-- Al Qaeda’s most lethal branch said today that its top cleric, a man with a $5 million American bounty on his head, has been killed in Yemen, as the Arab nation falls deeper into chaos.
The group said in a statement posted online that former Guantanamo Bay detainee Ibrahim al-Rubaysh, also spelled al-Rubaish, was killed in a “crusader strike” over the weekend “after he spent almost two decades carrying out jihad against America and its agents.” The statement did not say who exactly AQAP believed carried out the purported strike.
The U.S. has killed a number of high ranking AQAP leaders in recent years through targeted drone strikes, as part of its sustained counter-terrorism operations in the area.
A senior White House official told ABC News he could not comment on "any specific reports coming out of Yemen," but said, "We continue to actively monitor terrorist threats emanating from Yemen, and we have capabilities postured in the area to address them. As we have in the past, we will take action to disrupt continuing, imminent threats to the United States and our citizens. That remains the priority of this Administration."
Al-Rubaysh was held in Guantanamo Bay prison from 2002 to 2006. AQAP said after he was released he “quickly joined his brethren at AQAP.”
AQAP, the Yemen-based branch of al Qaeda, has been previously described by U.S. officials as the affiliate that posed the greatest threat to the American homeland.