Al-Qaida, on 16 June, stated Nasir al-Wahishi, its No 2 figure and leader of powerful Yemeni affiliate, was killed in a US strike, thereby making it the harshest blow to the militant network.
In a video statement released in the Arabian Peninsula, a senior operative read a statement, announcing al Wahishi’s death. He once served as bin Laden’s personal secretary, and said his deputy, Qassim al Raimi, has been tapped to replace him.
The death of al-Wahishi is the latest in a series of targeted killings of the Yemen affiliate’s top leaders, including its senior military leader Nasr al-Ansi, and religious ideologue Ibrahim al-Rubish, in recent weeks.
“Our Muslim nation, a hero of your heroes and a master of your masters left to God, steadfast,” senior operative, Khaled Batrafi, said in the video.
Earlier, Yemeni officials said, a US drone strike killed three suspected militants in the al-Qaida-held city of Mukalla, last week. US officials said, they were trying to verify whether al-Wahishi was killed.
Al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate has long been its most lethal network. It was also linked to a number of foiled or botched attacks on the US homeland.
In addition to leading the Yemeni affiliate, al-Wahishi had served as deputy to Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaida’s top leader.
Al-Wahishi’s death is a major setback to the network, but the group’s bomb-maker, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, is believed to still be alive. He designs bombs that were slipped past security and placed on three separate American-bound airplanes, although none of them exploded.