WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States said Thursday that a counterterrorism operation in Yemen killed Qassim al-Rimi, an al-Qaida 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-Qaida 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 U.S. mainland.
“We will continue to protect the American people by tracking down and eliminating terrorists who seek to do us harm,” President Trump said.
While Trump confirmed reports that al-Rimi had been killed, he did not say when the U.S. 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 Florida Navy base. He called the shooter, Saudi Air Force officer Mohammed Alshamrani, a “courageous knight” and a “hero.” The shooter opened fire inside a classroom at the base, killing three people and wounding two sheriff’s deputies before one of the deputies killed him. Eight others were hurt.
The shooting focused public attention on the presence of foreign students in U.S. military training programs and exposed shortcomings in the screening of cadets. In January, the United States sent home 21 Saudi military students, saying the trainees had jihadist or anti-American sentiments on social media pages or had “contact with child pornography,” including in internet chat rooms.