AQAP confirms Anwar al Awlaki killed in US drone strike


AQAP image of Anwar al Awlaki. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has confirmed that Anwar al Awlaki was killed in a US drone strike last month, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. In a statement released to online jihadist forums, AQAP also confirmed the killing of Samir Khan, who edited AQAP’s online English publication, Inspire.

AQAP’s martyrdom statement references the public debate in the US over the legality of killing Awlaki and Khan, both of whom were American citizens. AQAP says the US government “did not prove the accusation against them, and did not present evidence against them in their unjust laws of their freedom.”

The statement, according to a translation provided by SITE, continues: “Where are what they keep talking about regarding freedom, justice, human rights and respect of freedoms?! Was America fed up with it to the point that it contradicted it – and every day it contradicts – these principles that it claims its state is based upon?!”

Ironically, AQAP’s own martyrdom statement confirms Awlaki’s and Khan’s roles in the organization, as the terror group does not issue such statements for just anyone. Moreover, AQAP refers to Awlaki as the “mujahid heroic sheikh.”

There is another layer of irony in AQAP’s attempt to play up the American legal debate as well. In an issue of Khan’s Inspire magazine published last year, Awlaki railed against Western laws and “civil states.”

Awlaki’s piece was written in response to “The New Mardin Declaration,” which was published by Islamic scholars in March 2010. The moderate scholars called on Muslims, Christians, and Jews to live in peaceful coexistence in the modern, Western nation state.

For Awlaki, this was simply unacceptable because it means that Muslims would have to accept Western law.

“At a time when American expenditure on its army is anything but decreasing, these scholars are asking us to give up any form of resistance and live as law – Western law that is – abiding citizens,” Awlaki sneered. The al Qaeda cleric continued: “They are asking us to live as sheep, as pleasantly as a flock of tame, peaceful, and obedient sheep. One billion and a quarter Muslims with no say on the world stage, stripped from their right to live as Muslims under the law of Islam, directly and indirectly occupied by the West, are asked to live as sheep. Is that the role of scholars?”

AQAP describes Awlaki as the “preaching sheikh.” Critics of the drone strike on Awlaki have claimed that he was merely a radical preacher with no operational role in al Qaeda’s terrorism. However, emails released during the trial of a convicted al Qaeda recruit show that Awlaki played a direct role in orchestrating terrorist plots. [See LWJ report, Awlaki’s emails to terror plotter show operational role.]

For example, Awlaki explained in one email to Rajib Karim, who was plotting a “spectacular” attack on airliners, that AQAP’s “highest priority is the US.” Awlaki continued: “Anything there, even if on a smaller scale compared to what we may do in the UK, would be our choice. So the question is: with the people you have, is it possible to get a package or a person with a package on board a flight heading to the US?”

Other emails showed that Awlaki explored granular details of the plot, including airport and airline security, with Karim.

The Obama administration has also alleged that Awlaki played a direct role in Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab’s failed Christmas Day 2009 terror plot, as well as other AQAP plots and terrorist operations.

In court filings last year, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper explained that Awlaki was not just a spiritual advisor for Abdulmutallab. Shortly after Abdulmutallab swore allegiance to the emir of AQAP, Nasir al Wuhayshi, he “received instructions from [Awlaki]…to detonate an explosive device aboard a US airplane over US airspace.” Awlaki was directly involved in “preparing” Abdulmutallab for the Christmas Day 2009 operation, according to Clapper.

In a 2010 press release, Stuart Levey, who was then Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the US Treasury Department, said that Awlaki “has involved himself in every aspect of the supply chain of terrorism — fundraising for terrorist groups, recruiting and training operatives, and planning and ordering attacks on innocents.”

In designating Awlaki an al Qaeda, the Treasury Department noted that he had “taken on an increasingly operational role” in AQAP since late 2009. [See LWJ report, US adds Anwar al Awlaki to list of designated terrorists.]

Awlaki also inspired numerous terrorist plots in which he apparently played no operational role. For instance, Major Nidal Malik Hasan corresponded with Awlaki repeatedly in the months leading up to the Nov. 5, 2009 Fort Hood shooting. Afterward, Awlaki referred to Hasan as one of his “students.”

A Congressional Joint Inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks also found that Awlaki was a “spiritual advisor” for at least two of the hijackers.

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

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  • Victor says:

    Lie down with dogs, get up with a Hellfire for breakfast.

  • Gerald says:

    Terrorist. Traitor. Dead. Cool!

  • Witch Doctor says:

    I say if you are an American citizen and you intend or influence others to harm other Americans you have given up your rights that are granted you as a citizen. If you want to harm Americans, we will stop you from doing so no matter what your citizenship states.
    Perhaps AQAP is worried they are going to be next and I hope they are correct. Many targets walking around the Arabian peninsula.

  • Eddie D. says:

    Like there was any doubt.

  • daniwitz13 says:

    The Killing of Awlaki is an illegal act. No war can be declared on an ideology. Can the US theoretically declare war on Islam and kill anyone that belongs to it? If being an al Qaeda is justified to kill, why then can they kill a Taliban or that other Hagganii (?) or any other name that the US apply. Do they sign a notarized form that applies to al Qaeda persons? What if he denies and denounces being an al Qaeda? What if he calls himself something different? If a man just claims to be something, will the Courts accept it? I’m a Jew, Catholic, Republican. etc. Names and ideology are Not something stable to make war on, like a Country or Nation that have a recognized Govt. NOT just groups of people. No way can ANY law professor say that this is legal. How can this method (drones) also be legal. It NOT ONLY kill its intended person, it has the potential to kill dozens also. With no due process, professors would also say it is perfectly legal (as long as it is NOT one of his family)

  • kit says:

    @daniwitz13 Its called military justice. Have you ever served in any military? In my opinion he was a traitor and deserved to die.

  • Neonmeat says:

    @ daniwitz13
    Yes you can declare war on an ideology such as National Socialism or Communism as we have seen over the previous century.
    The War now is against an organisation, Al Qaeda, and their extreme Islamic ideology.

  • g says:

    Daniwitz, or is it danitwitz,
    You are mistaken if you think the rights we guarantee to our citizens are going to handcuff and prevent us from protecting those rights. We are not idiots to be fooled with.
    Dead is where you will be if you are our enemy — at any cost. We will let others ask the questions later. Go ask aw-awlaki and debate whether we can kill him.
    You are a fool and if you only understand the ‘might makes right’. We will see who prevails. Thankfully, we don’t ask the ACLU for permission, we just do what needs to be done – and there is no way you can compete with that on your camel looking for water. Get a f’ing life, a clue… You suck. Being an American is great. No joke. No exaggeration. Illegal? perhaps. Irrelevant, definitely,

  • Observer says:

    No, its not.
    Due process does not apply in warfare against foreign countries and entities.
    Warfare is waged under the International Laws of Armed Conflict, not domestic american law.
    The US is officialy in a state of armed conflict with the Al Qaeda group, Taliban and assosiated forces.
    The Law of Armed Conflict does not state anywhere that enemy soldiers with american citizenship are not lawful combatant targets.
    Any american citizen who joins a foreign military/paramilitary force participating in armed conflict with the US could be legally targeted and destroyed.

  • Kel says:

    I would have to agree with witch doctor in regards to being an American citizen but yet have intentions on harming other Americans. Then yes, I believe you have given up your rights that are granted you as a citizen.
    It’s just a shame to think of what this world has come to.

  • George says:

    Several instances of our govt eleminating citizens of our country which threaten and kill American citizens have been recorded over our history. For instance-Texas Rangers/Camache’s,outlaws (all American citizens) who escaped to Mexico……….State and Federal forces crossed the border hundreds of times over the years and killed those enemies. They were even killed on American soil. What about the Cival War and spies?? Why werent bonny and clyde arrested?? The list goes on. If you are an American citizen and threaten, harm or take any action associated with a terrorist organization then you can be marked for removal. These gentlemen actively engaged and supported individuals who were planning and attempting to carry out terrorist activities against our citizens. If they were living in Atlanta or Chicago maybe they would have been arrested. However; since we can assume they were armed and dangerous that doesnt always mean the arrest would go smoothly. Especially when your accused has already stated he would kill himself and others. Some people for the better of mankind just need to be removed.

  • I’m not American and neither do I live in the US. I’m from England however I wholeheartedly agree that this is something that had to be done. In cases such as this, these types of severe measures are unfortunately quite necessary.

  • Drone ul Predatoriyah says:

    @ daniwitz
    Haven’t you read any of the issues of Inspire magazine, son?
    Samir Khan openly declared himself a traitor and used his treachery as a recruiting tool, as a heroic spotlight for aspiring Western-based jihadis. He outlined ways to kill American citizens using everything from homemade bombs to blades welded onto the front of a pickup truck.
    Whilst still in the USA, Khan even consulted a lawyer to determine how he could continue his blog ‘inshallahshaheed’ whilst avoiding breaking the law.
    Awlaki even produced an Arabic speech in Yemen in which he unashamedly stated that “don’t consult anyone in the killing of Americans”.
    Awlaki didn’t care about the US Consitution. And he sure as hell didn’t care about you if you had been on the plane to Detroit with the underpants bomber.
    As has been wisely said:
    “Lie down with dogs, get up with a Hellfire for breakfast.”

  • JT says:

    Due process and other cited claims about where to have trials, etc. apply to US criminal law.
    We are absolutely not talking about US criminal law here. We are talking about international warfare and the Geneva Convention rules.
    Therefore, until and unless someone is captured, we are at war. Period. Enemies of the country are legitimate targets.
    Once captured, the Geneva Convention rules apply, IF the prisoner fits the assumptions of the Geneva Convention rules. If the prisoner does not wear a uniform and fight for a country, it is not clear what rules apply. In fact, no clear rules for that situation exists. In my opinion, some rules should be written. If they are not, this debate will continue for generations.
    In the mean time, you do what makes sense. For example, get going with the KSM trial as a millitary tribunal. It’s a war, not a common criminal for Pete’s sake!!!

  • TaterSalad says:

    Barack Obama’s State Department offers condolences to the family of the Al-Qaeda propagandist for being killed by drones on the Al Awlaki convoy. You can not make this stuff up! Is our President delusional or what?

  • blert says:

    It is a common misperception that AQ has Geneva Convention rights.
    They have absolutely Zero Geneva protections: they are Unlawful combatants.
    The whole purpose of the conventions is to stop/ make unattractive barbaric warfare.
    Hence the requirement for lawful combatants to were a uniform. This can take the form of a bandana around the upper arm. Even a distinctive shirt color would qualify.
    However, it is AQ’s MO to never wear any uniform.
    Beyond that, AQ specifically targets hospitals and places of worship. Both are protected by the Geneva Conventions.
    So, under Geneva, AQ and its kin have ZERO protections from any party anywhere in the world.
    When Stalin informed Hitler that German troops would not be afforded Geneva protection — Hitler reciprocated by conducting pre-Geneva total warfare.
    Japan also refused to obey Geneva Conventions. Hence they conducted vicious medical experiments upon captured soldiers. One officer even went cannibal! He was hanged for his barbarity.
    An outfit that runs entirely outside the law — any law — deserves no legal protection.

  • Mexicali Steve says:

    I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
    See that part in there about the ‘domestic’ enemies?
    @Tatersalad – that piece is playing on the news right now …. unbelievable!!

  • Michael Saint says:

    The president of the United States is responsible for protecting the safety and security of the American people. If the president has in his possession, no matter how secret, information that Awlaki is responsible for all the things publicly stated, he should act upon that evidence. After all, lets get real here…Awlaki never really denied responsibility for the things practically accused of him. In addition he clearly called for the deaths of Americans. And even a newspaper reporter was able to verify that Awlaki had been visible near his tribal village only days before his death.
    If Awlaki had a case of innocence to make, he had more than ample opportunity.
    But the publisher of INSPIRE is still out there. The publisher delivered the eulogy on the internet and in a virtual taunt of those who have not found him, utilized the same stupid formatting he put into the INSPIRE publication.
    I hope he is being tracked down too.
    After all, since we know that Awlaki caused Nidalhasan to go postal on our military men and women, the messenger deserves no less than what Awlaki has already received.
    When will we learn, that
    the Messenger has been killed?


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