British al-Qaeda fighter killed in drone missile strike on Pakistan border

He was one of four people killed in strike

Member of militant cell in northern England

Strike directed 'at a compound near the town of Miranshah in the border province of North Waziristan'

By James Tozer and Keith Gladdis
Last updated at 7:39 PM on 22nd January 2012

British authorities say Aslam Awan was a member of a militant cell in northern England who had fought in Afghanistan

Two wanted Al-Qaeda leaders killed by U.S. drone attacks are believed to have travelled from Britain to launch terrorist attacks against the West.

One, Aslam Awan, studied in Manchester but joined an Islamic terror cell then went to Afghanistan to fight coalition forces.

By contrast, his brothers remain in Britain pursuing respectable careers – they are a surgeon, a GP, a banker and a software engineer.

Awan rose to become a senior figure in Al Qaeda’s leadership, planning attacks on the West, but was killed in Pakistan’s inaccessible border area by a missile launched from an unmanned U.S. drone.

His death was announced as it was claimed that an Al-Qaeda commander killed in a drone attack in Somalia was a British citizen.

Insurgent group Al-Shabab said Bilal al-Berjawi grew up in West London before he too went to fight in Afghanistan, but the Foreign Office denied he had held British citizenship.

Awan, who is thought to have been 29, came to Britain on a student visa in 2002 but became part of a committed terrorist cell based in Manchester.

They filmed each other training in the Lake District, with police later finding clips of them crawling across a snow-covered mountain while firing imaginary guns.

Awan had told his family he was studying at Manchester University, hoping to better himself just as his four elder brothers had done before him.

But while his brothers remain here pursuing successful professional careers, Awan returned in about 2007 to his hometown of Abbottabad, Pakistan – ironically, later revealed as the hiding place of Osama bin Laden.

On guard: Plainclothes Pakistani security men stand outside the family house of al-Qaida militant Aslam Awan

He first came to prominence when letters he wrote from Afghanistan dubbed a ‘call to arms’ were seized from former schoolfriend and fellow plotter Abdul Rahman.

One praised Taliban rule in Afghanistan and called on supporters to join him and spread the ‘fragrance of blood’ on the battlefield.

Rahman later became the first person in Britain to be convicted of a charge of disseminating terrorist information and was jailed for six years.

The cell was headed by Rangzieb Ahmed, who was later captured in Pakistan and jailed in Britain.

Operating under the nom de guerre Abdullah Khurasani, Awan is understood to have been highly regarded within the Al Qaeda hierarchy for his education, computer skills and foreign contacts.
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According to U.S. intelligence officials, he rose to become a senior external operations planner, plotting attacks on the West.

They do not believe he was in direct contact with bin Laden, who kept communication with his supporters to a minimum after going into hiding.

Awan was among four people killed in a CIA drone attack on a militant stronghold on North Waziristan on January 10 but his death was only confirmed at the weekend.

A U.S. official said: ‘His death reduces al-Qaeda's thinning bench of another operative devoted to plotting the death of innocent civilians.’

His father Khushal Khan, who lived in Britain in the 1970s and worked at a bank, was informed of his death in a phone call to his wife which said Awan had been ‘martyred’.

However at the family home in Abbottabad he refused to believe that he had been a terrorist, telling how his other sons all had respectable careers in Britain - one is a surgeon, another is a doctor, the third an engineer and the fourth is a banker.

Attack: An undated handout image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force shows a MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft

‘I don't believe this is true, my son was not indulging in these things,’ he said.

Another drone attack on Al Qaeda terrorists killed Bilal al-Berjawi on the outskirts of the war-town Somali capital Mogadishu.

Militant group Al-Shabab said he was a Lebanese and British citizen who grew up in West London and fought in Afghanistan before going to Somalia in 2006.

However the Foreign Office denied he had been a British citizen, refusing to comment on whether he had ever lived in this country.

Berjawi is understood to have helped oversee recruitment, training and tactics for al-Shabab, who are fighting the weak UN-backed government in Somalia.

In a statement on Saturday, the insurgents said he had been ‘martyred immediately’, receiving ‘what he wished for and what he went out for’.

But Omar Jamal, the first secretary in the Somali mission to the UN, responded ‘Good riddance’, adding that he hoped it would help bring an end to fighting in his country.

Last year one of Britain’s most wanted terror suspects was killed in another drone attack on Waziristan.

Ibrahim Adam had fled after his brother Anthony Garcia was jailed for life for plotting to blow up the Ministry of Sound nightclub or the Bluewater Shopping Centre with a fertiliser bomb in 2004.

He died along with a fellow Briton, Mohammed Azmir Khan.

British al-Qaeda fighter killed in drone missile strike on Pakistan border | Mail Online