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Sunday, February 7, 2010
NewsNationalExperts: Al Qaeda in Yemen may send American jihadis, recruited by Anwar al-Awlaki, to attack U.S.

Experts: Al Qaeda in Yemen may send American jihadis, recruited by Anwar al-Awlaki, to attack U.S.

Thursday, February 4th 2010, 12:08 AM

Radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American, is on a targeting list signed off on by the Obama administration, The News has confirmed.
Radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American, is on a targeting list signed off on by the Obama administration, The News has confirmed.

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WASHINGTON - Counterterror chiefs fear Al Qaeda in Yemen may soon be sending American jihadis recruited by a radical cleric to attack the U.S., the Daily News has learned.

America's most senior intelligence officials told senators on Tuesday an attempted strike by terrorists within six months is "certain."

"There was nothing specific any of them were alluding to," a senior counterterror official told The News. "But we certainly have indications that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has a variety of plans to strike the United States."

Anyone who thinks underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was "the only one trained to execute a plan would be incredibly naive," the official said.

Radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American, is now on a targeting list signed off on by the Obama administration, The News has confirmed.

Asked by Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) Wednesday about the "hypothetical" targeted killing of an American "cleric" overseas, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair explained why they'd draw a bull's-eye on someone like Awlaki.

"We don't target people for free speech. We target them for taking action that threatens Americans," Blair told the House Intelligence Committee.

"If we think direct action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that," Blair added.

Awlaki befriended several 9/11 hijackers while an imam at mosques in San Diego and Washington's Virginia suburbs.

From Yemen, he traded e-mails with the Fort Hood mass killer, U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, and with Nigerian rich kid Abdulmutallab, whom he also likely met with, according to the sources.

"We don't know how many additional Americans he's gotten to," the senior official said of Awlaki, who escaped a Dec. 24 U.S. air strike aimed at Al Qaeda in Arabia leaders.

Awlaki told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that Abdulmutallab was his "student" but he didn't give him a fatwa - a religious order - to bomb a U.S.-bound jetliner. He did allow that he's looking over his shoulder due to his unapologetic ties to the other killers.

Special operations units are actively targeting Al Qaeda leaders in Yemen with air strikes, but a source insisted they're not conducting any ground raids yet.

Meanwhile, three U.S. troops were killed and two wounded by a bomb in the lower Dir Valley of Pakistan, officials said. They were the first known U.S. military fatalities in the lawless region near the Afghan border.

U.S. Central Command said the troops were part of a training mission. Dir is due south of Chitral, where many sources have pinpointed the CIA's hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

A military spokesman said U.S. special operations forces have been part of a program to train Pakistan's tribal Frontier Corps.

jmeek@nydailynews.com

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