“And when this new front of Jihad starts in Yemen it might become the single most important front of Jihad in the world.” “U.S. Probes Cleric’s Tie to Jetliner Bomb Plot,” by Evan Perez, Margaret Coker, and Siobhan Gorman for the Wall Street Journal, December 31 (thanks to Maxwell):
WASHINGTON — Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American-born Yemeni cleric who has surfaced in multiple terror probes, is emerging as a central part of the Christmas Day airline bomber investigation, as authorities focus attention on a network of extremists in Yemen who may have helped radicalize the young Nigerian accused in the failed plot. […]
Mr. Awlaki has rocketed to prominence this year because of his role as Internet-based spiritual guide aiding the radicalization of a new generation of Islamist extremists.
Mr. Awlaki was in contact with an Army psychiatrist charged in a shooting spree last month at Fort Hood Army base in Texas.
Mr. Awlaki was among the targets in recent attacks by Yemeni security forces, with U.S. support, against al Qaeda operations in Yemen. Family members have dismissed initial reports that he was killed and his whereabouts are unknown.
Part of Mr. Awlaki’s appeal, say U.S. officials and terrorism experts, is his ability to act as a bridge between the predominantly Arab leaders of al Qaeda and willing potential jihadists in the West.
He preached at a mosque in Northern Virginia until 2002, when he left the U.S. to spend time building a following in the U.K., before returning to Yemen in 2004.
He has communicated with potential recruits through Internet Web sites and social-networking sites such as Facebook.
On his own blog, Mr. Awlaki wrote in October that Yemen was about to become a key player in global jihad. “And when this new front of Jihad starts in Yemen it might become the single most important front of Jihad in the world.”…