The drone strike in Yemen killed Anwar al-Awlaki, the American voice of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, it eliminated one of Islamic radicalism’s most persuasive recruiters and propagandists.
Among three other people killed in the attack, a U.S. official said, was Samir Khan, another American who turned to militancy and served as editor of "Inspire," a glossy magazine used as a propaganda and recruitment vehicle by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Yemen-based group is deemed by U.S. officials to be one of al Qaeda's most dangerous offshoots.A U.S. official described the other two people killed in the attack as "unidentified associates" of Awlaki and Khan.
President Barack Obama hailed the Awlaki strike as "another significant milestone" in efforts to defeat al Qaeda and proof that it and its allies will find no safe haven. "The death of Awlaki is a major blow to al Qaeda's most active operational affiliate," Obama said.
U.S. officials said that Awlaki had been a subject of intense interest from American and other counter-terrorism agencies at least since late 2009, when he was implicated in two serious incidents directed at American targets.
An official said that Awlaki and AQAP also were responsible for "numerous terrorist attacks" in Yemen and nearby countries in which "scores of Muslims" died. A European official said Awlaki was also implicated in at least two British counter-terrorism investigations, one of which involved an employee of British Airways.
A U.S. official said that despite extensive and continuing civil turmoil in Yemen, "The Yemeni government's counterterrorism program has remained strong." Other U.S. officials said that during the last several years in which political disorder has reigned, the U.S. has stepped up unilateral efforts to collect intelligence and conduct counter-terrorism operations in Yemen.