A US drone strike reportedly killed AQAP leaders Qasim Al-Raymi and Abu Al-Baraa Al-Ibbi as they travelled in a car through Yakla, Bayda governorate, on January 29th 2020. This was one of three alleged January strikes in which Qasim al-Raymi was reportedly killed – with his death in one of those actions later confirmed by both the US government and AQAP. There were no known associated reports of civilian harm.
A source “familiar with AQAP’s operations inside Yemen” and a local security source told Al-Masdar Online that Al-Raymi had been killed in this strike. Local residents told Al-Masdar that the attack took place in the village of Al-Hosson Al-Mashrif, and that AQAP militants had then prevented local media and activists from accessing the site.
Similarly, according to reports in The Yemen and 4May, sources told Okaz News that Al-Raymi and Al-Ibbi were killed by the strike at noon, as they arrived at a site controlled by AQAP. The original Okaz article could not be found by Airwars.
Responding to local reports, academic Dr Elisabeth Kendall noted that Al-Ibbi was an “articulate and active” AQAP jurist.
Throughout late January and early February 2020, numerous local-language and English-language sources reported that al-Raymi had been killed by a US strike at the end of January. These variously indicated that he was killed by one of two alleged strikes in the Wadi Obeida, Marib, on January 25th (USYEMTr218) or January 27th (USYEMTr219-C); or by this alleged strike in Bayda on January 29th.
Given that the first known reports of al-Raymi’s death also emerged on January 29th, post-dating the alleged strikes in which he was reported to have died, it was impossible to reasonably exclude the possibility that he died in any of these three reported incidents.
On February 6th, a White House statement confirmed that al-Raymi had been killed by a January strike, but did not specify where or when he had died. “This was not a [Department of Defense] operation”, a US Pentagon official told Politico. A former US official told Foreign Policy that the strike was conducted by a CIA aircraft.
US Central Command told Airwars that no US military strikes were conducted in Yemen during January 2020, effectively confirming that the strike that killed Al-Raymi was a CIA operation.
Al-Raymi had been the leader of AQAP since 2015, having been a founding member of the group in 2006. On February 23rd 2020, AQAP confirmed that al-Raymi had died, and announced Khalid Batarfi as its new leader, according to Dr Elisabeth Kendall (@Dr_E_Kendall).
The incident occured around midday.
Sources (52) [ collapse]
Geolocation notes (2) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention the village of Al Hosson Al Mashrif (الحصن المشرف), allegedly within the vicinity of Yakla (يكلاء). One source, @JoshuaKoontz__, suggests the area of Wadi Al Mashrif (وادي المشيريف) as a potential location for this village, approximately 33KM north of Yakla. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Wadi Al Mashrif are: 14.79646, 45.04077
US Forces Assessment:
Original strike reports
At the direction of President Donald J. Trump, the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation in Yemen that successfully eliminated Qasim al-Rimi, a founder and the leader of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and a deputy to al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Rimi joined al-Qa’ida in the 1990s, working in Afghanistan for Osama bin Laden. Under Rimi, AQAP committed unconscionable violence against civilians in Yemen and sought to conduct and inspire numerous attacks against the United States and our forces. His death further degrades AQAP and the global al-Qa’ida movement, and it brings us closer to eliminating the threats these groups pose to our national security. The United States, our interests, and our 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.