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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.Top al-Qaeda commander Nasser al-Wuhayshi killed in a US drone strike in Yemen

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.

The US is withdrawing its troops from al-Anad air base in Yemen because of increasing insecurity there, Yemeni sources say.

About 100 troops, including Special Forces commandos, are leaving the base near the southern city of al-Houta, the officials said.

Al-Houta was stormed by al-Qaeda fighters on March 20, although they were later driven out by the Yemeni army.

The US military has not confirmed the evacuation.

It comes a day after suicide bombers killed at least 137 people in the capital Sanaa. Militants allied to Islamic State (ISIS) said they carried out the attack.US troops evacuate al-Anad air base in Yemen

There are mounting tensions between various powerful, armed elements in Yemen, including Houthi rebels, al-Qaeda and ISIS.

US troops at al-Anad air base have been training Yemeni fighters to launch attacks against al-Qaeda operatives.

On March 20, al-Qaeda fighters took control of al-Houta, near to the airbase. But the militants were later driven back by the army.

The US closed its embassy in Sanaa in February after Houthi rebel forces took over the city.

Yemen is the base of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a powerful offshoot of the jihadist militant group.

ISIS is also gaining ground in Yemen, after setting up a base in the country in November.

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A military base in southern Yemen has been seized by al-Qaeda linked fighters, militants and officials say.

The Ansar al-Sharia group said they set off a bomb at the base in the central town Bayhan before capturing soldiers.

The attack comes amid fears that Yemen is plunging into chaos after Shia rebels took over the capital.

Shia Houthis have been expanding south from their northern stronghold, prompting clashes with al-Qaeda in Yemen (AQAP) and other Sunni groups.

The UN has warned that Yemen is on the brink of civil war.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

The base is in Shabwa province, an al-Qaeda stronghold. It is reportedly home to more than 1,000 troops.

The militants captured heavy weaponry when they took the base, one official told the AFP news agency.

Tribal mediators were trying to convince the group to withdraw, the official added.

Last week, the Houthis dissolved parliament and announced the formation of an interim government.

The move was widely condemned, with critics calling the actions a “coup”.

The US, UK and France have said they are closing their embassies in Yemen due to the deteriorating security situation there.

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US and Yemeni forces have launched a new military operation to rescue American hostage Luke Somers held by al-Qaeda militants, reports say.

Details of the bid to free UK-born journalist Luke Somers are unclear.

It comes as nine alleged al-Qaeda militants were reported to have died in a drone strike believed to have been carried out by the US in Yemen’s southern Shabwa province.

Yemen’s defense ministry confirmed a “major operation” was taking place in the region.

Luke Somers, who was abducted in Yemen in 2013, has appeared in a video appealing for help.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon confirmed that an attempt to rescue Luke Somers last month had failed.Luke Somers hostage in Yemen

There are conflicting reports about the outcome of the operation to free him on December 6.

Luke Somers, 33, worked as a journalist and photographer for local news organizations. His material appeared on international news outlets.

The video of Luke Somers released this week also shows a member of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) threatening to kill him unless unspecified demands are met.

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.

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 hostage in Yemen

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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