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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.
Bin Laden appears in videos seized from compound
The Department of Defense this weekend released five videos seized from Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad, Pakistan compound, with one video showing an aging bin Laden hunched under a blanket, watching images of himself on satellite television, while others show the deceased terror mastermind with his beard died black, rehearsing and sometimes re-doing lines from propaganda tapes (Washington Post, NYT, Telegraph, AP, CBS, TIME). The videos are part of what intelligence officials are calling, "the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever" and demonstrate for some the isolation of bin Laden, who is believed to have lived in the compound for five years without leaving before his death in a Special Forces operation last Monday (NYT, CNN, NYT). U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said this weekend that he would share the information gleaned from the compound with allies "as soon as possible" (AP).
Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said today that Pakistan would allow the United States to interview bin Laden’s three widows currently held in Pakistani custody (CNN, Reuters, AP, NYT, CNN, ABC). The move comes as relations remain tense between Pakistan and the United States — Pakistani media outlets yesterday reported the identity of a man they claimed is the CIA station chief in Pakistan, and Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani lashed out at suggestions that Pakistan was either incompetent or complicit in allowing bin Laden to hide on Pakistani soil (WSJ, Telegraph, Bloomberg, CBS, Washington Post). For more coverage of bin Laden and the rift with Pakistan, see Katherine Tiedemann’s AfPak Channel Daily Brief here and here.
Bin Laden’s death has focused attention on succession within al-Qaeda, and on bin Laden’s divisive deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, to whom Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) expressed support in a statement released May 9 (AP, Washington Post, Telegraph).
In a television appearance this weekend, former Vice President Dick Cheney said that early intelligence in the hunt for bin Laden likely came from waterboarding and other "enhanced" methods, and called for the government to reinstate such methods (AFP). Counterterrorism tips have reportedly spiked in the United States since bin Laden’s death (McClatchy).
The Washington Post yesterday chronicled former CIA agent Michael Hurley, who has worked for much of the last decade on finding bin Laden (Washington Post). And as part of a security lockdown instituted after bin Laden’s death, French authorities arrested seven suspected militants today, including an Indian national with reported links to Pakistan who entered the country from Algeria (AFP).
AQIM lauds bin Laden
The group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb became the first al-Qaeda affiliate to release a eulogy to Osama bin Laden on May 8, crediting bin Laden and jihadist groups with fostering the current revolutions shaking the Middle East, and exhorting supporters, "Do not cry for [bin Laden]…. Instead rise and go on his path. Rise and thwart the American Zionist Western unjust aggression with all of your power and energy" (AFP, Telegraph). Just the day before, the organization denied any involvement in the Apr. 28 bombing of a café in Marrakesh that killed 17 people in a statement to a private Mauritanian news agency (Reuters, BBC). And new details emerged about the suspected bomber in that attack, Adel al-Othmani (Reuters).
India ratchets up pressure on terror case
India has increased pressure on Pakistan ahead of the trial this month of alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba supporter Tahawwur Hussain Rana, releasing a document (available here) that provides more information about the alleged involvement of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in the 2008 Mumbai attacks (WSJ).
Michael Finton, a convert to Islam who went by the name "Talib Islam" confessed in a federal court May 9 to attempting to bomb the federal courthouse in Springfield, IL. in 2009 and was immediately sentenced to 28 years in prison (FBI, CNN, AFP). The plot was part of an FBI sting operation in which undercover agents posing as members of al-Qaeda met with Finton and eventually supplied him with the inert explosives that he eventually attempted to use.
Attorneys for Oregon teenager Mohamed Osman Mohamud, arrested last November in a plot to bomb Portland’s Christmas Tree-lighting ceremony that also turned out to be a sting operation, alleged in a hearing last Friday that a government agent named "Bill Smith" attempted to incite their client to violence through a series of email messages, a likely prelude to an entrapment defense (AP, OregonLive.com).
Federal agents on May 9 arrested Joey Brice, a Clarkston, WA resident, on charges of constructing an explosive device (KXLY.com, KOMOnews.com). Brice, who drew the attention of authorities due to his radical postings under a YouTube account named "strengthofallah" seriously injured himself last year after a bomb he was building exploded prematurely.
Nashiri lawyers file charges against Poland
Lawyers for Guantánamo Bay detainee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who faces military trial at the camp for his alleged role in the 2000 U.S.S. Cole bombing, have filed a complaint against Poland before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France (NYT, AP). The filing charges Polish complicity in Nashiri’s rendering to a secret CIA base in the country, where Nashiri’s lawyers allege he was abused by CIA interrogators. Nashiri has been given "victim" status in a Polish prosecutor’s probe of the so-called "black site."
And at a press conference May 9 with French Interior Minister Claude Gueant, Attorney General Holder reiterated his commitment to close Guantánamo (Reuters).
Trials and Tribulations
- Last Friday’s drone strike in Yemen which killed two Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operatives reportedly targeted radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, though he escaped harm (CNN, Washington Post, AFP, LAT, Guardian).
- Senate Republicans yesterday prevented Democrats from bringing the nomination of Justice Department no. 2 Jim Cole to a vote, in continued opposition to Cole’s stated desire to use both civilian and military trials to prosecute terrorist suspects (WSJ).
- Der Spiegel has a must-read piece on homegrown radicalization in Germany, detailing networks designed to supply jihadist groups and move Germans to Pakistan’s tribal areas for training (Der Spiegel). The article claims that approximately five Germans travel for jihadist training each month, and reports that a recent Düsseldort bomb plot was linked to senior al-Qaeda leader Atiyah Abd al-Rahman.
- A U.S. federal judge this weekend denied the motion from alleged al-Qaeda member Khalid al-Fawwaz, indicted for alleged involvement in the 1998 East African embassy bombings, to have a U.S. lawyer represent him in his fight against extradition from the United Kingdom to the United States (Bloomberg). Al-Fawwaz is likely to be transferred to the United States in the near future.
- Indonesian prosecutors called for life imprisonment for radical cleric and accused terrorist supporter Abu Bakir Bashir at the close of his trial on May 9, though they dropped two charges that could have earned Bashir the death penalty (Jakarta Globe, AFP, BBC). In conversations with reporters Bashir praised Osama bin Laden and condemned U.S. President Barack Obama, while still asserting his innocence of the charges (AP, Telegraph).
- Iraq is scheduled on May 11 to execute the Yemeni wife of slain AQI leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri for her relationship with the terrorist chief, despite not being accused of playing any operational role in the group (Guardian).
- Czech authorities announced May 9 that they arrested a Pakistani man last month, Muhammad Zafar, wanted under an international arrest warrant for terrorism, as well as "sexual crimes…and theft" (AFP, Reuters).