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Al-Qaeda leader’s death ‘major blow’ to militants

Nasir Abdel Karim al-Wuhayshi, alias Abu Basir, along with two al-Qaeda members, were reportedly killed earlier this week

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The White House on Tuesday confirmed the death of top ranking Yemeni militant Nasir al-Wuhayshi and said it was a “major blow” to Al-Qaeda and its regional affiliate.

“Wuhayshi’s death removes from the battlefield an experienced terrorist leader and brings us closer to degrading and ultimately defeating these groups,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said.

Al-Qaeda in Yemen said its leader al-Wuhayshi was killed in a U.S. bombing, in a statement posted online.

"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 Americanstrike which targeted him along with two of his mujahideen brothers, may God rest their souls," Khaled Batarfi, a senior member of the group, said.

The group had met and appointed its former military chief Qassim al-Raymi as his replacement, he added.

AQAP is al-Qaeda’s affiliate organization in Yemen and has been responsible for attacks on the U.S. embassy in Yemen, tourists, aid workers, counterterrorism officials and oil facilities according to the United Nations.

Al-Wuhayshi was Osama bin Laden’s secretary before he proclaimed himself as AQAP’s leader in 2008. Ayman al-Zawahiri, current leader of al-Qaeda appointed al-Wuhayshi his deputy in 2013.

Al-Wuhayshi, who is a Yemeni citizen, was among the list of most wanted fugitives in both Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

He was arrested and extradited to Yemen in 2003, only to escape prison in 2006 along with 22 others.

Following his prison break, INTERPOL issued an Orange Notice against him and described him as a “clear and present danger.”

The U.S. Department of State designated Nasir al-Wahishi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in January 2010 and announced a reward up to $10 million for information on the al-Qaeda leader.

The Rewards for Justice program, which is run by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, was set up in 1984 and has paid out over $125 million to more than 80 people, “who have provided information that put terrorists behind bars, or prevented acts of international terrorism worldwide.”