The Obama Administration has authorised the targeted killing of an American
citizen in what is believed to be an unprecedented move in the War against
According to US media reports, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who
has been linked to last November's attack on Fort Hood, Texas, and the
failed Christmas day airline bomb plot, has been approved for capture or
Mr Awlaki, who is in hiding in Yemen, is understood to have moved from
encouraging attacks on the United States to participating in them directly, The
New York Times reports.
He has been directly linked to Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the US army
psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, and to Umar
Farouk Abdulmatallab, the Nigerian who tried to blow up a Detroit bound
plane with a bomb in his underwear on Christmas Day.
American counter-terrorism officials told the newspaper that Mr Awlaki was an
operative of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate of the terror
network in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. He is also believed to actively recruit
new members for the terror network.
Experts said that targeting him was was extremely rare, if not unprecedented.
A former senior legal official in the administration of George W. Bush told The
New York Times he did not know of any American who was approved for
targeted killing under the former president.
But the director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, told a House of
Representatives hearing in February that such a step was possible, without
naming Mr Awlaki as a possible target. "We take direct actions against
terrorists in the intelligence community," he said. "If we think that direct
action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do
The possibility that Mr Awlaki might be added to the target list was reported
by The Los Angeles Times in January, and Reuters reported on Tuesday
that he was approved for capture or killing.
"The danger Awlaki poses to this country is no longer confined to words," said
an American official, who was not named. "He's gotten involved in plots."
The official added: "The United States works, exactly as the American people
expect, to overcome threats to their security, and this individual - through
his own actions - has become one. Awlaki knows what he's done, and he knows
he won't be met with handshakes and flowers. None of this should surprise
Mr Awlaki was born in New Mexico of Yemeni descent. He was interviewed by the
FBI after the September 11, 2001, attacks when he was accused of serving as
"spiritual adviser" to two of the attackers at his mosque in Falls Church.
He was detained by Yemeni authorities in August 2006 and held for more than
a year as part of a secret investigation
Describing Mr Hasan's attack at Fort Hood on his website, which advocates
violence against the West, he wrote: "Nidal Hassan [sic] is a hero. He is a
man of conscience who could not bear the contradiction of being a Muslim and
fighting against his own people. No scholar with a grain of Islamic
knowledge can deny the clear cut proofs that Muslims today have the right -
rather the duty - to fight against American tyranny."
On Tuesday, Jane Harman, the chairwoman of a House subcommittee on homeland
security described Mr Awlaki as: "probably the person, the terrorist, who
would be terrorist Number One in terms of threat against us."