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Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemen-based regional branch of the global jihadist group, confirmed on Thursday that Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, one of its senior leaders and an al-Qaeda global deputy general manager, the latter of which gave him authority well beyond Yemen, was killed last month by a United States drone strike.

Al-Ansi was targeted overnight on April 21-22 along with his eldest son and other fighters when, according to witnesses in Mukalla, the capital of Yemen’s Hadhramaut coastal region, a drone struck a parked vehicle near the city’s presidential palace, killing six in an operation that resulted in no civilian deaths.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter both refused to comment on the drone strike.

Al-Ansi has made high-profile announcements but really came into the pubic eye on January 14th when he gave a lengthy statement claiming that AQAP was responsible for the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, which occurred on January 7th when two French-born gunmen of Algerian descent stormed into the satirical magazine’s office and slaughtered 12 people for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. This was part of three days of violence in Paris where jihadists also killed a police officer and four people in a Jewish deli.

In the same message, al-Ansi called on Muslims in the West to carryout their own terrorist attacks because they are “better and more harmful.”

Born in Yemen, al-Ansi enrolled in Imam University in 1993, which is run by Sheikh Abdul Majid al Zindani, a leading Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood scholar, and an ally of Osama bin Laden. After serving in the El-Mudžahid detachment of the Bosnia and Herzegovina military during the Bosnian War in 1995, al-Ansi sought to fight in Kashmir. Pakistani officials stopped him, though, so he traveled to Afghanistan and met several high level al-Qaeda officials.

Al-Ansi then worked his way through the ranks to become an influential al-Qaeda member working closely with bin Laden and was considered an important ideologue in the terror network. According to a translation of Khalid Saeed Batarfi’s eulogy for al-Ansi, he was considered one of bin Laden’s “special ones” and “took courage and wisdom from” bin Laden, “as well as the jurisprudence of jihad, movement, and the call.”

Al-Ansi is not the only senior al-Qaeda leader in Yemen to be killed recently. Last month, AQAP announced that Ibrahim al-Rubaish, the group’s mufti (interpreter of Islamic law), was killed by another U.S. drone strike. These successes indicate that U.S. counterterrorism strategy is still operational in Yemen despite America withdrawing all personnel from there after the Houthi takeover, although America’s ability to fight AQAP has been greatly compromised since then.

AQAP has been able to capitalize on chaos in Yemen with international attention and resources focused on the Houthis and Saudi-led airstrikes. Al-Qaeda managed to capture Mukalla and release 300 al-Qaeda jihadists, including Batarfi, in a jailbreak, both of which strengthen their position, especially in the southeast. The U.S. must be cognizant of these movements and remember that AQAP is constantly plotting to attack western targets.

Beyond Yemen, al-Qaeda remains a threat to American national security despite the death of bin Laden and other setbacks. In fact, al-Qaeda has actually been growing, even “close to doubling,” according to Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

With so much attention (rightfully) being paid to Iran and Islamic State, there is a risk that al-Qaeda may be set aside as less of a priority, but this would be an error. U.S. strategy should target global jihadist organizations based on their ideology,which commits them to attack America and harm American interests, regardless of any specific group’s identity or location.

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