Anwar Al-Awlaki and Samir Khan Bite the Dust
US officials: US attack in Yemen kills al-Awlaki
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a devastating double-blow to al-Qaida’s most dangerous franchise, U.S. counterterrorism forces killed two American citizens who played key roles in inspiring attacks against the U.S., U.S. and Yemeni officials said Friday.
U.S-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, who edited the slick Jihadi Internet magazine, were killed in an air strike on their convoy in Yemen by a joint CIA-U.S. military operation, according to counterterrorism officials. Al-Awlaki was targeted in the killing, but Khan apparently was not targeted directly.
After three weeks of tracking the targets, U.S. armed drones and fighter jets shadowed the al-Qaida convoy before armed drones launched their lethal strike early Friday. The strike killed four operatives in all, officials said. All U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.
Al-Awlaki played a “significant operational role” in plotting and inspiring attacks on the United States, U.S. officials said Friday, as they disclosed detailed intelligence to justify the killing of a U.S. citizen. Khan, who was from North Carolina, wasn’t considered operational but had published seven issues of Inspire Magazine, offering advice on how to make bombs and the use of weapons. The magazine was widely read.
Following the strike, a U.S. official outlined new details of al-Awlaki’s involvement in anti-U.S. operations, including the attempted 2009 Christmas Day bombing of a U.S.-bound aircraft. The official said that al-Awlaki specifically directed the men accused of trying to bomb the Detroit-bound plane to detonate an explosive device over U.S. airspace to maximize casualties.
The official also said al-Awlaki had a direct role in supervising and directing a failed attempt to bring down two U.S. cargo aircraft by detonating explosives concealed inside two packages mailed to the U.S. The U.S. also believes Awlaki had sought to use poisons, including cyanide and ricin, to attack Westerners.
The U.S. and counterterrorism officials all spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss intelligence matters.
Al-Awlaki was killed by the same U.S. military unit that got Osama bin Laden. Al-Awlaki is the most prominent al-Qaida figure to be killed since bin Laden’s death in May.
U.S. word of al-Awlaki’s death came after the government of Yemen reported that he had been killed Friday about five miles from the town of Khashef, some 87 miles from the capital Sanaa.
Al-Awlaki’s death is the latest in a run of high-profile kills for Washington under President Barack Obama. But the killing raises questions that the death of other al-Qaida leaders, including bin Laden, did not.
Al-Awlaki is a U.S. citizen, born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents, who had not been charged with any crime. Civil liberties groups have questioned the government’s authority to kill an American without trial.
U.S. officials have said they believe al-Awlaki inspired the actions of Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the attack at Fort Hood, Texas.
In New York, the Pakistani-American man who pleaded guilty to the May 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt said he was “inspired” by al-Awlaki after making contact over the Internet.
Al-Awlaki also is believed to have had a hand in mail bombs addressed to Chicago-area synagogues, packages intercepted in Dubai and Europe in October 2010.
Al-Awlaki served as imam at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Va., a Washington suburb, for about a year in 2001.
The mosque’s outreach director, Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, has said that mosque members never saw al-Awlaki espousing radical ideology while he was there and that he believes Awlaki’s views changed after he left the U.S.
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