According to ABC News, the investigation of last week's Fort Hood shootings has also begun to focus on Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical imam currently living in Yemen who had contact with two 9/11 hijackers and is believed to have ties to al Qaeda. As the AP reported Monday, U.S. officials were aware that Hasan had attempted to reach out to Awlaki by "electronic communication,"--ABC puts the figure at "10 to 20 contacts beginning late last year"--but that the matter was put aside after being deemed non-threatening. Awlaki himself made headlines Monday after he wrote on his personal web site, in a blog post entitled "Nidal Hasan Did The Right Thing," that Muslims could only justify serving in the U.S. military by eventually following "in the footsteps of men like Nidal."
"Nidal Hassan (sic) is a hero. He is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people," Awlaki wrote. Awlaki has voiced his support for suicide bombing in writings, as well as for groups believe to be affiliated with al Qaeda.
It's not clear what, if any, relationship Awlaki had with Nasan, but as a former FBI agent put it to ABC: "Awlaki is known as a senior recruiter for al Qaeda. He would be the spiritual motivator. Almost like someone you would go to and say, 'this is what I'm thinking about doing.' And they join in and encourage you and basically help you rationalize your behavior."
Before moving to Yemen, Awlaki was an imam at a mosque in Falls Church, Virginia. As the AP previously reported, Hasan attended the mosque while Awlaki was there.
More on Awlaki's background, via Wired:
Awlaki left the United States for Britain in 2002, later moving to Yemen where we was arrested in 2006. Since his release in 2008, Awlaki has become a popular figure in Islamist circles online through his blog and occasional videoconference and taped appearances at events in the United Kingdom.
The Week also has a good breakdown of the Awlaki's background which you can read here.
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