A Look at Radical Cleric Awlaki, Killed in Yemen

Posted September 30th, 2011 at 11:20 am (UTC-5)
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Radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, killed by a U.S. strike in Yemen on Friday, was a notorious and outspoken figure within al-Qaida, and a leader of the terrorist network's wing in wing in Yemen.

The Obama administration targeted Awlaki for his role in orchestrating terrorism aimed at the United States. He had become more prominent since the death in May of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.

Awlaki, whose group in Yemen is known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, was believed to have been the target of a U.S. drone attack in May that killed two suspected militants in Yemen. He also escaped an air attack that killed 30 people last year.

Awlaki was born in New Mexico in 1971 to Yemeni parents and was fluent in Arabic and English.

He served as an imam at several U.S. mosques, including one in the western city of San Diego that was frequented by two men who later were involved in the September 11, 2001, attacks against the United States.

After Awlaki traveled to Yemen, he became an Internet sensation with a loyal following, including many radicals around the world who listened to recordings of his preachings.

In spite of his American background, Awlaki became a vocal critic of America, and he was suspected of motivating others to commit violence against U.S. interests. In a speech in November 2010, he told his followers they should feel free to kill Americans anywhere, at any time, without any need to consult with anyone beforehand. Awlaki said Muslims in contact with Americans face an “us or them” situation.

Awlaki was wanted by both the U.S. and Yemen for his alleged role in several terrorist attacks.

Authorities believe he helped Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian suspect accused of trying to blow up a passenger jet approaching the U.S. city of Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009. Awlaki also acted as an adviser to U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hassan, a psychiatrist accused of carrying out a 2009 shooting that left 13 people dead at an American military base in Texas.

Yemeni authorities charged Awlaki with “inciting violence against foreigners” for the 2010 killing of a French oil industry worker in Yemen.