The new leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula surfaced in an audio message today to call on Muslims to conduct global jihad, with a specific order to “direct and gather your arrows and swords against” the United States.
AQAP’s commander of military operations, Qasim al-Rimi, seamlessly moved into the top spot after an airstrike killed Nasir al-Wuhayshi in a June airstrike.
Rimi eulogized Wuhayshi in the recording from AQAP’s al-Malahem Media Foundation and renewed his allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
“I pledge allegiance to you, to listen and obey, in times of difficulty and prosperity, in hardship and in ease, to endure being discriminated against and not to dispute about rule with those in power, and to wage jihad in the cause of God the Almighty, with the Book of Allah and the Sunnah [traditions] of His Messenger, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, as much I am able,” he said.
Rimi, 37, made his pledge to “the beloved father” on the behalf of all his AQAP “brothers.”
He also praises al-Qaeda-allied operations in Syria and Taliban operations in Afghanistan, and stressed that AQAP wouldn’t stand by while the U.S. kills Muslims.
As one of the original founders of the powerful Yemen branch, Rimi has extensive operations planning and recruitment experience.
Rumors of his death have been reported many times but always found to be unsubstantiated.
The new AQAP leader once apologized for an attack gone bad.
In December 2013, AQAP fighters attacked a Yemeni Ministry of Defense compound but one went to the hospital and killed many inside.
Rimi quickly issued a video statement saying fighters had been ordered not to target the mosque or hospital.
“We confess to this mistake and fault. We offer our apologies and condolences to the families of the victims,” Rimi said. “We did not want your lost ones; we did not target them on purpose. This is not of our religion or our morals.”
Last week, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes noted to CNN that with AQAP and other al-Qaeda affiliates “you see much more complex and sophisticated plotting that we’ve been able to work to disrupt over the years.”