'I'm Alive,' Says Yemen Radical Anwar Awlaki Despite U.S. Attack

Denies al Qaeda tie as U.S. probes role in Northwest bombing, Ft. Hood shooting.

December 31, 2009, 9:56 AM

Dec. 31, 2009 — -- A week after U.S. and Yemeni officials said the radical Yemen cleric Anwar Awlaki may have been killed in a U.S.-backed Christmas eve air strike, a Yemeni journalist says Awlaki has surfaced to proclaim, "I'm alive."

"He said the house that was attacked was two or three kilometers away from him and he was not there," the journalist, Abdulelah Hider Shaea, told ABC News. He said he talked to Awlaki on the phone and recognized his voice from previous interviews.

One week ago, officials said the Christmas Eve attack had targeted a suspected meeting of al Qaeda leaders in Rafd, a mountain valley in eastern Shabwa province.

A statement from the Yemeni embassy in Washington said Awlaki was "presumed" to have been at the site of an al Qaeda meeting south of the capital city of Sanaa.

Friends and relatives of Awlaki immediately discounted reports the cleric was killed in the raid but the journalist is the first to claim to have spoken with him since the attack.

Awlaki is considered by U.S. authorities to be an al Qaeda recruiter through his popular website and was in contact with the accused Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Hasan. American authorities also believe he was in contact with the accused Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Awlaki is "emerging as the central focus" of the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest flight over Detroit.

Awlaki denies he is part of al Qaeda and told the Yemeni journalist, in an interview published in the Washington Post, that while he considered Major Hasan "a hero" he did not pressure him to take any action.

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