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Yemen cleric denies links to terrorism

Yemeni cleric Sheikh Abdulmajeed Al Zendani, left, speaks during a press conference in Sanaa. (AP)


Prominent Yemeni cleric Sheikh Abdulmajeed Al Zendani denied yesterday having links with US-Yemeni imam Anwar Al Awlaqi who is suspected of being behind the botched Christmas Day US plane bombing.

Zendani, whom the US government has identified as a "global terrorist", also told a press conference that any US military deployment in Yemen to fight Al Qaeda would be tantamount to an "occupation".

"I was never the teacher of Anwar Al Awlaqi," Zendani said, adding however that the US-Yemeni imam suspected of having a hand in the failed bid to blow up a Northwest airliner could have been influenced by his teachings. "Am I to be responsible for anyone who listens to my sermons or who reads my books," said Zendani, a cleric who has a large following in Yemen where he is the founder of Al Eiman Islamic university.

Awlaqi worked in the United States for a charitable organisation founded by Zendani.

US Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan has accused Awlaqi of having links with the man suspected of shooting dead 13 people at a Texas military base in November, Major Nidal Hasan. He also said the US-born imam might have had contact with Nigerian suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who has been charged in a bid to blow up the US airliner and is on trial in the US.

The Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has claimed responsibility for the attack, putting back the spotlight on Yemen – an impoverished country with a history of battling Al Qaeda.

Zendani said he opposed the deployment of US troops in the country and also rejected plans by London to host an international conference on Yemen later this month.

"We reject any military occupation of our country and we do not accept the return of colonialism," Zendani said.


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