Yemeni court orders ‘forcible arrest’ of US-born cleric

Saturday, November 6, 2010

SANA’A - A Yemeni state security court Saturday ordered the “forcible arrest” of US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, wanted by the US for links to Al Qaeda.

Awlaki has been connected to a failed Christmas airline bombing over Detroit and killings at a US army base at Fort Hood, Texas.

He is believed to have links to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemeni wing of Al Qaeda.

The order was issued by the court’s presiding judge Mouhssein Alwan during the second hearing into the trial in absentia of al-Awlaki who is charged with inciting the killing of foreigners.

Awlaki is believed to be hiding in a tribal area in the southern Yemeni province of Shabwa.

The judges also ordered the arrest of Othman al-Awlaki, a co-defendant in the case and relative of al-Awlaki, who is also still on the run.

The only defendant present in court was Hisham Mohammed Assim, a security guard who is accused of killing a Frenchman and injuring a Briton in a shooting spree at the offices of the Austrian OMV energy firm in Sana’a last month.

Assim rejected any connections to Al Qaeda or Awlaki, saying he was tortured by interrogators.

“I have had personal reasons (for the killing),” Assim told judges during the hearing attended by journalists.

Asked what was his motive for the killing, Assim refused to explain.

The court was adjourned until Nov 9.

Security forces launched last week an operation to hunt down al-Awlaki and a Saudi Al Qaeda fugitive called Ibrahim al-Asiri.

Asiri is believed to be the bomb maker of AQAP. He is the main suspect in a plot to get parcel bomb packages onto US-bound cargo planes.

Anwar Al-Awlaki was earlier this year put on a list of suspected terrorists whom the CIA is authorised to kill, according to US media reports.

He was already on a target list kept by the military and eluded at least one strike by Yemeni forces who had assistance from the US to target a gathering of Al Qaeda suspects.

Awlaki and the AQAP’s leader Nasser al-Wahyshi survived a Yemeni airstrike in Shabwa in December, police officials said.

An impoverished country located at the south-western tip of the Arabian peninsula, Yemen has come under immense pressure from the US and the West to fight Al Qaeda after the resurgence of the group under its local branch.

Filed under: Terrorism

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