In the aftermath of the shooting attack at Fort Hood, Texas, and the attempted bombing of an American airliner over Detroit late last year, it emerged that the terrorists in both cases had ties to al Qaeda preacher Anwar al Awlaki.
The news stories about Fort Hood and Detroit were part of a clear pattern that had revealed the preacher’s malign influence for all to see. Try this February 2008 report from the Washington Post, where Ali al Timimi, another hero for Cageprisoners, crops up:
In several terrorism cases in Britain and Canada over the past 18 months, investigators found in the private computer files of some suspects transcripts and audio files of lectures by Aulaqi promoting the strategies of a key al-Qaeda military commander, the late Yusef al-Ayeri, a Saudi known as “Swift Sword.”
Federal prosecutors in New York alleged in a 2004 terrorism-related trial that a U.S. branch of a Yemeni charity for which Aulaqi served as vice president was a front that sent money to al-Qaeda. Documents filed around the same time in federal court in Alexandria assert that a year after 9/11, Aulaqi returned briefly to Northern Virginia, where he visited a radical Islamic cleric and asked him about recruiting young Muslims for “violent jihad.” That cleric, Ali al-Timimi, is now serving a life sentence for inciting followers to fight with the Taliban against Americans.
After the Detroit attack, standing up for Awlaki became exruciatingly difficult. So a common line run by British Islamists who had supported him was that he had “changed”. He was no radical before he was arrested in Yemen in August 2006. He emerged from prison in December 2007 a different man.
It was a spinning move designed to neutralise criticism and even turn a weakness into a strength. Who radicalised Awlaki? America, of course, by insisting that Yemen arrest him. Here’s Begg’s version:
It seems from what has been reported that he may have changed his position after his incarceration in Yemen, which seems to have included being interviewed by US intelligence agents
As lines go, it was very weak. Awlaki’s extreme views dated back many years, as posts here such as this one and another here have shown.
Going back no less than a decade, Awlaki had private meetings with two of the 9/11 hijackers in San Diego, as reported in 2004 by the 9/11 Commission. In 2002 a Congressional intelligence committee report called him the “spiritual adviser” of the two hijackers. The 9/11 Commission tried to reach him as they investigated. They did not find him and he did not come forward to help.
Awlaki was also investigated by the FBI in 1999 and 2000 for potential ties to Osama bin Laden and the Holy Land Foundation, an American charity that raised funds for Hamas.
Let’s go back even further, to the mid 1990s, when Awlaki was living in Colorado. According to a new report in the Denver Post, that was when he scored what was probably his first success in recruitment for jihad:
A former Denver Islamic Society community leader who asked not to be identified out of concern for his safety said that once, after al-Awlaki gave a series of sermons on jihad struggles around the world, al-Awlaki persuaded a Saudi Arabian student that he ought to join Muslim fighters in Bosnia.
The student approached the leader, who told him al-Awlaki’s idea was nonsense. “I said: ‘No! You need to have permission from your parents before you go to jihad. They sent you here for education.’ ” The leader said he confronted al-Awlaki in the mosque, warning him that “if you come close to anybody in my group, I’ll throw you in the trash.”
The Saudi student traveled anyway from Colorado to Bosnia, the leader said, and in 1999, he was killed in Chechnya.
Fifteen years on, Awlaki’s defenders have dwindled to a handful in the west.
Cageprisoners are among them. Here is an article by Yvonne Ridley, their patron, which was published on the Cageprisoners website just three days ago:
I have read rumours that al Awlaki is supposed to be an al-Qaida recruiter but like all of these rumours they are short on fact and evidence. I know that he has inspired a generation of converts around the world by his tapes. I have listened to one series and I can tell you that those tapes sound completely different to the ones released on the web today.
Rumours? That’s actually an insult to a man who has done so much for the jihadi cause, insisting that Muslims must fight or at least support their self-styled brothers in arms.
Furthermore, in addition to all the other evidence against him, a child could see through the sleight of hand Awlaki employed in this interview (pdf) with Al Jazeera in February 2010:
“Q. What is the truth about you meeting with Omar Farooq [the would-be Detroit bomber], or that you announced a Fatwa about the legitimacy of the operation?”
“A. The mujahid brother Omar al-Farooq—may Allah release him—is one of my students; yes, we were in correspondence, but I did not give Omar Farooq a Fatwa in regards to this operation.”
So a noted jihadi preacher taught Abdulmutallab in the run-up to his airliner attack mission, but, hey, he didn’t tell him to do it. So that’s OK then. Awlaki also explicitly justified attacks on American civilians in that interview:
“Q. You supported Nidal Hasan and you justified it that the target is military and not civic. In regards to the jet [incident] of Omar Farooq it is a civic jet; meaning, the targets are the American public?”
“A. If the jet was military or the target was for the American army, it would be better. And, al-Qaeda Organization has its choices, and in regards to the public, the American populace is living within a democratic regime and they hold the responsibility of its policies; the American populace elected the criminal Bush for two presidential runs, and they elected Obama who’s not different from Bush, and one of his first declarations were that he will not abandon Israel despite that there were other candidates in the American elections who oppose the foreign American wars and those only received low percentages of the total votes. The American populace is a participant in all the crimes of their government, but if they weren’t supportive of that then they should change their government; they are the ones who pay taxes that are being spent on the army and they are who send their children to the army; they carry the responsibility.”
Never mind, Ridley wants to have a go at “cowboy” Obama:
Surely the correct and honourable way of dealing with Imam Anwar al Awlaki would be to charge him in his absence and then ask the Yemeni government to arrest him and extradite him. This is the legal thing to do, this is the right thing to do and it is the civilized thing to do.
Actually, Yemen does not want to extradite Awlaki, as its foreign minister has said:
“Anwar al-Awlaqi is required to surrender to the Yemeni authorities because this is the way to defend himself during investigation and court if needed“, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu-Bakr al-Qirbi said in an interview with the Doha-based Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel Television.
The US administration has authorized the arrest or killing of al-Awlaqi after US intelligence agencies concluded he was now directly involved in plots against the US.
The US authorities have claimed that al-Awlaqi had contacts with Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was accused of attempting to blow up a US plane last year, and U.S. Army major Nidal Malik Hasan, who killed 13 Americans in a US military base in Texas.
The Yemeni Minister said that al-Awlaqi will not be extradited to the US if he surrenders to the Yemeni authorities.
Ridley and Cageprisoners do not deal in facts and analysis. No, their mission is Islamist agitation and propaganda. Nowhere is this more clear, or chilling, than in the case of the organisation’s longstanding backing and dissembling for Awlaki.
It is amazing that the top managers of Amnesty International evidently still do not understand the significance of support and apologias for Anwar al Awlaki.
Perhaps they simply do not want to understand.