Military officials who've been trying to justify a Jan. 29 raid that killed a Navy SEAL in Yemen now say the goal was to capture al-Qaeda leader Qassim al-Rimi, who they believe escaped unscathed. They believe this because al-Rimi—considered the third most dangerous terrorist in the world, per NBC News—can be heard taunting President Trump in an 11-minute audio recording released over the weekend, which officials believe is authentic. "The new fool of the White House received a painful slap across his face," CNN quotes al-Rimi as saying. Al-Rimi also claims 25 people died in the raid, noting "dozens of Americans were killed and wounded," per the AP. The US military has said one Navy SEAL died and three others were wounded.
A White House official tells NBC that Trump approved the raid after Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told him al-Rimi's capture would be a "game changer." However, an official tells CNN that al-Rimi was not essential to the mission, which officials believed would lead to him one way or another. Though al-Rimi wasn't captured—it isn't clear if he was at the site—military officials have said the mission was "successful." Fourteen al-Qaeda fighters were killed and "al-Qaeda was disrupted, at least in terms of that cell," says a former national security adviser under former President George W. Bush. "They understand that the US is willing to lean forward, and perhaps they're being deterred or disrupted in their activities." (The military initially claimed it nabbed a decade-old video.)