Nearly 25 percent of the terror suspects prosecuted in the U.S. since 2007 were influenced by Anwar al-Awlaki, the New Mexico-born cleric linked to al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based affiliate, according to an analysis by the Fordham Law School’s Center on National Security conducted at the request of NBC News.
Although Al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone in 2011, his rhetoric lives on the Internet.
At the request of NBC News, the Fordham center surveyed 287 jihadist cases since 2007, and after analyzing government documents and media reports found that 65 of them are linked to al-Awlaki or his rhetoric.
The gunman who killed four Marines and a Navy sailor in Chattanooga last Thursday, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, had reportedly downloaded audio recordings of the New Mexico-born jihadi cleric and had CDs of his speeches, according to information unveiled this week.
“The takeaway on Awlaki is that he is involved with a large swath of the terrorism cases that attracted public attention, including several aborted plots and several high-profile sting operations,” Karen Greenberg, director of the Fordham center, told NBC News.
“Starting with al-Qaeda, he essentially schooled the next generation in how to take the message of violent jihad forward,” she also said, adding, “His influence is laced through these cases in a way that is more powerful in the aggregate than is readily apparent in individual cases and that has enabled his influence to last way beyond his death, which was four years ago.”
Al-Awlaki and three other suspected al-Qaeda leaders were killed in Yemen by Hellfire missiles launched from a Predator drone. The al-Qaeda recruiter was born in New Mexico.
Since 2007, Greenberg noted, al-Awlaki’s presence in terrorism cases has been “constant.” In fact, his influence has grown after his demise, U.S. officials reportedly say.
“In his crafting of the jihadist message, he was the likely successor to bin Laden,” Greenberg told NBC News, referring to al-Awlaki. “In his understanding of the potential of social media, his vision of a new personalized form of jihad, and his understanding of the new generation, he provided the bridge from al-Qaeda to ISIS.”
“As such, his impact lasts in a powerful way,” she added.