Documents Reaffirm Awlaki’s Role in Radicalizing “Underwear Bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

(New York, NY) – F.B.I. interviews with attempted airplane suicide bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, detailed by the New York Times, document the direct role played by U.S.-born cleric and al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki in planning and directing the plot.

Abdulmutallab, who became radicalized by listening to cassette tapes of Awlaki lectures, attempted to destroy Northwest Airlines Flight 253 approaching Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 using explosives hidden in his underwear. Notably, as described by the New York Times, Abdulmutallab was first exposed to Awlaki lectures that did not explicitly embrace violence. Awlaki then led him down a path of increasing radicalization, culminating in his attempted suicide attack. Such Awlaki content remains readily available and pervasive online, including on YouTube. In 2011, Awlaki became the first American targeted by a drone strike, due in large part to his role in directing Abdulmutallab’s plot. Despite Awlaki’s well-documented role in directing or inspiring dozens of terrorist plots, his most violence-inspiring lectures continue to be readily available online.

The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) has detailed Awlaki’s extensive radicalizing influence in the report, Anwar al-Awlaki’s Ties to Extremists. CEP’s report includes profiles of dozens of individuals in the U.S. and Europe inspired to violence by Awlaki both before and after his death, including: Omar Mateen, perpetrator of the deadliest gun attack on U.S. soil; Syed Rizwan Farook, who with his wife killed 14 people in San Bernardino; Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan; Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad; Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev; and many others.

Awlaki’s pervasive and continuing radicalizing influence online has also been detailed by CEP CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace in editorials in USA Today and Fox News.

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On October 27, 2018, domestic terrorist Robert D. Bowers carried out an anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. He fired on congregants as they gathered for worship, killing 11 people and wounding six others.

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