By Ahmad Shihadah
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
SA’NA, Yemen – Yemen’s government has announced it will not extradite Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born jihadist cleric who is credited with inspiring the recent wave of anti-American terrorist plots by al Qaeda recruits.
Over the weekend, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi said Mr. al-Awlaki would be tried in the Arabian Peninsula state once he is captured.
“The man the U.S. wants to be extradited will stand trial in Yemen under the national law,” Mr. al Qirbi was quoted as saying in the Yemen state news agency, al Saba.
“Because of his recent terrorist activity, Awlaki is now wanted by the Yemeni government. Hence, he must be tried … in his homeland but never by other governments,” Qirbi was quoted as telling Kuwait’s al-Dar newspaper.
U.S. officials said in April President Barack Obama’s administration had authorized operations to capture or kill U.S.-born Anwar al-Awlaki — a leading figure linked to al Qaeda’s Yemen-based wing, which claimed responsibility for a failed bombing of a Detroit-bound plane in December.
On Christmas Eve, the United States launched an armed drone attack on a compound in Yemen where Mr. al-Awlaki was thought to be staying. The attack missed him.
Mr. al-Awlaki is the spiritual leader of the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an offshoot of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda. The group is thought to have several thousand armed followers and operates in areas of Yemen that are not under the full control of the San’a government.
Awlaki has said he had contacts with a Nigerian suspect in the attempted bombing of the transatlantic passenger plane and with a U.S. army psychiatrist accused of shooting dead 13 people at a military base in Texas in November.
Andy Johnson, a former staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in an interview that Mr. al-Awlaki is like Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, because of his success in radicalizing recruits.
“Awlaki clearly is a driving force in the effort to recruit and radicalize people to carry out jihadist or extremist attacks,” said Mr. Johnson, who is now director of national security programs for the think tank Third Way.
Mr. al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico, was in e-mail contact with Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who is charged in the killings of 13 people and woundings of 30 others at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5.
For more information, please see:
The Washington Times – Yemen Refuses To Let U.S. Try Cleric – 12 May 201
Reuters – Yemen Says Will Not Turn Over Militant Cleric To U.S. – 12 May 2010
Jawa Report – Yemen Refuses To Extradite Awlaki – 12 May 2010