- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2010

Hunted by U.S. drones and Yemeni authorities, one of the world’s most wanted Islamic terrorist leaders on Monday issued a new video message calling on extremists to ignore the anti-terrorism edicts of Muslim religious authorities and continue their holy war against America and Israel.

In the 23-minute video, American-born al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki also warns repeatedly of the danger posed to Sunni Arab Muslims by the rise of Iranian Shiite power in the Middle East.

Posted on an extremist website, the video shows Mr. al-Awlaki seated and speaking in Arabic. Mr. Al-Awlaki is thought to be hiding in Yemen, from where al Qaeda last month sent package bombs to the United States, but the video appears to have been recorded before that plot was discovered because he does not refer to it.

In the video, Mr. al-Awlaki, who was declared a wanted man by a Yemeni court over the weekend, urges Muslims to ignore the edicts, or fatwas, of religious scholars.

“One should not consult anyone in the matter of killing the Americans,” he says, according to a translated transcript provided to The Washington Times by the SITE Intelligence Group, a company that monitors extremists’ messages.

“Combating the devil does not require a fatwa, nor consultation, nor does it require prayer to Allah,” he says, calling the fight between extremists and the United States “a fateful battle … the battle of good and evil.”

Analysts said his comments likely were a response to stepped-up efforts by clerical supporters of U.S. allies in the Gulf region, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to delegitimize the religious justification for al Qaeda’s terrorism campaigns, which have killed thousands of Muslims around the world.

“There’s been a lot of effort, especially in Saudi Arabia … to get the official clerical establishment to come out against” al Qaeda’s terrorist tactics, said Christopher Boucek of the Carnegie Endowment, a Washington think tank. It was “difficult to judge” how effective it was, he added.

Mr. Al-Awlaki also warns in the video of the growing influence of Iran’s Persian Shiites, who are ethnically, linguistically and religiously distinct from the Sunni Muslim Arabs in Yemen and elsewhere in the region.

“America and Israel control our ummah [community], and it will not be long before Iran comes in to take away its share of the pie,” he says.

“Iranian political influence is increasing” in Yemen, he cautions, spreading “a perverted creed that is alien to Yemen.”

“Iran today,” he notes a few minutes later, “is the most developed country in the region in terms of military manufacturing … [and] is on the verge of joining the countries that possess nuclear weapons.”

“The first victims of Iran will be the Sunni peoples of the Gulf,” he concludes.

“That tells you who his audience is” in this latest video, Mr. Boucek said, noting that in earlier videos, Mr. al-Awlaki had “commented how diverse the ummah is, and how that was a good thing.

Hundreds of videos of Mr. Al-Awlaki speaking in English are posted on general-interest websites like YouTube and are blamed by authorities for inspiring many “homegrown” terrorists in America and Europe.

Most recently, a woman who stabbed a British member of Parliament told authorities she had been inspired to act after watching hundreds of hours of Mr. al-Awlaki’s sermons on the Internet, according to a transcript of her interrogation posted by the Guardian newspaper. Roshonara Choudhury, a 21-year-old theology student, was sentenced last week to life imprisonment for the attack in May.

Monday’s video comes as attorneys for Mr. al-Awlaki’s family appeared in federal court to argue that it is unlawful for the U.S. government to try to kill him. U.S. officials have said the cleric is on a list of senior terrorist leaders who are targeted for killing or capture by U.S. forces.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights are asking the U.S. District Court in Washington to rule that “using lethal force outside of a war zone and without judicial process is illegal” except “as a last resort to address an imminent threat to life or physical safety,” according to a statement Monday.

They also are asking the court to order the government to disclose the legal standard it uses to put U.S. citizens on a target list.

Also Monday, the Department of Homeland Security announced it was continuing a ban on air cargo from Yemen and extending it to Somalia.

In a statement, the department said it was implementing a series of measures aimed at screening high-risk cargo heading for the United States and keeping it off passenger aircraft.

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