Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born imam linked to the Fort Hood shooting spree in Texas in November, the botched Christmas Day airliner bombing, and the failed Times Square bombing early this month, credited the Washington Post with tipping him off and allowing him to elude a U.S. airstrike in Yemen in December.
Most of the attention given to al-Awlaki’s lengthy interview in an al-Qaida video released Sunday has focused on his call to kill civilian Americans. But far more provocative is his revelation of how the U.S. media can inadvertently assist and protect al-Qaida terrorists.
“I had posted an article of mine in support of what Nidal Hasan did,” al-Awlaki said in Arabic, referring to the Army major now charged with 13 murder counts in the Fort Hood massacre. “And so, they shut down my website.”
Al-Awlaki added, “Then I read in the Washington Post that they were monitoring my communications. So I was forced to stop these communications. I left that region, and then the American air strikes took place.”
A Nov. 16, 2009 Washington Post article on al-Awlaki written by Sudarsan Raghavan of the Post’s Foreign Service -- with a dateline of Sanaa, Yemen and featuring contributions from Post staff writer Spencer S. Hsu in Washington -- included the revelation from anonymous federal law enforcement officials that the terrorist cleric was under surveillance.
“U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted e-mails from Hasan” to al-Awlaki, the Post story revealed, “but the FBI concluded that they posed no serious danger and that an investigation was unnecessary,” the law enforcement officials told the paper.
More than a month later, U.S. warplanes made airstrikes on al-Qaida positions at the request of the Yemeni government to prevent upcoming terrorist attacks there, possibly including targeting the U.S. embassy. Dozens of militants were killed in the air assaults and it had been hoped that al-Awlaki was among them.
Homeland Security intelligence subcommittee chairwoman Jane Harman (D-Calif.) calls al-Awlaki “terrorist number one in terms of threat against us.” President Obama earlier this year issued an unusual “capture or kill” order against him.
The radical imam described alleged Fort Hood mass murderer Hasan in the video interview as “a student of mine, and I am proud of this.” He added that “what he did was a heroic act, a wonderful operation. I ask Allah to make him steadfast, to protect him, and to free him.” And he called on all Muslims “to follow in his footsteps, and to wage Jihad by speech or by action. Nidal Hasan set a wonderful example, and I ask Allah to make it a beginning, and that many other Muslims will follow in his footsteps.”
Al-Awlaki’s videotape also provided insight into al-Qaida attitudes towards President Obama. “Today, the U.S. is trying to promote a false Islam, just as their forefathers falsified Christianity and Judaism,” he said. And he pointedly complained about a Muslim preacher in Riyadh who greeted Obama during his visit to Saudi Arabia last June and called it “a blessed moment.”
He called Obama “the commander of the Crusader war against Islam today, the Pharaoh of our times” and called the Muslim preacher’s demeanor “an example of the jurisprudence of ignominy and the culture of servility.”
Newsmax reported in December that Ramy Zamzam, one of the five young American Muslim men now being tried by a closed-door anti-terrorism court in Pakistan on charges of plotting a terrorist attack, had family links to the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Alexandria, Virginia, where al-Awlaki served as imam before fleeing the country not long after 9/11.
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