Investigators are examining connections between the suspected Fort Hood shooter and an imam named Anwar Aulaqi.
On his blog yesterday (yes, his blog), Aulaqi called Maj. Nadal Hasan “a hero.”
Nidal opened fire on soldiers who were on their way to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done? In fact the only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the US army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal.
The heroic act of brother Nidal also shows the dilemma of the Muslim American community. Increasingly they are being cornered into taking stances that would either make them betray Islam or betray their nation. Many amongst them are choosing the former. The Muslim organizations in America came out in a pitiful chorus condemning Nidal’s operation.
The man who calls on fellow Muslim soldiers to kill their brothers in arms is a U.S. citizen who broadcasts his message of jihad (in English) from Yemen where he has lived since 2004. He not only has a website, but can be found on Facebook.
Before Yemen, Aulaqi had preached in Denver, San Diego, and Falls Church, Virginia.
It was in Virginia that Aulaqi may have met “brother Nidal.” Hasan attended a mosque in Falls Church in 2001 where Aulaqi was serving as imam, according to The Washington Post. Update: The Dar Al Hijrah mosque says Aulaqi was employed there from January 2001 through April 2002.
Also attending the Falls Church mosque were two Sept. 11 hijackers, Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid Almidhar.
According to the Sept. 11 Commission’s report, the two hijackers “reportedly respected Aulaqi as a religious figure and developed a close relationship with him.”
Before moving to Virginia, Aulaqi was imam at the Rabat mosque in San Diego until mid-2000. The two hijackers also attended the Rabat mosque. They may even have met or at least talked to Aulaqi on their first day in San Diego.
According to his online biography, Aulaqi received a master’s degree in educational leadership from San Diego State University.
Aulaqi had connections to others of interest to the San Diego FBI, including Mohdar Abdullah (see my earlier post) and Omar al Bayoumi, a man believed to be a Saudi agent who helped the hijackers settle in San Diego.
From a footnote in the Sept. 11 Commission report:
The FBI investigated Aulaqi in 1999 and 2000 after learning that he may have been contacted by a possible procurement agent for Bin Ladin. During the investigation, the FBI learned that Aulaqi knew individuals from the Holy Land Foundation and others involved in raising money for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Sources alleged that Aulaqi had other extremist connections.
None of this information was considered strong enough to support a criminal prosecution.
The Congressional Joint Inquiry on 9/11 notes that Aulaqi was visited by a “subject of a Los Angeles investigation closely associated with Blind Sheikh [Omar Abdel] Rahman,” who was convicted in a 1993 New York City bomb plot.
In mid-2006, Aulaqi was arrested in Yemen and spent 18 months behind bars, almost all of it in solitary confinement. In this interview with a former Guantanamo detainee, Aulaqi says he was held at the request of the U.S. government and was interviewed in custody by FBI agents.
Update: TPM Muckracker’s Justin Elliott has a comprehensive post on Nidal, including The New York Times report that “intelligence agencies” intercepted 10 to 20 communications last year and this year between Aulaqi and Hasan. The messages reportedly did not suggest any threat of violence.
Homeland Security Undersecretary for Intelligence Charles E. Allen last year described Aulaqi as an al-Qaida supporter and a former “spiritual leader” to three of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
And finally, judging from these recent comments on his website here, here and here, Aulaqi is deeply missed in San Diego.
Second Update: The Falls Church, Virginia mosque where Aulaqi served as imam has openly denounced his statement of praise for Hasan:
During Mr. Al-Awlaki’s short employment at our center, his public speech was consistent with the values of tolerance and cooperation. After returning to Yemen, Mr. Awlaki now claims that the American Muslims who have condemned the violent acts of Major Hasan have committed treason against the Muslim Umaah [community] and have fallen into hypocrisy. With this reversal, Mr. Al-Awlaki has clearly set himself apart from Muslims in America.