American Air Strike in Yemen Kills Anwar al-Awlaki
An American air strike in Yemen has killed Anwar al-Awlaki. He led the group known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
BARACK OBAMA: "The death of Awlaki is a major blow to al-Qaida's most active operational affiliate."
President Obama said al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula remains dangerous, but weakened.
Anwar al-Awlaki was born in the United States. He urged his followers around the world to kill Americans. "It is either us or them," he said. He built a loyal following through YouTube, Facebook and a blog.
(SOUND: Awlaki in Arabic)
The United States government approved Mr. Awlaki for killing without trial -- a rare step for an American citizen. A missile attack from a drone or unmanned aircraft killed him early Friday in eastern Yemen. Several other suspected militants also died. Yemen's Defense Ministry said they included Samir Khan, a militant raised in the United States. He produced an English-language magazine for al-Qaida that appeared on the Internet.
American officials told reporters that the Central Intelligence Agency organized the raid. It was carried out under the leadership of the Joint Special Operations Command. That command also led the operation earlier this year in which an American team killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
Some Western intelligence officials believed Anwar al-Awlaki was more dangerous than Ayman al Zawahiri, the current main al-Qaida leader. Mr. Awlaki spoke both Arabic and English. Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, says his skill with language and the Internet made him especially dangerous.
MICHAEL LEITER: "Ideologues and operational leaders like Anwar al-Awlaki, other Americans who are using al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula as a platform to try to recruit Westerners -- this makes them I think the most significant threat of all the affiliates we face."
Mr. Awlaki was born to Yemeni parents in New Mexico in nineteen seventy-one. He served as a religious leader in several mosques in the United States. These included one in San Diego, California. That mosque was often attended by two of the hijackers in the attacks of September eleventh, two thousand one.
Mr. Awlaki was wanted by both the United States and Yemen for his reported involvement in terrorist attacks. President Obama said Mr. Awlaki directed the failed attempt to blow up a passenger airplane on Christmas Day in December two thousand nine.
Investigators say he may have also had a part in a shooting attack a month earlier. They say he may have advised Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan. Major Hasan is accused of killing thirteen people at Fort Hood in Texas.
Yemeni officials charged Mr. Awlaki with "inciting violence against foreigners" for the killing last year of a French oil industry worker in Yemen.
The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki comes as Yemen faces violent political unrest. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has agreed repeatedly to resign but has yet to do so.
On Friday, President Obama made his comments during a ceremony marking the end of Navy Admiral Mike Mullen's four-year term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Army General Martin Dempsey replaces him as the nation's top military officer.