Anwar al-Aulaqi

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Anwar al-Aulaqi (or al-Awlaki; Arabic: أنور العولقي; April 21, 1971 - September 30, 2011) was an American-born radical Islamist spiritual leader with ties to al-Qaeda, who left the U.S. in 2002. Before leaving, he had been an imam at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia. He was based in Yemen, where he was imprisoned between 2006-2007 at U.S. request, and had an active Web presence as well as publishing materials sold at mainstream Islamic bookstores.[1]

Yemeni authorities detained him in mid-2006 at the request of the U.S. government, then released him at the end of 2007. Aulaqi "targets U.S. Muslims with radical online lectures encouraging terrorist attacks from his new home in Yemen," Charles Allen, then-chief intelligence officer for the Homeland Security Department, said in October 2008, calling him an "example of al-Qaeda reach into" the United States...[who] speaks to North Americans better than anybody else" overseas.


His announcements came from the hard-core al-Qaeda and Salafist positions and rejected moderation.[2] In an Internet posting on 23 May 2010,[3] he denounced moderation and called on Muslim U.S. soldiers to kill their fellow servicemen.

Americans do not want an Islam that defends the causes of the Islamic nation …. They want an Islam that is American, liberal, democratic, peaceful and civilized. [The kind of moderate Islam favored by the United States] has been mentioned and promoted in some of their reports, for instance in a [2007] report by the Rand Corporation.[4]

Another RAND Corporation report noted that the number of cases of radicalization in the U.S., 46 cases involving 125 individuals, were reported in the United States between September 11, 2001 and the end of 2009. "13 of those cases occurred in 2009, indicating "a marked increase in radicalization leading to criminal activity, up from an average of about four cases a year from 2002 to 2008. In 2009, there was also a marked increase in the number of individuals involved.”

Brian Jenkins, of RAND, said the number of those in the United States recruited to jihadist terrorism since 9/11 – about 131 to date – remains fewer than the number of English language Al Qaeda-linked websites, which Jenkins says now numbers about 200.

Al Qaeda today has been placed under pressure by drone attacks, the dispersal of their training camps, their networks ripped apart in several countries as a consequence of terrorist attacks in provoked. It does not have insofar as we know have the capacity for the centrally planned and managed terrorist attacks that it was carrying out in late 1990s and up through 9/11. But it remains determined and it is a much more decentralized threat and it relies on its affiliates in the field to carry out attacks and it is continuously issuing exhortations to individuals to do whatever they can wherever they can.

They are depending heavily on exhortation” involving English language websites and native-born American spokespeople -- al-Awlaki in Yemen with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Adam Gadahn [in Pakistan], Omar Hammami with al-Shabaab in Somalia – “constantly making the pitch – ‘don’t try to get to us in our training camps, but do whatever you can, wherever you can, wherever you are.’[5]

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

Deputy Prime Minister of Yemen Rashad al Alimi told an 8 January 2010 news conference that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, under arrest for the attempted suicide bombing, on 25 December 2009, of Northwest Airlines Flight 253, may have met al-Aulaqi in Yemen's southern Shabwa province, one of at least three provinces of Yemen believed to contain strong al-Qaeda forces. "There is no doubt he met with al Qaeda elements in Shabwa, including likely with Aulaki," Mr. Alimi said, citing local intelligence investigations into the whereabouts of Mr. Abdulmutallab before he left Yemen on Dec. 4.[6]

Nidal Hasan

Nidal Hasan, the accused shooter at Fort Hood, attended the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church in 2001, when its spiritual leader was Anwar al-Aulaqi, a figure who crossed paths with al-Qaeda associates, including two Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers, one senior U.S. official said. [7]


He may have recruited at least one American who joined al-Shabaab in Somalia, and spoke in support of that al-Qaeda linked group.[7]

9/11 Attacks

Aulaqi has been identified as a spiritual adviser of 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi; the 9/11 Commission Report said that they met with Aulaqi at a mosque in San Diego in 2000 and after he moved to Dar al-Hijrah in 2001.[8]


He was associated with the Holy Land Foundation, prosecuted for funding Hamas.[9] The FBI learned that he also may have been contacted by a bin Laden "procurement agent," who served as fundraiser for a charity that the Treasury Department designated a bin Laden financier, and said that Aulaqi's group was its Yemeni partner.[10] They also learned that Aulaqi was visited in early 2000 by a close associate of Omar Abdel-Rahman, the man known as "the blind sheik" who was convicted in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.[1]


His home was targeted in a 24 December 2009 airstrike by Yemenite forces,[11] but he survived.

With a decision that remains controversial,[12] the Central Intelligence Agency was reported to have received Presidential permission to target and kill al-Aulaqi, a U.S. citizen, while in foreign countries.

Because he is a U.S. citizen, adding Aulaqi to the CIA list required special approval from the White House, officials said. The move means that Aulaqi would be considered a legitimate target not only for a military strike carried out by U.S. and Yemeni forces, but also for lethal CIA operations... "He's recently become an operational figure for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," said a second U.S. official. "He's working actively to kill Americans, so it's both lawful and sensible to try to stop him." The official stressed that there are "careful procedures our government follows in these kinds of cases, but U.S. citizenship hardly gives you blanket protection overseas to plot the murder of your fellow citizens." [13]

U.S. State Department legal adviser Harold Koh said, to the American Society for International Law, that this was a licit action.[14]


Al-Aulaqi was killed in a U.S. drone attack, along with three other individuals, in northern Yemen on September 30, 2011.[15]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Anwar al Awlaki: Pro Al-Qaida Ideologue with Influence in the West, NEFA Foundation, February 5, 2009
  2. Laura Rozen (24 May 2010), "Islamic cleric in Yemen cites RAND report", Politico
  3. Yemeni-American Jihadi Cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki in First Interview with Al-Qaeda Media Calls on Muslim US Servicemen to Kill Fellow Soldiers, Middle East Media Research Institute, 23 May 2010, #2480
  4. Angel Rabasa, Cheryl Benard, Lowell H. Schwartz, Peter Sickle (2007), Building Moderate Muslim Networks, RAND Corporation,
  5. Brian Jenkins (2010), Would-Be Warriors: Incidents of Jihadist Terrorist Radicalization in the United States Since September 11, 2001, RAND Corporation
  6. Margaret Coker (8 January 2010), "Plane-Bomb Suspect May Have Met With Radical Cleric in Yemen", Wall Street Journal
  7. 7.0 7.1 Spencer S. Hsu and Carrie Johnson (9 November 2009), "Authorities scrutinize links between Fort Hood suspect, imam said to back al-Qaeda", Washington
  8. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, 9-11 Commission Report, p. 221
  9. Gretel C. Kovach (25 November 2008), "Five Convicted in Terrorism Financing Trial", New York Times
  10. 9-11 Commission Report, p. 517
  11. Christa Case Bryant, "Yemen air strike on Al Qaeda: Was cleric linked to Fort Hood shooting killed?", Christian Science Monitor
  12. Robert Haddick (7 April 2010), "It’s legal – an open range for U.S. killer drones", Small Wars Journal
  13. Greg Miller (7 April 2010), "Muslim cleric Aulaqi is 1st U.S. citizen on list of those CIA is allowed to kill", Washington Post
  14. Harold Hongju Koh (25 March 2010), The Obama Administration and International Law, American Society of International Law
  15. "Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki killed in Yemen", BBC News, 30 September 2011