Reports from Yemen have revealed the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Nasser al-Wuhayshi, has been killed by a US drone strike. Al Qaeda later confirmed his death.
Wuhayshi’s deputy Qassim al-Rimi has been named as the group's new leader, the media wing of Al Qaeda reportedly said, in a video released early on Tuesday.
Two other members of the militant group were also killed in the air strike on Monday, Al Jazeera reported.
During a video posted on the internet by Al Qaeda, the group confirmed reports of al Wuhayshi’s death made by the Yemeni news group al-Masdar Online.
The report said al Wuhayshi was killed in an attack in the Hadramawt province last Friday. The Pentagon has refused to comment on the incident.
The Al Qaeda’s leader’s dead body now lies in a local morgue in Mukalla, the capital of the eastern province of Hadramawt, guarded by intensified security according to AFP.
Al-Wuhayshi was Al Qaeda's second-in-command after Ayman al Zawahri, and a former private secretary and bodyguard of Osama Bin Laden.
The Site intelligence group has said “reports circulating among Yemeni Jihadi networks earlier on Monday spoke of al-Wuhayshi ‘s death.” Rita Katz, Site's director, said that, if confirmed, the news would be the biggest blow against Al Qaeda since Bin Laden's death in Pakistan in 2011.
The US Department of State had previously offered a reward of $10 million for anyone who could help capture or kill al-Wuhayshi. It said he "is responsible for approving targets, recruiting new members, allocating resources to training and attack planning, and tasking others to carry out attacks."
Al-Wuhayshi became AQAP leader when the Yemeni and Saudi branches of the organisation merged in 2009.
Separate US air strikes in North Africa targeted another group of Al Qaeda members in Libya on Saturday, allegedly killing Mokhtar Belmokhtar - a veteran leader of Al Qaeda who had been called “uncatchable” by the French army - CNN has reported.
“Belmokhtar was the intended target of the operation, but no proof of his death has been provided by either government,” a US official told CNN.
A militant with ties to Libyan groups, however, said the air strikes missed Mokhtar Belmokhtar and instead killed four members of a militant group.
Designated as a global terrorist by the US 12 years ago, with a $5 million reward being offered for information concerning him, both the US and France have been hunting Belmokhtar for years.
The strikes were carried out in the vast desert where the borders of Libya, Niger and Algeria meet. Belmokhtar had been directing his group, known as al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), and smuggling operations and attacks from the region.