December 31st, 2012
11:51 AM ET

The top terror takedowns of 2012

By Wes Bruer, CNN

One of the most wanted terrorists in Yemen. A son of the Haqqani Network founder. A man whose capture was worth $5 million to the FBI: The United States and its allies took out some of these key terror leaders throughout 2012.

Take a look at those top leaders and more who were killed or indicted in the past year:

1. Abu Yahya al-Libi
Al-Libi was second in command of al Qaeda under Ayman al-Zawahiri and a senior leader of the terror group’s external operations against the West. Al-Libi was also an Islamic scholar who appeared in many recruitment videos. The U.S. State Department offered a $1 million reward for his capture. He was killed on June 4 in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan.


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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Haqqani Network • Most Wanted • Terrorism
Excerpts from SEAL's book about Osama bin Laden killing
August 30th, 2012
05:37 PM ET

Excerpts from SEAL's book about Osama bin Laden killing

Larry Shaughnessy

The new book by former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, published under the pseudonym Mark Owen, has some eye-opening, sometimes amusing details about the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.

"No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden" goes step by step through the SEAL team's training and practicing for the attack, the assault itself and the aftermath.

One might find it odd that in the midst of one of the most important Special Operations missions ever, most of these elite warriors weren't exactly pumped up on the flight to bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

"I think most of the guys on the helicopter actually caught some much-needed sleep on the ride in. ... All the hype was gone and it was just another night at work for us."


May 1st, 2012
06:35 PM ET

'Hard Measures' offers hard look at enhanced interrogations

By Suzanne Kelly and Pam Benson

Two months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Pakistani forces captured and handed over to the U.S. a Libyan who was fleeing Afghanistan and was suspected of having knowledge that could help expose the locations of al Qaeda operatives around the world.

Ibn al Sheikh al Libi was briefly in CIA custody before being turned over to Egyptians for questioning. It was a method often employed by the CIA in cases where the agency had no authority to hold suspected terrorists as long as they might need in order to collect valuable intelligence.

Back in Langley, Virginia, Jose Rodriguez, then chief of staff at the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, was eagerly awaiting reports detailing information that al Libi was providing his interrogators. But the reports, according to Rodriguez, were slow and incomplete.

"It was clear that they were not going to look after our national security interests like we would look after our national security interests," said Rodriguez, who has just written a book, "Hard Measures," that justifies the use of secret CIA prisons and enhanced interrogation methods that include the controversial method of waterboarding.

He said he was frustrated by how slowly the information was coming in.

"It became obvious to me that we could not contract out interrogations," he said. "We needed to bite the bullet and do it ourselves."


Biden dishes on bin Laden decision
January 27th, 2012
04:56 PM ET

Biden dishes on bin Laden decision

By Adam Levine, CNN

The mission to get Osama bin Laden seems to be the raid that keeps on giving for the Obama White House.  Whether it is a mention at the top and bottom of the State of the Union address or a highlight in a campaign speech, the president frequently refers to the mission as evidence of his leadership and foreign policy strength.

Vice President Joe Biden jumped on the Obama leadership bandwagon Friday when he revealed that he cautioned the president against signing off on the raid on bin Laden's hideaway. Despite his reservations, Biden said the president made the decision all alone.

Speaking to a meeting of congressional Democrats in Maryland, Biden shared a few new details about the tense decision-making process preceding the president's approval for the daring Pakistan raid by special operations forces.

Biden said that for a four-to-six week period in early 2011 only six people knew that bin Laden might be hiding in the military town of Abbottabad, Pakistan. When enough information finally surfaced, the president convened his national security staff on April 28. FULL POST

Filed under: Al Qaeda • CIA • Gates • Military • Most Wanted • Osama bin Laden • Panetta • Terrorism
Anwar al-Awlaki: al Qaeda's rock star no more
September 30th, 2011
10:53 AM ET

Anwar al-Awlaki: al Qaeda's rock star no more

The death of Anwar al-Awlaki deprives al Qaeda of a leading propagandist and an inspirational figure to jihadists the world over.

His calm eloquence and fluent English turned al-Awlaki into a YouTube phenomenon, and his emergence as the ideological guide of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, put him at the heart of one of the most dangerous terror groups on earth. He became the spiritual mentor to would-be jihadists living in anonymous suburbs half a world away. FULL POST

Defense officials: Fewer SEALs died in crash than originally believed
US Navy Image
August 10th, 2011
04:33 PM ET

Defense officials: Fewer SEALs died in crash than originally believed

By CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr

The Pentagon will put the death toll of Navy SEALs in last weekend's downing of a helicopter in Afghanistan at 17, according to two Defense Department officials.

The original figure provided to the news media by Pentagon sources for the number of SEALs killed was 22.

Officials say further information that has come in also indicates that not all of the SEALs were assigned to a top-secret Naval unit as they originally said.

June 17th, 2011
11:15 AM ET

Most wanted: Anwar al-Awlaki

Each week, CNN examines one of the most wanted terrorists around the world. Check out more of the Most Wanted.

Who is he?
An American-born radical cleric who now lives in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki is the public face of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the most active al Qaeda affiliates.

Born in New Mexico, he preached at a mosque in Virginia before leaving the U.S. for the Middle East. The U.S. regards al-Awlaki as the biggest threat to its homeland security.

U.S. officials say al-Awlaki helped recruit Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a transatlantic flight as it landed in Detroit, Michigan, on December 25, 2009.

The militant cleric is also said to have exchanged e-mails with accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hassan who killed a dozen fellow soldiers and a civilian in a rampage at the Texas base. FULL POST

Filed under: Al Qaeda • Most Wanted
June 8th, 2011
04:06 PM ET

Most wanted: Ilyas Kashmiri

Each week, CNN examines one of the most wanted terrorists around the world. Check out more of the Most Wanted.

Is Ilyas Kashmiri alive or dead? One report said that a U.S. drone strike had killed him, but later a U.S. Defense Department spokesman said the United States could not confirm that Kashmiri was indeed dead. Learn more about the man some call one of the most dangerous men in the world:

Who is he?
Regarded as one of the most dangerous men in the world by counter-terrorism officials on three continents, Ilyas Kashmiri is a veteran jihadist who in his early years fought Indian security forces in the disputed territory of Kashmir and the Russians in Afghanistan, where he lost an eye and finger.

After falling out with his sponsors in the Pakistan military, Kashmiri moved his base of operations from Pakistani Kashmir to North Waziristan, the semi-autonomous tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. FULL POST

Filed under: Most Wanted
June 2nd, 2011
01:53 PM ET

Most wanted: Ayman Al-Zawahiri

Each week, CNN examines one of the most wanted terrorists around the world. Check out more of the Most Wanted.

Who is he?
Ayman Al-Zawahiri has played a defining role in al Qaeda for over a decade as bin Laden's deputy.

Born into a wealthy family in Cairo, al-Zawahiri is a physician and founding member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), a militant organization that opposed the then secular Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak and sought its overthrow through violent means.

Like bin Laden, al-Zawahiri also went to Afghanistan during their fight against the Soviets, although he was there primarily to offer his medical expertise.

By the 1990s, he again refocused his attention on undermining and attacking the Egyptian government and, eventually, the U.S. FULL POST

Filed under: Most Wanted