Source: AFP, 21/12/2010
WASHINGTON — US-Yemeni cleric and terror suspect Anwar al-Awlaki is a top terrorism threat on par with Osama bin Laden, the top US law enforcement officer said Tuesday.
"He's on the same list with bin Laden," said US Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking on US television.
"He's up there -- one, two, three, four. I don't know. He's on the list of people that worry me the most," Holder told ABC television news.
Al-Awlaki, an American citizen who remains at large in Yemen, is suspected of being a leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and of instigating a string of attacks against the United States.
"He has shown a desire to harm the United States," Holder told ABC.
"We want to neutralize him. We'll do whatever we can to do that," he said.
Yemeni authorities, under mounting US pressure to fight Al-Qaeda after a foiled air cargo bomb plot, charged Awlaki last month with alleged ties to Al-Qaeda and and ordered his arrest by any means possible.
The Yemen-based branch of Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the parcel bomb plot and as well as for the September downing of an American cargo plane in Dubai.
The cleric has not immediately been linked to the parcel bombs, but American officials have long accused him of instigating terrorism from Yemen, where he is believed to be hiding in a remote area of Shabwa.
US officials said they believe Al-Awlaki has links with Major Nidal Hasan who is has been charged with shooting dead 13 people at Fort Hood military base in Texas.
They also believe that the outlaw cleric had contact with Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the alleged "underwear bomber," accused of trying to blow up a plane over the US on Christmas Day last year.
Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and headquarters of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has been under intense pressure from Washington to hunt down Awlaki.