Al Qaeda has confirmed the death of US-born Yemeni militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in a CIA drone strike but vowed to avenge his killing, described by President Barack Obama as a "major blow" to the terror network.
"We confirm to the jihadi Ummah that is uprising against oppression, the martyrdom of the mujahid heroic sheikh Abu Abdul Rahman Anwar bin Nasser al-Awlaki," the US-based monitoring group SITE Intelligence quoted an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) statement issued on jihadist websites as saying. Awlaki was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen on September 30.
A Pakistani-American named Samir Khan and two other people also died in the raid. Khan was the co-editor of the terrorist network's English-language online propaganda and recruiting magazine, Inspire. The AQAP "eulogy" states that while the United States killed al-Awlaki, it "cannot kill his ideas." The statement also questioned whether the Obama administration had the right to target and kill Awlaki without a legal trial and guilty verdict, CNN reported. The message said the United States killed al-Awlaki and Khan but "did not prove the accusation against them, and did not present evidence against them." The statement claims such actions go against the values the US espouses.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that the Justice Department prepared legal guidance in 2010 which said the US could kill Awlaki if it was not possible to capture him. In its message, AQAP also promised to "retaliate soon" for the deaths of al-Awlaki and others. The US issued a worldwide alert earlier this month warning of "the potential for retaliation against US citizens and interests" following Awlaki's killing.
"There are heroes behind him who do not sleep under oppression, and they will retaliate soon, with permission from Allah. Born in New Mexico, Awlaki lived in the US until the age of 7, when his family returned to Yemen. He returned to the US in 1991 for college and remained until 2002. During his stay in the US, he served as an imam in California and Virginia, and interacted with three of the men who went on to become September 11, 2001, hijackers, according to the 9/11 Commission report. US officials say he recruited Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the Nigerian man known as the underwear bomber, who was charged with trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight as it landed in Detroit on December 25, 2009.