al-Qaeda

Sun, April 19, 2015 Ohio Arrest Shows Threat to U.S. from Al-Qaeda in Syria

by: 
Ryan Mauro

American citizen Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud was indicted after a cleric associated with Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda in Syria) ordered him to carry out an attack here, the Justice Department announced. His plot to attack a military base in Texas was thwarted. The involvement of Al-Nusra will make it difficult for the U.S. to keep looking the other way as it gains territory in Syria.

Originally from Somalia, Mohamud grew up in the U.S. He lives in Columbus, Ohio and Islamist radicalism seems to be a family affair in this case. His brother died fighting for Al-Qaeda in Syria and was apparently a major influence in Mohamud's radicalization.

Their younger brother, Abdiqani Aden, was arrested earlier this month during a visit to Mohamud because he made a gun symbol with his hands and pointed towards the sheriff's deputies. He was speaking in a foreign language at the time. This is especially threatening because Mohamud's second-choice target was a prison.

The government's monitoring of communication between the two older brothers shows their motivations were not frustration with U.S. foreign policy or personal trials. They were inspired by a glorification of those who die in violent jihad and a belief that such "martyrs" are guaranteed entry into heaven.

His brother left the U.S. in May 2013 and went to Syria to link up with Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda's Syrian wing. Mohamud's travel arrangements involved Al-Nusra members and that is presumably the group he joined, but his online postings showed his loyalty was with ISIS. Al-Nusra facilitators appear to have been surprisingly unconcerned by this.

This may indicate the rift between the leadership of ISIS and Al-Qaeda isn't necessarily trickling down to most of the membership. The attacks in Paris are another example where Al-Qaeda and ISIS supporters worked together despite the quarrels of their leaders.

His brother was killed in June 2014 and he returned home afterwards. Mohamud told a close associate that he completed his training with an unidentified terrorist group in Syria and a cleric told him to return to the U.S. to carry out an attack. The indictment charges Mohamud with providing material support to Al-Nusra, so it appears that he never joined ISIS.

Mohamud began plotting but two unidentified individuals close to him reported their dialogues to the FBI and likely recorded them. One was a friend of his for three years and all indications point to one or both of these informants being Muslim. This is another example of why the demonization of informants by groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is so dangerous.

Mohamud decided his preference was to attack a military site with a prison as a backup option. He chose a base in Texas and hoped to execute three or four U.S. soldiers before achieving "martyrdom." The FBI arrested him before he could start putting the details together.

The cleric's involvement is an important detail because it threatens to unravel the Obama Administration's façade that Al-Nusra isn't a direct threat to America. It also indicates the group is putting an increased emphasis on hitting us at home.

The U.S. realized in September the air campaign against ISIS needed to include a unit within Al-Nusra named the Khorasan Group that was orchestrating terror plots against the West. The problem is that Al-Nusra is much more popular than ISIS and works closely with other Syrian rebels, including ones the U.S. supported and anticipated relying upon to fight ISIS on the ground.

The desire to avoid alienating Al-Qaeda-allied Syrian rebels and their supporters led the Obama Administration to begin promoting a myth that the Khorasan Group is an independent entity that is somehow illogically linked to Al-Qaeda but not Al-Nusra. The New York Times repeated it in its coverage of this case.

The myth is harmful to U.S. interests and anti-Islamist Syrians because it distances Al-Nusra from Al-Qaeda, thereby giving it a higher ceiling of public support. A Zogby poll in November found the population of Turkey favors Al-Nusra above all other participants in the Syrian civil war. A whopping 40% of Turks support Al-Nusra the most.

The indications are that Mohamud's Syrian cleric is from Al-Nusra but it's still significant he's in ISIS because that would mean it is now dispatching operatives from the region to America. That would be a shift from relying on so-called "lone wolves" inside the U.S. who plan terrorism because they've determined that traveling to the Caliphate is unlikely to succeed.

It is true that Mohamud's case is important because it’s the first publicly-acknowledged case of an American going to Syria for jihadist training and returning home to commit terrorism, but there's a bigger point to be made. The U.S. is at war with Jabhat al-Nusra because it is at war with Al-Qaeda. If a Syrian rebel partner doesn't approve of the U.S. recognizing that unavoidable fact, then that's not a partner worth having.

Mon, August 25, 2014 Qatar Brokers U.S. Hostage Release While Funding Terror

Jabhat al-Nusra fighters at a checkpoint. (Photo © Reuters)

Jabhat al-Nusra fighters at a checkpoint. (Photo © Reuters)

by: 
Elliot Friedland

An American journalist held hostage in Syria was released on Sunday. Peter Theo Curtis, a freelance reporter, had been held by the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra for almost two years.

The news comes only days after the brutal beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley by the Islamic State.

The details of how Curtis came to be released are not known, but the U.S. government was not directly involved.

According to the Qatari owned Al-Jazeera network, Qatar was involved in securing the release. A statement issued by their foreign ministry read, "Qatar exerted relentless efforts to release the American journalist, out of Qatar's belief in the principles of humanity and its keenness on the lives of individuals [sic] and their right to freedom and dignity."

This may be an attempt by Qatar to ameliorate its image, particularly in the light of recent criticism of its support for terrorist groups.

Qatar is a regional supporter of Islamist terror. Former U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Juan Zarante said, "Qatar has now taken its place in the lead of countries that are supporting Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda-related groups." These groups include Jabhat al-Nusra, the group which had been holding Peter Theo Curtis captive. A YouTube video released by the al-Qaeda affiliate shows the group thanking their Qatari donors.

Steve Clemons, writing for the Atlantic in June, noted, "Qatar’s military and economic largesse has made its way to Jabhat al-Nusra, to the point that a senior Qatari official told me he can identify al-Nusra commanders by the blocks they control in various Syrian cities."

Clarion Project has previously reported the extensive links between Qatar and terrorism financing of Al-Qaeda and other groups in Syria and Iraq.

Qatar was certainly quick to act as soon as it became involved. Relatives were able to ask a proof-of-life question (the subject of Curtis' PhD thesis) almost immediately. Qatar has previously secured the release of European citizens held by Jabhat al-Nusra. The ease with which they have been able to do so is further evidence of their close links with the organization. 

Qatar was recently accused of directly funding the Islamic State by a German government minister, a charge which Qatar vociferously denied. The German government issued an apology days later, stressing that "Qatar is a partner with whom we work in a variety of ways, even if there are some questions where we don't always have the same opinion."

Germany is one of the top five countries from which Qatar imports merchandised goods. Last year, imports from Germany rose by 22.5%.  

Qatar has also recently come under fire for its open support of the Islamist terrorist group Hamas, with speculation in the intelligence community that the Gulf emirate was responsible for quashing hopes of a ceasefire between Israel and the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate which controls the Gaza strip. A senior Fatah official claimed that the Qatari government threatened to expel Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal from Qatar, where he is hiding out, if he agreed to a ceasefire.

Qatar, therefore, has a clear interest in brokering these kinds of deals in order to protect its reputation and play down the extent of its relationships with terrorist groups.

Rick Brennan, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, told the New York Times, "I think what we’re seeing is a shift as the result of the Foley beheading. Qatar has an interest in making certain it is seen as an ally in the war on terror. And beheading Americans or Westerners is not in Qatar’s interest."

Peter Curtis was released into the protective custody of UN Peacekeepers in the Israeli Golan Heights, where he was given a medical checkup. He will be flown from Tel-Aviv's Ben Gurion airport to the United States, where he will be reunited with his family.

His mother released a statement saying, "My heart is full at the extraordinary, dedicated, incredible people, too many to name individually, who have become my friends and have tirelessly helped us over these many months. Please know that we will be eternally grateful."

White House spokesperson Eric Shultz added that U. S. President Barack Obama had been briefed on the successful transfer and "shares in the joy and relief that we all feel now that Theo is out of Syria and safe."

 

Tue, July 9, 2013 U.S. Refuses to Designate Nigerian Jihadists as Foreign Terror Group

Victims of Boko Haram terror attack in Nigeria. (Photo: © Reuters)

Victims of Boko Haram terror attack in Nigeria. (Photo: © Reuters)

by: 
Ryan Mauro and Matt Carmel

The Al-Qaeda-affiliated Boko Haram group in Nigeria is, by any definition, a foreign terrorist organization. The Obama Administration is refusing to designate it as such, arguing that it is not a direct threat to the U.S. In other words, it is choosing appeasement over moral clarity.

Boko Haram is roughly translated to mean that Western education is sacrilegious. The Islamist group is openly committed to “war” against the Federal Republic of Nigeria in order to create a “pure” Islamic country governed by Sharia law. Members often cite the Koranic verse, “anyone who is not governed by what Allah has revealed is among transgressors.”

The terrorist group was created in 2002 in Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim Borno State, located in northeastern Nigeria by an Islamist cleric named Muhammad Yusuf, who established a religious complex that consisted of a mosque and an Islamic school. It attracted poor Muslim families throughout Nigeria and in neighboring countries as well. His school quickly pushed a political agenda to “create an Islamic state” in Nigeria, and his complex became a recruiting ground for jihadists against the Nigerian government.

Yusuf was killed after a raid on his headquarters. Boko Haram was then taken over by Abubakar Shekau, who brought it in an even more radical direction. The group had previously attacked security personnel, government buildings and critics, but in 2010, Shekau had the group attack a prison in Bauchi State, freeing hundreds of Boko Haram supporters.

The group then attacked the United Nations building in Abuja, killing 23 and injuring 80 in one of the deadliest attacks in U.N. history. It set off multiple bombs on Christmas. Since August 2011, Boko Haram has planted bombs almost every single week, with churches being a favorite target. Nigeria has been called the most dangerous country in the world for a Christian to live in.

In January 2012, the group carried out its most deadly attack yet, killing more than 180 people in Nigeria’s largest city, Kano. In a video clip released shortly after the attack, Shekau said, “I enjoy killing anyone that Allah commands me to kill – the way I enjoy killing chickens and rams.” Since then, Boko Haram has attacked communication lines and burned down schools. Since 2009, the group has been linked to 3,600 deaths.

Boko Haram’s main spokesperson, Abu Qaqa, publicly said in January 2012 that Boko Haram is a “spiritual follower” of Al-Qaeda. The connection to Al-Qaeda goes far beyond just ideological similarities. The spokesman said, “al-Qaeda are our elder brothers … our leader traveled to Saudi Arabia and met al-Qaeda there. We enjoy financial and technical support from them. Anything we want from them, we ask.”

Boko Haram members have also been trained by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The group is also linked to al-Shabaab in Somalia, both Al-Qaeda affiliates and both designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

Just like Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram considers its violent jihad to be a matter of religious obligation and will not compromise. Qaqa declared:

“We will consider negotiation only when we have brought the government to their knees … we will only put aside our arms—but we will not lay them down. You don’t put down your arms in Islam, you only put them aside.”

Three senior Boko Haram operatives including Shekau were labeled as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists” in June 2012, but the group as a whole is yet to be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. To be designated as such, a group must fit three criteria: It must be foreign, engaged in terrorist activity or retain the intent to engage in terrorist activity, and it must threaten the national security of the U.S. or its nationals.

Boko Haram’s qualification for this designation seems simple enough: It is located in Nigeria, carries out terrorist attacks and, as an Al-Qaeda-linked group, obviously threatens the U.S. and its nationals overseas. After all, if Boko Haram has no problem blowing up churches and killing Nigerian Muslims and kidnapping French families, it will have no qualms about killing an American.

The major reason that the U.S. has not designated Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization is because it is viewed as only a regional threat. Last month, President Obama attributed the extremism of Boko Haram and other African terrorist groups to how “countries are not delivering for their people and where there sources of conflict and underlining frustrations that have not been adequately dealt with.”

In a major speech in May, President Obama emphasized that “Groups like AQAP [Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al-Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States.”

The president also said, “And while we are vigilant for signs that these groups may pose a transnational threat, most are focused on operating in the countries and regions where they are based.”  

By Shekau’s own words, Boko Haram threatens the U.S., its allies and its nationals. In November 2012, he declared, “O America, die with your fury” and pledged to fight “the Jews and the Crusader Christians.” As the Long War Journal summarizes, he “said he and his fighters support jihad in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Chechnya, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Algeria, Libya, and Mali.”

Groups like the Pakistani Taliban, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Chechen terrorists could just as easily be seen as regional threats. But, AQAP has inspired violence and advised terrorists who then attacked America. The Pakistani Taliban was behind the near-explosion of a car bomb in Times Square 2010. The Boston bombers likely had a foreign Chechen connection.

At the very least, it cannot be denied that groups like Boko Haram indoctrinate others into committing acts of violence. The threat isn’t from the group’s immediate aims; it’s from the ideology it spreads.

The U.S. stance on Boko Haram is weak, morally bankrupt and counter-productive.

While the U.S. fails to act, the U.K. announced today that it's formally recognized Boko Haram as the terrorist organization that it is.

Click here to sign Clarion Project's petition calling on the Obama administration to designate Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Make a difference, sign now.

 

Ryan Mauro (left) is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.

Matt Carmel is an intern at the Clarion Project.

 

 

 

Aftermath of a Deadly Leak

by Ryan Mauro

In early April, I wrote that the senior U.S. officials who told Mark Perry of Foreign Policy that Azerbaijan agreed to let Israeli aircraft land in its territory could have blood on their hands, since regardless of whether the leaked story was true or not, Iran would send a warning shot towards Azerbaijan.

Only days after the story was published, Azerbaijan arrested 17 Al-Qaeda operatives with links to Iran as they were about to carry out terrorist attacks. One Azeri officer was killed and three were wounded during the sweep.

Mark Perry’s article was published on March 28. On April 6, Azerbaijan announced the arrests and said that the Al-Qaeda terrorists were planning to attack police, mosques and shrines. Some had undergone two months of training in Iran and were armed there. Others were indoctrinated in Syria and still others had been trained in Pakistan and had fought NATO troops in Afghanistan. Already in February, European officials warned that Iran and Al-Qaeda were tightening their relationship in order to carry out attacks on common enemies.

Although it can’t be proven that Iran had a direct role in the Al-Qaeda plot, the timing points to it. We know that in January, Iran paid at least two terrorists $150,000 to attack the Israeli ambassador, a rabbi and a teacher at a Jewish school in Azerbaijan. The cell leader met with Iranian intelligence. In March, Azerbaijan rounded up 22 terrorists that were trained near Tehran by the Revolutionary Guards to carry out a wave of terror attacks that were to include the U.S. and Israeli embassies, among other targets. Iranian hackers struck Azeri websites after the arrests.   

There’s no proof that Iran had a direct role in this Al-Qaeda plot, but the timing is curious, and it fits into this pattern. Iran cannot convincingly deny that it knows about Al-Qaeda’s training and organizing in its country. If the regime is able to stop tens of millions of Iranians from organizing protests, it’s hard to believe that the Iranian regime is unable to detect a network of foreigners belonging to the most high-profile terrorist group in the world.

The problem with state-sponsored terrorism is that, in many cases, we won’t know for sure if/how a government is involved. When Iran and Hezbollah decided to blow up the Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan in 2008, they reached out to local militants for cover. In December, District Judge George Daniels ruled that Iran and Hezbollah contributed materially to the 9/11 attacks behind-the-scenes.

If Iran was involved in this latest terror scheme, it could be argued that it was planned before the Foreign Policy story. It’s hard to know for sure, but officials leaking stories like this need to be fired and, when necessary, prosecuted. The Iranian regime isn’t going to just shrug its shoulders. It’s going to respond, and this latest Al-Qaeda plot could very well be a part of that response.

H/T to Thomas Joscelyn at the Weekly Standard for reporting on these latest arrests.

Ryan Mauro is RadicalIslam.org's National Security analyst and a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of WorldThreats.com and a frequent security analyst for Fox News.

Wed, March 25, 2015 Carnegie Middle East Center Director Touts Al-Qaeda as Ally

Fighters from Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra with the jihadi black flag, emblazoned with the shahada.

Fighters from Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra with the jihadi black flag, emblazoned with the shahada.

by: 
Elliot Friedland

The director of the Carnegie Middle East Center has written an article on Carnegie’s official website portraying Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Syrian Civil War, Jabhat al-Nusra, as a possible Western ally. She calls this “An Opportunity for the West.”

In a piece entitled ‘The Nusra Front’s Game-Changing Rise in Syria,’ the Director of the Middle East Center Lina Khatib argued that “The Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, is gaining in strength and popularity, and it could become an ally in the fight against the Islamic State.”

She opens by praising the group’s successes against the regime forces of Bashar al-Assad, before stating her case thus: “The West currently sees the Nusra Front as a threat. But Nusra’s pragmatism and ongoing evolution mean that it could become an ally in the fight against the Islamic State.”

In using the term ‘pragmatism’ she is comparing Nusra to the Islamic State, whose brutality has shocked the world. Nusra is certainly more pragmatic than ISIS. One of the reasons for the split between Nusra and the Islamic State as that Al-Qaeda Central leader Ayman al-Zawahiri felt that ISIS’s brutal tactics were excessive as they would alienate the local population.

Khatib posits that Nusra has become less extreme over time. She argues that Jabhat al-Nusra’s alliance with another Islamist group, Ahrar al-Sham will “have a tempering effect on the evolution of al-Qaeda’s ideology and its implementation.”

Ahrar al-Sham cannot be considered a ‘moderate’ organization that might have such a ‘tempering effect.’ It also seeks the establishment of an Islamist state and was founded by members of Al-Qaeda. Ahrar al-Sham co-founder and leader Abu Khalid al-Suri acted as a mediator between the Islamic State (then ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra at the behest of Al-Qaeda Central Aymen al-Zawahiri, during reconciliation negotiations between the two groups before the final split.

Zawahiri publically mourned when al-Suri died. Similar expressions of grief for deceased Ahrar al-Sham commanders have been expressed by Al-Qaeda figures on social media at other times.

Nor has Nusra disaffiliated from Al-Qaeda. Indeed, in early March the group angrily responded to rumors that they might disaffiliate. On Twitter they announced in a statement that the group “completely denies reports of a break-up with Al-Qaeda.”

Tempered or not, the core raison d’etre of Al-Qaeda and all other Islamist jihadist groups remains the same – the establishment of an Islamic State governed by Sharia law.

At the same time as arguing that Nusra’s ideology is pragmatic and tempered, Khatib also attempts to downplay the importance of ideology in relating to Jabhat al-Nusra. Khatib makes the statement that “Nusra cannot completely abandon al-Qaeda’s ideology for fear of losing legitimacy.” She would like the reader to believe that there is an ideological difference between Nusra and Al-Qaeda Central’s ideology.

She argues “While not everyone likes Nusra’s ideology, there is a growing sense in the north of Syria that it is the best alternative on the ground—and that ideology is a small price to pay for higher returns. ‘The one who defends me has the right to impose whatever law they see fit,’ one sympathizer told me.”

Here she is implying that it doesn’t matter what Nusra’s objectives are as long as they fight the regime and don’t exactly copy the Islamic State’s brutality. A look at Nusra’s ideology shows that it matters a great deal.

As recorded by the counter-extremism think tank The Quilliam Foundation, Jabhat al-Nusra has five strategic objectives. These objectives were decided on by the senior leadership in meetings between 2011 and 2012. They are:

  1. To establish a group including many existing jihadists, linking them together into one coherent entity

  2. To reinforce and strengthen the consciousness of the Islamist nature of the conflict

  3. To build military capacity for the group, seizing opportunities to collect weapons and train recruits, and to create safe havens by controlling physical places upon which to exercise their power.

  4. To create an Islamist state in Syria

  5. To establish a ‘Caliphate’ in Bilad al-Sham (the Levant)

These goals are to all intents and purposes identical to those of ISIS. The only differences are methodological. Any ‘Caliphate’ they might establish would necessarily be ideologically opposed to the West and antithetical to the US.

It would certainly not be beneficial to the Syrian people nor lead to an open and free society. Fawaz A. Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics, argued, “The Nusra Front will most likely outlast ISIS in Syria, and will represent a severe and existential threat to the aspirations of the Syrian people in terms of a pluralistic, democratic society.”

As a leader of a secular aligned rebel brigade put it in 2012 when asked about Jabhat al-Nusra “We are not fighting Bashar al-Assad to go from living in an autocratic to a religious prison. We want to be able to live in Syria as freely [sic]; not under a dictator or the constraints of a strict interpretation of Islam.”

There is no disclaimer in Carnegie’s pro-Nusra article suggesting that the piece is anything other than the official views of the Carnegie Middle East Center. It was not written by a junior researcher or associate, but by the director of the organization, a woman with years of experience in the field.

Furthermore she makes no mention of Jabhat al-Nusra’s totalitarian vision of rule and its application of the brutal hudud punishments, merely saying in passing that there are “some similarities” between Nusra and the Islamic State.  

For example of the implementation of hudud punishments by Nusra the video below shows the group executing a woman accused of adultery by a gunshot to the head in the street.

Warning: Graphic images

Nusra regularly uses suicide bombings as a tactic and has shown no compunction about Both Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham use child soldiers (as well as a host of other groups, including the Islamic State).

Defeating the Islamic State is vital. Nor should the crimes of the Assad regime be excused or downplayed. Yet it should be clear to all that advocating an alliance with a subsidiary of the group responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks is a breach of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s stated goal: “to advance the cause of peace.”

The Carnegie Middle East Center is a part of The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, America’s oldest international affairs think tank (founded in 1910). Such a prestigious platform should not be used to provide intellectual cover for terrorist groups.

Contact the vice president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Paul Balaran, to demand a full retraction of support for Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra as an ally and the immediate resignation of Middle East Center Director Lina Khatib.

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 202-939-2223

Elliot Friedland is a research fellow with the Clarion Project.

 

 

Tue, February 24, 2015 California: Two Men Get 25 Years For Plot to Attack US Troops

Left, Ralph Deleon, sentenced on Monday February 23 to 25 years. Right, Arifeen David Gojali, who has pleaded guilty to terrorism charges and will be sentenced at a later date.

Left, Ralph Deleon, sentenced on Monday February 23 to 25 years. Right, Arifeen David Gojali, who has pleaded guilty to terrorism charges and will be sentenced at a later date.

Two men have been convicted on terrorism charges in a federal court in Southern California and sentenced to 25 years in prison each.

Sohiel Omar Kabir, 37, and Ralph Deleon, 26 were each convicted of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to murder U.S. military and government personnel.

Kabir, the ringleader of the plot, served in the US air force for a little less than two years and spent most of his life in America. Until 2011 he lived in Pomona, a city 30km east of Los Angeles in Southern California.

Kabir and Deleon were tried alongside two other men, Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales and Arifeen David Gojali. Both Santana and Gojali have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Deleon, Santana and Gojali planned to drive to Mexico in 2012 and fly from there to Afghanistan via Istanbul. They intended to link up with Al-Qaeda or Taliban forces once there and carry out attacks on US troops. 

However, they were apprehended by the FBI before they could travel. Kabir, who intended to meet them in Afghanistan, was detained there by US military authorities.

Kabir was checked by a medical team and brought back to America to stand trial. He was denied bail as he was deemed dangerous and a potential flight risk.

Kabir and Deleon were found guilty in September and sentenced on Monday.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips heard how the group became radicalized in 2010 when Kabir introduced Deleon and Santana to Islamist ideology. A naturalized US citizen since the age of two but from Afghanistan, Kabir persuaded the others to agree to come to Afghanistan to carry out jihadist attacks on US forces there.

The group was heavily influenced by Anwar al-Awlaki, an American born senior Al-Qaeda ideologue who was killed by a US drone strike in 2011. Although at the time he was a senior member of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), earlier in his career he was linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and like other Muslim Brotherhood and aligned leaders was “long considered a leading moderate Muslim and critic of al-Qaeda.” Other attacks he has been linked to include the 2009 Fort Hood attacks and the 9/11 attacks.  

Stephanie Yonekura, acting U.S. attorney for the Central District of California said at the time of the verdict “This case shows that the appeal of extremist ideologies can reach from Afghanistan to America, demonstrating the clear need for continued vigilance in rooting out homegrown violent extremists who plot terrorist acts both here and abroad.” 

Tue, February 3, 2015 Canada: Two Separate Terrorism Trials for Two Separate Plots

John Nuttall and Amanda Korody, the two founders of 'Al-Qaeda Canada' as depicted by the court artist on the opening day of their trial. (Photo: © Reuters)

John Nuttall and Amanda Korody, the two founders of 'Al-Qaeda Canada' as depicted by the court artist on the opening day of their trial. (Photo: © Reuters)

Two self-proclaimed members of “Al-Qaeda Canada” went to  trial on Monday in Canada for plotting to blow up the British Columbia Legislature on Canada Day .

Crown prosecutor Peter Eccles told the court that Amanda Korody and John Nuttall placed two pressure-cooker bombs on the front lawn of the legislature building in Victoria “for the benefit of their homegrown, two-person terrorist cell.” Both were recent converts to Islam and became radicalized online. Both are being tried in the British Columbia Supreme Court.

"Al-Qaeda Canada" is believed to have been founded by the pair and not to have any connection with any branches of the international jihadist movement. A separate 2013 plot to derail a train between New York and Toronto is believed by Canada to have been planned by Al-Qaeda elements backed by Iran. That plot was also foiled by the police in 2013.

The attack on the legislature was planned for 2013 and the pair was arrested in July of that year after police seized the home-made bombs from the legislature lawn.

An undercover officer going by the name of "Mr. Abdul" had befriended the couple by posing as an Arab businessman with jihadist sympathies. He told them that he would supply the C4 explosives for their bomb, which was constructed according to the same specifications as the bomb used in the Boston bombing and downloaded from the same website. Nuttall told "Mr. Abdul" that he wanted this bomb to be better than the one used in Boston.

The pair has pleaded not guilty. Nuttal’s lawyer asked the jury not to jump to conclusions when they listen to the wiretapped conversations of the plot in the courtroom.

Nuttall’s mother told reporters outside the courthouse: “They're two of the sweetest people you could ever meet in your life.”

The trial of two men in the train plot also began on Monday. Chiheb Esseghaier, a Tunisian, and Raed Jaser, a Palestinian, are standing trial in Toronto. According to an undercover policeman, who visited Esseghaier while he was studying for his PhD in Montreal, Esseghaier travelled to Iran where he met with jihadists. The jihadists told him to return to Canada.

The officer told the court that Esseghaier showed him visas and stamps from his trip to Iran after asking him to turn off his mobile phone. Several times the pair spoke of various plans to carry out attacks. On one occasion Raed Jaser told the officer, “We don’t want the sheep. We want the wolf,” when discussing a proposal to shoot world leaders at the G8 summit with a sniper rifle.

The men were arrested in April 2013 and each face five separate terrorism charges. "Not guilty" pleas have been entered on their behalf, although Esseghaier has refused to recognize the validity of the court and has not retained a lawyer.

Tue, January 27, 2015 Why Won't the BBC Call Charlie Hebdo Attackers Terrorists?

Two gunmen attack the offices of Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015.

Two gunmen attack the offices of Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015.

by: 
Elliot Friedland

The head of the BBC Arabic Service refused to use the term terrorist to describe the Al-Qaeda affiliated gunmen responsible for the attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead.

Tarik Kalafa told The Independent, “We try to avoid describing anyone as a terrorist, or an act as being terrorist. Terrorism is such a loaded word. The UN has been struggling for more than a decade to define the word and they can’t. It is very difficult to.”

He claims that his refusal to use the term is due to fears the people will think the BBC is placing a value-judgment on the incident and on the perpetrators. The BBC’s official guidelines read, “The value judgments frequently implicit in the use of the words ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorist group’ can create inconsistency in their use or, to audiences, raise doubts about our impartiality.  It may be better to talk about an apparent act of terror or terrorism than label individuals or a group.”

There may be cases in which there is a difference of opinion as to whether or not to term any given incident a terrorist attack. Yet with these attacks there is no ambiguity whatsoever.

Whether one enjoys Charlie Hebdo’s particular brand of satire or not, gunning down 12 civilians cannot be regarded as an act of war. Nor was it a random act of violence. By Kalafa’s own admission, when reporting the various statements made by others,“Clearly, all the officials and commentators [in Paris] are using the word ‘terrorist,’ so obviously we do broadcast that.”

The guidelines behind this decision state, “There are ways of conveying the full horror and human consequences of acts of terror without using the word ‘terrorist’ to describe the perpetrators.”

Seemingly, this is an attempt to draw a moral distinction between the action and the perpetrator – one can commit an “act of terror” without becoming “a terrorist.”

Yet the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attacks were perpetrated by the Koachi brothers, who had the backing of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to both the terrorists themselves and AQAP. According to U.S. officials, AQAP furnished the brothers with $20,000 to carry out the attack.

Here we have two full members of a group universally regarded as a terrorist group acting on behalf of that group to attack a civilian target in the West. The attack was reportedly years in the planning with the perpetrators demonstrating a long-term commitment to jihadism as a way of life.

One must therefore ask the question, why exactly is it that Tarik Kalafa and the BBC are so loath to term the Koachi brothers as terrorists?

Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

Thu, January 8, 2015 Turkey's Gov't-Aligned News Blame Victims in Paris Attack

French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira near the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo yesterday (Photo: © Reuters)

French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira near the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo yesterday (Photo: © Reuters)

Turkish and regional Islamist newspapers have blamed the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo ("Charlie Weekly") for the attacks against it yesterday. Islamists and jihadists all over the world rejoiced over the attack, flocked to online forums and sharing their glee on social media.

The assault on the magazine, the worst terrorist attack in France in 50 years, killed 10 journalists and two policemen. Those murdered were staff of the magazine who had been holding their weekly editorial meeting at the time.

It has been reported that the jihadists targeted specific cartoonists. Among those killed was the magazine's chief editor Stephane Charbonnier and three of France’s most famous cartoonists: Jean Cabut, George Wolinski and Bernard Verlhac

One of the terrorists, aged 18, turned himself in to the French authorities. He gave the names of the other attackers, two brothers -- Cherif Kouachi, 32, and Said Kouachi, 34 -- to the police. The manhunt for the two continues.

Paris was shaken this morning by another apparent terror attack when a policewoman was shot in the southwestern suburb of Montrouge by a man with an automatic rifle. The policewoman has since died of her wounds. The attack has not been definitively connected to yesterday’s shooting. 

Following the attack on Charlie Hebdo, Yeni Akit, a Turkish daily newspaper with ties to the ruling Islamist AK party, ran the headline “Attack on The Magazine that Provoked Muslims.”

Another pro-AKP party paper, the Turkiye Gazetesi, ran the headline “Attack on the Magazine that Insulted Our Master the Prophet.” After it received heavy criticism on social media, the magazine changed their headline to “Attack on the magazine that published ugly cartoons of our prophet.”

By contrast Turkiye Gazetesi’s English-language website ran the headline “American Muslims Condemn Paris Attack on Charlie Hebdo” this morning.  Yet inside the article, the same sentiment as in the article in Turkish is evident. The first sentence moves straight onto Charlie’s Hebdo’s “history of publishing unflattering depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.”

This should not come as a surprise. Turkey’s foreign minister said yesterday that terrorist Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was welcome to move to Turkey should he leave Qatar, where he has been based, despite Turkey’s official status as a NATO ally.

As reported by the Daily CallerEgyptian newspaper Shorouk said in its headline that Charlie Hebdo had “A history of insulting the prophet, ending in fire.”

These papers are all implying that the writers and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo brought the terrorist attack on themselves by exercising freedom of expression.

At the same time, many Western media outlets have decided not to publish Charlie Hebdo's cartoons so as not to upset Muslims. CNN’s Editorial Director Richard Griffith sent an internal memo reading, “We are not at this time showing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the Prophet considered offensive by many Muslims.”

Several Western media outlets explained the motive of the ruthless murderers by saying that they were provoked.

As Douglas Murray wrote for the Gatestone Institute, “The press was already blaming the victims. Commentators on CNN opined that Charlie Hebdo had been "provoking Muslims" for some time. Perhaps they assume that it is easier to force good people to keep quiet, or keep their own media offices from being attacked, than to tackle to the problem of Islamic extremism head-on. It is easier blame Geert Wilders, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Lars Hedegaard, Suzanne Winters, Salman Rushdie or Charlie Hebdo -- and even put some of them on trial -- than to attack the attackers, who might even attack back!”

Wed, September 24, 2014 U.S.-Arab Strikes in Syria Cause Serious Damage to ISIS & AQ

U.S. Navy F18 Super Hornet after conducting strike missions against ISIS targets in Syria

U.S. Navy F18 Super Hornet after conducting strike missions against ISIS targets in Syria

by: 
Ryan Mauro

The U.S. and five Arab partners began airstrikes on the Islamic State (more commonly known by the acronym of ISIS) on September 22 and have done serious damage. Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, was unexpectedly hit by the U.S. and jihadist pages reported the deaths of top leaders.

The initial airstrikes in Raqqa, Syria, the home base of ISIS, were caught on videotape. You can see it here on the Clarion Project YouTube channel.

The airstrikes were not carried out by the U.S. alone. The Arab countries of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates took part. Qatar assisted logistically. France, which previously bombed ISIS in Iraq, did not take part.

Egypt declined in part because the U.S. would not endorse its campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood and against Ansar al-Sharia in Libya. The Turkish Prime Minister says his country may provide logistical and military support now that its 49 hostages have been released by ISIS as part of a secret deal with the terrorist group.

There were no serious protests against the U.S.-Arab airstrikes.

There was a small demonstration in Istanbul, Turkey. Significantly, a U.S.-backed “moderate” group of Syrian rebels named Harakat Hazm condemned the airstrikes, even though the U.S. has provided it with anti-tank missiles. An Arab newspaper reports that it is backed by the Muslim Brotherhood (the parent group of Hamas), Qatar and Turkey.

The author reported that jihadist social media pages were insistent that al-Nusra sites had been struck in the cities of Kafr Deryan and Idlib near Aleppo. This was confirmed by the Pentagon the next day.

Shortly after al-Nusra was hit, a video of an English-speaking, European member of al-Nusra in front of a destroyed site surfaced online. The terrorist, who said al-Nusra fights to “implement the law of Allah,” was audibly discouraged. He says, “A lot of mujahideen have been killed in these attacks.”

The U.S. has confirmed that it targeted al-Nusra’s Khorasan unit, a group of top Al-Qaeda operatives sent by Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit holders of Western passports. The U.S. says Khorasan was in the final stages of an attack in Europe or the U.S. The group is known to be targeting airliners with non-metallic bombs.

Khorasan includes explosives experts trained by Ibrahim al-Asiri, an Al-Qaeda operative in Yemen that has been described as “the most innovative bomb-builder in the jihadist world.” He is focused on making bombs that can sneak past airport security and designed the underwear bomb and ink cartridge bombs that almost destroyed U.S. airliners.

Jihadist social media pages are reporting that the Khorasan unit’s leader, Muhsin al-Fadhli, was killed. These accounts acknowledge that he came from the top tier of Al-Qaeda.

He fought in Chechnya and became a close aide to Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. He began working with Al-Qaeda in Iraq, then led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and was a major fundraiser for the affiliate. Al-Fadhli was one of the few who were given advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks.

He moved to Iran in 2009 to help operate an Al-Qaeda pipeline for funneling money and weapons that operates with Iranian permission. Al-Fadhli became the top overseer of the pipeline in 2011 and moved to Syria last year.

Jihadist pages also said that Abu Yousef al-Turki, described as Jabhat al-Nusra’s top sniper, was killed. He is said to have fought in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A propaganda video showcasing al-Nusra’s sniper unit trained by al-Tukri was subsequently distributed among supporters.

Photos of the strikes on al-Nusra targets show the precision of the U.S. munitions and strength of American intelligence. The aircraft knew exactly which buildings to destroy and did so with minimal damage to surrounding structures.

U.S. strikes on al-Nusra have been limited to the Khorasan unit. It is unclear if the entirety of the Al-Qaeda affiliate is being targeted.

The airstrikes on ISIS were focused on Raqqa, Deir al-Zour, Hasakah and Abu Kamal. It struck government buildings and military installations taken over by ISIS and used as command posts, as well as training camps, weapons depots and a structure used for financing the group.

ISIS normally has tight messaging and coordinated online responses. Its 55-minute documentary is an example of its media prowess. However, in the wake of the airstrikes, pro-ISIS accounts seemed scattered and tried to downplay their impact with poorly-disguised anxiety. There were far-fetched claims of U.S. and Arab aircraft being shot down and pilots captured.

The ISIS supporters responded with predictable chest-pounding and characterized the group’s mere survival as a victory. Several boasted of how the group was able to turn the power back on in Raqqa; a rather low standard of achievement.

ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra supporters are trying to paint the U.S. as disregarding civilian life, a caricature disproven by the aforementioned airstrikes using highly-expensive precision-guided munitions. Expect ISIS and al-Nusra to take a page out of the Hamas playbook to rile up anger against the U.S. and its Arab partners.

They tried to encourage each other by predicting that the day would soon come when they can fight U.S. combat troops on the ground.  The Obama Administration has ruled out the possibility of U.S. troops in an official combat role. The Iraqi government has likewise ruled it out.

ISIS backers are also trying to boost morale by redirecting attention onto their fight against the Syrian Kurds. ISIS has captured 60 Kurdish villages near the Turkish border, prompting an exodus of 200,000 residents from the area as ISIS approaches the city of Kobane. ISIS has released a video with footage of its offensive.

The Kurds stopped the ISIS advance shortly before the airstrikes began, but the Kurdish leadership says its defensive lines will only hold for days unless airpower is used to save the city. They predict a massacre if U.S. does not immediately intervene.

The U.S.-Arab airstrikes are helping to undermine the ISIS and Al-Nusra narrative that Allah is blessing their jihadis with success, but ISIS is able to maintain morale by pointing to its attacks on the Kurds and its capture of an Iraqi army base in Anbar Province that is described as “the most disastrous day for the Iraqi army” since ISIS captured Mosul and blitzed across the country.

It is strategically and morally inexcusable for the U.S. to allow the Kurds to suffer like this, especially when American aircrafts are already in the sky. It is time to save the Kurds, our most reliable ally against ISIS and Al-Qaeda. 

 

 

Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on Fox News.

 

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