U.S. preacher says backs failed plane bombing: report
DUBAI (Reuters) - A radical Muslim preacher linked to a gunman who ran amok at a U.S. army base, has said he supports the failed bombing of a U.S. plane but that he did not encourage the attack, according to Al Jazeera television's website.
In an interview which the website said a Yemeni freelance journalist had held with Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born preacher said he had been a teacher of the Nigerian suspect in the December 25 attempted bombing of the U.S.-bound plane.
"The mujahid brother, Umar Farouk (Abdulmutallab) ... is one of my students. Yes, and there was contact between us. But I did not issue a fatwa (religious edict) to Umar Farouk for this operation," Awlaki was quoted as saying.
The date of the interview, posted an Al Jazeera's website on February 2, was not clear. The Arab news television apparently did not report the interview in its broadcasts.
Yemeni officials have said Abdulmutllab met Awlaki in the Arab country where he studied Arabic and Islam. They said Awlaki may have been killed in an air strike on al Qaeda militants in Yemen in December, although other reports said he was on the run.
"I support what Umar Farouk did after seeing my brothers being killed in Palestine for more than 60 years, and they are being killed in Iraq and in Afghanistan," Awlaki told Abdulelah Shai.
"So don't ask me about al-Qaeda ... blowing up a passenger plane after all of this, 300 Americans are nothing compared to the thousands of Muslims they have killed."
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said the failed Christmas Day attack was in retaliation for an attack by U.S. planes on the group in Yemen. Yemen denies U.S. forces are involved in strikes on militants in the country.
Awlaki denounced Yemeni officials, who have launched a campaign against the resurgent local wing of al Qaeda, as lackeys of the West.
"The Yemeni government sells its citizens to America ... (against) funds from the West. Yemeni officials say to the Americans: 'Attack whatever you like, but do not claim this so as to not instigate the people against us...'," he said.
Awlaki, a U.S. citizen of Yemeni descent, returned to Yemen in 2004 where he taught at a university before he was arrested and imprisoned in 2006 for suspected links to al Qaeda and involvement in attacks.
He was released in December 2007 because he said he had repented, a Yemeni security official said. But he was later charged again on similar counts and went into hiding.
Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the U.S. Army psychiatrist who shot dead 13 people at the Fort Hood base in Texas on November 5, had contacts with Awlaki, according to U.S. officials. (Reporting by Firouz Sedarat)
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