Middle East
1:00 am
Fri September 30, 2011

U.S.-Born Radical Cleric Awlaki Reportedly Killed

Originally published on Fri September 30, 2011 6:06 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, Host:

And I'm David Greene.

In Yemen, the government announced the death today of American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Yemen's Defense Ministry announced the death in a statement but provided very few other details.

INSKEEP: Awlaki is perhaps the best-known English speaking advocate of violence against the United States. And he has been linked to major crimes in the United States.

GREENE: Joining us from the Yemeni capital of San'a is journalist Laura Kasinof.

And, Laura, thank for talking to us. Give us an update on the death of al-Awlaki.

LAURA KASINOF: Yes, it was announced by Yemen's Defense Ministry this morning that Awlaki had been killed. I spoke with a senior official within the security apparatus who said that he was killed traveling between two provinces in northern Yemen. And that's about all we have right now. We're not really sure who killed him. Was it Yemenis? Was it an American drone strike? Right now, the information is a bit vague.

GREENE: Remind us, if you can: he's been tied to the deaths of some Americans. He's been tied to attempts to kill many more Americans. Remind us of some of the events that he's been involved with.

KASINOF: Well, Awlaki sort of burst into the American consciousness when it was found out that he inspired the Fort Hood shooter in fall of 2009, in that terrorist attack that took place in the United States.

GREENE: And I think 13 people were killed at U.S. Army base in that event.

KASINOF: Yes, and then as well - and this was again another major attack attempt - he was linked to the underwear bomber, the Nigerian Omar Farouk Abdullahtallab, who was an Arabic student here in San'a and then tried to travel to the United States with explosive devices in his underpants.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

KASINOF: Hence, the underwear bomber. And he was believed to have contact with Anwar al-Awlaki. I believe there was email contact back and forth.

And then there's a number of other things that Awlaki is said to be loosely linked with. He's certainly a prominent figure within the English-language propaganda that comes out of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

GREENE: The Americans have been trying to go after him for a long time. How has he evaded Americans for so long?

KASINOF: That is a very good question. I mean one problem - and this is what makes this, the announcement of his death very interesting - the timing right now and the times when, you know, the United States is trying diplomatically to get president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, out of office. One thing is the counterterrorism relationship between Yemen and America has been - let's just say, it hasn't been great. While we are allowed - sometimes there, it's believed that the Yemeni government might withhold certain information from the American government.

They haven't been as cooperative as we would have liked them to be. And so, the Yemeni government hasn't gone after al-Awlaki probably in the way that the United States would've liked. However, now, with the announcement of his death it's very interesting that the timing. And Saleh's family, the president of Yemen's family, are the responsible ones for counterterrorism operations here.

So it makes it interesting if they're trying to stay in office, perhaps that now they would be more cooperative with the U.S., either in providing information to the United States or in actually going after Awlaki themselves.

GREENE: We've been talking to journalist Laura Kasinof in the Yemeni capital, San'a.

Laura, thank you.

KASINOF: Yeah, thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.