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- By Andrew LebovichAndrew Lebovich is a Sahel consultant and researcher with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, based in Dakar, Senegal.
Sweden investigates possible accomplices in suicide bombing
Swedish investigators reportedly suspect that Taimour Abdelwahab al-Abdaly, who died last Saturday after a suicide bomb he was carrying allegedly detonated prematurely, had accomplices in the planning and perhaps execution of his attack (Guardian, Reuters, AFP). Authorities believe another person can be heard on the Swedish-language tape al-Abdaly sent to Sweden’s intelligence services prior to the attack, and searches of al-Abdaly’s residences in Sweden and the U.K. turned up no traces of explosives, indicating that he may have had assistance from another person in constructing the bombs (Telegraph, AFP).
Sweden’s intelligence agency Säpo announced Dec. 15 that there are approximately 200 "violence-promoting Islamic extremists" in Sweden, though al-Abdaly was not being monitored before the attack (AFP). The assessment comes in a report commissioned in February, and highlighted the threat of radicals traveling abroad to fight and receive training (CNN). Swedish officials announced Dec. 16 that they would not raise the official threat level in the country as a result of the attack or other threats (Reuters). And Sweden’s ultra-right wing National Democrats party have already seized on the bombing to criticize Sweden’s pro-immigration policies and multiculturalism (Global Post).
Abdulmutallab hit with additional charges
Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, accused of attempting to set off a bomb aboard Northwest Airlines flight 253 last Christmas, was indicted by a grand jury on additional charges Dec. 15 (AP, VOA). The judge in Abdulmutallab’s case pled not guilty on Dec. 16 on his behalf to the charges, "conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries" and "possession of a firearm or destructive device in furtherance of an act of violence," which carry a possible life sentence (CNN, CBS, WSJ). The previous charges filed against Abdulmutallab contain no references to terrorism, and the new charges could allow prosecutors to indict individuals abroad in connection with the case.
Movement in domestic terror cases
Former Guyanese parliamentarian Abdul Kadir was sentenced to life in prison Dec. 15 for his role in plotting to attack fuel depots at John F. Kennedy airport in New York (AP, AFP). Kadir was convicted earlier this year along with Russel Defreitas, after a trial that focused on the evidence – and credibility – of the government informant who infiltrated the plot. Co-plotter Abdel Nur confessed to providing support to the planned attack in June, and alleged plotter Kareem Ibrahim faces trial on the same charges as Kadir and Defreitas (AP).
On Dec. 15 a British court heard arguments in the extradition hearing of Pakistani man Abid Naseer, indicted in the United States for his alleged role in planning and supporting a bomb plot against the New York Subway system, as well as plots to bomb Manchester, England and targets in Norway (BBC, Reuters, Guardian). Naseer was arrested last year after a British security official was photographed with classified papers detailing the country’s investigations into the Manchester plot, but was released soon after. The Telegraph reports this week that the Subway plot, headed by Najibullah Zazi, was only five days away from taking place at the time of Zazi’s arrest (Telegraph).
A Washington-area resident and naturalized U.S. citizen, Awais Yunis, was arrested this week after posting detailed threats to bomb Washington, D.C.’s metro system on his Facebook page (WSJ, Washington Post, AP, AFP). And a man acquitted three years ago in the "Liberty City" terrorism trial, Lyglenson Lemorin, is facing possible deportation to his native Haiti (Miami Herald).
CIA covers fees for contractors who waterboarded detainees
The CIA reportedly agreed to pay $5 million in legal costs for two contractors, Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who helped design the agency’s "enhanced interrogation" program and also conducted dozens of waterboarding sessions at secret CIA prisons abroad (Reuters). This agreement marks the first confirmation of contractors performing waterboarding on terrorism detainees, and the two reportedly waterboarded high-value Guantánamo Bay detainee and alleged al Qaeda figure Abu Zubaydah 83 times. Lawyers for Abu Zubaydah have asked Polish prosecutors to open an investigation into allegations that their client was abused by U.S. agents at a secret prison in Poland (AP, AFP, Reuters).
And the American Prospect’s Adam Serwer points out that language inserted into the Senate omnibus spending bill by an unnamed Senator would negate the ban on money for civilian trials of Gitmo detainees passed by the House last week (TAP). However, with the decision of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to drop the spending bill, it is unclear what will happen to the proposed ban (AP).
Trials and Tribulations
- The incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Peter King (R-NY), will reportedly hold hearings early next year into "radicalization" of American Muslim communities, as well as what King characterizes as a lack of support from Muslim communities in fighting terrorism (NYT).
- A drone strike in Pakistan Dec. 16 reportedly killed two "white" British citizens who converted to Islam (BBC, CNN). New releases from the website Wikileaks show U.S. concern over radicalization in the U.K. and failed efforts to combat it (Guardian, BBC).
- An Italian court on Dec. 15 upheld the convictions and increased the sentences for 23 CIA agents convicted in absentia of involvement in the abduction and rendition from Milan of an Egyptian cleric who alleges that he was abused in U.S. custody (CBS, NYT).
- Iraqi officials have reportedly obtained confessions from insurgents claiming planned terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe during the upcoming Christmas season (CNN, WSJ).
- A suicide bombing in southeastern Iran on Dec. 15 against a mosque killed at least 39 people, an attack claimed by the terrorist group Jundullah (NYT).
- A federal grand jury on Dec. 14 indicted 18 alleged members of the Colombian revolutionary group FARC, including a Dutch national, charging them with involvement in the kidnapping of three Americans in 2003 (Bloomberg, AP).
- Spanish police have arrested eight individuals over their alleged membership in the outlawed youth wing of the Basque terrorist group ETA (Telegraph).