Awlaki Admits to Meeting Abdulmutallab

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ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS

The New York Times has reported that al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been promoted in the UK since 2003, has now admitted that he met with Detroit bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab last fall.

According to the report:

Anwar al-Awlaki, the fugitive American-born cleric accused of terrorist ties, acknowledged for the first time that he met with the Nigerian suspect in the Dec. 25 airliner bomb plot, though he denied any role in the attack, according to a Yemeni journalist who said he met with him.

Mr. Awlaki said he had met and spoken with the Nigerian suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in Yemen last fall, according to the journalist, Abdulelah Hider Sha’ea, who played a digital recording of the cleric’s comments for this reporter.

Although the authenticity of the tape from an interview last week could not be independently verified, the voice resembled that on other recordings of Mr. Awlaki.

“Umar Farouk is one of my students; I had communications with him,” Mr. Awlaki can be heard saying on the recording. “And I support what he did, as America supports Israel’s killing of Palestinians, and its killing of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Although Awlaki clearly supports what Abdulmutallab tried to do on Christmas Day, he denies any operational role in the plot.  It is worth noting however, that he refused to clarify to the Yemeni journalist whether or not he had advance warning of the attack.

This is not the ‘smoking gun’ connection that we have been waiting for, as the NYT piece is based solely on a secondary source, namely the Yemeni journalist who claims to have a recording of Awlaki.  Stronger evidence is still needed, and will likely emerge in the coming months.

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