Tags: Al-Qaida | drone | al-qaida | Adam Gadahn | strike

Expert: Traitor's Death a Blow to al-Qaida's 'American Dream'

Expert: Traitor's Death a Blow to al-Qaida's 'American Dream'
Adam Gadahn is seen in these undated pictures released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Reuters/Landov)

By    |   Friday, 24 April 2015 12:22 PM

The news that Adam Gadahn, an American who became al-Qaida's top spokesman, had been killed in a January U.S. drone strike is only the latest setback in the organization's effort to create a foothold in the United States.

Although Gadahn's story "was covered with breathless shock by many media outlets," he was hardly the first American to find a home and a cause in the al-Qaida terror network, terror analyst J.M. Berger writes in Politico.

Americans had been part of the jihadist group since its founding in 1988, often in key operational roles. They were very involved in the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania which killed 224 people and wounded more than 5,000.

Gadahn joined al-Qaida not long before 9/11, serving as a translator before substantially expanding his role in the group's media division. During his tenure, al-Qaida began experimenting with digital distribution of propaganda.

Eventually, Gadahn "became a significant spokesman in his own right, issuing threats against the American president while sitting at a desk with a coffee mug emblazoned with the logo of as-Sahab, Al Qaeda’s media production company," Berger writes.

"Many of the techniques and approaches he pioneered have today been co-opted by [ISIS], which has developed these ideas far more aggressively" than al-Qaida ever did.

Because of their fluent English and familiarity with the United States, Americans came to play major roles in the terror group's media operations. They included American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and his American protégé Samir Khan, who working together built Inspire magazine, the English-language vehicle of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) which has emerged as arguably the most dangerous terrorist franchise in the al-Qaida network.

Awlaki and Khan were killed in a Sept. 30, 2011, U.S. drone strike in Yemen.

In Somalia, al-Shabab, which eventually became an al-Qaida affiliate, found a media star in Alabama native Omar Hammami, who was shown in a video preaching and even rapping about the benefits of jihad.

But Hammami incurred the wrath of his fellow terrorists by going public with grievances about matters such as corruption and the mistreatment of foreign fighters. After he stirred up substantial controversy within al-Shabab, he was ambushed and killed by the Somali group two years ago.

In some ways, Gadahn’s death marks "the end of an era" for the Americans in al-Qaida, Berger writes.

"Its most-visible American recruits have been killed by U.S. counterterrorism actions or betrayed by their fellow jihadists," Berger writes. "And the media innovations that Gadahn, Awlaki and Khan brought to the terrorist organization have now been thoroughly co-opted and surpassed by [al-Qaida's] bitter rival, the Islamic State."

Al-Qaida's media output slowly dried up, he adds, but ISIS "took up the template Gadahn, Awlaki and Khan had painstakingly hammered out and created a media empire to outperform [al-Qaida] in both quality and quantity, pushing out content on a weekly, sometimes daily basis, and blazing a trail onto a social media battlefield."

Although the saga of America's al-Qaida operatives may be winding down, Berger concludes, thanks to the rise of ISIS we remain "a long way from the final chapter in the story of America's jihadists."

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The news that Adam Gadahn, an American who became al-Qaida's top spokesman, had been killed in a January U.S. drone strike is only the latest setback in the organization's effort to create a foothold in the United States.
drone, al-qaida, Adam Gadahn, strike
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2015-22-24
Friday, 24 April 2015 12:22 PM
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