U.S.-born Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in January, Obama administration officials announced on Thursday. Described once as a "chubby former metalhead," the Oregon-born, California-raised jihadi converted to Islam as a teenager—and was later turned in to the feds by the same man who witnessed his conversion.
Gadahn was raised Christian by parents who adopted the last name as an homage to the biblical Gideon (a change from their prior surname of Pearlman), and his grandfather served on the board of directors for the Anti-Defamation League. The rift between him and his family grew as Gadahn embraced heavy metal music as a teen.
After converting to Islam, Gadahn abandoned his musical passion and shipped his CDs to a friend. When the friend asked why he was giving away his prized possessions, Gadahn replied simply: “Well, I turned Muslim.”
He moved to Pakistan in 1998 and became a spokesman for Al Qaeda. He initially told his family that he was working as a journalist, before cutting off contact with them in the early 2000s. Through Abu Zubaydah, one of Osama bin Laden's close advisers, Gadahn is believed to have come into the inner circle of Bin Laden himself. Some of his early work for Al Qaeda includes English-language translations of Bin Laden's addresses. Gadahn was one of the group's primary ways of reaching an English-speaking audience before the launch of English-language jihadi glossy magazine Inspire.