Top al-Qaeda commander Nasser al-Wuhayshi has been killed in a US drone strike in Yemen, the AQAP group confirmed.
Nasser al-Wuhayshi’s death was announced by the AQAP (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) in an online video, in which it said two other fighters had also died.
Nasser al-Wuhayshi was seen as al-Qaeda’s second-in-command and was a former private secretary to Osama bin Laden.
His successor was named in the video as military chief Qasim al-Raymi.
The Yemeni news group al-Masdar Online has previously reported that Nasser al-Wuhayshi was killed in an attack in Hadramawt province on June 12.
“We in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula mourn to our Muslim nation… that Abu Baseer Nasser bin Abdul Karim al-Wuhayshi, God rest his soul, passed away in an American strike which targeted him along with two of his mujahideen brothers, may God rest their souls,” Khaled Batarfi, a senior member of the group, was quoted as saying on the video.
The Pentagon said it would not comment.
But it previously said that if the death were confirmed it would be the biggest strike on al-Qaeda since Bin Laden’s death in Pakistani in 2011.
The US State Department offered a $10 million reward for anyone who could help bring Nasser al-Wuhayshi to justice.
It said he was “responsible for approving targets, recruiting new members, allocating resources to training and attack planning, and tasking others to carry out attacks”.
Nasser al-Wuhayshi became head of AQAP when the Yemeni and Saudi branches of al-Qaeda merged in 2009.
Luke Somers’ family has appealed in a video to al-Qaeda militants in Yemen to “show mercy” and release him.
In the online statement, the mother of the UK-born American hostage, Paula Somers, says: “Please… give us an opportunity to see our Luke again.”
A man identifying himself as Luke Somers, who was abducted in 2013, appeared in a separate video on December 3, saying his life was in danger and asking for help.
The US has revealed it tried to rescue Luke Somers in November 2014.
“Regrettably, Luke was not present, though hostages of other nationalities were present and were rescued,” the National Security Council said on December 4.
In a video posted on YouTube, Luke Somers’ mother and brother said he was “only trying to do good things for the Yemeni population”.
“Luke is only a photojournalist and is not responsible for any actions the US government has taken,” his brother, Jordan, said.
Noting that her son “appears healthy” in his captors’ video, Paula Somers said: “We thank you for that.”
Luke Somers, 33, worked as a journalist and photographer for local news organizations and his material appeared on international news outlets.
In the video released on December 3, a member of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) threatens to kill Luke Somers unless unspecified demands are met.
In a statement afterwards, the White House said President Barack Obama had authorized a rescue operation to free Luke Somers and other hostages last month, but that he was not present at the time of the raid.
On November 25, US and Yemeni forces rescued six Yemenis, a Saudi and an Ethiopian being held by AQAP in an operation at a mountain cave in the remote Hajr al-Sayar district of Hadramawt province. Seven militants were reportedly killed.
AQAP’s threat to kill Luke Somers follows the murder of five Western hostages – including three Americans – since August by the Islamist militant group Islamic State, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq.
The Obama administration has been criticized for not paying ransoms, not allowing hostage families to speak out and not taking opportunities to negotiate.
AQAP is regarded by the US as one of the deadliest offshoots of al-Qaeda.
The group is based in eastern Yemen and has built up support amid the unrest which has beset the impoverished country since the overthrow of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011.
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