Anwar al-AwlakiThere has been no shortage of media coverage of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Yemen-based al-Qaeda associate who is purportedly the preacher that inspired Nidal Hasan to kill a dozen of his fellow soldiers at a Fort Hood processing center and convinced Umar Abdulmutallab to strap explosives to himself and try to blow up a crowded plane over Detroit on Christmas Day. If al-Awlaki’s message is that mesmerizing and his methods so pervasive, then it stands to reason that there are other, equally devout disciples eager to obey their master’s voice and carry out the deadly dictates of his twisted dogma.

It sounds like a dark story from the days of ancient pagan rituals: A person tears open a woman’s womb while she’s still alive and takes her baby from it. I wrote about such a crime in August of last year, but, tragically, it was no isolated event. And now a different case of this kind is coming to trial, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Yemeni intelligence officials asserted Friday that their investigation revealed that Umar Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian accused of attempted to bomb Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day in Detroit, met in Yemen with known al-Qaeda operatives, probably including American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

In order to determine his competency to stand trial, Major Nidal Hasan is to undergo a mental evaluation by a team of three military medical professionals. The panel is composed of doctors chosen from the Army, Air Force, and Navy medical corps, and it will begin its evaluation of the case by reviewing the voluminous material contained in Hasan’s file.

Wearing the typical garb of a federal prisoner, Umar Abdulmutallab entered the courtroom wearing khaki trousers, a plain white t-shirt, and shackles on his ankles. The defendant was flanked by his attorney, a federal public defender, Miriam Siefer. Abdulmutallab was arraigned Friday in a Detroit federal court and the 23-year-old Nigerian stood before a magistrate, and Siefer plead not guilty all charges on behalf of her client.

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