A blow to al-Qaeda’s internet presence

The U.S. drone strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan may have closed a window of opportunity for al-Qaeda, at least for the time being.  While there is little doubt that the internet is used by al-Qaeda, and will continue to be used, these two figures were producing some of the most polished English language representations of al-Qaeda online.  Inspire was  a very slick online publication produced at minimal cost, and apparently was Khan’s creation.  Al-Awlaki produced online sermons in English, and generally had an easily locatable presence online, and was dubbed by some as “the Osama bin Laden of the Internet“.
These efforts served as propaganda and recruitment tools, and should reduce al-Qaeda’s visibility in the English speaking world, but is likely to have little impact on actual terrorist operations.  Some parties will be drawn to al-Qaeda regardless of whether there are prominent English speakers in the organization,  and there may be fewer people recruited or their recruitment may be delayed, but other casualties in the strike (there is currently speculation that a bombmaker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, was also killed) will likely have a more immediate and visible effect.

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