A radical Yemeni sheikh, who was a confidante of Major Nidal Hasan, denied inciting the army psychiatrist to carry out last November's deadly shootings at Fort Hood and instead pointed the finger of blame at the United States.
Known for his incendiary anti-American teachings, Anwar Al-'Awlaki faulted American foreign policy for creating the conditions which ignited the rampage in which 13 were killed, according to the text of an interview posted on Aljazeera.net. An English translation of the Q&A was supplied to CBSNews.com by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
"I did not recruit Nidal Hasan to this operation; the one who recruited him was America, with its crimes and injustice, and this is what America refuses to admit," Al-'Awlaki said.
"America does not want to admit that what Nidal did, and what thousands of other Muslims do against America, is because of its unjust policies against the Islamic world. Nidal Hasan is a Muslim before he is an American, and he is also from Palestine, and he sees the oppression of the Jewish oppression of his people under American cover and support. True, I may have a role in his intellectual direction, but nothing beyond that, and I am not trying to absolve myself of what he did because I do not support it. No, but because I wish I had had the honor of having a bigger role in what happened than the role I really had."
Al-'Awlaki , who was born in the U.S. and now lives in Yemen, said the two first became acquainted when Al-'Awlaki served as the imam of the Dar Al-Hijra Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va.
He said Hasan contacted him by email a year ago to ask whether the killing of American soldiers and officers could be justified as religiously legitimate, and that they continued their correspondence until the middle of this year.
"He was asking about killing American soldiers and officers. [He asked] whether this is a religiously legitimate act or not," Al-'Awlaki told Aljazeera.net.
"The first message was asking for an edict regarding the [possibility] of a Muslim soldier killing his colleagues who serve with him in the American army. In other messages, Nidal was clarifying his position regarding the killing of Israeli civilians. He was in support of this, and in his messages he mentioned the religious justifications for targeting the Jews with missiles. Then there were some messages in which he asked for a way through which he could transfer some funds to us [and by this] participate in charitable activities."
Al-'Awlaki supplied AlJazeera.net with copies of his email exchanges with Hasan. After reading the documentation, the reporter, Abd Al-Ilah Heidar Shane', pressed further on the nature of their relationship. Reading the emails, he said, "I found that he trusts you and respects you, and now you are telling me that [you have] no direct or strong relationship with him?"
"I told you about the correspondence, and I explained it, and I even gave you [those original copies], so that you can publish it, because the American administration forbade its publication," Al-'Awlaki said. "Why don't they want this correspondence out? What is the reason? [By banning it from publication,] do they want to cover up their security failure, or is it because they do not want to admit that Nidal Hasan is a man of principles, and that he did what he did in the service of Islam? They want [the operation] to be viewed as individual, unexpected behavior, that has no connection to the conduct of the criminal American army."
Al-Awlaki earned degrees in engineering at Colorado State and in education leadership at San Diego State, according to his Web site. In addition to serving as an imam in northern Virginia, Al-Awlaki worked at a mosque in San Diego. U. S. counterterrorism officials have closely watched him after finding evidence of contacts he had with three of the Sept. 11 hijackers.