Bayda, Yemen – On January 29th the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed reports that a Joint Special Operations mission was conducted in what is suspected of being a “capture operation of known high value targets (HVTs)” on a high level meeting of regional and senior level commanders of the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). After meeting heavy resistance on the ground, the raid resulted in one member of the U.S. Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six (DEVGRU) being killed in action with two others wounded.
Al Qaeda Terror leader Qassim al-Rimi likely killed by SEAL Team 6 and 13th MEU
Abdul Raouf al-Dhahab and his family have a history with insurgency. al-Dhahab was the regional commander of AQAP in the central Bayda region of Yemen. Abdul Raouf and the al-Dhahab clan have been widely known as staunch al-Qaeda supporters and has been reported to have had pledged his clans allegiance to Yemen’s al-Qaeda commander, Qassim al-Rimi and al-Qaeda central commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Abdul Raouf and his family are also former in-laws to Anwar al-Walaki. The American born Muslim Imam that became radicalized after 9/11 and moved to Yemen in 2006. Anwar al-Walaki was the first U.S. citizen killed by a U.S. sanctioned drone strike in Al Jawf, Yemen in 2011. Which explains reporting as to why al-Walaki’s 8-year-old daughter, Nawar al-Walaki, was found among the dead.
Qassim Al-Rimi received training in the al-Qaeda muhajideen camps of Afghanistan in the 1990’s before returning to Yemen in the early 2000’s. Al-Rimi then took his training and connections with al-Qaeda central command and traveled back to Sanaa, Yemen. Al-Rimi was arrested in Sanaa around 2005 for plotting terrorist acts against Yemeni and Saudi Arabian government forces. Where he was sent to prison and met with the then current commander of AQAP, Nasir al-Wuhayshi and they both began to develop a plan to link up Saudi and Yemeni al-Qaeda cells to encompass the Arabian Peninsula. Their big break came on 2006 when al-Rimi and Wuhayshi along with 22 other suspected AQAP terrorists escaped from their Sanaa prison and disappeared into southern Yemen. Al-Rimi and Wuhayshi immediately began recruiting and building AQAP’s base in southern Yemen. After a U.S. drone strike in 2015 that killed Wuhayshi, al-Rimi was appointed as the overall Emir of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula which was blessed off on by al-Qaeda central commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Qassim al-Rimi is highly considered to be the ‘bin Ladin’ of Yemen and is and should be considered the highest value target in Yemen, and local Yemeni intelligence officials are claiming he was present during the raid and that al-Rimi was the SEAL Team 6 task forces primary target and was to be taken alive.
SEAL Team 6 along with its QRF ended the gun battle with conflicting reports indicating between 14 to 30 AQAP militants were killed which included both Abdul Raouf al-Dhahab and Seif al-Nims. Yet no word on whether or not Qassim al-Rimi was present, among the dead, or taken alive. However, local Yemeni intelligence along with supposed eyewitnesses reported seeing U.S. forces “carrying” two unidentified individuals from within the compound and directly onto an awaiting helicopter and then departed with the SEAL Team 6 task force. When SOFREP asked its source on whether or not the AQAP leader Qassim al -Rimi was there and potentially captured. The source simply stated: “He was there, and he is dead.” More than likely, if what SOFREP’s sources are saying is true in regards to al-Rimi’s demise. Then the SEAL Team 6 task force quite possibly took Qassim al-Rimi’s and another possible HVT, such as Abdul Raouf al-Dhahab’s bodies off the objective to confirm the identities of these individuals. And if we are to look at Qassim being a Osama bin-Ladin level high value target, then we must assume that SEAL Team 6 would follow the same protocol of ‘ground-truth’ identification they utilized during the Abbottabad raid in Pakistan.
The source went on and also confirmed reporting that this mission was in fact an intelligence gathering operation with the intent on capturing the HVT’s alive along with any other intelligence they could find. The source continued by stating in respects to the mission’s intent on capturing HVT’s for further questioning and information gathering, that part of the operation failed due to the heavy volume of fire and resistance given by the AQAP fighters on target. The source also stated that this operation has put a huge dent in the AQAP leadership and al-Qaeda operations within the Arabian Peninsula that will take some time to recover from.
Image courtesy of USMC