US-Yemeni cleric: Arab unrest chance for al-Qaida

AP News
Posted: Mar 31, 2011 1:47 PM
US-Yemeni cleric: Arab unrest chance for al-Qaida

A U.S.-born radical Yemeni cleric claims in a new article that violent Islamist groups will be able to take advantage of the Arab world's wave of popular unrest, even if it leads to secular governments in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and other countries.

Anwar al-Awlaki writes in a new edition of al-Qaida's online magazine that any new governments will be weaker than the regimes they are replacing, and that will create opportunities for al-Qaida and its allies to operate with more freedom.

"Even if the upcoming governments wanted to continue with a policy of appeasing the West and Israel, they would not have the strength and depth of power that the previous governments had developed over the past three decades," al-Awlaki writes in the English-language article.

Western experts and government officials have described the overthrow of the Western-allied presidents of Tunisia and Egypt by peaceful and ideologically moderate uprisings as blows to the violent ideology of al-Qaida and other militant groups.

Al-Awlaki writes that such statements by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates "prove that either the intelligence reports these guys are reading are misleading or that they are trying to justify the stance that they are forced to take in support of the Arab masses, by claiming that they are bad for al Qaeda when they know very well that the opposite is the case."

Whatever the outcome of the revolts, "our mujahideen brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya .. will get a chance to breathe again after three decades of suffocation," he writes.

Al-Awlaki writes that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi imprisoned thousands of militants who will now have a chance to regroup in the turmoil and rejoin other fighters.

The al-Qaida-linked cleric is believed to have offered inspiration to attacks in the United States. Militants in Yemen have made territorial gains in recent days as its government has weakened in the face of popular demonstrations that have won support of tribal leaders, military defectors and clerics there.