Sunday, October 02, 2011

Targeted killing

The US has carried out a "targeted killing" using a drone, a method pioneered by the IDF and often criticized by human rights advocates, which they have called "extra-judicial killing". The target in this case was Anwar al-Awlaki (aged 40), believed to be the head of al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. He was struck down while driving to a meeting in north Yemen. Several other important al Qaeda operatives were killed with him. This was confirmed by the Yemeni Government in Sana'a and by US military sources. This is a victory for the US in removing "the head of the snake," since Awlaki was considered to be a younger replacement for Osama bin Laden, killed in Pakistan 6 months ago.

When one looks at the story of Awlaki, it is surprising that he lived for so long and that he was not arrested or targeted by the CIA or US forces long ago. Awlaki was born in the US to Yemeni parents. He was brought up in Yemen until he was 7 and then returned to the US. He lived in New Mexico and eventually went to College in Colorado and California, where he studied engineering. He was arrested several times for soliciting prostitution and petty thefts. Nevertheless, he became a Muslim Imam and was employed at mosques, first in Southern California and then in Virginia. He became known as a radical Muslim extremist and his sermons were said to be influential on the internet and on CD, notably in English. It cannot be coincidence that in both places where he was located he befriended members of the team that hijacked planes and were suicide bombers in the 9/11 incident. The people he helped were young Muslim immigrants to the US who knew little English and Awlaki helped them with the procedures needed to become US residents. They attended his mosques and subsequently became hijackers on 9/11. However, Awlaki was not suspected and was not arrested as a co-conspirator. Not only that, he was invited as an expert on militant Islam by the State Department and spoke at several meetings there (how blind can you be?)

He moved back to Yemen in 2002 via England where he spent 2 years and continued his nefarious activities. He stated many times that he "hated" the US and wanted to act against it. It cannot be coincidence that he was a "spiritual" advisor to (1) British-born Richard Reed, the "shoe-bomber" who was stopped from blowing up an airliner in flight, (2) the so-called "underwear" bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian would-be plane bomber, who visited him in Yemen in 2009, and by (3) American-born psychologist Major Nidal Hassan at Fort Hood, Texas who murdered 13 people and had exchanged many e-mails with him. Also, (4) In New York, the Pakistani-American man who pleaded guilty to the May 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt told interrogators he was "inspired" by al-Awlaki after making contact over the Internet.

Awlaki was the first American-born individual who was declared an "imminent danger to US national security," and he was targeted unsuccessfully in the past. This successful targeting with the specific approval of Pres. Obama was the first of an American-born and educated, so called "home grown" Muslim. I strongly suspect that it will not be the last.


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