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Anwar al-Awlaki killed in Yemen airstrike

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In New York, the Pakistani-American man who pleaded guilty to the May 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt told interrogators he was "inspired" by al-Awlaki after making contact over the Internet.

The United States had al-Awlaki on a kill or capture list. (Photo: Associated Press)

Al-Awlaki also exchanged up to 20 emails with U.S. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, alleged killer of 13 people in the Nov. 5, 2009, rampage at Fort Hood. Hasan initiated the contacts, drawn by al-Awlaki's Internet sermons, and approached him for religious advice.

Al-Awlaki has said he didn't tell Hasan to carry out the shootings, but he later praised Hasan as a "hero" on his Web site for killing American soldiers who would be heading for Afghanistan or Iraq to fight Muslims. The cleric similarly said Abdulmutallab was his "student" but said he never told him to carry out the airline attack.

In a statement, the Yemeni government said al-Awlaki was "targeted and killed" 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the town of Khashef in the Province of al-Jawf. The town is located 87 miles (140 kilometers) east of the capital Sanaa.

The statement says the operation was launched on Friday around 9:55 a.m. It gave no other details.

The Yemeni Defense Ministry also reported the death, without elaborating, in a mobile phone SMS message.

Local tribal and security officials said al-Awlaki was travelling in a two-car convoy with two other al-Qaida in Yemen operatives from al-Jawf to neighboring Marib province when they were hit. They said the other two operatives were also believed dead. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

Yemen, the Arab world's most impoverished nation, has become a haven for hundreds of al-Qaida militants. The United States has been deeply concerned that militants will take advantage of the country's political turmoil to strengthen their positions. In recent months, militants have seized control of several cities in Yemen's south.

A previous attack against al-Awlaki on May 5, shortly after the May raid that killed Osama bin Laden, was carried out by a combination of U.S. drones and jets.

The operation was run by the U.S. military's elite counterterrorism unit, the Joint Special Operations Command — the same unit that got bin Laden. JSOC has worked closely with Yemeni counterterrorism forces for years, in the fight against al-Qaida.

Top U.S. counterterrorism adviser John Brennan says such cooperation with Yemen has improved since the political unrest there. Brennan said the Yemenis have been more willing to share information about the location of al-Qaida targets, as a way to fight the Yemeni branch challenging them for power. Other U.S. officials say the Yemenis have also allowed the U.S. to fly more armed drone and aircraft missions over its territory than ever previously, trying to use U.S. military power to stay in power. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.

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