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Al-Qaeda Joins Civil Liberties Groups in Questioning Legality of Killing U.S. Citizen Awlaki


The feel it would have been lawful to kill the cleric only if it were not possible to take him alive.

According to a report in The Washington Post, al-Qaeda is, audaciously, questioning the legality of the killings of jihadists Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan -- both of whom happened to be U.S. citizens. Al-Qaeda has criticized the Obama administration for killing U.S. citizens, asserting that doing so “contradicts” American law. Both men were killed in a U.S. drone strike last month.

“Where are what they keep talking about regarding freedom, justice, human rights and respect of freedoms?!” a statement made by the militant group says, according to a translation by SITE Intelligence Group.

But al-Qaeda is not alone in its thinking and the killing of Awlaki and Khan has even elicited scorn among U.S. civil liberties groups, as well as prompted debate in legal circles about the basis for the administration's position on the two militants. The Post adds:

The Washington Post’s Peter Finn reported after the strike that Awlaki’s killing had been authorized in a secret Justice Department memo, a revelation that later prompted senior Democratic senators and scholars to call for its release. Over the weekend, The New York Times quoted people who have read the document as saying that the memo found it would be lawful to kill the cleric only if it were not possible to take him alive. The memo, the Times said, was narrowly drawn to the specifics of Awlaki’s case.


Among those who have raised legal objections to the strike: Samir Khan’s family in Charlotte, N.C.

In a statement, the family said that, Khan was a “law-abiding citizen of the United States” and “was never implicated of any crime.”

“Was this style of execution the only solution?” the family said. “Why couldn’t there have been a capture and trial?”

Khan’s relatives also described themselves as “appalled by the indifference shown to us by our government,” saying they had not been contacted by a U.S. official.

After the release of the statement, the Charlotte Observer reported, an official from the State Department called the family last week to offer the government’s condolences.

“They were very apologetic [for not calling the family sooner] and offered condolences,” Jibril Hough, a family spokesman, told the Observer.

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