December 31, 2009 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 576

Deleting Online Jihad and the Case of Anwar Al-Awlaki: Nearly Three Million Viewings of Al-Awlaki's YouTube Videos – Included Would-Be Christmas Airplane Bomber, Fort Hood Shooter, 7/7 London Bomber, and Would-Be Fort Dix Bombers

December 31, 2009 | By Steven Stalinsky*
Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 576


In the world of jihad against America, U.S.-born Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki's stature has risen significantly in recent days. This is because he is now credited with inspiring – through his online activities – last year's attempted terrorist attack at Fort Dix, New Jersey; last month's terrorist attack at Fort Hood, Texas; and this week's attempted Christmas airplane bombing near Detroit, Michigan. While this week there was speculation that he had been killed in an airstrike in Yemen, more recent reports suggest that he is still alive.


Al-Awlaki is the Bin Laden of the Internet

One of the most esteemed voices in the Arab media, Al-Arabiya TV director-general Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, wrote on December 29 in the Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, "Al-Awlaki is an important character … he is the Bin Laden of the Internet." Al-Rashed went on to say that there is a need "to wage war against extremist websites in general, which have become larger camps than the first camp that gave its name to the 'Al Qaeda' organization."


Al-Awlaki Inspired Fort Hood Shooter Maj. Hasan

Following the November 5, 2009 shooting at Fort Hood army base in Texas, for which Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan has been charged with killing 13 soldiers, the connection between Hasan and Al-Awlaki came to light. Hasan's family attended the Dar al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, where Al-Awlaki was preaching in 2001;[1] according to a Fort Hood acquaintance, Hasan was an admirer of Al-Awlaki,[2] and expressed "deep respect" for his teachings.[3]

Hasan was also a frequent visitor to Anwar Al-Awlaki's website, and that relationship was corroborated by Al-Awlaki in an interview with Al-Jazeera that was translated first by MEMRI on December 23, 2009.[4]


Shutting Down Al-Awlaki's Website – Significantly Restricting His Online Influence

On November 9, Al-Awlaki published an article on his website, in which he called Hasan a "hero" and "a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people."

That same day, MEMRI released a special dispatch[5] which provided details of Al-Awlaki's website, including the registration and domain, all hosted in the U.S., as well as contact information for these companies. Within hours, his website was shut down, and Al-Awlaki lost his main vehicle for spreading his ideology.


Al-Awlaki Online Presence Inspired Would-Be Christmas Day Airplane Bomber

Al-Awlaki again made headlines this week, when authorities announced that he had influenced Umar Farooq Abdulmutallab, the young Nigerian man who on Christmas Day attempted to blow up a plane over Detroit.[6] Abdulmutallab reportedly visited Anwar Al-Awlaki's website often for inspiration, as it was reported that his computer records showed high traffic to the site.[7]


Al-Awlaki's Online Presence Incited Attempted Fort Dix Bombers, 7/7 London Bombings

During the trial of five Muslim men who had planned to attack the U.S. Army base at Fort Dix in December 2008, it was reported that they had received inspiration from Al-Awlaki's online sermons.[8] According to media reports, Al-Awlaki's website and online videos also inspired the 7/7 London bombers, as well as Mohammad Atif Siddique, who has been called an "aspiring suicide bomber."[9]


Following the Take Down of Al-Awlaki's Website - YouTube Becomes the Largest Clearinghouse of His Online Videos

A quick tabulation of viewings of Al-Awlaki's more than two thousand clips made up of lectures, sermons, and compilation videos supporting his jihadist philosophy - comes to nearly three million and counting. These clips include Al-Awlaki calling Muslims to jihad, expressions of support for martyrdom attacks, and encouragement to kill American soldiers.

The comment sections beneath each clip are full of statements praising him. One viewer commented: "I'm trying to go to Yemen as soon as possible so I can meet him and study with him." Another viewer wrote, "Al-Awlaki is the incarnate of Ibn Taminya" (sic; Ibn Taymiyya influenced the establishment of Wahhabism). Yet another wrote, "It is unreal how scared they are of Sheikh Anwar, they cant believe this man is delivering the message in such a direct manner where by many of the youth are inspired by his talks, may Allah reward him… inshallah we will be one ummah under one Khalifah very soon [sic]." Hundreds of other such comments are also posted.

It should be remembered that every clip uploaded to YouTube originates on a YouTube user's own page (channel). Many of these pages include clips of other jihadists sermons, lectures, and other types of videos.


How To Remove Al-Awlaki Videos from YouTube

According to the Youtube Community Guidelines webpage, which is dedicated to rules, and regulations, regarding what types of clips can and cannot be posted, any video may be removed for "…inciting others to commit violent acts…"[10]


Following are the steps to have clips removed.

  1. Go to YouTube's home page,
  2. Type "Al-Awlaki" in the search bar. Note that at the bottom of the page, YouTube provides additional spellings for his names.
  3. The search option also has the capability to search the "playlist," showing Al-Awlaki's other clips on other users' YouTube pages.
  4. Go to the video.
  5. Using the "flag" button beneath the video player, flag the video. (You must be a YouTube member to flag a video.)
  6. Once you have "flagged" the video, a drop-down menu will open up for you to select the "reason" you flagged it.


Contact YouTube

Phone 650-253-0000; write Attn: CEO Chad Hurley, 901 Cherry Ave. San Bruno, CA 94066; or visit .

More on Anwar Al-Awlaki can be found in MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM) Project archives.[11]


*Steven Stalinsky is the Executive Director of The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)


[1], November 9, 2009. The FBI linked the mosque to two of the 9/11 hijackers.

[2] McClatchy Newspapers, November 8, 2009.

[3] The Telegraph (UK), November 7, 2009.

[4] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 2713; "On – First Interview with U.S.-Born Yemen-Based Imam Anwar Al-'Awlaki on Major Hasan and the Fort Hood Shooting: Nidal [Hasan] Contacted Me a Year Ago;" .

[5] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 2638; "U.S.-Born Yemen-Based Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki on His CA-Hosted Website: Fort Hood Shooter 'Nidal Hassan Is A Hero;" .

[6] "Muslim Cleric Anwar Awlaki Linked to Fort Hood, Northwest Flight 253 Terror Attacks;" ABC December 29, 2009.

[7] Fox News Channel, December 29, 2009.

[8] The Telegraph (UK), December 27, 2008.

[9] The Telegraph (UK), November 23, 2009.

[10] Youtube Community Guidelines, .

[11] See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 2609; " U.S.-Born Iman Anwar Al-Awlaki: 44 Ways of Supporting Jihad,"; Special Dispatch No. 2610; "U.S.-Born Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki on the State of Jihad Eight Years After 9/11: The U.S. Cannot Win – There is No Rolling Back the Worldwide Jihad; 'If America Failed to Defeat the Mujahedeen When It Gave Its President Unlimited Support – How Can It Win;"; Special Dispatch No. 2638; "U.S.-Born Yemen-Based Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki on His CA-Hosted Website: Fort Hood Shooter 'Nidal Hassan Is A Hero;"; Special Dispatch No. 2713; "On – First Interview with U.S.-Born Yemen-Based Imam Anwar Al-'Awlaki on Major Hasan and the Fort Hood Shooting: Nidal [Hasan] Contacted Me a Year Ago;"


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