Dozens of Muslim ex-convicts believed to have traveled to Yemen, report says

Associated Press / January 20, 2010

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WASHINGTON - US law enforcement authorities believe that as many as three dozen Americans who converted to Islam in prison have traveled to Yemen, possibly to train with Al Qaeda, according to a Senate report.

The “radicalization’’ of the individuals has alarmed US officials even though no evidence has immediately tied them to terrorist activities.

Several of the individuals have “dropped off the radar’’ for weeks at a time and continue to carry US passports, according to a copy of the report obtained by the Associated Press.

The assessment was written by staff working for Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts.

“Al Qaeda’s recruitment tactics also have changed,’’ Kerry wrote in an introduction to the report. “The group seeks to recruit American citizens to carry out terrorist attacks in the United States.’’

Al Qaeda forces in Yemen have emerged in recent months as a pressing threat to US security, with ties to the recent airline bombing plot and Fort Hood shooting.

The White House and Pentagon have said there are no plans to send ground troops there, and Yemen has made clear it wouldn’t want them. Remaining options to defeat the terrorist threat there would include covert strikes against Al Qaeda targets and increased aid to help train and equip Yemen’s own security forces.

In addition to its finding that Al Qaeda was actively trying to attract “nontraditional followers’’ that could penetrate US security, the staff report concludes that the militant group has remained a viable threat.