Editor's note: Six Americans affiliated with al-Qaida have now been killed by U.S. drone strikes since 2011, NBC News reports. Earlier today, the White House announced two American al-Qaida leaders were killed in January. Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in 2011, was targeted in a strike, but the others were not specifically targeted. - Stephanie
Editor's note: Senior U.S. officials tell NBC News that President Obama "did not sign off" on either of the two drone strikes because there was no intelligence that Americans were at the compounds. Shortly after the airstrikes, officials said U.S. intelligence picked up "cellphone chatter and human intelligence" that "hostages may have been killed" in one of the airstrikes. The officials said it took until April to confirm hostages were killed. - Rebecca
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr's statement on al-Qaida hostage deaths: 'Congress will continue to conduct vigorous oversight of our nation's counterterrorism operations. I firmly believe the dedicated Americans engaged in those efforts take very seriously the need to prevent collateral damage and limit the risk to innocent people'
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on death of hostages: 'I extend my deepest condolences to the families of Dr. Warren Weinstein, an American held by al-Qaida since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national who had been an Al Qaeda hostage since 2012. We must take all possible steps to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again, and the Congress should play an active role in this oversight'
ACLU statement on US al-Qaida operations: 'These new disclosures raise troubling questions about the reliability of the intelligence that the government is relying on to justify drone strikes. In each of the operations acknowledged today, the US quite literally didn't know who it was killing. These and other recent strikes in which civilians were killed make clear that there is a significant gap between the relatively stringent standards the government says it's using and the standards that are actually being used. It would of course be easier to assess this gap if the government routinely released information about individual drone strikes. Unfortunately, the president's stated commitment to transparency can't be squared with the secrecy that still shrouds virtually every aspect of the government's drone program'
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., statement on death of al-Qaida hostages: 'Moving forward, I have many questions about how this tragedy occurred, and I urge a comprehensive US government review of the case as soon as possible'
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., statement: 'The United States and our allies must work to ensure that the men and women who dedicate their lives to international development are properly safeguarded against threats. As Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I will do all in my power to ensure that Warren Weinstein, his family, and fellow aid workers see justice for his needless suffering at the hands of al-Qaida'
Elaine Weinstein, wife of Warren Weinstein killed in US operation, also says of her husband's death: 'Unfortunately, the assistance we received from other elements of the US government was inconsistent and disappointing over the course of 3-and-a-half years. We hope that my husband's death and the others who have faced similar tragedies in recent months will finally prompt the US government to take its responsibilities seriously and establish a coordinated and consistent approach to supporting hostages and their families'
Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., statement: 'The loss of Warren is devastating, a tragic event that we must never forget. Warren was a beloved husband, father and grandfather. Warren's family has endured his long captivity with incredible strength, dignity and resolve. At this heart-rending time, April and I send our prayers to Warren's family, including his wife Elaine, daughters Alisa and Jennifer and the rest of his family. Over the last two years, I feel so fortunate to have developed a relationship with them as we've pursued efforts to bring Warren home. I wish I would have had an opportunity to meet Warren. People in his life all say Warren was a warm friend to people around the world, a man who served our country as a member of the Peace Corps and at USAID. Warren represented the very best of our country; he was a gentle and loving man who dedicated his career to building a better world. We need more Warren Weinsteins in the world'
al-Qaeda (/ælˈkaɪdə/ al-KY-də; Arabic: القاعدة al-qāʿidah, Arabic: [ælqɑːʕɪdɐ], translation: "The Base" and alternatively spelled al-Qaida and sometimes al-Qa'ida) is a global militant Islamist and Wahhabist organization founded by Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, and several other militants, at some point between August 1988 and late 1989, with origins traceable to the Soviet war in Afghanistan. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Wahhabi Muslim movement calling for global jihad and a strict interpretation of sharia law. It has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council, NATO, the European Union, the United States, Russia, India and various other countries (see below). Al-Qaeda has carried out many attacks on targets it considers kafir. Amidst the Syrian civil war, al-Qaeda factions started fighting each other, as well as the Kurds and government.
al-Qaeda has attacked civilian and military targets in various countries, including the September 11 attacks, 1998 U.S. embassy bombings and the 2002 Bali bombings. The U.S. government responded to the September 11 attacks by launching the War on Terror. With the loss of key leaders, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda's operations have devolved from actions that were controlled from the top down, to actions by franchise associated groups, to actions of lone wolf operators.
Characteristic techniques employed by al-Qaeda include suicide attacks and simultaneous bombings of different targets. Activities ascribed to it may involve members of the movement, who have taken a pledge of loyalty to Osama bin Laden, or the much more numerous "al-Qaeda-linked" individuals who have undergone training in one of its camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq or Sudan, but who have not taken any pledge. al-Qaeda ideologues envision a complete break from all foreign influences in Muslim countries, and the creation of a new world-wide Islamic caliphate. Among the beliefs ascribed to al-Qaeda members is the conviction that a Christian–Jewish alliance is conspiring to destroy Islam. As Salafist jihadists, they believe that the killing of civilians is religiously sanctioned, and they ignore any aspect of religious scripture which might be interpreted as forbidding the murder of civilians and internecine fighting. Al-Qaeda also opposes man-made laws, and wants to replace them with a strict form of sharia law.
al-Qaeda is also responsible for instigating sectarian violence among Muslims. al-Qaeda is intolerant of non-Wahhabi/Salafi branches of Islam and denounces them by means of excommunications called "takfir." al-Qaeda leaders regard liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other sects as heretics and have attacked their mosques and gatherings. Examples of sectarian attacks include the Yazidi community bombings, the Sadr City bombings, the Ashoura Massacre and the April 2007 Baghdad bombings. The group is led by the Egyptian theologian Ayman al-Zawahiri.