Yemen claims AQAP cleric Anwar al Awlaki ‘killed’ in airstrike


Yemen’s Defense Ministry claimed that today its forces killed Anwar al Awlaki, the American cleric who serves as an operational commander for al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen. Samir Khan, another American who runs Inspire magazine, is also said to have been killed.

“The government of the Republic of Yemen announced today the death of Anwar Al Awlaki, the American born terrorist and member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” the message stated. “Awlaki was targeted and killed 8 KM from the town of Khashef in the Province of Jawf (140KM east of the Capital Sana’a). The operation was launched earlier today at around 9:55 AM, local time.” Al Jawf province is a haven for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Defense Ministry later said that Khan was also killed in the same strike. Khan runs AQAP’s English-language propaganda, and has published an article in Inspire entitled “I Am Proud to be a Traitor to America.” Prior to leaving the US last year, he ran the pro-al Qaeda Inshallahshaheed website.

The Defense Ministry statement on Awlaki conflicts with tribal sources who told AFP that Awlaki was killed in an airstrike that hit two vehicles in Marib province, another AQAP haven in Yemen’s south.

Although the Yemeni military claimed it carried out the strike, the US has been targeting AQAP leaders and fighters in the south using strike aircraft and unmanned Predator and Reaper drones. There have been seven such strikes confirmed this year; the last was on Sept. 22 in Abyan province, where the Yemeni military has been battling AQAP for control of the provincial capital of Zinjibar.

An unnamed senior US official today claimed that Awlaki was targeted in a US Predator strike and said he was indeed killed. Earlier today, according to The New York Times, top US security and counterterrorism officials held a video teleconference on the subject of Awlaki’s death.

A few hours later, President Obama stated that Awlaki’s death was “a major blow to Al Qaeda’s most active operational affiliate,” Fox News reported. He warned that the killing of Awlaki “is “further proof that Al Qaeda and its affiliates will find no safe haven anywhere in the world.”

The Fox News report also states that Awlaki and Shah were killed by Hellfire missiles fired by two Predator drones hovering about Awlaki’s convoy, and that the operation was carried out under the CIA’s direction by the Joint Special Operations Command.

AQAP has not released an official statement announcing Awlaki’s death or denying the reports.

The US military’s Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA are known to operate the armed Predators and Reapers from bases in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, and from the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. Bases are also being built in Ethiopia and an unnamed country on the Arabian Peninsula. The bases are to be used to attack al Qaeda affiliates Shabaab, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Since December 2009, some of the top leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have been targeted in US airstrikes, including Abu Basir al Wuhayshi, the group’s leader; Said Ali al Shihri, the second in command; Abu Hurayrah Qasim al Raymi, the military commander; Ibrahim Suleiman al Rubaish, the top ideologue; and Awlaki.

The Obama administration has approved operations that would lead to the assassination of Awlaki, and has labeled him as one of al Qaeda’s most dangerous leaders. The US added him to its list of designated terrorists on July 16, 2010. Unlike Adam Gahdan, the US-born al Qaeda propagandist who is based in Pakistan, Awlaki has not been charged with treason, despite his multiple statements against the US and his active support for al Qaeda.

In the past, Yemeni officials have claimed that Awlaki has been killed, only to have the AQAP leader reappear in propaganda tapes. On Dec. 24, 2009, the US targeted Awlaki and several other top al Qaeda leaders at a meeting in southern Yemen. Awlaki was at the meeting to provide the needed religious justification for a planned al Qaeda campaign to conduct attacks against Yemeni and US targets in response to the controversial Dec. 17 airstrikes against al Qaeda in Abyan and Sana’a, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. Among those believed to be at the meeting were Nasir al Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; his deputy Said al Shihri; and Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al Quso, an al Qaeda operative wanted by the FBI for his role in the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. Yemeni officials claimed the leaders were killed, but they survived the airstrike.

Awlaki has been the target of at least one other US airstrike this year. On May 5, US aircraft targeted Awlaki, but he survived. Two mid-level AQAP operatives were said to have been killed in the attack.

Awlaki is perhaps the most notorious member of AQAP. His sermons have garnered a wide audience on the web because of his fluency in English. US counterterrorism officials have directly implicated him in recent terror plots, including Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009 as well as Major Nidal Hasan’s attack at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009 that killed 13 US soldiers. Awlaki also had an operational role in the plot to blow up British Airways planes. In addition, European jihadists traveling to Pakistan are known to have met with Awlaki while traveling to Asia.

For more information on Anwar al Awlaki, see LWJ reports:

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

Tags: ,


  • AAndrew says:

    Great news!!! Congratulations to the men and women who made to this happen. What a great headline to wake up to.
    The key will be to keep taking out the leadership and letting less competent (and experienced) replacements rise to take their spot. If you can do this quickly enough, each generation of leadership will become weaker until the organization (as decentralized as it may be) breaks down.
    This was a great get. AAZ can’t be sleeping too well as he now (if he wasn’t already) is clearly at the top of the list. And given the pace at which we’ve been taking out the main leadership, his time should be up sooner rather than later.

  • g says:

    Huge. Awesome. Made my day.
    I think this is easily as important as eliminating bin Laden. That was redeeming but this, to me, is more important because this guy was a key to radicalizing Americans. He was able to traverse culture and connect their perverse messaging with the disenfranchised here. I am so happy he is dead.
    I wonder if he met his Inspire deadline.

  • Eric says:

    Our intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities are working well in the al qeda infested areas. These terrorist leaders are being eliminated faster than they can be replaced. We are winning this war so let’s keep up the pressure on the enemy until they surrender or are eliminated. Good hunting CIA and special forces!

  • Proud Kaffir says:

    If true, which it appears it is, then this is as big of news as killing Bin Laden, if not greater! Shout out to all of our warriors out there! Excellent work!

  • Verner McCall says:

    People on the ground tracked him, the target was taken out, nice shooting.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    Excellent development (if confirmed).

  • Priest says:

    Yo, Bill! It is good to say that we finally ousted this pig.
    Even I new to submit comment here FYI I always follow news in terrorism especially when it was not show up in mainstream media.
    I’m glad we finally get him because he was became tumor in my mind since long time ago especially for Fort Hood incident and some plots that he had planned.
    Hopefully we can crush Al-Qaeda to its roots in order to make this world safer than before.

  • namvet says:

    AL AWLAKI has been WAKED. Another al Qaeda king pin bites the dust.

  • SamIam says:


  • gitsum says:


  • JRP says:

    Obviously, very good new, except for Congressman Ron Paul, who should be designated as the first recipient of the Tony Bennett “Totally Out of Touch with Reality” award. Can’t give it to Tony ’cause he already got the “Knucklehead of the Month” award from right-wing media.
    Ron Paul is the kind of person so enmeshed in the shibboleth that we are a nation of laws and not of men, that if asked why he didn’t pull a wayward toddler from the middle of an intersection, would answer that to have done so would have been jaywalking and he believes too much in following the law.
    Regardless of your politics and the current economic mess in the U.S.A., you have to give President Obama credit. In the relatively short time he’s been in office he’s done far more to hurt AQ than anyone else. I wish he’d do even more vis-a-vis Pakistan.

  • Bungo says:

    We knew this was comin’. Good shooting Mr. President. AND a “twofer”! I’ll be popping open a coupla’ Lonestar Light “longnecks” tonight!

  • James says:

    So much for that forthcoming ‘Inspire’ article!

  • Semper Fi 1076 says:

    Hats off to the folks finally putting an end to the mouthpiece of terror. This individual and his minions have been a consistent and verified operational hazard to the free world for far too long. As details roll out about the operation, the planning, the intel and the actual strike, i will continue to use LWJ as a primary source of information. Thank you all for being an avenue of trusted news.

  • bear says:

    hope this is for real this time. would love to see this guy go!

  • gbridson says:

    Do you think the recent spate of specifically targeted individuals by drones indicates some leap forward in technology i.e., (enhanced optics or some other electronic intelligence capability) or is this the result of on-going humint efforts like boots on the ground surveillance?

  • Marcellus says:

    It would be wise to claim that the information for tracking him was received from the Zawahiri camp as a way to foment a rift between the old al-qaeda and the alqaeda in the arabian peninsula

  • KnightHawk says:

    Great news indeed if true that this scumbag finally got got.

  • mike says:

    Amazing a week or so after the President feels safe enough to return to Yemen that the 2nd most wanted terrorist in the world is neutralized with no collateral damage….
    Either its due to the $$ in a US bank under an assumed name for when he is finally ousted and needs to flee, or a “thank you” to the US doctors who actually patched him up during his time away.
    lesson to be learned here vis-a-vis Pakistan and Somali pirates….the folks in this region recognize and only respect pure brute force, and are the most devious poker players in the world.
    the sooner you brandish the big stick, the sooner they will come to heel -> terorists, ruffians, criminals and oligarchs

  • ArneFufkin says:

    @James: So much for that forthcoming ‘Inspire’ article!
    Ha! Thanks for the chuckle.

  • DickF says:

    Does this mean the October issue of “Inspire” will be late?

  • JT says:

    I’ll play devil’s advocate here since no one else brought it up:
    I am surprised no one but Ron Paul has said anything at all about the fact this guy was a US citizen. What does this mean about what is said by the stereotypical left about Gitmo and KSM trial?
    By the way, what is the latest on the KSM trial? Does he deserve a speedy trial? Or is he a war combatant? Should he be treated as if he were a US citizen?
    How times have changed.

  • Soccer says:

    I’m glad this SCUM was vaporized.
    They used to call him “the terrorist of the Internet”.
    Well, Anwar Al-Awlaki will not be logging on anytime soon.
    He has been “TERMINATED”, more or less, if you wanna attach an Internet term to his very fortunate death.

  • ramsis says:

    “you have to give President Obama credit. In the relatively short time he’s been in office he’s done far more to hurt AQ than anyone else”
    I do give Obama some credit but to say He’s done more to Hurt AQ then anyone else might be a bit of an overstrech. After all AQ enjoyed a large structured and highly sophisticated organization while under the protection of the taliban in afghanistan. They had many operational centers and bases in which they regularly planned and executed attacks from. those bases were destroyed by the previous administration as well as thousands of seasoned and battle hardened mebers. The killing of UBL and Awlaki are significant but they are hardly the end of AQ much less the most significant blow.

  • JT says:

    Is Adam Gadahn still kickin’?

  • Stu says:

    Great News!
    Congratulations to the CIA and our military men and women who are pushing these rats over the cliff. In the scopes, I hope: Zawahiri, Haqqani tribe, Mullah Omar. Keep it up!

  • mike merlo says:

    Traitors Beware!

  • Robert says:

    I don’t understand why Ron Paul was against the killing of Anwar al-Awaki. He was the new OBL with price over his head due to his extreme views. He sells CD

  • Clarence Darby the Villain says:

    I preferred to have that bearded pedophile coercively interrogated under some discomforting stress positions.. but a violent death will suffice.

  • CC says:

    This has been a big week for the Global War on Terror.
    The Afghans stated yesterday that they will no longer be working on peace talks with the Pakistanis. In their statement, the Afghans said that they would now be working with the EU, US, and INDIA to bring peace to Afghanistan. The mention of India is of significant importance. It signals that they have officially recognized Pakistan’s duplicity. Bill Roggio, I would like to see your analysis of this development (Source: New York Times).
    On the other front, Anwar al-Awlaki is a significant loss. He was the “modern” face of Al-Qaeda in that he was well-spoken and IT savvy. This no doubt strikes a huge blow to AQAP.

  • destab says:

    Are they going to turn this one into fish poo too?

  • TLA says:

    No credit to Obama. He would not have dared to say ‘no!’

  • LV says:

    Just want to point out to those praising Obama – I think he has no choice, but approve strikes. The increased tempo of the strikes is thanks to new CIA chief Gen. Petraeus.

  • Doug Ratcliffe says:

    This is excellent news on many levels. First is that this particular scumbag has been exterminated and his days of spewing hatred against America are over. Secondly is that someone who is an important link between the old guard of AQ and the next generation has been taken out. Thirdly the fact that no one can hide behind or misuse the word American. That Ron Paul would confuse this slime with an American is further proof of his tenuous grasp of reality and an insult to Americans; that anyone would need any word before or after American is proof you are not an American. Fourth that we have not wasted any time or effort in parading him in an American court of law — now can we have a predator target Hissan Nidel’s cell, no further delay is needed here either.

  • dr burke says:

    TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 115 >

  • Charu says:

    Great job! Awe inspiring! Al Zawahiri is a dead man walking. Now to make sure that Kashmiri is dead and not in an ISI safe house. The ISI and the PakMil have to be looking overhead and wondering when they are next.

  • GH says:

    Latest news is that al-Asiri, a top bomb-maker, is believed to have been killed as well. Three high-value targets. A good day!

  • Meitou says:

    Despite what obama says, he is not that important, just a spokesman

  • In the 1980s, the most infamous terrorist in the world was invariably Muammar al Gaddafi.
    In the 1990s and 2000s, that title went to Osama Bin Laden.
    And for the beginning of this decade, it was Anwar al Awlaki.
    In the last five months, Bin Laden and Awlaki are dead, and Gaddafi has been forever removed from power.
    The terrorism ghosts of past, present, and future are now all finished.

  • ariel says:

    Good work US. It is high time, US shifts its focus to state actors like Pak and eliminate the top military leadership responsible for majority of the strikes on ISAF in Afghanistan. It is the ISI backed Haqqani/Taliban which is directly responsible for undermining the peace efforts in Afghanistan.

  • Michel Kleistra says:

    IMO it is wrong to kill a person in an extra judicial attack especially if it is your own countryman. Then again US has the death penalty so when he was adbucted and trialed in the US , he would prolly got the death sentence, anyway. That being said, I still think it is wrong. Besides did they not learn anything from the past? When the IL army killed Sheikh Yassin and his succesor, they got one who is more cunning and smart then all of them.(Khaled Meshal). Besides some of the moslims will say he is a martyr and worship him for this.

  • Mirage says:

    Latest news is that Haji Mali Khan, a senior Haqqani leader has been captured by NATO

  • Ranger says:

    “are they going to turn this one into fish poo too?”
    LMAO! One can only hope.
    Like the rest of you, I’ve been enjoying the sweet irony & poetic justice of this, given the last issue of Inspire. Can’t be very “inspiring” to announce his demise before he even gets to his tips for attacking Westerners!
    *fingers crossed that he stays dead

  • JRP says:

    It seems to me, and I am not a President Obama supporter, that the President is the most reviled war-time President since LBJ, perhaps even Lincoln.
    Whereas Lincoln stayed the course, LBJ capitulated and we lost the Vietnam War, not on the battlefield, but here at home.
    Make no mistake about it, President Obama is calling all the shots here and has been moderately hawkish in his prosecution of the WoT.
    Most commentators to LWJ are, like me, desireous of an even more hawkish approach to the WoT than Obama has shown. It seems to me that they will get what they want more by crediting the President’s achievements than by discounting his role in successful attacks.
    To me, it’s reminiscent of that part of the film My Cousin Vinny, wherein Vinny complains to his girlfriend, at a point in the film where she’s mocking his early courtroom efforts, that maybe he’d be doing better, if she gave him some encouragement rather than mocking him.
    Similarly with President Obama, he is going to be our Commander-in-Chief at least to Inauguration Day 2013 and for even longer, if he wins re-election.
    So far he’s shown more results than his predecessors in office. However, he’s still human and, if blamed for all ills, but never credited for any accomplishments, he’s bound to go risk-averse.
    You don’t have to like him or vote for him, but give him his due. Of late our enemies have been dropping like flies. I simply don’t buy it that the fact that it’s all happening on President Obama’s watch is purely coincidental. Frankly, I’m amazed at the personal restraint he’s shown on the campaign trail in at least pointing out that though things aren’t going that well domestically, at least in foreign matters he’s shown himself to be a reasonably competent and successful Commander-in-Chief.

  • DS says:

    Inspire? More like Expire, I guess.

  • Jayant says:

    One scum after another after another made mincemeat of. Impressed with the intel penetration that is making this happen. Keep it coming boys!

  • gabriel says:

    This could be a Bigger kill than Osama Bin Laden. Due to eyes in the sky Bin Laden was a still active, but fading Figure. Awlaki was the “face” of AQAP and had numerous ties to would be and successful terrorists attacks.
    Anyway you see it, still a huge kill in the fight against terrorism.

  • GH says:

    Dr Burke is mixing up domestic and military justice, I think. Awlaki was never indicted for treason (as Gadahn has been), probably because although technically a US citizen, he went to Yemen at a young age, was a citizen there (through his parents), was raised and educated there (until college), and was therefore a Yemeni, and an American citizen only incidentally.
    Had he been captured instead of killed, it is possible he could have been indicted for treason, but he might instead have been turned over to Yemen, who also wanted him.

  • Alphonse says:

    I agree with those that castigate Ron Paul for his impractical position on al awlaki’s rights as a citizen. In the context of reality this killing was within the law. Keep up the good work drone teams.

  • g says:

    al-Awlaki, Samir Khan and Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri – a triple play – you don’t see that very often…

  • ArneFufkin says:

    @Meitou: Despite what obama says, he is not that important, just a spokesman
    To whom are you referring?
    I would propose that any of the individuals in this event and noted in Bill’s piece (Obama/Awlaki/Khan/that bomb maker) are FAR more than just an ordinary “spokesman”.
    Awlaki was the inspiration and perhaps conductor behind the Fort Hood massacre, underwear and Times Square bomber and other attacks within U.S. borders. His death is cause for celebration. Human addition through animal subtraction.
    I am thrilled he’s dead. That’s me. I’m unclear what point you were making.

  • Mr. Wolf says:

    This is good news for sure…. but with these two exactly, we need boots on the ground to clean up. Hopefully we were allowed to clear the trucks, and sweep the house before the dust settled. Laptops, ISPs, hard drives, emails and passwords, were very important to these two. If they didn’t speak directly with AZ, they were speaking with his representatives. Think of all the twitter followers you may have, then think of what connections they may have made during the Arab Spring.

  • Michael Saint says:

    It’s great that Awlaki and Khan have been killed. Because of the incident with Nidalhasan, anyone who has promoted the longevity of Awlaki’s tired ramblings, deserves the same treatment. Now the question is, who is the poor-Arabic writer, former publisher of Inspire, who is still posting about Awlaki, after his death? It would seem the work is not finished. One can only hope that the same drones will mercilessly aim in on this individual and finish the job. The signature is clear, and what I refer to of course is the Arabic post from al-fajr. Anyone with an understanding of Arabic linguistics, see’s it as plain as day. The job is not finished yet. The true source of the problem is still out there. Let’s finish it.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram