awlaki al qaeda 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Thursday’s American drone missile strike on al-Qaida ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki
represents an effort to go after the epicenter of the movement’s Internet-based
network of jihadi followers.
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Awlaki, a prominent Yemeni-American jihadi
ideologue, became a symbol of the post-bin Laden al-Qaida network even before US
Navy SEALs eliminated Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last week.
Due to its
lack of a clear single physical haven following the loss of Afghanistan in 2001,
al- Qaida has metamorphosed into a fluid, decentralized network of followers
around the world whose only coherent link to one another is via the
Since fleeing the US to the ungoverned regions of Yemen, Awlaki
has released slick, highquality online propaganda in English aimed at ensuring
that the radical jihadi movement continues to gain new recruits.
also been operationally active, linked to at least three al-Qaida plots: The
failed 2009 Christmas bombing plot to blow up an airliner over Detroit, the 2009
Fort Hood mass shooting, and the 2010 cargo flight explosives plot.
brief look at Awlaki’s most recent message to the world, in the form of the
March 2011 issue of the Inspire online magazine, reveals why he represents such
an urgent target for American forces.
In response to a letter from a
would-be jihadi in the West asking for advice on how to carry out attacks, the
magazine said that carrying out mass murder terrorist attacks is “fard ayn” –
meaning a religious obligation on all Muslims.
The term was first used in
this way by the Palestinian jihadi cleric Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, a mentor to bin
Laden and author of a fatwa which has since become an electronic book called
“Defense of the Muslim Lands” circulating in jihadi forums. The Inspire magazine
then gives out detailed operational and tactical advice on how to carry out the
attacks, and advises on how to avoid Western intelligence services.The writer’s recently published book,
Virtual Caliphate – Exposing the
Islamist State on the Internet, deals with al-Qaida’s online presence.