President Trump said Thursday that the US, at his direction, has conducted a counter-terrorism operation in Yemen that killed Qassim al-Rimi, an al-Qaeda leader who claimed responsibility for last year's deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, where a Saudi aviation trainee killed three American sailors. Al-Rimi is a founder of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The affiliate has long been considered the global network’s most dangerous branch for its attempts to carry out attacks on the US mainland. Trump said the US and its allies are safer as a result of his death. "We will continue to protect the American people by tracking down and eliminating terrorists who seek to do us harm," Trump said.
While Trump confirmed reports that al-Rimi had been killed, he did not say when the US operation was conducted or offer any details about how it was carried out. Al-Rimi had said in an 18-minute video that his group was responsible for the Dec. 6 shooting at the base. He called the shooter, Saudi Air Force officer Mohammed Alshamrani, a "courageous knight" and a "hero." Trump's announcement confirmed earlier indications that al-Rimi had been killed, the AP reports. In late January, a suspected US drone strike destroyed a building housing al-Qaeda militants in eastern Yemen. Also, on Feb. 1, Trump retweeted several other tweets and media reports that seemed to offer confirmation that the strike had killed al-Rimi. (In 2017, al-Rimi taunted Trump after escaping a raid.)