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CAIRO (AP) — A U.S.-born Islamic cleric linked to attacks by al-Qaida in Yemen on U.S. targets called for Muslims around the world to kill Americans in a new video posted on extremist websites Monday.
Anwar al-Awlaki, 39, is one of the most prominent English-language radical clerics and his sermons advocating jihad, or holy war, against the United States have influenced militants involved in several attacks or attempted attacks on U.S. soil. Yemeni officials say he may have blessed the recent mail bomb plot, though he may not have taken an active part in it.
Al-Awlaki has in past messages encouraged Muslims to murder American soldiers and justified the killings of American civilians by accusing the United States of intentionally killing a million Muslim civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. But this message appeared stronger, arguing that no justification was needed.
In his 23-minute message delivered in Arabic, al-Awlaki said because all Americans are the enemy, clerics don't need to issue any special fatwas or religious rulings allowing them to be killed. He was dressed in a traditional Yemeni garb — a white robe, turban and a sheathed dagger tucked into his waistband — and wore round spectacles while sitting behind a desk.
"Don't consult with anybody in killing the Americans," he said. "Fighting the devil doesn't require consultation or prayers seeking divine guidance. They are the party of the devils," he added. It is "either us or them."
Al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents, has used his website and English-language sermons to encourage Muslims around the world to kill U.S. troops in Iraq and has been tied by U.S. intelligence to the 9/11 hijackers and to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who tried to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas last year with explosives hidden in his underwear.
He was also in contact with Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in November at the Fort Hood, Texas military base.
U.S. investigators say since he returned to Yemen in 2006, al-Awlaki has moved beyond just inspiring militants to becoming an active operative in al-Qaida's affiliate there.
On Friday, Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror group's offshoot in Yemen claimed responsibility for sending bombs through the mail in packages addressed to the U.S. The bombs were found at airports in England and Dubai, United Arab Emirates before they exploded.
Short excerpts from the al-Awlaki video posted Monday were released on Oct. 23, two weeks before the mail bombs were uncovered. But this was the first full posting of the video.
Al-Awlaki also attacked rulers in the Arab world, particularly Yemen, describing them as corrupt and he called on religious scholars to declare them "non-Muslims" for betraying the Muslim people.
"Kings, emirs, and presidents are now not qualified to lead the nation, or even a flock of sheep," he said. "If the leaders are corrupt, the scholars have the responsibility to lead the nation."
He added that these leaders would have to be removed for the Muslim people to move forward.
The only way Muslims can protect themselves from the threat of the infidels is by supporting the "mujahedeen," he said, referring to al-Qaida fighters.
"If we support the mujahedeen, we will win it all and if we let them down, we will lose it all," he said.
By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press