The family of radical Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki has issued a statement condemning the killing of Awlaki and of Awlaki's teen son, and accusing the U.S. of lying about the younger Awlaki's age in order to "clear itself from the killing of the innocents."
Anwar al-Awlaki, an al Qaeda leader linked to multiple terror attacks in the U.S. and Britain, was killed along with al Qaeda propagandist Samir Khan in a Sept. 30 CIA drone strike in Yemen. Abdulrahman al-Awlaki died in a separate U.S. drone strike on Oct. 14 along with six others, including Ibrahim al-Bana, an Egyptian whom U.S. officials identified as an operational al Qaeda leader. Anwar al-Awlaki, his son and Samir Khan were all U.S. citizens.
"After Sheikh Anwar was martyred we were bereaved again by the martyrdom of his eldest son Abdulrahman," said the statement, which appeared on a militant web site, "but this time the lies have increased and this is why we have had to respond to clarify."
"Abdulrahman bin Anwar Al Awlaki was born in the American city of Denver, Colorado on August 26 1995. He thus isn't 21 or 27 years old but rather only 16 years old. He has been a resident of the city of Sana'a since he returned from America with his family in 2002." Initial media reports had stated that Abdulrahman was 21.
According to the statement, the younger Awlaki had traveled from Sana'a, Yemen's capital, to the Awlaki tribe's ancestral home of Shabwa to search for his father prior to the Sept. 30 CIA strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, Khan, and two other men. When he learned of his father's death, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki prepared to return to the capital, but was killed by the U.S. "On the night of October 14," said the statement, "he went out with his friends for dinner in the moonlight and they were struck by an American rocket that killed Abdulrahman and his friends."
"Just as the father was killed unjustly and belligerently, America didn't quench its thirst for revenge with the killing of the sheikh Anwar, whose person and personality she tried over and over again," said the statement. "Now she has killed his son gratuitously and belligerently."
According to the statement, a 17-year-old member of the Awlaki clan also died in the strike.
Photos of Awlaki and his teen son appeared on the militant website along with the family's statement. A second photo of Abdul-Rahman also appeared alongside a photo of the elder Awlaki as part of a memorial to father and son on the Facebook page of a teenage Awlaki relative. The Facebook tribute gave Abdulrahman's date of death as Oct. 14, the date of the second strike.
A U.S. official familiar with the strike said that the U.S. government had not yet confirmed that Awlaki's son had been killed in the strike.
The strike was conducted by the US military in an effort to target al-Banna, who US officials describe as a "big deal," though they did not elaborate. One official asserted that Banna was "operational." A second official said the strike was carried out by a U.S. military drone. The elder Awlaki was killed by a CIA strike.