The LWOT: Gunman kills two U.S. Airmen at Frankfurt Airport; Two NJ men plead guilty to attempting to join al-Shabaab
Foreign Policy and the New America Foundation bring you a twice weekly brief on the legal war on terror. You can read it on foreignpolicy.com or get it delivered directly to your inbox -- just sign up here.
Newsstand: The current edition of Washington Monthly magazine features a must-read piece on the proliferating and nearly unregulated rise of counterterrorism "experts" who train local police, often imparting misleading ideas about Islam (Washington Monthly).
Gunman kills two U.S. Airmen in Germany
A 21-year old gunman from Mitrovica, Kosovo opened fire on U.S. Airmen on a bus at the Frankfurt Airport on Mar. 2, killing two and wounding two before his pistol jammed (Der Spiegel, NYT, BBC, AP, ABC). The suspect, Arid Uka, reportedly shouted "Allahu Akhbar" before and during the shooting, which targeted a security detachment on their way from RAF Lakenheath in England to Ramstein Air Force Base and then Afghanistan (Guardian).
Uka reportedly confessed in full to German authorities after his arrest, and officials said he appeared to be a "lone wolf" attacker, motivated in part by a video he reportedly watched several days ago showing alleged U.S. atrocities in Afghanistan (Washington Post, Reuters). Still, authorities believe Uka was motivated by a radical Islamist ideology, based on his confession and posts on his Facebook page (CNN, NYT, Deutsche Welle). Officials are also investigating allegations that Uka befriended a Syrian-German man currently in jail on terrorism-related charges, Rami Makanesi (WSJ).
Two NJ men plead guilty to attempting to join al-Shabaab
Two New Jersey men, Mohamed Mahmood Alessa and Carlos Almonte, pleaded guilty Mar. 3 to conspiracy to commit murder abroad after the men were arrested at John F. Kennedy Airport last June on their way to Egypt and then Somalia to join the Somali militant group al-Shabaab (NYT, Bloomberg, WSJ, CNN). The men were observed and secretly recorded for several years making statements in favor of fighting non-Muslims abroad or possibly in the United States, and traveled to Jordan in 2007 in a failed attempt to link up with extremist groups there (NY1, NJ.com). While both men could face life in prison, part of their plea deal was an agreement that the government would not seek more than 30 years in prison when sentencing takes place June 20.
The Supreme Court this week continued to hear arguments in the case of American Abdullah al-Kidd, who is attempting to sue former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft for al-Kidd’s 2003 detention in harsh conditions under the material witness statute, which al-Kidd argues was used as a pretext to hold Muslim men suspected of terrorism without charge (NPR, Washington Post, WSJ).
The Village Voice newspaper this week interviewed David Williams, convicted in a highly contentious trial last year for his role in a planned terrorist attack against several Bronx synagogues and an Air National Guard Base (Village Voice). In the interview, Williams said the plotters never spoke privately about jihad, but only went along with the plot to get money from government informant Shahed Hussain, who told the men he was a representative of a terrorist group and promised them $250,000 and a luxury car if they carried out the attack.
A federal judge this week denied bail to Boston terrorism suspect Tarek Mehanna, arrested in 2009 and accused of plotting to attack a judge, politicians, and a shopping mall (AP).
Holder: Gitmo likely won’t close before 2013
In testimony before a House appropriations subcommittee on Mar. 1, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder responded to a question about the prospects for the prison at Guantánamo Bay closing before Nov. 2012 by saying, "I don’t know…We will do all we can" (Telegraph, The Hill, CNN). Holder reiterated the Obama administration’s desire to close the prison and discussed the prison’s value as a recruiting tool for groups like al Qaeda, but did not provide specifics on how the remaining 172 detainees at the prison, barred from being moved to the United States by Congress, would be dealt with.
NPR this week has a must-read two-part look inside the prison centers dubbed "Gitmo North" where well-known terrorism suspects, along with violent criminals and some with at-best dubious ties to Muslim radicalism, are kept under 24-hour surveillance and prohibited from praying in groups (Part I, Part II). These centers at Terre Haute, Ind., and Marion, Ill., called "Communications Management Units" (CMU) are set up to ostensibly diminish the possibility of prison radicalization, but civil liberties advocates and former prisoners say the men housed there are overwhelmingly Muslim and are often not given an explanation as to why they were transferred to the centers or given the opportunity to contest the move.
In an interview this week with a German newspaper, former Guantánamo detainee Murat Kurnaz alleges that doctors at the prison force-fed unnecessary medication to prisoners, using them as "guinea pigs" for drugs (Deutsche Welle).And Australian former detainee David Hicks is circulating a petition among Australian lawyers asking them to recognize the alleged torture he endured at Guantánamo (The Australian).
Trials and Tribulations
- British security officials are trying to identify an individual who appeared in an al Qaeda martyrdom tape under the name "Musa the British" (Telegraph). If his identity is verified, he will be the first Briton to appear in a martyrdom tape since the 7/7 bombers. And the BBC this week profiles one of those bombers, Shehzad Tanweer (BBC).
- Lawyers for Canadian Sayfildin Tahir Sharif, accused of aiding a terrorist group that killed five U.S. soldiers in a suicide bombing in Iraq in 2009, argued this week that the warrant justifying the search and seizure of their client’s property was illegal (Globe and Mail, The Canadian Press).
- Security experts in Indonesia are warning of growing connections between the remnants of terrorist groups there and ostensibly non-violent Muslim fundamentalist groups, resulting in increased targeting by terrorists of Christians and minority Muslim groups (VOA).
- Russian prosecutors have charged three people with involvement in the Jan. 24 suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, including the brother and teenaged sister of the bomber (Reuters).
- A former member of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) who attempted to attack the French Embassy in Bamako and escaped from prison in Mali earlier this week was recaptured Mar. 3 in the northern Malian of Gao (BBC).
- A Swedish appeals court has overturned the guilty verdicts against two Swedes of Somali and Saudi descent for planning a suicide bombing in Somalia (AP).