The U.S. State Department confirmed on January 5 that the man the U.S. government once claimed was the target of the drone strike that killed American teenager Abdulrahman Awlaki in 2011 in Yemen is alive. The department announced that it has designated Ibrahim al Banna “a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224.” The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to al Banna’s killing or capture.
Al Banna’s name was floated by anonymous U.S. officials as the target of the October 14, 2011, drone strike that killed Awlaki, a 16-year-old U.S. citizen born in Colorado. Awlaki’s family insists he was having dinner with his teenage cousin and some others in Shebwah, Yemen, when they were killed in the strike. The Obama administration has never explained why Awlaki was killed, other than anonymous officials implying he was with a terror target at the time or that it was a lethal mistake. Awlaki’s estranged father, Anwar al Awlaki, was a radical pro-al Qaeda imam whose sermons influenced and inspired many terrorists in the English speaking world. The elder Awlaki, who was also a U.S. citizen, was an enigmatic figure who supported George W. Bush’s 2000 election campaign, spoke at the Pentagon shortly after 9-11, and went on to become an important propaganda figure for the growing radical Islamist movement after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. He was killed in a U.S. drone strike two weeks before his son was killed.