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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.
Suspected suicide bomber strikes Marrakesh café
A suspected suicide bomber struck the popular Café Argana in the heart of Marrakesh’s Jamâa el-Fna, a favorite area for tourists, killing 16 – including five Moroccans, eight French citizens, one Briton, and an Israeli (AP, BBC, CNN, NYT, Washington Post, Reuters). The attack is the deadliest since a series of bombings struck Casablanca in 2003, killing 45 people, among them 12 suicide bombers.
No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing, originally attributed to exploding gas canisters by Moroccan officials, though suspicion fell on either local militants or Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) (Guardian, NYT, Telegraph). The attack comes at a sensitive time for Morocco, which has experienced an increase in protests recently and whose economy depends heavily on tourism.
Gitmo lawyer seeks WikiLeaks access
Attorney David Remes, who has devoted his law practice to representing Guantánamo Bay detainees and is currently representing detainee Saifullah Paracha, went to court on Wednesday challenging government prohibitions on how Guantánamo lawyers can view and discuss WikiLeaks documents (NYT). The lawyers were warned on Monday that the documents are still classified, and had to be treated accordingly; however, in his petition, Remes said that he wanted to see the documents at home or at the office, and "print, copy, disseminate and discuss" the materials without being prosecuted (NYT, NYT).
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Apr. 26 that the documents were damaging, but likely will not impact future court proceedings for Guantánamo detainees (Reuters). NPR describes how often, intelligence analysts and federal judges interpreted the same information about detainees in starkly different ways (NPR). Such divergent analysis led to the eventual dismantling of the case against detainee Mohammed el-Gharani, an accused al Qaeda member who was freed in mid-2009 (NYT). And the Miami Herald notes that due to judicial practice and restrictions on detainee transfers, the documents are unlikely to help free current prisoners (Miami Herald).
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom continues to press for the return of Shaker Aamer, the last British detainee at Guantánamo, who was cleared for release by military officials in 2007 but remains at the prison (BBC). And British courts this week regained the authority to deport terrorism suspects, as the country continues to grapple with its legacy of sheltering extremists, a history that appears in some of the WikiLeaks documents (Telegraph, Telegraph, Telegraph).
Study asserts Gitmo doctors ignored abuse
A study released Apr. 26 by Physicians for Human Rights of the medical files of nine Guantánamo detainees concluded that, while detainees were given first-class medical care for a range of issues, doctors at the prison systematically ignored evidence of intentional abuse, including, "bone fractures, lacerations, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder," evidence that often did not make it into the detainees’ medical files (ABC, Bloomberg, Telegraph). Multiple lawsuits are pending in state courts to force investigations into psychologists who advised and helped design the interrogation program at Guantánamo (NYT).
Post-9/11 surveillance tool removed
The government on Apr. 27 announced that it had scrapped the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEER) a program instituted after 9/11 that required people from 20 mostly-Arab countries to complete a special registration process when traveling to the United States, saying that technology had made the process unnecessary (WSJ).
In a ruling Apr. 27, a federal judge said that a group of Muslims in California cannot see their FBI files, though he also strongly criticized the government for making "blatantly false" assertions about the documents (NYT).
And in an unusual step, the judge presiding over a suit filed by the family of a 9/11 victim against United Airlines has ruled that each side will have the same amount of time, 50 to 60 hours, to present its case (NYT).
Terrorism watch list no obstruction for gun buyers
The Associated Press reports yesterday that last year 247 people on the government’s terrorism watch list were able to purchase firearms, and that of the 1,453 people on the list who tried to buy guns between Feb. 2004 and Dec. 2010, 90 percent were successful (AP). The government can stop someone from buying a gun for 11 reasons, but not for being on the secret watch list, which is believed to include some 450,000 names of people suspected of terrorist links or activities.
Trials and Tribulations
- AQIM this week released audio statements from four French hostages it kidnapped from the uranium mining town of Arlit, Niger last September, in which the men pleaded for France to withdraw from Afghanistan (Reuters, Bloomberg, AFP). The men were kidnapped with three others, who were released earlier this year, and reports continue to circulate that AQIM has asked for a ransom of 90 million euro in return for the release of the final four hostages (France24).
- A panel of judges in Indonesia found Abdullah Sonata guilty this week of aiding the operations of a terrorist training facility in Aceh province, sentencing him to 10 years in prison (Jakarta Post). Police in Aceh reportedly made seven arrests this week in relation to ongoing terror investigations (Jakarta Post).
- A Somali man, Ahmad Dhakane, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Apr. 28 for lying to federal authorities about his links to two terrorist-linked groups (AP). Dhakane, an alleged human smuggler, sparked an alert last year on the southern border of the United States for a suspected member of the Somali militant group al-Shabaab.