The Trump administration believes the leader of al Qaeda's branch in Yemen was killed during an airstrike on Jan. 25, the New York Times reported Saturday.
Citing three current and former American officials, the Times reported officials are confident Qassim al-Rimi was killed, but haven’t yet confirmed the takedown.
President Donald Trump highlighted reports of al-Rimi's death, retweeting a reporter and a member of a group that tracks terrorists online who had posted about al-Rimi’s apparent killing.
According to the Associated Press, tribal leaders in Yemen said the drone strike took place in the Wadi Ubaidah area in the eastern province of Marib. The area is known as a stronghold for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, known as AQAP.
They said at least three explosions rocked the area, and that the building was set ablaze.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many militants were in the building at the time or their identities, the AP reported. The tribal leaders said a handful of al-Qaida militants arrived at the area directly after the strike and cordoned off the area.
If confirmed, the death would be a significant blow to AQAP, which is widely considered to be one of al Qaeda’s most potent affiliates, and which has attempted to carry out attacks on the U.S. mainland.
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 9/11 attacks. He served five years in prison for plotting to kill the American ambassador there and later broke out of jail.
According to the AP, al-Rimi succeeded Nasser al-Wahishi, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2015, as the top leader of AQAP.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.