Yemen says Nigerian may have met radical cleric

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SAN’A, Yemen (AP) — Yemen says the Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a U.S. passenger jet on Christmas may have met with a radical American-Yemeni cleric linked to al-Qaida and the alleged Fort Hood shooter as part of his preparations for the failed attack.

The deputy prime minister said Thursday that 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab met with al-Qaida members in the remote Yemeni province of Shabwa before the attack, a place he said he believed was connected to radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

“There is no doubt that he met and had contacts with al-Qaida elements in Shabwa, … perhaps with al-Awlaki,” Rashad al-Alimi, Yemen’s deputy prime minister for defense and security, told reporters.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

SAN’A, Yemen (AP) — Yemen’s deputy prime minister says the Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a U.S. passenger jet on Christmas met here with a radical American-Yemeni cleric linked to al-Qaida and the alleged Fort Hood shooter.

Rashad al-Alimi says Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab met with cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, and other al-Qaida leaders in Yemen.

Al-Awlaki, a cleric popular among al-Qaida sympathizers for his calls for jihad, or holy war, became notorious in the U.S. after he exchanged dozens of e-mails with U.S. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who allegedly killed 13 people in a mass shooting at the Fort Hood, Texas Army post on Nov. 5.

Al-Alimi says Yemen has arrested a number of al-Qaida elements who had contacts with the Abdulmutallab and is interrogating them.

(This version CORRECTS APNewsNow; corrects to clarify that Yemen suspects the two met, rather than confirms)