Saudi Outlet Asharq al-Awsat Quick to Note AQAP Connection in Western Attacks
On November 11, 2009, Asharq al-Awsat highlighted a story from the Associated Press noting Anwar al-Awlaki’s communications with Major Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter. Asharq al-Awsat claimed “Yemeni authorities are now hunting for Anwar al-Awlaki to determine whether he has al-Qaeda ties.” The article mentioned that Hasan had communicated with Awlaki “10 to 20 times over several months” in 2008, pointing out that Awlaki had urged “Muslims around the world to kill U.S. troops,” and that he had been in contact with 9/11 hijackers Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi while preaching at a mosque in San Diego. “US Imam Wanted in Yemen over Al-Qaeda Suspicions,” Asharq al-Awsat, November 11, 2009, http://www.aawsat.net/2009/11/article55252912.
Asharq al-Awsat was also quick to report the Al-Qaeda link to the Christmas Day Bomber plot. At the same time that Al Jazeera published its first article on the subject, and the day before it published “Jet Bomb ‘Not Part of Larger Plot,’”“Jet bomb ‘not part of larger plot,’” Al Jazeera English, December 28, 2009, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2009/12/200912283820592544.html. Asharq al-Awsat featured the headline “Christmas Bomber ‘Trained’ by Al-Qaeda in Yemen,” noting that the “allegations highlight Yemen’s growing centrality” to global terrorism.“Christmas Bomber ‘Trained’ by al-Qaeda in Yemen,” Asharq Al-Awsat, December 27, 2009, http://www.aawsat.net/2009/12/article55252396. Citing ABC News and NBC News, the outlet’s reporting on Abdulmutallab was much more explicit about his time in Yemen, citing Abdulmutallab’s allegations that he had contacted a “radical Yemeni cleric [Anwar al-Awlaki] through the internet,” and that he spent “a month at an Al-Qaeda compound north of [Sanaa] and said he was denied permission to leave the site until he completed his training alongside a Saudi Al-Qaeda bombmaker.”“Christmas Bomber ‘Trained’ by Al-Qaeda in Yemen,” Asharq Al-Awsat, December 27, 2009, http://www.aawsat.net/2009/12/article55252396.
Although Arab media produced little original reporting on the Times Square Bomber plot, Asharq al-Awsat was one of the first Arab publications to run a story on the link between the attempted bomber Faisal Shahzad and American AQAP recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki.
On May 8, 2010, Asharq al-Awsat ran a story noting that Shahzad was impressed by al-Awlaki, though like Nidal Hasan, who carried out the deadly Fort Hood shooting attacks, Shahzad was not in direct contact with al-Qaeda or its leaders. The article claimed that “anger by itself was not enough,” citing al-Awlaki’s calls to target the U.S. as an influence that fixated Shahzad’s thinking.Mina la-Aribi, “Faisal Shahzad Tatarafuhu Tadrijiyan.. wa ‘Ajaba bi Al-Awlaki,” Asharq Al-Awsat, May 8, 2010, http://classic.aawsat.com/details.asp?section=4&article=568623&issueno=11484#.U6ns5LFCxoI. The article pointed out that Awlaki had been in direct contact with both Nidal Hasan and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab before they carried out their respective attacks.Mina la-Aribi, “Faisal Shahzad Tatarafuhu Tadrijiyan.. wa ‘Ajaba bi Al-Awlaki,” Asharq Al-Awsat, May 8, 2010, http://classic.aawsat.com/details.asp?section=4&article=568623&issueno=11484#.U6ns5LFCxoI.