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Connecting the Dots on Hasan’s Imam: Anwar al-Awlaki

John on November 10, 2009 at 9:34 am

[Note: Morgen contributed heavily to this post. Also, if anyone from the AP or other major news organization is thinking about swiping this, you must credit VS.]

Anwar al-Awlaki is the imam who, as we reported here first on Sunday, praised Nidal Hasan as a hero for killing 13 unarmed people at Fort Hood. Believed to be residing in Yemen possibly working as a recruiter for al qaeda, al-Awlaki is also known as the imam from the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, VA. The mosque is best known as the place where two of the 9-11 hijackers attended prior to carrying out the worst terror attack in American history. Authorities are now looking into the likelihood that Nidal Hasan also attended the mosque around this time in 2001. It’s known for certain that his mother’s funeral was held there.

There is more to the story of al-Awlaki and his connection to 9-11. It begins here in Southern California. Before becoming the imam at the now infamous Great Falls mosque, al-Awlaki attended San Diego State University (earning a master’s in education leadership). During this time he also served as an imam at Masjid Ar-Ribat al-Islami, a mosque located in San Diego.

As many as three of the hijackers, Alhazmi, al-Midhar and Hani Hanjour, appear to have attended al-Awlaki’s mosque in San Diego. Alhamzi and al-Midhar were probably attending in mid 2000 while taking flying lessons at a local flying club.

Unbelievably, al-Awlaki was under investigation by the FBI as early as June 1999:

Anwar Al-Awlaki is the former leader of the Masjid Ar-Ribat al-Islami mosque on Saranac Street on the border of San Diego and La Mesa, which was attended regularly by the hijackers and their acquaintances. The FBI opened a counterterrorism inquiry into imam Anwar Al-Awlaki’s activities in June 1999.

Somehow they missed the connection, even when it became more obvious:

When the imam moved to one of the largest Muslim communities in the country at the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Va., Alhazmi and hijacker Hani Hanjour followed and began attending that mosque, the report said.

Eventually, all three of the hijackers al-Awlaki had contact with would end up on Flight 77 bound for the Pentagon. A fourth hijacker, Salem Alhamzi, was the younger brother of Nawaf Alhamzi, though he never met al-Awlaki:

Flight-77-hijackers

al-alawki in wash postBut it wasn’t just the FBI that botched the investigation, the media was a step behind as well. Two weeks after 9-11 occurred, the Washington Post ran a special supplement for kids titled Muslim: Fact and Stereotype. In addition to the somewhat cloying content, the supplement contains a large photo of a praying imam, none other than…wait for it…Anwar al-Awlaki. The  caption notes that his mosque was temporarily closed for fear of an anti-Muslim backlash. Here’s the image (click for full size):

But the inability to connect the dots doesn’t end there. Just yesterday a member of San Diego’s Council on American-Islamic Relations admitted that he was also a member of al-Awlaki’s mosque at the time the hijackers attended. Oops!

Edgar Hopida with San Diego’s Council on American-Islamic Relations can’t believe the man who taught him about the Islamic faith and led countless prayer sessions at a La Mesa-area mosque is the same man who called Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan a hero and a man of conscience.

“He was a respected imam here,” said Hopida. ABC learned that Hasan, suspected of killing 13 people in Fort Hood last week, had been in contact with Awlaki. “From his work here, it was nothing but positive in San Diego. This is a big surprise to the U.S. and San Diego Muslim community,” said Hopida.

Ten years on the FBI radar and contact with four Muslim mass murderers later, at what point is this going to cease to be a “big surprise.”

The fact that those segments of society — our intelligence and news agencies — charged with finding the connections missed them so badly in Anwar al-Awlaki’s case should not be lost on us now.

The FBI knew about Hasan yet considered his interest in al qaeda part of a “research project.” They knew about his e-mails and apparently gave the information to the Army, but the Army ignored the warnings and promoted him. Other soldiers complained about Hasan but were afraid to report him lest they be labeled Islamaphobes.

The media front looks no better. The mainstream media — including Time, Newsweek, CNN and of course MSNBC — have insisted that Nidal Hasan’s crime has no significant religious component despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Yesterday CNN went so far as to twist the words of an eyewitness to suggest that maybe he didn’t actually hear Hasan yell “Allahu Ackbar” before his killing spree.

The point has already been made by others but it bears repeating. Political correctness of this sort is going to get people killed. I realize this probably sounds like an exaggeration at first blush, but if you look at the full history of al-Awlaki it looks a lot more like a fact.

Time to call this what it is, homegrown terror. Once we’ve faced up to it, we have to start rooting out others like Hasan and al-Awlaki before we get another big surprise like Fort Hood or 9-11.

Related: This is not encouraging:

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Monday that the Obama administration has been withholding ”critical information” on the Fort Hood murders allegedly committed by Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan…

“Over the past 24 hours, I have been made aware of information from the intelligence community that suggests the possibility that serious issues exist with respect to the performance of U.S. intelligence agencies in connection with what appears to have been a terrorism-related attack on Fort Hood, Texas by Nidal Malik Hasan,” Hoekstra wrote. “I am disappointed that the administration has not been more transparent with the American people.”

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Category: Islamic Jihad |

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