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Al-Awlaki Was Prominent Al-Qaida Voice Aimed at West

  • Sean Maroney

Radical cleric and wanted terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki was killed Friday in Yemen in what news reports say was a coordinated air strike by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Al-Awlaki was an American citizen who became a prominent al-Qaida figure and coordinated terror from Yemen hideouts.

Anwar al-Awlaki, the public face in the West of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, is dead.

U.S. and Yemeni authorities hunted him for years, and on Friday, they got him, nearly five months after U.S. Special Forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

U.S. President Barack Obama said al-Awlaki's death is a major blow to the al-Qaida affiliate.

Quick Facts: Anwar al-Awlaki

  • Anwar al-Awlaki was a notorious and outspoken figure within al-Qaida, and a leader of the terrorist network's wing in Yemen.

  • Awlaki, whose group in Yemen is known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, was believed to have been the target of a U.S. drone attack in May. He also escaped an air attack that killed 30 people last year.
  • He was born in New Mexico, USA in 1971 (Yemeni parents, fluent in Arabic and English).
  • He served as an imam at several U.S. mosques, including one in the western city of San Diego that was frequented by two men who were involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States.
  • After Awlaki traveled to Yemen, he became an Internet sensation with a loyal following, including many radicals around the world who listened to recordings of his preachings.
  • He was a vocal critic of America and was suspected of motivating others to commit violence against U.S. interests.
  • Was wanted by authorities in US and Yemen.
  • Yemeni authorities charged Awlaki with "inciting violence against foreigners" for the 2010 killing of a French oil industry worker in Yemen.
  • Believed to have helped Nigerian suspect arrested for attempted 2009 Christmas Day bombing of US airliner.
  • Acted as advisor to U.S. Army psychiatrist accused of carrying out mass shooting at military base that left 13 dead in 2009.

"He directed the failed attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009," said Obama. "He directed the failed attempt to blow up U.S. cargo planes in 2010. And he repeatedly called on individuals in the United States and around the globe to kill innocent men, women and children to advance a murderous agenda."

The U.S.-born extremist had the rare distinction of being an American, approved for killing without trial by the U.S. government. In Yemen, he faced charges in connection to the death of a French oil industry worker.

Al-Awlaki was born in the U.S. in 1971 to Yemeni parents and later served as an imam in several U.S. mosques, including one frequented by two men involved in the terrorist attacks on the U.S. in 2001.

Analyst Amir Latif says al-Awlaki's personality and his fluency in Arabic and English make his death a great loss for al-Qaida.

"When you have a person like Awlaki, who is taken out of the leadership, to replace an individual like that that has got that sort of appeal is very difficult to do," noted Latif.

But while al-Awlaki was important, analyst Tom Sanderson says al-Qaida and Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) still remains a threat.

"This is a highly valuable development, but certainly not the end of Awlaki's influence, not the end of AQAP and not the end of al-Qaida in the global sense," said Sanderson.

Al-Awlaki attracted a loyal following over the Internet, ensuring his sermons on YouTube and other sites echo online long after his death.



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