BREAKING – AL-AWLAKI KILLED…
-BIG PICTURE Five months (almost to the day) after the Seal Team raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound, a man considered a more real and current threat has been killed. Martha RADDATZ confirmed early this morning that U.S.-born al Qaeda cleric – and most-wanted terrorist — Anwar al-Awlaki has been killed in Yemen. We believe a U.S. drone targeted and killed al-Awlaki roughly five miles from the town of Khashef, 87 miles east of the Yemeni capital Sanaa. RADDATZ adds that U.S. forces have been watching the cleric for months and were waiting for the right moment to strike. The government of Yemen announced the killing in a brief statement: “The government of the Republic of Yemen announced today the death of Anwar Al-Awlaki, the American-born terrorist and member of Alqaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)…” Nasser ATTA adds: “According to Yemeni sources, six people were killed in the attack, the bodies are burned beyond recognition and Yemeni security forces have not – as of 7:00am ET yet arrived at the scene…”
-OTHER AMERICAN KILLED IN SAME STRIKE A young American who edited al Qaeda’s English-language magazine, and had urged Muslims to mount deadly attacks on U.S. targets, was killed in the same CIA drone strike that eliminated Awlaki in Yemen Friday, U.S. officials said. Khan, 25, was the Saudi-born, New York-raised editor behind “Inspire” magazine, the English language online publication of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. Khan had become a rising figure in jihadist propaganda and an “aspiring” Awlaki, according to U.S. intelligence officials. But while Awlaki relied on sermons to recruit jihadis, Khan used sarcasm and idiomatic English in an attempt to appeal to Western youth. As Khan himself has said, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I [am] Al Qaeda to the core.” He titled a rebuke of toppled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak “A Cold Diss.” Khan’s ability to use American vernacular, like a graphic depicting graffiti that reads, “Jihad 4 Eva,” had prompted concerns that young Muslims with an interest in jihad and al Qaeda would be drawn to a voice similar to their own. He does appear to be increasingly involved with operational activities [of Al Qaeda]“, a U.S. official told ABC News in 2010.
-FINAL MESSAGE? Lee FERRAN and Brian ROSS report: Just days before al-Awlaki was killed, an al Qaeda magazine promised a provocative message from the American-born radical was in the works. The latest issue of “Inspire”, an al Qaeda magazine believed to be produced by the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), featured a large advertisement for an upcoming article apparently written by al-Awlaki called “Targeting the Populations of Countries That Are at War With the Muslims”. Al-Awlaki was a prominent member of AQAP. The promotional ad uses as its background a picture of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, perhaps a clue, U.S. security officials said in a law enforcement bulletin, that it’s “an allusion to the continued interest of extremists in general of targeting New York City for terrorist attacks.” While it is unclear if al-Awlaki managed to complete the piece before his death, it would hardly be the first time the New Mexico-born cleric has justified and urged individuals to launch terror attacks against U.S. civilian targets.
NOT THE FIRST ATTEMPT Martha RADDATZ reminds us that a similar strike, just days after Osama bin Laden was killed, was aimed at al-Awlaki, but missed. In the intervening months, there have been intensive discussions at the White House about how to go after him. And Jake TAPPER reports the U.S. thought they had him in their sights on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. One senior military officials told RADDATZ this morning, “It is a very fine day.”
-ONE AFTER ANOTHER… Jake TAPPER notes that “the list of senior terrorists killed during the Obama presidency is fairly extensive. There’s Osama bin Laden, of course. Anwar al-Awlaki as of today. Earlier this month officials confirmed that al Qaeda’s chief of Pakistan operations, Abu Hafs al-Shahri, was killed in Waziristan, Pakistan. In August, ‘Atiyah ‘Abd al-Rahman, the deputy leader of al Qaeda was killed. In June, one of the group’s most dangerous commanders, Ilyas Kashmiri, was killed. In May, al Qaeda’s number 3 commander, Sheik Saeed al-Masri was killed. Administration officials also herald the recent US/Pakistani joint arrest of Younis al-Mauritani in Quetta. Remember when Rudy Giuliani warned that electing Barack Obama would mean that the US played defense, not offense, against the terrorists? If this is defense, what does offense look like?”
-AWLAKI’S PAST Awlaki was considered dangerous as a planner of terror but even more so as a highly successful motivator; his recorded lectures were believed to have inspired young would-be terrorists the world over. He is believed to have inspired the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan, the “Christmas Day bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, among others. In the last several years Awlaki also used social media effectively: while Bin Laden and Zawahiri made their videos, Awlaki had a blog and Facebook page.
-AWLAKI & 9/11 In 2010 Al-Awlaki became the first U.S. citizen ever placed on a White House-approved list for targeted killing. Quite a turn of events – for a man some U.S. officials had once embraced as a voice of moderation. Soon after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. invited Awlaki to speak (at the Pentagon I believe) as part of an outreach effort to ease tensions with Muslim-Americans. Later we learned that Awlaki had not only inspired some of the hijackers; he had met with and probably known of the attacks beforehand.
-ILLEGAL ACT? The ACLU had long ago challenged the White House claim of authority to target Awlaki for killing. Today the organization says, “We continue to believe that the targeted killing program violates both U.S. and international law. As we’ve seen today, this is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process, and on the basis of standards and evidence that are kept secret not just from the public but from the courts. The government’s authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat to life is concrete, specific, and imminent. It is a mistake to invest the President — any President — with the unreviewable power to kill any American whom he deems to present a threat to the country.” As Jake TAPPER reports, “In 2010, the Obama administration ruled that it had the rights to target for assassination Awlaki, an American citizen born in Las Cruces, NM, in 1971, because he was a terrorist. The government has not presented evidence against Awlaki. But government officials say that the cleric played a significant operational role in any number of terrorist plots against the United States, and called for violence against American men, women, and children.”
KNOX TRIAL: WRAPPING THE CASE
Amanda Knox killed her British roommate “for no reason” and the American student and her former boyfriend should face the maximum penalty for their crime, her appeals trial was told on Friday. Prosecutors urged the court to uphold Knox’s sentence for murder and said the 24-year-old would flee Italy if freed. Knox, jailed for 26 years, and her Italian ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, are fighting their convictions for the murder of Briton Meredith Kercher in 2007. A verdict is due on Monday. Knox and Sollecito should be kept behind bars for life, prosecutors said, and they reminded the jury of the gruesome nature of the crime. Kercher’s body was found with more than 40 wounds and her throat slit. “They were young but they killed for no reason,” said prosecutor Manuela Comodi. “They killed for no reason and for this they should be given the maximum sentence, which luckily in Italy is not the death sentence.” If the guilty verdicts are overturned, both would be freed immediately. Speculation has been rife that Knox would be whisked home to the United States, where the death penalty exists, if she is freed from the Umbrian prison where she has been held for nearly four years.
EURO-CRISIS: INCHING TO A RESCUE PLAN?
One by one, European parliaments are blessing a $600-billion bailout fund — considered a key step in solving the region’s financial crisis. But as the Washington Post points out, there is an unspoken problem: The fund may not be big enough to do a job that involves backing such major countries as Italy and Spain and boosting capital levels in the region’s financial system. Germany’s parliament delivered an important vote of approval Thursday for the European Financial Stability Facility. But even if other governments follow suit, officials will need to pivot quickly into a contentious debate about how to boost the size of the fund to perhaps several trillion dollars. That’s what many analysts feel is needed for the 17-nation euro zone to prove its commitment to standing behind weakened euro-zone governments and the region’s financial system. But taxpayers in stronger countries are tiring of bailouts provided to weaker ones, so it won’t be an easy sell.
-EGYPT Alex MARQUARDT reports: Thousands are protesting Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt today for “Friday of Reclaiming the Revolution.” Joining the protesters on Tahrir was Sean Penn, pics here. The protest today is against the military council, their continuation of the emergency law as well as election law.
-SYRIA The AP is reporting that at least 7 injured as troops open fire at protests in Syria. Nationwide protests are planned again today; in the last two days, 47 people have been killed, according to opposition sources – most of those in Rastan. Rastan, near Homs, has been the scene of a violent crackdown all week.
-MORE RELIGIOUS LEADERS? The New York Times has a nuanced look at what the Arab Spring may ultimately mean for the politics of the Middle East. Historically, the deepest political divisions in the region have been between the Islamists and the secularists. Now, the region’s leaders are likely to be deeply religious, but capable of operating within a system that protects individual liberties – what some scholars are calling “post Islamist.”
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: PUTIN COULD LOSE
From Alexandra NADEZHDINA in Moscow: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says his mentor, Vladimir Putin, could lose next year’s presidential election. “It is the people who make the choice, and these are not empty words,” Medvedev said in an interview with state TV channels due to be broadcast on Friday. “Any political leader can lose at the elections.” Observers say Putin, who had already served two terms as president before Medvedev took over in 2008, is now all but certain to return to the Kremlin. But Medvedev – often viewed as a junior partner in Russia’s ruling duo – dismissed suggestions Putin was “predetermined” to win the polls. “What predetermination? Let the people decide who to vote for, who has the greater authority,” Medvedev said. “That’s what democracy is all about.”
RUSSIA: EX-SPY SPEAKS – AND GETS HECKLED
Ex-Spy Anna Chapman’s speech on “How to become a leader in the contemporary world” at a St. Petersburg university was interrupted by student booing an whistling and waving placards with the words ” Chapman spy- get out” and “There is nothing we can learn from you” and ” the other way for the Kremlin and porno studio”. Her speech only lasted 10 minutes.
TYPHOON NESAT HITS VIETNAM
After lashing southern China and the Philippines, Typhoon Nesat is expected to make landfall in Vietnam late today or early tomorrow. In China — where authorities had ample time to prepare, the storm merely flooded streets, but in the Philippines, it killed at least 43 people and left 30 missing.
JAPAN BUILDS A “NOAH’S ARK”
A small Japanese company has developed a modern, miniature version of Noah’s Ark in case Japan is hit by another massive earthquake and tsunami: a floating capsule that looks like a huge tennis ball. Japan’s Cosmo Power says its “Noah” shelter is made of enhanced fiberglass that can save users from disasters like the one on March 11 that devasted Japan’s northern coast, leaving nearly 20,000 people dead or missing. Company president Shoji Tanaka says the capsule can hold four adults, and that it has survived many crash tests. It has a small lookout window and breathing holes on top. It also can be used as a toy house for children. The company completed the capsule earlier this month and already has 600 orders, including two delivered.
LOST BEETHOVEN PIECE PLAYED
A movement from a Beethoven composition for a string quartet which was discarded by the composer and replaced by a new version has been reconstructed by a musical expert in Manchester. The piece got its first ever public performance in more than 200 years, possibly ever, at Manchester University. The lost piece of music was part of the String Quartet in G, Opus 18 Number 2, and Professor of Music at the university, Barry Cooper, painstakingly reconstructed the movement based on surviving detailed sketches for every one of its 74 bars. He was unable to attend the public recital due to unexpected surgery, his work was presented by his colleague Professor of Music David Flanning. The existence of the sketches was established in 1977, but they have never been found. What is known is that the then aged 28 year old composer had delivered the manuscripts for three new quartets in October 1799. The works – Op 18 Nos 1-3 – were sold to a Prince Lobkowitz for 200 florins. But the following year Beethoven revised Nos 1 and 2, including a completely new slow movement for No 2 in which little of the original material remained and the rhythm was completely different. The reconstruction cannot be absolutely accurate, but it’s believed to be as close as one can get when working only with sketches. The slow movement was played by the Quatuor Danel String Quartet. Beethoven cut down his original version by 3 minutes and replaced the original stormy and angry middle section with a calmer one.