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Al-Awlaki, U.S.-Born Cleric Linked To Al-Qaida, Is Dead, U.S. And Yemen Say

In this image taken from video and released by SITE Intelligence Group, Anwar al-Awlaki speaks in a video message posted on radical websites in November, 2010.
SITE Intelligence Group
In this image taken from video and released by SITE Intelligence Group, Anwar al-Awlaki speaks in a video message posted on radical websites in November, 2010.
Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born Muslim cleric who in recent years became a spokesman known worldwide for his championing of al-Qaida's arm in Yemen and who was on a list of suspected terrorists U.S. forces had been authorized to kill, is dead, authorities in the U.S. and Yemen say.

Word of his death came early this morning when, as The Associated Press reported, Yemen's Defense Ministry announced the news.

In the hours since, officials have told news outlets that it was a U.S. operation — involving a drone and jets — that killed al-Awlaki.

"The 40-year-old al-Awlaki" the AP adds, "is believed to have inspired and even plotted or helped coordinate some of the recent attacks on the U.S., including the failed Christmas Day 2009 bombing of an airliner heading for Detroit, Mich., and the also unsuccessful plot to send mail bombs on planes from Yemen to the United States in October."

The U.S. Army psychiatrist charged in the November 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage that left 13 people dead had contact with al-Awlaki.

Update at 2:41 p.m. ET. Video Of Obama's Address:

The AP has posted video of Obama's address on the killing of al-Awlaki:

Update at 1:30 p.m. ET. Al-Awlaki On NPR In 2001 And 2002:

We've put up a separate post about the two appearances al-Awlaki made on Talk of the Nation in late 2001 and early 2002.

And there's a post about Republican Rep. Ron Paul's sharp criticism of the killing. The GOP presidential contender said that "if the American people accept this blindly and casually that we now have an accepted practice of the president assassinating people who he thinks are bad guys, I think it's sad."

Update at 11:50 a.m. ET. Obama Says Al-Qaida Has Been Dealt A "'Major Blow":

Al-Awlaki's death is a "major blow to al-Qaida's most active operational affiliate," President Obama just said. The cleric, the president added, "took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans" and spread a "hateful ideology."

Update at 10:55 a.m. ET. On Al-Awlaki.

Correspondent Alan Greenblatt put together this look at:

And on the NPR Newscast, Pentagon correspondent Rachel Martin also looked at al-Awlaki's life.

Update at 10:30 a.m. ET. Praise For Obama And The Intelligence Community From Key Republican Lawmaker.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security, has released this statement:

"The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki is a great success in our fight against al-Qaeda and its affiliates. For the past several years, al-Awlaki has been more dangerous even than Osama bin Laden had been. The killing of al-Awlaki is a tremendous tribute to President Obama and the men and women of our intelligence community.

"Despite this vital development today, we must remain as vigilant as ever, knowing that there are more Islamic terrorists who will gladly step forward to backfill this dangerous killer."

Update at 9:52 a.m. ET. More Confirmation:

NPR's Dina Temple-Raston tells the Newscast desk that two intelligence sources have told her that a Hellfire missile was fired at al-Awlaki's convoy by a U.S. drone.

Update at 9:50 a.m. ET. More On Al-Awlaki:

Foreign Policy magazine looks at "the myth of Anwar al-Awlaki."

Update at 9:30 a.m. ET. Second "American Militant" Also Reportedly Killed:

"Yemen's Defense Ministry says another American militant, Samir Khan, who produced an English-language al-Qaida Web magazine, died in the U.S. airstrike that killed American-Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki," the AP says. "The ministry made the announcement Friday in a mobile phone SMS message. Khan, in his 20s, was an American of Pakistani heritage from North Carolina who produced Inspire, an English-language Web magazine which spread al-Qaida ideology and promoted attacks against U.S. targets, even running articles on how to put together explosives."

Update at 9:20 a.m. ET. More Details On The Operation:

"A U.S. counterterrorism official said American forces targeted a convoy in which al-Awlaki was travelling with a drone and jet attack and believe he's been killed," the AP now writes. "The official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity." And the wire service adds that:

"The Yemeni government announced that al-Awlaki was 'targeted and killed' around 9:55 a.m outside the town of Khashef in mountainous Jawf province, 87 miles east of the capital Sanaa. It gave no further details. Local tribal and security officials said al-Awlaki was travelling in a two-car convoy with two other al-Qaida in Yemen operatives from al-Jawf to neighboring Marib province when they were hit by an airstrike. They said the other two operatives were also believed dead. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press."

Update at 9:05 a.m. ET. Officials Says Special Ops Used A Drone And Jet Strike To Kill Al-Awlaki:

The AP now writes that "the same U.S. military unit that got Osama bin Laden used a drone and jet strike in Yemen on Friday to kill [al-Awlaki] ... U.S. and Yemeni officials said. [He] was killed in a strike on his convoy directed by the CIA and carried out with the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command's firepower, according to a counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence."

Update at 8:30 a.m. ET. Killing A U.S. Citizen; The Constitutional Debate:

Al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico and the Obama administration's 2010 decision to authorize his killing was controversial because of his U.S. citizenship.

This morning at the liberal, Glenn Greenwald writes that "the due process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now reality." And he argues that al-Awlaki's death has violated one of "the most basic individual liberties designed to safeguard citizens from consummate abuses of power" — due process.

At the conservative Hot Air, though, Ed Morrissey writes that while al-Awlaki's "status created controversy for the Obama administration when it became clear that they had tasked the military and intelligence communities with killing rather than apprehending him ... Awlaki put himself in that position by conducting a war against the U.S. ... And in war a belligerent has no particular duty to apprehend anyone who doesn't surrender to their forces, regardless of their nationality."

Update at 7:45 a.m. ET. Killed In Northern Yemen?

Journalist Laura Kasinof, who is reporting from Yemen for The New York Times, said on Morning Editionthat she was told by "a senior official within the security apparatus" that al-Awlaki was killed "traveling between two provinces in northern Yemen." Beyond that there aren't many details yet, Kasinof said.

Update at 7:10 a.m. ET. White House "Confirms," CNN Says:

The White House has "confirmed" that al-Awlaki is dead, CNN's Barbara Starr reports.

Update at 7:05 a.m. ET. More About Al-Awlaki:

From a profile in The Guardian--

"U.S. officials say Awlaki is a 'recruiter and motivator' for al-Qaida and uses social media to spread his message of violent jihad. ... Awlaki is the only U.S. citizen known to be on the list of targets for assassination by the CIA because of his links to past attacks against the U.S. It is a far cry from the time when he was once invited to speak at the Pentagon as part of a defence department outreach programme to Muslims."

Update at 6:45 a.m. ET. U.S. Official Says Intelligence Indicates Al-Awlaki Is Dead:

"A senior U.S. counterterrorism official says U.S. intelligence indicates that U.S.-born al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki has been killed in Yemen," the AP now reports. "The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters."

Update at 6:40 a.m. ET. Evidence That He Planned Operations:

In March, NPR's Dina Temple-Raston reported for us that the trial of Bangladeshi computer engineer Rajib Karim in Britain provided "the first public evidence that U.S. born radical cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, was planning operations for al-Qaida's arm in Yemen."

Update at 6:30 a.m. ET. Announced In A Text Message:

The defense ministry, according to The Washington Post, sent a text message to reporters that said "the terrorist Anwar al-Aulaqi has been killed along with some of his companions." The Post notes that al-Awlaki "has been falsely reported killed before."

Note: NPR follows AP style on the spelling of al-Awlaki's name. Other organizations spell it differently.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.