Cleric refuses to surrender

January 20, 2010 12:00 am

, SANAA, Jan 20 – Fugitive radical US-Yemeni imam Anwar al-Awlaqi, suspected by Washington to be linked to the failed Al-Qaeda attack on a US airliner, has said he has no intention of surrendering to Yemeni authorities.

Abdullah Shaea, a Yemeni journalist close to Awlaqi, told AFP on Wednesday that the cleric had made that declaration to him recently and had also denied Yemeni government claims that negotiations were underway aiming at a surrender.

"Anwar al-Awlaqi told me that no one contacted him and that nothing has been negotiated. He has no intention of giving himself up."

Shaea is considered in Yemen to be one of the country\’s most knowledgeable journalists on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which Washington on Tuesday formally listed as a terrorist group.

"Anwar is at home, protected by his tribe," Shaea said, without indicating precisely where. "The police and the army know that it is impossible to go and look for him there.

"He is probably under the protection of Al-Qaeda members, not because he is a member but because they are from the same tribe."

"He has absolutely no confidence in a government that jailed him in 2006 without any charges and freed him after a year and a half without ever trying him."

A White House aide has directly accused Awlaqi of having links with the man suspected of shooting dead 13 people at a Texas military base in November, Major Nidal Hasan.

US Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan has also said the US-born imam might have had contact with the man who allegedly attempted to blow up a US airliner on Christmas Day, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Born in the US state of New Mexico in 1971, Awlaqi went to Yemen when his family returned home in 1978 where he attended school. He returned to America in 1991 for his studies, graduating from Colorado State University in civil engineering.

In 2006 he returned to Yemen and was arrested a few months after his arrival for his role in kidnapping the son of a rich Yemeni family and demanding ransom money "to finance Al-Qaeda," Yemeni security sources said.

He was set free in 2008 after the intervention of Yemeni officials, on condition that he stayed in the capital and reported to police daily.

But several months after his release, he left Sanaa for the eastern province of Shabwa, where he hid in his grandfather\’s house, security sources said.

It was not until after the Fort Hood shooting rampage that Yemeni police renewed their search for him.

The prospects of the married father of five being captured are scant, given Shaea\’s description of sentiment in Shabwa after a deadly December 24 air raid there by government forces that killed Al-Qaeda suspects and a number of civilians.

After that raid, on an area controlled by the Awlaqi tribe, people were "furious" throughout the region. "They all went over to the side of Al-Qaeda and prevent anyone from approaching," Shaea said.

"There was fighting. The government well knows that if it sends forces into the area, they will be beaten. It will not even try. That is why Anwar is safe where he is."

Yemen is Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden\’s ancestral homeland and has seen a spate of attacks against Western targets over the past decade.


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