands now, top publicly known officials are leader Qassim al-Rimi and official Ibrahim al-Qosi. pic.twitter.com/GlGgygCqgB
— Rita Katz (@Rita_Katz) January 27, 2020
They said at least three explosions hit the area, and the building was set ablaze.
It was not immediately clear how many militants were in the building at the time or their identities.
The tribal leaders said a handful of al Qaida militants arrived on the scene just after the strike and cordoned off the area.
Mr Trump on Saturday retweeted several articles that seemed to offer confirmation al-Rimi, one of AQAP’s founders and its current chief, was killed. The White House did not comment on whether his retweeting was confirmation of the death.
Al-Rimi succeeded Nasser al-Wahishi, who was killed in a US drone strike in 2015, as the top leader of AQAP.
3)Breaking: It appears that Qasim al-Rimi, leader of the Yemen-based #AQAP, was the individual targeted & killed in a U.S. drone strike on Saturday, January 25 in Wadi Ubaidah, east of #Sanaa – a longtime stronghold for the group. AQAP has yet to officially confirm his death. pic.twitter.com/ohDcH2d8wz
— Rita Katz (@Rita_Katz) January 30, 2020
Among Mr Trump’s retweets was a thread by Rita Katz, director of the Site Intelligence Group which tracks messaging by militant groups.
Ms Katz tweeted on Thursday: “If true, and it seems to be, the death of al-Rimi would mark a major blow to #AlQaeda on the whole. Al-Rimi was a candidate for succeeding AQ leader Zawahiri.”
AQAP has long been considered the global network’s most dangerous branch and has attempted to carry out attacks on the US mainland.