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article imageAl-Qaida figurehead Anwar al-Awlaki, slain in US drone attack

By Shawn Kay     Oct 1, 2011 in World
Sanaa - Anwar al-Awlaki, a ranking member of the terrorist organization, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was killed Friday in Yemen by a missile fired from a U.S. air drone. Officials from both American and Yemeni intelligence agencies confirmed his death.
Anwar al-Awlaki, a senior recruiter and spiritual leader for the terrorist organization, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was killed Friday along with fellow militant Samir Khan, in a "targeted killing" by a drone belonging to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) near the town of Khashef in Yemen, about 90 miles from the capital of Sanaa.
Al-Awlaki was also designated as a regional commander for terror operations globally by the al-Qaida leadership in Afghanistan of which AQAP is an offshoot of.
He is the most prominent al-Qaida figure to be killed since terror kingpin Osama bin Laden last May.
Khan, was the editor-in-chief of AQAP's Inspire magazine, a flashy and glossy online magazine with a slick banner advertisement that can often be seen on various hardcore jihadist websites.
The magazine is one of the many ways AQAP uses the internet to reach its audience. The magazine is a political warfare tool targeting the American and Western governments, with the intent of inspiring homegrown terrorism.
The magazine is a key propaganda tool in al-Qaida's public relations battle against the U.S.
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst, counterterrorism expert and Brookings Institution senior fellow expressed his concerns about the online jihadist publication to The Daily Beast
And it’s not looking for some subscription base of millions. It’s looking to trigger one or two individuals who can actually conduct some act of violence. From the standpoint of al Qaeda, it’s not intended to be a bestseller. They’re just looking for one guy who will be inspired by this to bomb Times Square, and this time maybe he will put together the bomb correctly.
ABC network local Chicago news affiliate, WLS-TV Channel 7, cites a passage from an article published by Khan in Inspire
When the planes hit the Pentagon and the World Trade towers, America was forced to stand defeated; there was nothing to shoot back at. Then by swiftly invading Afghanistan in hopes that their prayers would be answered of getting revenge and wiping out once and for all the cause of their misery, it instead kept the river streaming.
Khan also went on to make bodeful statement
This battle is going to continue until they find themselves powerless under our dominion.
Khan was a rising star who was also said to have played a prominent role in al-Malahim Media, AQAP's audio-visual and media division.
Al-Awlaki and Khan were al-Qaida's top propagandists and recruiters. It is unclear at present time what effect their demise will have on the morale of al-Qaida and it's various offshoots. It's also too early to know what effects this monumental setback will have on recruitment and it's overall public relations war with the West.
Al-Awlaki in particular was a very savvy, stellar and outstanding orator for AQAP and the overall Jihadi global movement. It will be very difficult to replace him. However, it is possible that his death, which will most likely be celebrated by militants as martyrdom rather than mourned, will have a galvanising effect on the movement.
While the use of targeted drone strikes against prominent al-Qaida figures is hardly nothing new and has been ongoing for many years now, what makes the case of both al-Awlaki and Khan unlike that of those who have been slain before them is the fact that both were American citizens.
Al-Awlaki was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico to Yemeni parents and received Bachelor and Masters degrees in engineering and education from Colorado State University and San Diego State University. He was studying for his Ph.D at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., but dropped out a few years ago to focus on militant activity.
Khan was born in Saudi Arabia but was raised in the New York City borough of Queens. He had previously lived in Charlotte, North Carolina for six years before leaving for Yemen in 2009.
The drone attack by the CIA against al-Awlaki and Khan is the first time in that agency's history that it has killed U.S. citizens abroad.
President Barack Obama authorized the CIA to kill al-Awlaki on sight back in Spring 2010.
The decision to add him to the U.S. hit list required a National Security Council review because of his citizenship.
Before today, the CIA had tried twice to kill al-Awlaki through targeted drone strikes but were unsuccessful on both occasions.
In fact, Khan published an article in Inspire about one of the failed assassination attempts last Summer in which he and al-Awlaki taunt their pursers
By the grace of Allah, they all missed Shaykh Anwar and he left the area without a scratch. The fact that the drones were unable to pinpoint his location nor follow him the rest of the way is a sign from Allah that He protects His believing slaves. In reference to the attempted assassination, the Shaykh jokingly said, 'It looks as if someone was a bit angry with us this evening'.
The deaths of both al-Awlaki and Khan mark a major victory for the U.S. and Yemen.
The Rise Of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula
The origins of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula dates back several years to Saudi Arabia. The group originally operated exclusively within the Saudi nation, carrying out frequent attacks against the security services, military and other government entities. The group also frequently targeted members of the ruling Saudi Arabian monarchy for assassination. AQAP views the Saudi royal family as being traitors to Islam because of the nation's close ties to the U.S., a warming in it's relations towards Israel as well as what they preceive to be as the increasing secularization of Saudi society. The eventual goal of the group at that time was the overthrow of the Saudi royal family and government with the expressed purpose of replacing it with an Islamic state ruled by a rather ridged version of Sharia law.
However, Saudi authorities launched an intense and brutal crackdown which forced the group to flee from that nation and relocate to Yemen where they are currently based. From there they have gone from being a local threat to a regional threat. The group now focuses most of their resources on battling the Yemeni government which is far weaker and less stable than that of Saudi Arabia. The group's new immediate goal is to transform that nation into a safe haven for itself and other jihadist groups through the overthrow of the Yemeni government, which is currently experiencing severe civil unrest and teetering on the brink of a civil war.
The group also maintains it's other key goal of eventually assassinating the Saudi royals and overthrowing that regime as well.
The group is currently in the process of graduating from a regional threat to an international-level threat. With AQAP's parent organization, al-Qaida unable to strike at the West due to the pressure from the U.S.-lead campagin against it in Afghanistan, the aspirational off-shoot was more than happy to pick up the slack.
According to U.S. intelligence officials, Al-Awlaki played an instrumental role in helping AQAP make the transition from regional threat to a terror group with an international reach.
The group has been linked to several terror plots against the U.S. over the past few years.
*June 1, 2009: Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad formerly known as Carlos Leon Bledsoe, was an American born convert to Islam from Tennessee who carried out a drive-by shooting attack on a military recruitment office in Little Rock, Arkansas. One serviceman was killed in the shooting while another was seriously wounded. Muhammad was later captured by authorities and revealed that he traveled to Yemen where he joined AQAP. When authorities arrested him they found jihadist propaganda and extremist literature authored by Al-Awlaki in his possession. Muhammad has been charged with capital murder and engaging in a terrorist act. He is currently on trial.
*November 5, 2009: Nidal Malik Hasan, a career serviceman with U.S. Army holding the military rank of major and serving as a psychiatrist, goes on a shooting spree at Fort Hood, an Army base near Killeen, Texas. The attack claims the lives 13 soldiers and leaves 29 others wounded.
During a shootout with responding military police, Hasan was shot and severely wounded. The injuries he sustained during the shootout resulted in paralysis from the chest down.
In the aftermath of the shooting military intelligence and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted a joint investigation to find a motive. Investigators soon discovered that Hasan had communicated with al-Awlaki directly and frequently through e-mail.
Some sources say that Hasan was reportedly distressed about an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan on November 28. Hasan, an American-born Muslim of Palestinian descent, was concerned that he may be put into a situation where he would have to kill other Muslims.
There is also evidence that Hasan may have been suffering from mental illness.
Almost immediately after the shooting, al-Awlaki released a public statement hailing the attacks and Hasan as a hero. In his statement, al-Awlaki was quoted as having said
fighting against the U.S. army is an Islamic duty.
Hasan is being held at an undisclosed facility by military police and is currently awaiting trial in a military court for his attack. If convicted he faces the death penalty.
*December 25, 2009: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 24, attempted to bomb Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it approached Detroit Metropolitan International Airport. Abdulmutallab had reportedly sewn plastic explosives into his underwear, but failed to detonate them properly. He was subdued by passengers and flight crew who noticed the failed attempt and turned him over to authorities upon the aircraft's arrival in Detroit.
AQAP claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing and publicly disclosed that Abdulmutallab was one of their own.
Abdulmutallab studied at the San'a Institute for the Arabic Language in Sanaa, Yemen, which is where he is believed to have met Al-Awlaki.
*October 29, 2010: Saudi intelligence officials tipped off U.S. authorities to a plot by AQAP in which the terror group had shipped explosive devices on cargo planes to two separate locations in the U.S. Authorities discovered the explosives at en route stop-overs, one at East Midlands Airport in the UK and one in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The explosives were safely defused. According to U.S. officials, the two locations where the explosive devices were to be shipped were Jewish institutions in Chicago.
Officials say, the bombs were designed to detonate mid-air, with the intention of destroying both planes over Chicago or another city in the U.S. AQAP later accepted responsibility for the foiled plot.
*November 2010: AQAP announced a strategy, called "Operation Hemorrhage." The terror group said that this strategy was designed to capitalize on the "security phobia that is sweeping America." The program would call for a large number of inexpensive, small-scale attacks against United States interests with the intent of weakening the U.S. economy.
Al-Awlaki has also been linked by U.S. authorities to at least three of the 9/11 hijackers and the terror team that carried out a series of bombings on the London public transportation system on July 7, 2005. That attack left 52 dead and 700 wounded.
Of the various offshoots of al-Qaida, AQAP is the only one that has directly targeted the U.S. mainland and continues to pose a direct threat to that nation. In fact, some officials say it may currently pose more of a direct threat to the U.S. than that of the Afghan-based entity that spawned it.
Coffins of soldiers killed in the Fort Hood shootings being loaded aboard an aircraft for flight to ...
Coffins of soldiers killed in the Fort Hood shootings being loaded aboard an aircraft for flight to Dover Air Force Base. The Nov. 5, 2009, shootings were perpetrated by Nidal Malik Hasan, a career serviceman with the U.S. Army who held the rank of major. The attack claimed the lives of 13 servicemen and women. Hasan has been linked to Anwar al-Awlaki, a high-ranking al-Qaida militant.
United States Army
AQAP is believed to have a current membership of anywhere from 500 to 600 members.
There has been no release of a public statement from the group's leader, Said Ali al-Shihri or from any other facet of the organization.
Though al-Awlaki was the spiritual leader and the most popular, dynamic, visible, and charismatic figure in AQAP, al-Shihri is believed to be the overall leader of the group.
AQAP is currently considered the most successful of all of al-Qaida's offshoots. It has a very high level of media savvy and ability and is far more modern than any of the other offshoots as well as it's parent organization led by Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan. It utilizes social networking and has an unusually high number of Americans within it's ranks. This has gone a long way to making the group seem attractive and hip which most officials believe has been a boon for the group's recruitment levels.
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