WASHINGTON -- The United Nations has added U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki to its terrorist list, requiring member countries to freeze his assets and ban his travel.
The action follows a similar move by the U.S. Treasury Department last week, and underscores the growing threat officials believe al-Awlaki represents as a terror recruiter and planner.
Based in Yemen, al-Awlaki has taken on a greater role with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, leading to his placement earlier this year on a secret U.S. government list of terror targets to be captured or killed, according to U.S. officials.
He played a key part in recent terror attacks in America including the failed Christmas Day attempt to take down a Detroit-bound passenger jet. Al-Awlaki is believed to have communicated with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian accused of trying to blow up the airliner.
And he exchanged e-mails with Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the U.S. Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in November at Fort Hood, Texas. In a video in May al-Awlaki referred to both men as his students.
Born in New Mexico, al-Awlaki, 39, initially served more as an inspiration for would-be militants, particularly over the Internet. But more recently officials believe he has gotten more involved in the day-to-day operations of the al-Qaida linked group.
In announcing the U.N. sanctions, the State Department said the crackdown will help degrade AQAP's ability to launch attacks.
The move, said Daniel Benjamin, State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, "is in direct response to the operational role he plays in AQAP, and most importantly because of the integral part he played in planning AQAP's attempted destruction of Northwest Airlines flight 253 over the United States."