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Grandfather grieves teenage grandson killed by U.S. drone

December 5th, 2012
05:29 PM ET

U.S. drone strikes killing Americans

Debate over U.S. drone strikes

By Mick Krever, CNN

Two years ago, Nasser al-Awlaki wrote a letter to President Obama. His request was simple: Please do not kill my son.

He never got a response. Last September, his son, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born al Qaeda leader, was killed by a U.S. drone in a remote area of Northern Yemen. Two weeks later, his 16-year-old grandson, Anwar’s son, was also killed, in a separate U.S. strike hundreds of miles away.

“Anwar, it was expected, because he was … targeted,” Nasser al-Awlaki told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. “But how in the world they will go and kill Abdulrahman, a small boy, a U.S. citizen, from Denver, Colorado?”

Nasser’s son, Anwar, was born in New Mexico in 1971 while he was studying for his master’s degree. The family moved back to Yemen, but Anwar returned to the U.S. for college, and became an imam in California.

For years, his father said, he gave sermons “like any other preacher.” But slowly, Anwar’s rhetoric became more and more radical. Eventually, he would become a leading figure in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Anwar’s online videos because an inspiration to a generation of Jihadists, including the so-called Christmas Day underwear bomber.

Nasser’s chief concern, however, his is grandson, Adulrahman.

“I took care of him,” al-Awlaki said. “I want to know why Abdulrahman was killed. He is only a small boy. I wanted to send him to America to study like his father, like myself, like my other son.”

Al-Awlaki is suing four U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Former CIA Director David Petraeus over his son and grandson’s deaths.

He alleges that the government did not follow due process in killing American-born Anwar and Adulrahman.

“I am not looking for compensation, I am not looking for money,” he said. “What I am looking is justice from the U.S. court system, because I feel my son and my grandson Abdulrahman were killed for no reason.”

What he is looking for is a clear accounting of why his son and grandson were killed.

Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, Anwar’s son and Nasser’s grandson, had no-known ties to terrorism. He was born in Colorado and spent the first half of his life in the United States.

“After two years absence from his father, he decided to go to our governorate in Yemen to seek information about his father. That was the only reason he went,” al-Awlaki said.

Abdulrahman snuck out the Sana’a house where he lived with his grandfather, left a note to his mother apologizing, and set out into the Yemeni desert.

“[Abdulrahman] wanted to come back, but then after two days he was also killed,” al-Awlaki said. “You know, he is not a militant. He is a nice boy. He has a Facebook page, and he had a lot of friends. He is a decent boy, small boy. You know he wore glasses since he was seven years old. He’s very gentle, soft boy. How can people say he’s a militant?”

CNN’s Ken Olshansky produced this piece for television.

Filed under:  Drone • Latest Episode • Yemen
soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. Shmilfke

    "How dare the Pentagon kill US citizens! I don't care if they were plotting and carrying out terror attacks against innocent Americans – I specifically asked the govt not to kill them but they did anyway! How dare they! American's are slimy lying beasts. Therefore I shall sue them in American court (a truthful one)!"

    December 5, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Reply
    • owen

      So you think america should be distracted by its citizens or young or innocent souls like it has be claimed the what you are saying is we should let them grow or defeat our effort in the drone strikes, just to let you know any one that associate or put their american born citizens in shielding them selves will not distract us they all deserve to die.God bless america

      December 6, 2012 at 6:07 am | Reply
      • tedbohne

        do you actually think the US cares one wit what the american people think? americans have to be the most willing ignorant people on earth. they have no effective ground force, so they use "contractors" and drones. "lead from the rear." the world HATES this country because of it's ongoing terrorist activity world wide. eventually the US may have to be destroyed to stop this senseless killing. raining down nukes has to have been considered by other superpowers. the US MUST BE STOPPED.

        December 6, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
      • Jean

        A government that would resort to drone strikes against people rumored to be in opposition to US interests is devoid of
        morals. In short, we have the lowest form of criminals running our military. Nothing less then murder incorporated. And if the so called poll showing a majority of Americans approving of drone strikes are accurate, the morals of the US people have sunk to new lows. They have not sufficient intelligence to realize that that same method can be used against them or their loved ones, and may well be in the future. Pure evil, and all for the love of money.

        December 8, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • chris

      You are aware of the Bill of Rights?

      December 6, 2012 at 10:28 am | Reply
    • Lucas

      Ahh, the wholesale buying of unproven govt. propaganda. Ignorance really is bliss after all.

      December 6, 2012 at 10:35 am | Reply
    • Real American

      Did you ever ask your son not to try and kill "other Americans"?
      Strange how he did not listen to you either.
      Do us real Americans a favor GET THE HELL OUT OF OUR COUNTRY YOU SLIM BAG!!!

      February 8, 2013 at 9:20 am | Reply
      • Real Real American

        "Real American?" Judged by the words you write, you're nothing better than a dirty Stalinist thug. When did America become Might Makes Right? You have taken effort to address several posts here, but you have the same monotone response to diverse points: Demonstrably you can't read or comprehend. If you think that dissent gets in the way of your bloody rampage, clearly you choose a gun, incapable of ethical judgment. The spirit of terrorism is to include third party actors, a cowardly appeal to mass effect. The cheap choice of gangsters. This is what you explicitly advocate, and implicitly endorse. And then you equate that with "Real America;" would you take your own advice and eject?

        May 23, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • JKC

      This problematic issue is this: without due process, how do we know our government's accusations are accurate or even truthful? I have no problem with taking out a known terrorist regardless of who issued his or her passport, but how can we have blind faith in our government to make these determinations when it comes to summarily executing US citizens, especially children?

      Recall that poor security guard, Richard Jewell, from the Atlanta Olympics bomb that was falsely accused by the FBI for a decade prior to the real perpetrator coming to light. His life was ruined by the FBI. Would he have been subject to assassination if that bomb occurred in this decade?

      What Dr. Steven Hatfill, the American biologist who was accused of the anthrax mail attacks in the wake of 9-11. His career and reputation were ruined as well until 10 years later the FBI figures out that it was a different man altogether who was responsible.

      So we're ok with targeting and assassinating a child because of who his father was just because our government says "trust us, he was bad news"?

      If you follow this sort of reasoning to it's logical end, you can see how many problems it creates. And not just moral problems, but practical and pragmatic problems. If "American citizen and child" isn't where the line is drawn, where exactly is that line (if it exists at all)?

      May 23, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Reply
  2. tedbohne

    suspected terrorists? what about KNOWN terrorists. these drone pilots don't have visual capability as with manned aircraft. the US government refuses to explain the fraud of 911. this terrorist war fraud and killing more innocents than KNOWN terrorists. this government knows that Al Qaeda is a computer program that contains a list Mujahedeen. this is all a US lie.

    December 6, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Reply
    • Real American

      Really? Do you actually think anyone believes this stuff your babbling on about?
      You are very alone in your little corner of the world...

      February 8, 2013 at 9:22 am | Reply
  3. tedbohne

    other countries should shoot down ANY DRONE. the "joystick jockeys" are dealing with what is no more accurate than first flights with Microsoft's famous Flight computer programs. they must be stopped. Iran has taken appropriate steps to in terms of US invading their sovereignty by shooting down these cowardly expensive garbage.

    December 6, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Reply
    • Real American

      "Expensive garbage"? It's worth every cent if it saves one American life!
      Did the terrorist think about the cost on 9-11?
      No they killed out of shear stupidity turned into hatred. And now you complain that justice is being served!

      February 8, 2013 at 9:24 am | Reply
  4. Abdul

    This targeted killings are appalling especially of American citizens. While I accept the fact a country has to protect its citizens even if it means going abroad, I think the US has actually overdone it. The killing of the kid Abdulrahman al-Awlaki is criminal and sheer wickedness. He's not his father and Obama, who also has teenage son – yes, he does – should know that.
    I hope God grant him al-jannah firdaus.

    December 6, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Reply
    • Real American

      His father was a terrorist (enemy of the US) and Obama is the President of the US.
      There is a small difference there...and please prove he was so "innocent"...

      February 8, 2013 at 9:26 am | Reply
  5. jcweaver

    Bad place, bad timing. Things happen, even to the innocent. Kid decided to wander off away from home. No control over collateral damage, which sucks. Father turned radical, while the son went to find out what happened to him. The boy found out the hard way, alone in the wilderness. No way for the US to know about the boy. No troops to look after him while he chose to sneak out into the wilderness to get answers. Brave, but, stupid. Never occurred to the family their whole country turned into a warzone.

    December 6, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Reply
    • Jean

      You are so far off base it is pathetic. The young 16 year old boy was targeted. As is the case with most young people
      to day, they have cell phones and their location can be determined by that. Once that is known the technology allows
      the drones to zero in on the victim. Those killed around him were collateral damage but his killing was cold blooded murder by a bunch of computer zombies that could never look a real man in the eye. The US is the greatest terrorist organization in the world today but they are ruled by the same people that run our monetary system which is a 100 year old scam designed to impoverish the people and enslave them with unrepayable debt.

      December 8, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Reply
      • Real American

        You have got reality problems my friend. You're definitely not in it.

        February 8, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  6. toto

    ameriKa is the greatest purveyor of violence and the largest exporter of terrorism in the world today and like any anti-social psychopath that can't get along with its neighbors the solution is for the rest of the world to unite then occupy, disarm then dissolve this united states of mordor for the health and well-being of all living things here on this planet....And this needs to be done very very soon...

    December 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Reply
    • Real American

      What? Could someone translate this please? My "garbage" translator is not working...

      February 8, 2013 at 9:34 am | Reply
    • ernie

      thats the silliest statement in history. i hope your stupid ass gets blown up by a jihadist . that ll teach you sense.

      May 24, 2013 at 2:45 am | Reply
  7. Tornade

    It seems to be dictatorship that kill everybody that think and behave different of their instructions. Please US gvt behave as a real democracy, people deserve a fair judgement before be murdered.

    December 8, 2012 at 8:42 am | Reply
    • ernie


      May 24, 2013 at 2:42 am | Reply
  8. AC

    Soldiers oath is to protect our country from foreign or domestic enemies.

    February 5, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Reply
  9. Kerry

    And all Americans are now safer without those extemists in the world. They have to go to the back of the line and reincarnate into kinder souls if they want to move forward in the Universe.

    February 5, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Reply
  10. Renato Botelho

    Some years ago URSS was blamed by USA for some political killings abroad. Now USA has an official and public killing system with drones. Is it possible to accept that a wrong action is now correct?

    February 8, 2013 at 4:54 am | Reply
  11. J Sharmini

    “You know, he is not a militant. He is a nice boy. He has a Facebook page, and he had a lot of friends. He is a decent boy, small boy. You know he wore glasses since he was seven years old. He’s very gentle, soft boy. How can people say he’s a militant?”

    So, if someone has an FB page, has a lot of friends, is small statured & wears glasses, he's a "nice" boy, and can't ever be a militant ?
    Oh, for crying out loud, just listen to the sheer crap coming out of this idiot's mouth !

    We don't know for sure what he was doing in Yemen, so we can't really sya he wasn't a part of his father's "team", can we ?
    Until we know the facts, we can't rule out that this kid could have been a militant/terrorist-in-making.
    The ones here who're so actively condemning the targeted drone attack(s), wouldn't be feeling so charitable, if this same kid grew up & blew their loved ones up in smithereens !
    You won't know loss until you've experienced it.
    Good riddance to bad rubbish I say !

    February 8, 2013 at 7:17 am | Reply
    • _aleph_

      So what happenned to innocent until proven guilty?

      February 8, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Reply
  12. KDS

    It may be very useful to read about the French Revolution at this point....especially for Americans who feel left out of the decision making process!....

    February 8, 2013 at 7:24 am | Reply
    • riccismiles

      Americans are ONLY out of the decision making process because WE want to be. We dont have to go back to the French Revolution, we can go back to entry into WWII and compare it to our entry into IRAQ. American control of the government has not changed. Americans have changed.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Reply
  13. riccismiles

    An AMERICAN born AL Qaeda leader = traitor = DEATH on site.

    March 7, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Reply
  14. dnealtamu

    I don't care if they were American born or not. If they are serving al Qaeda they are against the US and should be considered terrorists. Nidal Hasan was American born, but he ceased being "American" when he chose to shoot and kill Americans at Fort Hood.

    May 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Reply
  15. felix ogugbuaja

    a terrorist is a terrorist, big or small. a 16 yrs. old going into a terror breeding ground could mean he had gone there to enlist.

    May 23, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Reply
  16. ernie

    terrorism does not affect americans alone . being american does not mean you should be safe from justice. killl all the terrorists. the so-called innocent kids are the ones shielding and protecting the active ones and deserve to die with them

    May 24, 2013 at 2:39 am | Reply
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    You made some clear points there. I did a search on the subject and found most individuals will consent with your website.

    May 24, 2013 at 5:29 am | Reply
  18. dave

    The saying goes " If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it's a duck"

    Years ago it was suggested that an apple a day kept the doctor away. But since all the doctors are now Muslim, I've found that a bacon sandwich works best!

    May 27, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Reply
  19. Mark

    Good shooting. That's a nice start. Two down, four million to go.

    May 27, 2013 at 10:28 pm | Reply
  20. Classified

    Using a drone strike aganist people is un human, i tink nxt month the u.s.a will be attack again.

    May 28, 2013 at 9:49 am | Reply
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