REPORTING FROM WASHINGTON -- Despite the drone-launched missile strike that killed Anwar Awlaki, the American-born radical cleric, the Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen remains a significant terrorism threat to the United States, according to Obama administration officials.
“Awlaki's death last week is a major blow” to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, Matthew Olsen, head of the National Counterterrorism Center, which coordinates terrorism information across the government, told a House intelligence committee hearing Thursday.
“But it does not end the threat from AQAP,” he added. “We remain concerned about the group's intent to attack Western targets as well as its propaganda efforts designed to inspire like-minded Western extremists.”
The Al Qaeda franchise’s role in several high-profile plots, including the failed attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009, and another attempt to blow up cargo planes headed to U.S. cities in October 2010, “demonstrate that AQAP is a determined enemy and that it is capable of adjusting its tactics to achieve its goals,” Olsen said.
FBI Director Robert Mueller said AQAP “has proven its capability to direct attacks into the United States. And a strike against its leadership -- even a significant one -- does not eliminate the potential for retaliation or other action” by the group.
In response to a question, Mueller said Awlaki’s death does not lower U.S. concerns about signs of cooperation between AQAP and al Shabaab, an Al Qaeda-linked group battling for control of Somalia.
-- Ken Dilanian
Photo: Anwar Awlaki speaking in a video message posted on a website before his death. Credit: Site Intelligence Group / EPA