Anwar al-Awlaki (also spelled Aulaqi; Arabic: أنور العولقي Anwar al-'Awlaqī; April 22, 1971 September 30, 2011) was a Yemeni-American imam who was an engineer and educator by training. According to U.S. officials, he was a senior talent recruiter and motivator who was involved with planning operations for the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda. He was implicated in helping to motivate at least three attacks on U.S. soil, and was the first U.S. citizen to be approved for targeted killing, in direct violation of the United States Constitution. With a blog, a Facebook page, and many YouTube videos, he had been described as the "bin Laden of the Internet". Obama described Awlaki as "the leader of external operations for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula".
Al-Awlaki reportedly spoke with, trained, and preached to a number of al-Qaeda members and affiliates, including three of the 9/11 hijackers, alleged Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan, and alleged "Christmas Day bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab; he was also reportedly involved in planning the latter's attack.
According to U.S. officials, al-Awlaki was promoted to the rank of "regional commander" within al-Qaeda in 2009. He repeatedly called for jihad against the United States. In April 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama approved Al-Awlaki's targeted killing, an action unsuccessfully challenged by al-Awlaki's father and civil rights groups.
Al-Awlaki was believed to be in hiding in Southeast Yemen in the last years of his life. The Yemenese government began trying him in absentia in November 2010, for plotting to kill foreigners and being a member of al-Qaeda, and a Yemeni judge ordered that he be captured "dead or alive". U.S. unmanned drones were deployed in Yemen to search for and kill him, firing at and failing to kill him at least once, before killing him in a drone attack in Yemen on September 30, 2011.