From Yemen, Anwar Awlaki Helped Inspire Fort Dix, Toronto Plots
Despite Terror Connections, E-mails with Major Hasan Did Not Raise Red Flags
By RICHARD ESPOSITO, REHAB EL-BURI and BRIAN ROSS
Nov. 11, 2009
In addition to his contacts with Major Nidal Hasan, the radical American cleric, Anwar al Awlaki, served as an inspiration for men convicted in terror plots in Toronto and Fort Dix, New Jersey, according to government officials and court records reviewed by ABCNews.com.
Despite his ties to other plots, including the one against the Army post at Fort Dix, some 20 e-mails between Awlaki and Major Hasan were dismissed as "innocent" by a military investigator working on the FBI's Joint Terror Task Force in Washington, D.C.
Awlaki left the United States and moved to Yemen in 2002 after questions were raised about his ties to two of the 9/11 hijackers. He established an English-language web site that appears to have thousands of followers around the world. In a post this week on his blog, Awlaki praised Major Hasan as a "hero" and "a man of conscience." He asked, "How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done?"
American officials say Awlaki, has gone into hiding since his e-mail exchanges with the accused Fort Hood shooter became public. Phone calls to a relative's home in Yemen were not returned.
"He is not just a proselytizer but someone who is operational, with deep and longstanding connections to al Qaeda and has been for some time," said a former senior American intelligence official who had access to classified information.
Awlaki was characterized in court testimony as an inspiration by two of six Muslim immigrants convicted on conspiracy and other charges in a plot to kill U.S. military personnel at Fort Dix.
The cleric, who says it is the duty of all Muslims to fight the United States was cited as a source of wisdom by the two men.
In Toronto, members of the so-called Toronto 18 watched videos of Awlaki at a makeshift training camp where they allegedly planned an attack on the Canadian parliament and prime minister.
"He's a big star attraction as a recruiter to young Americans and Canadians," said the former U.S. intelligence official.