The State Department has said that it has not yet received confirmation of the killing of a 16-year-old American in Yemen — and that has angered his relatives, the family of radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
The teenager was Awlaki’s son, Abdulrahman, and he was killed in an American military airstrike on Oct. 14. But the strike hasn’t been officially acknowledged. U.S. officials, meantime, say they have not yet been contacted by the teenager’s family, or been provided with confirmation of his death by the Yemeni government.
The family confirms they have gotten silence from Washington.
“What confirmation of the killing do they want,” a family member said in an e-mail to The Post. “They obliterated him with a Hellfire missile? What was left of him was pieces of his clothes.”
U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity have said the teenager was not a target but was killed in a strike aimed at a senior figure in al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen. The Awlakis said Abdulrahman’s 17-year-old Yemeni cousin was also killed in the attack. In all, nine people were killed.
Anwar al-Awlaki, also a U.S. citizen, was slain late last month in a CIA drone strike in Yemen. He was the target of that attack, and President Obama described him as the chief of “external operations” for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a characterization the Awlaki family rejected.
The family has appeared much more exercised about the killing of the teenager and said in the e-mail that the silence of the U.S. and Yemen governments has been “shocking.”
The family said that the teenager had run away from Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, to try and find his father, who was in hiding. Anwar al-Awlaki was the subject of a long manhunt, and was placed on a capture-or-kill list in 2010 after legal consultations across the executive branch that ended with a Justice Department memo sanctioning his targeting.
He was killed before his son found him, and Abdulrahman was planning to return to Sanaa when he, too, was killed, the family said.
“We still cannot believe what happened,” said the relative, who requested anonymity because of the notoriety of the case. “The boy was a teenager, he liked Eminem music and read Harry Potter books. The boy was a very nice person, won’t hurt a fly, literally. So shy and polite. Very gentle. His guilt is missing his father who happens to be Anwar Awlaki!”
Earlier this month, the State Department did contact the North Carolina family of Samir Khan, a U.S. citizen and AQAP propagandist who was killed in the same strike as Anwar al-Awlaki. Officials have described the call as routine consular practice after the death of an American overseas.