U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki killed: Yemeni officials
www.cnn.com- American-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, the public face of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has been killed in Yemen, the nation’s Defense Ministry said Friday.
The U.S. regards al-Awlaki, who was believed to be hiding in Yemen, as the biggest threat to its homeland security. Western intelligence officials believe al-Awlaki is a senior leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the most active al Qaeda affiliates.
Yemen’s Defense Ministry did not release any details, saying only that al-Awaki had been killed.
A U.S. State Department official and a White House official told CNN they were aware of the reports but could not confirm al-Awlaki had been killed. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record to the media.
Born in New Mexico, al-Awlaki preached at a mosque in Virginia before leaving the United States for the Middle East.
U.S. officials say al-Awlaki helped recruit Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a transatlantic flight as it landed in Detroit on December 25, 2009.
The militant cleric is also said to have exchanged emails with accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hassan who killed a dozen fellow soldiers and a civilian in a rampage at the Texas base.
Early this year, a Yemeni court sentenced al-Awlaki in absentia to 10 years in prison for charges of inciting to kill foreigners.
Prosecutors charged al-Awlaki and two others with “forming an armed gang” to target foreign officers and law enforcement in November.
At a U.S. congressional hearing earlier this year, Michael Leiter, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said: “I actually consider al Qaeda in the Arab peninsula with al-Awlaki as a leader within that organization as probably the most significant threat to the U.S.”
Al-Awlaki narrowly survived an American drone assault in May after he switched vehicles with fellow jihadis, a senior security official told CNN.
Attorneys for al-Awlaki’s father, Dr. Nasser al-Awlaki, tried to persuade U.S. District Court Judge John Bates in Washington to issue an injunction last year preventing the government from the targeted killing of al-Awlaki in Yemen.
But Bates dismissed the case in December, ruling that Nasser al-Awlaki did not have standing to sue.
In a November hearing, lawyers for the U.S. government refused to confirm that the cleric was on a secret “kill list” or that such a list even exists.
Last year, YouTube removed a number of video clips featuring al-Awlaki that it found to be inciting violence.