American-born al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki has been killed by an airstrike in eastern Yemen, according to Yemeni and US officials. The radical preacher, a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has been a most-wanted terror suspect for years. He is the biggest target to go down since Osama bin Laden. Tribal elders in the area say an airstrike, apparently from a US drone, hit an al-Qaeda convoy, the AP reports. Previous reports of Awlaki's death have turned out to be mistaken, but the New York Times quotes senior administration officials as confirming.
Awlaki's online lectures have been connected to several terror attacks in the US and across the world, including the Fort Hood shooting, the would-be underwear bomber, and the would-be Times Square bomber of last year. He also had the distinction of being the first American placed on the CIA's "kill or capture" list. But a US official says his influence went beyond propaganda. “First and foremost, we’ve been looking at his important operational role,” the official tells the Times. “To the extent he’s no longer playing that role is all to the good.”