The 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical cleric and U.S. citizen who was killed in a drone strike in 2011, was reportedly among those killed Sunday during a raid in Yemen.
The Guardian reported that Nawar al-Awlaki was killed after suffering a gunshot wound to the neck. The girl’s grandfather told the paper that he did not believe the girl was targeted.
“I don’t think this incident was intentional,” the former government minister said. He told the paper that the location of the strike was confusing because it was not a hotbed for Al Qaeda, rathera tribal sheikhs fighting the government, which is supported by Iran-backed Houthis.
More than a dozen civilians were also killed in the operation, The Associated Press reported.
Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for central command, told the paper that the U.S. military was unaware that the girl was at the location.
Thomas said Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula “has a horrifying history of hiding women and children within militant operating areas and terrorist camps and continuously shows a callous disregard for innocent lives.
The Sunday raid on a believed Al Qaeda compound, which also claimed the life of a U.S. Navy SEAL, turned into a “brutal firefight” in Bayda province. A Marine helicopter, gunships, Harrier jets and two MV-22 Ospreys were called in to extract the raiders, Reuters reported. One of the two suffered engine failure and had to be destroyed, the report said.
Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in 2011 in a CIA-led U.S. drone strike, marking the highest-profile takedown of terror leaders since the raid on Usama bin Laden's compound. Fox News reported that two Predator drones hovering above al-Awlaki's convoy fired the Hellfire missiles which killed the terror leader.
Al-Awlaki was a U.S.-born Islamic militant cleric who became a prominent figure with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the network's most active branch. He was involved in several terror plots in the United States in recent years, using his fluent English and Internet savvy to draw recruits to carry out attacks. President Obama signed an order in early 2010 making him the first American to be placed on the "kill or capture" list.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the raid yielded an “unbelievable amount of intelligence.”
A defense official told the Associated Press that the mission was planned by the Obama administration but authorized by Trump.
A U.S. official told Reuters that surveillance of the compound was “minimal, at best.”
“The decision was made ... to leave it to the incoming administration, partly in the hope that more and better intelligence could be collected,” that official said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report