Al-Qaida said Tuesday that Nasir al-Wuhayshi, its deputy chief and the leader of its potent Yemen branch, was killed in a U.S. drone strike last week.
In a video statement, the group said Friday's strike in the southeastern port city of Mukalla killed Wuhayshi and two others. The video also named Qassim al-Rimi as the new leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The White House confirmed that al-Wuhayshi was killed during a U.S. airstrike in yemen.
Former bin Laden aide
Wuhayshi was a deputy of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and a one-time aide to former terror leader Osama bin Laden. He became the leader of AQAP, which the U.S. considers al-Qaida's most dangerous branch, in 2009.
Under Wuhayshi, AQAP carried out several high-profile plots, including the Christmas Day 2009 attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner. In January, the group claimed responsibility for the deadly assault on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
The U.S. had offered a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to Wuhayshi's arrest.
US drone campaign
A six-year U.S. drone campaign has included more than 100 airstrikes in Yemen targeting AQAP militants. This year alone, the drone attacks have killed the group's top cleric, Ibrahim al-Rubaish, and another of its top commanders, Harith al-Nadhari.
The program became more complicated with Houthi rebels forcing President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia and seizing the Al-Anad airbase that served as an important intelligence site for U.S. personnel carrying out the drone campaign.
Hadi's government had given permission for the U.S. to help in its years-long battle against AQAP, but the Houthis, despite their own clashes with the militants, have publicly opposed the drone strikes.