​U.S. deals major blow to al Qaeda

SANAA, Yemen --U.S. officials confirmed Tuesday that a drone strike took out notorious al Qaeda terrorist, Nasir al Wuhayshi. For 13 years, Wuhayshi oversaw the rise of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as the most important branch of the terrorist group.

Wuhayshi's death is a huge blow for AQAP but they are still in a strong position. The group has control of Al Mukalla -- a city of 200,000 people -- and took millions of dollars from its central bank.

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Nasir al Wuhayshi

A former personal secretary of Osama bin Laden, it was Wuhayshi who sent the underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, to blow up an American airliner. That attack failed, but many others he coordinated in Yemen did not.

In 2012 more than 100 soldiers were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a rehearsal for a military parade. Then, last fall, Iran-backed Houthi rebels swept into power and began fighting the militants.

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Houthi forces have successfully pushed al Qaeda out of the capital but the terrorist group has now taken large swaths of territory in other parts of the country.

A three-month-old bombing campaign led by Saudi Arabia has created a power vacuum that the militants have exploited and it has shifted the focus of Yemen's new leaders away from fighting al Qaeda.

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The civil war has killed more than 2,600 people since March and a naval blockade has left millions more facing a humanitarian disaster.

Throughout Sana'a, gas lines stretch over a mile long, three lanes deep. There is a desperate shortage of water, foods and medicines; trash clogs the streets and electricity is only available for a few hours every week.

Former Minister Hisham Abdullah told us that Houthi leaders lack the experience to meet all the challenges.

"The Houthis, it will take them a long time to run a political show and I don't think they have that time," he said. "The Houthis alone cannot defeat al Qaeda -- that is a fact."

  • Clarissa Ward
    Clarissa Ward

    Foreign Correspondent, CBS News