Samir Khan

Saudi-born U.S. citizen Samir Khan was a propagandist for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the creator of the group’s English-language magazine Inspire. In October 2009, Khan left his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, and traveled to Yemen to join AQAP.Mark Schone and Matthew Cole, “American Jihadi Samir Khan Killed With Awlaki,” ABC News, September 30, 2011, http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/american-jihadi-samir-khan-killed-awlaki/story?id=14640013;
Oren Adaki, “AQAP publishes biography of American jihadist Samir Khan,” Long War Journal, November 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/11/aqap_releases_biogra_1.php;
“AQAP's Radicalization Efforts in the West Take Another Hit,” Stratfor, September 30, 2011, https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/aqaps-radicalization-efforts-west-take-another-hit.
He was killed in a U.S. airstrike on September 30, 2011, in Yemen’s Jawf province. The airstrike specifically targeted U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, AQAP’s prolific propagandist and director of external operations.Robbie Brown and Kim Severson, “2nd American in Strike Waged Qaeda Media War,” New York Times, September 30, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/01/world/middleeast/samir-khan-killed-by-drone-spun-out-of-the-american-middle-class.html?_r=0;
Mark Schone and Matthew Cole, “American Jihadi Samir Khan Killed With Awlaki,” ABC News, September 30, 2011, http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/american-jihadi-samir-khan-killed-awlaki/story?id=14640013.

Khan was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1985 to Pakistani parents. His family moved to the United States in 1991, eventually settling in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2004.Oren Adaki, “AQAP publishes biography of American jihadist Samir Khan,” Long War Journal, November 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/11/aqap_releases_biogra_1.php;
Mark Schone and Matthew Cole, “American Jihadi Samir Khan Killed With Awlaki,” ABC News, September 30, 2011, http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/american-jihadi-samir-khan-killed-awlaki/story?id=14640013.
According to Musta Elturk, a prominent imam who knew the Khan’s, Samir immersed himself in Islam in order to “stay away from the peer pressure of his teenage days.”Robbie Brown and Kim Severson, “2nd American in Strike Waged Qaeda Media War,” New York Times, September 30, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/01/world/middleeast/samir-khan-killed-by-drone-spun-out-of-the-american-middle-class.html?_r=0. Khan wrote for his high school newspaper, a skill that—according to an AQAP biography of Khan released after his death—would help him produce future jihadist publications.Robbie Brown and Kim Severson, “2nd American in Strike Waged Qaeda Media War,” New York Times, September 30, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/01/world/middleeast/samir-khan-killed-by-drone-spun-out-of-the-american-middle-class.html?_r=0;
Oren Adaki, “AQAP publishes biography of American jihadist Samir Khan,” Long War Journal, November 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/11/aqap_releases_biogra_1.php.

As a teenager, Khan believed the 9/11 attacks were the result of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, according to his biography. During school, he reportedly refused to recite the pledge of allegiance.Oren Adaki, “AQAP publishes biography of American jihadist Samir Khan,” Long War Journal, November 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/11/aqap_releases_biogra_1.php. Khan began reading extremist websites, and watched videos of suicide bombers in Iraq.Mark Schone and Matthew Cole, “American Jihadi Samir Khan Killed With Awlaki,” ABC News, September 30, 2011, http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/american-jihadi-samir-khan-killed-awlaki/story?id=14640013;
Robbie Brown and Kim Severson, “2nd American in Strike Waged Qaeda Media War,”  New York Times, September 30, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/01/world/middleeast/samir-khan-killed-by-drone-spun-out-of-the-american-middle-class.html?_r=0.
His father made numerous failed attempts to dissuade Khan from the extremist content by introducing him to various imams and Islamic scholars in his community.Robbie Brown and Kim Severson, “2nd American in Strike Waged Qaeda Media War,” New York Times, September 30, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/01/world/middleeast/samir-khan-killed-by-drone-spun-out-of-the-american-middle-class.html?_r=0.

In 2007, Khan launched an online blog called “A Martyr, God Willing,” in which he praised al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and used sarcastic language in order to attract other impressionable western youth, according to ABC News.Mark Schone and Matthew Cole, “American Jihadi Samir Khan Killed With Awlaki,” ABC News, September 30, 2011, http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/american-jihadi-samir-khan-killed-awlaki/story?id=14640013. In an interview in 2007 with the New York Times, Khan admitted that his favorite online video depicted a suicide bomber striking a U.S. military base in Iraq. Khan described the video as “something that brought great happiness to me…because this is something America would never want to admit, that they are being crushed.”Mark Schone and Matthew Cole, “American Jihadi Samir Khan Killed With Awlaki,” ABC News, September 30, 2011, http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/american-jihadi-samir-khan-killed-awlaki/story?id=14640013;
Michael Moss and Souad Mekhennet, “An Internet Jihad Aims at U.S. Viewers,” New York Times, October 15, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/15/us/15net.html?_r=0.
Khan spent several years disseminating extremist content online while living in his father’s house.Mark Schone and Matthew Cole, “American Jihadi Samir Khan Killed With Awlaki,” ABC News, September 30, 2011, http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/american-jihadi-samir-khan-killed-awlaki/story?id=14640013.

In early 2009, while living in North Carolina, Khan created an online English-language magazine titled Jihad Recollections, which was ultimately released by al-Qaeda’s al-Furan Media. The publication called for attacks against non-Muslims, and was reported to be the precursor to AQAP’s Inspire. During this time, Khan was in contact with U.S. extremist Jesse Morton, who operated the extremist website revolutionmuslim.com. According to the FBI, Morton authorized Khan to post content on his website, and also provided Khan with two articles for Jihad Recollections. Khan released four issues of Jihad Recollections before traveling to Sana’a, Yemen, in October 2009 to join AQAP.Mark Schone and Matthew Cole, “American Jihadi Samir Khan Killed With Awlaki,” ABC News, September 30, 2011, http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/american-jihadi-samir-khan-killed-awlaki/story?id=14640013;
Eric Shawn, “Glossy Internet Magazine Targets Americans for Jihad Training,” Fox News, May 1, 2009, http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/05/01/glossy-internet-magazine-targets-americans-for-jihad-training.html;
“Jihad Recollections,” SITE Intelligence Group, accessed 6/10/2016, https://ent.siteintelgroup.com/index.php?option=com_customproperties&view=search&tagId=452&Itemid=726;
“Leader of Revolution Muslim Pleads Guilty to Using Internet to Solicit Murder and Encourage Violent Extremism,” FBI, February 9, 2012, https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/washingtondc/press-releases/2012/leader-of-revolution-muslim-pleads-guilty-to-using-internet-to-solicit-murder-and-encourage-violent-extremism.

As a member of AQAP, Khan was reportedly mentored by Anwar al-Awlaki, who took interest in Khan’s blogging and online magazine experience. Al-Awlaki, who typically relied on traditional sermons, reportedly saw value in Khan’s computer skills—as well as his unique ability to use American vernacular—in order to recruit young Muslims.Mark Schone and Matthew Cole, “American Jihadi Samir Khan Killed With Awlaki,” ABC News, September 30, 2011, http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/american-jihadi-samir-khan-killed-awlaki/story?id=14640013;
Oren Adaki, “AQAP publishes biography of American jihadist Samir Khan,” Long War Journal, November 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/11/aqap_releases_biogra_1.php.

Khan released the first issue of Inspire magazine in the summer of 2010. Inspire, which he reportedly called “America’s worst nightmare,” was a revitalized version of Jihad Recollections, according to AQAP’s biography of Khan.Oren Adaki, “AQAP publishes biography of American jihadist Samir Khan,” Long War Journal, November 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/11/aqap_releases_biogra_1.php. Starting in 2010, Khan reportedly worked alongside Minh Quang Pham, a Vietnamese-born British convert to Islam who used his graphic design skills to help edit the magazine. Pham was later arrested in June 2012 in the United Kingdom after attempting to prepare a suicide attack on London Heathrow International Airport.“Minh Quang Pham,” Counter Extremism Project, accessed June, 10, 2016, http://www.counterextremism.com/extremists/minh-quang-pham.

Khan went on to edit seven more issues of Inspire, to which he contributed numerous articles. Inspire called for lone wolf attacks in the U.S., featured sermons by clerics such as al-Awlaki, and glorified al-Qaeda leaders including Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden. Khan was responsible for authoring an infamous article titled “How to Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,” which provided instructions on rudimentary bomb making.Oren Adaki, “AQAP publishes biography of American jihadist Samir Khan,” Long War Journal, November 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/11/aqap_releases_biogra_1.php. A copy of the article was reportedly found on the laptop of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who carried out the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings alongside his brother, Tamerlan. The perpetrators of the December 2015 San Bernardino shooting, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tafsheen Malik, reportedly “reviewed instructions on how to make IEDs that were in Inspire Magazine,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.Richard Vladmanis, “Boston bomb suspect influenced by Al Qaeda: expert witness,” Reuters, March 23, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-boston-bombings-trial-idUSKBN0MJ0Z620150323;
“California Man Charged with Conspiring to Provide Material Support to Terrorism and Being ‘Straw Purchaser’ of Assault Rifles Ultimately Used in San Bernardino, California, Attack,” U.S. Department of Justice, December 17, 2015, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/california-man-charged-conspiring-provide-material-support-terrorism-and-being-straw.
According to Ben Venzke, CEO of the private intelligence firm IntelCenter, Inspire provides individuals in the West with “inspiration, ideological framework, targeting philosophy and practical mechanics of building a bomb or conducting a shooting.”Suzanne Kelly, “Samir Khan: Proud to be an American traitor,” CNN, September 30, 2011, http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/30/world/meast/analysis-yemen-samir-khan/.

Khan was killed alongside Anwar al-Awlaki in a September 30, 2011, U.S. drone strike that specifically targeted al-Awlaki.Jere Van Dyk, “Who were the 4 U.S. citizens killed in drone strikes?,” CBS News, May 23, 2013, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/who-were-the-4-us-citizens-killed-in-drone-strikes/. AQAP continues to publish Inspire.“Issue 14 of AQAP’s “Inspire” Magazine Focuses on Assassinations, Provides targets and Methods,” SITE Intelligence, September 9, 2015, http://news.siteintelgroup.com/blog/index.php/categories/jihad/entry/397-issue-14-of-aqap%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Cinspire%E2%80%9D-magazine-focuses-on-assassinations,-provides-targets-and-methods.

 
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