Sunday, Sept 7, 2008
Western intelligence sources in Pakistan believe that al-Qa’eda’s prize American recruit and propaganda chief may have been killed in a CIA-directed airstrike.
Months of attacks by unmanned US predator aircraft have caused carnage among the middle ranks of terrorist leaders in the lawless lands along the border with Afghanistan, where al-Qa’eda remains dangerous despite suffering a serious defeat in Iraq.
Their victims have included experienced Arab leaders and, it is now thought, Adam Gadahn, a former heavy-metal fan and so-called “killer computer nerd” originally from California. Nothing has been heard from him for months, leading intelligence experts to conclude that he may be dead.
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Mr Gadahn has been credited with helping transform al-Qa’eda’s al-Sahab propaganda wing into a slick operation which communicates in fluent English and produces professional quality DVDs, including one for Osama bin Laden last year.
But he may have fallen victim to an expanded programme of predator assassinations which in the last year has targeted and killed many of al-Qa’eda’s military commanders, terrorist trainers and facilitators.
Jihadists around the world will be watching as closely as intelligence officials this week to see whether Mr Gadahn – also known as Azzam al-Ameriki – produces a new video message to mark September 11, as he has done every year since 2003.
If there is no message it will be taken as near certain confirmation that he is dead – killed either in a strike by Hellfire missiles, or perhaps by jihadi colleagues who have grown jealous of his success.
Mr Gadahn is now thought to have been killed in an attack launched from a remotely piloted aircraft in January which killed al-Qaeda’s then military commander, Abu Laith al-Libi, in Mir Ali, Waziristan.
Al-Libi was the most prominent of a series of terrorist leaders to be killed in recent months. Abu Saeed al-Masri, who was implicated in attacks on Britain, was killed in July. Syrians, Somalis and Kuwaitis have also been killed.
Evan Kohlmann, an investigator with the Nine Eleven Finding Answers (Nefa) foundation which monitors terrorist groups, said: “Al-Qaeda acknowledges that several of its leaders have been taken out. There aren’t that many experienced leaders left in the middle ranks and they are being replaced by younger guys with no credentials but lots of enthusiasm.”
This article was posted: Sunday, September 7, 2008 at 3:52 am