Anwar al-Awlaki, one of most wanted terrorists of al Qaeda on a U.S. target list, has been killed in Yemen by an airstrike, according to both Yemeni and U.S. officials.
This is another significant blow to al Qaeda after Osama bin Laden's death earlier this year.
Al-Awlaki, who has been on the run and hiding in Yemen's remote tribal highlands for years, was killed at approximately 9:55 a.m. local time outside a village in the northeastern province of Jawf on Thursday, according to a Yemeni government announcment.
The Associated Press reported that an unidentified source said the U.S. believes the strike consisted of U.S. jets and drones, killing al-Awlaki on his convoy.
Al-Awlaki has long been among the top of the U.S. target list in Yemen. Born in New Mexico, the cleric and leading recrutier for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a group the U.S. considers the world's most dangerous terror organization, has used his clear English, American roots, and powerful speaking skills to have attract many young Muslims from within the U.S. to the cause of jihad.
U.S. officials have linked al-Awlaki to at least three major terrorist incidents: the Fort Hood shootings in which 13 people were killed, the Christmas 2009 plot to blow up a U.S.-bound passenger plane and a separate plan to blow up a U.S.-bound cargo plane.
Al-Awlaki started to gain recognition in 2009 as an Internet-based spiritual guide aiding the radicalization of a new generation of Islamist extremists. The U.S. added al-Awlaki to the CIA's target list after AQAP's failed attempt in the Christmas 2009 plot.
In May, al-Awlaki survived an American drone assault after he switched vehicles.
Ben Venzke, who heads intelligence contracting group IntelCenter in the Washington area, told CBSNews that although al-Awlaki is dead, it will not seriously diminish the threat posed by the al Qaeda franchise.
AQAP remains one of the most dangerous al Qaeda regional arms both in its region and for the direct threat it poses to the U.S. following three recent failed attacks, said Venzke. AQAP leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi, who is responsible for expanding the group's focus to conduct attacks on U.S. soil, remains in charge of the group and further attempts to conduct attacks in the U.S. are expected.