Entries in Anwar Al-Awlaki (8)


Holder to Speak on Targeted Killings of Americans

Official White House photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- To kill or not to kill? Under what conditions can or should the United States government target and kill -- without trial -- a U.S. citizen suspected of plotting terrorism?

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder will deliver a key speech on national security issues and is expected to provide the most detailed terms to date on the U.S. drone campaign and the U.S. government's legal authority to target and kill U.S. citizens such as Anwar al-Awlaki, a suspected high-profile al Qaeda recruiter.

According to administration officials, Holder is expected to say that U.S. citizens believed to be planning terrorist plots against this nation and deemed to be an imminent threat can be killed without a trial or conviction.

Although Awlaki was clearly a top terrorist target, two other U.S. citizens have been killed by American strikes in Yemen, including Awlaki's son, though those deaths have been viewed as "collateral damage" and were not specifically targeted.

Awlaki was killed in a Sept. 30, 2011, drone strike along with Samir Khan, another American citizen from North Carolina who had never been charged by the Justice Department with a crime. Khan was alleged to have been a prolific propagandist for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and main force behind the online publication Inspire, an English-language al Qaeda magazine dedicated to violent jihad and how-to-ideas on terrorist attacks.

Awlaki's 16-year-old son was also killed by the United States when he reportedly ran away from the family home in Yemen in an attempt to try and find his father. Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was born in the United States had gone to Yemen to be with family, was killed weeks after his father's death in another drone strike along with two other alleged al Qaeda operatives he may have been staying with.

The issue of being able to target and kill U.S. citizens in counter-terrorism operations was first addressed by then Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair in February 2010.

"We take direct actions against terrorists in the intelligence community. If…we think that direct action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that," Blair told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Holder's remarks are expected to provide some insight into the Justice Department's legal guidance and memos from the Office of Legal Counsel authorizing the targeting of Americans.

The New York Times reported on the existence of the memos in October 2011. After ABC News filed a Freedom of Information Act requests to the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel concerning the memos, the department said that they could neither confirm nor deny the existence of any documents on the subject of Awlaki or the justified targeting and killing of U.S. citizens in counter-terrorism operations.

The legality of the program was addressed by presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) who denounced the Obama administration for the controversial tactic.

"According to the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Americans are never to be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The Constitution is not some aspirational statement of values, allowing exceptions when convenient, but rather, it is the law of the land. It is the basis of our Republic and our principal bulwark against tyranny. Last week's assassination of two American citizens, Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, is an outrage and a criminal act carried out by the President and his administration," Paul said in an Oct. 10, 2011, statement.

Officials have previously acknowledged that the Justice Department and the National Security Council were highly involved in drafting the authorities when they were first disclosed by DNI Blair.

Before his death, top counter-terrorism officials acknowledged that Awlaki and al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen to be the top terrorism concern to the United States.

"I actually consider al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula with al-Awlaki as a leader within that organization probably the most significant risk to the U.S. homeland," Michael Leiter said before Congress last February when he was the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

Awlaki was linked to numerous terrorism investigations in the United States, serving as a key individual espousing terrorist acts in his sermons, which were posted online. Army Major Nidal Hasan had exchanged emails with Awlaki before he killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 in an assault on Fort Hood in November 2009.

Awlaki is believed to have inspired several other terror plots in the U.S. as well and was key in providing operational instructions to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the attempted Christmas Day underwear bombing of Northwest flight 253.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


DHS and FBI Warn of Possible Retaliation for Awlaki’s Killing

Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have issued a intelligence bulletin warning about homegrown violent extremists possibly retaliating after al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Anwar al-Awlaki was killed Friday in a U.S. drone strike.

The bulletin provides background on Awlaki’s reach and extensive propaganda efforts and mentions Samir Khan, a U.S. citizen who was also killed in a vehicle with Awlaki. Khan was responsible for much of AQAP’s recent propaganda and was the author of their online jihadist magazine Inspire.

The bulletin notes there is no current information about retaliatory acts that are known to be under way, but says the FBI and DHS are concerned about “lone wolves” possibly striking out in response to Awlaki’s death.

“We assess the death of [Awlaki], in the near term, could provide motivation for Homeland attacks — particularly from HVEs [homegrown violent extremists] seeking retaliation,” the bulletin says. “We are also concerned that the operational guidance and instructions provided in past issues of Inspire magazine could be used by HVEs to prepare independent attacks.  We assess that [Awlaki's] standing as a preeminent English-language advocate of violence could trigger HVEs to take violent action to avenge his death. 

“We assess that HVEs — who may view [Awlaki's] death as justification for attacks in the Homeland — are the most likely element to attempt a near-term attack,” it says. “While we expect to observe a significant increase in violent extremist rhetoric calling for retaliation, detecting and disrupting HVEs before they strike — if any attempt to do so — will continue to present challenges to law enforcement, due to the often isolated nature their actions.”

The bulletin notes that as word of the Awlaki’s death spread there was an extensive interest on jihadist chat rooms and websites known to be sympathetic to terrorist activities.

“We assess US and Western-based sympathizers may attempt to exploit [Awlaki's]  death due to his popularity as a violent extremist whose speeches and writings are widely available on the Internet,” the bulletin says. “It is possible [Awlaki] will be portrayed as a martyr in a ‘US war against Islam’ in order to encourage individuals to take violent action.

“We are also concerned about the possibility that AQAP could attempt to retaliate  directly against the Homeland for the death of [Awlaki] and Khan, although we have no information to indicate they are currently planning to do so,” it says.  “AQAP external operations to date have focused on the aviation subsector, and the group has also revealed its interest– highlighted in two issues of Inspire magazine — in carrying out an attack against the United States using unconventional means, such as chemical or biological agents. ”

The bulletin urges law enforcement to be vigilant to report any unusual or suspicious activity that could be associated with attack planning.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Members of al-Awlaki’s Mosque Call News of His Death ‘Unfortunate’

Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post/Getty Images(FALLS CHURCH, Va.) -- Members of the American mosque where Anwar al-Awlaki once preached responded cautiously Friday to news of his death by a drone strike, insistent that Islam is a faith of peace.

“It happens,” said Joe Navarez, 19, when asked about the killing, which a community leader here called an “assassination.”

“Martin Luther King was assassinated, so it happens,” he said. “I just feel sorry for the family.”

Mustapha Mays, 20, and Faris Paterson-Khan, 20, were also among a mixed crowd of taxi drivers, community college students, and mothers with young children trickling out of the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center following afternoon prayers.

“I think it’s unfortunate news to hear overall,” said Mays.

“It is disappointing whenever anybody dies like that,” added Paterson-Khan.

Both men said mosque leadership preached “strong messages” Friday on the killing but would not elaborate.

The messages were “saying more about how it’s not really what it seems over there,” said Paterson-Khan, referring to Yemen.

Al-Awlaki “preached about this community -- this community as a whole as very cherishing, very warm people,” said Paterson-Khan. “Nothing to be scared of.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


American Jihadi Samir Khan Killed with Awlaki

Thinkstock/Comstock(SANA'A, Yemen) -- A young American who edited al Qaeda's English-language magazine, and had urged Muslims to mount deadly attacks on U.S. targets, was killed in the same CIA drone strike that eliminated Anwar Awlaki in Yemen Friday, U.S. officials said.

Khan, 25, was the Saudi-born, New York-raised editor behind Inspire magazine, the English language online publication of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.  Khan had become a rising figure in jihadist propaganda and an "aspiring" Awlaki, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

But while Awlaki relied on sermons to recruit jihadis, Khan used sarcasm and idiomatic English in an attempt to appeal to Western youth.  As Khan himself has said, "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that I [am] Al Qaeda to the core."  He titled a rebuke of toppled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak "A Cold Diss."  Khan's ability to use American vernacular, like a graphic depicting graffiti that reads, "Jihad 4 Eva," had prompted concerns that young Muslims with an interest in jihad and al Qaeda would be drawn to a voice similar to their own.

"He does appear to be increasingly involved with operational activities [of Al Qaeda]", a U.S. official told ABC News in 2010.

British officials found copies of Inspire in the apartments of several suspects arrested and charged in connection to a bomb plot in the U.K.  Officials said the suspects were avid followers of both the magazine and Awlaki.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali-American college student charged with plotting an attack on a Christmas lighting event in Portland, Oregon, last year, was in contact with Khan, and wrote articles for him, authorities say.

Mohamud, who was arrested in an FBI sting, is accused of attempting to detonate what he believed to be a car bomb in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square via cellphone during the annual lighting of the Christmas tree, which had drawn a crowd of thousands. The FBI affidavit alleges that Mohamud told FBI agents that he had written four articles since 2009 for two different on-line jihadist magazines edited and distributed by Samir Khan.

Khan had edited seven separate issues of Inspire since launching the publication in 2010, penning such articles as "How To Build A Bomb In the Kitchen of Your Mom." Inspire carried sermons by Awlaki and other jihadi figures, boasted about the failed "printer bomb" cargo plane plot, and paid tribute to Osama bin Laden before and after his death. It outlined various techniques for jihadis to attack Americans within U.S. borders, including using pick-up trucks to mow down pedestrians, how to blow up buildings with natural gas, and how to use an AK-47 automatic rifle. The magazines grew in graphic sophistication with each issue, and Khan seemed to write, edit or design the majority of the content.

In the latest issue, which expressed frustration with Iran for spreading conspiracy theories about 9/11 instead of giving credit to al Qaeda, the editor-in-chief called himself "Yahya Ibrahim," but U.S. officials suspect that's just a pseudonym for Khan.

Khan was born in Saudi Arabia and raised from the age of seven in Queens, New York. He was a normal city teenager who listened to hip hop and wore baggy clothing.

Even before his family relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina in 2004, however, Khan had begun to take an interest in Islam. He ditched his baggy pants for jalabiyas, the long white robes traditionally favored by Saudis. He joined two Islamic groups, but neither espoused violence.

But with the move south, Khan took a turn towards radicalism. In 2004, after watching online videos of suicide bombers blowing themselves up at American military checkpoints in Iraq, Khan began to openly support Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda and to express that support on-line.

In 2007, shortly after Osama bin Laden released a communiqué, The New York Times reported that Khan, who had launched a blog called "A Martyr, God Willing" in Arabic, praised the al Qaeda leader, and beseeching Americans to "take his message with great seriousness."

In one of his only interviews, Khan told The New York Times that his favorite online video showed a suicide bomber striking a US base in Iraq.

"It was something that brought great happiness to me," Khan said.

Khan spent years in his parents' Charlotte basement blogging, posting al Qaeda messages, and becoming increasingly radicalized by the war in Iraq. His blog's popularity rose as his rhetoric became more extreme.

In 2009, he started a precursor to Inspire called Jihad Recollections, saying, "We have decided to take it upon ourselves to produce the first jihadi magazine in English." In the third issue, amidst calls for jihad and attacks against non-Muslims, Khan devoted space to a gushing review of a product dear to the hearts of American jihadis and infidels alike, Apple's iPhone 3. According to Khan, iPhone was "quickly becoming a standard as opposed to just another phone. With over 35,000 applications available, it becomes a joke when we hear about the so-called 'iPhone killers'."

According to Oren Segal, a researcher at the Anti-Defamation League who has followed Khan's online rhetoric since 2004, Khan left the U.S. for Yemen in October 2009, which is around the time the fourth and final issue of Jihad Recollections appeared. In Yemen, he launched Inspire, and after his arrival in Yemen, say U.S. authorities, his online efforts had been in conjunction with AQAP.

Inspire's second edition, which was published before the October 2010 printer bomb attempt and included Khan's claim to be "Al Qaeda to the core," featured a photo of the Chicago skyline, which U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials think was a tip-off of the terror group's intention to address the bombs to Jewish targets in Chicago.

"He's a model of what Americans can do in the propaganda sphere," said Segal.  "He's what's next.  His message resonates and appeals to Western audiences."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Officials Thought They Might Kill Anwar Al-Awlaki on 9/11 Anniversary

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- “This is a great day for America,” says a senior administration official, pleased with the news that terrorist leader Anwar al-Awlaki was killed Friday.

The Yemeni government on Friday announced that an operation launched shortly before 10 a.m. in Yemen targeted and killed the New Mexico-born cleric -- a missile hitting him approximately five miles from the town of Khashef, 87 miles east of the capital Sana’a.

Senior administration officials say that the U.S. has been targeting Awlaki for months, though in recent weeks officials were able to pin down his location.

“They were waiting for the right opportunity to get him away from any civilians,” a senior administration official tells ABC News.

In fact, there was a flurry of activity on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

As President Obama shuttled between Shanksville, Penn., New York, and the Pentagon, officials “thought they had a good opportunity to hit him,” the official says. “We waited, but it never materialized.”

A senior White House official says Awlaki was “very operational, every day he was plotting, he had very unique skills, and it’s good to get him in Yemen where AQAP” -- al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- “is planting the flag.”

Out of deference to the Yemeni government, U.S. officials have been tight-lipped about the precise role the U.S. played, though the Yemeni military does not possess the kind of predator drone said to have killed Awlaki.

The senior White House official tells ABC News: “We’ve had a very intense focus on him.  And once we decide to put resources on one of these guys, I’d hate to be one of them.  Unless you’re literally in a cave, which is where we think (Ayman al-) Zawahiri is, any visibility -- and to be operational you have to have that, so one phone call, one email, one car ride -- and you’re found.”

In early February 2010 -- fewer than two months after failed Christmas Day underwear bomber Umar Faruq Abdulmuttalab, who had links to Awlaki, tried to strike -- the National Security Staff put out an early directive saying Awlaki is a valid target for killing.  Since the cleric was an American citizen, administration lawyers vetted the argument, ultimately concluding that Awlaki was a viable target since he cannot be captured.

Since then, Awlaki has been tied to Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan of November 2009. Failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, who tried to strike in May 2010, said he was inspired by Awlaki.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Alleged Plot against US Military Base in Seattle Is Eighth in Two Years

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In the latest planned assault on a U.S. military installation -- at least the eighth such conspiracy in the past two years -- two Islamic converts have been arrested for allegedly plotting a Fort Hood-style attack on a Seattle center for new military recruits.

The alleged ringleader of the plot, 33-year-old Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, a convicted felon once known as Joseph Davis, has posted a number of videos on-line attacking the U.S. military, as well as comments praising al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been linked to accused Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hasan.  According to the FBI, Abdul-Latif and accused co-conspirator Walli Mujahidh, formerly Frederick Domingue, sought to determine "how they could kill the most military personnel and escape or die as martyrs" during a planned July 5 assault on the Military Entrance Processing Station.

The men discussed using "fragmentation grenades" in the facility's cafeteria as a way of maximizing casualties, say authorities, and were arrested after they allegedly purchased automatic weapons from an informant for the planned attack.

There have been at least eight attacks or alleged plots against military installations since 2009, including the November 2009 Fort Hood massacre, in which 13 people died at the Texas Army base.  Palestinian-American Army Major Nidal Hasan, who had exchanged emails about jihad with Anwar al-Awlaki, is currently awaiting trial on multiple counts of murder and attempted murder.

Just this week, Marine Reservist Yonathan Melaku was charged with shooting at military sites, including the Pentagon, after he was arrested in Arlington National Cemetery with a backpack full of inert ammonium nitrate.  Melaku allegedly videotaped himself shouting "Allahu Akbar" while shooting at the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico and had a list of bomb-making materials in his home.

The FBI say Abdul-Latif hoped the attack on the Seattle processing center would inspire other Muslims to carry out similar assaults on enlistment centers.  According to the criminal complaint filed Thursday, Mujahidh told FBI agents that he wanted to die a martyr, and said the purpose of the attack was to kill U.S. military personnel so they could not be deployed to Islamic lands.

Abdul-Latif referred admiringly to the 2009 Fort Hood massacre, according to a confidential informant who is quoted in the criminal complaint.  Abdul-Latif allegedly said that "if one person could kill so many people, three attackers could kill many more" and that if he was killed in his own attack, his son would be proud he had fought the "non-believers."

The top video in a YouTube account apparently maintained by Abdul-Latif is an English-language message by Anwar al-Awlaki called "Why the World Hates America."  On a CNN report about Awlaki posted to YouTube, Abdul-Latif posted a comment praising the radical Yemeni-American cleric.  "May Allah protect the Sheik Anwar Al-Awlaki, and the Mujahideen fighting the Jihad according to Quran," the post read.

On a video of an Awlaki sermon, he posted a comment praising Awlaki and seeming to praise accused Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hasan. "May Allah bless Anwar al-Awlaki," he wrote. "And hopefully there will be more soldiers who come out of the woodwork to serve Allah."

In one of his own videos posted on YouTube, Abdul-Latif urges Muslims to make jihad and says they must stop compromising with "kaffirs" -- non-Muslim infidels.

"We must establish Jihad.  I don't care what anyone says about that.  You can turn me into the FBI, whatever. We need to establish Jihad with the heart, the tongue, and the hand.  We need to stop trying to compromise with the Kuffar and stop trying to be their friends because they hate us," he says.

In another, he blasts the U.S. for alleged atrocities in Islamic countries, saying, "There are even United States military soldiers who are over there raping women and killing Muslims and are not being held accountable for it."

Officials say Abdul-Latif served briefly in the U.S. Navy in 1995.  He has at least two felony convictions: robbery in the first degree in 2002 and assault a year later while serving time in Washington state for the robbery.  Walli Mujahidh, a 32-year-old from Los Angeles, has no known felony convictions.

Former FBI Counterterrorism Chief Bob Blitzer told ABC News that Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh seemed to fit more in the "lone wolf category" than to be part of a substantial terror cell.  But he said that law enforcement is now on the lookout for lone wolves, and the alleged plot was "pretty darned serious."

"It's pretty obvious we're at war," said Blitzer, "and these people view our military as the enemy, as the arm of the U.S. government that is attacking their people abroad and killing them.  And so it's logical that they would be a huge target of folks like this."

The suspects appeared in federal court late Thursday to hear charges against them, and were ordered held without bail.  A detention hearing is set for next Wednesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Two Al-Qaeda Recruits Plead Guilty in New Jersey Court

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEWARK, N.J.) -- Two New Jersey men have pleaded guilty to trying to join an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia.

Inspired by the internet posts of Yemen-based cleric Anwar Awlaki, Mohamed Alessa and Carlos Almonte admitted they intended to join Al-Shabbab to receive terror training so they could kill American troops overseas.

An undercover officer recorded them boasting they would do "twice" what Fort Hood gunman Nidal Hasan did. The parents of one of the men said the officer coerced their son to become radical, but prosecutors say the men physically trained, bought combat gear and watched jihadist videos. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Court Rules Executive Branch May Target Anwar Al-Awlaki

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In a victory for the Obama administration, a federal judge threw out a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the governments' authority to assassinate Anwar Al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen hiding in Yemen.

Awlaki is a member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He has been linked to the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009, the shootings at Fort Hood in Texas by Army Maj. Nidal Hasan and the recent seizure of bomb-making materials in the cargo of two planes.

According to ABC's Martha Raddatz, President Obama himself has authorized the targeted killing of Awlaki in Yemen, where he is believed to be hiding.

Two public interest groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, had filed the suit on behalf of Anwar al-Awlaki's father, Nasser al- Awlaki. They sought a declaration from the court that the Constitution and international law prohibit the government from carrying out targeted killings outside of armed conflict, except as a last resort to protect against imminent threats of death.

But U.S. District Judge John Bates found the court had no jurisdiction to hear the case because it was brought by Awlaki's father, instead of Awlaki himself. Furthermore, the judge agreed with the government that the issue of whether Awlaki poses a national security threat to the United States is best left to the political branches and not the Court.

At a news conference Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Tony West said, "We are pleased with the court's ruling. People need to remember that this really was an unprecedented case in which the plaintiffs were asking a court to review military decisions for the benefit of a leader of a foreign terrorist organization. And as we said when we filed this case, if Anwar al-Awlaki wants to access our court systems he ought to surrender to the authorities and be held accountable for his actions.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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