Memri Jihad & Terrorism Studies Project
September 28, 2012 Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No.886
The Life And Legacy Of American Al-Qaeda Online Jihad Pioneer Samir Khan – Editor Of Al-Qaeda Magazine ‘Inspire‘ And A Driving Force Behind Al-Qaeda’s Push For ‘Lone-Wolf’ Terror Attacks In West
By: Steven Stalinsky and R. Sosnow*
Table Of Contents
- Samir Khan, 1985-2011: Born In Saudi Arabia, Raised In N.Y., Martyred In Yemen
- Samir Khan Launches His Blog “The Ignored Puzzle Pieces of Knowledge”
- 2004: Khan Moves With Family To Charlotte, NC
- 2007-2008: Failed Attempts To De-Radicalize Khan
- 2007: Khan’s Only Interview With Western Media – The New York Times
- 2009: Khan Launches Jihad Recollections Magazine
- 2010: Federal Grand Jury Considers Evidence Against Khan
- 2008-2009: Samir Khan’s “The Ignored Puzzle Pieces of Knowledge” Blog
- AQAP’s “Inspire” Magazine – 2010-2012
- Samir Khan’s Legacy
On September 30, 2011, 25-year-old American citizen Samir Khan was killed in a drone strike in Yemen, alongside his mentor, American-born Al-Qaeda leader Sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki. In the seven years following the beginning of his activity posting jihadi videos of Osama bin Laden, Al-Awlaki, and others on the Internet, Khan became a trailblazer in online jihad and ended as a “martyr” in the deserts of the Middle East – thus joining many other online jihadis who have moved from the pen to the sword.
From his blog “The Ignored Puzzle Pieces of Knowledge” to online English-language publications including the jihadi magazine Jihad Recollections and the Al-Qaeda magazine Inspire, to the document Expectations Full, Khan laid the foundations for Western jihadis. A February 9, 2012 Washington Post article about Inspire stated that the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, and other U.S. government organizations had come to rely on the magazine for their understanding of Al-Qaeda’s agenda and roster.
As this report covers, the number of young would-be jihadis arrested in the U.S. and U.K. with Khan’s writings and publications in their possession continues to grow.
ACLU Lawsuit Challenges Legality Of Drone Strike That Killed Al-Awlaki and Khan, Stating That Khan Was “Not Engaged In Activity” That Presented Any Threat
On July 18, 2012, the family of Samir Khan joined with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the family of Anwar and his son Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki to file a lawsuit challenging the legality of the U.S. government’s drone strikes that killed the three. The lawsuit names Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, CIA director David Petraeus, Special Operations Command (SOC) commander William McRaven, and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) Joseph Votel as the defendants.
The complaint stated, inter alia: “Upon information and belief, neither Samir Khan nor Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi was engaged in any activity that presented a concrete, specific, and imminent threat to life; nor was either of them directly participating in hostilities” (p.3) and”Samir Khan was not engaged in activity that presented a concrete, specific, and imminent threat of death or serious physical injury; nor was he directly participating in hostilities” (p. 13)
Khan’s Desire For Martyrdom
Samir Khan’s dedication to jihad and Al-Qaeda and his desire for martyrdom were recurring themes in his writings. He wrote about them numerous times in various issues of Inspire, which he edited; in his blog, in his other writings, and in eulogies for him by his fellow jihadis.