Denver-Born Teen Killed In U.S. Drone Attack

Teen's Father, Radical U.S.-Born Cleric, Killed In Separate Airstrike In Yemen

A suspected CIA drone strike that killed the 16-year-old Denver-born son of an al-Qaeda member in Yemen has fueled anger in the Arab world and ignited a legal and ethical debate about the Obama administration's use of remote-control killings.

Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was the son of radical Yemen cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. The father was born in New Mexico, graduated from Colorado State University and once lived in Denver.

Both father and son were American citizens, killed in separate airstrikes in Yemen in the past month.

The father used the Internet and English-language sermons to call for a jihad, or holy war, against the United States. He was suspected of inspiring or helping plan numerous attacks on the United States, including the Christmas 2009 attempt to blow up a jetliner over Detroit, U.S. and Yemeni officials said.

The son is mourned by friends as a regular kid who lived with his family in the Yemen capital, Sana'a.

"He was my best friend; we played football together everyday," Sam al-Homiganyi, 15, told TIME recently.

Another Yemeni friend told the magazine: "He was the same as us. He liked swimming, playing computer games, watching movies... you know, normal stuff."

A memorial Facebook page, titled: "Abdulrahman Anwar Alawlaki - A crime we'll never forget," describes him as a "typical teenage high school student" who listened to rap and hip hop, read Harry Potter and Twilight books and watched Sponge Bob Square pants and The Simpsons on TV.

Relatives told TIME that the boy left the family home in Sana'a on Sept. 30 in search of his fugitive father, who was hiding out with his tribe, the Awalak, in a remote, rugged province.

Days after the teenager began his quest, his father was killed in a drone strike.

Then, just two weeks later, the Yemeni government claimed another airstrike had killed a senior al-Qaeda militant. Abdulrahman, his teenage cousin, and six others also died in the Oct. 14 attack, TIME reported.

A U.S. official told TIME that the young man "was in the wrong place at the wrong time," and that the U.S. was trying to kill a legitimate terrorist -- al-Qaeda leader Ibrahim al-Banna -- in the airstrike.

Abdulrahman's distraught grandfather is not buying the explanation.

"Americans should start asking why a boy was targeted for killing," the grandfather, Nasser al-Awlaki, told TIME.

"I really feel disappointed that this crime is going to be forgotten. I think the American people ought to know what really happened and how the power of their government is being abused by this administration."

The Obama administration has asserted the right to launch attacks against al-Qaeda members anywhere in the world, saying there is no difference between a battlefield in Afghanistan and a suspected terrorist hideout in Yemen or Somalia, the Washington Post reported.

Critics are demanding accountability.

“If the government is going to be firing Predator missiles at American citizens, surely the American public has a right to know who’s being targeted, and why,” Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Post.

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