Anwar al-Awlaki Killed in Yemen
Anwar al-Awlaki, a major al Qaeda leader and American citizen, has been killed in Yemem–almost certainly by an American Predator drone.
BBC (“Islamist cleric Anwar Awlaki ‘killed in Yemen’“):
The US-born radical Islamist cleric and suspected al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki has been killed in Yemen, the country’s defence ministry reported. US administration officials confirmed the reports, according to US media.
Awlaki, of Yemeni descent, has been on the run in Yemen since December 2007. The US had named him a “specially designated global terrorist” for his alleged role in a number of attacks and US President Barack Obama is said to have personally ordered his killing.
The defence ministry statement said only that he died “along with some of his companions”. It gave no further details of his death.
But tribal sources told AFP news agency Awlaki was killed in an air strike in the eastern Marib province, said to be an al-Qaeda stronghold. It is not clear whether he was killed by Yemeni forces or a US drone strike.
If it was an air strike, it sure as hell was Yemen that did it. And, as Blake Hounshel points out, the fact that the U.S. government confirmed almost immediately makes it a pretty safe bet it was our op.
BBC security correspondent Gordon Correra says the killing, if confirmed, is significant, because Awlaki is able to reach out to people susceptible to radicalisation through his use of the media.
The reported death comes amid concerns in Washington about the impact of Yemen’s political crisis on its ability to go after al-Qaeda militants.President Ali Abdullah Saleh is facing a widespread protest movement, along with an armed insurrection by renegade army units and tribal fighters.
Awlaki is described by US officials as a key leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
He has been implicated in the US army base killings in Fort Hood, Texas, the Christmas 2009 Detroit airline bomb attempt, and a failed bombing in New York’s Times Square.
When he was imam of a San Diego mosque in the 1990s, his sermons were attended by two future 9/11 hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi.
The Guardian (“Al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki is dead, says Yemen“) adds:
An al-Qaida leader regarded as the terror group’s most potent threat to western interests has been killed in Yemen, defence officials in the capital, Sana’a, say.
Anwar al-Awlaki, a dual US-Yemeni citizen, is believed to have been killed at 9.55am on Friday morning at a site 90 miles (140 kilometres) east of Sana’a between the provinces of Marib and al-Jawf in what is believed to have been an air strike. He is thought to have been travelling in a two-car convoy, which local tribal officials say was destroyed.
The CIA and the US military have used drones to target al-Qaida officials in Yemen and had placed Awlaki near the top of a hit list. The US president, Barack Obama, authorised a request to target Awlaki in April last year, making him the first US citizen to be a legal target for assassination in the post-9/11 years.
The US embassy in Sana’a declined to comment on the reports of Awlaki’s death, fuelling speculation that the CIA had indeed got its man. Yemeni officials said they were not yet sure who had killed him.
However, they released details of the killing within several hours of it happening, suggesting that Sana’a was either directly involved or well-briefed by the US.
Awlaki is credited with inspiring or directing at least four plots on US soil in recent years – a shooting inside the Fort Hood military base, the failed Times Square bombing, the failed underwear bomber and a parcel bomb hidden inside a printer that also failed to explode while inside a passenger jet.
He is thought to have been the leader of the foreign operations unit inside the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula group, which has in recent years taken centre stage in the global jihad campaign inspired by Osama bin Laden.
Awlaki was born in the US state of New Mexico in 1971 to Yemeni parents who took him back to Yemen after early childhood. He returned to the US in 1991 to attend college. US authorities believe he came into contact with at least two of the 9/11 hijackers while giving sermons at a San Diego mosque.
His fingerprints are also all over failed plots to target British and European interests. The attempted murder of the MP Stephen Timms was inspired by Awlaki’s sermons and a British Airways employee, Rajib Karim, was convicted in February of plotting attacks against the airline.
Questions have been raised and will be again about the propriety and legality of targeting and killing an American citizen. But he’s no more entitled to due process than an American-born German citizen fighting with the SS in World War II would have been.