Counterterrorism drone strikes have killed four Americans overseas since 2009, the U.S. government acknowledged for the first time on Wednesday, one day before President Barack Obama delivers a major speech on related policy.
In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, Attorney General Eric Holder said the United States specifically targeted and killed one American citizen, al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, in 2011 in Yemen, alleging he was plotting attacks against the United States.The letter provided new details about al-Awlaki's alleged involvement in bomb plots targeting U.S. aviation.Holder also said the Obama administration was aware of three other Americans who had been killed in counterterrorism operations overseas.Holder said Samir Kahn, Abdul Rahman Anwar al-Awlaki and Jude Kenan Mohammed were not targeted by the United States but he did not add more details about their deaths.The letter represents the first U.S. admission that the four were killed in counterterror strikes even though their deaths had been reported in the media.Abdul Rahman Anwar Al-Awlaki was the 16-year-old son of the al Qaeda cleric and was killed in Pakistan about two weeks after his father's death.Khan produced the English-language magazine Inspire for al Qaeda's affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula, which included bomb-making instruction. He was killed alongside the elder al-Awlaki.Mohammed, who was once on the FBI's Most Wanted list, was indicted in July 2009 as part of a North Carolina-based terror ring. He was charged with plotting to murder, kidnap or maim persons overseas and provide material support to terrorists. Mohammed was never arrested and for a time reportedly was living in Pakistan.The Justice Department did not say when he was killed or provide any details.Obama will deliver long-promised remarks on Thursday at National Defense University and will speak at length about the policy and legal rationale for how the United States takes action against al Qaeda and its affiliates, including the use of drones, according to a White House official.