Al Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaki, one of the most wanted terrorists on a U.S. target list, has been killed in Yemen, according to a statement issued by the country’s defense ministry.
Mr. Awlaki has long been at the top of the U.S. target list in Yemen. He has been accused of involvement in several terrorism incidents in the U.S. in recent years. While he wasn’t a top operational leader in al Qaeda, Mr. Awlaki’s U.S. roots and fluent English made him a special concern of U.S. counterterrorism officials, who have been attempting to kill or apprehend him for several years.
Yemeni security officials told the Associated Press that there was an air strike Friday morning in the country’s east, between al-Jawf and Marib regions. The officials couldn’t provide more details and spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to talk to the media. Tribal elders in the area told the AP that the air strike targeted an al Qaeda convoy in the east.
Mr. Awlaki’s death would be another significant blow to al Qaeda after the death of Osama bin Laden earlier this year.
Yemen has been a growing concern for counterterrorism officials as the country has descended into chaotic factional fighting as several key groups have turned on president Ali Abdullah Saleh this year. As the fighting has continued in the capital, outlying areas have increasingly come under the sway of militant Islamist groups, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. At the same time, counterterrorism teams have stepped up their hunt for key figures and have killed several in the past few months.