According to statements by White House officials, Adam Gadahn, the American face of Al Qaeda, and the first U.S. citizen to be charged with treason since World War 2, was killed during a January 2015 CIA drone strike in Pakistan. Officials claim that Gadahn, who had a million-dollar price tag on his head, was not the target of the attack, but rather that he happened to be at a compound in Pakistan's tribal region known to be used by members of Al Qaeda.
Gadahn, who grew up on a Riverside goat farm but whose grandfather was a prominent Jewish doctor in Santa Ana, apparently joined Al Qaeda after moving to Pakistan before the 9/11 attacks. He first appeared as "Azzam the American" in the terrorist group's propaganda videos three years later, covering his face with a scarf and warning Americans that their "streets will run red with blood."
Assuming it is accurate that Gadahn was indeed killed, it remains unclear why U.S. officials waited three months to announce his death. However, today's announcement was made in tandem with that of the accidental killing of two Western hostages in a separate CIA drone strike in January. Warren Weinstein, an American humanitarian, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian aid worker, were simultaneously killed when a missile fired from a drone destroyed the compound where, unbeknownst to the CIA, they were being held. It appears the CIA was targeting another American Al Qaeda member, Ahmed Farouq, in that attack.
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Although it appears to be based on solid intelligence, this is not the first time Gadahn's demise has been announced. He was first rumored to have been killed in a Pakistani tribal region missile attack in 2008; two years later, Pakistani authorities announced they had arrested him in Karachi, although it turned out they had the wrong man.
Each time, Gadahn would reappear in propaganda videos in which he lectured Americans on Islam. Compared to the sophisticated and brutal videos recently aired by ISIS, Gadahn's missives were somewhat laughable. Check out next Thursday's print edition of the Weekly for an obituary on Gadahn. Meanwhile you can read more about him in our archives and listen to my interview with KPCC's AirTalk with Larry Mantle here.