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Al-Qaida Says Its No. 2 Leader Was Killed In U.S. Drone Strike

Nasir al-Wahishi, the leader of al-Qaida's branch in Yemen and the group's second-in-command overall, died in a U.S. drone attack, according to a video statement that claims to be from Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

The U.S. has not confirmed the account.

Al-Wahishi was part of al-Qaida's "old guard," NPR's Alice Fordham reports for Morning Edition. Al-Wahishi had fought in Afghanistan; he had also been Osama bin Laden's personal secretary.

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"But his main importance in the eyes of the West was as a leader of a group that was particularly focused on what Osama bin Laden called 'the far enemy' — on the United States," Alice says. "He was the leader of a group that masterminded several attempted terror plots designed to hit the West. You'll remember the young man who attempted a plane bombing in 2009, with explosives in his underwear."

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula also claimed responsibility for January's attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris.

In the statement announcing al-Wahishi's death, a senior official from AQAP also said that the leader's deputy would step up to take his place.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.