Anwar al-Awlaki was al-Qaida's Operational Commander in Yemen. From his hideout in the rugged mountains, he recruited young men to kill Americans and its allies. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was one, the Nigerian who tried to blow up a US jet with explosives sewn into his underpants and the Pakistani-American behind the botched car bombing in Times Square. He knew how to reach out to the English-speaking world because he was born in the USA.
When he was seven years old, he went back to Yemen with his family and stayed there for 11 years. They returned in 1991 and he earned a B.S. in civil engineering at Colorado State University where he was president of the Muslim Student Association. He also had an M.A. in Education Leadership from San Diego State University.
As al-Awlaki and his men emerged from their hideout in the mountains of Yemen and were driving through a desert region, the drone struck. The raid was carried out by the same US special unit that killed bin Laden at his hideout in Pakistan.
There are plenty of young Muslims in the world who hate America and its allies for waging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and al-Awlaki was able to give al Qaeda its international voice. He made sermon videos on You Tube and other sites that flooded the western world. Being born in America, he knew all about Western culture and how to get his message across - that the US must be punished for killing innocent Muslims. Downloads of his sermons were found on laptops and computers of several groups arrested for plotting attacks in the US and Britain.
When he left the US in 2002, he spent several months in the UK and did a grand lecture tour of the country. In one of his sermon he said "The lesson to be learnt here is never to trust a kuffar (non-Muslim) because they are plotting to kill this religion." He also translated the jihad into English.
Experts predict that his death won't affect al Qaeda's operations in Yemen but it will limit their ability to put out more English-language propaganda, at least for now. But his sermons and calls for jihad still remain on the web and they could become more effective because he is now a martyr for the cause. He also has 4,800 fans on Facebook.