Detroit bomber’s mentor continues to influence British mosques and universities

Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical cleric accused of inspiring the Detroit plane bomber, has been permitted to speak at a series of British mosques and universities, a Sunday Telegraph investigation has discovered.

By Patrick Sawer and David Barrett
Published: 9:00PM GMT 02 Jan 2010

Anwar al-Awlaki Photo: Mohammad Ud-Deen

Al-Awlaki has been accused by US counter terrorism officials and the Yemeni government of being one of the driving forces behind Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s conversion to an extreme form of Islam.

Today we can reveal al-Awlaki has spoken on at least seven occasions at five different venues around Britain via video-link in the last three years alone, despite being banned from entering this country in 2006.

On at least two occasions the American-born cleric addressed audiences at a Muslim centre which was receiving taxpayers money under Government’s programme to prevent violent extremism.

Al-Awlaki is one of a series of radical preachers who have spoken at venues benefiting from money intended to counter Islamist radicalisation.

Critics have condemned the ease with which al-Awlaki – described by the US Government as the spiritual leader of the 9/11 bombers – has been able to spread his message of hate and division in this country.

Al-Awlaki, who is also thought to have influenced Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the US soldier who killed 13 people at a military base in Texas in November, has been accused by the US Department of Homeland Security of using his video lectures to “encourage terrorist attacks”.

The 38-year-old’s extremist ideology is laid bare in his pamphlet ’44 Ways to Support Jihad’ in which he declares: “The hatred of kuffar [non-Muslims] is a central element of our military creed” and “arms training is an essential part of preparation for Jihad”.

His role in influencing Abdulmutallab, who is suspected of attempting to blow up a flight to Detroit on Christmas Day, has only become apparent in the past 48 hours.

Abdulmutallab, who moved to the Yemen in August 2009 after completing an engineering degree at University College London, has told the FBI he made contact with al-Qaeda through a preacher he met over the internet. This man is now thought to be al-Awlaki, who himself moved to the Yemen after leaving Britain in 2004.

Yemen’s deputy prime minister for defence and security affairs, Rashad Mohammed al-Alimi, said on Friday that investigators now believe Abdulmutallab met al-Qaeda operatives in a house built by al-Awlaki to hold theological sessions and where he had previously met Abdulmutallab.

It had been thought the extremist cleric had been killed in a Christmas Eve air strike on the house, in the southeastern Yemen province of Shabwa, but Mr al-Alimi said he is believed to be still alive.

Al-Awlaki’s influence on Abdulmutallab is understood to have begun during the bomber’s time as a student in London between September 2005 and the end of 2008. He is thought to have attended at least one of a number of video-link lectures given by al-Awlaki at the East London Mosque‘s London Muslim Centre (LMC), in Whitechapel, during this period.

Despite the LMC receiving at least £60,000 in funding from the Government’s Preventing Violent Extremism Fund (PVEF) in the past two years, al-Awlaki has during that period been allowed to address at least two gatherings at the venue via video-link, including one on New Year’s Day last year called The End of Time and advertised with a poster showing the destruction of New York.

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