Top Al Qaeda leader killed in Marib air strike

Reports suggest US is responsible although Centcom denies carrying out the strike

One of the many buildings destroyed during the civil war in Yemen. Mohammed Al Qalisi for The National
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A senior Al Qaeda figure was killed in an air strike in the Marib district of Yemen, a tribal official told The National.

Citing a security source, AFP said the air strike was suspected to have been carried out by an American aircraft.

The purported victim of the strike, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap) leader Hamad bin Hamoud Al Tamimi is a Saudi citizen, AFP reported. The US considers him one of its most wanted global terrorists. He was reportedly killed in the strike along with a bodyguard, AFP and local outlets reported.

But US Central Command (Centcom) told US think tank New America that it did not conduct the strike in question.

"Such a statement would not rule out a covert CIA strike, and the February strike is not the only one this year to resurface questions about whether the US is conducting strikes even as the US government has not acknowledged conducting a strike in Yemen since 2020," New America reported.

Tamimi, also known as Abdel Aziz Al Adnani, headed Aqap's leadership council and acted as the militant group's judge, sources said.

Extremist group expert Elisabeth Kendall said Al Tamimi had written at least 11 books justifying militancy and encouraged revenge on western nations for purportedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

The "president of the consultative council and judge, known as Abdel Aziz Al Adnani, was killed with a Yemeni bodyguard", a Marib official told AFP.

Aqap and rival militants loyal to ISIS have thrived in the chaos thrown up by the civil war in Yemen, which pits the Saudi-backed government against Iran-allied Houthi rebels.

Aqap has carried out operations against the Houthis and government forces as well as sporadic attacks abroad.

Its leaders have been targeted in a US drone war for more than two decades, although the number of strikes has dropped off in recent years.

The attack comes a month after three alleged Aqap militants were killed in a suspected US drone strike on a car in Marib province.

Yemen has been wracked by conflict since 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition intervened to back the government after the Houthis seized control of the capital Sanaa.

The conflict has since killed tens of thousands of people and triggered what the United Nations terms the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with millions of people displaced.

Updated: March 01, 2023, 2:23 PM