Among those inspired by Awlaki are the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and the Fort Hood massacre shooter, and the Christmas eve plane bomber.
Issuing English-language sermons on jihad on the Internet from his hideouts in Yemen's mountains, al-Awlaki drew Muslim recruits like the young Nigerian who tried to bring down a U.S. jet on Christmas and the Pakistani-American behind the botched car bombing in New York City's Times Square.Awlaki isn't the only American-speaking al Qaeda. Still trolling online and in propaganda videos is none other than Adam Gadahn, who is the first American to be indicted on charges of treason in decades. Gadahn may not have had the cachet of Awlaki, but Gadahn is considered a vital link in the propaganda chain.
Friday's drone attack was believed to be the first instance in which a U.S. citizen was tracked and killed based on secret intelligence and the president's say-so. Al-Awlaki was placed on the CIA "kill or capture" list by the Obama administration in April 2010 — the first American to be so targeted.
The strike took place in the morning hours in the eastern Yemeni province of al-Jawf. A second American, Samir Khan, who edited al-Qaida's Internet magazine, was also killed in the airstrike.
Late Friday, two U.S. officials said intelligence had indicated that the top al-Qaida bomb-maker in Yemen also died in the strike — Ibrahim al-Asiri, who was linked to the bomb hidden in the underwear of the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because al-Asiri's death has not officially been confirmed. Al-Asiri is also believed to have built the bombs that al-Qaida slipped into printers and shipped to the U.S. last year in a nearly catastrophic attack.
Awlaki's death wont mean the end of al Qaeda in Yemen, but it is a significant hit to the terror network's capabilities there, particularly when reports indicate that one of al Qaeda's top bomb makers was killed in the airstrikes on Awlaki's convoy.