The successful counterterrorism operation that killed al-Rimi was ordered by President Trump, taking place after the terrorist leader repeatedly expressed interest in attacking the United States. The al-Qaeda leader most recently claimed to be behind the shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station on December 6, 2019, an event which resulted in the death of three U.S. sailors, NPR reported.
Initial reports of al-Rimi’s death were published by The New York Times over a week ago, but the White House only just released an official statement confirming the death, saying that they “successfully eliminated Qasim al-Rimi, a founder and leader of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).”
The infamous terrorist leader is one of the few al-Qaeda members whose record goes back even further than the September 11 attacks in 2001. He joined the notorious terror group in the 1990s, working for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. He was second-in-command to Ayman al-Zawahiri, who succeeded bin Laden as leader of al-Qaeda after his death in 2011.
“Under Rimi, AQAP committed unconscionable violence against civilians in Yemen and sought to conduct and inspire numerous attacks against the United States and our forces,” the White House said.
The al-Qaeda Arabian Peninsula branch has long been considered one of the most dangerous in the world. The United States government had offered a $10 million reward for any information on al-Rimi.
In addition to claiming the Pensacola base attack, the group has also claimed they were behind the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, which resulted in 12 fatalities. However, experts are not certain if the Paris attack was carried out by AQAP, according to CNN.
Qassim al-Rimi has been one of Trump’s biggest targets throughout his entire presidency. The president ordered a raid that was reportedly aimed at the terrorist leader just weeks after assuming office in February 2017.
“The United States, our interests, and our allies are safer as a result of his death,” the White House asserted.
The al-Qaeda leader’s death follows the United States’ killing of two other opposing leaders from the Middle East. Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdad was killed in a nighttime raid in Syria this past October, and top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was killed by an airstrike at Baghdad International Airport on January 3, per The Inquisitr.
The U.S. military has conducted over 160 strikes targeting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula since 2017, concentrating mostly on Yemen. A total of 131 airstrikes occurred in 2017, 36 took place in 2018, and six airstrikes were conducted in the area in 2019, CNN reported.