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Investigating Ties Between Al Qaeda's Trojan Horse and Christmas Day Bomber

11:25 AM, Jan 4, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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In my piece last week ("Al Qaeda's Trojan Horse"), I wrote about Mozzam Begg, a former Gitmo detainee, and his ties to Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab ("UFA").

In my piece last week ("Al Qaeda's Trojan Horse"), I wrote about Mozzam Begg, a former Gitmo detainee, and his ties to Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab ("UFA"). In short, Begg claims that he was an innocent who was wrongly imprisoned and "tortured" by American forces. His story is a complete fiction and yet he has become an effective jihadi propagandist in the West because media outlets treat him as a credible source. Begg is not credible in any way, however. (I have previously written about Begg here and here.) Begg is in the news once again because he spoke at a conference that UFA hosted while he was the president of the Islamic Society at the University College of London (UCL). Begg and at least one other member of Begg's organization, Cage Prisoners, spoke at the conference, which was part of something called a "War on Terror Week." Begg spoke during that event, which was really an anti-American hate fest. (The New York Times has aptly described the "guest speakers" at this and other events hosted by UFA's organization as "radical imams, former Guantanamo Bay prisoners and a cast of mostly left-wing, anti-American British politicians and human rights advocates.") There is another connection between UFA and Begg. They both share a common al Qaeda ally: Anwar al Awlaki. Begg and his organization have been big proponents of Awlaki. Begg has organized a PR campaign to agitate for Awlaki's release when he was briefly detained in Yemen, published Awlaki's writings on the Cage Prisoners web site, and generally acted as a conduit for broadcasting Awlaki's message into the UK. Begg has, therefore, provided a platform for Awlaki to infect the minds of young Muslims living in the UK -- just like UFA. In addition to offering "spiritual advice" to the Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, Awlaki also blessed UFA's Christmas Day operation. The British press is interested in Begg's ties to UFA and Awlaki. So, Begg has been asked for a response and the Times (UK) has published it:

Mr Begg told The Times that he had spoken at UCL five or six times but neither knew nor recalled meeting Mr Abdulmutallab. He confirmed that Cageprisoners campaigned for al-Awlaki when he was held in Yemen and had been in contact with the preacher after his release. "It seems from what has been reported that he may have changed his position after his incarceration in Yemen, which seems to have included being interviewed by US intelligence agents," said Mr Begg. "Since the Fort Hood shootings there has been no contact with Anwar al-Awlaki. Our previous contact with him was via e-mail and I interviewed him on the phone. But we are not in contact with him now and have no idea what he is up to."

There are at least two observations to be made based on Begg's response. First, Begg is trying to pin the blame for Awlaki's jihadist ways on America. This is Begg's standard, mendacious schtick. Begg claims that Awlaki "changed his position after his incarceration in Yemen, which seems to have included being interviewed by US intelligence agents." Got that? The implication is that Awlaki wasn't really a jihadist al Qaeda cleric until U.S. intelligence agents supposedly interrogated him (and probably "tortured" him). We don't even know that American agents ever interrogated Awlaki in Yemen, but even if they did this is an obvious lie. Awlaki's jihadist ways date back to before the September 11 attacks, when Awlaki was a "spiritual advisor" for at least two (maybe as many as four) of the 9/11 hijackers en route to their day of terror. Awlaki has an extensive terrorist dossier and it predates his time in Yemeni custody by years, so Begg's "Blame America" routine is once again an obvious fiction. Second, note that despite the fact that Begg denies remembering UFA he concedes that he spoke "five or six times" at the University College of London. Despite Begg's denial, this raises the possibility that Begg interacted with UFA on more than one occasion. Did Begg have substantive ties to UFA, up and beyond appearing at the "War on Terror Week" event? The Times (UK) reports that the "British arm of the investigation" into UFA's life is looking into "his connection to Cage Prisoners," which is Begg's organization. Indeed, investigators would be well-served to investigate further Begg's on-campus appearances and any other ties he may have to UFA.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.