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Al-Awlaki's father denies endorsing terror

By Paula Newton, CNN
updated 8:49 PM EST, Thu December 8, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Radical group claims Nasser al-Awlaki supports his son's terror tactics
  • "A media outlet recently misunderstood me to be endorsing violence," he says
  • His son, Anwar al-Awlaki, and his teen grandson were killed in U.S. drone strikes
  • In speech released last week, he said, "My son's blood did not, and will not, go in vain"

(CNN) -- Weeks after Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, his father is sparking controversy as radical Muslim groups claim he is now supporting his son's terror tactics against the West.

But in a statement released to CNN, Nasser al-Awlaki says his audio speech was misinterpreted.

"A media outlet recently misunderstood me to be endorsing violence, but that was not what I intended, nor is that what I have ever endorsed." the elder al-Awlaki wrote in a statement released to CNN Thursday through the American Civil Liberties Union.

"For years, my son gave lectures on Islam and how Muslims in the West can abide by their faith and live in accordance with the laws of Western societies," the statement said. "He also criticized U.S. foreign policy and called for justice for victims of unlawful wars and other abuses. These aspects of his sermons were important and true."

"I continue to believe that my son was illegally killed and deprived of his due process rights. I also don't understand how anyone can justify the use of a missile against my 16-year-old grandson and his young friends." al-Awlaki added.

The statement was released Wednesday and the ACLU says it remains in contact with Nasser al-Awlaki regarding the killings of his son and grandson by U.S. drone strikes on September 30.

Before Nasser released his latest statement, his words of support to Muslims around the world who mourned his son's death were seen as suspect. They were his first published reaction to the death of his son and grandson.

In comments released December 2 in an audio speech online to a U.K.-based group calling itself the "United Ummah," Nasser al-Awlaki says his son "was assassinated because of his teachings, as one senior official said bluntly when Anwar was in prison, 'We want to shut him up.' No evidence was ever presented against him, and no evidence will ever be. They knew that Imam Anwar al-Awlaki carried an effective message, a message that was simple and straightforward," he says in a audiotape speech.

He adds ambiguously towards the end of his speech, "My son's blood did not, and will not, go in vain."

Before the elder al-Awlaki attempted to clarify his remarks, some observers underscored the fact that a conversion to his son's cause would lend a convincing boost to radical groups trying to recruit followers, especially online.

"By extension they can say that any Muslims in the West who think they're safe are not, because if you look at how they treated this great preacher, this harmless sheik, and you see how they killed him for nothing and you see how they killed his 16-year-old son, you're not safe either and you better get up and do something before it's too late," said Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, a research fellow at The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at Kings' College, London. "That's the kind of messaging and it absolutely works."

Nasser al-Awlaki speaks English fluently and worked as an American college professor for many years. Through the ACLU he continues to question the legality of the U.S. drone strikes against his son and grandson, both of whom were U.S. citizens.

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