US ‘APPROVES KILLING’ US-BORN CLERIC ANWAR AL-AWLAKI
The US government has authorised operations to capture or kill the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, currently based in Yemen, reports say.
The cleric, who is a US citizen, is being targeted for his involvement in planning attacks on the US, officials told journalists.
Mr Awlaki was linked to the attempted bombing of an airliner bound for the US and a shooting on a US Army base.
The US has warned Yemen is becoming a safe haven for al-Qaeda.
The order was made by the Obama administration earlier this year, but it has just been revealed after a review of national security policy, the New York Times reported.
“The danger Awlaki poses to this country is no longer confined to words, he's gotten involved in plots,” unnamed officials told the newspaper.
Awlaki knows what he's done, and he knows he won't be met with handshakes and flowers
Profile: Anwar al-Awlaki
Unnamed officials quoted by the Reuters news agency confirmed the story, saying that Mr Awlaki had been placed on a “US target list” of people it had authorised to kill or capture.
The list, maintained by the CIA, is thought to be of people the US government believes are planning terrorist attacks against the US.
Because Mr Awlaki is an American citizen, his addition had to be approved by the US National Security Council, the paper reported.
“Awlaki knows what he's done, and he knows he won't be met with handshakes and flowers. None of this should surprise anyone,” the New York Times quoted the official as saying.
Mr Awlaki was born in New Mexico, but is currently based in Yemen.
The Yemeni government, with support from the US and Saudi Arabia, has bombed suspected al-Qaeda hideouts in the last few months.
But some analysts have warned that Yemen may become a failed state because of the fragile hold the Yemeni government has on its own country.
Mr Awlaki was linked to an attack by a US Army major on the Fort Hood base last November, in which 13 people died.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a plane on its way into Detroit airport on Christmas Day 2009, allegedly met Mr Awlaki in Yemen weeks before boarding a US-bound plane in Lagos.
The cleric became popular among Islamic radicals for his firebrand preaching in English which endorsed the use of violence as a religious duty.
He lived and studied in the US where he was an imam in San Diego, where his sermons were attended by two of the 9/11 hijackers.
He fled the US in 2007 and went to Yemen.