US-born radical Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a key al-Qaeda leader, has been killed in Yemen, the country’s defence ministry said. Awlaki, of Yemeni descent, has been on the run in Yemen since December 2007. The US had named him a “specially designated global terrorist” for his alleged role in a number of attacks and US President Barack Obama is said to have personally ordered his killing.
This is the biggest blow to al-Qaeda since the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Anwar al-Awlaki was possibly the organisation’s most inspirational cleric and ideologue in the Middle East.
Using the internet and an online magazine called Inspire, Awlaki encouraged his followers to attack Western targets. He has been blamed for inspiring US army major Nidal Hassan to kill his fellow soldiers in Texas and for inspiring the British woman Roshonara Choudhry to stab her MP Stephen Timms because he had supported the invasion of Iraq.
Awlaki was a charismatic cleric and fluent English speaker, and he may be hard for al-Qaeda to replace.
The ACLU issues a response:
U.S. airstrikes in Yemen today killed Anwar Al-Aulaqi, an American citizen who has never been charged with any crime.
ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said, “The targeted killing program violates both U.S. and international law. As we’ve seen today, this is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process, and on the basis of standards and evidence that are kept secret not just from the public but from the courts. The government’s authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat to life is concrete, specific and imminent. It is a mistake to invest the President – any President – with the unreviewable power to kill any American whom he deems to present a threat to the country.”
ACLU National Security Project Litigation Director Ben Wizner said, “Outside the theater of war, the use of lethal force is lawful only as a last resort to counter an imminent threat of deadly attack. Based on the administration’s public statements, the program that the President has authorized is far more sweeping. If the Constitution means anything, it surely means that the President does not have unreviewable authority to summarily execute any American whom he concludes is an enemy of the state.”
More information on the government’s targeted killing policy is available at: