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Imam From Va. Mosque Now Thought to Have Aided Al-Qaeda
Aulaqi's lectures and Internet postings on Islamic principles excoriate the West and speak of Muslims as a besieged people. In one speech apparently made in 2006, he predicted an epic global clash between Muslims and "kufr," or nonbelievers.
"America is in a state of war with Allah," he said, referring to the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. He praised the insurgency in Iraq and "martyrdom operations" in the Palestinian territories. Muslims must choose sides between President Bush and the "mujaheddin," he said. The solution for the Muslim world, he said, "is jihad."
Aulaqi is "a huge inspiration to home-grown terror cells in the U.K. and Europe," said Evan Kohlmann, a terrorism researcher who testified as a government witness in a British bombing conspiracy trial. Kohlmann, an American whose work is funded by the Nine Eleven Finding Answers Foundation, a privately funded research group, said: "He is one of the very few respected extremist Salafi clerics who can write and speak in English."
Aulaqi's father, Nasser Aulaqi, a former Yemeni government minister, said Yemeni security police confiscated his son's computer and copies of a lecture series he gave at Zindani's al-Iman University. He said his son lectured four times at the university about six months before his arrest, on the history of Muslims in Spain. "He was not a faculty member," Aulaqi's father said in a telephone interview. "There is no radical things in them."
"My son is not a terrorist," he said. "He never advocated violence against anybody."
Anwar al-Aulaqi was born in New Mexico in 1971 while his father studied for a college degree. He spent part of his childhood in Yemen and returned in 1991 to study engineering at Colorado State University. After graduating, he became a mosque leader, first in Fort Collins, Colo., and then in San Diego.
Tax records show that in 1998 and 1999, while in San Diego, Aulaqi served as vice president of the now-defunct Charitable Society for Social Welfare Inc., the U.S. branch of a Yemeni charity founded by Zindani. Three years ago, federal prosecutors in a New York terrorism-financing case described the charity as "a front organization" that was "used to support al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden."
The 9/11 Commission and the joint House-Senate Inquiry into the intelligence failures that allowed the attacks to take place reported that in 1999 the FBI opened a short-lived investigation of Aulaqi when it learned he may have been visited by a "procurement agent" for bin Laden.
Law enforcement sources now say that agent was Ziyad Khaleel, who the government has previously said purchased a satellite phone and batteries for bin Laden in the 1990s. Khaleel was the U.S. fundraiser for Islamic American Relief Agency, a charity the U.S. Treasury has designated a financier of bin Laden and which listed Aulaqi's charity as its Yemeni partner.
The FBI also learned that Aulaqi was visited in early 2000 by a close associate of Omar Abdel Rahman, known as the blind sheik, who was convicted of conspiracy in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and that he had ties to people raising money for the radical Palestinian movement Hamas, according to Congress and the 9/11 Commission report.
But the bureau lacked enough evidence to bring a case, and closed its investigation. Around the same time, two future Sept. 11 hijackers -- Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, fresh from an al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia -- turned up at Aulaqi's San Diego mosque in early 2000.
Witnesses later told the FBI that Aulaqi had a close relationship with the hijackers in San Diego. "Several persons informed the FBI after September 11 that this imam had closed-door meetings in San Diego with al-Mihdhar, al-Hazmi and another individual," the Joint House-Senate Inquiry reported. In press interviews at the time, Aulaqi denied having such contacts.