22 May 2013, DOJ: Office of the Attorney General: AG Holder letter to Sen. Leahy re. use of lethal force against U.S. citizens (PDF)
May 22, 2013
One Drone Victim's Trail From Raleigh to Pakistan
By SCOTT SHANE and ERIC SCHMITT
WASHINGTON -- When Jude Kenan Mohammad was about 18 and living in Raleigh, N.C., according to people who knew him, he came under the influence of an older man, Daniel Patrick Boyd, who taught him a violent, radical version of Islam.
Mr. Boyd would be charged in 2009 and eventually imprisoned as the ringleader of a group of North Carolina residents who had vowed to carry out a violent jihad both in the United States and overseas. Mr. Mohammad was also charged, but by then, partly at the direction of Mr. Boyd, he had traveled to Pakistan, where he had joined a group of militants in that country's tribal area.
On Wednesday, the United States government officially acknowledged for the first time what had long been rumored among his friends in Raleigh: that Mr. Mohammad was killed in a C.I.A. drone strike on a compound in South Waziristan, Pakistan, on Nov. 16, 2011. He was 23.
He was one of at least four Americans to have been killed in "counterterrorism operations," Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a letter sent on Wednesday to Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Only one of those killed, the radical Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, was deliberately targeted, Mr. Holder said. The others were killed in strikes that did not specifically target them, he said, including Samir Khan, another young man from Raleigh who had joined the Qaeda branch in Yemen and was killed with Mr. Awlaki; Mr. Awlaki's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, killed two weeks later; and Mr. Mohammad.
American officials said on Wednesday that Mr. Mohammad had been killed with about 12 other insurgents in what the C.I.A. calls a "signature strike," an attack based on patterns of activity, such as men toting arms in an area controlled by extremist groups. Such strikes have prompted the sharpest divisions inside the Obama administration, with some officials questioning whether killing unidentified fighters is legally justified or worth the local backlash.
After the strike, the family friend said, Mr. Mohammad's wife, whom he had met and married after moving to Pakistan, called his mother in North Carolina to say he had been killed.
Reflecting the covert nature of the drone program in Pakistan, the F.B.I. had left Mr. Mohammad's name on its wanted list after his death. An F.B.I. spokesman, Kathleen Wright, said on Wednesday that it would be removed.
While Mr. Mohammad was not directly targeted, he had come under increasing scrutiny by American counterterrorism officials, who said he was involved in recruiting militants for Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, as well as making videos on YouTube to incite violence against the United States.
"He had risen to the top of the U.S. deck," said Seth G. Jones, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation and former adviser to the military's Special Operations Command. Mr. Jones said that while in Pakistan, Mr. Mohammad had made contact with five young Virginia men who disappeared from their homes around Thanksgiving in 2009 and turned up seeking to join militant groups. Instead they were arrested and remain in Pakistani custody.
A family friend, who asked not to be named because she did not want to offend Mr. Mohammad's family, called him "a good kid, but a follower." His Pakistani father, Taj Mohammad, met his mother, Elena, an American who converted from Catholicism to Islam, in New York in the early 1980s. They lived in Pakistan for several years, but in the late 1990s, Elena moved back to the United States with their son.
Jude Mohammad dropped out of high school but later earned his high school equivalency certificate and attended Wake Technical Community College. He was "a regular around the mosque" in Raleigh and often volunteered in the mosque kitchen to help prepare communal meals, the friend said.
"He'd put food on the back of his bike and ride a couple of miles to deliver groceries to the homebound," she said.
Later, after dropping out of school, he used drugs and described himself as "lost," the friend said. "He was looking for a father figure."
After meeting Mr. Boyd, a convert to Islam who called himself Saifullah, he came to see going overseas to fight as a way to purify himself.
Mr. Boyd, who had trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 1989 to 1992, was later banned from the mosque in Raleigh as a troublemaker. In September 2009, he was indicted with his two sons, Mr. Mohammad and four other men for conspiring to plot terrorist acts at home and abroad.
Among other things, Mr. Boyd was accused of carrying out "reconnaissance" of the Marine base at Quantico, Va., and plotting to stage attacks on service members there.
While he was a fugitive in Pakistan, Mr. Mohammad would sometimes call his American friends and family, especially on Muslim holidays, staying on the phone just long enough to offer a greeting for fear of having the call traced.
The calls stopped after November 2011, the friend said, and the reports of his death began to circulate through Raleigh's Muslim community.