Al-Awlaki, another suspect who wasn’t arrested but unlawfully killed

Posted on | oktober 2, 2011 | No Comments

Anwar al-Awlaki

A United States unmanned drone yesterday killed the 40-year old cleric Anwar al-Awlaki somewhere in the Yemeni governorate of Jawf together with some other people that accompanied him. US officials believe that Awlaki was involved in an operational role in Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Also they think that Awlaki, who held dual American and Yemeni citizenship, was the man who recruited and prepared a young Nigerian who on Christmas Day 2009 tried to blow up a US airliner heading to Detroit by detonating explosives that were sewn into his underpants. (The attack was prevented by an attentive Dutch passenger). Awlaki, they believe, was particularly dangerous because his sermons in flawless English reached a very wide audience.

The Yemeni government announced that Al Awlaki was “targeted and killed” around 9.55am outside the town of Khasaf in a desert stretch of Jawf province, 140 kilometres east of Sanaa. Yemen’s Defence Ministry and US officials said a second American militant was killed in the same strike: Samir Khan, a US citizen of Pakistani heritage who produced Inspire, an English-language Al Qaeda Web magazine that spread the word on ways to carry out attacks inside the United States. US and Yemeni officials said two other militants were also killed in the strike but did not immediately identify them.

The operation that killed Al Awlaki was run by the US military’s counterterrorism unit, the Joint Special Operations Command – the same unit that killed bin Laden. US president Barack Obama declared Al Awlaki’s killing a “major blow” to Al Qaeda’s most active affiliate, and vowed a vigorous US campaign to prevent the terror network and its partners from finding safe haven anywhere in the world.

What is particularly worrisome in cases like the killing of Awlaki, Bin laden (and many others in and around Pakistan), is that many seem to believe that this is an acceptable practice in the war against terrorism. In fact these kinds of operations are nothing but extra-judicial killings, or rather: state sponsored murders that neglect all basic rights of its victims. The proper way to dal with people like Osma bin Laden, Awlaki and others like them, is to capture and try them. And by following that path it also would have been possible to determine what role Bin Laden exactly played in the preparation of the 9/11 attacks, or, in Awlaki’s case, to determine whether he was really responsible for the recruitment of the Nigerian underpants- bomber. And what is true of the allegations, which can be heard all over Yemen, that AQAP, or at least the Yemeni branch of it, is not really that dangerous at all, as it is to a large extend interconnected with forces loyal to president Ali Abdallah Saleh, or even a tool in Saleh’s hands, which he uses to show the Americans and the West in general, how indispensable he, Saleh, is in the combat against the terrorists acts that AQAP commits.

By killing Awlaki we will never hear more about him and his role in AQAP than the myths and rumours that were spread by various secret agencies. It is like the Israeli practice of ‘targeted killings’, which are also no more than state sponsored murders, and in which cases we also rarely hear whether there was even proof that connected the person(s) killed to certain acts (the recent killing on 18 August of six Palestinians connected to the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza after the attacks on a road near Eilat comes to mind).

I don’t know who started this practice of exta-judicial killings and when. Was it the Israelis who inspired the Americans or the other way round? The bottomline however, remains that killing a person – unless it is to stop him/here from committing a terrorist act that he/she is perpetrating just that very moment – is completely unlawful and violates the most basic rights of any person. It is shameful that the highest US authority – president Obama – backs the practice and even applauds it.

And of course the practice to kill with missiles usually also kills bystanders:
The National, a paper in Dubai, reported that more people were killed in teh attack than the official sources initially mentiond. A tribal leader who requested anonymity gave an account of the strike based on information from Khamis Arfaaj, the owner of the house in which Al Awlaki was staying. Mr Khamis said Al Awlaki and six others took their breakfast and moved about 600 metres away from the house. Once they had their food ready, they noticed aircraft overhead. They moved to their car but a missile hit it. It killed Al Alwaki, Salem bin Arfaaj, Mohammed al Naaj and Khan. Mr Khamis said two others thought to be from the Gulf and a seventh person who remains unknown were also killed. He said the bodies were collected into four sacks and buried in the village of Al Khasf. He said Al Awlaki was in transit to neighbouring Marib province.

Residents of the area said at least seven US drones were seen patrolling the skies during the last three weeks.

AUTHOR: Martin Hijmans
E-MAIL: m.hijmans [at]


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