In New Era of Terrorism, Voice From Yemen Echoes as France Declares ‘War’

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from The New York Times,

For more than five years now, as Western terrorism investigators have searched for critical influences behind the latest jihadist plot, one name has surfaced again and again. In the failed attack on an airliner over Detroit in 2009, the stabbing of a British member of Parliament in London in 2010, the lethal bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013 and now the machine-gunning of cartoonists and police officers in Paris, Anwar al-Awlaki has proved to be a sinister and durable inspiration.

Two of those four attacks took place after Mr. Awlaki, the silver-tongued, American-born imam who joined Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, was killed by a C.I.A. drone strike in September 2011. In the age of YouTube, Mr. Awlaki’s death — or martyrdom, in the view of his followers — has hardly reduced his impact. The Internet magazine Inspire, which he oversaw along with another American, Samir Khan, has continued to spread not just militant rhetoric but also practical instructions on shooting and bomb-making.

After the underwear bomb fizzled, President Obama, judging that the cleric was now an “operational” terrorist, sought and received a Justice Department legal opinion declaring that killing him without a trial, despite his American citizenship, would violate neither the law nor the Constitution. During a 17-month manhunt, Mr. Awlaki called for the murder of cartoonists who insulted the Prophet Muhammad and helped A.Q.A.P. send bombs in printer cartridges to the United States on cargo planes; a Saudi tip foiled the plan. But the cleric’s followers kept getting arrested, including Roshonara Choudhry, who said, after listening to more than 100 hours of Mr. Awlaki’s lectures, that she had stabbed a member of Parliament who had voted in favor of the Iraq war.

The drone strike that killed Mr. Awlaki also killed Samir Khan and two other Qaeda operatives, and two weeks later, another American strike killed Mr. Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, infuriating many Yemenis. Obama administration officials have said the son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, also an American citizen, was not the intended target of the strike.

By then, in the fall of 2011, chaos in the wake of the ouster of Yemen’s longtime ruler, Ali Abdullah Saleh, had allowed Al Qaeda to seize large swaths of territory in the country’s south. In 2012, Yemeni forces, and American drones strikes, drove A.Q.A.P. out of the towns it had captured.

But in recent months, as a Shiite militia known as the Houthis seized power in Sana and elsewhere across Yemen, A.Q.A.P. has gained strength by rallying Sunni tribesmen against the Houthis. The growing violence, including numerous A.Q.A.P. bombings, underscores the failure of Yemeni and American efforts, including the drone campaign, to dismantle the group.

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