Detroit bomber co-operating with FBI

The Nigerian suspect in a failed Christmas Day airliner bombing has turned against the cleric who claims to be his teacher.

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WASHINGTON // The Nigerian suspect in a failed Christmas Day airliner bombing turned against the cleric who claims to be his teacher and has helped the US hunt for the radical preacher, a law enforcement official said yesterday. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian who faces terrorism charges in the Christmas bombing, has been co-operating with the FBI for days, providing information about his contacts in Yemen and the al Qa'eda affiliate that operates there. His co-operation over the US-born Yemeni radical, Anwar al Awlaki, is significant because it could provide fresh clues for authorities trying to capture or kill him in the remote mountains of Yemen. Al Awlaki has emerged as a prominent al Qa'eda recruiter and has been tied to September 11, Mr Abdulmutallab and the suspect in November's deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas. The law enforcement official would not say what information Mr Abdulmutallab provided, but al Awlaki himself said in a recent interview that he and Mr Abdulmutallab had kept in contact. A senior US intelligence official said al Awlaki represented the biggest name on the list of people Mr Abdulmutallab might have information against. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive ongoing investigation. Mr Abdulmutallab's co-operation with US authorities is at the centre of a political dispute in Washington. Democrats say it proves the Obama administration was correct to handle the case as a criminal matter. Republicans accuse the administration of leaking details for political purposes. Mr Abdulmutallab agreed to co-operate after FBI agents flew to Nigeria and returned to the US with Mr Abdulmutallab's family members. In a federal prison outside Detroit, Mr Abdulmutallab's father and uncle persuaded him to co-operate with the FBI, according to a US official briefed on the talks who also spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing case. A month before the attack, Mr Abdulmutallab's father warned the US Embassy in Nigeria that his son might be dangerous, a warning that officials failed to connect to other evidence that intelligence officials had gathered. The US president, Barack Obama, has said the US had enough information to prevent the attack. Al Awlaki, who once preached in mosques in California and northern Virginia and posted fiery English-language internet sermons urging Muslims to fight in jihad, said in an interview released yesterday that he taught the Christmas bomber and supported his efforts but did not call for the attack. "Brother mujahed Umar Farouk - may God relieve him - is one of my students, yes," al-Awlaki said in the interview, which Al Jazeera reported on its website on Tuesday. "We had kept in contact, but I didn't issue a fatwa to Umar Farouk for this operation," al Awlaki was quoted as saying. Understanding al Awlaki's connection to Mr Abdulmutallab and to al Qa'eda in the Arab Peninsula is a key to the US investigation of the attack and its effort to disrupt other plots. On November 11, British intelligence officials sent the US a cable revealing that a man named Umar Farouk had spoken to al Awlaki, pledging to support jihad, or holy war.

* AP