Yemen Officials Close In on al-Qaida Cleric

Wednesday, 22 Sep 2010 08:01 AM

By Steve Emerson

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Reports out of Yemen claim that country's army may be closing in on American-born al-Qaida cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki.

He is believed to be among dozens of al-Qaida operatives in a Southern Yemen village that has been the scene of heavy fighting with Yemeni soldiers in recent days.

U.S. officials have not commented on the reports. Last December, after an airstrike killed 30 people, Yemeni officials erroneously said they thought Awlaki was among them.

He has been linked to a series of attempted terrorist attacks in the past year, including the Fort Hood massacre in which 13 soldiers were killed. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had extensive email contact with Awlaki before the shooting spree, which Awlaki publicly hailed as heroic.

In addition, he is considered to have been an inspiration in the failed Christmas Day airline bombing by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and the failed Times Square car bombing in May.

Awlaki is widely reported to be on a U.S. target list to kill terrorist leaders. The ACLU, on behalf of Awlaki's family, filed a lawsuit saying it would be illegal to kill him without charge. It is unclear what would happen if he is captured, and whether he would be sent back to the U.S. to face criminal charges.

In America, Awlaki served as an imam at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque outside Washington. A videotape from around 2001 shows him leading a prayer service sometime for congressional staffers. Before that, he was a prayer leader at San Diego's Masjid Ar-Ribat al-Islami mosque.

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