By Vittorio Hernandez

Marib, Yemen

U.S.-born radical Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki has been killed in Yemen. The information came from Yemen's Defense Ministry, which was confirmed by U.S. administration officials.

Awlaki, a suspected al-Qaeda leader, was identified by Washington as a specially designated global terrorist because of his alleged role in several attacks.

The death of Awlaki is considered a boost to U.S. President Barack Obama's popularity because he could claim the death of two of the top global terrorists on his watch. Obama allegedly ordered the killing of the cleric.

Reports, however, are sketchy how Awlaki died.

The only details provided by Yemeni's Defense Ministry, which announced the death on national television, was that Awlaki died along with some companions. Reports from tribes said Awlaki died in an air strike in Marib province, an al-Qaeda stronghold. The report did not state if Awlaki was killed by Yemeni forces or a U.S. drone strike.

Awlaki played a vital role in al-Qaeda's ability to launch sophisticated and coordinated attacks after the U.S. launch of the War on Terror after the 9/11 attack. limited the group's capabilities.

He was the mentor of Nidal Malik Hasan, who shot dead 13 people at an American military base in Fort Hood, TX, in November 2009. Hasan exchanged 18 emails with Awlaki.

Another Awlaki trainee was Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber who attempted to explode a jet over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009. Abdulmutallab acknowledged he was mentored by the cleric.

One advantage Awlaki had over other radical Islamists was his ability to reach non-Arabic speakers because of his fluent English.

He was also seen as a possible successor to Osama bin Laden. In May, the U.S. came close to killing Awlaki four days after bin Laden was shot dead.

According to reports, Yemeni intelligence provided a tip that Awlaki was in the Yemeni province of Shabwa. The tip led to the organization of a special operations AC-130 gunship with Griffin missiles, Harrier jump jets and two Predator drones. However, errors in using the laser guidance system caused the first missile to miss and provided Awlaki the opportunity to call other vehicles and confuse the troops pursuing him.


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