According to breaking news reports, the American-born violent extremist Anwar al-Awlaki has been killed by a predator drone in Yemen. Mr. Awlaki (or “Aulaqi” — another Man of Many Spellings) was the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He has been cited as the inspiration for many of the recently captured mujahideen who were plotting terrorist attacks against the United States, Canada, and Europe.
This isn’t the first time that Mr. Awlaki has been reported whacked. So, even though the U.S. government has confirmed his demise, I’m going to reserve judgment for a few days to see if this story holds up.
According to The Washington Post:
Anwar Al-Aulaqi, U.S.-Born Cleric Linked to Al-Qaeda, Reported Killed in Yemen
SANAA, Yemen — Anwar al-Aulaqi, a radical U.S.-born Muslim cleric and one of the most influential al-Qaeda operatives wanted by the United States, was killed Friday in an airstrike in northern Yemen, authorities said, eliminating a prominent recruiter who inspired attacks on U.S. soil.
In Washington, a senior Obama administration official confirmed that Aulaqi is dead. Earlier, a senior counterterrorism official said U.S. intelligence indicates that the 40-year-old cleric, a dual national of the United States and Yemen, perished in the attack, the Associated Press reported.
The Yemeni Defense Ministry, in a text message sent to journalists, announced that “the terrorist Anwar al- Aulaqi has been killed along with some of his companions,” but did not provide further details. The report could not be independently verified; Aulaqi has been falsely reported killed before.
In a separate e-mailed statement, the Yemeni government said Aulaqi was “targeted and killed” five miles from the town of Khashef in Yemen’s northern Jawf province, 87 miles east of the capital Sanaa. The attack, the statement said, was launched at 9:55 a.m. Friday local time.
While the Defense Ministry said Aulaqi was killed in Marib province, other government sources said he was killed in neighboring Jawf province.
A Yemeni security source, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said Aulaqi was killed in an airstrike, possibly by an unmanned American drone. The Obama administration in recent months has escalated the use of drones to target al-Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen and Somalia.
If true, Aulaqi’s death would be considered a significant victory in the U.S. war against global terrorism. It comes less than five months after U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaeda network, in a raid on his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Aulaqi, born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents, has been implicated in helping to motivate several attacks on U.S. soil. He is said to have inspired an Army officer who allegedly killed 13 people in a November 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Tex., as well as a Nigerian student who attempted to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner the following month and a Pakistani American man who tried to set off a car bomb in New York City in May 2010. Aulaqi has also been linked to an attempt in 2010 to send parcel bombs on cargo plans bound for the United States.