About 8 kilometers from the Yemeni town of Khashef, Yemeni al-Qaeda leader al-Awlaki was killed by an US drone strike, along with 3 others involved in the terrorism ring.
Along with Samir Khan, an American of Pakistani origin, the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by the same elite unit that was responsible for the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound and his assassination. The airstrike on Awlaki’s convoy was directed by the CIA and carried out with the US Join Special Operations Command’s firepower. The cleric was known for radical anti-American rhetoric spread on the Internet. His use of modern media allowed Anwar to reach out and inspire people susceptible to radicalization. His efforts resulted in the inspiration of Major Nidal Hasan, the man responsible for the mass shooting at the Fort Hood army base in Texas in 2009. Anwar was also the supposed inspiration for the Pakistani-American man who pleaded guilty to the May 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt. Besides his use of media outlets, Anwar also took a more direct role in planning the attempted Christmas bombing of a Detroit-bound jetliner and in the plot which sent two bombs in printer cartridges on US-bound cargo planes in 2010.
“With the attempted Detroit bombing and the aeroplane cargo bomb plots he has demonstrated his intent and ability to cause mass terror, whilst his murderous ideology was responsible for inspiring terrorist attacks in the UK and the US. We must keep up the pressure on al-Qaeda and its allies and remain vigilant to the threat we face.” – William Hague, US foreign secretary
To the US, Anwar was a key figure to American counter-terrorism, serving as a forefront leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Al-Alwaki’s death is the latest in a run of high-profile kills for Washington under President Barack Obama. This has been seen as the biggest blow to al-Qaeda since the killing of Osama bin Laden. Anwar al-Awlaki was possibly the organization’s most inspirational cleric and ideologue in the Middle East. Al-Awlaki perpetuated Osama bin Laden’s vision for the al-Qaeda movement to become self-sustaining. He was creating franchises for terror organizations, helping al-Qaeda reach potential followers into the United States and the United Kingdom and also Southeast Asia countries such as Singapore with large English-speaking Muslim populations. With such unique skills eliminated from the repertoire of al-Aqaeda’s remaining leaders, the losses may be extremely difficult to replace within the weakened terror organization.
Nevertheless, al-Awlaki was a US citizen, born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents who have never been charged with any crime. Civil liberties groups have questions the government’s authority to kill an American without trial. As a global terrorist, targeting the lives of innocent civilians, the rights and liberties guaranteed to Anwar as an American was forfeit. As a head figure for al-Qaeda, the cleric was a symbol of what the War on Terror has been combating since 2001. As with Osama bin Laden, the call and directives for his death could not be questioned for the sanctity and security of the American nation as a whole.
“Why kill him in this brutal, ugly way? Killing him will not solve their problem with al-Qaeda, it will just increase AQAP’s strength and sympathy in this region.” – Abubakr al-Awlaki, relative of the deceased cleric
US officials are warning that the killing of the American-born cleric, the face of AQAP, could spark retaliatory attacks. Such symbolic deaths could easily provide the motivation for homeland attacks by “homegrown” violent extremists, which stand true concerning al-Awlaki’s role as an inspirational leader for radicalization. With Yemen wracked by political and social unrest as protesters call for the end of President Ali Adbullah Saleh’s rule, the dissent has allowed al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to gain a crucial foothold in the southern part of the country.
In retrospect, with Operation Troy responsible for yet another death in the hierarchy of the already weakened global terrorist organization of al-Qaeda, the list of leaders for al-Qaeda has shrunk but still remains extensive and formidable.
- Ayman al-Zawahiri
- Abu Yahya al-Libi
- Khalid al-Habib
- Adnan el Shukrijumah
- Atiyah Abd al-Rhman
- Said al-Adel
- Mustafa Hamid
- Saad bin Laden
- Hamza al-Jawfi
- Matiur Rehman
- Abu Khalil al-Madani
- Midhat Mursi
- Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso
- Adam Gadahn
- Nassar Abdul Karim al-Wuhayshi
- Abou Mossab Abdelwadoud