US President Donald Trump on Thursday confirmed that Qasim al-Rimi, the leader the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) terror group, was killed in an operation carried out by American forces in Yemen last month.

President Trump said in a statement, “The US conducted a counterterrorism operation in Yemen that successfully eliminated Qassim al-Rimi, a founder and the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)”.

On Sunday, AQAP claimed responsibility for a December shooting at a US naval base in which a Saudi officer killed three sailors.

Al-Rimi had been a part of the group since “the 1990s, working in Afghanistan for Osama bin Laden” and under him, the Al Qaeda “committed unconscionable violence against civilians in Yemen and sought to conduct and inspire numerous attacks against the US and our forces”.

The 41-year-old Al-Rimi’s death is a major blow for the group, considered one of the most dangerous Al Qaeda branches, as it has carried out attacks beyond its borders in Yemen.

The New York Times newspaper had reported last week that American officials believed they may have killed the leader in January in an airstrike after months of tracking him using aerial surveillance and other intelligence.

In May 2010, al-Rimi was included in the US’ most-wanted terrorist list and Washington had also offered a $10 million bounty for information on him.

In 2005, al-Rimi was sentenced to five years in prison in Yemen for plotting to assassinate the American ambassador there but escaped from prison in 2006.

According to US media reports earlier this month, AQAP claimed that it directed the shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida last December, which killed three American sailors and severely wounded eight others, the Xinhua news report said.

Last month, US Attorney General William Barr said the shooting, which was carried out by a member of the Saudi Air Force, was “an act of terrorism”.

(With inputs from agency)