Anwar al-Awlaki was typically modern and charismatic, say experts


The character of Anwar al-Awalaki has been subject to a wide range of analyses following his recent CIA-orchestrated assassination.

In addition to how dangerous Awlaki was, and how important it was for the United States to get rid of him, it was noted that the militant leader was the epitome of the modern terrorist, a man whose charisma played a major role in making him what he was.

The real danger lay in his being a modern terrorist who mastered a variety of skills that facilitated the operations he commanded, said Nabila Ramadani, a journalist and an expert on Islamist movements.

“Awlaki spoke fluent English and excelled in using modern technologies like the internet and especially websites like You Tube, as well as social networking websites,” she said on Al Arabiya’s Panorama.

This, Ramadani added, contributed to the United States’ determination to kill Awlaki, especially after it got rid of its arch foe Osama Bin Laden and was able to focus more on Yemen.

“Killing Awlaki was a priority in the post-bin Laden stage, and even though he did not rise to al-Qaeda’s highest ranks in the Arabian Peninsula, he constituted al-Qaeda’s face in the West.”

Hassan Abu Haneya, an expert on extremist groups, argued that it was Awlaki’s charisma that enabled him to be a prominent al-Qaeda leader.

“Awlaki’s charismatic character made it easier for him to recruit many militants for al-Qaeda in Europe and the United States,” he said on Panorama, speaking from Amman. This ability at recruiting, Haniya explained, made Awlaki the mastermind of several international operations, including the killing of American soldiers in Fort Hood, Texas, and the failed Times Square bombing.

“In fact, Awlaki was more dangerous than bin Laden,” he said.

Despite the different views about Awlaki’s significance to al-Qaeda, there is no doubt that the terrorist group has suffered a loss in his death, since he was the most prominent English-speaking operative, and therefore its spokesperson in the West.

He also managed to recruit a large number of Western youth via the internet, a strategy al-Qaeda had been pursuing during the past two years.

Awlaki was nominated to succeed bin Laden, but many observers saw this as a long shot, mainly because of the brevity of his experience with al-Qaeda, which began in 2008, when his name was associated with U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hassan, who carried out the Fort Hood mass shooting.

The terrorist operations carried out under Awlaki’s supervision made his death with other operatives in Yemen a great victory for the Obama administration, even though it has caused a lot of controversy legally, as Awlaki was an American citizen.

During Obama’s term, the American campaign against al-Qaeda has been extended to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen.

In addition to killing bin Laden in May of this year, several leading operatives were also targeted, including Mustafa Abul Yazid, the group’s leader in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Yunus al-Mauritani, who was in charge of communicating with al-Qaeda cells in Germany, Fadl Abdullah Mohamed, a leading operative in al-Qaeda’s North African branch, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, and Abu Ayoub al-Masry, the military commander of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

(This article was translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid.)