Terror organisation Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on Sunday confirmed the death of its leader Qassim al-Rimi and appointed a successor, the SITE monitor said, weeks after the US said it had "eliminated" him. The announcement came in an audio speech delivered by AQAP religious official Hamid bin Hamoud al-Tamimi, said SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist networks worldwide.
"In his speech, Tamimi spoke at length about Rimi and his jihadi journey, and stated that Khalid bin Umar Batarfi is the new leader of AQAP," it said. SITE said that Batarfi has appeared in many AQAP videos over the past several years and appeared to be Rimi's deputy and group spokesman.
US President Donald Trump announced Rimi's death earlier this month, saying the US had "conducted a counterterrorism operation in Yemen" that eliminated him. That announcement came shortly after AQAP claimed responsibility for the December 6 mass shooting at a US naval base in Florida, in which a Saudi Air Force officer killed three American sailors. Washington considers AQAP to be the worldwide jihadist network's most dangerous branch.
The Sunni extremist group has thrived in the chaos of years of civil war between Yemen's Saudi Arabia-backed government and the Shiite rebels who control the capital. "Under Rimi, AQAP committed unconscionable violence against civilians in Yemen and sought to conduct and inspire numerous attacks against the United States and our forces," Trump said at the time. "His death further degrades AQAP and the global Al-Qaeda movement, and it brings us closer to eliminating the threats these groups pose to our national security."
Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent's (AQIS) chief and Pakistani citizen Asim Omar, was killed in Afghanistan's Musa Qala district during a raid on September 23, last year Afghan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) had confirmed. For proof, NDS released two photos of the top terrorist, both alive and dead to confirm the news. However, Al Qaeda has not confirmed the death of Omar, neither has the White House or Pentagon released an official statement.
Born in Uttar Pradesh, the son of a peasant ran away from home to Pakistan, after being radicalised. Omar was reportedly picked up to head the AQIS after its formation in 2014. According to international reports, the terrorist was previously affiliated with Pakistan Taliban, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and even Jaish-e-Mohammed in PoK, before being linked to the Al Qaeda.
Omar, in June 2019, had praised the Taliban for its "victory" in Afghanistan against the US forces, and even hailed the "unity" of the Taliban. Back in June, Al Qaeda Indian Subcontinent also released a 20-page 'code of conduct' accentuating its fidelity to chief Ayman al Zawahiri and the emir of the Taliban. The presence of a senior Al Qaeda leader in the Taliban compound raises speculations over the armed group's willingness to cut ties with terror, amid the stalled peace negotiations with the United States.
(With PTI inputs)