A Southern California man considered one of America's most wanted terrorists was killed in a U.S. counterterrorism operation in January, the White House said Thursday.
White House officials confirmed that Adam Gadahn died, but was not specifically targeted, in a January operation. The information was declassified and announced in a statement released on Thursday.
President Barack Obama also released information about two other Americans killed in a separate strike, one an aid worker from Maryland held by al Qaeda and the other an alleged al Qaeda leader, according to the statement. Obama, who expressed his "deepest apologies" for the death of the Maryland man, did not address Gadahn's death in his remarks about the counterterrorism operations.
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Gadahn, 36, last lived in Orange County, according to a 2006 indictment from the government alleging he filmed propaganda videos for al Qaeda and gave the group "aid and comfort, within the United States and elsewhere, with intent to betray the United States."
He was the first American to be charged with treason since World War II, according to the Department of Justice, and he was placed on a list of America's most wanted terrorists. The Department of State had offered $1 million for information leading to Gadahn's arrest.
“The War on Terror is a fight for hearts and minds, and Gadahn gave himself to our enemies in al Qaeda for the purpose of being a central part of their propaganda machine," Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty said in a 2006 press release.
Officials did not immediately release any details about the operation that led to Gadahn's death.
He was born in 1978 in Oregon as Adam Pearlman. His father, a musician, changed his name from Pearlman to Gadahn in the 1970s. Young Adam grew up on a goat farm in Riverside County, California. He was home-schooled, played Little League ball and was raised as a Christian.
At 17, he joined a Muslim community center in Orange County.
"We condemn terrorism," said Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, religious director of the Islamic Society of Orange County, where Gadahn converted to Islam.
Siddiqi said Gadahn "strayed from the right path" and followed the wrong ideology of Islam, which he believes is a religion based on peace.
At one time, Gadahn worked as a security guard at the Society but was fired when he was found sleeping on the job. A discussion group he belonged to was banned from meeting at the building fr their radical views.
Gadahn left Orange County in 1998, becoming a translator for al Qaeda operatives. He gained notoriety as the face of videos threatening violence against the U.S. and its citizens and called himself "Azzam the American" in videos promoting al Qaeda.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.