By Jenni Hesterman
Speculation of his death in a January, 2008 Predator strike in Waziristan has now been inarguably refuted: Adam Gadahn is alive and talking in his new 40 minute video entitled “Let’s Continue our Jihad and Sacrifice.”
He’s been riding the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist List for year, following indictment in the Central District of California for treason and material support to al Qaeda. The charges are related to Gadahn’s alleged involvement in a number of terrorist activities, including providing aid, comfort and services to al Qaeda. The State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program is offering up to $1 million for information leading to his arrest.
His latest video accuses President Obama of “standing behind the killing of Muslims in Palestine, Afghanistan and Pakistan”, and speaks directly to the citizens of Gaza and Pakistan asking them to “unsheathe the swords of Jihad and arise”. The NEFA foundation has posted a full copy of the transcript.
Adam Yahiye Gadahn was born in Oregon as Adam Perlman on September 1, 1978. His paternal grandfather was a prominent member of the Jewish community. At some point, Gadahn’s father turned away from the Jewish faith, embracing Christianity, and the family changed their last name from Perlman to Gadahn (after the biblical warrior “Gideon”). Gadahn was raised and homeschooled on an isolated farm in Southern California, yet he became a fan of “Death Metal” music and even started his own heavy metal band. In 1994, worried about the negative influence of his friends, his parents sent him away, at age of 16, to live with his grandparents in Florida.
A year later, Gadahn became a vivid internet surfer. Always curious about religions, he accessed information on the Internet about the Islamic religion; he then became involved with a local group and eventually converted. He posted an essay to a University of Southern California website entitled “Becoming a Muslim” where he discusses his Jewish and Christian background and why he wanted to convert. In 1998, he moved to Pakistan and married an Afghan refugee.
It is not known exactly how he came to become involved with al Qaeda, where he is known as “Azzam the American”or “Azzam al-Amriki”. It is known that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed recruited Gadahn for an AQ suicide attack in Maryland in 2003, but Gadahn’s wife had just delivered his child, so he begged out of the operation. In 2005, the FBI warned that Gadahn was part of a group of 7 al Qaeda operatives planning an attack in the U.S. In the intervening years, Gadahn has been part of many al Qaeda videos, as either spokesperson or producer, and he worked with Osama bin Laden on his Oct 2007 video.
An al Qaeda video released last month featured Gadahn speaking (in American English) to several recruits, explaining life in the organization. The video was thought to target American youth. The date of Gadahn’s talk couldn’t exactly be determined, therefore speculation remained about his death. That speculation ended this week with the release of his video.
“Azzam the American” is once again hiding in plain sight.
About the Author
Jenni Hesterman is a retired Air Force colonel and counterterrorism expert. She is a senior analyst for The MASY Group, a Global Intelligence and Risk Management firm that supports both the U.S. Government and leading corporations. She is also an adjunct professor at American Military University, teaching courses in homeland security and intelligence studies and is a contributing editor for The Counter Terrorist Magazine. You may contact the author at JLHBlog@aol.com.