Instant view: The death of Anwar al-Awlaki

Senior Jihadist, Anwar al-Awlaki has reportedly been killed in Yemen. Read the instant view of counter-extremism expert, Ghaffar Hussain.

Born in the USA: Anwar al-Awlaki
Ghaffar Hussain
On 30 September 2011 15:40

It is being widely reported that senior Jihadist, Anwar al-Awlaki has been killed in Yemen.

Awlaki was perhaps the most articulate English language recruiter for the Jihadist cause and was believed to have been the inspiration behind a number of 'successful' high profile terrorist attacks as well as several foiled attempts in recent years.

Maj Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, Roshnara Choudary, who stabbed Stephen Timms MP and Umar Farouk Abu-Mutalib, aka the underpants bomber, were all believed to have been inspired by Awlaki and his English language jihadist lectures which were, up until very recently, widely available on the internet. 

Awlaki's strength was his ability to connect with a young, western-born and English speaking Muslim audience, the Facebook and Youtube generation. He also had the advantage of having had quite a high profile before he embraced Jihadist philosophy and was regularly hosted by Islamist activists in the UK.

His lectures emphasised two key things. Firstly lone-wolf terrorism, which is much harder to detect and easier to execute. And secondly, he deliberately avoided talking about bin Laden and al-Qaeda because he didn't want the Jihadist cause to revolve around them.

However, Awlaki had no operational experience, he was no Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, and therefore he had very little influence in the Arab world. He was not taken that seriously by al-Qaeda and viewed merely as an American who was useful for recruiting western Muslims. 

In any case, his boots will be very difficult to fill and his death is a significant blow for Jihadist recruitment efforts in the west. 

Ghaffar Hussain is head of the outreach and training unit at Britain's first counter extremism think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation

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