[QODLink]
Middle East
Al-Qaeda vows to protect US cleric
Head of Yemen-based group threatens to attack US if Anwar al-Awlaki is harmed.
Last Modified: 16 May 2010 18:01 GMT
The US government accuses al-Awlaki of recruiting for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [EPA/IntelCenter]

Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the head of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),has vowed to protect a cleric accused of terrorism by the US government.

In a 10-minute audiotape posted on internet forums on sunday, al-Wuhayshi spoke of al-Qaeda's "religious duty" to protect Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen accused of recruiting for the group.

He also threatened attacks against the United States if al-Awlaki was harmed.

"Once you reach any of our regions, then you have reached ... our support, and our troops will provide you with whatever you need," al-Wuhayshi said in the recording.

"Awlaki ... is among a crowd of Muslims who are indignant towards the oppressive US policy."

Al-Awlaki, who holds dual citizenship in the United States and Yemen, was recently added to the CIA intelligence agency's list of targets to be killed or captured.

Al-Wuhayshi criticised the decision of Barack Obama, the US president, to add al-Awlaki to the CIA list, saying it would "not benefit the security" of the American people.

"Do not worry about the sheikh, he is in safe hands," al-Wuhayshi said, referring to al-Awlaki.

Al-Awlaki accused

The audiotape marked the first time al-Wuhayshi has acknowledged al-Awlaki, according to the US-based SITE monitoring group, which provided a translation of the audio recording.

In depth

  Yemeni scholar backs 'jet bomber'
  Inside story: Yemen's future
  Riz Khan: Yemen, a failed state?
  Video: Yemen's tough al-Qaeda challenge
  In depth: Yemen's future

Al-Awlaki rose to prominence last year after it emerged that he had communications with Major Nidal Hasan, a US army psychiatrist accused of opening fire on colleagues at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 people.

Al-Awlaki is currently believed to be in Yemen.

The White House confirmed in Aprilthat Obama had authorised the CIA to assassinate al-Awlaki.

The CIA and the US military both maintain lists of alleged terrorists subject to capture or killing - but it is extremely rare for American citizens to be added to those lists.

Al-Awlaki's family has sought to have his name removedfrom the list, offering a guarantee that al-Awlaki would stop issuing anti-American messages.

The cleric is also accused of having had ties to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound flight on December 25.

In his audiotape on Sunday, al-Wuhayshi praised Abdulmutallab for the attempt.

In a February interview with Al Jazeera, al-Awlaki acknowledged having taught Abdulmutallab, and said he approved of the failed bombing plot. Al-Awlaki also said he felt the Yemeni government would allow the US to kill him on Yemeni soil.

Earlier this week, AQAP claimed responsibilityfor an assassination attempt on Timothy Torlot, the British ambassador to Yemen.

A suicide bomber, Uthman Noman al-Salwi, tried to blow up the ambassador's convoy as he drove to work. Torlot was unharmed.

Al Jazeera is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
Featured
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.
Public stripping and assault of woman and rival protests thereafter highlight Kenya's gender-relations divide.