Trump Strike on Qassim al-Rimi Will Boost President in Election, Is End of Al-Qaeda 'As We Know it': Expert

The U.S. assassination of Qassim al-Rimi—the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—represents the end of Al-Qaeda "as we know it," according to an expert who has studied the terrorist organization.

Farea al-Muslimi, the co-founder of the Sana'a Center For Strategic Studies and an associate fellow at Chatham House, told Newsweek Friday that the killing could also offer President Donald Trump a boost in the November election, augmenting his tough-on-terror image.

The New York Times first reported last week that Rimi had been killed in a U.S. airstrike. Trump appeared to confirm the report by retweeting an article detailing the killing, followed by a picture of himself playing golf. The White House then explicitly confirmed Rimi's death on Thursday.

Muslimi said Rimi's death could be "very good" for Trump in the presidential election. With Rimi and Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the president has now ordered operations killing two of the most wanted terrorist leaders in the world.

Trump has also touted his assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani—who directed multiple militant proxies across the Middle East—as part of his counter-terrorism campaign.

Muslimi said Rimi was "one of the last of the generation" that joined and drove Al-Qaeda under its founder Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a U.S. raid in Pakistan in 2011. The demise of this "older generation," he said, will mean power passes to younger fighters.

"We are witnessing the end of Al-Qaeda in the way that we know it," Muslimi explained. "It's not going to be more or less dangerous, but it will be a different type of Al-Qaeda," he added, one "more connected to the ground and less connected to the Al-Qaeda international organization."

AQAP has long been considered Al-Qaeda's most potent international affiliate, capable of launching complex attacks abroad. But Muslimi told Newsweek that successive assassinations of AQAP's top leader means it should "no more" be considered the most dangerous terrorist group in the world.

Rimi, 46, spent time as a trainer at an Al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in the 1990s. He was later one of the founding members of AQAP and rose to become the group's emir in 2015 after his predecessor was killed in an American airstrike.

The White House said Thursday that Rimi oversaw AQAP's "unconscionable violence against civilians in Yemen" while seeking to "conduct and inspire numerous attacks against the United States and our forces." It added that The U.S., its interests and its allies are now safer.

Some of AQAP's most prominent operations include the failed "Underwear Bomber" plot that planned to destroy a passenger plane mid-flight on Christmas day 2009, plus the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris which killed 12 people. The group's leaders have been killed in a series of American strikes, including master bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri in 2017.

Qassim al-Rimi, Yemen, AQAP, Donald Trump
This undated file photo provided by the Yemeni Ministry of the Interior shows AQAP leader Qassim al-Rimi, who was killed in an American airstrike last month. YEMENI MINISTRY OF INTERIOR/AFP via Getty Images/Getty