AQAP confirms death of leader Qassim al-Rimi

Announcement reported by SITE Intelligence Group comes weeks after US said it killed al-Rimi in Yemen.

Qassim al-Raymi, new leader of AQAP in Yemen
The announcement came in an audio speech delivered by AQAP religious official Hamid bin Hamoud al-Tamimi, said SITE Intelligence Group [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has confirmed the death of its leader Qassim al-Rimi, according to a monitor, weeks after the United States said it had killed him in Yemen.

SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors armed group networks worldwide, said on Sunday that the announcement was made in an audio speech delivered by AQAP religious official Hamid bin Hamoud al-Tamimi.

In his speech, al-Tamimi also said that Khalid bin Umar Batarfi was AQAP’s new leader, the monitor added.

SITE said that Batarfi has appeared in many AQAP videos over the last several years and appeared to be al-Rimi’s deputy and the group’s spokesman.

US President Donald Trump announced earlier this month that his country had killed al-Rimi in an operation inside Yemen.

“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,” Trump said at the time.  

“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.”

At the time of Trump’s announcement, Al Jazeera’s Andy Gallacher, reporting from Washington, DC, had said: “Al-Rimi is a significant target for the US authorities. He is one of the few leaders that predates the attacks of September 11 [2001].”

AQAP claimed responsibility for last year’s deadly shooting at US Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida, in which a Saudi aviation trainee killed three US sailors.

Yemen’s war broke out in late 2014 when the Houthis, allied with forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, seized much of the country, including Sanaa. The war escalated in March 2015 when a Saudi-UAE led coalition intervened against the rebels in a bid to restore the internationally-recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The Yemen-based AQAP, as well as other armed groups and fighters, have taken advantage of the chaos of the war between the pro-government forces and the Houthis to expand their footprint.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies