Anwar Al-Awlaki may have been killed in a drone strike last fall, but the American cleric's legacy is still a draw for potential American jihadist recruits, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security are warning.
A new FBI/Homeland Security intelligence bulletin, first obtained by Fox News, says al Qaeda in Yemen, also known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is determined to cultivate new American recruits and suggests a new memorial video, released in late December after the American cleric's death in a CIA-led strike, may prompt his followers to act.
Prepared for federal, state and local law enforcement, analysts write that the new tribute video "encourages Western-based Muslims to commit violence," adding that the "video could inspire violent extremists in the West to conduct attacks."
Awlaki, who appears in the video released Dec. 20, speaks in English from beyond the grave, stating that "jihad against America is binding.”
While the bulletin states, "We have no indication that the timing of the video's release or any content ... is related to specific, ongoing plotting against the homeland," federal law enforcement and military are urged "to remain vigilant for signs of terrorist plotting and to report suspicious activities."
The warning was revealed as two new cases, one in Florida, the other in Maryland, underscore the threat of digital jihad. According to a criminal complaint released on Monday, 25-year-old Sami Osmakac was accused of attempting to use car bombs to target two Florida nightclubs, a sheriff's office.
Like Awlaki, Osmakac used the web to spread his alleged ideology of hate. Even after his arrest over the weekend, Osmakac's Youtube videos were still online. In one 12-minute tape, provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute, he rambles on about Allah, circumcision and Marxism.
In the second case, 24-year-old Maryland native Craig Baxam, a former member of the Army, made his first court appearance Monday after being accused of traveling to Somalia to join the al Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabaab. According to a criminal complaint, Baxam was radicalized on the Internet without any direct contact with a foreign terrorist organization. He allegedly read a piece about the day of judgment on an Islamist website.
As part of its ongoing investigation of the cleric, the Fox News specials unit has learned that federal investigators are focusing on a member of AQAP identified in the video as Abu Yazeed.
Yazeed is believed to be an American citizen who may have known Awlaki in the United States before traveling to Yemen to join the al Qaeda affiliate. A law enforcement source told Fox News that the appearance of Yazeed in such a high profile video was more evidence AQAP was drawing new American recruits despite al-Awlaki's death Sept. 30, 2011.
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King, told Fox News that it is one thing to kill the cleric and quite another to kill his ideas.
"Al-Awlaki -- even though he is dead -- his impact is going to continue probably more than anyone in the Islamic terrorist world. He was able to connect with Americans and his tapes, his words, his impact is going to live on. We have to keep that in mind. Al-Awlaki is dead but unfortunately his hate lives on," said King, R-N.Y.
In May, the House Homeland Security launched an official investigation into the cleric and his possible role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. King told Fox News in a phone interview that the FBI has not provided a single document -- over an eight month period -- to his investigators.
"We're in the situation where the FBI indicates that al-Awlaki was not really part of 9/11 but at the same time, (the FBI) does not make available to us all of the information we need. They still talk about ongoing investigations," King said. "On the one hand trying to downplay the significance of al-Awlaki as far as pre 9/11 but at the same time denying us access to information that we believe is necessary to really close this out -- to find out what the true impact and the true significance of al-Awlaki was in the events leading up to 9/11."
A spokesman for the FBI told Fox News that the bureau had briefed committee staff and a briefing was being scheduled with King.
Fox News Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge's bestselling book "The Next Wave: On the Hunt for al Qaeda's American Recruits" was published by Crown on June 21st. It draws on her reporting for Fox News into Anwar al-Awlaki , the digital jihad and the cleric's new generation of recruits -- al Qaeda 2.0.
Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.