Jim Little, Pensacola News Journal Published 7:31 p.m. CT Feb. 6, 2020 | Updated 8:14 p.m. CT Feb. 6, 2020
The White House announced Thursday that the U.S. had killed the leader of the al-Qaida group who claimed responsibility for the attack on NAS Pensacola.
The founder of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP, Qassim al-Rimi, was killed in a counterterrorism operation in Yemen. He was a deputy to leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The Associated Press reported Monday that the group claimed responsibility for the attack conducted by 2nd Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, which killed three people and wounded eight others before he was killed in an exchange of gunfire with Escambia County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
AQAP has long been considered the global network’s most dangerous branch and has attempted to carry out attacks on the U.S. mainland.
The group released an 18-minute video that claimed it was in communication with Alshamrani, who, the video claimed, was planning an attack for years.
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The statement from the White House did not say when the operation that killed al-Rimi took place.
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz issued a statement thanking President Donald Trump for taking action.
“On Sunday, Qasim al-Rimi, a cofounder of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack at NAS Pensacola in December,” Gaetz said in the statement. “Today, Qasim al-Rimi is dead. On behalf of the thousands of patriots in Northwest Florida, I thank President Trump for his swift action in eliminating this brutal terrorist. During his State of the Union address, the President stated that any assault on our freedom would be met with overwhelming, disproportionate retribution. He has kept his word. We are a safer, stronger nation tonight because of his leadership.”
The White House statement on the operation also said the U.S was safer as a result of al-Rimi’s death.
“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 White House statement said.