The U.S.-born al Qaeda leader and terrorist recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki has been killed in Yemen by a missile fired from an American drone aircraft. The Times suggests that this attack seems to be the first time since the Sept. 11 attacks that an American citizen had been deliberately targeted and killed by American forces. Al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents, was 40.
Details on the strike are still sketchy, but officials told the Times that the drone was specifically targeting al-Awlaki, who the U.S. has been hunting for more than two years. Yemeni security forces and tribal officials told The Associated Press that an air strike by U.S. drones had targeted a convoy of cars in the area. The Yemeni government only stated that the operation was launched at 9:55 a.m. Friday local time. Yemen’s official news agency, Saba, reported that the attack also killed Samir Khan, an American citizen of Pakistani origin who was the editor of Inspire, al Qaeda’s English-language Internet magazine.
Al-Awlaki, whose internet lectures and sermons have been linked to dozens of terrorist investigations, is believed to have been behind several terrorist attacks in recent years, including mail bombs addressed to Chicago-area synagogues and the failed Christmas Day 2009 bombing of a plane heading to Detroit. Faisal Shahzad, who tried and failed to set off a car bomb in Times Square last year, cited him as an inspiration.
Rep. Pete King, who called al-Awlaki "more dangerous even than Osama Bin Laden" in the past few years, praised President Obama for the strike, saying it was a "great success in our fight against Al Qaeda." He added, "Despite this vital development today, we must remain as vigilant as ever, knowing that there are more Islamic terrorists who will gladly step forward to backfill this dangerous killer."