FORT HOOD, Texas - A radical American imam on Yemen's most wanted militant list who had contact with two 9/11 hijackers on Monday praised alleged Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan as a hero on his personal Web site.
The posting on the Web site for Anwar al Awlaki, who was a spiritual leader at two mosques where three 9/11 hijackers worshipped, said American Muslims who condemned the attacks on the Texas military base last week are hypocrites who have committed treason against their religion.
Awlaki said the only way a Muslim can justify serving in the U.S. military is if he intends to "follow in the footsteps of men like Nidal."
"Nidal Hassan (sic) is a hero. He is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people," Awlaki wrote.
Two U.S. intelligence officials told The Associated Press the Web site was Awlaki's. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence collection. Awlaki did not immediately respond to an attempt to contact him through the Web site.
Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, is accused of killing 13 and wounding 29 in a shooting spree Thursday.
Authorities say Hasan fired off more than 100 rounds before civilian police shot him in the torso. He was taken into custody and eventually moved to an Army hospital in San Antonio, where he was in stable condition and able to talk, said Dewey Mitchell, a Brooke Army Medical Center spokesman.
Sixteen victims remained hospitalized with gunshot wounds, and seven were in intensive care.
Sought by Yemen
Hasan's family attended the Dar al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., where Awlaki was preaching in 2001. Hasan's mother's funeral was held at the mosque on May 31, 2001, according to her obituary in the Roanoke Times newspaper, around the same time two 9/11 hijackers worshipped at the mosque and while Awlaki was preaching.
Awlaki is a native-born U.S. citizen who left the United States in 2002, eventually traveling to Yemen. He was released from a Yemeni jail last year and has since gone missing. He is on Yemen's most wanted militant list, according to three Yemeni security officials.
The officials say Awlaki was arrested in 2006 with a small group of suspected al-Qaida militants in the capital San'a. They say he was released more than a year later after signing a pledge he will not break the law or leave the country. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The Falls Church mosque is one of the largest on the East Coast, and thousands of worshippers attend prayers and services there every week.
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, outreach director at Dar al Hijrah, said he did not know whether Hasan ever attended the mosque but confirmed that the Hasan family participated in services there. Abdul-Malik said the Hasans were not leaders at the mosque and their attendance was normal.
Known to investigators
A former senior U.S. intelligence official said Awlaki is well known in the intelligence community.
The Homeland Security Department's intelligence division became concerned about Awlaki late last year when he published a new group of violent lectures targeting U.S. audiences, according to a Jan. 22, 2009 intelligence note.
On Dec. 23, 2008, Awlaki, on his Web site, encouraged Muslims across the world to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. Awlaki also used these postings to declare his support for the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab, according to the Homeland Security intelligence note, obtained by The Associated Press.
In December of last year, Customs officials intercepted a flash drive of Awlaki's lectures that his wife sent from Yemen to an Islamic publishing house in Denver, the intelligence note said.
Awlaki told the FBI in 2001 that, before he moved to Virginia in early 2001, he met with 9/11 hijacker Nawaf al-Hazmi several times in San Diego. Al-Hazmi was at the time living with Khalid al-Mihdhar, another hijacker. Al-Hazmi and another hijacker, Hani Hanjour, attended the Dar al Hijrah mosque in Virginia in early April 2001.
In his FBI interview, Awlaki denied ever meeting with al-Hazmi and Hanjour while in Virginia.
He was investigated by the FBI in 1999 and 2000 after it was learned that he may have been contacted by a possible procurement agent for Osama bin Laden. During this investigation, the FBI learned that Awlaki knew people involved in raising money for Hamas, a Palestinian group on the U.S. State Department's terrorist list.