After concluding that he has taken on an operational role in attempted terrorist attacks, the Obama administration has authorized the capture or killing of a U.S.-born Muslim cleric who is believed to be in Yemen, U.S. officials said.
Anwar Awlaki, 38, who was born in New Mexico, recently was added to the CIA target list after a special government review of his activities, prompted by his status as a U.S. citizen, one of the officials said.
Awlaki was in e-mail contact with Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army major accused of killing 13 people at Ft. Hood, Texas. He is known to have had links with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian suspected of attempting to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day.
Awlaki is believed to be the first U.S. citizen the CIA has been given authorization to kill or capture since 2001. The U.S. military keeps a separate list of individuals it is permitted to capture or kill. Awlaki’s name was already on that list.
U.S. officials say that Awlaki has helped transform Yemen’s Al Qaeda offshoot into the terrorist network’s most active affiliate outside Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Awlaki was known for delivering fiery sermons at U.S. mosques before moving to Yemen in 2004. But until his ties to the suspected Ft. Hood attacker became clear, he was not considered an operational planner.