Al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico and schooled at U.S. universities. Khan was a Saudi Arabian-American who lived in New York and North Carolina.
The men were taken out by a drone-fired missile near the town of Khashef in Yemen, about 90 miles from the capital of Sanaa. Yemen is the headquarters of AQAP (al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula,) and now considered the organization's most powerful arm, according to federal counter-terrorism agents.
Al-Awlaki is the most prominent al-Qaida figure to be killed since Osama bin Laden last May. Al-Awlaki was the radical inspiration-and sometimes the architect-of numerous attacks on the United States, including the recent effort to explode package bombs onboard cargo jets bound for Chicago and addressed to metro Chicago synagogues.
Khan was a rising star in al Qaeda's public relations division. As a founding co-editor of "Inspire," an online terror magazine, he aimed to radicalize American Muslims and convince them to wage one-man campaigns of violence in the United States.
As the ABC7 I-Team first reported nearly a year ago http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/iteam&id=7750310 Khan used a photo of Chicago's Magnificent Mile as the backdrop for an article urging Islamists not to wait for orders from overseas to wage their own Holy War.
The magazine depicted a pick-up truck as "the ultimate mowing machine...not to mow grass, but mow down (people) the enemies of Allah."
The article instructs al-Qaida followers to "weld on steel blades" to the front of the truck; drive to "the most crowded location....pick up as much speed as you can...and strike as many people as possible in your first run."
In its first year of seasonal publications the magazine also asked that Chicago terror suspects now in federal custody be remembered in readers' prayers.
Ironically, the most recent edition of Inspire magazine was published just two days ago. It features an article by the late al Qaeda propagandist and numerous quotes from al-Awlaki.
With both men struck dead in Friday's drone attack, they will be their final words.
The cover story, entitled "The Greatest Special Operation of All Time...the Expeditions of Washington, DC and New York" touted al Qaeda's jetliner attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
In Khan's by-lined article about using the media to help win al Qaeda war, he writes: "When the planes hit the Pentagon and the World Trade towers, America was forced to stand defeated; there was nothing to shoot back at. Then by swiftly invading Afghanistan in hopes that their prayers would be answered of getting revenge and wiping out once and for all the cause of their misery, it instead kept the river streaming."
In contrast to leading American Islamic organizations, Inspire magazine's position has been that terrorism is a Muslim goal. "Our entire makeup and culture is Islam" wrote Khan. "That our understanding of practically everything is deeply embedded in juristic works and that Islam is only what we prefer for the people to follow, they (Americans) end up missing the street at every corner: by criticizing us and misplacing our ideas, they end up insulting millions of those Muslims who know and practice Islam. Try to guess in whose favor that goes into?"
Khan wrote: "I've personally attended mosques in over ten States in America; and in all of them, one will always be able to categorize a large group of Muslims as having anti-American sentiments even if they aren't that practicing."
In an ominous prediction of how the War on Terror will end, Khan stated: "This battle is going to continue until they find themselves powerless under our dominion."
Al Qaeda leaders used the magazine as tool to respond and react to current battles waged in the War on Terror.
Last summer's failed attempt by the U.S. to kill al Awlaki was met with this statement: "By the grace of Allah, they all missed Shaykh Anwar and he left the area without a scratch. The fact that the drones were unable to pinpoint his location nor follow him the rest of the way is a sign from Allah that He protects His believing slaves. In reference to the attempted assassination, the Shaykh jokingly said, 'It looks as if someone was a bit angry with us this evening'."
It is unclear whether Friday's drone attack put an end to the online give-and-take from Yemen or whether other al Qaeda propagandists are waiting to take over where al-Awlaki and Khan left off.
There may still be a final shot from one of the American Jihadists killed on Friday. In a "coming soon" online promotion for the winter edition of Inspire, al-Awlaki promised a manifesto entitled "Targeting the populations of Countries that are at War with the Muslims."
Whether he wrote that article prior to being blown up by a US missile is not known.
- Other terror incidents and events linked to al-Awlaki:
- He deployed the so-called "underwear bomber" on Christmas Day, 2009. The air passenger attempted to blow up a jetliner that landed in Detroit, by wearing explosive-laden shorts.
- He was believed to have inspired Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, the accused Fort Hood shooter. Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 attack at Fort Hood, Texas.