(Updates with Kelly comment in second paragraph.)
Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- The New York City Police Department is on “alert” for revenge attacks following the killing in Yemen of U.S.-born Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
“We know al-Awlaki had followers in the United States including New York City, and for that reason we remain alert to the possibility that someone might want to avenge his death,” Kelly said in a statement, without mentioning specific measures.
Al-Awlaki, who masterminded Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airplane in 2009 with explosives hidden in his underwear, has been killed, the Defense Ministry in Yemen said today.
“Having transformed the regional al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula into a terrorist organization with global reach, he targeted Americans like no other, and he was a powerful recruiter of terrorists in the United States,” Kelly said in the statement.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a missile from an American drone aircraft killed al-Awlaki in a joint CIA-military operation. He was targeted near the town of Khashef, 170 kilometers (106 miles) northeast of Sana’a, the capital, the Yemeni foreign press office said.
Samir Khan, a Pakistani-American al-Qaeda militant living in Yemen who was al-Awlaki’s lieutenant, died in the same attack, Yemeni state-run Saba news agency reported, citing an unidentified security official.
Kelly said Khan had “extensive contacts” in New York City and published the “Inspire” English-language magazine that gave instructions on how to build bombs at home and identified Grand Central Terminal as a target in its most recent issue.
Al-Awlaki was described by the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s list of “specially designated nationals” as a 40- year-old native of Las Cruces, New Mexico, with dual U.S. and Yemeni citizenship. Last year, President Barack Obama approved an order making him the first American ever to be placed on the Central Intelligence Agency’s hit list.
Intelligence services said he also inspired a shooting rampage that killed 13 people last year at an army base in Fort Hood, Texas. U.S. President Barack Obama said al-Awlaki’s death is a “major blow” to al-Qaeda.
--With assistance from Mohammed Hatem in Sana’a, Yemen, and Vivian Salama in Abu Dhabi. Editors: Mary Romano, Steve Farr
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