President Barack Obama said the death in Yemen of a U.S.-born Islamic cleric who masterminded the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airplane in 2009 is a “major blow” against al-Qaeda.
The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki “marks another significant milestone in the broader effort to defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates,” Obama said at the start of a swearing-in ceremony for the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey. “This is further proof that al-Qaeda and its affiliates will find no safe haven anywhere in the world.”
The military crowd at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall outside Washington in Arlington, Virginia applauded when the president announced al-Awlaki’s death.
Obama credited the Yemeni citizens, government and security forces for enabling al-Awlaki’s killing. Without offering details of the intelligence leading to the strike, he said they had “joined the international community in a common effort against al-Qaeda.” Obama said that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula remains “dangerous” even though it’s “weakened.”
Al-Awlaki was killed 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the town of Khashef in the province of Jawf, the Yemeni foreign press office said in an e-mailed statement today.
CIA Target List
Obama last year approved an order making him the first American ever to be placed on the Central Intelligence Agency’s hit list. Al-Awlaki, a 40-year-old native of Las Cruces, New Mexico, has dual U.S. and Yemeni citizenship.
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement that the U.S. targeted- killing program that authorized airstrikes against al-Awlaki “violates both U.S. and international law.”
“As we’ve seen today, this is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process, and on the basis of standards and evidence that are kept secret not just from the public but from the courts,” Jaffer said. It’s a mistake to give any president “unreviewable power to kill any American whom he deems to present a threat to the country,” he said.
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