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Will Yemen air strike change view of Fort Hood shooting?

Yemen’s air strike on Al Qaeda Thursday reportedly targeted Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical cleric linked to the Fort Hood shooter. If true, it could alter Americans' understanding of the Fort Hood rampage.

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Thursday’s news from Yemen, if it proves that a terrorist group was behind al-Awlaki, may support that view and prompt an official reevaluation of the shooting.

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"It is now inescapable for any seasoned expert on the Jihadist movement to see a wide and clear connection between Awlaki and Hasan," says Walid Phares, author of "Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America," in an e-mail.

Regardless of whether al-Awlaki was killed or not, Mr. Phares says, the raid seems to show he was operating actively with Al Qaeda forces in Yemen. “Awlaki was part of an active Al Qaeda terror action and he was in contact with Hasan, who committed a violent action against the US military inside the US. Not seeing the connection would be a dangerous failure in national security analysis, which could have future consequences."

However, Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., told Time magazine that it was unlikely Awlaki would have been involved in operational activities. "He was a cleric, not a field commander," he says.

Al-Awlaki's role

Al-Awlaki is a reported to be a recruit for Al Qaeda, and was apparently a spiritual adviser to two of the 9/11 hijackers when he was an imam at a large mosque in northern Virginia. Former FBI agent Brad Garrett told ABC News last month, “Awlaki is known as a senior recruiter for Al Qaeda … [somebody to] encourage you and basically help you rationalize your behavior.”

On Wednesday, Al Jazeera published a new interview where al-Awlaki expressed surprise that the US military had not unearthed Hasan’s plan but stopped short of taking responsibility for the plot.

“My support to the operation was because the operation that brother Nidal carried out was a courageous one, and I endeavored to explain my position regarding what happened because many Islamic organizations and preachers in the West condemned the operation,” al-Awlaki said.

The New Mexico-born al-Awlaki has been named in several recent terrorism investigations, and his role as a radicalizer has caused a growing debate over whether the US should shut down websites that offer “virtual radicalization.”

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