Four American citizens have been killed in counter-terrorism drone strikes since 2009, the Obama administration acknowledged for the first time Wednesday.
Attorney General Eric Holder disclosed the previously classified information in a letter to a top senator that also included the names of those killed and the revelation that only one was directly targeted in the strikes that began in 2009. He did not specifically call them drone strikes – rather, he referred to “counterterrorism operations” – but most of the individuals he mentioned are known to have died in drone strikes.
The targeted individual, Anwar al-Awlaki, was a radical Muslim cleric whom U.S. officials said was involved in planning Al Qaeda operations and terror attacks. He was killed in September 2011 in Yemen.
The acknowledgement came ahead of a major counterterrorism policy speech by President Obama scheduled for Thursday.
Holder said in the letter that the Obama administration is “aware” of three other U.S. citizens killed in such counter-terrorism operations besides al-Awlaki: Samir Khan, Jude Kennan Mohammed and Awlaki’s son Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki, Holder said.
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