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- By Jennifer Rowland and Andrew LebovichJennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation, where Andrew Lebovich is a policy analyst.
Alleged Ft. Hood plotter indicted on explosives charges
U.S. Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, who was arrested last month for allegedly plotting to attack American servicemen at or near Ft. Hood, was indicted by a grand jury in Texas on August 8 on charges of possession of an unregistered destructive device and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition (CNN, AP, Reuters, AFP, Politico). Before being arrested with bomb-making materials and instructions on July 27, Abdo had reportedly been absent without leave from his base in Kentucky, and had been accused of unrelated child pornography offenses. Lawfare Blog comments on the lack of charges (so far) specific to Abdo’s Ft. Hood attack plot, and the legal difficulties of lone-wolf terrorism cases (Lawfare).
A lawyer assisting Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who allegedly attempted to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit on December 25, 2009, filed a motion on August 5 requesting that Abdulmutallab’s trial be moved from Michigan so that his client could receive a fair trial (AP, Bloomberg, Politico). Abdulmutallab, who plans to represent himself in court, is also asking the judge to throw out statements he made while sedated when he was undergoing medical procedures for burns he suffered during the failed attack. A separate motion filed on August 5 by prosecutors in the case requested that Abdulmutallab be prevented from asking questions of government officials during the trial that may force them to reveal information sensitive to U.S. national security, a request granted August 9 (Politico, DFP).
A federal judge on August 9 approved a joint request from federal prosecutors and defense lawyers to delay the trial of two men accused of plotting to attack a military processing station in Seattle, Walli Mujahidh and Khalid Abdul-Latif, citing the complexity of the case and the large amount of evidence gathered by police and the FBI (Seattle Times, AP). Also on August 9, Pennsylvania man Emerson Begolly, indicted last month on terrorism and weapon charges, pleaded guilty to encouraging participants on his Islamic extremist Internet forum to carry out attacks on American military and civilian targets, and to possession of a firearm (AP, Reuters).
An attorney for Waad Ramadan Alwan, one of two Iraqi men facing terrorism charges in Kentucky, has said that he requested in a motion filed on July 19 that two unidentified charges against his client be dropped because the Geneva Convention prohibits those charges from being prosecuted in a U.S. civilian court (AP). Prosecutors in the case subsequently filed a motion on August 8 arguing that Alwan is not protected under the Geneva Convention, making it lawful for him to be tried on all current charges in a civilian court (AP).
A federal judge on August 8 denied bail for Irfan Khan, who along with his father and brother is charged with conspiring to provide material support for terrorists, specifically for plotting to send money to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) (Reuters). The attorney for Khan’s father, Hafiz Khan, has requested the identity of the FBI informant whose recorded conversations with the defendants provide the "backbone" of the prosecution’s case (AP). And former Minneapolis resident Mahamud Said Omar, who was arrested by authorities in the Netherlands last year and recently extradited to the U.S., is set to appear in court today to answer charges of involvement in recruiting at least 20 Somali-American men in 2007 and 2008 to fight alongside the Somali militant group al-Shabaab (Star Tribune).
Authorities on August 10 found a small explosive device attached to a timer on a gas pipeline in rural Oklahoma, though authorities say they have no leads in the case (CNN, AP, Reuters, AFP, ABC). And three people were arrested August 5 after a fake bomb was discovered in the carry-on bags of an Ethiopian woman at the Phoenix International Airport (AP).
Pentagon names new Gitmo commander
The Department of Defense on August 10 announced the appointment of Rear Adm. David Woods as the new commander of the Guantánamo Bay detention center (Miami Herald). Woods is currently the director of strategy and policy at the headquarters of Naval Operations, and is responsible for the war court known as "Camp Justice" established by the Bush administration to try those accused in relation to 9/11 and other war crimes.
Carol Rosenberg reported on August 6 that as most Guantánamo detainees begin their tenth Ramadan in prison, more than half of them are not fasting (Miami Herald).
And Time magazine has a must-read this week on the "terrorist hunters" of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, who are used increasingly to fight the nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism, but who some allege are overstepping their authority (Time).
Bali bomber extradited to Indonesia
Admitted Bali bomb plotter Umar Patek was extradited on August 10 to his native Indonesia, where he is being held in a detention center awaiting charges (AP, AFP, BBC, CBS, AJE). Indonesian authorities were initially reluctant to take custody of Patek because their terrorism laws were implemented in 2003 and are non-retroactive, prompting concern that it would be difficult for them to prosecute him for the 2002 Bali attacks. As a result, Patek is likely to face criminal charges of premeditated murder and violating an emergency law on explosives, but the only possible terrorism-related charges he may face would be for assisting Dulmatin, the fugitive mastermind of the Bali attacks killed in 2010 (NYT, Jakarta Post).
Trials and Tribulations
- A federal judge in Oregon on August 10 ruled against a motion requesting a new trial for Pete Seda, who was convicted of raising money to send to militant extremists in Chechnya through his Islamic charity organization (AP).
- A couple in the United Kingdom, Mohammed Sajid Khan and his wife Shasta Khan, was charged on August 5 with engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism (BBC).
- In an audio message purportedly from al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and posted on August 8 to a jihadist Internet forum, the speaker calls on Sunni militants who left the insurgent group and joined the U.S. and Iraqi governments to return to AQI (AP, Reuters).
- The Somali militant group al-Shabaab withdrew from the capital city of Mogadishu on August 7 as the country’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) declared victory over the insurgent forces (LAT, Reuters, NYT, AP, AJE, CNN). However, al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Sharif Ahmed Rage rejected the notion that the group has been defeated, calling the withdrawal "tactical," and experts warn that a small expansion of government control will do little to bring peace to the nation. For the first time, the Somali government on August 9 offered amnesty to al-Shabaab militants still fighting in Mogadishu if they renounce militancy (Reuters, AJE).
- In a manifesto posted to an extremist website, a radical anti-nanotechnology group claimed responsibility on August 9 for mail-bombs that injured two researchers in Mexico, and praised the "Unabomber" Theodore Kaczynski (AP).
- A man of Palestinian origin known to the public only has Hussam S. is facing terrorism charges in Germany for posting videos, audio and texts on the Internet in support of violent jihad, and attempting to recruit people to al-Qaeda (AP).
- The head of the U.N.-back tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri said in an open letter published on August 11 that the four Hezbollah figures indicted in the case will receive a fair trial if they turn themselves in, offering the option of appearing in trial via video-link instead of traveling to the Netherlands in person (AJE, AP, AFP, CNN).