A well-known Yemeni journalist with connections to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Abdul Razzaq al Jamal, today posted a eulogy issued by the terrorist group to his Facebook page honoring fallen commander Ali bin Lakraa’ al Kazimi al Awlaki. The eulogy claimed that Awlaki was injured “during the American bombardment of the Mahfad area in Abyan in late Jumadi al Akhir,” referring to the US drone strikes targeting the Mahfad district on April 20.
The Yemeni media first reported the death of Awlaki, also known as Abu Maryam, in Mahfad on May 1.
The eulogy specified that during the time of the American drone strikes in late April, Awlaki was in Mahfad accompanied by “a group of his tribesmen” in order to “rescue their Muslim brothers who subjected to an American strike at that time.” After his injury, Awlaki was cared for by his AQAP “brothers” but eventually succumbed to his wounds. Shortly before his death, Awlaki apparently wrote a letter to his tribe, encouraging them to continue along the path of jihad and in support of sharia, or Islamic law.
Awlaki is described in the AQAP statement as a “pearl of his people” who worked in support of the weak, oppressed, and orphaned, and who also fought as a “mujahid” against “the enemies of Allah.”
The statement also calls the Awlaki tribe, a powerful clan in southern Yemen that has spawned a number of AQAP militants, “honorable” and lists other mujaheddin who have emerged from its ranks. This list includes Anwar al Awlaki, a US cleric and AQAP ideologue and operational commander who was killed in a US drone strike in 2011, as well as Fahd al Quso al Awlaki, who was killed by the US in another drone strike in 2012. Quso was wanted by the US for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and the attempt to detonate an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.
The eulogy ends with a message to the “Crusader enemies,” warning them that AQAP will be unrelenting in Yemen despite fierce American and Yemeni efforts. “Our ancestors fought you till they restored from you what you took from the country,” it concludes. “We will not relent nor resign till we drive out the Cross and liberate the country, restore sharia to rule and Islam to prevail, and justice to spread.”
Awlaki’s death highlights a continuing trend of the US targeting local AQAP commanders and fighters who are battling against the Yemeni government. This trend was first identified by The Long War Journal in the spring of 2012 [see LWJ report, US drone strike kills 8 AQAP fighters, from May 10, 2012].
This contradicts a US Department of Justice white paper that claimed that the drone program will target only those AQAP operatives who “present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States.”