Yemen ‘will not hand over al-Qaida linked cleric to US’

YEMEN will refuse to hand over a US-born, al-Qaida-linked cleric to the United States if he is captured because its law bans extradition of citizens, an official said yesterday.

Yemeni-American cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, is believed to be hiding in Yemen since 2004. The US says he is an active al-Qaida recruiter and has placed him on the CIA’s list of terrorist targets to be killed or captured, despite his American citizenship. Yemen’s al-Qaida offshoot last month released a video of al-Awlaki calling for the killing of Americans.

Al-Awlaki is also believed to have helped inspire recent attacks in the US, including the Fort Hood shooting, the Times Square bombing attempt and the failed Christmas Day airline bombing.

Yemen’s Islamic Affairs Minister Hamoud al-Hitar told reporters that Yemen is encouraging al-Awlaki to turn himself in, but if he is apprehended, he will not be extradited to the US.

“There are constitutional and legal texts the government cannot get around,” al-Hitar said.

He said the US should provide any proof it has of al-Awlaki’s terrorist ties “to the Yemeni justice system, so it can do its job”.

Al-Hitar’s remarks come as the US has encouraged Yemen to step up its crackdown on al-Qaida.

US officials worry that the network’s offshoot has found refuge in the country’s remote, lawless areas and could be plotting attacks against US and other Western targets from the hideouts.

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