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Is Anwar al-Awlaki's importance to Al Qaeda overstated?

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Five key members of Al Qaeda in Yemen (AQAP)

“Anwar al-Awlaki is not the leader of AQAP, he’s not the spiritual head, and he's not the main ideologue. He's not any of these things that are often put out in the media,” says Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen specialist at Princeton University. “If there's one name that people in the West know, it’s Anwar al-Awlaki … but that doesn’t make him the most important player in AQAP, and I would argue that if the US were to kill him, AQAP would continue without missing a beat.”

First US strike since 2002

Awlaki may not be a key player in Al Qaeda’s hierarchy, but his role in the organization is nevertheless unique. Having spent much of his life in the US, Awlaki has been a leading voice bringing extremist ideology to the English-speaking world. Technologically adept, he has disseminated Al Qaeda dogma via Facebook, YouTube, and AQAP’s English-language publication, Inspire.

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