BY SHIRAZ MAHER
The radical American imam, Anwar al-Awalki, whose praise for the Fort Hood gunman, Nidal Hasan, we reported on this blog seems to have gone on the run. Not only did Awlaki declare Hasan a ‘hero’ but it has also emerged that he was in contact with the gunman around 10-20 times before the atrocity itself.
Earlier today his website went offline. To be honest, I expected that – Jihadist websites go down all the time, particularly when they so deliberately celebrate acts of terrorism. However, what aroused my suspicions that something out of the ordinary might be happening is that Awlaki’s website also disappeared from all the internet caches and indices. This is particularly unusual.
A few hours after that, this AP newswire arrived:
A radical American imam who communicated with the Fort Hood shooting suspect and called him a hero was once arrested in Yemen on suspicion of giving religious approval to militants to conduct kidnappings. Yemeni authorities are now hunting for Anwar al-Awlaki to determine whether he has al-Qaida ties. [My emphasis].
Al-Awlaki, who has used his personal Web site to encourage Muslims around the world to kill U.S. troops in Iraq, disappeared in Yemen eight months ago, according to his father. Yemeni security officials say they believe he is hiding in a region of the mountainous nation that has become a refuge for Islamic militants.
[The Yemeni] authorities’ suspicions over al-Awlaki were raised again several months after his release [from prison in 2007] because he stopped checking in regularly with security officials as required under his release agreement, [Yemeni] officials said. Also, months later, another member of the group arrested with al-Awlaki left Yemen and was arrested in Syria on terrorism charges.
In response, al-Awlaki was put on a wanted list on suspicion of possible al-Qaida links, the Interior Ministry official said.
He and the counterterrorism officials said al-Awlaki is believed to be hiding in Yemen’s Shabwa or Mareb provinces, which along with Jof province make up the so-called “triangle of evil” because of a heavy presence of al-Qaida militants. Fighters from the terror organization [sic] have been increasingly entering Yemen and finding refuge among tribes disgruntled with the central government.
Wherever he is, it seems like there is a concerted effort to recapture Awlaki. Frankly, I’d be amazed if he wasn’t sent to prison for this. I guess we won’t be hearing from him for quite some time.