Anwar al-Awlaki: Wikis


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Anwar al-Awlaki
Born Anwar Nasser Abdulla Aulaqi
April 22, 1971 (1971-04-22) (age 38)[1][2][3]
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Residence Yemen
Alma mater Colorado State University;
San Diego State University;
The George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development
Occupation lecturer
former Imam
al-Qaeda regional Commander
Employer Iman University
Height 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m)[4]
Weight 160 pounds (73 kg)[4]
Religion Islam

Anwar al-Awlaki (also spelled Aulaqi; Arabic: أنور العولقي Anwar al-‘Awlaqī; born April 22, 1971 (1971-04-22) (age 38) in Las Cruces, New Mexico)[3][4][5][6] is a Muslim lecturer, spiritual leader, and former imam believed to be a senior talent recruiter and motivator "for al-Qaeda and all of its franchises."[7][8] With a blog and a Facebook page, he has been described as the "bin Laden of the internet."[9] In 2009, he reportedly was promoted to the rank of regional commander within al-Qaeda.[10]

Al-Awlaki's sermons were attended by three of the 9/11 hijackers. They were also attended by the accused Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Malik Hasan. In addition, U.S. intelligence intercepted at least 18 emails between Hasan and al-Awlaki from December 2008 to June 2009, including one in which Hasan wrote: "I can't wait to join you [in the afterlife]." After the Fort Hood shooting, al-Awlaki praised Hasan's actions.[11][12]

Reportedly, there were close contacts between al-Awlaki and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspect in the Northwest Airlines Flight 253 al-Qaeda terrorist attack on Christmas Day 2009.[13] According to the suspect, al-Awlaki was his recruiter, and one of his trainers.[14]

Yemeni authorities, searching for al-Awlaki because of his suspected al-Qaeda ties, have been unable to locate him since March 2009. He was initially reported as having possibly been killed in a Yemeni air strike on a meeting of al-Qaeda leaders at his house in the mountains of eastern Shabwa in December 2009. But by the following month, the working assumption was that he had survived.[15]


Early life

His parents are from Yemen. Al-Awlaki's father, Nasser al-Aulaqi, earned his master's degree in agricultural economics at New Mexico State University (1971), received a doctorate at the University of Nebraska, and worked at the University of Minnesota from 1975 to 1977.[6][16]

The family returned to Yemen in 1978,[2] where al-Awlaki lived for 11 years. His father served as Agriculture Minister and as president of Sanaa University.[6][16][17] Yemen's Prime Minister since March 2007, Ali Mohammed Mujur, is a relative of al-Awlaki.[18]

Al-Awlaki returned to Colorado in 1991 to attend college. He holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University (1994), which he attended on a foreign student visa and Yemeni government scholarship, and an M.A. in Education Leadership from San Diego State University. He also worked on a Doctorate degree in Human Resource Development at George Washington University Graduate School of Education & Human Development from January to December 2001.[4][16][19][20][21][22][23]

His Islamic education consists of a few intermittent months with various scholars, and reading works by several prominent Islamic scholars.[24] Puzzled Muslim scholars say that other than the fact that he speaks English and can therefore reach a large non-Arabic-speaking audience, they don't understand his popularity as he has lacks formal Islamic training or study.[25] Douglas Murray, executive director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, a think tank that studies British radicalization, says bluntly: "They will routinely describe Awlaki as a vital and highly respected scholar, [while he] is actually an al-Qaida-affiliate nut case."[25]


Al-Awlaki has been accused by a number of sources of Islamic fundamentalism and encouraging terrorism.[17][20][26][27] According to Harry Helms and an independent Yemeni political analyst who insisted on anonymity, al-Awlaki is an adherent of the Wahhabi fundamentalist sect of Islam.[26][27] Helms also said his sermons were extremely anti-Israel and pro-jihad.[26] Salafi observers of his public statements say that al-Awlaki was initially a more "moderate" Muslim Brotherhood preacher, but when the U.S. began its post-9/11 "war on terror" he appeared to develop animosity towards the U.S. around 2003, and became a proponent of the Takfiri and Jihadi trends of thought, while still retaining Qutbism.[28][28]

He is often noted for targeting young U.S.-based Muslims with his lectures. Terrorism consultant Evan Kohlmann calls al-Awlaki "one of the principal jihadi luminaries for would-be homegrown terrorists. His fluency with English, his unabashed advocacy of jihad and mujahideen organizations, and his Web-savvy approach are a powerful combination." He calls al-Awlaki's lecture "Constants on the Path of Jihad", which he says was based on a similar document written by al-Qaeda's founder, the "virtual bible for lone-wolf Muslim extremists."[29]

Once an imam at three U.S. mosques, Al-Awalki addressed his own ideological transformation, saying, "I lived in the U.S. for 21 years, America was my home. I was a preacher of Islam involved in non-violent Islamic activism. However, with the American invasion of Iraq and continued U.S. aggression against Muslims, I could not reconcile between living in the U.S. and being a Muslim."[30]

Connections to terrorism

In the US; 1991–2002

Al-Awlaki served as Imam of the Denver Islamic Society from 1994–96. He then served as Imam of the Masjid Ar-Ribat al-Islami mosque in San Diego, California, from 1996–2000.[20][31][32][4]

Al-Awlaki was arrested in San Diego in August 1996 and in April 1997 for soliciting prostitutes.[17][33][34][35] In the first instance, he was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge on condition of entering an AIDS education program and paying $400 in fines and restitution.[35] The second time, he pleaded guilty to soliciting a prostitute, and was sentenced to three years' probation, fined $240, and ordered to perform 12 days of community service.[35]

In 1998 and 1999, he served as Vice President for the Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW) in San Diego, founded by Abdul Majeed al-Zindani.[20] During a terrorism trial, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent Brian Murphy testified that CSSW was a “front organization to funnel money to terrorists,” and US federal prosecutors have described it as being used to support Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.[20][36] The FBI investigated al-Awlaki beginning in June 1999 through March 2000 for possible fundraising for Hamas, links to al-Qaeda, and a visit in early 2000 by a close associate of "the blind sheik" Omar Abdel Rahman (now in prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center attack). The FBI's interest was also triggered by the fact that he had been contacted by a possible "procurement agent" for bin Laden, Ziyad Khaleel.[20][19] But it was unable to unearth sufficient evidence for a criminal prosecution.[4][20][24][26][34][32]

9/11 hijacker
Nawaf al-Hazmi
9/11 hijacker
Khalid al-Mihdhar

While he was in San Diego, witnesses told the FBI he had a close relationship with two of the 9/11 hijackers (Nawaf Al-Hazmi and Khalid Almihdhar) in 2000, and served as their spiritual advisor.[20][34][37] The 9/11 Commission Report indicated that the hijackers also "reportedly respected [him] as a religious figure."[19] Authorities say the two hijackers regularly attended the mosque he led in San Diego, and al-Awlaki had many closed-door meetings with them, which led investigators to believe al-Awlaki knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance.[34][32] He left San Diego in mid-2000, traveling to "various countries".[19][38]

Beginning in January 2001, in his last positions in the U.S., he headed east and served as Imam at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in the metropolitan Washington, DC, area, and was also the Muslim Chaplain at George Washington University.[4][20][19][39] Esam Omeish hired al-Awlaki to be the mosque's imam.[40][41] Fluent in English, known for giving eloquent talks on Islam, and with a mandate to attract young non-Arabic speakers, al-Awlaki "was the magic bullet," according to mosque spokesman Johari Abdul-Malik; "he had everything all in a box."[42] "He had an allure. He was charming."[43]

Shortly after this his sermons were attended by two of the 9/11 hijackers (Al-Hazmi again, and Hani Hanjour; which the 9/11 Commission Report concluded "may not have been coincidental"), and by Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan.[27][34][32][44] Furthermore, when police raided the Hamburg, Germany, apartment of Ramzi Binalshibh (the "20th hijacker") while investigating the 9/11 attacks, his telephone number was found among Binalshibh's personal contact information.[4][20][45] "In my view, he is more than a coincidental figure," said House Intelligence Committee member Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA).[35]

Writing on the website six days after the 9/11 attacks, he suggested that Israeli intelligence agents might have been responsible for the attacks, and that the FBI "went into the roster of the airplanes and whoever has a Muslim or Arab name became the hijacker by default."[20]

The FBI then conducted extensive investigations of al-Awlaki, and he was observed crossing state lines with prostitutes in the D.C. area.[20][34] To arrest him, the FBI considered invoking the little-used Mann Act, a federal law that prohibits the inter-state transport of women for "immoral purposes."[46] But before investigators could detain him, al-Awlaki left for Yemen in March 2002.[20][34]

Weeks later he posted an essay in Arabic titled "Why Muslims Love Death" on the Islam Today website, praising the Palestinian suicide bombers' fervor, and months later at a lecture in a London mosque that was recorded on videotape he lauded them in English.[20][34] By July 2002, he was under investigation because he had been sent money by the subject of an investigation by a U.S. Joint Terrorism Task Force (Joint Terrorism Task Forces are FBI-led, multi-agency teams made up of FBI agents, other federal investigators—including those from the Department of Defense—and state and local law enforcement officers). His name was placed on an early version of what is now the federal terror watch list.[4][34][47]

In October 2002, a Denver federal judge signed off on an arrest warrant for al-Awlaki for passport fraud. But just days later, on October 9, the Denver U.S. Attorney's Office rescinded it.[4][34] The prosecutors withdrew the warrant because they ultimately felt they lacked evidence that al-Awlaki had committed a crime, according to U.S. Attorney Dave Gaouette, who authorized its withdrawal.[3] While al-Awlaki had listed Yemen as his place of birth (which the prosecutors believed was false) on his original application for a U.S. social security number in June 1990, which he then used to obtain a passport in November 1993, he later changed his place of birth information to Las Cruces, New Mexico.[3][48] Prosecutors could not charge him for his initial lie, because a 10-year statute of limitations on lying to the Social Security Administration had expired.[49] "The bizarre thing is if you put Yemen down (on the application), it would be harder to get a Social Security number than to say you are a native-born citizen of Las Cruces," Gaouette said.[3] As a result of the withdrawal of the warrant, agents were unable to arrest him when he returned to John F. Kennedy International Airport in the U.S. on October 10, 2002—the following day.[4][34] ABC News reported that the decision to cancel the arrest warrant outraged members of a Joint Terrorism Task Force in San Diego who were monitoring al-Awlaki and wanted to "look at him under a microscope". But Gaouette said there was no objection to the warrant being rescinded during a meeting attended by Ray Fournier, the San Diego federal diplomatic security agent whose allegation had set in motion the effort to obtain a warrant.[3] Gaouette opined that if al-Awlaki had been convicted, he would have faced about 6 months in custody.[50]

Al-Awlaki then returned briefly to Northern Virginia, where he visited radical Islamic cleric Ali al-Timimi, and asked him about recruiting young Muslims for "violent jihad." Al-Timimi is now serving a life sentence for leading what would be called the Virginia Jihad Network, inciting followers to fight with the Taliban against the U.S.[20][34]

In the United Kingdom; 2002–04

Al-Awlaki left the U.S. before the end of 2002, because of a "climate of fear and intimidation" according to Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of the Dar al-Hijrah mosque. Moving to the UK, he gave a series of lectures in December 2002 and January 2003 at the London Masjid at-Tawhid mosque, describing the rewards martyrs receive in paradise, and developing a following among ultraconservative young Muslims.[4][16][20][34][51] He was also a "distinguished guest" speaker at the U.K.’s Federation of Student Islamic Societies’ annual dinner in 2003.[52]

He spent several months in Britain in 2003, giving talks to up to 200 youths.[53] In Britain's Parliament in 2003, Louise Ellman, MP for Liverpool Riverside, discussed a relationship between al-Awlaki and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), a Muslim Brotherhood front organization founded by Kemal el-Helbawy, a senior member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.[54]

In Yemen; 2004–present

Al-Awlaki returned to Yemen in early 2004, and lived in his ancestral village in the southern province of Shabwa with his wife and five children.[20][34] He lectured at Iman University, headed by Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, who in 2004 was designated a terrorist associated with al-Qaeda by both the U.S. and the United Nations.[16][20] Some believe that the school's curriculum deals mostly, if not exclusively, with radical Islamic studies, and that it is an incubator of radicalism.[16][55] Students are suspected of having assassinated three American missionaries, and "the number two leader for the Yemeni Socialist Party", Jarallah Omar.[56] John Walker Lindh, now serving a 20-year prison sentence in connection with his participation in Afghanistan's Taliban army, is a former student of the university.[16][20] Al-Zindani, however, denied having any influence over al-Awlaki, or that he had been his "direct teacher."[57]

On August 31, 2006, al-Awlaki was arrested with a group of five Yemenis by Yemeni authorities. He claims it was with regard to a "secret police investigation" over "tribal issues", but it has been reported to relate to charges of kidnapping a Shiite teenager for ransom, and involvement in an al-Qaeda plot to kidnap a U.S. military attaché.[6][34][43] Al-Awlaki blames the U.S. for pressuring the Yemeni authorities to arrest him, and says that in approximately September 2007 he was interviewed by FBI agents with regard to the 9/11 attacks and other subjects. Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert, noted that his name was on a list of 100 prisoners whose release was sought by al-Qaida-linked militants in Yemen.[27] After 18 months in a Yemeni prison, he was finally released on December 12, 2007, following the intercession of his tribe, and—according to a Yemeni security official—because he said he repented.[17][27][43][58] He reportedly moved to his family home in Saeed, a tiny hamlet in the Shabwa mountains.[43]

In December 2008, he sent a communique to the Somalian terrorist group Al-Shabaab, congratulating them. He thanked them for "giving us a living example of how we as Muslims should proceed to change our situation. The ballot has failed us, but the bullet has not". In conclusion, he wrote: "if my circumstances would have allowed, I would not have hesitated in joining you and being a soldier in your ranks".[59]

"He's the most dangerous man in Yemen. He's intelligent, sophisticated, Internet-savvy, and very charismatic. He can sell anything to anyone, and right now he's selling jihad."[60]

— Yemeni official familiar with counterterrorism operations

He provides al-Qaeda members in Yemen with the protection of his powerful tribe, the Awlakis, against the government. The tribal code requires it to protect those who seek refuge and assistance, and this is an even greater imperative where the person is a member of the tribe, or a tribesman's friend. The tribe's motto is "We are the sparks of Hell; whomever interferes with us will be burned."[61] Al-Awlaki has also reportedly helped negotiate deals with other tribal leaders".[43][62]

Sought now by Yemeni authorities with regard to a new investigation into his possible al-Qaeda ties, the authorities have been unable to locate al-Awlaki since approximately March 2009. By December 2009, al-Awlaki was on the Yemen government's most-wanted list.[63] In March, 2010, a video featuring al-Awlaki was released in which he urged Muslims residing in the U.S. to turn against and attack their country of residence. In the video he stated:

To the Muslims in America, I have this to say: How can your conscience allow you to live in peaceful coexistence with a nation that is responsible for the tyranny and crimes committed against your own brothers and sisters? I eventually came to the conclusion that jihad (holy struggle) against America is binding upon myself just as it is binding upon every other able Muslim.[30]

Reaching out to the United Kingdom

Despite being banned from entering England in 2006, al-Awlaki spoke on at least seven occasions at five different venues around Britain via video-link in 2007–09.[64] He gave a number of video-link lectures at the East London Mosque during this period. In one instance, the mosque provoked the outrage of The Daily Telegraph by hosting a video-teleconference by al-Awlaki in 2008, and former Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve expressed concern over al-Awlaki's involvement.[65] On New Year's Day 2009, the mosque played a pre-recorded video lecture by al-Awlaki, with a poster depicting New York in flames.[66][67]

He also gave video-link talks in England to an Islamic student society at the University of Westminster in September 2008, an arts center in East London in April 2009 (after the Tower Hamlets council gave its approval), worshippers at the Al Huda Mosque in Bradford, and a dinner of the Cageprisoners organization in September 2008 at the Wandsworth Civic Centre in South London (at which he said: "We should make jihad for our brothers").[64][68][69] On August 23, 2009, al-Awlaki was banned by local authorities in Kensington and Chelsea, London, from speaking at Kensington Town Hall via videolink to a fundraiser dinner for Guantanamo detainees promoted by Cageprisoners.[70][71] His videos, which discuss his Islamist theories, have also circulated in England, and until February 2010 hundreds of audio tapes of his sermons were available at the Tower Hamlets public libraries.[72][73][74][75]

Other connections

Charles E. Allen, former U.S. Undersecretary for Homeland Security, who in 2008 publicly warned that al-Awlaki was targeting Muslims with radical online lectures encouraging terrorist attacks.

FBI agents have identified al-Awlaki as a known, important "senior recruiter for al Qaeda", and a spiritual motivator.[27][76]

Al-Awlaki's name came up in nearly a dozen terrorism cases recently in the U.S., UK, and Canada. The cases included suicide bombers in the 2005 London bombings, radical Islamic terrorists in the 2006 Toronto terrorism case, and radical Islamic terrorists in the 2007 Fort Dix attack plot. In each case the suspects were devoted to al-Awlaki's message, which they listened to on laptops, audio clips, and CDs.[17][34][77]

Al-Awlaki’s recorded lectures were also an inspiration to Islamist fundamentalists who comprised at least six terror cells in the UK through 2009.[53] Michael Finton (Talib Islam), who attempted on September 24, 2009, to bomb the Federal Building and the adjacent offices of Congressman Aaron Schock in Springfield, Illinois, with one ton of explosives, admired al-Awlaki and quoted him on his Myspace page.[78] In addition to his website, al-Awlaki had a Facebook fan page, with a substantial percentage of "fans" from the U.S., many of whom were high school students.[24]

In October 2008, Charles Allen, US Undersecretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence and Analysis, warned that al-Awlaki "targets US Muslims with radical online lectures encouraging terrorist attacks from his new home in Yemen."[79][80] Responding to Allen and quoting him, Al-Awlaki wrote on his website in December 2008: "I would challenge him to come up with just one such lecture where I encourage 'terrorist attacks'".[81]

Nidal Malik Hasan

Fort Hood suspect
Nidal Malik Hasan

Fort Hood shootings suspect Nidal Malik Hasan was investigated by the FBI after intelligence agencies intercepted at least 18 emails between him and al-Awlaki between December 2008 and June 2009.[82] Even before the contents of the emails were revealed, terrorism expert Jarret Brachman said that Hasan's contacts with al-Awlaki should have raised "huge red flags". According to Brachman, al-Awlaki is a major influence on radical English-speaking jihadis internationally.[83]

In one of the emails, Hasan wrote al-Awlaki: "I can't wait to join you" in the afterlife. "It sounds like code words," said Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a military analyst at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies. "That he's actually either offering himself up, or that he's already crossed that line in his own mind." Hasan also asked al-Awlaki when jihad is appropriate, and whether it is permissible if innocents are killed in a suicide attack.[84] In the months before the attacks, Hasan increased his contacts with al-Awlaki to discuss how to transfer funds abroad without coming to the attention of law authorities.[82]

A DC-based Joint Terrorism Task Force operating under the FBI was notified of the emails, and the information was reviewed by one of its Defense Criminal Investigative Service personnel. Army employees were informed of the emails, but they didn't perceive any terrorist threat in Hasan's questions. Instead, they viewed them as general questions about spiritual guidance with regard to conflicts between Islam and military service, and judged them to be consistent with legitimate mental health research about Muslims in the armed services.[85] The assessment was that there was not sufficient information for a larger investigation.[86] Despite two Defense Department investigators on two joint task forces reviewing Hasan's e-mails, Defense Department higher-ups said they were not notified of the investigations before the shootings. ABC News reported that another government said that Hasan also had contact with other people being tracked by the FBI, who have not been publicly identified.

Charles Allen, no longer in government, said: "I find it difficult to understand why an Army major would be in repeated contact with an Islamic extremist like Anwar al-Awlaki, who preaches a hateful ideology directed at inciting violence against the United States and the West... It is hard to see how repeated contact would in any legitimate way further his research as a psychiatrist."[87] And former CIA officer Bruce Riedel opined: "E-mailing a known al-Qaeda sympathizer should have set off alarm bells. Even if he was exchanging recipes, the bureau should have put out an alert."[87]

Al-Awlaki had set up a website, with a blog on which he shared his views.[87] On December 11, 2008, he condemned any Muslim who seeks a religious decree "that would allow him to serve in the armies of the disbelievers and fight against his brothers."[87] The NEFA Foundation noted that on December 23, 2008, six days after he said Hasan first e-mailed him, al-Awlaki wrote on his blog: "The bullets of the fighters of Afghanistan and Iraq are a reflection of the feelings of the Muslims towards America".[88]

In "44 Ways to Support Jihad," another sermon posted on his blog in February 2009, al-Awlaki encouraged others to "fight jihad", and explained how to give money to the mujahideen or their families after they've died. Al-Awlaki's sermon also encouraged others to conduct weapons training, and raise children "on the love of Jihad."[89] Also that month, he wrote: "I pray that Allah destroys America and all its allies."[87] He wrote as well: "We will implement the rule of Allah on Earth by the tip of the sword, whether the masses like it or not."[87] On July 14, he criticized armies of Muslim countries that assist the U.S. military, saying, "the blame should be placed on the soldier who is willing to follow orders ... who sells his religion for a few dollars."[87] In a sermon on his blog on July 15, 2009, entitled "Fighting Against Government Armies in the Muslim World," al-Awlaki wrote, "Blessed are those who fight against [American soldiers], and blessed are those shuhada [martyrs] who are killed by them."[89][90]

A fellow Muslim officer at Fort Hood said Hasan's eyes "lit up" when gushing about al-Awlaki's teachings.[91] Some investigators believe that Hasan's contacts with al-Awlaki are what pushed him toward violence.[92]

After the Fort Hood shooting, on his now temporarily inoperable website (apparently because some web hosting companies took it down),[17] al-Awlaki praised Hasan's actions:[11]

Nidal Hassan is a hero. He is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people.... Any decent Muslim cannot live, understanding properly his duties towards his Creator and his fellow Muslims, and yet serve as a US soldier. The U.S. is leading the war against terrorism which in reality is a war against Islam. Its army is directly invading two Muslim countries and indirectly occupying the rest through its stooges.
Nidal opened fire on soldiers who were on their way to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done? In fact the only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the US army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal.
The heroic act of brother Nidal also shows the dilemma of the Muslim American community. Increasingly they are being cornered into taking stances that would either make them betray Islam or betray their nation. Many amongst them are choosing the former. The Muslim organizations in America came out in a pitiful chorus condemning Nidal’s operation.
The fact that fighting against the US army is an Islamic duty today cannot be disputed. No scholar with a grain of Islamic knowledge can defy the clear cut proofs that Muslims today have the right—rather the duty—to fight against American tyranny. Nidal has killed soldiers who were about to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in order to kill Muslims. The American Muslims who condemned his actions have committed treason against the Muslim Ummah and have fallen into hypocrisy....
May Allah grant our brother Nidal patience, perseverance, and steadfastness, and we ask Allah to accept from him his great heroic act. Ameen.[93][94]

Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Hider Shaea interviewed al-Awlaki in November 2009.[95] Al-Awlaki acknowledged his correspondence with Hasan. He said he "neither ordered nor pressured ... Hasan to harm Americans". Al-Awlaki said Hasan first e-mailed him December 17, 2008, introducing himself by writing: "Do you remember me? I used to pray with you at the Virginia mosque." Hasan said he had become a devout Muslim around the time al-Awlaki was preaching at Dar al-Hijrah, in 2001 and 2002, and al-Awlaki said 'Maybe Nidal was affected by one of my lectures.'" He added: "It was clear from his e-mails that Nidal trusted me. Nidal told me: 'I speak with you about issues that I never speak with anyone else.'" Al-Awlaki said Hasan arrived at his own conclusions regarding the acceptability of violence in Islam, and said he was not the one to initiate this. Shaea summarized their relationship by saying, "Nidal was providing evidence to Anwar, not vice versa."[95]

Asked whether Hasan mentioned Fort Hood as a target in his e-mails, Shaea declined to comment. However, al-Awlaki said the shooting was acceptable in Islam because it was a form of jihad, as the West began the hostilities with the Muslims. The cleric also denounced what he described as contradictory behavior by Muslims who condemned Hasan's actions and "let him down."[96] Referring to the post on his blog praising the shootings after they occurred, al-Awlaki said he "blessed the act because it was against a military target. And the soldiers who were killed were not normal soldiers, but those who were trained and prepared to go to Iraq and Afghanistan".[95]

Northwest Airlines Flight 253 bomber

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Northwest Airlines Flight 253 suspected bomber

Al-Awlaki and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspected al-Qaeda attempted bomber of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on December 25, 2009, had contacts according to a number of sources. There is evidence that al-Awlaki was Abdulmutallab's recruiter and one of his trainers, and met with him prior to the attack. In February 2010, al-Awlaki admitted in an interview, published in Arabic by al-Jazeera, that he taught and corresponded with Abdulmutallab, but denied having ordered the attack.[97][98][99].

Representative Pete Hoekstra, the senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said officials in the Obama administration and officials with access to law enforcement information told him the suspect "had contact [with al-Awlaki].... The question we'll have to raise is was this imam in Yemen influential enough to get some people to attack the U.S. again."[100][101][102] Hoekstra added: "The belief is this is a stronger connection with al-Awlaki" than Hasan had.[103][104][105]

The Sunday Times established that Abdulmutallab first met al-Awlaki in 2005 in Yemen, while he was studying Arabic.[106] During that time the suspect attended lectures by al-Awlaki.[53]

The two are also "thought to have met" in London, according to The Daily Mail.[107] He attended a sermon by al-Awalki at the Finsbury Park Mosque.[25] Evidence collected during searches of flats connected to Abdulmutallab in London indicated that he was a "big fan" of al-Awlaki, as web traffic showed he followed al-Awlaki's blog and website.[108] Abdulmutallab was at a talk by al-Awlaki at the East London Mosque, which al-Awlaki may have attended by video teleconference, according to CBS News and The Daily Telegraph.[64][109]

The suspect was "on American security watch-lists because of his links with ... al-Awlaki", according to University of Oxford historian, and professor of international relations, Mark Almond.[110]

The two were communicating in the months before the bombing attempt, reported CBS News, and sources said that at a minimum al-Awlaki was providing spiritual support.[7] According to federal sources, over the year prior to the attack, Abdulmutallab intensified electronic communications with al-Awlaki.[111] "Voice-to-voice communication" between the two was intercepted during the fall of 2009, and one government source said al-Awlaki "was in some way involved in facilitating [Abdulmutallab]'s transportation or trip through Yemen. It could be training, a host of things."[112] Intelligence officials suspect al-Awlaki may have directed Abdulmutallab to Yemen for al-Qaeda training.[25]

Abdulmutallab told the FBI that al-Awlaki was one of his al-Qaeda trainers in remote camps in Yemen. And there were confirming "informed reports" that Abdulmutallab met with al-Awlaki during his final weeks of training and indoctrination prior to the attack.[113][114] According to a U.S. intelligence official, intercepts and other information point to connections between the two:

Some of the information ... comes from Abdulmutallab, who ... said that he met with al-Awlaki and senior al-Qaeda members during an extended trip to Yemen this year, and that the cleric was involved in some elements of planning or preparing the attack and in providing religious justification for it. Other intelligence linking the two became apparent after the attempted bombing, including communications intercepted by the National Security Agency indicating that the cleric was meeting with "a Nigerian" in preparation for some kind of operation.[115]

Yemen's Deputy Prime Minister for Defense and Security Affairs, Rashad Mohammed al-Alimi, said Yemeni investigators believe that in October 2009 the suspect traveled to Shabwa. There, he met with al-Qaeda members in a house built by al-Awlaki and used by al-Awlaki to hold theological sessions, and Abdulmutallab was trained there and equipped there with his explosives.[116] Al-Alimi also said he believed al-Awlaki is alive.[117] And Abdul Elah al-Shaya, a Yemeni journalist, said a healthy al-Awlaki called him on December 28 and said that the Yemeni government's claims as to his death were "lies". Shaya is generally reliable, according to Gregory Johnsen, a Yemeni expert at Princeton University.[118]

In January 2010, al-Awlaki acknowledged that he met and spoke with Abdulmutallab in Yemen in the fall of 2009. In an interview, al-Awlaki said: "Umar Farouk is one of my students; I had communications with him. And I support what he did." He also said: "I did not tell him to do this operation, but I support it," adding that he was proud of Abdulmutallab. Separately, al-Awlaki asked Yemen’s conservative religious scholars to call for the killing of American military and intelligence officials who assist Yemen’s counter-terrorism program.[119] Fox reported in early February 2010 that Abdulmutallab told federal investigators that al-Awlaki directed him to carry out the bombing.[120]

Former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg's Cageprisoners organization campaigned for al-Awlaki when he was in prison in Yemen.[121] Shortly after his release, Begg obtained an exclusive telephone interview with him.[121] According to Begg prior to his capture, al-Awlaki had condemned the September 11 attacks.[121] Begg attributed his alleged radicalization to possible maltreatment by Americans, when he was in Yemeni custody.[121]

Sharif Mobley

Alleged al-Qaeda member Sharif Mobley, who was arrested in March 2010 in Yemen and allegedly then killing a guard during an escape attempt, left his home in New Jersey to seek out al-Awlaki, hoping that al-Awlaki would become his al Qaeda mentor, according to senior U.S. security officials.[122] He was in contact with al-Awlaki, according to officials from the U.S. and Yemen.[123] Asked about Mobley's apparent links to al-Awlaki, a Yemeni embassy spokesman in Washington, D.C., said he was not surprised, because Al-Awlaki "is a fixture in jihad 101."[124]

Current status

Yemeni authorities have been trying to locate al-Awlaki, who according to his father disappeared approximately March 2009. He was believed to be hiding in Yemen's rugged Shabwa or Mareb regions, which are part of the so-called "triangle of evil" (known as such because it attracts al-Qaeda militants seeking refuge among local tribes that are unhappy with Yemen's central government).[45]

Reports quoting Yemeni sources originally said al-Awlaki might have been killed in a pre-dawn air strike by Yemeni Air Force fighter jets on a meeting of senior al-Qaeda leaders at a hideout in Rafd, a remote mountain valley in eastern Shabwa, on December 24, 2009. But the working assumption now is that he survived.[125] Pravda reported that the planes, using Saudi Arabian and U.S. intelligence aid, killed at least 30 al-Qaeda members from Yemen and abroad, and that an al-Awlaki house was "raided and demolished". ABC News reported the dead might include Naser Abdel Karim al-Wahishi (the region's al-Qaeda leader), Saeed al-Shehri (the region's No. 2 al-Qaeda leader), and al-Awlaki.[126] On December 28 The Washington Post reported that U.S. and Yemeni officials said that al-Awlaki was at the al-Qaeda meeting, but his fate was still unknown.[127]

Al-Awlaki's relatives did not believe he was among those killed, however.[128] And according to Abdul Elah al-Shaya, a Yemeni journalist, the former imam called him on December 28, 2009, and said that the claims of his death by the Yemeni government were "lies," and that he was well. The journalist said that al-Awlaki told him that he had been home at the time of the bombing, and did not attend the al-Qaeda meeting. Al-Shaya insisted that al-Awlaki is not tied to al-Qaeda, and declined to comment as to whether al-Awlaki had told him about any contacts he may have had with Abdulmutallab. According to Gregory Johnsen, a Yemeni expert at Princeton University, the journalist is generally reliable.[118] Yemen's Deputy Prime Minister for Defense and Security Affairs also said he believed al-Awlaki is alive.[117]

Al-Awlaki's father, Nasser, proclaimed his son's innocence in an interview with CNN's Paula Newton, saying: "I am now afraid of what they will do with my son. He's not Osama bin Laden, they want to make something out of him that he's not." As to his son's whereabouts, responding to a Yemeni officials' claims that he was hiding in in the southern mountains of Yemen with al-Qaeda to elude the manhunt for him, Nasser said: "He's dead wrong. What do you expect my son to do? There are missiles raining down on the village. He has to hide. But he is not hiding with al-Qaeda; our tribe is protecting him right now." The Awlaq tribe is large and powerful, with a number of connections to the Yemeni government. "He has been wrongly accused, it's unbelievable. He lived his life in America; he's an all-American boy", said his father.[129]

The Yemeni government is negotiating with tribal leaders, trying to convince them to hand al-Awlaki over.[43] Reportedly, Yemeni authorities offered guarantees they would not turn al-Awlaki over to the U.S. or let it question him if he surrenders.[43] Shabwa's governor, Ali al-Ahmadi, said in January 2010 that al-Awlaki was on the move with a group of al-Qaida elements from Shabwa, including Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, who is wanted in connection with the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors off the coast of Yemen.[43]

Meanwhile, in January 2010 White House lawyers were reportedly considering the legality of proposed attempts to kill al-Awlaki, since he is an American citizen; opportunities to do so "may have been missed" because of legal questions surrounding such an attack.[130] But on February 4, 2010, The New York Daily News reported that al-Awlaki "is now on a targeting list signed off on by the Obama administration."[131]


The Nine Eleven Finding Answers Foundation says Al-Awlaki's ability to write and speak in straight-forward English enables him to be a key player in inciting English-speaking Muslims to commit terrorist acts.[24] As al-Awlaki himself wrote in 44 Ways to Support Jihad:

Most of the Jihad literature is available only in Arabic and publishers are not willing to take the risk of translating it. The only ones who are spending the time and money translating Jihad literature are the Western intelligence services ... and too bad, they would not be willing to share it with you.[24]

Written works

  • 44 Ways to Support Jihad—Essay (January 2009)—Writes: "The hatred of kuffar [non-Muslims] is a central element of our military creed," and asserts that all Muslims must participate in Jihad in person, by funding it, or by writing. Says all Muslims must remain physically fit, and train with firearms "to be ready for the battlefield."[24][132]
  • Al-Awlaki has also written for Jihad Recollections, an English language online publication published by Al-Fursan Media, an apparent collaboration of online terrorist sympathizers.[89]


  • Lectures on the book Constants on the Path of Jihad by Yousef Al-Ayyiri—concerns leaderless Jihad.[24]
  • Numerous lectures have been posted to YouTube on various channels such as this and this
  • The Battle of Hearts and Minds
  • The Dust Will Never Settle Down
  • Dreams & Interpretations
  • The Hereafter—16 CDs—Al Basheer Productions—describes the women, mansions, and pleasures of paradise.[4]
  • Life of Muhammad: Makkan Period—16 CDs—Al Basheer Productions
  • Life of Muhammad: Medinan Period—Lecture in 2 Parts—18 CDs—Al Basheer Productions
  • Lives of the Prophets (AS)—16 CDs—Al Basheer Productions
  • Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (RA): His Life & Times—15 CDs—Al Basheer Productions
  • Umar ibn al-Khattāb (RA): His Life & Times—18 CDs—Al Basheer Productions
  • 25 Promises from Allah to the Believer—2 CDs—Noor Productions
  • Companions of the Ditch & Lessons from the Life of Musa (AS)—2 CDs—Noor Productions
  • Remembrance of Allah & the Greatest Ayah—2 CDs—Noor Productions
  • Stories from Hadith—4 CDs—Center for Islamic Information and Education ("CIIE")
  • Hellfire & The Day of Judgment—CD—CIIE
  • Quest for Truth: The Story of Salman Al-Farsi (RA)—CD—CIIE
  • Trials & Lessons for Muslim Minorities—CD—CIIE
  • Young Ayesha (RA) & Mothers of the Believers (RA)—CD—CIIE
  • Understanding the Quran—CD—CIIE
  • Lessons from the Companions (RA) Living as a Minority'—CD—CIIE
  • Virtues of the Sahabah—video lecture series promoted by the al-Wasatiyyah Foundation


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