US launches strike on Al Qaeda leader in Yemen

Officials say US forces targeted Qassim Al Rimi in an air strike in January

epa08182824 A Yemeni holds up a gun during a protest against the so-called 'Deal of the Century', in Sana'a, Yemen, 31 January 2020. Thousands of Yemenis staged a protest in Sana'a against US President Donald Trump to pass the so-called 'Deal of the Century' on the settlement of the Palestinian issue. The Middle East Peace Plan announced by Trump and rejected by the Palestinians aims to solve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.  EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
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The United States has carried out an air strike on the leader of an Al Qaeda branch in Yemen after tracking him with surveillance for months, officials said.

Three current or former US officials told the New York Times they were confident they had killed Qassim Al Rimi, leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), in a strike in January.

The officials said they were waiting for confirmation of the extremist leader's death before making an official announcement, the New York Times reported.

The US government had offered a $10 million reward for information on his whereabouts through its Rewards for Justice programme.

Al Rimi is believed to have become the group’s leader after a drone strike killed Nasir Al Wuhayshi in 2015.

AQAP has maintained a foothold in Yemen despite a long-running US military campaign including extensive use of drone strikes targeting members of the extremist group.

Last April, the US military carried out a series of six air strikes targeting AQAP in Yemen in the first strikes since Al Qaeda operative Jamal Al Badawi was killed by an American drone in January.

Though the group’s ability to carry out attacks outside Yemen has been reduced by the US campaign, analysts say AQAP remains dangerous.

Former CIA officer Bruce Riedel told the New York Times that Al Rimi was "an important target," adding that he was "probably more dangerous to Yemen and Saudi Arabia given the group's diminished capabilities".

Last month the attacker who stabbed performers during a concert in the Saudi capital of Riyadh confessed that he was following the directions of AQAP.