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Imam tied to hijackers weighing Saudi job offer - One-time subject of FBI probe (WND-WORLD NET DAILY) By Paul Sperry WASHINGTON 08/05/03)Source: http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=33932 WND} WORLD NET DAILY WND} WORLD NET DAILY Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
WASHINGTON -- A Muslim cleric tied to two of the Saudi hijackers who crashed a jumbo jet into the Pentagon is weighing job offers in Saudi Arabia, says an official at the hard-line mosque he used to head here.

The imam, Anwar Aulaqi, gave politically charged sermons at Dar al- Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., the largest mosque in the country. He was the subject of an FBI counterterrorism probe before the Sept. 11 attacks.

"He´s exploring some opportunities to do some teaching in Saudi Arabia," said Dar al-Hijrah spokesman Johari Malik, who told WorldNetDaily he met with Aulaqi in Saudi this spring.

Saudi clerics typically teach a puritanical brand of Islam called Wahhabism, which is practiced by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Aulaqi, now living in Yemen, was the "spiritual adviser" to at least two of the five hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77 -- all of whom were Saudi nationals -- and held "closed-door meetings" with them, according to the recently declassified 9-11 report.

He first met with hijackers Nawaf Al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Midhar at a San Diego mosque he led.

Aulaqi, aka al-Awlaki, left the San Diego mosque in the summer of 2000. After traveling overseas, including to Britain, he moved to Falls Church and became the spiritual leader of Dar al-Hijrah in January 2001. Two months later, Al-Hazmi joined Aulaqi in Falls Church, along with Hani Hanjour, who also lived in San Diego for a time, and they began attending Dar al-Hijrah. Hanjour is said to have piloted Flight 77 into the Pentagon.

One of the members of the mosque, Eyad Alrababah, helped them find an apartment and obtain fake IDs through the local immigrant community. About a month later, he drove them, along with two other hijackers, on a trip to Connecticut, where they checked into a hotel for two nights and made some 75 calls to locate apartments, flight schools and car-rental agencies for the hijackers, the report says. The group also traveled to New Jersey.

The report also says that during a search of co-conspirator Ramzi bin al-Shibh´s apartment in Hamburg, Germany, authorities found the phone number for the imam´s mosque in Falls Church -- Dar al-Hijrah. Bin al- Shibh roomed with Mohamed Atta, the hijacking ringleader.

The report quotes an FBI agent responsible for the Sept. 11 investigation saying, "There´s a lot of smoke there," regarding Aulaqi´s connection to the hijackers.

The FBI is not actively investigating Aulaqi, however. It closed an inquiry into his activities in March 2000, shortly after al-Hazmi and al-Midhar arrived in San Diego.

"During the counterterrorism inquiry," the report said, "the FBI discovered that the imam was in contact with a number of other persons of investigative interest," and had connections to suspected terrorist front groups.

The report says Aulaqi in early 2000 was visited by one of the subjects of a Los Angeles investigation who was closely associated with Blind Sheikh al-Rahman, a convicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Dar al-Hijrah´s Malik says that, for his part, he never met the "alleged hijackers," as he repeatedly referred to them. And he asserts that the lanky, bearded Aulaqi, who´s in his early thirties, did not know them, noting attendance is fluid at the mosque, which attracts more than 3,000 worshipers each Friday to its prayer services.

Malik says he´s not worried about the negative attention. "It only boosts our popularity," he said. "It´s PR."

And he challenged the FBI to eavesdrop on the mosque´s sermons and worship services, predicting "they will only see what a good religion this is, and convert."

Malik explains Aulaqi went to Yemen last year not to escape investigators, but the growing resentment he saw toward Muslims in America after Sept 11. He said he then came back to the U.S. from Yemen for a brief visit in the fall "to close out his business." He had been studying to get his doctorate at George Washington University. Malik says he also traveled to Phoenix, before returning to Yemen.

Both Aulaqi´s parents are from Yemen, an al-Qaida hotbed. In 2000, suicide bombers there attacked the USS Cole.

According to leaks from a still-classified section of the report, Omar al-Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi intelligence agent and advance man for the hijackers, delivered $400,000 from Saudi Arabia for a mosque in San Diego.

Asked if Dar al-Hijrah receives funding from Saudi sources, Malik replied "not to my knowledge."

Dar al-Hijrah is favored by Washington´s Palestinian community. About 25 percent of its worshipers are Palestinians, most of whom are stridently opposed to U.S. aid to Israel and support Hamas, which enlists Palestinian suicide bombers. Saudi has raised money for the families of the suicide bombers.

Aulaqi preached sermons critical of U.S. foreign policy; and after Sept. 11, members of his flock readily blamed the attacks on Israel.

He also opposed U.S. bombing of Afghanistan in retaliation for the attacks, and suggested it would only steel the resolve of al-Qaida terrorists.

"People were willing to kill themselves on Sept. 11, and a few missiles won´t intimidate them," Aulaqi told the Washington Times a month after the attacks.

Another anti-Israeli firebrand, Sheikh al-Hanooti, preceded him as a Dar al-Hijrah imam.

At the 1997 Islamic Association for Palestine convention, al-Hanooti was captured on videotape proclaiming that "Jews are the enemy of Allah," notes terrorism expert Steven Emerson.

Dar al-Hijrah only last Friday replaced Aulaqi. Its new imam, Mohammed Adam El-Sheikh, comes from the Masjid al-Rahma mosque in Baltimore. He was a founding member of Dar al-Hijrah, established in 1983. Before that, he was a senior judge in the sharia courts in Sudan, another al-Qaida hotbed.

Dar al-Hijrah runs a school, Washington Islamic Academy, in nearby Springfield, Va. It uses textbooks imported from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia that are laced with anti-Christian and anti-Semitic dogma, observers say. (© 2003 WorldNetDaily.com, Inc. 08/05/03)

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