WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S.-born Muslim cleric is a leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen and helped direct the failed attempt to blow up a passenger jet over Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009, the U.S. government said on Friday.
The U.S. Treasury said it blacklisted Anwar al-Awlaki as a “specially designated global terrorist”, a move under an executive order that freezes any assets he may have under U.S. jurisdiction.
The action also prohibits Americans and U.S. firms from engaging in any transactions with al-Awlaki, 39.
The Obama administration in April authorized operations to capture or kill al-Awlaki, who has been described by some U.S. officials as America’s top terrorist threat.
The Treasury said in a statement that al-Awlaki has pledged an oath of loyalty to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and has recruited individuals to join the group.
He also has facilitated training at camps in Yemen to support acts of terrorism and “helped focus AQAP’s attention on planning attacks on U.S. interests,” the statement said.
The Treasury said New Mexico-born al-Awlaki provided instructions to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, accused of trying to detonate a bomb on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on December 25.
After receiving instructions, Abdulmutallab obtained the explosive device he used in the failed attack, the Treasury said.
“Anwar al-Awlaki has proven that he is extraordinarily dangerous, committed to carrying out deadly attacks on Americans and others worldwide,” Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence Stuart Levey said in a statement.
“He has involved himself in every aspect of the supply chain of terrorism — fundraising for terrorist groups, recruiting and training operatives, and planning and ordering attacks on innocents.”
A U.S. Treasury official said al-Awlaki is the fourth person with a U.S. passport or Social Security number to receive such a terrorist designation since the executive order was put in place during the George W. Bush administration in 2001, shortly after the September 11 attacks.
The others were blacklisted in 2001 and 2003.
Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Jerry Norton