Once again, an American drone strike has apparently created some room at the top in al-Qaeda. The group's Yemen branch, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has confirmed that its leader, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, was killed in a strike last week, reports the Washington Post. Wuhayshi, who was reportedly groomed by Osama bin Laden, became al-Qaeda's No. 2 leader when he took charge of the highly active—and dangerous—Yemen franchise in 2013. He was filmed calling for attacks on the US at a large gathering of militants last year. "We must eliminate the cross," he said, and "the bearer of the cross is America."
The SITE Intelligence Group describes the death as the biggest strike on al-Qaeda since the 2011 killing of bin Laden, the BBC reports. The possible death of the leader of an al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Libya in a US airstrike over the weekend makes this a very bad week for the group's leadership, former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel tells the Post. The men were among the few left with strong ties to the group's founders, "but the ideology, the message, and the mythology they created now outlives them, and I don't think their passage is really going to be the end of this problem," he says. (Jihadi scholars say al-Qaeda is on the verge of "collapse," though they blame the decline on ISIS, not the US.)