(Reuters) - Anwar al-Awlaki, an American Muslim preacher linked to a gunman who ran amok at a U.S. army base, is believed to have died in a Yemeni airstrike on al Qaeda militants on Thursday, a Yemeni security official said.
Awlaki, a radical English-speaking cleric of Yemeni parentage, had been on the run in Yemen, where he was on the government’s most-wanted list of terrorist suspects.
Here are some details about Awlaki, whose death has not been confirmed by Yemeni or U.S. authorities:
* Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a U.S. Army psychiatrist who shot dead 13 people at Fort Hood, a U.S. Army base in Texas, on November 5, had contacts with Awlaki, according to U.S. officials.
-- Hasan had sent emails to the cleric, who was sympathetic to al Qaeda. They were intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies and examined by U.S. joint terrorism task forces.
* Investigators said in November that the correspondence, which began in late 2008, was reviewed but did not merit a full investigation because it appeared to be largely consistent with Hasan’s academic work and offered no hints that he was planning an attack or was following orders from anyone.
* Hassan was “a hero,” Awlaki wrote in a blog post after the attack. “He is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people,” he wrote. His website was closed down after the Fort Hood killings.
SUSPECTED LINKS WITH AL QAEDA:
* Awlaki 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.
* In Britain, Awlaki was banned from speaking via videolink at a fundraising event in London for Muslims held at Guantanamo Bay amid claims, which he disputes, that he backed attacks on British troops and supported organizations linked to al Qaeda.
* Born in New Mexico in the United States in 1971, Awlaki is a U.S. citizen. He graduated in civil engineering from Colorado State University and holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from San Diego State University.
* Awlaki’s family is well-known in Yemen. His father was a former agriculture minister, Nasser al-Awlaki.
* Awlaki is a former imam of mosques in Denver, San Diego and Falls Church, Virginia. Two of those mosques were attended by some of the September 11, 2001, hijackers. Hasan’s family also worshipped at the Virginia mosque.
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