WASHINGTON – A Muslim cleric tied to two of the Saudi
hijackers who crashed a jumbo jet into the Pentagon is
weighing job offers in Saudi Arabia, says an official
at the hard-line mosque he used to head here.
The imam, Anwar al-Awlaki, gave politically charged
sermons at Dar
al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., the
largest mosque in the country. He was the subject of
an FBI counterterrorism probe before the Sept. 11
“He’s exploring some opportunities to do some teaching
in Saudi Arabia,” said Dar al-Hijrah spokesman Johari
Malik, who told WorldNetDaily he met with al-Awlaki in
Saudi this spring.
Saudi clerics typically teach a puritanical brand of
Islam called Wahhabism, which is practiced by al-Qaida
leader Osama bin Laden.
Al-Awlaki, now living in Yemen, was the “spiritual
adviser” to at least two of the five hijackers of
American Airlines Flight 77 – all of whom were Saudi
nationals – and held “closed-door meetings” with
them, according to the recently declassified 9-11
He first met with hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid
al-Midhar at a San Diego mosque he led.
Al-Awlaki left the San Diego mosque in
the summer of 2000. After traveling overseas,
including to Britain, he moved to Falls Church and
became the spiritual leader of Dar al-Hijrah in
January 2001. Two months later, Al-Hazmi joined al-Awlaki
in Falls Church, along with Hani Hanjour, who also
lived in San Diego for a time, and they began
attending Dar al-Hijrah. Hanjour is said to have
piloted Flight 77 into the Pentagon.
One of the members of the mosque, Eyad Alrababah,
helped them find an apartment and obtain fake IDs
through the local immigrant community. About a month
later, he drove them, along with two other hijackers,
on a trip to Connecticut, where they checked into a
hotel for two nights and made some 75 calls to locate
apartments, flight schools and car-rental agencies for
the hijackers, the report says. The group also
traveled to New Jersey.
The report also says that during a search of
co-conspirator Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s apartment in
Hamburg, Germany, authorities found the phone number
for the imam’s mosque in Falls Church – Dar
al-Hijrah. Bin al-Shibh roomed with Mohamed Atta, the
The report quotes an FBI agent responsible for the
Sept. 11 investigation saying, “There’s a lot of smoke
there,” regarding al-Awlaki’s connection to the
The FBI is not actively investigating al-Awlaki, however.
It closed an inquiry into his activities in March
2000, shortly after al-Hazmi and al-Midhar arrived in
“During the counterterrorism inquiry,” the report
said, “the FBI discovered that the imam was in contact
with a number of other persons of investigative
interest,” and had connections to suspected terrorist
The report says al-Awlaki in early 2000 was visited by
one of the subjects of a Los Angeles investigation who
was closely associated with blind Sheikh al-Rahman, a
convicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade
Dar al-Hijrah’s Malik says that, for his part, he
never met the “alleged hijackers,” as he repeatedly
referred to them. And he asserts that the lanky,
bearded al-Awlaki, who’s in his early thirties, did not
know them, noting attendance is fluid at the mosque,
which attracts more than 3,000 worshipers each Friday
to its prayer services.
Malik says he’s not worried about the negative
attention. “It only boosts our popularity,” he said.
And he challenged the FBI to eavesdrop on the mosque’s
sermons and worship services, predicting “they will
only see what a good religion this is, and convert.”
Malik explains al-Awlaki went to Yemen last year not to
escape investigators, but the growing resentment he
saw toward Muslims in America after Sept 11. He said
he then came back to the U.S. from Yemen for a brief
visit in the fall “to close out his business.” He had
been studying to get his doctorate at George
Washington University. Malik says he also traveled to
Phoenix, before returning to Yemen.
Both al-Awlaki’s parents are from Yemen, an al-Qaida
hotbed. In 2000, suicide bombers there attacked the
According to leaks from a still-classified section of
the report, Omar al-Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi
intelligence agent and advance man for the hijackers,
delivered $400,000 from Saudi Arabia for a mosque in
Asked if Dar al-Hijrah receives funding from Saudi
sources, Malik replied “not to my knowledge.”
Dar al-Hijrah is favored by Washington’s Palestinian
community. About 25 percent of its worshipers are
Palestinians, most of whom are stridently opposed to
U.S. aid to Israel and support Hamas, which enlists
Palestinian suicide bombers. Saudi Arabia has raised money
for the families of the suicide bombers.
Al-Awlaki preached sermons critical of U.S. foreign
policy, and after Sept. 11, members of his flock
readily blamed the attacks on Israel.
He also opposed U.S. bombing of Afghanistan in
retaliation for the attacks, and suggested it would
only steel the resolve of al-Qaida terrorists.
“People were willing to kill themselves on Sept. 11,
and a few missiles won’t intimidate them,” al-Awlaki told
the Washington Times a month after the attacks.
Another anti-Israeli firebrand, Sheikh Mohammed al-Hanooti,
preceded him as a Dar al-Hijrah imam.
At the 1997 Islamic Association for Palestine
convention, al-Hanooti was captured on videotape
proclaiming that “Jews are the enemy of Allah,” notes
terrorism expert Steven Emerson.
Dar al-Hijrah only last Friday replaced al-Awlaki. Its
new imam, Mohammed Adam El-Sheikh, comes from the
Masjid al-Rahma mosque in Baltimore. He was a founding
member of Dar al-Hijrah, established in 1983. Before
that, he was a senior judge in the sharia courts in
Sudan, another al-Qaida hotbed.
Dar al-Hijrah runs a school, Washington
Islamic Academy, in nearby Springfield, Va. It
uses textbooks imported from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia
that are laced with anti-Christian and anti-Semitic
dogma, observers say.
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