SANAA (AFP) – Yemen’s defence ministry said Thursday that authorities were tracking radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki for alleged links to Al-Qaeda and “terrorist activities” despite reports to the contrary.
“Security forces are currently tracking (Awlaki),” the defence ministry’s news website 26Sep.net said citing a security official.
The statement came after reports suggesting that the Yemeni authorities had said Awlaki was not on any wanted list.
A US official said last week that President Barack Obama’s administration had authorised the targeted killing of the cleric, even though he is an American citizen.
There is no extradition agreement between the United States and Yemen.
“If Yemen receives any proof from the United States accusing Awlaki, the state will act according to the Yemeni law and constitution,” the official said.
The cleric was the target of a Yemeni air raid in Wadi Rafadh, 650 kilometres (400 miles) east of the capital Sanaa, on December 24, in which 34 suspected Al-Qaeda members were killed, the official said.
In an audio message released last month, Awlaki appealed to US Muslims to stand up against their nation, which he accused of committing crimes against Muslims.
But on Monday his father Nasser al-Awlaki said the cleric would stop anti-US messages if taken off the list.
Awlaki is accused by Washington of having had links with Major Nidal Hasan, a US Army psychiatrist accused of opening fire on colleagues at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 people in November.
He is also suspected of having had ties to the September 11 hijackers, and with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound flight with explosives last Christmas.
The rare step of targeting Awlaki was reportedly approved after US intelligence agencies concluded he was now directly involved in plots against the United States, not merely publicly encouraging such attacks.