Anwar al-Awlaki, the al Qaeda leader killed Friday in a U.S. drone strike, has been linked to both concrete plots against the U.S., as well as inspiring other attempts at violence by radicals.
Al-Awlaki has been linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's (AQAP) attempted bombing of a U.S. passenger jet over Detroit on Christmas day, 2009. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 19-year-old Nigerian who attempted to blow up the flight to Detroit in 2009, may have met al-Awlaki, and was trained at camps run by the cleric, when he traveled to Yemen just before his attack.
Al-Awlaki's voluminous online preaching, in both video and print form, is also thought to have inspired Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, who is facing charges of killing 13 people at the Texas military base. He is also linked to Time Square car bomber Faisal Shahzad, who left a car bomb that did not explode in the busy New York City hub.
Below is a timeline of significant dates in al-Awlaki's life.
- April 22, 1971, born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents.
- In 1978, family returns to Yemen where father serves as agriculture minister, professor at Sanaa University.
- In 1991, al-Awlaki returns to U.S. to study civil engineering at Colorado State University, then education studies at San Diego State University and later does doctoral work at George Washington University in Washington.
- In 2000, al-Awlaki starts preaching in San Diego mosque where he met two of the Sept. 11 hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi.
- Al-Awlaki becomes preacher at Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, outside Washington.
- After Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, al-Awlaki was interviewed at least four times in two weeks about his dealings with three of the hijackers aboard the flight that slammed into the Pentagon. The Sept. 11 Commission report said al-Awlaki was also investigated by the FBI in 1999 and 2000. None of the investigations led to criminal charges against him.
- Returns to Sanaa in 2004.
- In 2006, Yemeni authorities arrest al-Awlaki with a group of five Yemenis suspected of kidnapping a Shiite Muslim teenager for ransom. He is released without trial after a year in prison following the intercession of his tribe.
- In 2007, after release from prison, al-Awlaki moves to the Awalik tribal heartland in eastern province of Shabwa, an al-Qaida stronghold, living in his family home in the mountain hamlet of Saeed and occasionally preaching in a local mosque.
- Exchanged up to 20 emails with U.S. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, alleged killer of 13 people in the Nov. 5, 2009, rampage at Fort Hood.
- On Dec. 24, 2009, al-Awlaki was believed to be at a gathering of al-Qaida figures in Yemen's Shabwa mountains, a day before the Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up the airliner near Detroit. Yemeni warplanes, using U.S. intelligence help, struck the tents but al-Awlaki and others were believed to have driven off hours earlier.
- In New York, the Pakistani-American man who pleaded guilty to the May 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt said he was "inspired" by al-Awlaki after making contact over the Internet.
- Al-Awlaki is believed to have had a hand in mail bombs addressed to Chicago-area synagogues, packages intercepted in Dubai and Europe in October 2010.
- In March 2010, an al-Awlaki tape was released in which he urged American Muslims to mount attacks in the U.S.
- In April 2010, President Barack Obama makes al-Awlaki the first American placed on the CIA target list.
- In May 2011, as Yemen is gripped by an uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime, a U.S. drone targets al-Awlaki but again the mission fails.