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Post Partisan
Posted at 11:18 AM ET, 03/10/2011

Al-Qaeda's American-bred leadership


In recent days, critics in this section have pounded Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) for holding hearings to examine radicalization in the American Muslim community. They've accused him of "providing fuel for bigots" and "stoking irrational fears." Really? It is hardly irrational for the chairman House Committee on Homeland Security to examine radicalization in the American Muslim community when top leaders of all three al-Qaeda networks that now threaten the homeland today have roots in this community.

Consider:

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The spiritual leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen born in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Awlaki lived in the U.S. until he was seven, moved to Yemen, and then returned to the U.S. to attend college, earning a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University and a masters degree in education from San Diego State. He went on to become one of the most influential radical preachers in the Muslim American community, leading mosques in Fort Collins, Colo., San Diego and Falls Church, Va.. While serving as an imam in California, Awlaki consulted with two of the Sept. 11 hijackers, Nawaf al Hamzi and Khalid al Mihdhar, and has been linked to the Fort Hood shooter, the Christmas Day bomber, group of Canadian Muslims who were charged with plotting attacks on the Parliament building in Ottawa, the six men convicted of planning an attack on Fort Dix, N.J., and the 2005 London subway bombers, among other jiahdists. He is now hiding out in Yemen with other AQAP leaders, plotting new attacks, and is considered so dangerous that President Obama has reportedly authorized the CIA to take him out with an unmanned drone. According to Obama counterterrorism advisor John Brennan, AQAP is "the most operationally active node of the al-Qaeda network." According to National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter, it poses the most significant risk to the U.S. homeland. AQAP's most influential cleric spent years here, preaching in American mosques and radicalizing his followers. This is not worthy of investigation?

Al-Shabab/al-Qaeda in East Africa. In the summer of 2008, the Somali terror group al-Shabab formally merged with al-Qaeda, and last year released a video showing its fighters chanting "Here we are O' Osama. We are your soldiers O' Osama" and pledging to carry out jihad for him across the world. The group's military commander is an American citizen, Omar Hammami, also known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki ("the American). Hammami grew up in Daphne, Ala., just outside of Mobile, and was raised by a Syrian Muslim father and a Southern Baptist mother. According to media reports, he converted to Islam in high school and attended the Islamic Society of Mobile, before departing for Somalia, where he rose through the jihadist ranks. In a video posted on YouTube, Hammami justifies the Sept. 11 attacks and affirms his group's allegiance to Osama bin Laden. Al-Shabab is thought to have recruited more than 20 Americans to train as suicide bombers. You don't need fighters with U.S. passports if your only intent is to conduct operations in Africa. They man who would deploy these American-born terrorists hails from Alabama. Again, this is not worthy of investigation?

Al-Qaeda Central. The current operational commander of al-Qaeda -- the position held by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed when he planned the Sept. 11 attacks -- is an American citizen, Adnan Shukrijumah. According to the New York Times, Shukrijuma is a "Saudi-born naturalized American... [who] spent part of his youth in Brooklyn, went to college in Florida and has long been on the F.B.I.'s most-wanted list." CNN reported that he is "the eldest son of a Saudi Imam [who] came to America as a young child. They settled in Brooklyn, New York, where his father preached at a mosque. They lived at a nearby house before moving to Florida in the mid-'90s. His father, who is now dead, opened a small mosque near Fort Lauderdale." Shukrijuma left the country before the Sept. 11 attacks, and trained at an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan alongside Jose Padilla for a KSM plot to blow up apartment buildings in a major American city using natural gas. In 2002, the CIA began asking al-Qaeda detainees, "Who will be picked to lead the next big attack on America?" Abu Zubaydah, KSM and other detainees all pointed to Shukrijumah. Press reports at the time described Shukrijumah as the "next Mohammed Atta," was believed to have been "anointed the head of a new cell with orders to attack targets inside the United States." A global man hunt ensued, but Shukrijumah went to ground, evaded capture, and rose through the al-Qaeda ranks. He was indicted last July in connection with the plot by Najubullah Zazi to blow up the New York Subway system, as well a terror plot against the U.K. Yet the fact that the man who now occupies KSM's old job was radicalized during his 15 years living in the United States is not worthy of investigation?

Bottom line: When three top leaders of the three most virulent al-Qaeda networks are American citizens, it is ridiculous to suggest that the chairman of the House committee responsible for homeland security is out of line to investigate the subject of radicalization in the American Muslim community. Rep. King is not "stoking irrational fears" or "providing fuel for bigots." He is doing his job.

By Marc Thiessen  |  11:18 AM ET, 03/10/2011

 
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