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Adam Gadahn, al Qaeda Leader Killed in U.S. Drone Strike, Was a Wanted Man

Adam Gadahn, al Qaeda’s most famous American, and Ahmed Farouk, al-Qaeda’s second in command in Pakistan, were killed in a drone strike in January.
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/ Source: NBC News

Adam Gadahn was long one of the most prominent — and notorious — American members of al Qaeda.

The 36-year-old was born in California and went on to become an al Qaeda translator and key propagandist before his death in a U.S. drone strike.

Gadahn — also known as Adam Pearlman and by the nom de guerre Azzam al-Amriki — represented one of the first "home-grown" terrorists to join al Qaeda.

He gained notoriety in a number of propaganda videos in which he praised the September 11 attacks and denounced the U.S. presence in the Middle East.

"The streets of America shall run red with blood," he said in a 2004 video.

But "Azzam the American" was more than just a firebrand spokesman, rising over the years to become a key al Qaeda member and face of the organization.

The State Department had offered $1 million for information that led to the arrest of Gadahn, who was indicted in California for treason and providing material support for terrorism.

The 2006 treason charges were the first against a U.S. citizen since the World War II era. The indictment stated that Gadahn had given “al Qaeda aid and comfort … with intent to betray the United States.”

Gadahn's jihadist profile got an extra boost after the death of Osama bin Laden, when it was discovered that Gadahn regularly corresponded with the late al Qaeda leader.

Despite this, Gadahn was seen by some al Qaeda followers as lacking religious credibility and battlefield experience.

Rival Islamist militants ISIS stated in the December edition of online propaganda magazine "Dabiq" that al Qaeda was never the same after al-Zawahri and Gadahn took over.

The White House confirmed Thursday that Gadahn had been killed in a U.S. counterterrorism operation in January.

The news came as the White House announced that Dr. Warren Weinstein, an American aid worker held hostage by al Qaeda, was accidentally killed in a U.S. drone strike an al Qaeda-associated compound on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Italian hostage, Giovanni Lo Porto, and another American al Qaeda leader Ahmed Farouq were thought to be killed in the same strike.

The State Department said it was "likely" that Gadahn was killed in a separate counter-terrorism operation.

"While both Farouq and Gadahn were al-Qaeda members, neither was specifically targeted, and we did not have information indicating their presence at the sites of these operations," the State Department said in a statement.