WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) –– He was a terrorist on the radar – from Long Island all the way to al Qaeda.
Two Americans, one being Anwar al-Awlaki, leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and a 25-year-old extremist from Westbury, were zeroed in on and killed last week in a sensational U.S. drone attack.
Stunned residents remember the extremist killed in the strike as a former neighbor who “fit right in.” He lived in the area for 10 years with his parents, brother and sister, and attended a local mosque before terrorism investigators say they discovered Samir Khan had turned traitor. They say he was obsessed with his radical faith and hatred of the U.S.
Khan, who graduated from W.T. Clarke High School in East Meadow, played some football and loved video games, but after 9/11 drastically changed, according to his yearbook inscriptions, calling himself a “Muslim engaged in jihad,” who wants to go overseas and study … subjects that deal with Islam.” He also included a religious saying: “If you give Satan an inch, he’ll be a ruler.”
“It’s upsetting to know your next-door neighbor can be a nice guy and the next day he’s a terrorist,” Melissa Stawkowski told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.
Khan worshipped at mosques in Nassau and Suffolk counties. After high school he moved with his family to North Carolina. It was then that Khan came to the attention of the U.S. government. He moved to Yemen and began publishing an extremist web magazine, Inspire, writing he was “proud to be a traitor” and instructing followers how to spill blood and crush skulls to achieve al Qaeda goals.
Congressman Peter King is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
“I’ve seen the video. I saw him get in the vehicle with al-Awlaki. Yes, surveillance video. You don’t associate with the number one terrorist in the world unless you’re a terrorist yourself, and he is by his own statements,” Rep. King said.
“Obviously, the U.S. was his Satan. He was obviously very radical,” King told WCBS 880 reporter Sophia Hall. “By the time he got out of high school, that was after September 11th. The magazine he put out every month was monitored very, very carefully by the FBI and the CIA and was considered extremely dangerous and extremely threatening to the United States.”
WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall On The Story
“A young man who had all the benefits of suburban life, but yet, whatever happened to him to radicalize him, he was a terrorist living in our midst.”
Muslim leaders say their religion is one of peace and that Khan’s family tried to help their son combat his growing isolation and emotional turmoil.
“The parents tried everything to steer him in the right direction, counseling. Unfortunately, this man was on the wrong path,” said Habeeb Ahmed of the Islamic Center of Long Island.
“He chose to turn his back on his country. He chose a violent approach and I think he deserved what he got,” Westbury resident Gene Semelrath added.
However, Khan’s family is bitter, saying their son was unjustly assassinated rather than being captured and tried in a court of law.
The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the killings of Khan and al-Awlaki, saying the government should never use lethal force against its own citizens unless the threat to human life is imminent.
King said federal authorities are aware that Khan was in contact with two other people on Long Island who were persons of interest in other terror investigations.
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