Trump says US operation killed al-Qaeda leader in Yemen
WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump said the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation in Yemen that killed Qassim al-Rimi, an al-Qaeda leader who claimed responsibility for last year’s deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, where a Saudi aviation trainee killed three US sailors.
Rimi was a founder of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, long considered the global al-Qaeda network’s most dangerous branch for its attempts to carry out attacks in the United States. Trump said the United States and its allies were safer as a result of Rimi’s death.
“We will continue to protect the American people by tracking down and eliminating terrorists who seek to do us harm,” Trump said February 6.
While Trump confirmed reports that Rimi had been killed, he did not say when the US operation was conducted or offer details about how it was carried out.
Rimi had said in an 18-minute video that his group was responsible for the December 6 shooting at the Florida base. He called the shooter, Saudi Air Force Lieutenant Mohammed Alshamrani, a “courageous knight” and a “hero.”
The shooter opened fire in a classroom at the base, killing three people and wounding two sheriff’s deputies before one of the deputies killed him. Eight others were hurt.
The shooting focused public attention on the presence of foreign students in US military training programmes and exposed shortcomings in the screening of cadets. In January, the United States sent home 21 Saudi military students, saying the trainees had jihadist or anti-American sentiments on social media pages or had “contact with child pornography,” including in internet chat rooms.
Trump’s announcement confirmed indications that Rimi had been killed. In late January, a suspected US drone strike destroyed a building housing al-Qaeda militants in eastern Yemen. On February 1, Trump retweeted several other tweets and media reports that seemed to support rumours that the strike had killed Rimi.