2011: Controversial figures meet their demise
Newspaper headlines announce the death of Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011.
December 27th, 2011
05:23 AM ET

2011: Controversial figures meet their demise

Though it’s never something to rejoice, 2011 may be most remembered for the demise of some controversial figures. Their deaths sparked both celebration and anger; they had fanatical supporters but many more who loathed them and what they stood for. Here is a look back at the significance of the deaths of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and Moammar Gadhafi.

Osama bin Laden killed on May 2 – Enemy number 1 for many Western governments, the al Qaeda leader managed to remain hidden despite a worldwide manhunt to track him down after he planned the September 11th attacks. Nearly 10 years after that tragic day, a search by the CIA finally tracked him down to a compound in Pakistan. With the go-ahead from President Obama, Seal Team 6 launched a night raid on the compound in the city of Abbottabad and killed bin Laden.

[cnn-video url="http://cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/world/2011/05/02/griffin.obl.killed.timeline.cnn.html"%5D

Anwar al-Awlaki killed on September 30 – If Osama bin Laden was the heart and soul of al Qaeda, Anwar al-Awlaki was its voice. The English-speaking propagandist was famed for his ability to speak to and inspire jihadists around the world, prompting President Obama to approve the first-ever targeted killing of a U.S. citizen. The American-born cleric had managed to escape at least two previous assassination attempts, before being killed by a Predator drone in Yemen.

[cnn-video url="http://cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/world/2011/10/01/starr-al-awlaki-killed.cnn.html"%5D

Moammar Gadhafi killed on October 20 – In the eyes of Americans, the Libyan leader alternated between potential North African ally and the “mad dog” of the Middle East – but to many in his country he was simply a brutal dictator. As the Arab Spring spread to Libya, protests turned to outright rebellion as civilians and some army units took up arms against pro-Gadhafi forces. After months of heavy fighting, support from NATO forces helped the rebels overthrow the Gadhafi regime and, a month later, Gadhafi was found in his hometown of Sirte. Cell phone video captured his final moments.

[cnn-video url="http://cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/world/2011/10/21/lister-gadhafi-last-moments-alive.cnn.html"%5D
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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Barack Obama • CIA • Libya • NATO • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Security • September 11 • Terrorism • War • World • Yemen
soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. sameeker

    I bought the entire town a drink when Bin Laden was killed. Best money I ever spent.

    December 27, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  2. TriXen

    'Twas the year of the terrorist SMACKDOWN.

    December 27, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  3. MICKY D

    And the GOP claims Obama has failed the American People! Past presidents were not able to do this well!

    December 27, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • KC

      I agree with you, Micky D.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron the Ogre

      And it is probably one of the few things the President has gotten absolutely right. If he can get Mullah Omar and the entire Shura Council, P Obama gets my vote.

      December 27, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      Indeed. President Obama did quite a good job as Commander in Chief in 2011. If he keeps this up I will definitely be voting for him again next November.

      December 27, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. IEK

    How is Kim Jong Il not on this list?

    December 27, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron the Ogre

      I agree. What? Is Kim somehow much more lovely and fluffy than the rest? Maybe the author has a thing for fat freaks with goofy hair? If that is the case, than the author will love me; but when I die, I will not have killed millions through starvation, ideological tyranny and Stalinistic paranoia.

      December 27, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emigdio Alvarez

      Kim Jong Il just had a heart attack. he wasn't killed by anyone.

      December 27, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. billy bob

    HA HA are you Kidding me, all these people mentioned, were CIA operatives, created by your own government. Re learn your History CNN and fellow Americans.

    December 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • M Houston

      Billy Bob, you have swallowed the Ron Paul's poisonous koolaide...

      December 27, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron the Ogre

      While this might likely be true (but who cares), it is still a good thing they got squished. I think more deviant CIA ops should be croaked.

      December 27, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emigdio Alvarez

      only Bin Laden worked for the CIA. Awlaki was a commoner who betrayed his country. Gaddafi was never under the CIA's payroll.

      December 27, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      billy bob, Alex Jones has a radio show I think you'd like. He loves blaming the CIA for everything too.

      December 27, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. david

    the only one not on their is the boy king obama that would have been great

    December 27, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • M Houston


      December 27, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • KC

      Idiot... Can you do a better job cleaning up the mess the Bush's made?

      December 27, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jim

    Bush and Cheney are the greastest terrorists of all time

    December 27, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • M Houston

      Go home and tell that to Mulla Omar... or Ahmadinijad... or Hugo Chavez ...or whichever Utopia it is
      that you came from...Canada maybe?...where ever...

      December 27, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      Jim, that's baloney and you know it. I'm no fan of either of them, but to insinuate that they are worse than people like Bin Laden, who intentionally murdered thousands of civilians is an absolute lie.

      December 27, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. palintwit

    Ha ha. You can put all the 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls in a sack along with Sarah Palin and hit it with a ball bat. You'll get the right one everytime.

    December 27, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. G

    Gaddafi was forced out of power, not by his people, but the criminals at NATO and its rats. A lot of Libyans supported him.

    December 27, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pliny

      Then you should go to Libya and loudly proclaim that you support Gadaffi.
      And you should go to the courts in Libya and file suit against everyone who may have been involved in his death.

      Actually....you should just STFU.

      December 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ImNotDeadYet

    This cannot be a coincidence.

    December 27, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. mk

    1 word: Obama
    Should put the republicans in the congress on this list. just kidding 😛

    December 27, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I love that someone hijacked me at 6:16 AM as a Sicilian hired killer.
    Non sono italiano affatto. Sono un WASP, nato in Mississippi.
    Mi piace la macchina di Norma Desmond.

    December 27, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • M Houston


      December 27, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. shiney

    how about focusing on the heroes of 2011 that gave their lives for our country

    December 27, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emigdio Alvarez

      that could be the next article.

      December 27, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • wow

      Wow, or how about controversial figures in South America. Seriously, these guys hiding in caves cause relatively little damage to America when you consider some groups and leaders in South America.

      December 27, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jb

    Did Bill Warren ever find Bin-Laden's body?

    December 27, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emigdio Alvarez

      not yet. he's probably in bikini bottom.

      December 27, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Noah

    Really? No Kim Jong Il?

    December 27, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Irish

      I thought they should've listed him too.

      December 27, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Agree. We'll have to wait and see no if the son is as crazy as the father. North Korea for some time has had the potential to be the starting point for WWIII

      December 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenn

      Agreed. Probably not PC to add him since he's not even in the ground yet.

      December 27, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
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