The hunt for Anwar al-Awlaki has hit a roadblock: The chances of capturing the Yemeni-American radical have grown slimmer as the unrest in Yemen escalates, reports the Washington Post. Just a few months ago, it was easy to spot Awlaki, who walked freely around a southeastern town, his uncle tells the Post. But with many southern tribal leaders sympathetic to the cleric, Yemen’s government lacked the local power to nab him. And as protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh gain steam, Saleh is working to maintain his relationship with these tribes—and the government’s focus has shifted further away from nabbing him.
“We have to deal with these political problems first. Finding Awlaki is not on anyone’s mind,” said a top official. It’s a mammoth task for a government that desperately needs the support of tribal leaders, some of whom doubt US claims he is linked to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Any tribe would “have him as a guest,” said his uncle. “In our culture, it is a shame to tell any guest to go away,” although “they are not with him in his beliefs.”