Anwar al-Awlaki: the next Bin Laden

Patrick Symmes writes:

It was the first drone attack in Yemen in a decade. On May 5, three days after Osama bin Laden was killed, a weaponized unmanned aircraft flew at 20,000 feet over the cracked and broken topography of Yemen. The target was a pickup truck carrying two men, one of them an American-born cleric named Anwar al-Awlaki.

U.S. intelligence had been tracking him for years. Last July, Awlaki had been seen in Shabwa Province, a restive Al Qaeda stronghold in southern Yemen, where he was said to have recruited hundreds of young loyalists. This May the Yemeni government tipped off U.S. forces that Awlaki was there again, hiding in the village of Abdan. About seventy-five American Special Forces are in Yemen, supposedly on a training mission. When a pickup truck carrying the cleric left Abdan, the drone controlled by either the CIA or Joint Special Operations Command followed. Somebody took a shot at Awlaki.

And another shot. And another shot.

Incredible luck? Expert off-road driving? However it happened, Awlaki survived the first, the second, and the third drone strikes. All three missiles missed. The pickup truck was said to be “lightly damaged,” according to a village source, and Awlaki was unharmed.

By now he could be anywhere—a shepherd’s hut outside Mar’ib, the Al Qaeda capital of Yemen; a comfy pad outside cities like Aden or Taiz; or as a senior Western diplomat in Sanaa suggested, hiding among his ancestral clan members, the Awlakis, a powerful tribe that has ruled parts of southern Yemen for generations.

Wherever he is, Awlaki is only hiding physically. Unlike Bin Laden, who limited himself to the occasional thumb drive, Awlaki has spent the last two years going online routinely, firing off e-mails and posting web videos. His sermons, given in beautiful idiomatic English, are sold in sixteen- and eighteen-part CD collections, with sweet-sounding themes like Islamic motherhood or “Tolerance—A Hallmark of Muslim Character,” but he reaches quickly for the big stick. “Allah will take those false gods,” he says of non-Muslims, in a sermon ostensibly about police brutality, “and throw them in hellfire, and their people will have to follow them.”

“In the West, Bin Laden’s preaching is not effective,” says Saeed Ali al-Jemhi, a kind of one-man anti–Al Qaeda think tank whom I met with in Yemen in March, when Bin Laden was still alive. “But Awlaki, they listen to him once or twice, they are in. He’s the radical magnet. He gave Al Qaeda a fifty-year push forward, an evolution.”

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2 thoughts on “Anwar al-Awlaki: the next Bin Laden

  1. Steve

    This would probably be why the US is ignoring it’s own constitution (which now appears, to paraphrase a Pirates of the Caribbean character, more like guidelines) and trying extinguish the life of this guy without the formality of a trial before a jury of his peers.

  2. Ian Arbuckle

    Isn’t it strange that all these “radical” al Qaeda king pins, are either of American origin or like the trainers in their camps in southern Yemen, Australian. Even Bin Laden was trained and handled by the CIA before he went “rogue”.

    One minute we are told, we are winning the war against a few hundred remaining al Qaeda hard-liners, the next that that it takes an American born cleric two or three sermons to persuade and convert innocent Yemeni youth into killing hoards and mayhem. And what evidence do we have for that, a pathetic plot with a boy with exploding undies helped through airports and check in by men in black.

    Does anybody but the very very dumb radicalised western, testosterone laden gullible teen youth or the FOX news believer fall for these recruiters who seem to be right out of a comic book with its scenario written in Langley.

    By the various waves of revolutionary struggle and sacrifice it must by now be apparent even to those red-necks that pretend to deal in “intelligence” that Muslim youth is far more savi, and this lame veil of fiction called al Qaeda this or that, said to claim responsibility here and there is just wearing a bit thin even to cover false flag black ops in support of the endless “Global War on Terror”, that urgent threat so necessary to the support of the bottomless pit of military expenditure and no-bid imperial contracts of adventure conducted by the military industrial and media complex of the good o’l US.

    Most thinking people of the world are perfectly aware that that 9-11 and all that crap about 19 guys with box cutters from ten years ago was bull. The evidence of a state sponsored and managed involvement and cover up is abundant. How long do we have to go on listening to, and pretending to take serious, this stupid story. Yes, the king is naked, and has been for years to anyone with eyes, even though no one can discuss it on the main stream media.

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