US and Yemeni authorities name a Saudi national, Ibrahim al-Asiri, as the man behind bombs on US-bound air freight.
|Yemen is under increasing pressure to crack down on al-Qaeda after last month’s foiled parcel-bomb plot [Reuters]|
A Yemeni judge has issued an order that the US-born Muslim preacher Anwar al-Awlaki has to be caught dead or alive, for alleged links to al-Qaeda and involvement in the killing of foreigners.
Mohsen Alwan, in a ruling on Saturday, asked prosecutors “to forcibly arrest” al-Awlaki and his relative Othman al-Awlaki whom a court in Sanaa has charged with “incitement to kill foreigners and members of security services.”
The Yemeni arrest warrant was issued after the two failed to appear for a second time before the court that specialises in terrorism cases.
They had been charged in absentia on Tuesday and, under Yemeni law, suspects are given some time to appear for trial before an order is issued that they be captured by force.
The US has already authorised the CIA to capture or kill al-Awlaki, who has been linked to the failed bombing of a US-bound passenger jet in December 2009.
Reporting from the Yemeni capital on Saturday, Hashem Ahelbarra said: “The Americans strongly believe that although al-Awlaki may not be a powerful military commander, his charisma, articulate use of the English language and use of the internet can serve as a strong tool to recruit Western converts, which makes him a serious threat to the US.”
The charges against al-Awlaki arose during the trial of Hisham Mohammed Assem, a Yemeni who was in court to face charges of killing Jacques Spagnolo, a French energy contractor, near Sanaa last month.
Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra reports from Yemen on a counterterrorism unit trained to battle al-Qaeda
Prosecutors told the court that al-Awlaki had corresponded with Assem for months, encouraging him to kill foreigners.
Assem, who had said he was tortured, denied the charges on Saturday, saying he killed Spagnolo over a personal feud and not due to incitement by al-Awlaki.
All three men are accused of “forming an armed gang to carry out criminal acts and to target foreigners and security forces on behalf of al-Qaeda”.
Yemen is facing increasing pressure to crack down on AQAP, al-Qaeda’s local branch, after intercepted parcel bombs destined for Chicago synagogues were traced to the country late last month.
“Yemen is faced with the fight against al-Qaeda where they have set up a special counterterrorism force to fight al-Qaeda. But their limited resources makes the fight a challenge,” our correspondent said.
AQAP, or Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, said in a statement on Friday that it orchestrated the failed bomb plot, and also claimed responsibility for the crash of a cargo aircraft in Dubai in September.
The US believes the parcel bombs, uncovered in Britain and Dubai, were the work of Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, a Saudi suspected of being an al-Qaeda bombmaker.
Al-Awlaki has not immediately been linked to the parcel bombs, but US officials have long accused him of instigating “terrorism” from Yemen, where he is believed to be hiding in a remote area of Shabwa province.
Al Jazeera’s Ahelbarra said: “The Yemeni government says it doesn’t have the evidence to corroborate the truth about the failed bomb-plot claim.
“Traditionally Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has trusted websites where they would usually send in their own videotapes that would explain what has happened.
“We have not been able to track the statements or reports to confirm whether this is true or not.”