Reported by Jason Ryan, Pierre Thomas and Jack Cloherty:
'Underwear' bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was obsessed with radical Yemeni-American cleric Anwar Awlaki, and embarked on a pilgrimage to Yemen to seek him out in 2009. During that time he met with senior al Qaeda leaders and became a hardened terrorist who went on a mission to kill 289 people during his attempted Christmas Day attack in 2009.
Court papers filed before Abdulmutallab's sentencing next Thursday reveal new details about his links to Awlaki, who had emerged as a key figure within Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The report lays out in fascinating detail how Abdulmutallab came to his mission and why the Yemeni-American cleric was deemed so dangerous the U.S. government would hunt him down and kill him in a U.S. attack involving drones and military jets in September 2011.
For years, Abdulmutallab had been following the fiery radical's online teachings of Awlaki. A psychological evaluation by Dr. Simon Perry, also released on Friday noted that Abdulmutallab was familiar with all of Awlaki's lectures, saying, "They were an important motivator which led [Abdulmutallab] to decide to participate in jihad. He began listening to the lectures in 2005 and reading Aulaqi's writings, which motivated him to accept martyrdom."
In August 2009, Abdulmutallab left Dubai, where he had been taking graduate courses, and sought out Awlaki in Yemen. Abdulmutallab was not to be denied. "Defendant visited mosques and asked people he met if they knew how he could meet Awlaki. Eventually, defendant made contact with an individual who made contact for him."
"Thereafter, defendant received a text message from Awlaki telling defendant to call him, which defendant did," the government memo discloses.
During the phone call, Awlaki asked that Abdulmutallab provide in writing the reasons he wanted to participate in violent jihad. After working on his response over the next three days Abdulmutallab was finally granted a meeting with Awlaki.
"Defendant was picked up and driven through the Yemeni desert. He eventually arrived at Awlaki's house, and stayed there for three days. During that time, defendant met with Awlaki and the two men discussed martyrdom and jihad." The sentencing memo notes.
"Defendant left Awlaki's house, and was taken to another house, where he met AQAP bomb-maker Ibrahim Al Asiri. Defendant and Al Asiri discussed defendant's desire to commit an act of jihad. Thereafter, Al Asiri discussed a plan for a martyrdom mission with Awlaki, who gave it final approval, and instructed defendant Abdulmutallab on it." prosecutors noted.
The government filing also discloses that at an AQAP training camp Abdulmutallab met with Samir Khan a U.S. citizen who fled to Yemen and wrote the online English-language magazine Inspire dedicated to violent jihad and how-to ideas on terrorist attacks. Khan was also killed in the U.S. strike along with Awlaki.
Leading up to the attempted attack, the government's memo noted that the bomb-maker personally gave Abdulmutallab the underwear bomb, and that Awalki "arranged for a professional film crew to film the [martyrdom] video. Awlaki assisted defendant in writing his martyrdom statement, and it was filmed over a period of two to three days."
Noting his operational control over Abdulmutallab, the memo notes, "Although Awlaki gave defendant operational flexibility, Awlaki instructed defendant that the only requirements were that the attack be on a U.S. airliner, and that the attack take place over U.S. soil. Beyond that, Awlaki gave defendant discretion to choose the flight and date. "The government is requesting five life sentences for Abdulmutallab and is also asking that the judge release an FBI videotape showing a model of the underwear bomb and of an explosion with the same amount of explosive Abdulmutallab had in the bomb.
"Since [Abdulmutallab's] motivation to commit martyrdom appears to be great, I believe there is high probability that given the opportunity, he would try once again to commit an act of martyrdom, endangering his and other innocent lives." Dr. Perry's assessment noted.
Abdulmutallab traveled from Yemen to Africa via Ethiopia to Ghana to Nigeria before he flew to Amsterdam, where he boarded the flight bound for Detroit. FBI officials believe that Abdulmutallab was wearing the device for much of his travels, and that moisture or the explosives becoming loose prevented the device from fully exploding.
The sentencing hearing is set for 1 p.m. on Feb. 16, 2011.