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A radical Muslim cleric with alleged links to al-Qaida says he was a confidant of the U.S. Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people on a U.S. army base.
The Washington Post reports that the cleric, Yemeni-American Anwar al-Awlaki, said he did not pressure Major Nidal Malik Hasan to harm Americans.
The newspaper says Awlaki would not talk to an American reporter, so the Washington Post contacted a Yemeni journalist to interview the cleric, who is known for his anti-American teachings and now lives in Yemen.
Awlaki told the journalist he played a role in transforming Hasan into a devout Muslim eight years ago and that the two had developed an e-mail correspondence in the last year.
The cleric was an imam at a mosque in the southern U.S. state of Virginia where Hasan and his family occasionally worshiped.
Awlaki attracted attention last week when he praised Hasan as a "hero" and "man of conscience" on his Web site after the attack.
Awlaki said he wrote that because the act was against a military target and the soldiers who were killed were not, as he put it, "normal soldiers," but those who were prepared to go to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Awlaki also served as an imam at two mosques attended by at least two September 11, 2001 hijackers. U.S. authorities have alleged that Awlaki has ties to al-Qaida.
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a thorough probe into the events leading up to the attack, saying investigators must "compile every piece of information" known about the gunman and learn what was done with it.
Hasan was charged last week with 13 counts of premeditated murder. He could face the death penalty.
Some information for this report was provided by AP.