SHAFAQNA – A senior leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen has been killed by a US air strike, according to a statement distributed by the group online. The group said in a statement on Tuesday that Ibrahim al-Rubaish, a Saudi, was killed in a drone attack two days earlier. The group did not specify where the purported strike took place.
Al-Rubaish had a $5m bounty on his head.
The death of al-Rubaish may be a sign that a covert US drone programme against Yemen’s branch of the armed group continues despite the evacuation of American military advisers from the country amid a worsening civil war.
Yemeni and US officials had no immediate comment on the claim. The group said al-Rubaish, who is from Saudi’s ultra-conservative Qassim region, “has spent two decades of his life in jihad, fighting America and its agents”.
He first fought in Afghanistan before he was arrested and held in the US military prison of Guantanamo for “a few years” before he joined al-Qaeda. Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra said al-Rubaish was “someone who has huge influence” among Yemen’s al-Qaeda fighters.
“He was very charismatic,” Ahelbarra said. “He was someone very instrumental in the surge of recruitment of fighters in Yemen.” Al-Rubaish reportedly urged Yemenis to fight in Syria, and recently called for the killing of Houthi leaders and former Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, he added.