By Derek Dong
President Trump announced on Thursday that United States forces had killed Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, a highly skilled Qaeda bomb maker who built the explosives for several high-profile terrorist plots.
Mr. Trump’s announcement belatedly confirmed news reports from August 2018 that cited United States officials expressing confidence that Mr. Asiri, a leader of the Yemen-based branch known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, had likely been killed by a drone strike in the country the year before.
“This will confirm for the first time that Ibrahim al-Asiri, a senior al Qaeda bomb maker and terrorist coordinator, was killed two years ago in a United States counterterrorism operation in Yemen,” Mr. Trump said in the statement released by the White House. “The United States will continue to hunt down terrorists like al-Asiri until they no longer pose a threat to our great nation.”
The statement did not explain the reason for the long delay. The United States is not always sure who exactly has been killed in counterterrorism operations conducted from a distance, including by a drone strike, and confirmation can sometimes come later through new intelligence such as intercepted conversations or interrogations.
The announcement also comes as Mr. Trump faces intense criticism from national security experts, many of them Republicans, over his failure to prevent Turkey from invading northeastern Syria to attack Syrian Kurdish fighters. Those Kurdish fighters have been the major ground ally in Syria for the campaign against the Islamic State. Many military and intelligence officials believe the Turkish action could make it easier for the Islamic State, or ISIS, to regenerate as the Kurds turn their attention toward their Turkish enemies.