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American Cleric Killed By U.S. Airstrike In Yemen


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


NPR's Dina Temple-Raston covers counterterrorism and she joins us now. Dina, good morning to you, and what's the latest?

DINA TEMPLE: The thing is, the U.S. likes to have DNA evidence before confirming the death of someone they've been hunting. They even took a DNA sample from bin Laden to confirm his death. And they don't have that DNA on al-Awlaki. And he's in the middle of the desert, apparently, where he was killed, so it's unclear whether they'll get that evidence.

GREENE: The final, final confirmation might be a while out. Remind us why this man was so important.

TEMPLE: Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, the man who's now on trial in Michigan for the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner outside Detroit two years ago, also with an al-Awlaki connection. He allegedly told Abdulmuttalab to wait to detonate his bomb until he was over a U.S. city so there would be more casualties. You remember he had that bomb in his underwear and it malfunctioned. So for counterterrorism officials this killing is seen as a really big deal.

GREENE: So not just someone who spouts propaganda, not just a public figure; someone with some real operational connections, it sounds like.

TEMPLE: Apparently so.

GREENE: If, as you say, this was an American drone strike that, if this is true, killed someone born in America, doesn't that raise some legal questions?

TEMPLE: But then again, this has happened before. Back in 2002, there was an American al-Qaida recruiter named Kamal Derwish; he was in a convoy and he was killed by an airstrike. So they've had this happen before.

GREENE: That's NPR's Dina Temple-Raston reporting for us. Dina, thank you.

TEMPLE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.