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Cleric says he was confidant to Hasan

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Aulaqi is an "example of al-Qaeda reach into" the United States, U.S. officials said publicly in October 2008, years after his ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers were probed by the 9/11 Commission. The panel also revealed earlier FBI investigations into his connections to al-Qaeda associates.

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Aulaqi described Hasan as a man who took his Muslim faith seriously, and who was eager to understand how to interpret Islamic sharia law. In the e-mails, Hasan appeared to question U.S. involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and often used "evidence from sharia that what America was doing should be confronted," the cleric told Shaea.

"So Nidal was providing evidence to Anwar, not vice versa," said Shaea. "Anwar felt, after seeing Nidal's e-mails, that [Hasan] had wide knowledge of sharia law." Shaea said he interviewed Aulaqi in his house on Saturday in Shabwa, a province in southern Yemen that has become an extremist stronghold and where al-Qaeda is seeking to create a haven.

Aulaqi told Shaea that Hasan first reached out to him in an e-mail dated Dec. 17, 2008. He described Hasan introducing himself and writing: "Do you remember me? I used to pray with you at the Virginia mosque."

Initially, Aulaqi said he did not recall Hasan and did not reply to the e-mail. But after Hasan sent two or three more e-mails, the cleric said he "started to remember who he was," according to Shaea.

Aulaqi said Hasan viewed him as a confidant. "It was clear from his e-mails that Nidal trusted me. Nidal told me: 'I speak with you about issues that I never speak with anyone else,' " he told Shaea.

The cleric said Hasan informed him that he had become a devout Muslim around the time Aulaqi was preaching at Dar al-Hijrah, in 2001 and 2002. "Anwar said, 'Maybe Nidal was affected by one of my lectures,'" said Shaea.

Of the dozen or so e-mails, said Shaea, Aulaqi replied to Hasan two or three times. Aulaqi declined to comment on what he told Hasan. Asked whether Hasan mentioned Fort Hood as a target in his e-mails, Shaea declined to comment.

Aulaqi said Hasan's alleged shooting spree was allowed under Islam because it was a form of jihad. "There are some people in the United States who said this shooting has nothing to do with Islam, that it was not permissible under Islam," he said, according to Shaea. "But I would say it is permissible. . . . America was the one who first brought the battle to Muslim countries."

The cleric also denounced what he described as contradictory behavior by Muslims who condemned Hasan's actions and "let him down." According to Shaea, he said: "They say American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan should be killed, so how can they say the American soldier should not be killed at the moment they are going to Iraq and Afghanistan?"

Staff writer Spencer S. Hsu in Washington contributed to this report.


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