Qassem Al-Rimi - Profile Of New AQAP Leader

June 16, 2015

After the death of Nasser Al-Wuhaishi,[1] Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula announced Qassem Al-Rimi[2] aka Abu Hurrira Al-Sana'ani, as his successor. Al-Rimi, born in Yemen in 1978, was specially designated as a global terrorist by the U.S. in May 2010 under E.O. 13224, which described him as a senior military commander of Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP).[3] He was involved in the foundation of AQAP in 2007 after his escape from a Yemeni jail along with other senior Al-Qaeda operatives including his predecessor, the slain Nasser Al-Wuhaishi. Furthermore, he is considered to have had an important role in recruiting the current generation of AQAP fighters. Qassem Al-Rimi is wanted in the U.S.,[4] which is offering up to $5 million in reward for any information leading to his capture, as well as in Saudi Arabia.[5]

As a prominent leader of AQAP, Al-Rimi has been featured in many of its videos and statements, including its English-language magazine Inspire. Rising from the ranks, his leadership is rooted in the previous generation of AQAP leaders, now eliminated, as well as the new generation of militants that he has helped to grow and shape. Since 2009, Al-Rimi has commanded AQAP's military wing, overseeing its insurgency against the Yemeni government, its battles against the Houthis, operations against Saudi Arabia, and more. He has continually denounced the U.S. as the main enemy of the mujahideen, together with Saudi Arabia and the Yemen army, which AQAP considered pawns of the American conspiracy against the Muslims.

The following is an overview of Al-Rimi's public statement and appearances as AQAP's military commander, based on MEMRI reports since 2009:

U.S. As Al-Qaeda's Primary Enemy

In March 2010, Al-Rimi appeared in an AQAP video featuring indicted USS Cole bomber Fahd Al-Quso. He is presented in the video as the chief military commander of AQAP.[6]

In a video from October 2011,[7] Al-Rimi responded to the criticisms expressed against Al-Qaeda for not supporting Arab revolutions. He stated that the mujahideen are not in favor of replacing one tyrant with another, namely with a non-Islamic system like democracy, socialism, etc. He further adds in the same video that AQAP is facing three enemies: The Yemeni government, the Saudis, and the U.S., explaining that direct U.S. intervention in Yemen is grounds for declaring jihad on the U.S. He stated that America's involvement in Yemen has caused nothing but the death of many Muslims, leading to a rise in AQAP's popularity.

In a video from June 2012, Al-Rimi reiterated AQAP's view that the struggle in Yemen is not a local one but rather an all-out war against the U.S. He states: "We are fighting an American campaign and American plans. This is a Crusader war waged by Obama against us Muslims as part of his election propaganda, and it will end in [his] failure and our victory, with Allah's help..."[8]

Threats To The U.S. And The West

In March 2011, the fifth issue of Inspire, AQAP's English-language magazine, featured an interview with Al-Rimi. In the interview, Al-Rimi criticized President Obama and defended Al-Qaeda against Obama's accusation that terrorists had killed more Muslims than non-Muslims. He called on Muslims living in the West to carry out attacks there in retaliation for U.S. bombings in Waziristan and Israel's bombings against the Palestinians. Addressing the Muslims in the West, he stated: " If you go kill a group of Jews or Christians after hearing that a pilotless drone killed a group of Muslims in Waziristan, and another person kills another group of them after hearing [of] the killing of his brothers and sisters in Palestine by the Israelis and so on;... [If you carry out] an operation in their midst after each operation they commit against your Muslim brothers and sisters... [it] would stop the striking, killing, occupation, humiliation, and disgrace of our holy places that America and the West perpetrates."[9]

The eleventh issue of Inspire also featured an interview of Al-Rimi, in which he threatens and warns America due to its campaign in Yemen: "O American people, your security will not be attained by denying security to other peoples, attacking them or oppressing them. Your security is in the hands of the fools among you who rule you with oppression and aggression. Know that oppression and aggression come back upon the heads of those who use them..."[10]

Incitement Against The Yemeni Military

In a video from December 2013, Al-Rimi addressed the Yemeni army, accusing it and the security apparatus of conspiring with the Americans. He said that AQAP has the capabilities, if it desired, to send trucks loaded with tons of explosives to every government ministry and army base in the country; however, it hoped that people heed its call to disengage the government and its military establishment from the battle between AQAP and U.S.[11]

Apology For Attack On Hospital

In December 2013, following the attack on the Yemeni Defense Ministry, which resulted in the killing of several civilians in a hospital located within the compound, Al-Rimi released a video admitting that the attack on the hospital was mistaken, accepting (on AQAP's behalf) full responsibility for the events, and offering compensation to the victims[12].

Anti-Drone Campaign

In a video released in May 2014, Al-Rimi delivered a message as part of AQAP's anti-drone campaign. He says: "They [i.e. Yemeni military and security apparatuses] must pay the price." Al-Rimi adds that anyone, including any organization, ministry, military training camp, or any area in Yemen, which is proven to support the U.S. drone campaign in the country, will be a legitimate target for AQAP. "We will not wait until they bombard us, [but] we will attack them [first]," Al-Rimi notes.[13]

Focus On The Houthi Front

In November 2014, Al-Rimi stated in an audio message that the Shi'ite Houthi group had become the number one target of AQAP. Denouncing the "American-Houthis coalition in Yemen" he stated that the Houthis had in essence been handed the administration of affairs in Yemen from the Yemeni government, under American instructions and under Iranian oversight. He called on all Sunni Muslims not to watch from the sidelines but to aid and immediately join the struggle against the Houthis.[14]

Support For Jihad In Somalia And Ties To Al-Shabab

In January 2009, Al-Rimi wrote an article in the AQAP's Arabic-language magazine Sada Al-Malahim urging Sunni Muslims to support the jihad of Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen in Somalia.[15]

[2] Alternate spellings include Qasim al-Raymi, Qassim al-Raimi, Qassim al-Raymi, Qassem al-Remi, and Qasim al-Rami.



[5] See MEMRI JTTM report Yemen Launches Preemptive Strikes on AQAP, December 21, 2009


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