Al Qaeda has announced that second in command, Nasir al-Wahishi, has been killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen. Al-Wahishi had formerly been the personal secretary for Osama Bin Laden and was the leader of al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), widely considered the most dangerous of the al Qaeda affiliates.
In the video, senior member Khaled Batarfi was quoted as saying: “We in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula mourn to our Muslim nation … that Abu Baseer Nasir bin Abdul Karim al-Wahishi, God rest his soul, passed away in an American strike which targeted him along with two of his mujahideen brothers, may God rest their souls,” according to the BBC.
He vowed the group’s war on the U.S. would continue. “In the name of God, the blood of these pioneers make us more determined to sacrifice,” he said. “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.”
There had been a $10 million reward for information leading to the location of al-Wahishi. His death would be the highest ranking al Qaeda casualty in the ongoing War on Terror since Bin Laden’s 2011 assassination.
The news comes fast on the heels of reports that Ansar al Sharia leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar may have been killed in an air strike in Libya. The group has disputed this claim and reports of Belmokhtar’s death have proven inaccurate previously.
The recent successes come at an opportune time as criticism has been directed at the Obama Administration for the ongoing conflict against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Some have said the current strategy of air strikes and training local forces as insufficient to ensure victory over the massive terrorist army.
Al Qaeda and Islamic State remain rivals and both have designs on making “spectacular” attacks against the U.S. and western allies and interests in the region and abroad. Ansar al Sharia is allied with al Qaeda and is embroiled in the ongoing Libyan civil war.[USA Today]