Defense

US officials believe they killed al Qaeda leader in Yemen airstrike: report

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U.S. officials reportedly believe they killed the leader of al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen using an airstrike.

The New York Times, citing three current and former American officials, reported that the administration is confident that the al Qaeda leader, Qassim al-Rimi, was killed in a January airstrike in Yemen but has not yet confirmed the death. 

President Trump highlighted reports of al-Rimi’s death on Saturday, retweeting a reporter and a member of a group that tracks terrorists online who had posted about al-Rimi’s apparent killing.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill regarding the Times’s report. The Pentagon said it had no information on the reported strike.

Should it be confirmed, the death would be a significant blow to al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, which is widely considered to be one of its most potent affiliates. 

While the group’s ability to strike Western targets has deteriorated in recent years, it has been connected with several high-profile plots, including the attempted underwear bombing on Christmas in 2009. 

A U.S. official who was briefed on the strike told the Times that the CIA learned of al-Rimi’s whereabouts from an informer in Yemen in November and that the government used tracking drones to follow him. 

Al-Rimi has been an active member of al Qaeda since before the Sept. 11 attacks. He served five years in prison for plotting to kill the American ambassador in Yemen and later broke out of jail.

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