Muslim cleric Aulaqi had lunch at Pentagon

By Associated Press
Friday, October 22, 2010

Radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi had lunch at the Pentagon as part of a program to reach out to moderate Muslims in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a military official said Thursday.

The U.S.-born al-Qaeda operative is now on a U.S. kill-or-capture list.

U.S. investigators say e-mails link Aulaqi to Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged with last year's killings at Fort Hood, Tex. They also say that he helped prepare Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is accused of trying to bomb an airliner on Christmas, and that he had connections to the failed Times Square bombing.

Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said Aulaqi was invited to the Defense Department headquarters after Sept. 11 as part of a broader effort under then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to establish better relations with the Muslim community.

Aulaqi's Pentagon lunch was first reported by Fox News, which cited FBI sources and documents.

The 9/11 Commission reported that Aulaqi was interviewed at least four times in two weeks following the Sept. 11 attacks about his dealings with three of the hijackers aboard the plane that hit the Pentagon. But it said it didn't know enough about his relationship with the hijackers to say whether he was aware of the plot.

The report said the FBI had investigated him in 1999 and 2000 for having been "contacted by a possible procurement agent for [Osama] bin Laden" and for connections to extremist fundraising groups. None of the investigations led to criminal charges against him.

Aulaqi, who was born in New Mexico, is thought to be hiding in Yemen.

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