The Yemen raid that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL had a “secret objective,” according to NBC News: a terrorist leader named Qassim Al-Rimi.
Al-Rimi is the “head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” NBC reported. He did not die in the firefight between terrorist militants and American special forces and “is now taunting President Donald Trump in an audio message,” according to the network.
As Trump focuses his rhetoric on ISIS, it’s Al-Qaeda that was the target of his first authorized counter intelligence operation as president. (The Al-Qaeda leader’s name is sometimes given as Qasim al-Raymi.)
The raid resulted in the death of SEAL, William Ryan Owens – the first combat fatality under Trump’s administration. An 8-year-old American girl who was the daughter of an Al-Qaeda leader may also have died in the attack, and the U.S. government has acknowledged there may have been civilian casualties, including children.
Yemen is one of the seven countries subjected to Trump’s immigration ban.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Al-Rimi Called Trump a ‘Fool’ in an Audio Recording
After the terrorist escaped the Trump-authorized raid unscathed, he released an audio recording mocking the U.S. president.
“The fool of the White House got slapped at the beginning of his road in your lands,” he said, according to NBC News.
The terrorist has been on the U.S. most-wanted terrorist list since 2015.
According to the AP, Al-Rimi listed the names of 25 people he said were killed in the operation in Yemen, including 11 women and children.
Vocativ reported that the terrorist also said that “Muslims around the world had now witnessed the intensity of the hatred of the Crusaders towards Muslims” and urged supporters to “burn the land underneath America’s feet.”
CNN reported that U.S. military officials hoped to either find Al-Rimi in the raid or obtain intelligence that could lead to his location. However, the military had denied that Al-Rimi was the raid’s goal just a week ago, according to CNN.
2. Al-Rimi Was Trained in Afghanistan Before September 11 & Once Escaped From Prison
Al-Rimi emerged on the scene in 2007, when he and Emir Nasir al-Wahishi revealed the creation of al-Qaida in Yemen.
His roots in Al-Qaeda predate the September 11, 2001 attack.
When his predecessor was killed by a U.S. drone, Al-Rimi took over as the head of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula. According to the website Counter Extremism, Rimi, “who was trained by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in the 1990s, was imprisoned in 2005 in Sanaa, Yemen, for connections to terror activity. In February 2006, he escaped from prison alongside 22 other prisoners.”
The military leader of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, Al-Rimi “was designated Raymi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order 13224 on May 11, 2010” by the United States, the sites reports, adding: “On the same day, the U.N. Security Council added Raymi to its sanctioned list of individuals associated with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.”
3. Many Things Went Wrong in the Yemen Raid
Initial reports said the raid was targeting a powerful family in Yemen associated with Al-Qaeda terrorist, Abdulraoof al-Dhahab. KTLA reported that the raid was focused “against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula headquarters.” According to The New York Times, a “fierce firefight” erupted in the raid, which was part of the “yearslong shadow war against Al-Qaeda’s “Yemen affiliate.”
The Times reported that the goal was to obtain computer planning intelligence of plots against America in the targeted Al-Qaeda home. It cost the life of Owens, a decorated SEAL from Illinois.
“Almost everything went wrong,” NBC News quoted an unnamed military official of the raid, which was overshadowed by the protests and controversies over Trump’s immigration ban when it first occurred.
According to Reuters, accounts of the dead and injured conflicted.
The U.S. military claimed 14 militants were killed, but medics present “said around 30 people, including 10 women and children, were killed,” Reuters reported. There were reports that the SEALs encountered female Al-Qaeda fighters.
A military aircraft had to be purposely destroyed, Reuters reported. Time magazine said four American service members also suffered non-fatal injuries.
The problematic raid has raised questions about who made the call; Colin Kahl, former Deputy Assistant to President Obama & National Security Adviser to former Vice President Biden wrote on Twitter that Obama left the decision to the new administration, claims Trump made the call without properly vetting the raid, and says the Trump team owns the consequences.
The military released a statement on the raid, acknowledging there may have been children killed. The government said the “complex situation included small arms fire, hand grenades and close air support fire.”
News reports said 8-year-old Nawar Al-Awlaki was among the dead, although the U.S. government has not confirmed this. Nawar was the daughter of a New Mexico-born Al-Qaeda leader; her father and brother were both previously killed by U.S. drones.
4. A Documentary Has Raised Questions About Al-Rimi’s Background & Trump’s Administration Called the Raid a ‘Success’
The White House had called the raid “a successful operation by all standards,” according to Legal Insurrection. Yemen is one of the countries subjected to Trump’s controversial 90-day immigration ban, which he has said was necessary to thwart Islamic radical terrorists from entering the U.S. The ban has sparked protests at airports throughout the United States and was temporarily halted by a federal judge in Seattle.
According to Military Times, Trump labeled the raid a “success.”
Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told the Military Times that the raid “would provide the Pentagon with further insight into planning” within this branch of Al-Qaeda, “which has taken responsibility for the 2015 ‘Charlie Hebdo’ terror attacks in Paris.”
The Yemen branch of the terrorist operation is considered one of its most dangerous and has plotted to bring down American airliners, according to The New York Times. According to Time Magazine, “Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has exploited the chaos of Yemen’s civil war, seizing territory in the south and east when it began in 2014. A Saudi Arabian-led military coalition has been helping government forces battle the rebels.”
Not everyone was buying the Trump administration’s claims of success.
A documentary film that ran on Al-Jazeera raised questions about Al-Rimi’s background. It “presents the testimony of Hani Mujahid, a former AQAP operative who doubled as an informant for the Yemeni security services. Mujahid describes Raymi, as ‘a creation of Yemen’s National Security Bureau,” Al-Jazeera reported.
The documentary contended that Al-Rimi is tied to Colonel Ammar Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, “the feared number two of Yemen’s National Security Bureau.” The documentary alleged that Al-Rimi may be a Yemeni government informant, contending this is why he continually survives U.S. attacks when others do not. He’s previously been reported to have died only to emerge unharmed.
5. Al-Rimi Is Considered One of the World’s Most Dangerous Terrorists & His Brother Has Been a Detainee at Guantanamo
According to NBC News, Al-Rimi is “considered the third most dangerous terrorist in the world and a master recruiter.”
Long War Journal reported that “Ali Yahya Mahdi al Raymi has been held at Guantanamo since 2002.” He is the brother of Al-Rimi.
The younger brother argued that his brother and father pressured him to go to an Afghan training camp. A 2010 Guantanamo task force convened by President Obama found that “the detainee may be transferred if the security situation in Yemen improves, an appropriate rehabilitation program or third-country resettlement option becomes available,” the site reported.