Al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen has announced that one of its top preachers was killed in a US drone strike last month in the country's south.
The slain preacher was identified as Sheikh Harith al-Nadhari, said to be in his 30s. Often seen in a white turban, he was among the group's few public faces frequently featured in online religious lectures.
He also recently appeared in an al-Qaeda video praising last month's deadly attack at the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
The announcement on Thursday came amid lingering uncertainty about the impact of Yemen's current political deadlock on the US counterterrorism campaign.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni affiliate is known, claimed responsibility for the Paris attack in which two gunmen killed 12 people.
Al-Nadhari was killed along with three others on January 31, when a drone-fired missile blew up a vehicle in which the four were travelling in the southern province of Shabwa, according to the AQAP statement, posted on one of its official Twitter accounts.
The January 31 airstrike was the second US drone strike in five days, and was seen as signaling Washington's resolve to keep fighting the group despite Yemen's political paralysis, brought on by a Shia rebel power grab.
The Shia Houthi rebels, who are believed to be backed by Iran, overran the capital of Sanaa in September, claiming they want a greater share of power in impoverished Yemen.
Last month, they raided key military buildings and the presidential palace, and besieged the residences of US-backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the country's prime minister. The president and his entire Cabinet eventually resigned rather than give in to the rebel demands.
Source: Associated Press