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Prosecutors charge U.S.-born cleric with additional crimes in Yemen

By the CNN Wire Staff
An image of Anwar Al-Awlaki released by the SITE Intelligence Group  on October 23, 2010.
An image of Anwar Al-Awlaki released by the SITE Intelligence Group on October 23, 2010.
  • Troops deployed to capture U.S.-born cleric in Yemen
  • Suspect is charged with killing a French national
  • Hisham Asim is linked to Anwar al-Awlaki
  • The trial resumes next week

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) -- A judge in Yemen on Saturday ordered the capture of U.S.-born militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, prompting the deployment of more troops to seize the man and bring him to court.

A Yemeni security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told CNN that security forces sent hundreds of additional troops to the volatile Shabwa province to help in the ongoing search for al-Awlaki, now on a CIA and military hit list to be captured or killed.

Last week, security forces and local tribesmen began the hunt for al-Awlaki, regarded by the United States as a terrorist and propagandist who has become an important operational figure within al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.

The court order, from Judge Mohsen Alwan, came during a trial of suspected militants in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. Prosecutors accused al-Awlaki and two others with "forming an armed gang" to target foreign officers and law enforcement.

Al-Awlaki and his cousin, Othman al-Awlaki, were charged along with Hisham Asim, who is accused of killing a French national last month who worked for an Austrian oil and gas company.

Earlier this week in court, the al-Awlakis were charged with inciting violence against foreigners and Asim was charged with the killing and with having ties to al Qaeda.

The al-Awlakis are at large and were charged in absentia, but Asim was present in court Saturday.

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During questioning by Alwan, Asim claimed he was tortured during interrogation.

Prosecutors say Asim was incited to kill foreigners after months of correspondence with Anwar al-Awlaki.

Asim denied all charges against him.

The judge also suggested that Anwar al-Awlaki was a member of a terrorist organization, opening the door to formally charging al-Awlaki with being a member of al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing and trying him as an al Qaeda suspect in later hearings.

The session was later adjourned until next Saturday.

Al-Awlaki has been linked by U.S. authorities to Fort Hood shooting suspect Maj. Nidal Hasan and the suspect accused in the Christmas Day airline bombing attempt.

Investigators have not announced a link between him and the recent U.S. bomb plot tied to militants in Yemen.

AQAP on Friday claimed responsibility for the plot and a September UPS cargo plane crash in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Over the past several months, Yemen, which wants to be seen as a committed partner in the fight against terrorism, has launched several offensives against al Qaeda.

Journalist Hakim Almasmari contributed to this report