In the first White House reaction to the killing of radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, President Obama said this morning that his death “is a major blow to al Qaeda’s most active operational affiliate.”
“Make no mistake, this is further proof that al Qaeda and its affiliates will find no safe haven anywhere in the world,” Obama said of the news that Awlaki was killed in Yemen overnight. “Working with Yemen and our other allies, we will be determined, we will be deliberate, we will be relentless, we will be resolute in our commitment to destroy terrorist networks that aim to kill Americans.”
The U.S.-born jihadist rose to prominence as chief of external operations for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and was instrumental in motivating several attacks on the United States, including the Fort Hood Massacre, the attempted Christmas Day bombing and the foiled Times Square bomb plot.
“He took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans,” Obama said at a the “Change of Office” ceremony for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at Fort Myer in Virginia.
The Obama administration has had Awlaki in its sights for some time and initially thought it might kill him on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. In April 2010, the American became the first U.S. citizen ever placed on a White House-approved list for targeted killing.
The president praised the intelligence community for this success and the efforts of Yemen and its security forces, which have worked closely with the United States. “[Awlaki's] hateful ideology and targeting of innocent civilians have been rejected by the vast majority of Muslims and peoples of all faiths. He has met his demise because the government and the people of Yemen have joined the international community in a common effort against al Qaeda,” Obama said.
Awlaki now joins a long list of terrorists killed under Obama’s watch, including most notably Osama bin Laden.