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Obama orders US-born cleric to be shot on sight

White House targets Yemen-based preacher it says is head of al-Qa'ida's operations in Arabian peninsula

By David Usborne in New York

Awlaki has been linked to the Detroit bomb suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

AFP/ GETTY IMAGES

Awlaki has been linked to the Detroit bomb suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

American military and undercover agents abroad have been given explicit authorisation by the Obama administration to kill a US-born Muslim cleric suspected of plotting terror attacks against the United States from his base in Yemen, where he is thought to be hiding, officials said yesterday.

The extraordinary order, approved by the National Security Council operating out of the White House, concerns Anwar al-Awlaki, a preacher who was born in New Mexico. He became popular with some conservative Muslim groups both in the US and in Britain before vanishing into Yemen.

There does not appear to be a precedent for the US to target one of its own citizens for possible assassination, at least not since the terror attacks of September 2001. The decision to target 38-year-old Awlaki – he is to be captured or killed – was reported by several US media outlets and was confirmed anonymously by some senior officials yesterday. "We would be remiss if we didn't find ways to pursue someone who is a serious threat to this country and has plotted against Americans," one official told CNN when asked about Awlaki.

Awlaki, whose parents are from Yemen, rose to prominence as a speaker in San Diego, California, in the late 1990s before moving in 2000 to become a preacher at a mosque on the outskirts of Washington DC. He fled the US in 2002, and spent some of the next two years building a following in Britain.

US terror investigators have become convinced that since going into hiding in Yemen, Awlaki has become highly active as the effective chief of al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate in Yemen and Saudi Arabia to the main terror network based in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The focus on Awlaki intensified after links were found between him and Major Nidal Hassan, who was charged with the killing of 13 people at the Fort Hood army base in Texas last year, and with the young Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.

That the Obama administration might go so far as to green-light the assassination of an American to combat terror was first signalled by the Director of Intelligence, Dennis Blair in February. "We take direct actions against terrorists," he said at a congressional hearing. "If we think direct action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that." He did not name Awlaki at the time, however.

Former president Gerald Ford signed the law that made political assassinations illegal in the US. However, an exemption can be made if the target is considered a military enemy of the American people. "The United States works, exactly as the American people expect, to overcome threats to their security, and this individual – through his own actions – has become one," one US official told the New York Times. "Awlaki knows what he's done, and he knows he won't be met with handshakes and flowers. None of this should surprise anyone."

Awlaki is thought to have first met Abdulmutallab in London when the Nigerian was studying there. From information given by Abdulmutallab after his arrest on Christmas Day in Detroit, it seems that Awlaki was closely involved in his training in Yemen precisely for the attack on the Delta airliner.

Since the Fort Hood shooting, officials have found emails between the accused, Hassan, and Awlaki. In one, Hassan allegedly writes: "I can't wait to join you in the afterlife". It also appears that Hassan, who worked at a Washington hospital before transferring last year to Texas, attended the mosque in Virginia where Awlaki was briefly a preacher. The FBI first began tracking Awlaki in the mid-1990s in San Diego, where he was arrested several times for alleged solicitation of prostitutes. The scrutiny multiplied when it was found that two of the 9/11 hijackers had attended sermons given by Awlaki.

He is thought to be in hiding in a mountainous region, but he has continued to get his message out via the internet. Fluent in English, Awlaki, who even has a Facebook page, is unusual among radical clerics in being able to nurture his following among conservative young Muslims in the US and Britain.

Anwar al-Awlaki: In his own words

The following words by Anwar al-Awlaki are taken from his lectures, pamphlets, blogs and website:

*The ballot has failed us but the bullet has not.

* My recommendation would be for my brothers who are Pakistan [sic] to give support physically and financially for their brothers in Afghanistan... we are talking about a stage where this support is obligatory and not recommended or voluntary, and when something is an obligation it becomes a sin and a shortcoming by not being a part of it.

* The Taliban paid the price for offering a safe haven for the foreign mujahideen: they lost their government. But that is not a defeat but a victory, because in the eyes of Allah you have won, no matter what the worldly costs are, if you have held on firmly to your religion, and you have lost, no matter what the worldly gains are, if you have wavered in your religion. We should open our houses for the mujahideen among us and we should offer them the support they need.

* Preparing for Jihad is obligatory... The issue is so critical that if arms training is not possible in your country then it is worth the time and money to travel to another country to train if you can.

* If a Muslim kills each and every civilian disbeliever on the face of the earth he is still a Muslim and we cannot side with the disbelievers against him.

* The hatred of kuffar [non-Muslims] is a central element of our military creed. We need to realise that Allah will not grant us victory as long as we still have some love towards his enemies in our hearts.

* What Jihad needs is mujahideen who have the ability to walk for long hours, to run for long distances (important for guerrilla warfare), to sprint (important for urban warfare), and to climb mountains.

Source: The Centre for Social Cohesion, a British think-tank

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Comments

US again fails to comply with laws and judicial processes
[info]trobase wrote:
Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 12:44 am (UTC)
by ordering an assassination, this yet again shows the US has no regard for human rights, international and domestic law or the principle of the rule of law and due process.
Obama would do well to remember and read the US constitution and the bill of rights - this is similar to 'extraordinary rendition' which is illegal - now we see 'extrajudicial' killing/murder/assassination.

What obama should be doing is directing his capture and having him charged and brought to trial. As a US national they know they would have to accord him rights that those in guantanamo do not enjoy. This is an attempt to shortcut a judicial process. I am quite concerned that this bush style approach would be coming from obama. I guess the US lacks any ability to capture him in the first place and are embarrassed by it so this is an attempt to compensate by giving these kind of orders that he knows will they do not have the capability to follow through.
Re: US again fails to comply with laws and judicial processes
[info]sickofstupidity wrote:
Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 01:34 pm (UTC)
"the US has no regard for human rights, international and domestic law or the principle of the rule of law and due process."

Why should we extend such rights and legal protection to those individuals who have shown by their words and actions that they have no respect for the human rights of others, nor for the rule of law and due process? If they preach indiscriminate mass-murder of innocent people as a means to a political and ideological end, then they deserve no mercy, no rights and no legal protection; they should be hunted down and exterminated like the rabid, psychotic vermin they are.

Hell, if I had a sniper rifle and Awlaki was in my crosswires, I wouldn't think twice about blowing the guy's brains out. It's called self-preservation and the protection of the innocent.
Re: US again fails to comply with laws and judicial processes
[info]rain1950 wrote:
Friday, 9 April 2010 at 06:04 am (UTC)
They need a new boggie man. Since Bin Laden is dead.
Facebook page?
[info]timspooner wrote:
Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 12:53 am (UTC)
If you call having no info at all a Facebook page, then he apparently has a Facebook page.....its a bit much to suggest that he has some sort of profile on there though, there is simply nothing at all.................
[info]f_danny wrote:
Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 01:17 am (UTC)
This is a doubtful story me thinks. I mean I cannot see this as having any basis in fact. It is not that I do not believe the U.S. govt capable of it, ANY govt is capable. But this story just reeks of fabrication.
I have a better idea...
[info]brazil2009 wrote:
Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 01:53 am (UTC)
give this man a suicide belt and tell him to blow himself up in the desert.
A big bang would suffice. It will not work? Why not? His life is not expendable.Hell's bells.
It is OK to follow one's words and not ones example. How stupid is this? And some suicide bombers fall for this crap. They are justified in feeling they have been misled. That is if they had brains. Anyway, when are the big cheese going to learn that al-Qa'ida is not an organization, it is an idea.
Assassination is not and will never be an idea killer. On the contrary.Thats how they are going to protect us? OK,.. so that is how it works? We are surrounded by Well-Intentioned People Behaving Badly who want to protect us and not so Well-Intentioned People Behaving Badly who want to kill us. I feel already very safe indeed. .. I am at the JFK airport and just about to board.There is no place like home. Off we go!
Re: I have a better idea...
[info]trobase wrote:
Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 12:05 pm (UTC)
what a stupid comment!
[info]horn744 wrote:
Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 06:09 am (UTC)
People who brainwash others into becoming suicide bombers need to be put in the front line
Good For Them
[info]canewt wrote:
Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 06:53 am (UTC)
It makes me want to move to America, shame I'm stuck here with the bleeding hearts.
Re: Good For Them
[info]corporatelies wrote:
Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 12:32 pm (UTC)
canewt, its amazing how hypocrites like you would say how cruel and disgusting the country who authorised this type of action is if it was a Tibetan target by the Chinese government or a Chechen rebel target ordered by the Kremlin but as its the Yanks you are calling all those who show disgust at this violation of international law bleeding hearts. well what goes around comes around and i hope people like you get whats coming as no one will give a crap when it does because the "bleeding hearts" are just idiots right?
British gov kills innocent brits
[info]alexweir1949 wrote:
Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 07:51 am (UTC)
I invented a fraud proof voting system for the third world. I am a white scot with a full british passport. My own government tried to kill me 6 times in 5 countries in december 2007 because of my voting system. Illegal behaviour by browne brown and mi6. Complete blackout by the craven international media including the independent. A scandal which could conceivably influence the current election. Alex weir. Harare
Terrorists
[info]corporatelies wrote:
Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 12:27 pm (UTC)
The US gov has shown itself for what it really is once again and this time under the leadership of a Nobel Peace Prize winner too. What a joke, and yes we in the West and especially the faithful lapdog, Blighty, still lecture the world on the actions of terrorists?

We show the world that as long as we have the weapons to back up our BS we can do what we like so thats one of the reasons "they" hate us and why they want to kill us. MAYBE! Reap what you sow and thats what we as ordinary citizens have to put up with, the blowback from the disgusting decisions our leaders make.
so... it's ok when US does that
[info]sasaplau wrote:
Friday, 9 April 2010 at 01:05 am (UTC)
but it's wrong for Israel to do the same? This is not different from the assassination of the Hamas terrorist in Dubai, yet this outlet called that operation 'murder'. Why the double standard? If killing someone without trial is murder, then the Obama administration has just issued a call for murder. Alternatively, if this is making justice with terrorists, then Israel's Dubai ordeal should have not been classified as murder.
Re: so... it's ok when US does that
[info]bandwants wrote:
Friday, 9 April 2010 at 03:11 am (UTC)
Maybe the media will not say it, but I will. The Israeli job in Dubai and the assassination plan in this article are both murder. No double standard here. http://theunpeople.blogspot.com/
Re: so... it's ok when US does that
[info]a_secco wrote:
Saturday, 10 April 2010 at 03:56 pm (UTC)
You did say - something very stupid. Killing a terrorist doesn't amount to assassination. Assassination is what they do.
Re: so... it's ok when US does that
[info]eyedef wrote:
Saturday, 10 April 2010 at 06:43 am (UTC)
Sorry but I don't buy your comparison. A large part of the international furore over the Mossad assassination in Dubai was at the Israeli government chutzpah sending agents using forged passports of actual citizens of allied countries. How would you like to wake up one day and be on the hit list of an anti-Israeli death squad for an assassination you had no part in? The reckless conceit of misrepresenting both allied and neutral countries while endangering its citizens in conducting such a sloppy and unprofessional assassination in the sovereign and neutral Dubai was inexcusable.

OTOH, the US Special Forces are presently working with Yemeni security against significant Al Qaeda elements in Yemen actively conducting operations against its government and US troops in the region. That the US would green light killing the suspected head of Qaeda's operations in the country should they encounter him is perfectly reasonable. This man is a traitor and fanatic militant that is actively fomenting violence and Jihad against Americans. It's no different than say if this man was perched atop a building picking off people with a sniper rifle. Is this US really supposed to capture him for trial at the potential cost of additional lives? I don't think so.

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