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Terror Suspect’s Colleagues In Colorado Stunned At Ties To Al-Qaeda

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Anwar al-Awlaki (credit: Muhammad Ud-Deen)

Anwar al-Awlaki (credit: Muhammad Ud-Deen)

DENVER (CBS4)- U.S. air strikes have killed an Al-Qaeda leader who went to college and preached in Colorado.

People who knew Anwar al-Awlaki in Colorado said last year they were surprised by his high-profile radical role. They recalled a deeply religious man with no overt political agenda or talk of terrorism.

Al-Awlaki made Colorado his home in the early to mid 1990s. He attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins and preached as an Imam at the Denver Islamic Society.

During that time, he traveled to Afghanistan which is said to have been a major influence on him. He later became targeted for death by the U.S. Government.

Known as an Islamic Jihadist, al-Awlaki’s American background allowed him to reach out to the Western world. He used modern technology to extend that reach. His teachings were distributed on tapes through a Denver area bookstore.

Al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico and spent several years in Colorado.

“When he was here, he was just like one of us, a student. He was praying with us, he was just a normal person,” said Denver Islamic Society Member Ezzedin Fitouri.

At CSU where al-Awlaki was an engineering student, his emergence as a terror figure left his former adviser in disbelief.

“I’m flabergasted that it’s possible that somebody goes to school so low-key, so unassuming, no significant profile and nothing that sticks out, then he develops into what he developed in,” said al-Awlaki’s former adviser Johannes Gessler.

It was after leaving CSU that al-Awlaki came to Denver where he was reportedly chastised for encouraging a student to fight in jihad.

Al-Awlaki is believed to have been a motivator of the Fort Hood shootings that left 13 soldiers dead in Texas and the so-called underwear bomber who attempted to blow up a plane approaching Detroit on a recent Christmas day.

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