US-born cleric Awlaki ‘proud’ to have taught al Qaeda operatives


An American-born Muslim cleric who is a senior member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has admitted to training two terrorists who carried out attacks against the US over the past six months.

Anwar al Awlaki, an American citizen who is based in Yemen and serves as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s mufti, said he was “proud” to have trained Major Nidal Hasan, the US Army doctor who murdered 13 soldiers at a deployment center at Fort Hood, Texas, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who failed to detonate a bomb on an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day.

“I am proud to have been their teacher,” Awlaki said in a videotape aired today by Al Jazeera.

Awlaki also accused the US military of carrying out attacks against civilians as part of an effort to get the Yemeni tribes to oppose al Qaeda.

“Several US generals have met local tribal leaders,” Awlaki said. “They want to set up Awakening Councils to set Yemen’s tribes against al Qaeda, just as they have done in Iraq. To do this, they are carrying out attacks against civilians and blaming us for them.”

Awlaki’s statements were made public just one day after videotape was released showing Abdulmutallab training at an al Qaeda camp in Yemen and issuing his martyrdom statement.


Abdulmutallab at an al Qaeda camp in Yemen.

On the tape, Abdulmutallab said that “others like me” have been trained in al Qaeda camps to carry out attacks against the US and the West. “The enemy is in your lands with their armies, the Jews and the Christians and their agents,” he said.

Also yesterday, an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula suicide bomber attempted to assassinate the British Ambassador to Yemen as he traveled in a motorcade in Sana’a, the capital city. The suicide bomber was identified as Othman Ali al Sulwi, who was released from jail earlier this year after serving two years for links to al Qaeda.

Anwar al Awlaki’s long-standing ties to jihad

Awlaki’s ties to radical Islamist terror groups stretch back for more than a decade. In 1998-99, Awlaki served as the Vice President for the Charitable Society for Social Welfare, a charity founded by Abdulmajid al Zindani, the man who serves as Osama bin Laden’s spiritual advisor and who is designated a terrorist by the US government. The Charitable Society for Social Welfare diverted donations to al Qaeda and other terror groups, according to the FBI.

Awlaki also served as the spiritual advisor to Sept. 11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, while a third hijacker, Hani Hanjour, is known to have attended his sermons. Awlaki’s phone number was found at the home of Ramzi Binalshibh, one of the masterminds and key facilitators of the Sept. 11 attacks.

In late 2002, Awlaki fled the US and went to Britain, where he is known to have preached at the Masjid at Tawhid mosque in London. While there, he encouraged Muslims to seek martyrdom in the cause of jihad.

In 2004, Awlaki and his family left London to live in Shabwa province in Yemen. Awlaki again went to work for Zindani, this time by giving lectures at Iman University, a known breeding ground for Islamist terrorists.


Banner for a lecture entitled “State of the Ummah,” delivered by Anwar al Awlaki on March, 1 2009, via teleconference to followers in Pakistan.

Awlaki has become a prominent cyber-jihadist. Combining his ability to communicate in English with his charisma with young, radical Muslims and his presence on the Web, Awlaki has developed a large following. He gives numerous lectures and speeches via the Internet and teleconferences. US law enforcement agencies and intelligence services consider Awlaki to be a prime recruiter for al Qaeda as well as a provider of the needed religious justifications, or fatwas, for jihadis to carry out attacks.

Awlaki reemerged as a major jihadist figure in the West in the fall of 2009 after it was discovered that he had been in direct email communication with Major Nidal Hasan before the latter killed 13 US soldiers and civilians at a staging center for troops deploying overseas. While Awlaki had originally denied radicalizing Hasan, his emails, which he provided to Al Jazeera, show that he provided the religious justification for Hasan to conduct the attacks.

In March 2010, Awlaki released an audiotape praising Hasan and Abdulmutallab’s attacks on the US. He also admitted that he is now at war with the US.

“I for one, was born in the US, and lived in the US for 21 years. America was my home. I was a preacher of Islam involved in non-violent Islamic activism. However, with the American invasion of Iraq and continued US aggression against Muslims, I could not reconcile between living in the US and being a Muslim, and I eventually came to the conclusion that jihad against America is binding upon myself just as it is binding on every other able Muslim.”

Unlike Adam Gahdan, the US-born al Qaeda propagandist who is based in Pakistan, Awlaki has not been charged with treason, despite his statements against the US and his active support for al Qaeda. The Obama administration has approved of operations that would lead to the assassination of Awlaki.

The US targeted Awlaki and several other top al Qaeda leaders at a meeting in Yemen on Dec. 24, 2009, just one day before Abdulmutallab’s failed attack over Detroit. Awlaki was at the meeting to provide the needed religious justification for a planned al Qaeda campaign to conduct attacks against Yemeni and US targets in response to the controversial Dec. 17 airstrikes against al Qaeda in Abyan and Sana’a, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal.

Among those believed to be at the meeting were Nasir al Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; his deputy Said al Shihri; and Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al Quso, an al Qaeda operative wanted by the FBI for his role in the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. The leaders survived the airstrike.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Paul says:

    And we let this guy live… why?

  • kp says:

    Perhaps because we don’t know his location or we currently can’t do drone attacks over the Yemen. I suspect the former (though the teleconference, if live) might give us some clues.

    The not charging him with treason might have something to do with the unique status of treason and the US constitution.

    Plus charging with treason (and so intending to prosecute him) might complicate adding him to a list of targets for leathal action (which has been done) being a US citizen.

  • Paul says:

    kp—-treason charges are a joke now. People should be executed for treason…there is no worse crime than turning on your country. We are getting so soft…..this guy can spit in the face of the country that allowed him to have a nice life and then turn and deface it. God help us going forward. We are so afraid to do what is right for fear of offending someone. It is really making me sick to be an American sometimes.

  • BraddS says:

    Survived because the bodies of all the panting wannabe jihadists hanging on his every word absorbed the impact?

  • HN says:

    Still a big step that President Obama has given the CIA the ability to track and kill Awlaki. He is certainly heavily involved in breeding a new generation of terrorist.
    It will be interesting to see if the U.S. changes its policy towards Yemen, back In January Dr. John Nagl told me personally that he felt at the time that our policy in Yemen was effective.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    @HN. Dr. Nagl’s assessment mirrors the impression I’ve received when listening to folks like Secretaries Gates and Clinton, General Petraeus and Admiral Mullen discuss the situation in Yemen. They are working with the Yemeni government on a multitude of issues of common interest but the fact remains that an active insurgency operates unfettered in significant swaths of that country and there are limits to the power and influence our Yemeni partners can wield.

  • Bungo says:

    I’ll be even prouder when they’re picking his remains out of the rubble with tweezers and putting them in little plastic sandwich bags.

  • James says:

    It is abundantly clear to me, that the biggest and most immediate threat to the US isn’t coming from Iraq or even Af/Pak, but is coming from this guy and based from where he is now.
    God forbid, but if we were hit with anything worse than or on a par with 9/11, I have an ESP perception that it would deeply involve and be inspired and planned by Awlaqi.
    Anwar al-Awlaqi, of Sanaa University (a place he may well “call home”). Wherever he is, you’d better believe that he is deeply “embedded” with the university elite of Yemen.
    What would be (at least) one major weakness of Awlaqi? Answer: prostitutes. Let’s hope that CIA gets their act together on this one.
    Of course, I’m not aware how Islam or even the nation of Yemen treat and/or punish prostitution or pimping by their own nationals.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    It’s befuddling that “human rights” advocates would reflexively oppose the President’s kill-on-sight directive when this punk tried to organize the murder of 278 innocent Flight 273 passengers on Christmas Day and did influence the ambush murder of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood. Who is the egregious violator of human rights in this equation? What’s wrong with these people, the apologists of carnage and terror? The inability of elements of the International Left to discern good guys from bad guys, good from evil, is deeply troubling and is THE greatest threat to our hard won civilization of enlightenment, prosperity and humanity.


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