The LWOT: Chicago man convicted of supporting Lashkar-e-Taiba

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Rana convicted of some terror charges

A court in Chicago late on June 9 sent back a mixed verdict on Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Hussain Rana, convicting him of conspiring to support the group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as well as a plot to attack a Danish newspaper, but acquitting him of providing support to the 2008 Mumbai attacks (Reuters, BBC, Chicago Tribune, FT, Bloomberg, Times of India). Rana faces 30 years in prison, though his lawyer indicated that he will appeal the verdict.

Sebastian Rotella writes that the trial, while answering questions about how terrorists intersect with the Pakistani government, left many open questions about key witness and confessed terrorist David Coleman Headley’s time as an informant for the United States government, while he was simultaneously engaged in militant activity (ProPublica, ProPublica). Several people indicted in the case remain at large, including a purported Pakistani intelligence officer and militant commander Ilyas Kashmiri, who may have been killed in a U.S. drone strike June 3 (NYT). For full coverage of the circumstances surrounding Kashmiri’s possible death, sign up for the AfPak Channel Daily Brief (FP). 

Somali-American indicted on terror charges

Police in Ohio on June 9 arrested an American of Somali descent, Ahmed Hussein Mahamud, charging him with providing material support to the militant group al-Shabaab (indictment available here) (DOJ, Reuters, AP). Mahamud, who will be sent to Minnesota to face the charges, is the 20th person of Somali descent from the state to be charged with attempting to aid al-Shabaab. One of those indicted previously was Farah Mohamed Beledi, whom the FBI identified June 9 as one of the suicide bombers who attacked an African Union base in Somalia last week (FBI, Minnesota StarTribune, MPR). Somalia’s government said this week it had killed a Canadian fighting for al-Shabaab, and CIA director Leon Panetta told Congress this week that the group wants to strike targets outside of Somalia (Globe and Mail, AFP).

In North Carolina this week Zakariya Boyd, indicted along with six others in 2009 for training and plotting to wage jihad abroad, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists (DOJ, NYT, CNN, AP). Boyd’s father Daniel has already pled guilty in the case, and the five remaining defendants, including Boyd’s brother Dylan, face trial in September. Bonus: explore the New America Foundation’s searchable database of homegrown jihadist terrorism arrests in the United States since 9/11 (NAF). 

Two Iraqi refugees arrested last week in Kentucky for allegedly plotting to send arms and money to Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) waived their rights to bail hearings this week (AFP, Bowling Green Daily News, NPR). A 76-year-old Florida imam charged with allegedly providing financial support to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) requested bail on June 8 (AP). And federal prosecutors in New York on June 8 asked a court to sentence four men convicted of plotting to attack Bronx synagogues and an Air National Guard base to life in prison (Bloomberg, AP).  

Wrapping up this week, CNN reports that the U.S. government is in the "final stages" of finishing its first official counterterrorism strategy, as the head of the National Counterterrorism Center, Mike Leiter, announced that he will retire from his post in six weeks (CNN, AP, NYT, National Journal, Reuters). Congressman Peter King (R-NY) has announced that his Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing June 15 on prison radicalization in the United States (WSJ, AFP). And the Washington Post reports that in the past two years the Department of Homeland Security has significantly cut back its analysis of non-Muslim radicalism, even as incidents of right wing and other extremism have increased (Washington Post).  

Al-Qaeda releases Zawahiri video 

Al-Qaeda’s media arm released a video this week from Ayman al-Zawahiri eulogizing slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, expressing support for the ongoing Arab rebellions, and renewing al-Qaeda’s pledge of loyalty to Taliban leader Mullah Omar (BBC, CNN, Washington Post). The video did not, however, answer still-burning questions about al-Qaeda’s leadership in the wake of bin Laden’s death (Miami Herald). The AP’s Kimberly Dozier reports that U.S. intelligence analysts are "95 percent done" sifting through the information seized from bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound (AP). And the United States is ramping up drone attacks against Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) (CNN, NYT).    

Britain announces counterterrorism reforms

British Home Secretary Theresa May on June 7 announced major reforms to the UK’s controversial Prevent program, telling the House of Commons that funding for the program will be reduced, Muslim groups receiving money from the government would be scrutinized for their views on democracy, human rights and more, and that groups deemed too extreme would not receive funding (Reuters, Guardian, BBC, BBC). The government’s official report on Prevent also found that in the past, "extremist" groups had inadvertently received government funding, money was wasted on counter-radicalization programs abroad, and warned that radicalization was ongoing in prisons, universities, and at street stalls (Guardian, Guardian, Telegraph, BBC, Telegraph, Telegraph).  

European parliament asks for Gitmo reprieve

The European Parliament this week passed a resolution asking the United States not to seek the death penalty in the upcoming military trial of Guantánamo Bay detainee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is charged with allegedly planning the 2000 U.S.S. Cole bombing (Miami Herald).  

In an order signed May 23 but not released until June 8, a federal judge barred the government from using some statements made in custody by Abdu Ali al-Haji Sharqawi against him in habeas proceedings, on account of abuse Sharqawi suffered during his detention in Jordan and Afghanistan (Courthouse News). And a forthcoming report from the British government on torture will reportedly look at the role Britain played in the "improper treatment of [British] detainees" held at Guantánamo, as well as the rendition of terrorism suspects (Guardian).

Trials and Tribulations

  • The militant group the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) released a video last Friday claiming the death of a German jihadist in battle against U.S. forces in Afghanistan (Der Spiegel). At least seven Germans have died fighting in recent years with militants in Afghanistan or Pakistan.  
  • Turkish police in the country’s south arrested 10 people this week over suspected connections to al-Qaeda (AP).  
  • Radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakir Bashir on June 6 rejected the legitimacy of the court trying him on terrorism charges as "outside Islamic law" in his last appearance in the court before his verdict is announced (AP, Sydney Morning Herald).  
  • Czech authorities on June 7 released a Pakistani man held on an international arrest warrant for terrorism and other charges, after Pakistan, the country that filed the warrant, failed to apply for the man’s extradition within 40 days of his arrest (Dawn). 

Andrew Lebovich is a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a doctoral candidate in African history at Columbia University. He is currently based in Senegal and has conducted field research in Niger and Mali.

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