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Air Strike Kills 29 in Yemen including Radical Imam Awalaki and USS Cole Bomber
Stunning news this Christmas eve in the secret war in Yemen. A Yemeni air strike took out 29 al Qaeda -Salafi terrorist leaders in Southeastern Yemen allegedly including American born radical Imam, Anwar al-Awlaki and the convicted USS Cole bomber, Fahd al Quso. More details will doubtless be forthcoming. It is ironic that both Awlaki and al Quso had been interviewed by Al Jazeera this week, here and here just prior to the air strike in Yemen.
Al -Awlaki was the radical interlocutor who communicated via email with Fort Hood mass shooting suspect, Maj/ Nidal Hasan. al Quso was just listed by the US last month as a 'most wanted terrorist.."
The New York Times Lede blog had an earlier report on the air strike in southeastern Yemen. The Jawa Report has more details here.
Steve Emerson of The Investigative Project, who was interviewed on Fox News about these dramatic developments had these comments:
For more insight, let's go now to terrorism expert Steve Emerson, who joins us now. He is the Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, and author of Jihad Incorporated.
Steve, thanks for joining us today.
STEVEN EMERSON: Sure.
WRIGHT: These new findings – or these new reports – that are being confirmed to Fox News right now about the death of Awlaki, what does it mean in terms of the War on Terrorism? Does it mean that the United States is stepping up or intensifying its war on terror?
EMERSON: It certainly does, if confirmed. And so far jihadi websites have not been issuing statements of mourning or declarations of retaliation, so we don't know for sure, but it looks like he was killed. It is definitely an impressive victory in the battle against jihadists – and especially against Al Qaeda leaders.
Al-Awlaki, the cleric, ironically issued an interview just two days ago, and it was translated by MEMRI [The Middle East Media Research Institute], in which he openly stated that he had encouraged and, in fact, made obligatory the shooting at Fort Hood by telling Major Hasan that it was necessary to kill American soldiers. So he sort of signed his own death warrant after he had made that interview, although it may just have been a coincidence that he was killed at this moment.
Certainly, he is one of the few English speaking Islamic radical preachers who can appeal to Western-style jihadists. So taking him out of action definitely removes a major source of inspiration to jihadists in the West.
WRIGHT: Does it also suggest that there's been a lot of Saudi support in terms of dealing with terrorism, and what would that mean in terms of the future in dealing with Al Qaeda remnants there in Yemen as well as other parts of the world?
EMERSON: Well, if, in fact, this indicates that there is a new level of cooperation by Yemeni authorities and/ or Saudi authorities, that would be very advantageous and beneficial to the United States government because, up until now, Yemen has sort of been a – sort of Wild West where anybody could function there, and command and control of Al Qaeda was operating freely. So if, in fact, they took U.S. intelligence and targeted Awlaki, it would make a definitive statement that they are stepping up their alliance with the United States, and that would be a very good diplomatic and military alliance for the future.
WRIGHT: Steve, I want to ask you a couple of quick questions real quickly – I'm losing some time here. But getting back to Nidal Hasan speaking with Awlaki, does this mean that, perhaps, the military and police should look at that attack on U.S. troops there at Fort Hood as a terrorist attack and not a random act of violence by a man who may have just lost it?
EMERSON: Absolutely. Awlaki's interview definitively shows that the Hasan attack was an act of Islamic terrorism, and it should have been classified as such. And I know that federal prosecutors are very frustrated by the fact that they can't use the PATRIOT Act that would expedite and accelerate the prosecution, because it has not been classified as a terrorist attack. But his statements clearly show that it was an Islamic terrorist attack.
WRIGHT: Alright, real quickly, one final question: Saudis. We understand, or we are at least getting some reports, that the Saudis may be giving Israel the go-ahead to do something about Iran and its nuclear buildup. Are you hearing anything about that to confirm that?
EMERSON: Well, for a while now, there have been quiet signals and quiet diplomacy in which, basically, Saudi Arabia has essentially stated, though not articulated exactly in these words, that it would turn a blind eye to an Israeli strike on Iran because the Saudis are just as much threatened by an Iranian nuclear capability as the Israelis.
WRIGHT: And Steve, as you know, that would be a very significant development, if it is the case.
Steve Emerson, terrorism expert for us, thank you very much sir for keeping us up to date. Thank you.
What dies with Awalaki are more details on the email exchanges with Maj Hasan and what the story was on his exit in 2002 for Yemen that many suspect was facilitated by the Saudis. These are the same Saudis who appear now to be 'cooperating' with Yemeni, US intelligence and counterterrorism echelons in the war against al Qaeda and the Yemeni Shia Houthi insurgents that threaten the Saudi kingdom.