Analysts in Saudi Arabia said the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, a prominent al-Qaeda leader, represents "another blow against the terrorist organisation". Yemen's Defence Ministry announced Friday (September 30th) that al-Awlaki and three other members of the organisation were killed during an airstrike near al-Jawf and Marib provinces, east of Sanaa.
Al-Awlaki was a US-born Muslim cleric of Yemeni descent. In recent years his name was linked to several attacks including a shooting in 2009 at a US Army base in Fort Hood, Texas. Al-Awlaki had connections with the American officer, Nidal Hasan, who was responsible for the attack which led to 13 deaths.
Al-Awlaki admitted in a 2010 interview with Al Jazeera that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – who is on trial in the US for an attempted bombing of a plane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 - was one of his students. Al-Awlaki said he supported what Abdulmutallab was attempting to do, according to the Al-Jazeera interview.
Dr. Youssif Al-Rumaihi, a security advisor and professor specialising in counter-terrorism and crime prevention at Qassim University in Saudi Arabia, said al-Qaeda has lost almost all its leaders within the last four months and this has reduced the ranks of its theorists and decision makers.
Al-Rumaihi said, "Al-Awlaki mirrored his fallen master, Osama bin Laden, in his terrorist activities and both their hands were smeared with the blood of innocent people who were victims of their extremist acts."
Al-Rumaihi described al-Awlaki's death as "a great burden that was removed from the shoulders of Islam and Muslims." He considers the heavy losses inflicted upon al-Qaeda's leaders to be "a positive sign towards eliminating their organisation while it continues to disintegrate and weaken".
"After the death of al-Awlaki, al-Qaeda's theorists number no more than a handful, and I think al-Qaeda has now been reduced to a group of mercenaries who lack field expertise. They are bound to be imprisoned or killed," Al-Rumaihi added.
He said al-Awlaki deserves the fate that has befallen him because several of his terrorist activities specifically targeted Saudi Arabia.
Dr. Mohammed Al-Zulfa, a former member of the Saudi Shura Council, said, "The removal of that extremist al-Awlaki is a win for Islam, for Saudi Arabia and for Yemen."
Al-Zulfa said the killing of al-Awlaki sends a strong message to young people who have lost their way, telling them it is time for them to return to a more moderate path instead of following one that terrorises innocents. This is especially true because the "malefactors" cannot expect to have a decent place in this world, he said.
Al-Zulfa added that al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations exploited what he calls "absurdity, tensions and pockets of chaos which cannot amount to anything positive as well as their working towards incapacitating social infrastructures wherever they go".
Al-Zulfa added, "Al-Qaeda and other extremist demagogues claimed they were fighting the West in the name of Islam, but they are actually fighting their own countries and are misinterpreting their religion before they are having an effect upon the West. This reflects their utter ignorance because their smallest actions are damaging the economy of their home countries. They would have been better off spending their money on building their homelands instead of wasting millions of dollars financing terrorist activities everywhere."
Al-Zulfa said Saudi Arabia benefitted from al-Awlaki's death because he posed a terrorist threat to the Saudi-Yemeni border area.
He added, "It was the intention of the extremists for a long time to mislead as many Saudi youths as they could in an attempt to undermine the Saudi government politically, economically and socially. Saudi Arabia was aware of their tactics early on and pre-empted their terrorist ambitions by waging a relentless war against them. Al-Awlaki is an example of that terrorist threat."
Al-Zulfa said al-Qaeda is "in a state of continuous erosion" given the death of more of its key leaders this year and that it is in its final stages because of the destruction of its leadership and the limitations of its funding sources.
According to him, al-Qaeda's decision to use Yemen as a centre for its terrorist operations will lead to failure. This is especially true in light of the Arab Spring, which he said will demonstrate to the terrorists that the region is moving towards greater stability and a generation of moderate Arabs is emerging in the political arena.
Dr. Khaled Al-Dakhil, a Saudi writer and researcher in political sociology, said al-Awlaki's death could be considered another severe blow to al-Qaeda since he is one of their key leaders in the Arabian Peninsula.
Al-Dakhil said the benefits for Saudi Arabia following al-Awlaki's death are "monumental" especially since he used Yemen and the border area that separates it from Saudi Arabia as a breeding ground for his terrorist activities, adding that Saudi Arabia has succeeded in dealing "lethal blows" to al-Qaeda.