Although Anwar Al-Awlaki’s death is a blow to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) the group remains a significant threat to the United States, FBI Director Robert Mueller and National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen told Congress Thursday.
“Without question, his death has dealt a major blow to the external operations of Al Qaeda’s most operational affiliate, yet we assess that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula remains a significant threat to the homeland,” Olsen told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
“Awlaki was the leader of external operations,” FBI Director Mueller testified. “He had taken a lead role planning and directing attacks on the homeland.”
“Awlaki was committed to inspiring acts of terrorism from overseas…using the Internet to promote lone actor operations against the West. Despite this blow to their leadership AQAP remains a significant threat to the homeland and we must maintain our vigilance in responding to this threat,” Mueller told the committee.
Mueller said he had concerns about the group given that AQAP has proven its ability to strike into the United States with the attempted 2009 Christmas day bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253 and last year’s averted cargo bomb plot.
“A strike against its leadership, even a significant one, does not eliminate the potential for retaliation and other acts by AQAP,” Mueller said.
Making reference to the ongoing instability in Yemen Olsen said, “AQAP’s gains and the regime’s governing challenges are increasing our concerns about the groups capability to conduct additional attacks targeting the homeland and US interests overseas, as well as our concerns about the groups continuing propaganda efforts designed to inspire like-minded Western extremists.”
Olsen testified before the House intelligence committee that even with Awlaki’s death he was concerned about information showing the continued linkages between AQAP and Al Shabaab in East Africa.