President Barack Obama speaks on the killing of US-born Imam Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, Friday, Sept. 30, 2011, during a ‘Change of Office’ ceremony at Ft. Myer in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — The killings of U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and another American al-Qaida propagandist in a U.S. airstrike Friday wipe out the decisive factor that made the terrorist group’s Yemen branch the most dangerous threat to the United States: its reach into the West.
Issuing English-language sermons on jihad on the Internet from his hideouts in Yemen’s mountains, al-Awlaki drew Muslim recruits like the young Nigerian who tried to bring down a U.S. jet on Christmas and the Pakistani-American behind the botched car bombing in New York City’s Times Square.
Friday’s drone attack was believed to be the first instance in which a U.S. citizen was tracked and killed based on secret intelligence and the president’s say-so. Al-Awlaki was placed on the CIA “kill or capture” list by the Obama administration in April 2010 — the first American to be so targeted.
The other American killed in the strike, Samir Khan, published a slick English-language Web magazine, “Inspire,” that spouted al-Qaida’s anti-Western ideology and even offered how-to articles on terrorism — including one titled, “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.”
Their voices elevated the several hundred al-Qaida fighters hiding out in Yemen into a greater threat than similar affiliates of the terror network in North Africa, Somalia or east Asia.
President Barack Obama heralded the strike as a “major blow to al-Qaida’s most active operational affiliate,” saying the 40-year-old al-Awlaki was the group’s “leader of external operations.”
“In that role, he took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans,” Obama told reporters in Washington, saying al-Awlaki plotted the Christmas 2009 airplane bombing attempt and a foiled attempt in 2010 to mail explosives to the United States.
Al-Awlaki’s death was the biggest success in the Obama administration’s intensified campaign to take out al-Qaida’s leadership since the May killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The pursuit of al-Awlaki and Friday’s strike were directed by the Login to read more