US Drone Strike Kills Top Yemeni al-Qaeda Leader

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a group based in war-torn Yemen, reported that one of their top leaders, Ibrahim al-Rubaish, was killed in a “crusader airstrike” on Monday night. It turned out this was a US drone strike.

The number of US drone strikes has decreased in Yemen since the Saudi war began, with the US likely trying to avoid getting in the way of the planned invasion, particularly with AQAP’s forces targeting the same Houthi fighters the Saudis are.

The Saudi-born Rubaish was held for years at Guantanamo Bay by the US, and was eventually repatriated to Saudi Arabia, where he was meant to remain imprisoned. He escaped the Saudis, however fleeing to Yemen and quickly rising in the ranks of AQAP.

It is unclear what his specific role within AQAP was, and similarly how much his death will actually impact the faction. Rubaish’s public presence since his escape from Saudi Arabia has largely been rhetorical, calling for attacks on Saudi royal family members and the US in statements.

It’s clear that Rubaish was someone the Saudis had a problem with, and that’s likely why this drone strike, as opposed to others, was carried out.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.