The family of Anwar al-Awlaki is asserting that the U.S.-born cleric’s son, killed last week in a U.S. airstrike in Yemen, was a 16-year-old noncombatant who “paid a hefty price for something he never did and never was.”
In a statement, their first since the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki last month, the family says the cleric’s son was an American citizen who was living in the Yemeni capital until mid-September, when he left his mother a note saying he was going in search of his father. He was killed Friday in a U.S. drone strike while “barbecuing under the moonlight” with other teenagers, the family said.
A family member reached in Sanaa confirmed the Awlakis had released the statement.
The family said they had been shocked to see reports suggesting that Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was a 21-year-old al-Qaeda operative. On a memorial page set up on Facebook, they posted photos of the teenager.
“Look at his pictures, his friends and his hobbies,” the statement said. “His Facebook page shows a typical kid.”
The family also condemned the “unlawful assassination” of Anwar al-Awlaki, 40, saying that he was an American citizen who had never been formally charged with any crime.
“Anwar was never a ‘militant’ nor was he ‘the head of Al Qaeda external operations’ ” the family said.
The family of Samir Khan, the al-Qaeda propagandist killed alongside Anwar al-Awlaki, has previously issued a statement condemning the U.S. targeting of their son as illegal.
The Charlotte family described Khan as a “law-abiding citizen of the United States” who had never been implicated in a crime.
“Was this style of execution the only solution?” the family said. “Why couldn’t there have been a capture and trial?”
Staff researcher Julie Tate and staff writer Peter Finn contributed to this report.