US Attorney General Eric Holder said today that four Americans, including Jude Mohammed, who was rumored to have been killed in a drone strike two years ago, have died in US “counterterrorism operations” since 2009. Mohammed had been arrested in Pakistan for attempting to enter the tribal areas, but evaded a trial after skipping bail.
Holder noted that Anwar al Awlaki, Samir Khan, and Anwar’s son Abdul Rahman were also killed. All three are known to have died in US drone strikes in 2010. But Anwar was the only one who was “specifically targeted,” according to a letter that was sent to senior Congressmen today and obtained by ABC News.
“Since 2009, the United States, in the conduct of US counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda and its associated forces outside of areas of active hostilities, has specifically targeted and killed one US citizen, Anwar al Awlaki,” Holder said, while not identifying the “associated forces.”
“The United States is further aware of three other US citizens who have been killed in such US counterterrorism operations over that same time period: Samir Khan, ‘Abd al-Rahman Anwar al Awlaki and Jude Kenan Mohammed. These individuals were not specifically targeted by the United States,” Holder continued.
Anwar al Awlaki and Samir Khan were killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in September 2011. Anwar served as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s external operations commander, recruiter, and a senior ideologue. Khan served as the editor of Inspire, AQAP’s English-language magazine that incites Western Muslims to wage jihad and carry out operations on their own.
Abdul Rahman al Awlaki, Anwar’s son, was killed in a drone strike just weeks after his father was killed. The strike that killed Abdul Rahman had targeted Ibrahim al Bana, AQAP’s media emir. According to a Yemeni journalist who has spent time with AQAP, Abdul Rahman said just hours before he was killed that he hoped “to attain martyrdom as my father attained it.”
Anwar, Khan, and Abdul Rahman were all operating in areas under direct AQAP control.
Mohammed is suspected of being a member of an eight-man cell of Muslims from North Carolina who conspired to wage jihad overseas. The seven others, who were led by Daniel Boyd, are believed to have taken a half dozen trips in an effort to engage in violent jihad abroad; each attempt ended in failure.
Mohammed was more successful in traveling overseas and joining other jihadists. He was arrested in 2008 while trying to illegally enter Pakistan’s tribal areas. A Pakistani judge granted Mohammed bail, despite the fact that he was on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists; the US Department of Justice said he sought “to engage in violent jihad.” He promptly disappeared, never to be tried.
Friends of Mohammed said that he was last heard from in the fall of 2011. One friend told WRAL that Mohammed was killed in a drone strike in November 2011. His death was never confirmed, but he was never heard from again.
The date and location of the strike were not given. The US conducted two strikes in November 2011, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. Both strikes took place in Miramshah, the main town in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan [see LWJ reports, US Predator strike kills 3 Haqqani Network fighters in North Waziristan and US Predators strike in Miramshah].
Miramshah is administered by the Haqqani Network, a Taliban subgroup that is based in North Waziristan and fights US and Afghan forces across the border in Afghanistan. The Haqqani Network has close ties to al Qaeda and is backed by Pakistan’s military and Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Pakistan has rebuffed US pressure to launch an offensive against the Haqqani Network and the plethora of terror groups, including al Qaeda, that are based in North Waziristan. The US has resorted to using drones to target key terrorist operatives, commanders, and leaders, but has failed to dislodge these groups from North and neighboring South Waziristan.