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Terrorism & Security

Yemen orders troops to 'forcibly arrest' Al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki

Amid US pressure, Yemen on Saturday ordered troops to 'forcibly arrest' fiery cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is thought to be a senior figure in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

By Correspondent / November 7, 2010

Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born Yemeni cleric and recruiter for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, in Yemen, seen in Oct. 2008. Authorities in Yemen have ordered the arrest of the radical US-born cleric who has inspired attacks against the West.

Muhammad ud-Deen/AP/File

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A Yemeni judge Saturday ordered troops to find and arrest the American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, days after his trial began in absentia in the capital, Sanaa.

Mr. Awlaki, thought to be a senior figure in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was charged last week with plotting to kill foreigners. The move to order his arrest comes just over a week after a plot by AQAP to send bombs on cargo planes to the US was discovered and stopped. And it comes amid signals that Yemen is under increased pressure to take care of its terrorism problem before the US decides to intervene more forcefully.

Awlaki is suspected to be hiding in the volatile Shabwa Province, where government forces have previously launched attacks on Al Qaeda. CNN reports that Yemeni security forces sent hundreds of additional troops to the province to carry out the judge’s order to “forcibly arrest” the cleric.

But finding him will prove difficult. Awlaki, a dual US and Yemeni citizen, has already been placed on a US list of terrorists to capture or kill. As The Christian Science Monitor reported, US authorities have accused him of spurring the Fort Hood shooting suspect Maj. Nidal Hassan into action, and inspiring the so-called “underwear bomber,” the Nigerian man who attempted to detonate a bomb hidden in his clothes on a flight to Detroit last Christmas Day.

Awlaki, who speaks English, uses the Internet to disseminate sermons calling for violence against US and other targets. YouTube said it had removed some clips of his sermons from its site Wednesday, reports The New York Times.

Awlaki was charged as a co-defendant during the trial of Hisham Mohammed Asem, who is accused of killing a French citizen last month in a shooting attack on the office of an Austrian oil and gas company. Al Jazeera reports that prosecutors say Mr. Asem corresponded with Awlaki, who urged him to attack foreigners. Asem denies the charges. Awlaki’s cousin has also been charged.

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