“Wahishi’s death strikes a major blow to AQAP, al Qaeda’s most dangerous affiliate, and to al Qaeda more broadly,” according to a statement from Ned Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
Wahishi plotted against the U.S. and was responsible for the deaths of innocent Yemenis and Westerners, including Americans, the statement said.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren declined to provide any details on the Yemen strike speaking to reporters ahead of the National Security Council announcement. But he said that things like a strike in Yemen and a strike in Libya against another terrorist leader earlier this week show that the U.S. still has the ability to hunt down terrorists without maintaining a ground presence in those countries.
“We still have a global reach,” Col. Warren said. “We still retain the ability to find and kill terrorists anywhere they’re hiding in the world.”
He said the removal of any terrorist leader creates a disruption in the organization’s ability to conduct operations, confusion among members and vulnerability during the reorganization.
The U.S. confirmed a strike targeting Mokhtar Belmokhtar on Saturday night in Libya. While Col. Warren said earlier this week that Belmokhtar was presumed dead, he still was not prepared to Tuesday to confirm the terrorist leader’s death as the post-strike assessment is still ongoing.
Belmokhtar maintained an allegiance to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and served as the founder and the operational leader of Al Murabitun, an al Qaeda affiliated terrorist group in northwest Africa behind a 2013 hostage crisis in Algeria.
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