Family hits out at US in fury at fate of Anwar al-Awlaki's slain son

The family of a American teenager killed in Yemen during a US attack – a week after his terrorist father also died in a US strike – has lashed out at reports that the young man was a militant.

Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, 16, who was born in Denver, was the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, one of America's most-wanted men, whom an unmanned drone obliterated with a rocket in Yemen last month.

Some US newspapers described the American-born teenager as a militant in the mould of his notorious father, a preacher who was implicated in a series of alleged terrorist plots – including an attempt to bring down an airliner over Detroit – over the past five years.

Yet this week the young man's family, who said Abdulrahman left the US in 2002 when he moved to Yemen with his father, released a statement lashing out at the American media. The teenager's family "watched with surprise" as several newspapers and TV channels "twist the truth" [sic] about the young man," according to the statement. On the night of 14 October, the day Abdulrahman was killed by a US drone, he had "gone barbecuing under the moonlight" with his friends.

Recently posted Facebook photos on a tribute page showed a smiling, cherubic youngster, his glossy brown hair swept into a neat side parting. Others pictured a scrawny young teenager larking around with his friends.

The statement from the Awlaki family claimed the young man had been living in the Yemeni capital Sana'a until several weeks ago, when he disappeared after leaving a note for his mother saying he had gone to search for his father in Shabwah province, the family's ancestral homeland in south-east Yemen.

After the assassination of his father – who was described to one newspaper as "one of the most dangerous al-Qa'ida terrorists" by a US intelligence official – the teenager stayed in Shabwah. He was killed two weeks later.

Speaking to The Washington Post, Abdulrahman's grandfather – Anwar al-Awlaki's father – expressed disbelief that American drones, which have carried out two attacks in Yemen since the end of September, had killed such a young man. "To kill a teenager is just unbelievable, really, and they claim that he is an al-Qa'ida militant," Nasser al-Awlaki, a former Yemeni Agriculture Minister, said. "It's nonsense."

Regardless of whether Abdulrahman was the innocent victim of overwhelming American aggression, his death illustrates the growing signs of an escalation of US influence in the southern Arabian peninsula.

According to Yemeni officials, another victim of Friday's air strike was the Egyptian-born Ibrahim al-Banna, a man the country's Defence Ministry said was head of media for the Yemeni branch of al-Qa'ida.

This group, better known as al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has been identified by US intelligence chiefs as the most dangerous terrorist operation in the world. The recent escalation in drone strikes has been seen by some as part of the Obama administration's attempt to drive out its members, who operate in the mountains of the Yemeni highlands. "Everyone with interests in Yemen, including al-Qa'ida and the Americans, is raising the stakes at this time of uncertainty," Abdul-Bari Taher, an analyst, said. "The Americans are wasting no time to try and eliminate the al-Qa'ida threat before the militants dig in deeper and cannot be easily dislodged."

During his 2009 inaugural address, Barack Obama said that America must "reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence