Cleric Anwar al-Awlaki puts cartoonist on execution hitlist

Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, the charismatic terror leader linked to the Times Square car bomb, has placed the Seattle cartoonist who launched “Everybody Draw Muhammed Day”, Molly Norris, on an execution hit list.

In an English-language Al Qaeda magazine that calls itself “Inspire,” Awlaki damns Norris and eight others for “blasphemous caricatures” of the Prophet Muhammed. The other cartoonists, authors and journalists in Awlaki’s cross hairs are Swedish, Dutch and British citizens. The 67-page terror rag is seen by terrorism experts as an attempt to recruit Muslim youth in the West.

David Gomez, the FBI’s assistant special agent in charge of counterterrorism in Seattle, said Norris and others were warned of the “very serious threat.”

“We understand the absolute seriousness of a threat from an Al Qaeda-inspired magazine and are attempting to do everything in our power to assist the individuals on that list to effectively protect themselves and change their behavior to make themselves less of a target,” Gomez said.

Norris initially grabbed headlines in April when she published a satirical cartoon on her Web site that declared May 20 “Everybody Draw Muhammed Day” as a way to mock Viacom and Comedy Central’s decision to censor an episode of “South Park” that showed the Prophet Muhammed dressed in a bear suit.

Soon after, the topic erupted on the Web with the start of a Facebook support group for Norris. In response, Pakistan blocked access to the social networking site as a fiery pro-and-con debate raged worldwide. Norris eventually backed away from her cartoon and cause.

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