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Anwar al-Awlaki: The New Osama Bin Laden?

Submitted by on May 4, 2011 – 8:42 amOne Comment

Osama Bin Laden hasn’t been dead for a week yet (so we’re told) and already news media are hailing Anwar al-Awlaki (pictured above) the new “face of terror.”

According to U.S. officials, al-Awlaki (born Anwar Nasser Abdulla Aulaqi in New Mexico, right here in the good ol’ US of A) is a senior talent recruiter and motivator who’s also become “operational” as a planner and trainer for al-Qaeda. Forty years old and over six feet tall (is height a prerequisite to lead the organization?) the man of Yemeni descent has an official blog, Facebook page and many videos on YouTube, leading to him being described as the “bin Laden of the Internet.”

al-Awlaki has been on the run in Yemen since 2007 and is believed to be in hiding in the southeastern part of the country. He’s seen as a “significant threat” by the West due to his ability to influence aspiring militants into a wide range of attacks, which so far include the 2009 instances of Detroit “underpants bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (caught trying to detonate plastic explosives on a plane from Amsterdam) and psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hassan (al-Awlaki reportedly gave him religious advice via email before he killed 13 people at an army base at Fort Hood, TX).

The cleric indeed has America on high watch, with President Obama authorizing U.S. counter-terrorism operatives to kill al-Awlaki “even if he is found far away from any combat zone.” According to a report on Countdown With Keith Olbermann in April last year, when al-Awlaki shifted from endorsing violence in the U.S to participating in anti-American plots he became a real target.

Puzzled Muslim scholars say they do not understand al-Awlaki’s popularity, because while he speaks English and can therefore reach a large non-Arabic-speaking audience, he lacks formal Islamic training or study. He does, however, come from an educated background (his father was a Fulbright scholar and President of Yemen’s Sana’a University), first studying Civil Engineering at Colorado State University and then Human Resource Development at George Washington University.

A prolific speaker, al-Awlaki has been called a “magnetic character” and “powerful orator” by Philip Mudd, formerly of the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center and the F.B.I.’s top intelligence adviser. Listen to an interview with him below:

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