Major military operation under way to find Ibrahim al-Asiri, a key suspect in last week’s foiled air cargo bomb plot.
|Anwar Al-Awlawki video screen grab from YouTube|
An apparent plot to blow up aeroplanes bound for the US has been tied to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [REUTERS]
YouTube, the video-sharing website has begun removing clips of speeches by an American-born Yemeni religious leader who US authorities believe is a leading figure in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The move by YouTube, first reported by the New York Times newspaper on Wednesday, comes after a “British official” and a US politician put pressure on the Google-owned website.
Anthony Weiner, a congressman from New York, sent YouTube a letter last week calling al-Awlaki the “bin Laden of the internet,” referring to Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda founder.
|Al-Awlaki is still shown in hundreds of videos on YouTube, though the site has begun to remove them|
Weiner listed hundreds of al-Awlaki’s videos that appear on YouTube, writing: “There is no reason we should give killers like al-Awlaki access to one of the world’s largest bully pulpits so they can inspire more violent acts within our borders, or anywhere else in the world.”
Al-Awlaki appears in more than 700 videos which have received a combined 3.5 million views, Weiner wrote.
A YouTube spokeswoman told the Times that the site had removed videos that violated guidelines against showing “dangerous or illegal activities such as bomb-making, hate speech, and incitement to commit violent acts”, or that came from accounts “registered by a member of a designated foreign terrorist organisation” or used to promote such a group’s interests.
But as of Thursday, there were still hundreds of videos featuring speeches by al-Awlaki on YouTube.
Al-Awlaki gained US media attention after a Muslim army major who had communicated with the cleric shot to death 13 people and wounded 30 others at the Fort Hood military base in Texas.
Al-Awlaki also reportedly had contact with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian man who attempted to blow up a passenger aeroplane over the US on December 25.
In May, a woman in Britain who had reportedly watched dozens of hours of al-Awlaki’s videos on YouTube was sentenced to life in prison for stabbing a British politician, The Times said.
Weiner said YouTube’s first response to his letter had been merely “bureaucratic”, but that the company took his request more seriously after a plot was uncovered to send two explosives hidden in parcels bound from Yemen to the US.
Barack Obama, the US president, linked the plot – thought to be an attempt to blow up the aeroplanes the parcels were carried on mid-flight – to AQAP.