Adam Gadahn rumored killed in North Waziristan strike

Gadhan.jpg

Adam Gadahn.

One day after a Pakistani newspaper reported al Qaeda propagandist Adam Gadahn may have been killed in the same airstrike that killed al Qaeda leader Abu Laith al Libi, the rumor remains unconfirmed.

Speculation over Gadahn’s presence at the al Qaeda safe house in North Waziristan began on Jan. 29, the day of the airstrike. An unnamed US official denied Gadahn was killed in the strike. But on Feb. 7, The News reported, based on statements from Western sources, that Gadahn was killed in the airstrike.

Gadahn was believed to be en route to the village of Khushali Tari Khel to attend an “an important meeting with other senior al-Qaeda commanders for planning the so-called spring offensive against US and NATO troops in Afghanistan,” The News reported. Two other al Qaeda leaders, Abu Obeida Tawari al Obeid, a Saudi; and Abu Adel al Kuwaiti, were also reported killed in the North Waziristan airstrike.

If Gadahn was indeed killed, al Qaeda has yet to acknowledge it. Al Qaeda has been forthcoming about the death of its leaders in the past, and has taken the opportunity to use their deaths as propaganda and recruiting tools. Less than 48 hours after al Libi was killed, al Qaeda posted an announcement at various jihadi forums.

Several days later, Mustafa Abu Yazid, al Qaeda’s commander in Afghanistan, released a videotape via As Sahab, al Qaeda’s media arm. Yazid extolled al Libi’s sacrifice and vowed to avenge his death. “The men he trained … will not rest until they avenge him and realize his aspirations and hopes, God willing,” Yazid said.

Al Qaeda would have capitalized on Gadahn’s death, given his unique status as an American member of al Qaeda. “I would imagine that if Gadahn got knocked off they would have announced his death just as quickly as they did [Abu Laith al Libi’s death],” said Nick Grace, who closely tracks al Qaeda’s propaganda and activity at jihadi forums. “Having an American become a martyr would be a propaganda coup for them and I imagine that ultimately Gadahn will be more useful for al Qaeda dead than alive.”

Grace noted that Gadahn plays a leading role in al Qaeda’s propaganda apparatus. “He has a leading voice within As Sahab’s management,” Grace said. Gadahn has taken over a significant role in As Sahab since the summer of 2006, and the propaganda has become more “sophisticated” since Gadahn’s direction.

But signs of Gadahn’s absence have been seen with the latest release of the Yazid video, said Grace. Files were not properly uploaded in the correct sequence. “Since taking the reins of as-Sahab, Gadahn instituted standards and practices that have been closely followed over the past year,” Grace noted. “This is the first technical mistake that I have seen them make since the events back in September 2007,” when the Osama bin Laden videotape was improperly handled.

Pakistani jihadis have told NBC News that Gadahn and his travel party have been unheard of since the Jan. 29 airstrike. “All our friends are worried about him but so far we could not make any contact with him,” a jihadi told NBC News. “We had sent two of our friends to Mir Ali to locate him and provide us with details about him.” The same sources said Gadahn was to attend the high-level meeting where al Libi was killed.

While there have been questions about Gadahn’s purpose at such a meeting, his role as a senior media strategist makes his attendance possible. Al Qaeda and the Taliban’s latest “spring offensive” in Afghanistan would require a propaganda component, one that Gadahn would uniquely fill as al Qaeda views him as an expert on the attitude of the American and Western public.

Gadahn, who is better known as Azzam the American or Azzam al Amriki, was born Adam Pearlman and converted to Islam in 1997. It is believed he joined al Qaeda in 2003 and was recruited by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks on America. Gadahn appeared in his first al Qaeda video in October 2004, and has been featured in several videos since. In his latest video, titled “An Invitation to Reflection and Repentance,” Gadahn tore up his US passport and called for Americans to join al Qaeda.

He was indicted in a US federal court under charges of treason and providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization for making al Qaeda propaganda videos. “By aligning himself with al Qaeda, by moving overseas to be closer to al Qaeda’s base and leadership, and by joining in advocating al Qaeda’s terrorist agenda, an agenda that includes the overthrow of the United States government and the murder of American citizens, Adam Gadahn has committed treason against the United States of America,” said US Attorney Debra Wong Yang. He is the first American to be indicted for treason since 1952.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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22 Comments

  • Jimbo says:

    The twist(from the NBC report) is that whole party he was traveling with has gone missing also.

    Curiouser and Curiouser.

  • Bill says:

    Insh’allah he was the victim of the Hellfire missile.

  • wilber says:

    I’d rather him and the rest of his party sitting somewhere being asked some rather pointed questions by his former countrymen.

  • Tommy says:

    1 of 3 things has happened:
    1. He was killed in the airstrike
    2. He heard about the strike and he’s keeping an extremely low profile now, not communicating, traveling etc.
    3. He and his entourage were snatched in a top secret operation by US special forces
    I hope the last is true….
    Keep up the great work, Bill.

  • GK says:

    Even if he was not killed – we have taken away his peace of mind. Imagine the fear of worrying all the time that a missile will emerge from the sky and obliterate you.

  • Jesus Reyes says:

    I never understood this guy. Did he just show up at Osama’s door one day and say, Hi, I’m Adam Pearlman but you can call me Adam Gadahn or better yet Azzam al-Amriki. I grew up in Southern Cal. My grandfather was jewish and a director of the Anti-Defamation League. And Osama says, Great, you’re just the media personality we have been looking for. Millions of muslim young men will be inspired by you. This really doesnt pass the smell test.

  • Mr. Forward says:

    Somebody fingered Libi. Why would AQ not suspect Adam?

  • Edward says:

    For some reason, Mr. Forward, you just made me consider the possibility of Adam Gadahn being an incredibly long-term, deep-cover infiltrator of AQ…

  • Mr. Forward says:

    It even easier to believe AQ might think so. If the missile didn’t get Adam his trigger-happy comrades might have.

  • cjr says:

    There is another possiblity. He was not killed (hence no death announcement), but he was seriously wounded (hence no appearences)

  • elaine says:

    How fitting if the American traitor was killed by an American missle.

  • Edward says:

    Again, assuming he wasn’t just deep cover. [/Metal Gear Solid 3-influenced storyline thinking]
    But yes, serious wounding is a possibility. As for his comrades thinking that Gadahn ratted out al-Libi… why?

  • njcommuter says:

    Assuming that the speculation about him being some kind of deep cover is wrong (as I believe) death under fire is better than he deserves. Death at the hands of his new friends would be best, followed by death at the nether end of an American rope.

  • JusCruzn says:

    I hope the rat bastard is dead, and if he is dead I hope he suffered for a very long length of time. He’s nothing but a traitor and a coward!!!

  • Dr.Shalit says:

    Well, with any luck that MAMZER Goat Herder is now with Allah eating his “Raisins.”
    -S-

  • Mr. Forward says:

    “As for his comrades thinking that Gadahn ratted out al-Libi… why?”
    Imagine you are a bodyguard for Libi. Your primary character trait and value is loyalty. You have just spent days dragging a whiny American traitor to a top secret meeting with your beloved leader. A missile you assume is American drops out of the sky and kills your boss. Somebody ratted. Who you going to suspect? Cousin’s Darel and Darel who you’ve been sleeping with for thirty years or “Dude, when are we getting back to the city, I need my java”?
    I don’t think Adam Gadahn was a double agent, but it’s probably safe to assume more than a few Al qaeda members had their doubts.
    Two days camping out with this punk and Mother Theresa would be eyeing the knife.

  • referman says:

    I like the thaught of him not being a spy but now the surviving scum believe he is!..Being in the hands of these guys he’d be begging for the water board..Great job gentlemen!!OOrraahh..

  • Jonny says:

    I’ve thought for a while now–admittedly not a very deep thought!–that our (USA) techie spooks should have long ago executed an operation of subtle jihadi-online-forum disinformation which would give AQ first serious suspicion of, and then proof that(fabricated of course) Gadahn the Coward was a long term plant by the CIA. It would save us a bullet or Hellfire.

  • Neo says:

    Idle speculation. Anyone! Maybe Scotland Yard can sort out this mystery too.
    Ok  Ok  I couldn’t resist. Considering this is all based on information filtering through the Islamist web sites, the evidence on any of this is scant or non-existent. I like playing the speculation game as much as the next guy, but this thread kind of started out in the weeds and proceeded to get totally lost. I’d even say some have gone well past the weeds on this and have gone over the hills and through the woods to grandma’s house.
    Yes, it’s harmless speculation, but all the same.

  • Steve-o says:

    He can’t be found? Odd, people at the site say he’s all over the place.
    Seriously, the double agent idea doesn’t sound right. I’m going with the “captured by SF” theory or the “pooping in his pants somewhere in the mountains” theory. Waiting with fingers crossed on Number 1, as opposed to Adam doing Number 2.

  • GK says:

    We’ll find out soon enough.
    Adam Gadahn’s only value to AQ is videotapes. He has no skills as a mastermind (like KSM or al-Zawahiri), not is he capable of doing beheadings or assassinations (like Zarqawi).
    Thus, if we don’t get any tapes again before the November election, we can conclude that he is dead or otherwise permanently out of action.

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