Worshipers at the northern Virginia mosque where Anwar al-Awlaki once served as imam have mixed reactions to news that he was killed in an air strike by U.S. forces.
Al-Awlaki served as imam at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Va., for about a year in 2001.
The mosque's outreach director, Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, has said that mosque members never saw al-Awlaki espousing radical ideology while he was there and that he believes al-Awlaki's views changed after he left the U.S.
After his time at the Dar al-Hijrah, al-Awlaki moved to Yemen and became one of the world's most notorious terrorists.
Many worshipers at the mosque said Friday that he besmirched their mosque and all of Islam by calling for the deaths of innocent Americans.
Jouwad Syed said al-Awlaki's link to the mosque often got in the way of the center's outreach and charity work.
Another person, Tarik Diap, expressed reservations about the fact al-Awlaki was killed without ever having been brought to trial.
President Barack Obama declared the killing of al-Awlaki a "major blow" to al-Qaida's most
active affiliate, and vowed a vigorous U.S. campaign to prevent the terror network and its partners from finding a haven anywhere in the world.
Al-Awlaki and a second American, Samir Khan, were killed by a joint CIA-U.S. military air strike on their convoy in Yemen early Friday. Both men played key roles in inspiring attacks against the U.S.
"He directed the failed attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009. He directed the failed attempt to blow up U.S. cargo planes in 2010,'' Obama said. "And he repeatedly called on individuals in the United States and around the globe to kill innocent men, women and children to advance a murderous agenda.''
After three weeks of tracking the targets, U.S. armed drones and fighter jets shadowed al-Alwaki's convoy early Friday, then drones launched their lethal strike. The strike killed four operatives in
all, officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.
Al-Awlaki was targeted in the killing, but Khan, who edited a slick Jihadi Internet magazine, apparently was not targeted directly.
Al-Awlaki played a "significant operational role'' in plotting and inspiring attacks on the United States, U.S. officials said Friday. Khan, who was from North Carolina, wasn't considered an
operational leader but had published seven issues online of Inspire Magazine, a widely read Jihadi site offering advice on how to make bombs and the use of weapons.
Following the strike, a U.S. official outlined new details of al-Awlaki's involvement in anti-U.S. operations, including the attempted Christmas 2009 bombing of a Detroit-bound aircraft. The
official said that al-Awlaki specifically directed the men accused of trying to bomb the airliner to detonate an explosive device over U.S. airspace to maximize casualties.
The official also said al-Awlaki had a direct role in supervising and directing a failed attempt to bring down two U.S. cargo aircraft by detonating explosives concealed inside two packages mailed to the U.S. The U.S. also believes al-Awlaki had sought to use poisons, including cyanide and ricin, to attack Westerners.
Al-Awlaki was killed by the same U.S. military unit that got Osama bin Laden. Al-Awlaki is the most prominent al-Qaida figure to be killed since bin Laden's death in May.
Al-Awlaki was a U.S. citizen, born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents, who had not been charged with any crime. Civil liberties groups have questioned the government's authority to kill an American without trial.
Al-Awlaki's father, Nasser al-Awlaki, of Yemen, had sued President Barack Obama and other administration officials 13 months ago to try to stop them from targeting his son for death. The father, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, argued that international law and the Constitution prevented the administration from assassinating his son unless he presented a specific imminent threat to life or physical safety and there were no other means to stop him.
But U.S. District Judge John Bates threw out the lawsuit in December, saying a judge does not have authority to review the president's military decisions and that al-Awlaki's father did not have the legal right to sue on behalf of his son.
U.S. officials have said they believe al-Awlaki inspired the actions of Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the attack at Fort Hood, Texas.