The Yemeni Ministry of Defence announced on Friday (September 30th) the killing of prominent al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki along with three other al-Qaeda members.
Yemeni officials told Al-Shorfa that al-Awlaki was killed on Friday in an air strike in a region between al-Jawf and Marib provinces.
Samir Khan, a US citizen of Pakistani descent who specialised in computer programming, was also killed, according to the ministry. The identities of the two other members have not been confirmed.
An extensive surveillance operation led to the successful targeting of al-Awlaki and his companions, the defence ministry statement said. An al-Qaeda member previously arrested told Yemeni security officials that al-Awlaki was living in the village of al-Khasf in al-Jawf province, in the home of a man called Khamis Arfaj, according to the ministry.
"The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki was the result of a major intelligence effort and co-operation between friends and brothers [colleagues] in this effort, the final outcome of which was the death of al-Awlaki and three organisation members in an air strike that targeted them in an area between the provinces of al-Jawf and Marib," Abdo al-Janadi, deputy minister of information and spokesman for the Yemeni government, told Al-Shorfa.
Al-Janadi said al-Awlaki's "demise is the inevitable fate of every terrorist and every outlaw". Yemen is at war with terrorism and the killing of al-Awlaki was within this context, especially since he had rejected all peaceful calls to him to surrender voluntarily and face trial, he added.
"Al-Awlaki left the government no peaceful option, particularly after he was charged with incitement and murder of foreigners," al-Janadi said.
Anwar al-Awlaki was a US-born Muslim cleric of Yemeni descent. His name was linked to some of the hijackers who carried out the September 11th, 2001 attacks in the United States. He was also linked to the shooting at a US army base in 2009. He reportedly corresponded with US army officer Nidal Hassan, who opened fire at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009, killing 13 people.
Al-Awlaki was also suspected of having been in contact with Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a US flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.
He was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison in early 2011 for inciting the murder of a French engineer.
The killing of al-Awlaki would have numerous negative effects on al-Qaeda in the short-term and on the future of the organisation, Dr. Saeed Obaid al-Jamhi, president of the al-Jamhi Centre for Studies, told Al-Shorfa.
Al-Awlaki was the "architect of long-distance recruiting for al-Qaeda, and it was he who planned the operations on US soil, most notably his relationship with the officer Nidal Hassan and his relationship with the Nigerian [national]", al-Jamhi said. "Therefore, al-Qaeda's loss with the demise of al-Awlaki could be on par with its loss with the death of its leader bin Laden."
Al-Jamhi added that it was al-Awlaki who orchestrated al-Qaeda's media campaign around the world in the past few years. He also supervised al-Qaeda's English language publication, Inspire magazine.
"Al-Awlaki elevated the organisation from a local and regional player to a global one, thanks to the media hype he created and long-distance recruiting, at a time when the organisation's star had begun to dim and its strategic operations became scarce," al-Jamhi said. "This further indicates the magnitude of the loss of al-Awlaki, who had achieved so much in such a short period."
Al-Jamhi said al-Awlaki played a strategic role in the organisation, where he relied on planning one-man operations designed to cause heavy losses in the ranks of the enemy with few casualties for the organisation, such as the operations carried out by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Nidal Hassan.
"The killing of al-Awlaki follows a series of blows received by al-Qaeda, from the killing of its leader Osama bin Laden to the killing of Atiya Abdel Rahman al-Libi, and lastly al-Awlaki, who was the spiritual leader of the organisation, possessing a charismatic personality," said Dr. Said Abdel-Mumin al-Ariki, a strategic issues and Islamist groups researcher.
Al-Ariki said al-Awlaki was a candidate to succeed bin Laden on account of what he had done for the organisation, both through the media and his long-distance recruiting.
He said the killing of al-Awlaki and other leaders will weaken the organisation.
"There is also another factor that will weaken the organisation: successful Arab revolutions and the spread of democracy through peaceful change. Al-Qaeda may not find a place in the near future in Arab countries especially as it believes in change through violence, which is the opposite of what Arab revolutions seek."
"The killing of any of al-Qaeda's leaders worldwide is a loss to al-Qaeda in Iraq specifically and a win for the security forces in all Iraqi cities since we know that al-Qaeda relies on its Iraqi chapter [branch] in order to derail the country's democratic process", Deputy Defence Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi told Al-Shorfa.
General Tariq al-Assal, an adviser at the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, described al-Awlaki's death as "good news". He said it was "very positive that global powers of the free world are converging for the purpose of disposing of extremism and terrorism".
Al-Assal said al-Awlaki was one of the key supporters of al-Qaeda in Iraq and "his death is a victory in itself which also serves to demoralise terrorists in their efforts to fight democracy, peace and security."