From Yemen, Anwar Awlaki Helped Inspire Fort Dix, Toronto Plots
Despite Terror Connections, E-mails with Major Hasan Did Not Raise Red Flags
By RICHARD ESPOSITO, REHAB EL-BURI and BRIAN ROSS
Nov. 11, 2009
In addition to his contacts with Major Nidal Hasan, the radical American cleric, Anwar al Awlaki, served as an inspiration for men convicted in terror plots in Toronto and Fort Dix, New Jersey, according to government officials and court records reviewed by ABCNews.com.
Despite his ties to other plots, including the one against the Army post at Fort Dix, some 20 e-mails between Awlaki and Major Hasan were dismissed as "innocent" by a military investigator working on the FBI's Joint Terror Task Force in Washington, D.C.
Awlaki left the United States and moved to Yemen in 2002 after questions were raised about his ties to two of the 9/11 hijackers. He established an English-language web site that appears to have thousands of followers around the world. In a post this week on his blog, Awlaki praised Major Hasan as a "hero" and "a man of conscience." He asked, "How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done?"
American officials say Awlaki, has gone into hiding since his e-mail exchanges with the accused Fort Hood shooter became public. Phone calls to a relative's home in Yemen were not returned.
"He is not just a proselytizer but someone who is operational, with deep and longstanding connections to al Qaeda and has been for some time," said a former senior American intelligence official who had access to classified information.
Awlaki was characterized in court testimony as an inspiration by two of six Muslim immigrants convicted on conspiracy and other charges in a plot to kill U.S. military personnel at Fort Dix.
The cleric, who says it is the duty of all Muslims to fight the United States was cited as a source of wisdom by the two men.
In Toronto, members of the so-called Toronto 18 watched videos of Awlaki at a makeshift training camp where they allegedly planned an attack on the Canadian parliament and prime minister.
"He's a big star attraction as a recruiter to young Americans and Canadians," said the former U.S. intelligence official.
Anwar Awlaki's Ties to Nidal Hasan
Awlaki has more than 5,100 fans on a Facebook fan page. "For every person who hates Anwar al Awlaki," said one fan in London on the page's discussion board Tuesday. "I can promise you that there are at least a hundred or so people who love him, respect him and admire him
Before he left for Yemen, many in America's Muslim community saw him as a mainstream, moderate whose youth, storytelling ability and articulate presentations made him popular.
Awlaki was born in New Mexico to parents of Yemeni descent. According to the 9/11 Commission Report Awlaki had ties to two of the hijackers, Nawaf al Hamzi and Khalid al Mihdhar, in San Diego and then later at a mosque in Falls Church, Virginia. A Congressional joint inquiry said the meetings "may have not been coincidental."
Around the same time, Nidal Hasan was also attending Awlaki's mosque in Falls Church.
A newspaper report in Roanoke said Awlaki presided over funeral services for Hasan's mother at the mosque.
Awlaki was arrested in Yemen and held for a year and a half in a prison where he said he was tortured. He was never charged with a crime and has blamed the FBI for his detention. Since being released from prison, his tone and approach have become strikingly more radical, according to people who have followed his career.
After last November's U.S. elections, Awlaki said in a blog post that American Muslims who voted were fools who had "humiliated themselves by voting for candidates who have no serious concern for their issues."
"The American culture will destroy their families," he continued. "It will deprive their children and grandchildren of their identity. Time will be the witness."