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WASHINGTON – U.S. immigration records obtained by WorldNetDaily show the Muslim cleric who allegedly became the spiritual adviser to two of the 9-11 hijackers was in fact born in Yemen, not the U.S., and was living here on a 10-year-old student visa.
Officials at the large mosque here formerly led by Anwar al-Awlaki have told Time magazine and other media that, though al-Awlaki left the country last year for his parents’ homeland of Yemen, he was born in New Mexico.
In fact, records show al-Awlaki was born in Yemen on April 21, 1971, and first entered the U.S. as a citizen of Yemen on June 5, 1990. He came here on a J-1 visa to attend Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo.
“He was born in Yemen and is a citizen of Yemen,” a Homeland Security Department official told WorldNetDaily. “His last entry was 1992, and there is no departure record on file to show when, or if, he ever left the U.S.”
Johari Malik, spokesman for Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., insisted in a phone interview that his friend and former colleague was born in New Mexico, though he says he’s unsure of the city.
“Everybody I talk to in the community tells me that he is an American citizen,” Malik said.
The two hijackers, who died aboard the flight that crashed into the Pentagon, followed al-Awlaki from a mosque he led in San Diego to Dar al-Hijrah, which is about 30 minutes west of D.C. According to the recently declassified 9-11 report, al-Awlaki had “closed-door meetings” with them. What’s more, the phone number to the imam’s Dar al-Hijrah mosque was found in the German flat of a 9-11 plotter who roomed with hijacking ringleader Mohamed Atta.
The 32-year-old imam may have helped the hijackers, both Saudi nationals, prepare for martyrdom, says terrorism expert Steve Emerson. He uncovered a tape of al-Awlaki earlier this year exhorting the faithful at a London mosque to become shaheeds, or martyrs, explaining that Muslims who die in the cause of Allah have the inside track to Paradise.
Malik of Dar al-Hijrah, the largest mosque in the Washington area, if not the country, sees nothing wrong with such sermons.
“That’s the same thing as telling Marines in this country semper fidelis,” Malik told WorldNetDaily. “Telling people to give their all for their faith is not an unusual idea.”
The FBI had opened a counterterrorism case on al-Awlaki before 9-11, based on his contacts with other suspected terrorists. “There’s a lot of smoke there,” an FBI agent is quoted as saying in the 9-11 report. According to NBC News, which first reported on al-Awlaki’s disturbing London sermon, the FBI has renewed its investigation of al-Awlaki. An FBI spokesman here declined comment.
U.S. immigration authorities say, given the 10-year gap in his immigration records, al-Awlaki more than likely was “out of status,” or illegal. In addition, his work as an imam would have required him to apply for a different type of visa altogether.
His J-1 visa remained valid as long as he fulfilled
its requirements as indicated on the application form
that supports the visa. If he completed the purpose of
his visit noted on the form, which ostensibly was to
attend Colorado State University, and did not apply
for another visa to continue his immigration status,
then he would have been in violation of status.
Also, “when he became a religious leader at the first mosque, he would have been out of status on the J-1 visa,” a U.S. official said. “He would have at that time required an R-1 visa, which is for religious workers.”
And if al-Awlaki departed the U.S. last year, as Dar al-Hijrah spokesman Malik maintains, he apparently failed to turn in the departure part of his I-94 form, officials say.
According to U.S. immigration records, al-Awlaki entered the U.S. three times – first through Chicago in 1990, then again through Chicago on Aug. 29, 1991, and finally through New York City on Jan. 29, 1992. He used two addresses in Fort Collins, Colo.: 500 W. Prospect, No. 23L, in 1991, and 111 City Park I-10 in 1992.
Again, the last entry has no departure information.
Al-Awlaki has no current state driver’s license. He had one in Colorado, but it expired in 1997, records show.
It’s around that time al-Awlaki took over the leadership of the San Diego mosque. He resigned around July 2000 to travel abroad. In January 2001, he took over the Virginia mosque also attended by the hijackers.
At the same time, he enrolled at George Washington University to get a Ph.D. in human-resources development, according to registration records. He left before finishing his degree. His last date of attendance was in December 2001.
“No degree was awarded,” said GWU records official Andre Fletcher.
And he says al-Awlaki is not registered to take classes in the fall.
Malik says his friend left for Yemen in early 2002, re-entered the U.S. to take care of personal business in September or October of last year, then returned to Yemen about 10 days later. He says he was not fleeing investigators, but left to escape what he saw as a growing anti-Muslim climate in America.
He says al-Awlaki is fielding job offers to preach at mosques, and also on local TV, in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, as WorldNetDaily first reported last week. Malik says he recently met with al-Awlaki on hajj in Saudi.
Beginning Oct. 1, U.S. immigration inspectors were authorized to fingerprint and photograph all Yemeni and Saudi nationals visiting the U.S. Officials say al-Awlaki does not show up in the new registration program, known as NSEERS.
A July 25 Washington Post story first named al-Awlaki as the “imam” referenced in the 9-11 report. The story also named Dar al-Hijrah, which the report only referred to as a mosque in Falls Church. A week later, on Aug. 1, Dar al-Hijrah hired a new imam, Sheikh Mohammed Adam El-Sheikh of Baltimore, as WorldNetDaily also first reported.