Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Nasser al-Wuhayshi has been killed in a US air strike in Yemen, the Islamist group has confirmed.
In a video published online, AQAP said that they mourned the death of Wuhayshi, a former private secretary to Osama Bin Laden, and named his successor as military chief Qasim al-Raymi.
Speaking in the video, senior AQAP member Khaled Batarfi said:
“We in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula mourn to our Muslim nation… that Abu Baseer Nasser bin Abdul Karim al-Wuhayshi, may God have mercy on his soul, passed away in an American strike which targeted him along with two of his mujahideen brothers.”
The Pentagon has said that it would not comment on the killing, but commentators have remarked that the strike constitutes one the the biggest scalps for the US intelligence services since the death of Bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011.
Local sources say a strike on Friday hit a target in Mukalla, an AQAP-held sea port south-eastern Yemen, and killed three AQAP members.
Wuhayshi, who was believed to have been in his 30s, built AQAP into al-Qaeda’s strongest and most active affiliate, and the central hub for planning attacks against targets within the region and in the West. He was believed to have been personally responsible for approving targets, recruiting new members, and planning attacks.
AQAP has lost a number of high profile members to US air strikes over the last six months, including religious leader Harith al-Nadhari, spokesman Ibrahim al-Rubaish, and military official Nasser al-Ansi, leading some to question whether the intelligence services have recruited a spy within the organisation.