Profile: Anwar al-Awlaki
Connection to Alleged Fort Hood Gunman
Posted: November 24, 2009
The aftermath of the Fort Hood shooting in Texas that left 13 people dead and 32 others wounded renewed public discussions about Anwar al-Awlaki and his influence on American Muslim extremists.
Four days after the November 5, 2009, shooting, al-Awlaki posted an entry on his blog praising Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged gunman, as a "hero" who "did the right thing." He further commended Hasan for taking action against "an army that is fighting against his own people."
Al-Awlaki explained that the "heroic act of brother Nidal also shows the dilemma of the American Muslim community," and urged American Muslims to leave America and the West, as he himself did in 2002. "It is becoming more and more difficult to hold on to Islam in an environment that is becoming more hostile towards Muslims," al-Awlaki wrote.
Al-Awlaki reportedly exchanged more than a dozen emails with Hasan beginning in December 2008. Authorities initially indicated that Hasan looked to al-Awlaki for "religious guidance" consistent with research he was conducting for his master's degree. Media reports indicate that Hasan may have also told al-Awlaki that he looks forward to meeting al-Awlaki "in the afterlife."
In an interview held a month after the Fort Hood attack, al-Awlaki explained that he first met Hasan nine years earlier when he served as the imam at Dar Al Hijrah, a mosque in the Washington, D.C. area attended by Hasan. In their subsequent email communications, Hasan asked al-Awlaki if a Muslim soldier serving in the American Army was allowed to kill his fellow soldiers, expressed his support of killing Israeli civilians and mentioned various justifications for "targeting the Jews with rockets."
In December 2008, when al-Awlaki and Hasan began exchanging emails, the radical cleric wrote a post on his blog justifying attacks against U.S. soldiers, specifically in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the post, al-Awlaki wrote that "the bullets of the fighters of Afghanistan and Iraq are a reflection of the feelings of the Muslims toward America."
A few months prior to the attack, al-Awlaki posted a similar message on his blog in a sermon titled "Fighting Against Government Armies in the Muslim World." In the sermon, al-Awlaki encouraged Muslims to fight against American soldiers, who he characterized as "the number one enemy of the ummah [Muslim nation]." Al-Awlaki continued, "Blessed are those who fight against them and blessed are those shuhada [martyrs] who are killed by them."
In an interview with a Yemeni journalist after the Fort Hood shooting, al-Awlaki claimed that although Hasan had viewed him as a confidant, he did not encourage the alleged shooter to carry out an attack in the U.S. Al-Awlaki did, however, say that he "blessed the act because it was against a military target. And the soldiers who were killed were not normal soldiers, but those who were trained and prepared to go to Afghanistan and Iraq."