Senior Al-Qaeda Leader Killed in Drone Strike

Reports say senior commander in Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula killed in an American drone strike in Yemen.

Ben Ariel ,

Members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
Members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

A senior commander in Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been killed in an American drone strike, CNN reported Thursday, citing an online video statement from an AQAP spokesman.

It was not immediately clear when the commander, Nasr Ibn Ali al-Ansi was killed.

A U.S. official confirmed that al-Ansi was dead, but would not say whether his death was the result of a drone strike.

The senior commander was well known for giving a lengthy statement after the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, claiming AQAP was responsible for the attack, noted CNN.

Twelve cartoonists, editors and other magazine staffers were killed by two gunmen on January 7. The attack was revenge for the magazine's depictions of the Prophet Mohammed, al-Ansi said then.

He blamed not only Charlie Hebdo, but also France and the United States in his statement.

Al-Ansi urged all would-be jihadists to wage war at home, when possible, as opposed to traveling abroad.

According to the SITE Intelligence group, Al-Ansi was killed last month in a drone strike in the Yemeni city of al-Mukalla.

CNN analyst Paul Cruickshank described al-Ansi's death as a "significant blow against AQAP."

In addition to being the group's go-to spokesman, al-Ansi was a senior military strategist who enjoyed a special status because of his history with al Qaeda and bin Laden.

He is the second senior AQAP leader killed recently.

Last month, AQAP announced that Ibrahim al-Rubaish had died in what AQAP's media wing called a "crusader airstrike."

In February, another of the group’s top terrorists, Harith al-Nadhari, was killed in a United States drone strike in Yemen.

AQAP has stepped up its attacks against Yemeni security forces in recent years, though these attacks have been mainly in the lawless southern and eastern provinces where jihadist groups are active.

The Islamist network has taken advantage of the weakening of the central government in Sanaa since a popular uprising that toppled president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011.