Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the al Qaeda affiliate that U.S. officials say is one of the greatest dangers to the American homeland, released a statement today claiming it has "heroes... who will avenge" the death of U.S.-born al Qaeda member Anwar al-Awlaki.
Awlaki, a high-profile member of AQAP who was credited with inspiring or being directly involved in at least a dozen terror attacks, was killed in a CIA drone strike Sept. 30 along with several other suspected al Qaeda operatives, including American-born Samir Khan.
"The blood of the sheikh and his brethren will not go in vain," AQAP said in the statement published online today. "Behind him stand heroes who do not sleep on any grievance and who will avenge him soon, God willing."
The statement also criticizes the American government for killing Awlaki and Khan, "without proving any accusation against them."
"Where is the freedom, justice, human rights and respect of freedoms that they rant about?" the statement said.
Facing similar questions from political opponents such as Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, White House spokesperson Jay Carney told ABC News' Jake Tapper Awlaki was operationally involved in terrorist attacks, was "obviously" a terrorist recruiter and was actively plotting against Americans.
Without Awlaki, U.S. officials said AQAP is still a significant threat to the U.S.
"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," National Counter-Terrorism Director Matthew Olsen told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence last week.
FBI Director Robert Mueller, who spoke with Olsen, agreed.
"A strike against its leadership, even a signature one, does not eliminate the potential for retaliation and other acts by AQAP," Mueller said.