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For the First Time, Obama Administration Admits Drones Have Killed 4 American Citizens


"The decision to target Anwar al-Awlaki was lawful, it was considered, and it was just."

SIERRA VISTA, AZ - MARCH 07: A Predator drone operated by U.S. Office of Air and Marine (OAM), takes off for a surveillance flight near the Mexican border on March 7, 2013 from Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The OAM, which is part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, flies the unmanned - and unarmed - MQ-9 Predator B aircraft an average of 12 hours per day at around 19,000 feet. The drones, piloted from the ground, search for drug smugglers and immigrants crossing illegally from Mexico into the United States. Credit: Getty Images

Attorney General Eric Holder (Credit: AP)

Attorney General Eric Holder admitted in a letter to Congressional leaders on Wednesday that the United States had killed four Americans in drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan, the New York Times reports. President Barack Obama is set to give a major speech on national security on Thursday.

In the letter, obtained by the Times, Holder revealed that the administration had intentionally killed radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki with a drone strike in September 2011 in Yemen. While the U.S. has been largely suspected of responsibility in the assassination, the administration has never admitted it until now.

"The letter also said that the United States had killed three other Americans: Samir Khan, who was killed in the same strike; Mr. Awlaki’s son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was also killed in Yemen; and Jude Mohammed, who was killed in a strike in Pakistan," the New York Times reports.

"These individuals were not specifically targeted by the United States," Holder wrote.

FILE - This Oct. 2008 file photo shows Imam Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike. A public backlash is starting to grow in Yemen over civilians killed by American drones as the U.S. dramatically steps up its strikes against al-Qaida s branch here the past year. Relatives of those killed say the missile blasts hitting their towns only turn Yemenis against the U.S. campaign to crush militants. The drone strikes have taken out high-level targets in Yemen such as American-born cleric al-Awlaki, believed to have been a powerful tool for al-Qaida s recruiting in the West. Most, however, appear to target midlevel operatives. Credit: AP

There had reportedly been rumors about Mohammed's death in local North Carolina newspapers, however, his death had not been confirmed by the United States until Wednesday.

While three Americans were accidentally killed with drones, Holder maintained that al-Awlaki was targeted not for his radical message, but for direct actions in planning attacks.

"Moreover, information that remains classified to protect sensitive sources and methods evidences Awlaki’s involvement in the planning of numerous other plots against U.S. and Western interests and makes clear he was continuing to plot attacks when he was killed," Holder wrote, adding that the decision to target Anwar al-Awlaki "was lawful, it was considered, and it was just."

"Mr. Obama announced the death of Mr. Awlaki on Sept. 30, 2011, and credited United States intelligence agencies, but he did not explicitly acknowledge that Mr. Awlaki had been killed by an American strike," the Times report concludes.


Featured image via Getty

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