Thursday, November 23, 2006

Imam Anwar al-Awlaki imprisoned in Yemen

Anwar al-Awlaki is a Muslim scholar who was born in New Mexico. His parents are from Yemen, where he lived for eleven years and received the early part of his Islamic education. Imam Anwar al-Awlaki served as an Imam in Colorado, California, and later in the Washington, D.C. area where he headed the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center and was also the Muslim Chaplain at George Washington University. Currently he resides in Yemen, where he was studying Shariah with prominent scholars, as he was banned from re-entering the United States despite being a U.S. citizen. He holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University, a M.A. in Education Leadership from San Diego State University and was working on a Doctorate degree in Human Resource Development at George Washington University being denied entry into the U.S. He authored many popular audio series including the "Lives of the Prophets", "The Hereafter" and "The Life of Muhammad".

In the early hours of October 17, a Yemeni secret police raid swept up eight foreigners living in Sana'a, under surveillance by the CIA and British intelligence, and at least 12 other men across Yemen. Yemeni authorities insist they dismantled an al-Qa'ida cell and disrupted a gun-running ring to neighbouring Somalia. It was subsequently reported that the key to the raids was Anwar Al Awlaki (identified in the media as 'Abu Atiq') who was arrested six weeks before the October 17 swoop. Media reports allege that 'Abu Atiq' was an associate of two of the September 11 hijackers and a protege of Abdul al-Majid al-Zindani, who the US wants arrested on terror charges. They also make mention of his alleged role in a foiled al-Qa'ida plot to bomb oil and gas facilities in Yemen.

He is believed to be held in Central Security Prison in Sana'a. Locals in Sanaa insist, perhaps apocryphally, that the two stories of the complex above ground sit atop eight stories underground, where torture rooms and darkened cells are often used. Whether or not people are tortured here, Western officials and aid groups are adamant that torture is regularly used in Yemen on terror suspects, or political prisoners.

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