NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The man dubbed the “boss of all bosses” for the terror group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is dead.
WCBS 880′s Rich Lamb with Ray Kelly
American-born Anwar al-Awlaki, who eclipsed Osama bin Laden as the greatest threat to American security,”was targeted and killed” in Yemen, the nation’s foreign ministry said. Al-Awlaki’s henchman, Samir Khan, was also killed.
While Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the killing of Al-Awlaki and Khan will make the country and city safer, he said in a statement that Khan had followers in the U.S, including New York City, and “for that reason we remain alert to the possibility that someone might want to avenge his death.”
Kelly said Khan had extensive contacts in New York City and published the English language Inspire Magazine, which instructed lone wolves on how to build bombs at home, and in the most recent issue identified Grand Central Station as a target.
Kelly said Al-Awlaki was focused like no other on attacking the U.S. and Khan legitimized attacking women and children.
It is worth noting that previous reports of Al-Awlaki’s death have proved false.
This time, though, an Obama administration official told CBS News the U.S. government has “high confidence” the terror mastermind is dead, and Yemen’s report is accurate.
President Barack Obama spoke about al-Awlaki’s death.
“The death of al-Awlaki is a major blow to Al Qaeda’s most operational affiliate,” Obama said. “He repeatedly called on individuals in the United States and around the globe to kill innocent civilians.”
“Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula remains a dangerous, but weakened, organization,” Obama said.
Rep. Peter King, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, said this was hugely important moment in the war on terror.
“This is great news,” King told 1010 WINS. “I can not tell you how important it is that we killed al-Awlaki. For the last several years, he had been more of a threat than Osama bin Laden had been.”
“He’s American-born. He has a strong following here in the United States. He was the most aggressive Al Qaeda leader in attempting to attack the United States. He wanted to bring the war to the United States even more than bin Laden did,” King said.
“This was an evil man who had a large following,” King said. “He’s very sophisticated. He is without a doubt the most prominent American terrorist we’ve ever had.”
Al-Awlaki is believed to have been the driving force behind the attempted Times Square bombing, the Fort Hood massacre and the Christmas Day 2009 attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines fight by a man with a bomb in his underwear.
Al-Awlaki was a radical Islamic preacher who rose to prominence in Al Qaeda franchise in Yemen. He was born in New Mexico.
American officials considered him on the most-wanted terror suspects, and his name was added to the kill or capture list, a rare American addition to that list.
Al-Arabiya television reported al-Awlaki was killed in a drone strike on a convoy which apparently was carrying him and his guards.
“I give the president credit. I give the CIA credit. He was an American citizen but he was targeted for assassination, and it was absolutely appropriate,” King said.
LISTEN: WCBS 880′s Rich Lamb reports
AQAP has been considered the most active branch of the terror group in plotting attacks on the U.S. homeland in recent years. Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hassan was in direct email contact with al-Awlaki before carrying out his attack. Al-Awlaki also reportedly met directly with Umar Farouk Adbulmutallab, the 19-year-old Nigerian who tried to blow up a flight to Detroit via a bomb stuffed in his underwear .
“There’s no doubt about it, it knocks Al Qaeda back,” King said. “It’s a significant blow to them. The war’s not over, I don’t mean that, but this is a tremendous step in the right direction for us.”
King urged the administration to step up its efforts on the heels of al-Awlaki’s death.
“This is the type of thing that when it occurs, we have to step up our activities even more now, because they are weak, they are confused,” King said. “It shows that America is united, and that we have to stay on offense. We are going after them, we have to stay after them. This is the way to win it: By letting them know there’s no place they can hide. There’s no place they can go. We will get them.”
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