Yemeni cleric had role in terror plots

Sept. 28, 2010 at 12:21 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- A Yemeni cleric subject to a capture-or-kill order played a key role in the foiled bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day, a U.S. intelligence official said.

National Intelligence Director James Clapper said Anwar al-Awlaki, who holds dual U.S.-Yemeni citizenship, was involved in prepping Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit Dec. 25, The Washington Times reported Monday.

As a leader of the Yemen-based terror group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Awlaki has played a key role in "planning attacks on U.S. interests" since late 2009, Clapper said in a court document made public Saturday.

"In November 2009, while in Yemen, Mr. Abdulmutallab swore allegiance to the emir of (al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula) and shortly thereafter received instructions from Mr. al-Awlaki to detonate an explosive device aboard a U.S. airplane over U.S. airspace," Clapper said.

Clapper's statements are the first to make public Awlaki's direct role in instructing the suspect in the airline bombing plot and his group's other plots, the Times said.

Clapper also tied the Yemen-based group to the suicide bombing that nearly killed Saudi Arabia's assistant interior minister in August 2009, and said the group was behind the suicide bombing in which four South Korean tourists died in Yemen in March 2009 and the attempted assassination of the British ambassador to Yemen in April.

The statement was part of the U.S. government's motion opposing a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Awlaki's father, Nasser al-Awlaki, seeking to remove his son from a CIA and U.S. military list of terrorists to be killed or captured.

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