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Panetta: Awlaki Airstrike Shows U.S.-Yemeni Cooperation

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2011 – An airstrike that killed Yemeni-based terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki early this morning is a testament to the close cooperation between the United States and Yemen, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.

During a media availability with Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay at the Pentagon, Panetta said Awlaki -- a U.S.-born Muslim cleric who used his English-language skills to advocate violence against Americans as part of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula -- had long been a target of U.S.-Yemeni counterterrorism operations.

“This has been a bad year for terrorists,” he said. “We just have seen another major blow against al-Qaida, against someone who truly was an operational arm of al-Qaida in this node in Yemen.”

Awlaki was high on the military-intelligence list of terrorist targets, close behind Osama bin Laden, because he “continued to try to inspire people to attack this country,” Panetta said.

“This country is much safer because of the loss of Awlaki,” he added.

President Barack Obama announced the killing of Awlaki this morning at the retirement ceremony of Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Calling Awlaki “the leader of external operations” for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Obama said his death “marks another significant milestone in the broader effort to defeat al-Qaida and its affiliates.”

Obama and Panetta congratulated the Yemenis on their intelligence and operational assistance in targeting Awlaki.


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Leon E. Panetta

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The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

9/30/2011 8:33:11 PM
Another surprise blow to Al-Qaida thanks to the United States and Yemen. Mr. Awlaki was indeed a dangerous person because of his abilities to communicate his messages to young Muslims throughout the world. After all, several people, including soon to be former Army Major Nidal Hassan, communicated with this man via the Internet prior to executing their "missions of jihad". Even though the U.S. is dealing with budget issues, this event proves that we must continue these operations against these enemies of the state no matter how long it takes.
- Shawn McFadden, USNS Patuxent

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