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article imageWhite House: 4 US citizens killed in drone strikes since 2009

By JohnThomas Didymus     May 23, 2013 in World
Washington - The US government acknowledged publicly for the first time on Wednesday that four US citizens have been killed in drone strikes since 2009 in Pakistan and Yemen. The disclosure comes ahead of a national security speech by President Obama.
According to MSN News, in the letter he sent to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, the US Attorney General Eric Holder, said: "Since entering office, the president has made clear his commitment to providing Congress and the American people with as much information as possible about our sensitive counterterrorism operations. To this end, the president has directed me to disclose certain information that until now has been properly classified."
Holder acknowledged that four US citizens were killed in drone strikes since 2009. The letter identified the US citizens as the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in September 2011; his sixteen-year-old son, Abdulrahman, born in Denver and killed in Yemen two weeks after his father; Samir Khan, who was killed in the same drone strike as Al-Awlaki, and Jude Kenan Mohammed who was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan.
The letter explained that only one of the four Americans, Al-Awlaki, was targeted. It said the other three Americans were not targeted.
Al-awlaki is believed to have been one of al-Qaeda's major recruiters in the Arabian Peninsula. According to Holder, al-Awlaki was targeted because of his personal involvement in the planning and execution of terror attacks against the US. He is alleged to have directed the Nigerian-born "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the plan to blow up a US-bound Delta Air Lines jetliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009.
The acknowledgment by the US government comes ahead of Obama's first major speech detailing his administration's policy shift in counterterrorism.
According to The New York Times, President Obama has signed a new policy guidance that will curtail use of unmanned aircraft in areas such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia which are outside "overt" war zones. The rules will allow use of lethal force only against targets deemed as posing "a continuing, imminent threat to Americans” and who, in the circumstances, cannot be captured.
MSNBC reports that a preview of Obama's speech offered by a White House official, read: "President Obama will lay out the framework for U.S. counter-terrorism strategy... The President will provide the American people with an update on how the threat of terrorism has changed substantially since 9/11, as Al Qaeda’s core in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been decimated, and new threats have emerged from al Qaeda affiliates, localized extremist groups, and homegrown terrorists.
"The President will discuss our comprehensive strategy to meet these threats... he will speak at length about the policy and legal rationale for how the United States takes direct action against al Qaeda and its associated forces, including with drone strikes. He will discuss why the use of drone strikes is necessary, legal, and just, while addressing the various issues raised by our use of targeted action... the President will [also] discuss our broader strategy, including diplomatic and assistance efforts around the world, and how we can better secure our diplomatic facilities while remaining engaged in dangerous regions. He will also discuss how to balance securing our country and protecting our civil liberties at home. Finally, the President will reiterate his strong commitment to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo as a part of our effort to align our counter-terrorism strategy with our values..."
Digital Journal reported that as of March, 2013, cumulative statistics show that under the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, the US has conducted about 366 drone strikes. Monitoring groups estimate that between 2,500 and 3,500 people have been killed in drone strikes, mostly in Pakistan since 2004.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that 411-884 civilians have been killed, including 168-197 children.
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