A top Al Qaeda commander, who was speculated to have become the new leader of Islamic State in Yemen, was reportedly killed by suspected U.S. drone strikes in Yemen Thursday.
Jalai Baleedi is believed to be the commander who was killed in one of the drone strikes, according to Reuters. Baleedi is suspected of leading Al Qaeda attacks in parts of southern Yemen. Baleedi was in a car with five other militants who were in the coastal province of Abyan, according to Reuters.
Six other extremists were also killed in a drone strike, local residents told Reuters. The strike killed six men in a car traveling in a desert region in Yemen where Al Qaeda-affiliated militants are believed to be operating.
As fighting has increased in Yemen amid a civil war and ongoing airstrikes from Persian Gulf nations, Baleedi is believed to have joined Islamic State’s branch in Yemen from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. AQAP is believed to have taken territory away from the fighting Houthi rebels and Arab forces intervening in the civil war.
U.S. drone strikes are targeting militants nearly every day along with the Saudi-led Gulf Arab Colaition which supports Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Suspected U.S. drone strikes have killed some of the Al Qaeda-affiliate’s top leaders, including Nasser al-Wuhayshi last June.