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American-Born al-Qaida Leader Killed in Yemen

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A radical American-born cleric wanted by Yemen and the United States has been killed in Yemen in a drone and jet strike that news reports say was coordinated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Anwar al-Awlaki was killed early Friday while riding in a convoy in eastern Yemen. Western news organizations quote U.S. officials as saying the raid was coordinated by the CIA and led by U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, the counterterrorism unit that led the May operation killing Osama bin Laden.

Several other suspected militants were also killed. The Associated Press quotes Yemeni Defense Ministry officials who say those suspects include Samir Khan, an American militant who produced an al-Qaida English-language magazine on the Internet.

The reports say U.S. aircraft were used in the mission. The U.S. has previously conducted unmanned drone attacks against al-Qaida targets in Yemen. Awlaki was linked to the group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen.

He was wanted by both the U.S. and Yemen for his suspected role in terrorist attacks.

Those attacks included the December 2009 attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner that was approaching the U.S. city of Detroit.

Authorities believe Awlaki advised the suspected bomber, Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Investigators believe Awlaki also played a role in a deadly attack, a month earier, at a U.S. military base.

They say Awlaki may have advised U.S. Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who is accused of killing 13 people in the attack.

Awlaki's death comes with Yemen in a political crisis, marked by heightened calls for President Abdullah Saleh's resignation.

Activists say thousands of anti-government protesters rallied in the capital, Sana'a on Friday and in the southern city of Taiz.

In an interview with The Washington Post and Time magazine this week, Mr. Saleh said a political transition plan crafted by Yemen's Gulf neighbors made it clear that "all elements" contributing to the country's civil unrest should be removed.

The president warned it would be "very dangerous" if his rivals, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who defected to the opposition, and Hamid al-Ahmar, a telecom tycoon and politician whose brother heads Yemen's most powerful tribal confederation, were to retain their positions after he resigns.

He said that outcome could "lead to civil war." Mr. Saleh has agreed to the plan crafted by the Gulf Cooperation Council three times since April.

However, each time he has backed out before the deal could be signed.

Quick Facts: Anwar al-Awlaki

Anwar al-Awlaki was a notorious and outspoken figure within al-Qaida, and a leader of the terrorist network's wing in Yemen.

He was targeted for his role in orchestrating terrorism aimed at the United States.

Born in New Mexico, USA in 1971 (Yemeni parents, fluent in Arabic and English)
He served as an imam at several U.S. mosques, including one in the western city of San Diego that was frequented by two men who later were involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States.
After Awlaki traveled to Yemen, he became an Internet sensation with a loyal following, including many radicals around the world who listened to recordings of his preachings.
Awlaki was a vocal critic of America and was suspected of motivating others to commit violence against U.S. interests.
Was wanted by authorities in US and Yemen.
2010: Yemen accuses him of "inciting violence against foreigners" for killing of French oil industry worker in Yemen
2009: Believed to have helped Nigerian suspect arrested for attempted Christmas Day bombing of US airliner
2009: Acted as advisor to US Army psychiatrist accused of carrying out mass shooting at military base that left 13 dead

Article by VOA News