Anwar al-Awlaki is dead

One of the most wanted al-Qaeda leaders has been killed by a US air strike in Yemen.

Anwar al-Awlaki is no more. The al-Qaeda cleric, who became one of the world's most dangerous terrorists, has been killed by a US drone aircraft in Yemen.

It's another foreign policy triumph for Barack Obama, who ensured that Awlaki, of Yemeni descent, became the first US citizen to be placed on the CIA's targeted assassination list. The "spiritual leader" of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula seemed to have a hand in almost every major terrorist plot against the west. He was linked to the 2009 Fort Hood shootings, the "Underwear Bomber", the failed Times Square plot, several of the 11 September 2001 attackers and Roshonara Choudhry, who stabbed the Labour MP Stephen Timms. All were inspired by Awlaki's jihadist sermons, many of which remained on YouTube, despite the protests of the UK government

His death is the biggest blow to al-Qaeda since the killing of bin Laden. Awlaki's relative youth (he was 40), eloquence and reach meant that he filled at least part of the void left by Osama.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.