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Al-Awlaki Charged In Absentia In Yemen

Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri (AP Photo/Yemen Interior Ministry)

Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri (AP Photo/Yemen Interior Ministry)

NEW YORK (CBS 2) – The U.S.-born Muslim cleric suspected of being the ringleader in several recent attacks was on trial in Yemen as authorities there try to crack down on the country’s terror network, CBS 2HD’s Kathryn Brown reports.

Anwar al-Awlaki was charged in absentia Tuesday with plotting to kill foreigners and being a member of al-Qaida.

SLIDESHOW: Cargo Plane Terror Plot

Al-Awlaki was believed to be behind last year’s shooting at Fort Hood and the failed Christmas Day bombing in Detroit. He’s also been linked to the attempted bombing in Times Square and has ties to al-Qaida’s Arabian Peninsula branch.

“We are satisfied that Yemen is paying close attention to the threat posed by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula,” said PJ Crowley, State Department Spokesman.

Authorities said he and the terror group were also behind the most recent plot to mail two bombs  packed inside printer cartridges from Yemen to Chicago and possibly detonate them in mid-air.

U.S. intelligence officials said the addresses on the packages were old and out-dated addresses for Jewish synagogues in Chicago. That  led them to believe the planes may have been the real target.

“The sophistication of these suggests that the bombmakers are getting more and more creative.  They are trying to hide the devices in common everyday products,” said Juan Zarate, CBS National Security Consultant.

Investigators strongly believed the bombs were the work of master bomb-maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri. He also has ties to the Christmas Day attack.

Now U.S. officials said several suspicious packages flagged by security teams back in September were likely a dry run for the plot.

Intelligence agents said they were filled with paper, religious books and other material, but no explosives.

They suspect the terrorists orchestrated the test run to monitor delivery times and figure out when planes would be in the air and when the packages would reach their destinations.

In the wake of the attack investigators have tightened cargo security worldwide.

“We are working with our international partners to shore up the defenses that we have in terms of trying to identify where other suspect packages may be,” said John Pistole, TSA Administrator.

For now, all shipments from Yemen to the U.S. have been halted.