A U.S. drone attack has reportedly killed Nasir al-Wuhayshi, who once served as the personal secretary of al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden and was more recently the No. 2 figure in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), located in Yemen. The militant group confirmed the death early Tuesday in a video statement.
The AQAP statement said that Qassim al-Rimi, al-Wuhayshi’s deputy, would take over his responsibilities. Senior operative Khaled Batrafi said the organization would continue its war against the United States. He called al-Wuhayshi a hero for Muslims.
"In the name of God, the blood of these pioneers make us more determined to sacrifice," Fox News quoted Batrafi as saying. "Let the enemies know that the battle is not with an individual; the battle led by crusaders and their agents is colliding with a billion-member nation."
U.S. officials did not release any immediate statement on the death of the AQAP commander. They have been trying to confirm the death from a neutral source since the social media accounts claiming al-Wuhayshi’s death mostly were affiliated with al Qaeda.
If news of the death were true, it would be a “significant blow” to the terrorists, U.S. Sen. Angus King, an Independent from Maine, told CNN. According to him, AQAP losing its leader is going to hurt the organization, even though it will continue to be a threat. King added that the United States was engaged in a “long, difficult struggle.”
The CIA did not comment on the death. The agency referred questions to the National Security Council. However, according to a counter-terrorism source, a credible social media account based in Yemen reported al-Wuhayshi’s death. The source also confirmed that al-Rimi was going to be his replacement.
The slain al Qaeda commander declared a war against Christianity. According to an earlier video statement by al-Wuhayshi, the cross had to be eliminated. He said that the bearer of the cross was the United States.
Al-Wuhayshi escaped from a prison in Yemen in 2006. Later in 2009, he became the AQAP commander.
Al-Wuhayshi's death follows by several weeks the death of Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, another leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.