Fort Hood-Linked Imam Killed in Yemen Strike


An air strike in Yemen may have killed the top leaders of al Qaead’s branch in that country, along with an American-born cleric linked to the Fort Hood massacre.

A Yemeni air raid may have killed the top two leaders of al Qaeda’s regional branch on Thursday, and an American Muslim preacher linked to the man who shot dead 13 people at a U.S. army base may also have died, a Yemeni security official said.

Nasser al-Wahayshi, the Yemeni leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and his Saudi deputy, Saeed al-Shehri, were believed to be among 30 militants killed in the dawn operation in the eastern province of Shabwa, said the official, who asked not to be identified.

U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki may also have died in the air strike which targeted a meeting of militants planning attacks on Yemeni and foreign oil and economic targets, he said.

If all the deaths are confirmed, the air strike would appear to have struck a severe blow against AQAP, seen as the most dangerous regional offshoot of Osama bin Laden’s network.

“Anwar al-Awlaki is suspected to be dead,” the official said of the cleric who was on the run in Yemen, where he was on the government’s most-wanted list of terrorist suspects.

Good news if true.  Yes, there are frequent false reports of senior terrorist leaders meeting their demise and, yes, they seem to be able to replace their top lieutenants and continuing marching forward.  On the other hand, as Bernard Finel and Christine Bartolf report, ” several indicators that suggest al Qaeda is losing relevance.”   While “overall Islamist terrorist violence has risen 20-30 percent since last year — which is the highest point it has ever been . . . evidence also shows that the reach and power of al Qaeda has diminished significantly and become more focused on local political leaders, rather than at the United States and the West.”

This, incidentally, belies the notion that Afghanistan — or even Pakistan — is the key to beating back al Qaeda.  They’re back to their roots as a series of regional Islamist terror cells, which means they can operate just as effectively in Yemen or any other country with a significant Islamist sympathy and a weak government.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Shouldn’t “A Yemeni Air Raid” be in quotes? I’d bet a dollar or two that the Yemeni Air Force was actually a Predator being guided from Nevada or Langley.

  2. Since they killed an American, will they have to go to Gitmo or Illinois or New York City to face murder charges?

    Or will a military tribunal suffice?