Yemen balks at possible US strike on cleric Anwar al-Awlaki
Yemen said this weekend it is not hunting Anwar al-Awlaki, the US-born cleric who has been linked to the Fort Hood shooter and Christmas Day underwear bomber. Awlaki was recently added to the CIA's hit list.
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“People who like America will hate it after that,” says Khaled, a young salesman in a store selling niqabs, the veil that leaves only a slit for women’s eyes. “Put him in court, but don’t kill him here in Yemen.”Skip to next paragraph
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Upon overhearing the conversation, a female customer who was unaware of the US move to target Awlaki, started fuming.
“Why would they do this?” exclaimed the woman, who declined to give her name. “Maybe to catch the criminal, they will kill many people.... People will make trouble, they will be angry with the government.”
Drinking coffee with friends in Sanaa on a visit home from the Netherlands, Yemeni businessman Nasser Ahmad recalls public anger over Yemen’s Dec. 24 air strikes that targeted an alleged Al Qaeda meeting at which Awlaki was believed to be present.
“I don’t know,” says Mr. Ahmad. “Two times? It might be too much.”
Awlaki: Leading proponent of Western jihad
US intelligence has been tracking Awlaki for more than 10 years, when the FBI investigated a claim that he was recruiting for Osama bin Laden but didn't find enough evidence to warrant prosecution. The 9/11 Commission found that he had met with two of the attackers, though it's unclear what came of that meeting.
Awlaki, who is believed to have moved to Yemen more than five years ago, came under fresh scrutiny when reports came out that his e-mail correspondence with Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had encouraged the American Muslim's decision to kill a dozen fellow soldiers at the Fort Hood military base in Texas in November 2009.
In addition, the Nigerian man known as the "Christmas Day underwear bomber" who tried but failed to detonate a bomb aboard an airplane descending into Detroit, has reportedly said he was inspired by Awlaki.
This patchy history points to a man who, espousing the same salafi branch of Islam that Bin Laden favors, provided ideological fuel for actions designed to kill Americans.
Yemen reportedly asked the CIA for help in apprehending Awlaki just prior to the Fort Hood shooting, but the CIA said it lacked enough evidence. Now, the tables are turned.