Yemeni authorities are now hunting for Anwar al Awlaki to determine whether he has al Qa’eda ties.
Mr al Awlaki, who has used his personal Web site to encourage Muslims around the world to kill US troops in Iraq, disappeared in Yemen eight months ago, according to his father.
Yemeni security officials say they believe he is hiding in a region of the mountainous nation that has become a refuge for Islamic militants.
After his arrest in 2006, investigators were unable to prove any links to al Qa’eda, and he was released in late 2007, according to two Yemeni counter terrorism officials and an Interior Ministry official.
They spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
Maj Nidal Malik Hasan is accused of killing 13 people in a rampage at the Fort Hood Army post in Texas. He communicated with Mr al Awlaki in email exchanges 10 to 20 times over several months last year, according to a US investigative official in Washington and Rep Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.
The communications, which were intercepted by the FBI, consisted primarily of Hasan posing questions to the imam as a spiritual leader or adviser, and their content was “consistent with the subject matter of (Hasan’s) research,” a law enforcement official said.
The law enforcement and investigative officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case. In the Army, Hasan was working with patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from US combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Associates and relatives have said he was disturbed that US Muslim soldiers could fight against fellow Muslims in those countries.
The FBI investigated at the time and concluded that Hasan was not a threat. And investigators say now that there is no evidence Hasan received help or orders to carry out the Fort Hood attack.
But the man to whom Hasan turned for advice has for years preached in sermons circulated on the Web that the United States was engaged in a war against Islam and urged Muslims to fight it.