Anwar al-Awlaki Killed: A Primer on Yemen al Qaeda Chief

Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric who was a major figure in al Qaeda's Yemen branch, was killed by U.S. drones on Friday. Read the latest updates. Plus, Bruce Riedel on why al Qaeda's not dead yet.

Cheney Cheers Alwaki KillOct. 2, 2011 12:30 PM EDT

At least they can agree on something. Former vice president Dick Cheney and former Democratic Representative Jane Harman both defended the U.S. decision to kill U.S.-born cleric and terror leader Anwar al-Awlaki in a drone strike. On CNN Sunday, Harman said Awlaki posed an imminent threat while Cheney said "it was a very good strike." But Cheney also called on President Obama to apologize for criticizing former President George W. Bush's actions against suspected terrorists.

Yemen Touts Role in Awlaki’s Death Oct. 2, 2011 8:06 AM EDT

Yemeni officials on Saturday said they had helped the U.S. find and kill radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki—providing more details on their role in the killing than before. While the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity, a Yemen government spokesman said Saturday that the U.S. should show more appreciation to Yemen’s president for his role in Awlaki’s death. One official said the U.S. found Awlaki through a recently captured al Qaeda operative, and Yemeni security officials located Awlaki Friday morning in a remote village where the Yemeni state has no control. The Awlaki handover came just one week after Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh returned to the country after being attacked in Saudi Arabia. But al Qaeda in Yemen has long been considered one of the major wings of the organization, and several U.S. security analysts stressed Saturday that Awlaki’s death does not erase the threat.

Al Qaeda's Chief Bombmaker Not KilledOct. 2, 2011 4:45 PM EDT

Did Obama take out al Qaeda's bomb king, too? Unfortunately for the administration, it doesn't look like it. After initial reports that explosives expert Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri was also killed in the Yemeni raid, according to U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to the Associated Press,a Yemeni official confirmed Sunday that Asiri was not among the dead. Asiri is a notorious al Qaeda figure, allegedly planting bombs in printers and shipping them to the U.S. last year and providing support to the "underwear bomber" of Christmas Day 2009.

The Pornography of TerrorBy Christopher Dickey, Oct. 1, 2011

Maybe now the madness can end. Osama bin Laden sleeps with the fishes. Anwar al-Awlaki is in bits and pieces. Ding, dong, the sons of bitches are dead. But such is the power of terrorism in the mind of America that the collective neurosis about Muslim bad guys continues to this day and, indeed, could get worse.

The purveyors of paranoia among those who pass for politicians in the United States would have us believe that even as the external threat from al Qaeda terrorists is being blown away, the danger inside America is growing. They love to talk about a vast conspiracy that could actually impose Islamic law, or Sharia, in the 50 states. And more than a dozen state legislatures have actually wasted time and effort on that utterly specious notion.


Feds Issue Security Warning After Awlaki's DeathOct. 1, 2011 4:10 PM EDT

U.S. officials warned late Friday of possible attacks in retaliation for the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a joint warning that Awlaki’s death “could provide motivation for a homeland attack” by “homegrown violent extremists.” Awlaki, an American citizen born in New Mexico, was considered a top recruiter for al Qaeda given his fluency in English and his social media skills. The bulletin came the same day Awaki was killed by a U.S. drone strike, and a similar bulletin was issued after Osama bin Laden was killed in May. Meanwhile, Awlaki’s father, Nasser al-Awlaki, is reportedly on his way to the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, to confirm Awlaki’s death. While the other three operatives killed in the drone strike have not been identified, a U.S. official said Saturday that al Qaeda bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri was at the scene of the attack—but Asiri’s death could not be confirmed.

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White House: Justice Dept. Approved Awlaki RaidSept. 30, 2011 10:37 PM EDTWhite House officials said Friday night that a Justice Department memo had authorized the killing of cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen—and there was reportedly no dissent about the legality of killing a U.S. citizen. “What constitutes due process in this case is a due process in war,” said one official to The Washington Post. The document was produced after legal questions were raised about the killing of a U.S. citizen, who is afforded constitutional protections. The operation that killed Awlaki and Samir Khan, another U.S. citizen, involved CIA and military assets under CIA control—and a former intelligence official said the CIA would not kill a U.S. citizen without a written opinion. For its part, the White House has begun referring to Awlaki as al Qaeda’s “external operations” chief—possibly to emphasize Awlaki’s threat to Americans.

The Terrorists Awlaki InspiredSept. 30, 7:07 PM EDT

The New York Times has a timeline of Anwar al-Awlaki’s transition from a man who once condemned terror to one of the top al Qaeda operatives in Yemen. But by his death 10 years later, he had declared war on the U.S. His first ties to terror attacks were the July 7, 2005 bombing in London, where four suicide bombers had been followers of Awlaki. Awlaki has been credited with influencing 18 people arrested in connection with a plot to bomb Canadian buildings; the 2009 Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Hasan; and Dec. 25, 2009 the so-called underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. In 2010, the attempted Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, Roshonara Choudhry, a 21-year-old British student who stabbed a member of Parliament and Awlaki had ties to an October 2010 bomb plot that originated in Yemen.

The Reaction at Awlaki’s MosqueSept. 30, 2011 7:00 PM EDT

Anwar al-Awlaki had been a cleric at a Washington-area mosque, but after his death Friday, there were few tears shed for the man, although some raised questions about whether killing an American citizen in a drone strike is moral. Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, one of the largest and most influential mosques on the East Coast, has been stung by its association to terrorism before—two of the Sept. 11 hijackers reportedly worshipped there as did the 2009 Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Hasan. Most worshippers at Friday’s service said they were glad Awlaki was gone, as he had smeared not only their mosque but all of Islam by declaring war on the U.S. But some said they thought Awlaki had deserved at least a trial, and a select few who asked not to be named said they still supported Awlaki.

Obama: Awlaki Kill a 'Major Blow'Sept. 30, 2011 12:30 PM EDT

President Obama called the killing of Anwar al Awlaki “another significant milestone in the broader effort to defeat al Qaeda.” The killing of the American-born cleric by CIA drones this morning deals a “major blow” to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, said Obama at the retirement ceremony for Navy Admiral Mike Mullen. Republicans praised the president and the killing of Awlaki, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry calling it “an important victory.” The American Civil Liberties Union, meanwhile, condemned the killing as an illegal assassination of a U.S. citizen.

Editor of al Qaeda Magazine Also Killed in Raid Sept. 30, 2011 9:30 AM EDT

In addition to taking out Awlaki, the Yemen raid also killed a second American-born member of al Qaeda, Samir Khan, according to Yemeni officials. Khan, like Awlaki, was a key propogandist for the terrorist cell, editing their English-language magazine Inspire. (More on Khan here.) Meanwhile, a senior Obama administration official confirms to The New York Times that a U.S. drone was responsible for the attack. Details are still fuzzy, but the official states that a Hellfire missile was fired on Awlaki's convoy. An Associated Press source also credits a U.S. drone with the attack. The target on Awlaki has long been controversial, given his U.S. citizenship.

Inside the New Drone IndustryBy Clive Irving, Sept. 30, 2011Heard of a company called General Atomics? The name gives no clue to its main line of business, which is delivering instruments of assassination. We all know the giants of the military-industrial complex: Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics. But right now it is General Atomics that is the Pentagon’s star performer.

The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen on Friday is the fifth major terrorist scalp to be claimed this year by drone strikes. The drones were conceived, designed, and delivered by a division of General Atomics, based in San Diego. Their two killer drones are the Predator and the Reaper.


Awlaki: First U.S. Citizen Assassinated?Sept. 30, 2011 9:46 AM EDT

Anwar al-Awlaki may have been the first U.S. citizen targeted for killing by the government. Back in April of 2010, when the Obama administration authorized the killing of Awlaki, officials told The New York Times that they were not aware of any similar case. In August 2010 civil liberties groups representing Awlaki's father filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington, charging that the targeting of Awlaki violated his constitutional rights. A federal judge threw out the case, ruling that Awlaki's father lacked standing. Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald writes that with the death of Awlaki, “The due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now a reality.”

U.S. Almost Killed Awlaki on 9/11 AnniversarySept. 30, 2011 8:30 AM EDT

Intelligence officials have been able to pinpoint Anwar al-Awlaki for several weeks, and even thought they might have a good chance to kill him on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to ABC News. As President Obama went from New York City to the Pentagon to Shanksville, Penn., officials “thought they had a good opportunity to hit him,” an official says. “We waited, but it never materialized.” A senior administration official tells ABC News, “They were waiting for the right opportunity to get him away from any civilians.” Awlaki was “very operational” and actively engaged in plotting attacks while in Yemen, says another senior White House official.

Why al Qaeda Is Stronger Than EverBy Bruce Hoffman, Sept. 30, 2011

The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki changes everything—and changes nothing. Yes, the ability of the U.S. to reach across continents to eliminate senior terrorist leaders has proven the ultimate game-changer in the war on terrorism. Today, every breath al-Qaeda terrorist leaders take is a sigh of relief; another day that a missile has not rained down upon them. The time they can devote to plotting attacks is now consumed by staying alive and staving off an inevitable Hellfire missile strike.


Ron Paul Condemns Awlaki KillSept. 30, 2011 11:55 AM

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has weighed in on the killing of prominent al Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki: “I don’t think that’s a good way to deal with our problems,” Paul told MSNBC on Friday morning. The Texas congressman called his death an “assassination” and said the American-born terrorist should have been afforded a trial. “No one knows if he killed anybody. We know he might have been associated with the underwear bomber,” he said. Taking a stab at Obama, Paul added, “But if the American people accept this blindly and casually that we now have an accepted practice of the president assassinating people who he thinks are bad guys, I think it’s sad.” Does he feel the same way about Osama bin Laden? “Not exactly,” he answered, because bin Laden was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, whereas “nobody ever suggested [al-Awlaki] was participant in 9/11.”

Obama Gets Another TerroristSept. 30, 2011 9:17 AM EDT

Awlaki's killing is just the the latest notch in Obama's belt in the fight against terror. ABC News' Jake Tapper compiles the ever-expanding list, which has grown remarkably even since bin Laden's death in May. Pakistan's al Qaeda chief was killed in early September; senior leader Ilyas Kashmiri was killed in June; a handful of Yemen al Qaeda operatives were also taken out that same month. See the full list here.