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Anwar al-Awlaki
File:Anwar al-Awlaki sitting on couch, lightened.jpg
Born Anwar Nasser Abdulla Aulaqi
April 22, 1971 (1971-04-22) (age 48)[1][2][3]
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Residence Yemen
Alma mater Colorado State University;
San Diego State University;
The George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development
Occupation lecturer
former Imam
reported to be an Al-Qaeda regional commander [4]
Employer Iman University (formerly)
Known for Accused of being senior Al-Qaeda recruiter and motivator linked to various terrorists, and committed to carrying out deadly attacks on Americans and others worldwide[5][6]
Height Template:Convert/and/in[7]
Weight Template:Convert/lbs[7]
Relatives Nasser al-Aulaqi (father)

Anwar al-Awlaki (also spelled Aulaqi; Arabic: أنور العولقي Anwar al-‘Awlaqī; born April 22, 1971 (1971-04-22) (age 48) in Las Cruces, New Mexico) is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Yemen, and of Yemeni descent.[8] He is an Islamic lecturer, spiritual leader, and former imam who has purportedly inspired Islamic terrorists against the West and, according to U.S. government officials, also become “operational” as a senior talent recruiter, motivator, and participant in planning and training "for al-Qaeda and all of its franchises".[3][7][9][10][11][12] Stuart Levey, U.S. Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism, warned that al-Awlaki "is extraordinarily dangerous, committed to carrying out deadly attacks on Americans and others worldwide".[6] With a blog, a Facebook page, and many YouTube videos, he has been described as the "bin Laden of the internet."[13]

Al-Awlaki's sermons were attended by three of the 9/11 hijackers. He reportedly met privately with at least two of the hijackers in San Diego, and one hijacker moved from there to Falls Church, Virginia, as al-Awlaki moved.[14][15] Due in part to those contacts, investigators suspect al-Awlaki may have known about the 9/11 attacks in advance.[14] In 2009, unnamed U.S. officials stated that he had been promoted to the rank of "regional commander" within al-Qaeda, at the time as an inspirational leader.[4][16]

His sermons were also attended by the accused Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Malik Hasan. In addition, U.S. intelligence intercepted at least 18 emails between Hasan and al-Awlaki from December 2008 to June 2009, including one in which Hasan wrote: "I can't wait to join you [in the afterlife]."[17][18] After the Fort Hood shooting, al-Awlaki praised Hasan's actions.[19][20] Hasan also reportedly asked al-Awlaki if a suicide attack is permissible if it kills innocent people.[21]

"Christmas Day bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab met with al-Awlaki, and said he was one of his al-Qaeda trainers, involved in planning or preparing the attack, and provided religious justification for it, according to unnamed U.S. intelligence officials.[22][23][24] In March 2010, alTemplate:NbhyphAwlaki said in a videotape delivered to CNN that jihad against America was binding upon himself and every other able Muslim.[25][26]

By April 2010, U.S. President Template:Barack Obama approved the targeted killing of al-Awlaki, as officials explained such a step was appropriate for individuals who posed an imminent danger to national security. That step required the consent of the United States National Security Council, and made al-Awlaki the first U.S. citizen ever to be placed on the CIA targeted kill list.[27][28][29][30] In May 2010, Faisal Shahzad, suspected of the 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt, told interrogators that he was "inspired by" al-Awlaki, and sources said Shahzad had made contact with al-Awlaki over the internet.[31][32][33] Representative Jane Harman called him "terrorist number one", and U.S. newspaper Investor's Business Daily called him "the world's most dangerous man".[34][35] In July 2010, the U.S. Treasury Department added him to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.[5] As of that time, he was believed to be in hiding in Yemen.

Early lifeEdit

Al-Awlaki's parents are from Yemen. Al-Awlaki's father, Nasser al-Aulaqi, earned a master's degree in agricultural economics at New Mexico State University in 1971, received a doctorate at the University of Nebraska, and worked at the University of Minnesota from 1975 to 1977.[12][36] The family returned to Yemen in 1978,[2] where al-Awlaki lived for 11 years and studied at Azal Modern School.[37] His father served as Agriculture Minister and as president of Sanaa University.[12][36][38] Yemen's Prime Minister since March 2007, Ali Mohammed Mujur, is a relative of al-Awlaki.[39]

Al-Awlaki returned to Colorado in 1991 to attend college. He holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University (1994), which he attended on a foreign student visa and a government scholarship from Yemen, reportedly by claiming to be born in that country,[40] where he was President of the Muslim Student Association.[37] He also earned an M.A. in Education Leadership from San Diego State University. He worked on a Doctorate degree in Human Resource Development at George Washington University Graduate School of Education & Human Development from January to December 2001.[7][36][41][42][43][44][45][46]

His Islamic education consists of a few intermittent months with various scholars, and reading works by several prominent Islamic scholars.[47] Puzzled Muslim scholars say they do not understand his popularity, because while he speaks English and can therefore reach a large non-Arabic-speaking audience, alTemplate:NbhyphAwlaki lacks formal Islamic training or study.[48] Douglas Murray, executive director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, a think tank that studies British radicalization, says: "they will routinely describe Awlaki as a vital and highly respected scholar, [while he] is actually an al-Qaida-affiliate nut case."[48]


Al-Awlaki has been called an Islamic fundamentalist and is accused of encouraging terrorism.[38][43][49][50] According to some analysts, al-Awlaki is an adherent of the Wahhabi Wikipedia fundamentalist sect of Islam.[49][50] Harry Helms, author of a self-published book[51] on 9/11, called his sermons extremely anti-Israel and pro-jihad.[49] Salafi observers of his public statements say that al-Awlaki was initially a more "moderate" Muslim Brotherhood preacher, but when the U.S. began its post-9/11 "war on terror" he appeared to develop animosity towards the U.S. around 2003 and become a proponent of Takfiri and Jihadi thinking, while still retaining Qutbism.[52]

While imprisoned in Yemen, al-Awlaqi became influenced by the works of Sayyid Qutb an originator of the contemporary "anti-Western Jihadist movement."[53] He would read 150–200 pages a day of Qutb's works, describing himself during the course of his reading as "so immersed with the author I would feel Sayyid was with me in my cell speaking to me directly.”[53]

He has been noted for attracting young men with his lectures, especially U.S.-based and Britain-based Muslims.[54][55] Terrorism consultant Evan Kohlmann calls al-Awlaki "one of the principal jihadi luminaries for would-be homegrown terrorists. His fluency with English, his unabashed advocacy of jihad and mujahideen organizations, and his Web-savvy approach are a powerful combination." He calls al-Awlaki's lecture "Constants on the Path of Jihad", which he says was based on a similar document written by al-Qaeda's founder, the "virtual bible for lone-wolf Muslim extremists."[56] Philip Mudd, formerly of the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center and the F.B.I.'s top intelligence adviser, said: "He’s a magnetic character. He’s a powerful orator."[37]

Later life, and alleged ties to terrorismEdit

Main article: Anwar al-Awlaki:Later life

Current statusEdit

Al-Awlaki's father proclaimed his son's innocence in an interview with CNN's Paula Newton, saying: "I am now afraid of what they will do with my son. He's not Osama bin Laden, they want to make something out of him that he's not." Responding to a Yemeni official's claims that his son was hiding in in the southern mountains of Yemen with al-Qaeda, Nasser said: "He's dead wrong. What do you expect my son to do? There are missiles raining down on the village. He has to hide. But he is not hiding with al-Qaeda; our tribe is protecting him right now." The Awlaq tribe is large and powerful, with a number of connections to the Yemeni government. "He has been wrongly accused, it's unbelievable. He lived his life in America; he's an all-American boy", said his father.[57]

The Yemeni government negotiated with tribal leaders, trying to convince them to hand al-Awlaki over.[58] Reportedly, Yemeni authorities offered guarantees they would not turn al-Awlaki over to the U.S. or let him be questioned.[58] The governor of Shabwa said in January 2010 that al-Awlaki was on the move with a group of al-Qaeda elements from Shabwa, including Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, who is wanted in connection with the bombing of the USS Cole.[58]

In January 2010 White House lawyers considered the legality of attempting to kill al-Awlaki, given his U.S. citizenship; reportedly, opportunities to do so "may have been missed" because of legal questions surrounding such an attack.[59] But on February 4, 2010, The New York Daily News reported that al-Awlaki is "now on a targeting list signed off on by the Obama administration."[60]

"Terrorist No. 1, in terms of threat against us.”[28]

— Representative Jane Harman, (D-CA), Chairwoman of House Subcommittee on Homeland Security

On April 6, The New York Times also reported that President Obama had authorized the targeted killing of al-Awlaki.[28] The CIA and the U.S. military both maintain lists of terrorists linked to al-Qaeda and its affiliates who are approved for capture or killing.[28] Because he is a U.S. citizen, his inclusion on those lists was approved by the National Security Council.[28] U.S. officials said it is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing.[28] The New York Times reported that international law allows the use of lethal force against people who pose an imminent threat to a country, and U.S. officials said that was the standard used in adding names to the target list.[28] In addition, Congress approved the use of military force against al-Qaeda after 9/11.[28] People on the target list are considered military enemies of the U.S., and therefore not subject to a ban on political assassinations approved by former President Gerald Ford.[61] The tribe wrote, “We warn against cooperating with America to kill Sheik Anwar al-Awlaki. We will not stand by idly and watch.”[61]

Al-Alaki's conversations with Hasan were never released, and he has not been placed on the FBI Most Wanted list, indicted for treason, or officially named as a co-conspirator with Hasan. The U.S. government has been reluctant to classify the Fort Hood shooting as a terrorist incident, or identify any motive. The Wall Street Journal reported in January 2010 that al-Awlaki: "has never been indicted in the U.S."[62] Al-Awlaki's father, tribe, and supporters have denied his alleged associations with Al-Qaeda and Islamic terrorism.[4][7][63]

In a video clip bearing the imprint of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, issued on April 16 in al-Qaeda's monthly magazine Sada Al-Malahem, al-Awlaki said: "What am I accused of? Of calling for the truth? Of calling for jihad for the sake of Allah? Of calling to defend the causes of the Islamic nation?".[64] In the video he also praises both Abdulmutallab and Hasan, and describes both as his "students".[65]

In late April, Representative Charlie Dent (Republican-PA) introduced a resolution urging the U.S. State Department to issue a "certificate of loss of nationality" to al-Awlaki. He said al-Awlaki "preaches a culture of hate" and had been a functioning member of al-Qaeda "since before 9/11", and had effectively renounced his citizenship by engaging in treasonous acts.[66]

By May, U.S. officials believed he had become “operational,” plotting, not just inspiring, terrorism against the West.[37] Former colleague Abdul-Malik said he "is a terrorist, in my book", and advised shops not to carry even the earlier, non-jihadist al-Awlaki sermons.[37] In an editorial, Investor's Business Daily called Awlaki the "world's most dangerous man", and recommended that Awlaki be added to the FBI's most-wanted terrorist list, put a bounty on his head, name him as a "specially designated global terrorist" like Zindani, charge him with treason and file extradition orders with the Yemeni government. IBD pointed out that the Justice Department has already done this for Adam Gadahn, an American who has joined Al Queda in Pakistan, but criticized the department for stonewalling Sen. Joe Lieberman's security panel's investigation of Awlaki's role in the Fort Hood massacre. [67]

On July 16, the U.S. Treasury Department added him to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.[5] As a result any U.S. bank accounts he may have will be frozen, Americans are forbidden from doing business with him, and he is banned from traveling to the U.S.[5] Stuart Levey, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said al-Awlaki "has proven that he is extraordinarily dangerous, committed to carrying out deadly attacks on Americans and others worldwide", and "has involved himself in every aspect of the supply chain of terrorism-fundraising for terrorist groups, recruiting and training operatives, and planning and ordering attacks on innocents".[5][6]

Lawsuit against the CIAEdit

In July 2010, Anwar's father, Nasser al-Awlaki, contracted the Center for Constitutional Rights Wikipedia and the American Civil Liberties Union Wikipedia to represent his son in a lawsuit which seeks to remove Anwar from the target list. ACLU's Jameel Jaffer stated

"the United States is not at war in Yemen, and the government doesn’t have a blank check to kill terrorism suspects wherever they are in the world. Among the arguments we’ll be making is that, outside actual war zones, the authority to use lethal force is narrowly circumscribed, and preserving the rule of law depends on keeping this authority narrow."[68]

Lawyers for Specially Designated Global Terrorists must obtain a special license from the U.S. Treasury before they can represent their clients in court.[69] The request for a license was made on July 23.[68] On August 3, the groups filed their own lawsuit arguing that the licensing requirement was unconstitutional. They received the license on August 4 but still plan to press ahead with the licensing lawsuit.[69]

On August 30, the groups filed the "targeted killing" lawsuit, naming U.S. President Barack Obama Wikipedia, CIA directory Leon Panetta, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as defendants.[70][71] They seek one injunction preventing the targeted killing of al-Awlaki and another requiring the government to disclose the standards under which U.S. citizens may be "targeted for death."


The Nine Eleven Finding Answers Foundation says Al-Awlaki's ability to write and speak in straight-forward English enables him to be a key player in inciting English-speaking Muslims to commit terrorist acts.[47] As al-Awlaki himself wrote in 44 Ways to Support Jihad:

Most of the Jihad literature is available only in Arabic and publishers are not willing to take the risk of translating it. The only ones who are spending the time and money translating Jihad literature are the Western intelligence services ... and too bad, they would not be willing to share it with you.[47]

Written worksEdit

  • 44 Ways to Support Jihad—Essay (January 2009)—A practical step-by-step guide to pursuing or supporting jihad.[72] Writes: "The hatred of kuffar [those who reject Islam] is a central element of our military creed," and asserts that all Muslims must participate in Jihad in person, by funding it, or by writing. Says all Muslims must remain physically fit, and train with firearms "to be ready for the battlefield."[47][73] Considered a key text for al-Qaeda members.[74]
  • Al-Awlaki has also written for Jihad Recollections, an English language online publication published by Al-Fursan Media.[75]
  • Allah is Preparing Us for Victory – short book (2009).[76]


  • Lectures on the book Constants on the Path of Jihad by Yousef Al-Ayyiri—concerns leaderless jihad.[47]
  • Numerous lectures have been posted to YouTube on various channels such as this and this
  • The Battle of Hearts and Minds
  • The Dust Will Never Settle Down
  • Dreams & Interpretations
  • The Hereafter—16 CDs—Al Basheer Productions—describes the women, mansions, and pleasures of paradise.[7]
  • Life of Muhammad: Makkan Period—16 CDs—Al Basheer Productions
  • Life of Muhammad: Medinan Period—Lecture in 2 Parts—18 CDs—Al Basheer Productions
  • Lives of the Prophets (AS)—16 CDs—Al Basheer Productions
  • Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (RA): His Life & Times—15 CDs—Al Basheer Productions
  • Umar ibn al-Khattāb (RA): His Life & Times—18 CDs—Al Basheer Productions

  • 25 Promises from Allah to the Believer—2 CDs—Noor Productions
  • Companions of the Ditch & Lessons from the Life of Musa (AS)—2 CDs—Noor Productions
  • Remembrance of Allah & the Greatest Ayah—2 CDs—Noor Productions
  • Stories from Hadith—4 CDs—Center for Islamic Information and Education ("CIIE")
  • Hellfire & The Day of Judgment—CD—CIIE
  • Quest for Truth: The Story of Salman Al-Farsi (RA)—CD—CIIE
  • Trials & Lessons for Muslim Minorities—CD—CIIE
  • Young Ayesha (RA) & Mothers of the Believers (RA)—CD—CIIE
  • Understanding the Quran—CD—CIIE
  • Lessons from the Companions (RA) Living as a Minority'—CD—CIIE
  • Virtues of the Sahabah—video lecture series promoted by the al-Wasatiyyah Foundation


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