September 30, 2011 The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have issued a bulletin warning that Friday’s killing of 3 al-Qaeda operatives “could provide motivation for homeland attacks” by “homegrown violent extremists,” the type the two men allegedly tried to recruit or inspire. Retaliatory attacks against the United States by “lone wolf” symphathizers already in the U.S. could trigger more violence.
Anwar Al-Awlaki, an American citizen turned al-Qaeda mastermind and two other key al-Qaeda operatives were reportedly killed on Friday morning in a targeted strike launched by CIA officals in Langley, Virginia using remote controlled drones. Several white pick-up trucks, one in which Al-Awlaki was seen entering were struck as they left a funeral in Yemen.
Late Friday, U.S. officials requesting anonymity confirmed that Ibrahim Hassan Al-Asiri, the highly skilled Saudi bomb-maker responsible for the construction of the device in which the “Underwear Bomber” attempted to ignite during a Christmas Day 2009 flight over Detroit. More recently, Al-Asiri was believed to have designed last October’s “printer bombs” discovered on cargo planes which originated in Yemen, then intercepted in Mumbai and the U.K. – thanks to a detailed tip from Saudi officials, before arriving at their final destination in Chicago, Illinois. In addition, U.S. citizen Samir Khan, the editor of the controversial propaganda magazine Inspire is believed to have been killed in the drone strike.
Anwar Al-Awlaki, the head of the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen was described in 2010 as the “next bin-Laden” by CIA officials. The first American citizen to make the U.S. Government’s War on Terror “hit list” was considered by several terrorism experts to be the largest threat to U.S. homeland security – even before the death of Bin Laden.
On February 9, 2011, National Counterterrorism Center.Director, Michael Leiter testified before the House Homeland Security Committee on Islamic Extremism. During his testimony, Leiter was asked by the Committee’s Chair Rep. Peter King if, in his opinion, Anwar Al-Awlaki was as severe of a terrorist threat as Osama Bin Laden? Leiter responded by calling Al-Awlaki the ‘top threat’ to the United States. Rep. Peter King said during the hearing that the threat must be confronted “explicitly and directly.” In an interview on Friday, after reports of Anwar al-Awlaki’s death, Leiter described al-Qaeda as “weaker than ever.”
U.S. born al-Awlaki, dubbed the ‘bin-Laden of the internet’ was extremely effective at motivating young westerners, including Americans to commit Jihad against their own country, as “homegrown” terrorists. On November 8, 2010, a video surfaced on Muslim extremist websites in which Awlaki is seen instructing Muslims to kill Americans without further instruction, because it is “either us or them.”
After the 2009 Fort Hood attack, investigators confirmed the shooter was inspired by al-Awlaki, after discovering evidence that Maj. Nidal Hasan exchanged at least 18 e-mails with al-Awlaki. In addition to three of the 9/11 terrorists, Awlaki was linked to the printer cartridge bombs aboard cargo planes addressed to Jewish Synagogues in Chicago, Illinois, the ‘underwear bomber’ and the Time Square car bomb attempt.
The debate is already underway regarding the impact Friday’s strike would have on the future.of al-Qaeda. It was a huge success, if all three terrorists are indeed dead, and for the first time, if only temporary – America is indeed a little safer.