The same U.S. military counterterrorism unit that got Osama bin Laden used a drone and jet strike in Yemen on Friday to kill the U.S.-born cleric suspected of inspiring or helping plan numerous attacks on the United States, including the Christmas 2009 attempt to blow up a jetliner, U.S. and Yemeni officials said.
Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a strike on his convoy directed by the CIA and carried out with the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command’s firepower, according to a counterterrorist official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.
His death will deal al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula a serious blow, particularly, says CBS News terrorism analyst Juan Zarate, his work to draw young Muslims into the jihadi mindset.
“His role as a propagandist actually will be very difficult to fill,” says Zarate.
Awlaki was American by birth and used his knowledge of the US, and sermons in colloquial English, to radicalize and inspire would-be terrorists. He also used the Internet to keep in contact with them, from his hideaway in Yemen. More to come.
More: Erick Stakelback looks at how Awlaki was able to influence young jihadis.
–Awlaki’s huge ideological influence on the global jihad was seen on YouTube, where he was a sensation, and in the massive movement of DVD’s and CD’s featuring his sermons. In short, he was a jihadi rock star. Look no further than northern Virginia, where I broke the story in June 2010 for CBN News that the largest Islamic supermarket in the Washington, D.C. area was selling dozens of Awlaki’s DVD’s and CD’s. As the owner of the store told me on camera: “They are very good sellers.” And just minutes from the nation’s capital. What a comforting thought. I talk about Awlaki’s influence at length in my book, The Terrorist Next Door: How the Government is Deceiving You About the Islamist Threat.
–Unlike another American-born Al Qaeda propagandist, Adam Gadahn (aka “Azzam the American”), Awlaki, who was an imam at mosques in San Diego and northern Virginia before leaving the U.S. in 2002, had major religious street cred in the radical Islamic world. In my conversation last year in London with Al Qaeda-linked, global terrorist Saad al-Faqih, he went out of his way to praise Awlaki as a religious scholar. Al Faqih, a former associate of Osama Bin Laden, would not offer such praise lightly. I believe that Awlaki’s unique blend of Westernized media savvy and religious gravitas make him, in many respects, even more difficult for Al Qaeda to replace at this stage than Osama Bin Laden.
More at the link.
More: The morally confused Glenn Greenwald wails upon the death of a dual citizen who exploited his command of English to successfully exhort young Muslims to wage war against the United States within our territory.