Samir Khan

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Samir Khan
BornSamir Zafar Khan
(1985-12-25)December 25, 1985
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
DiedSeptember 30, 2011(2011-09-30) (aged 25)
OccupationEditor and publisher of Inspire magazine

Samir ibn Zafar Khan (December 25, 1985 – September 30, 2011) was the Pakistani American editor and publisher of Inspire magazine, an English-language online magazine reported to be published by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). A citizen of the United States, he was killed in a drone strike in Yemen together with Anwar al-Awlaki.[1][2][3]

Early life[edit]

Khan was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to parents of Pakistani descent and grew up in Queens, New York.[4][5] He also spent some of his teenage years living in Westbury, New York.[6] He graduated from W. Tresper Clarke High School in 2003 where he wrote for the school newspaper, participated in cheerleading and was an active member of the glee club.[6] According to his classmates, he refused to recite Pledge of Allegiance and blamed Americans for the September 11 attacks.[7] Khan's father, Zafar Khan, is an information technology executive. The family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2004.[8]

He lived in Charlotte before leaving the country for Yemen in 2009.[9] He reportedly cut off ties with his family when he left the U.S.[10] After Khan's death, a family friend told CNN that Khan's father did not agree with his son's ideas[11] and had sought help to change his son's radical views on several occasions.[8]


In 2003 Khan started a Blogspot blog called "InshallahShaheed" or "Martyr, God willing" from his parents' basement.[9] Before moving to Yemen he launched the magazine Jihad Recollections, "the first online jihadist magazine in English",[12] with four issues, with the last one published in September 2009.[13] After moving to Yemen he became the editor of Inspire. In an article written by Khan and published in Inspire titled, "I am proud to be a traitor to America," Khan outlined his grievances against the United States. According to Ben Venzke, CEO of IntelCenter, "The primary focus of the magazine is to inspire individuals to not just fly to Yemen and join the group, but rather to provide them with the inspiration, the ideological framework, the targeting philosophy and the practical mechanics of building a bomb or conducting a shooting."[11]

In his book Ticking Time Bomb: Counter-Terrorism Lessons from the U.S. Government's Failure to Prevent the Fort Hood Attack (2011), former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman described Australian Muslim preacher Feiz Mohammad, American-Yemeni imam Anwar al-Awlaki, Muslim cleric Abdullah el-Faisal, and Pakistani-American Samir Khan as "virtual spiritual sanctioners" who use the internet to offer religious justification for Islamist terrorism.[14]

It was reported in May 2013 that Al Qaeda devotees native to the United States may be using the instruction manuals that Khan has posted online before his death. It was suspected that the Boston Marathon bombing was carried out according to these manuals.[15]


Khan was killed in the Al Jawf Governorate of Yemen while traveling from the Ma'rib Governorate, in the same air-strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki.[16] Both were U.S. citizens. According to U.S. officials Khan was not a significant enough target to have been specifically targeted but died because he was accompanying al-Awlaki.[17]


Attorney and journalist Glenn Greenwald said that the killing was a violation of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that no person shall be "deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."[18]

However, some international law experts claimed that the attack that killed Khan was legal.[19] Duke Law School professor Scott Silliman asserted that Awlaki's activity "put him in the category of a legitimate target," and University of Utah law professor Amos Guiora said, "This attack appears to have met the criteria of proportionality, military necessity and the absence of alternatives to be in full accordance with a state's right to aggressive self-defense."[20]

Commenting on Khan's death, counter-terrorism expert Peter Bergen noted, "The fact that the editor of the magazine (Khan) has also been killed is a problem for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, particularly as it relates to their Western recruitment effort, because the two people who principally spoke to the Western world are now dead."[11]

After Khan's death, his family released a statement criticizing U.S. government and asking, "Was this style of execution the only solution? Why couldn't there have been a capture and trial? Where is the justice? As we mourn our son, we must ask these questions."[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Almasmari, Hakim (October 1, 2011). "Drone Kills Top Al Qaeda Figure". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 6, 2011.
  2. ^ Shahid, Aliyah (September 30, 2011). "Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan dead, Al Qaeda propagandists killed by U.S. missile strikes in Yemen". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on November 24, 2011. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
  3. ^ Copeland, Baden (September 30, 2011). "Anwar al-Awlaki's Suspected Ties to Terror Plots". The New York Times. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
  4. ^ Dana Chivvis (October 12, 2010). "'Inspire' Title of Jihadist Magazine Not Very Inspired". Archived from the original on February 1, 2012. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
  5. ^ "Defense officials say another U.S. militant killed". Los Angeles Times. September 30, 2011. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
  6. ^ a b Bolger, Timothy (October 6, 2011). "Slain al Qaeda Mouthpiece Samir Kahn's Westbury Roots". Long Island Press. Archived from the original on October 8, 2011. Retrieved October 7, 2011.
  7. ^ Chayes, Matthew; Anthony M. Destefano; Robert E. Kessler; Greg Lacour; Víctor Manuel Ramos (October 6, 2011). "Samir Khan, al-Qaida figure, grew up on Long Island". Newsday. Retrieved October 7, 2011.
  8. ^ a b Anderson, Robbie (September 30, 2011). "2nd American in Strike Waged Qaeda Media War". The New York Times. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  9. ^ a b Temple-Raston, Dina (August 18, 2010). Grand Jury Focuses On N.C. Man Tied To Jihad Magazine. Morning Edition, NPR
  10. ^ Adcox, Seanna (October 1, 2011). "NC Muslims tried to change al-Qaida supporter". Associated Press. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  11. ^ a b c Kelly, Suzanne (September 30, 2011). "Samir Khan: Proud to be an American traitor". CNN. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  12. ^ Peter R. Neumann, Radicalized: New Jihadists and the Threat to the West, Bloomsbury Publishing (2016), p. 142
  13. ^ J. M. Berger, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, Potomac Books, Inc (2011), p. 192
  14. ^ Joseph I. Lieberman (2011). Ticking Time Bomb: Counter-Terrorism Lessons from the U. S. Government's Failure to Prevent the Fort Hood Attack. Diane Publishing. ISBN 9781437981223. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  15. ^ Shane, Scott (5 May 2013). "A Homemade Style of Terror: Jihadists Push New Tactics". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  16. ^ Goodman, J. David (September 30, 2011). American Who Waged 'Media Jihad' Is Said to Be Killed in Awlaki Strike. The New York Times
  17. ^ Mark Mazzetti; Charlie Savage; Scott Shane (March 9, 2013). "How a U.S. Citizen Came to Be in America's Cross Hairs". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2015-09-29. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
  18. ^ Greenwald, Glenn. "The due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now reality". Archived from the original on October 1, 2011. Retrieved September 30, 2011.
  19. ^ "Awlaki death rekindles legal debate on targeting Americans". Los Angeles Times. September 30, 2011. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
  20. ^ Williams, Carol (September 30, 2011). "Awlaki death rekindles legal debate on targeting Americans". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  21. ^ "NC family of al-Qaida propagandist 'appalled' at US government". WRAL-TV. October 5, 2011. Archived from the original on October 7, 2011. Retrieved October 6, 2011.