Saturday, November 6, 2010
Anwar al-Awlaki, radical Muslim cleric, wanted 'dead or alive' in Yemen after judge's order
A Yemeni judge ordered police on Saturday to capture "dead or alive" a radical Muslim cleric who has been linked to several terror plots in the U.S.
Anwar al-Awlaki has been tied to the cargo plane bomb plot last month, the Detroit underwear bomber and may be connected to the attempted Times Square bombing.
Judge Mohsen Allwan ordered police to find al-Awlaki after the American-born cleric failed to appear at his trial for his role in killing a Frenchman.
The country was under pressure to crack down on its Al Qaeda offshoot, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, since the group took responsibility Friday for a failed attempt to send bombs to U.S. addresses.
One of the most prominent English-language radical clerics, al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents and has given sermons advocating jihad.
Yemeni officials believe he may have given approval to the mail bomb plot while not necessarily taking an active role in it.
He was charged unexpectedly last week as a co-defendant in the trial of Hisham Assem, who was accused of killing a Frenchman in an Oct. 6 attack at an oil firm compound.
The sudden arrest order seemed to be Yemen's attempt to show its American allies that it saw the cleric as a serious threat.
The judge ordered al-Awlaki to be "arrested by force, dead or alive" when the cleric was a no-show at the start of the trial Tuesday.
Al-Awlaki and his cousin, Othman al-Awlaki, were added as defendants in absentia in the case.
Prosecutors allege that Othman al-Awlaki put Assem indirectly in e-mail contact with Anwar al-Awlaki.
Assem told the court on Tuesday that he was tortured in detention and forced to make false confessions.
U.S. authorities have said al-Awlaki's sermons were a key inspiration to militants, including possibly the Pakistani man who tried to detonate a car bomb in Times Square this year.
They said he was also in e-mail contact with the Army psychiatrist accused of last year's killings at Fort Hood, Texas.
Since returning to Yemen in 2006, U.S. authorities allege, he has moved past just inspiring terrorism to take a role as an active operative in Al Qaeda's affiliate there.
The CIA has also been authorized to capture or kill al-Awlaki, who was also linked to a failed December 2009 attempt to bomb a U.S. bound plane.
Officials believed he was holed up in the mountains while facing what some considered a half-hearted attempt by Yemeni authorities to capture him.