Al-Qaida con­firms top com­man­der killed in US strike

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY ALI KHALIL

Al-Qaida has con­firmed that its sec­ond-in-com­mand, the chief of its pow­er­ful Ye­meni branch, was killed in a U.S. drone strike, in the heav­i­est blow to the ji­hadist net­work since the death of Osama bin Laden.

Al­ready strug­gling with the rise of ri­val ji­hadists from the Is­lamic State group, al-Qaida has suf­fered a se­ries of set­backs in re­cent months with sev­eral com- man­ders re­ported killed.

In a video state­ment, al-Qaida in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP) con­firmed that Nasir al-Wuhayshi was dead.

Wuhayshi “was killed in a U.S. drone at­tack that tar­geted him along with two other mu­ja­hedeen,” who were also killed, said the state­ment read by prom­i­nent al-Qaida mil­i­tant Khaled Omar Batarfi and dated June 15.

AQAP — which was be­hind sev­eral plots against Western tar­gets in­clud­ing the deadly at­tack on French mag­a­zine Char­lie Hebdo in Paris ear­lier this year — said it had named its mil­i­tary chief Qassem al-Rimi as its new leader.

U.S. of­fi­cials were ear­lier re­ported to have been re­view­ing in­tel­li­gence to con­firm that Wuhayshi was killed in a CIA drone strike on June 9.

A lo­cal Ye­meni of­fi­cial had told AFP that Wuhayshi was be­lieved to have been killed in the raid in al-Qaida-held Mukalla, in south­east­ern Ye­men.

Another Ye­meni of­fi­cial told AFP last week that a drone had fired four mis­siles at three al-Qaida mil­i­tants, in­clud­ing an un­named “lead­ing fig­ure,” near Mukalla port, killing them on the spot.

The U.S. gov­ern­ment had of­fered a US$10 mil­lion re­ward for any in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to Wuhayshi’s cap­ture or killing.

A for­mer aide to bin Laden, Wuhayshi at­tended the group’s Al-Farouk train­ing camp in Afghanistan in the late 1990s.

He is said to have fled Afghanistan in 2002 to Iran, where he was ar­rested and handed over to Ye­men.

He was held there with­out charge un­til he es­caped by tun­nel­ing his way out of prison with 22 oth­ers in Fe­bru­ary 2006.

In 2007, Wuhayshi was named head of AQAP, which Washington con­sid­ers al- Qaida’s dead­li­est branch.

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