US official: al-Awlaki dead in US attack in Yemen

The same U.S. military counterterrorism unit that got Osama bin Laden used a drone and jet strike in Yemen on Friday to kill the U.S.-born cleric suspected of inspiring or helping plan numerous attacks on the United States, including the Christmas 2009 attempt to blow up a jetliner, U.S. and Yemeni officials said.
Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a strike on his convoy directed by the CIA and carried out with the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command's firepower, according to a counterterrorist official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.
The cleric known for fiery anti-American rhetoric and use of the Internet to spread his message was suspected of inspiring the mass shooting at Fort Hood Army base in Texas in 2009 and taking a more direct role in the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound jetliner and the planning of other attacks on Americans.
He is the most prominent al-Qaida figure to be killed since bin Laden.
Word of his death from the U.S. comes after the government of Yemen reported that al-Awlaki was targeted and killed Friday about five miles from the town of Khashef, some 87 miles (140 kilometers) from the capital Sanaa.
U.S. counterterrorism officials said that counterterrorism cooperation between the U.S. and Yemen has improved in recent weeks, allowing the U.S. to gather better intelligence on al-Awlaki's movements. The ability to better track him was a key factor the successful strike, U.S. officials said. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
Al-Awlaki's death is the latest in a run of high-profile kills for Washington under President Barack Obama. But the killing raises questions that the death of other al-Qaida leaders, including bin Laden, did not.
Al-Awlaki is a U.S. citizen who had not been charged with any crime. Civil liberties groups have questioned the government's authority to kill an American without trial.
U.S. officials have said they believe al-Awlaki inspired the Fort Hood shooter, Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 attack at Fort Hood, Texas.
In New York, the Pakistani-American man who pleaded guilty to the May 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt said he was "inspired" by al-Awlaki after making contact over the Internet.
Al-Awlaki also is believed to have had a hand in mail bombs addressed to Chicago-area synagogues, packages intercepted in Dubai and Europe in October 2010.
Al-Awlaki's death "will especially impact the group's ability to recruit, inspire and raise funds as al-Awlaki's influence and ability to connect to a broad demographic of potential supporters was unprecedented," said terrorist analyst Ben Venzke of the private intelligence monitoring firm, the IntelCenter.
But Venzke said the terror group al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula will remain the most dangerous regional arm "both in its region and for the direct threat it poses to the U.S. following three recent failed attacks," with leader Nasir al-Wahayshi still at large.
Venzke said al-Awlaki was due to release a new article in the next issue of the terror group's magazine, justifying attacking civilians in the West.
"The article, which may already have been completed, was announced by the al-Qaida group on Tuesday as being entitled, `Targeting Populations of Countries at War with Muslims,'" he said.