SANAA (AFP) – A new video featuring wanted radical Yemeni-US cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was posted on Saturday on the Al-Shammukh jihadist website.
Awlaki, believed to be holed up in a tribal area of the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state of Yemen, is considered a dangerous “terrorist” by the US government.
In April, a US official said President Barack Obama’s administration had authorised the targeted killing of Awlaki, after American intelligence agencies concluded the Muslim cleric was directly involved in anti-US plots.
In July, Washington said Awlaki was a key leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), placing him on its list of terrorism supporters, freezing his financial assets and banning any transactions with him.
Over the past decade, Yemen has morphed into a haven for violent extremists, becoming the headquarters of AQAP.
Experts have warned that the world faces an uphill battle to help prevent the country from becoming a failed state like Somalia and from allowing Al-Qaeda to threaten major oil shipping lanes.
Bruce Riedel, a Brookings Institution analyst who has advised the Obama administration on Yemen and other counter-terrorism issues, described AQAP as having a “robust and resilient capability” in Yemen.
Not only has it staged dozens of attacks in Yemen this year — mainly on security forces but also on foreigners — its senior leadership has also withstood Yemeni search-and-destroy missions, Riedel told AFP.
Though its capacity to launch attacks abroad remains unclear, he said, Awlaki appears to be a major threat because of his ability to recruit Americans for jihad.
Born in the southwestern US state of New Mexico, Awlaki, 39, rose to prominence last year after he was linked to a US army major who shot dead 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas, and to a Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on December 25 last year.
Earlier this week, the US military revealed that Awlaki had been invited to a lunch at the Pentagon in the months after the 9/11 attacks.
The invitation was part of a an effort by the office of the secretary of defense to reach out to the Muslim community after the September 11, 2001 attacks, military spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan told AFP.