That it comes so quickly after the raid on Osama bin Laden could be a coincidence, or it could mean that the US is exploiting the terabytes of data collected in the raid that killed the al Qaeda leader.
The attack does not appear to have killed Mr. Awlaki, the officials said, but may have killed operatives of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen.Awlaki has made his reputation as being a top recruiter for al Qaeda and exploiting jihadi sentiments online.
It was the first American strike in Yemen using a remotely piloted drone since 2002, when the C.I.A. struck a car carrying a group of suspected militants, including an American citizen, who were believed to have Qaeda ties. And the attack came just three days after American commandos invaded a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and killed Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al Qaeda.
The attack on Thursday was part of a clandestine Pentagon program to hunt members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group believed responsible for a number of failed attempts to strike the United States, including the thwarted plot to blow up a trans-Atlantic jet on Dec. 25, 2009, as it was preparing to land in Detroit.
Although Mr. Awlaki is not thought to be one of the group’s senior leaders, he has been made a target by American military and intelligence operatives because he has recruited English-speaking Islamist militants to Yemen to carry out attacks overseas. His radical sermons, broadcast on the Internet, have a large global following.
The Obama administration has taken the rare step of approving Mr. Awlaki’s killing, even though he is an American citizen.
CNN reports that the Awlaki raid was not due to information garnered from the bin Laden raid. Further, this particular UAV airstrike was under the command of the Pentagon, not the CIA.