Top Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi was killed in a suspected American drone strike in Yemen's Hadramout region, two Yemeni national security officials said Monday, according to CNN.
The airstrike took place on Friday, the news network said.
Tweets from known AQAP operatives also speak of al-Wuhayshi having been “martyred”, and of AQAP military commander Qasm al-Rimi (also known as Abu Hureira al-Sanaani) having been appointed as al-Wuhayshi's replacement.
U.S. authorities are looking to confirm al-Wuhayshi's death, one intelligence official said.
Al-Wuhayshi was the No. 2 leader of the global Al-Qaeda group and the head of AQAP. In a video that surfaced in April last year, he made clear that he's going after the United States, saying, "We must eliminate the cross. … The bearer of the cross is America!"
The video showed what looked like the largest and most dangerous gathering of Al-Qaeda in years.
Originally from Yemen, al-Wuhayshi assumed command of AQAP in 2009. He had escaped a Yemeni prison in 2006, and had previously worked as a personal secretary for Osama bin Laden.
"If it's true, it is a significant blow. Leadership matters," Sen. Angus King, an independent of Maine, told CNN.
King said the death would hurt Al-Qaeda, but stressed the group still poses a threat.
"This is a long, difficult struggle that we're engaged in, and it's going to require all kinds of tools," he told the news network.