The White House has authorised the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaqi, an American citizen and radical Muslim cleric in Yemen. The decision was taken after US intelligence agencies concluded he was directly involved in plots against the US.
AFP - President Barack Obama's administration has authorized the targeted killing of an American citizen, radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi, a US official said on Wednesday.
"The US government would be remiss if it didn't go after terrorist threats like Awlaqi," the counter-terrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
"Yes, he's a US person, but Americans who take up with the enemy aren't entitled to special protections," the official said.
"It can't possibly be a surprise to anyone -- including Anwar al-Awlaqi -- that he's a US target," he added.
The rare step was reportedly approved earlier this year after US intelligence agencies concluded the US-Yemeni cleric was now directly involved in plots against the United States, and not merely publicly encouraging such attacks.
In February, the director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, confirmed that US spy agencies had the authority to kill American citizens if they posed a direct threat to the United States.
The US-born cleric, now based in Yemen, rose to prominence last year after it emerged he had communicated extensively by email with Major Nidal Hasan, a US Army psychiatrist accused of opening fire on colleagues at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13.
Accused of having had ties to the September 11, 2001 hijackers, Awlaqi has praised the Fort Hood attack and said Muslims like Hasan should only serve in the US military if they planned to carry out similar attacks.
The imam has also been linked to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound flight with explosives in his underwear on December 25.
Citizenship is "factor" that has to be taken into account, the US official said, "but it certainly isn't a shield for those who have plotted the murder of innocent Americans."
The US administration last month for the first time offered a legal justification for drone strikes against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan and elsewhere, citing the right to "self-defense" under international law.
The CIA attacks by unmanned aircraft in Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere have sharply increased under President Barack Obama's administration, with some human rights groups charging the bombing raids amount to illegal assassinations.
Date created : 2010-04-07