Al Awlaki Confirms He's Alive, New Connections to Abdulmutallab
The question seems to be, has American born Muslim cleric Al Awlaki gone from inspirational to operational?
ABC News reports he confirmed by phone to a reporter today that he is alive and the Yemeni strike last week missed him and his house. The WSJ has more on Al Awlaki who is emerging as a key figure in the investigation.
The Washington Post reports Rashad Mohammed al-Alimi, Yemen's deputy prime minister for defense and security affairs, also says Al Awlaki is alive and that he may have met with Abdulmutallab at a house in Shabwa in Southern Yemen. The school he attended in August and September may have been a cover.[More...]
Abdulmutallab is believed to have traveled in October to Shabwa, a province in southeastern Yemen and a known al-Qaeda stronghold, said Alimi, adding that the investigation is now focusing on the province. Investigators, he said, believe that this was where Abdulmutallab was trained and equipped with explosive chemicals sewn into his underwear.
In Shabwa, the 23-year-old engineering graduate met with al-Qaeda operatives in a house built by Aulaqi to hold theological sessions, said Alimi. Suspected al-Qaeda leaders were believed to be meeting with Aulaqi in the house at the time of the Dec. 24 airstrike. U.S. and Yemeni authorities believe Aulaqi has strong ties to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Aulaqi's family has denied such links.
As to reports that Al Awlaki "blessed" Abdulmatallab's Detroit attempt, some FBI officials are not convinced Abdulmatallab, who reportedly said he had been in contact with Al Awlaki, is telling the truth:
"He's saying all this but we haven't determined all of it is true; whether [Awlaki] blessed it or gave the green light or was the impetus behind it," the FBI official said. "It's very possible and it's being investigated. But it's also possible he's saying it to give himself credibility" among militants who look up to Awlaki.
The right wing news sites, like Fox News and the Washington Times, are quick to make conspiratorial connections concerning Al Awlaki. Others, not so much. It seems like it would be out of character for Al Awlaki to move from his role as recruiter and online spiritual point man to planner or participant in an actual attack. But, stay tuned.
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