Anwar Nasser al-Awlaki (also spelled al-Aulaqi, al-Awlaqi; Arabic: أنور العولقي, romanized: Anwar al-‘Awlaqī; April 21 or 22, 1971 – September 30, 2011) was an American imam who was killed in 2011 in Yemen by a U.S. government drone strike ordered by President Barack Obama. Al-Awlaki became the first U.S. citizen to be targeted and killed by a drone strike from the U.S. government. US government officials argued that Awlaki was a key organizer for the Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda, and in June 2014, a previously classified memorandum issued by the U.S. Department of Justice was released, justifying al-Awlaki's death as a lawful act of war. Civil liberties advocates have described the incident as "an extrajudicial execution" that breached al-Awlaki's constitutional right to due process, including a trial.
Anwar bin Nasser bin Abdulla al-Aulaqi
April 21 or 22, 1971
Las Cruces, New Mexico, U.S.
|Died||September 30, 2011 (aged 40)|
|Cause of death||Drone strike|
|Citizenship||United States, Yemen|
|Known for||Lectures across Asia and the Middle East; |
Inspire magazine; and spokesman
|Children||5 (including Abdulrahman and Nawar)|
|Parent||Nasser al-Awlaki (father)|
Al-Awlaki was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in 1971 to parents from Yemen. Growing up partially in the United States and partially in Yemen, he attended various universities across the United States in the 1990s and early 2000s, while also working as an imam, despite having no religious qualifications and almost no religious education. Al-Awlaki returned to Yemen in early 2004 and became a university lecturer after a brief stint as a public speaker in the United Kingdom. He was detained by Yemeni authorities in 2006, where he spent 18 months in prison before being released without facing trial. Following his release, Al-Awlaki's message started to become overtly supportive of violence, as he condemned the U.S. government’s foreign policy towards Muslims. He was linked to Nidal Hasan, the convicted perpetrator of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253. Additionally, three of the future September 11 attacks hijackers separately attended his sermons in the 1990s and early 2001.
The Yemeni government tried him in absentia in November 2010, for plotting to kill foreigners and being a member of al-Qaeda. A Yemeni judge ordered that he be captured "dead or alive". U.S. officials said that in 2009, al-Awlaki was promoted to the rank of "regional commander" within al-Qaeda, although they described his role as more "inspirational" than "operational." He repeatedly called for jihad against the United States. In April 2010, al-Awlaki was placed on a CIA kill list by President Barack Obama due to his alleged terrorist activities. Al-Awlaki's father and civil rights groups challenged the order in court. Al-Awlaki was believed to be in hiding in southeast Yemen in the last years of his life. The U.S. deployed unmanned aircraft (drones) in Yemen to search for and kill him, firing at and failing to kill him at least once; he was successfully killed on September 30, 2011. Two weeks later, al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who was born in Denver, Colorado, was also killed by a CIA-led drone strike in Yemen. His daughter, 8-year old Nawar al-Awlaki, was killed during a raid against Al Qaeda ordered by President Donald Trump in 2017. The New York Times wrote in 2015 that al-Awlaki's public statements and videos have been more influential in inspiring acts of Islamic terrorism in the wake of his killing than before his death.
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