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Barack Obama's administration has authorised the assassination of the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a rare move against an American citizen.
The US administration has ordered Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen to be targeted
The Yemen-based al-Awlaki has been linked to the Fort Hood massacre and the attempt in December to blow up a Detroit-bound jet by a man wearing explosives in his underpants.
The decision to add him to the US hit list required a National Security Council review because of his citizenship.
Officials said US intelligence had argued that the cleric now posed a direct threat to America, an al-Qaeda recruiter who had graduated from encouraging attacks to active involvement in them.
Al-Awlaki, 38, became famous last year after it emerged he had communicated extensively by email with Major Nidal Hasan, the army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas.
The cleric, who allegedly had ties with the 9/11 hijackers, later praised the Fort Hood killings and said Muslims should only serve in the US military if they intended to carry out similar attacks.
He has also been linked to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound jet last Christmas with explosives in his underwear.
Al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico and spent years as an imam in the US before moving to the Yemen, where he is believed to remain in hiding.
Members of the George W Bush administration have said they believe it never approved any American for a targeted killing.
However, officials now argue privately that Americans who side with the country's enemies are not ultimately "entitled to special protections".
In February, Dennis Blair, the director of US national intelligence, confirmed that its security agencies had the authority, having obtained specific permission, to kill American citizens if they posed a direct threat to the United States.
On Tuesday, Jane Harman, the Democrat chairman of the House homeland security subcommittee, said Al-Awlaki was "probably the person, the terrorist, who would be terrorist No 1 in terms of threat against us."