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North Carolina terror suspects plead not guilty
Five North Carolina men indicted in 2009 for conspiracy to carry out acts of terrorism abroad pleaded not guilty in federal court in Raleigh on August 15 (AP, Reuters). Two other figures in the case, including the alleged ringleader of a plot to attack the Marine base at Quantico, Daniel Patrick Boyd, pleaded guilty earlier this year to terrorism charges.
Lawyers for Wesam El-Hanafi, a Brooklyn man accused of allegedly purchasing seven digital watches to send to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), requested in a motion filed on August 12 to bar from proceedings any statements made by their client after being told he was on a no-fly list (Reuters). The attorneys argued that El-Hanafi was "deceived into believing that submission to an interview with the FBI was the only mechanism to secure his removal from the list."
Two brothers of Mohamud Said Omar, accused of helping recruit more than 20 Somali-American men to fight with the Somali militant group al-Shabaab, said outside of Omar’s first court appearance on August 15 that their brother is mentally and emotionally incapable of providing material support to terrorists abroad (AP). Lawfare Blog August 15 commented on the potential necessity of trying Omar in a civilian court as opposed to a military tribunal, and the broad definition of "conspiracy" the U.S. government appears to be using in the case (Lawfare). And on August 18 Long Island resident Mohammad Younis pleaded guilty to running an unlicensed hawala money-transfer business through which he may have unknowingly provided funds to Faisal Shahzad, the man who has admitted to attempting to set off a car bomb in Times Square last year (WSJ).
A federal judge on August 12 delayed the trial of Kevin Harpham, who is charged with planting a bomb at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Spokane, WA, due to concern over the fairness of the trial (AP). Harpham, who is closely linked to white supremacist groups, could face life in prison if convicted.
The U.S. Treasury Department on August 16 leveled sanctions against three alleged leaders of the al-Qaeda-linked Indonesian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, Umar Patek, Abdul Rahim Baasyir, and Jibril Abdul Rahman (AFP, Reuters). On the same day, the U.S. State Department sanctioned an alleged commander of the Taliban-linked Haqqani Network in Afghanistan, Sangeen Zadran (WSJ, AFP, AP). And in another designation, State Department officials imposed sanctions on Mumtuz Dughmush, a leader of the Hamas splinter group Ansar al-Islam, which is believed to be "ideologically aligned with al-Qaeda," according to the State Department press release (Bloomberg, DoS). Indonesian authorities on August 17 reduced the sentences of 84 convicted terrorists, including Abdul Rahman, in a move they customarily make on the country’s Independence Day for convicts who have completed at least a third of their sentence (AFP).
Pentagon runs 9/11 trial rehearsal at Gitmo
Carol Rosenberg reported on August 15 on the environmental and technological challenges faced by the U.S. Department of Defense earlier this month during a clandestine dry run of the planned 9/11 mass murder trials at Guantánamo Bay (Miami Herald). The rehearsal involved around 60 officials with top-secret clearances, and was scripted from start to finish to test participants’ readiness for difficult detainees and security risks that might be encountered during the trials; however, unexpected technological difficulties and Tropical Storm Emily disrupted some parts of the plan.
A federal judge on August 17 denied a motion filed by Kenyan Guantánamo detainee Mohammed Abdulmalik to gain access to the names and depositions of his interrogators in order to corroborate his allegations that he was abused while in custody in Mombasa (CNS).
And the last British inmate at Guantánamo, Shaker Aamer, is feared to be in dangerously bad health as he nears a decade in U.S. custody (Independent). Initially thought to have aided the Taliban, Aamer has not been charged with a crime by U.S. authorities and was cleared for release in 2007, but remains in the detention center, where he alleges he has been mistreated.
Breivik returns to massacre site
Norwegian police on August 14 brought Anders Breivik, who has admitted to killing nearly 80 people last month in a bombing attack in Oslo and subsequent shooting spree at a youth camp on the island of Utoya, back to the island to reenact the incident (AFP, Tel, CNN, Guardian, Reuters, Post, AP, BBC). Breivik reportedly showed no remorse, telling police that the massacre was, "necessary."
The U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri said on August 19 that it has expanded its jurisdiction to include three other attacks they believe could be linked (AP). The president of the tribunal also ruled on August 18 that the indictments of the four suspects in the case should be publicly advertised, and urged the Lebanese government to do more to arrest the men, who are believed to be part of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah (AJE). Following the release on August 17 of details of the tribunal’s investigation, including the analysis of phone calls that led to the four suspects, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech that the indictments lack sufficient evidence (LAT, AJE, Daily Star).
Spain’s Interior Ministry said on August 17 that Spanish police had arrested Moroccan Abdellatif Aoulad Chiba on suspicion of links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and inciting violence through an online jihadist forum (BBC, AP). AQIM on August 18 released a statement on an Islamic extremist website claiming responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on police headquarters in the Algerian city of Tizi Ouzou that injured 29 people (Reuters).
A measure enacted after the 2005 London transit bombings allowing the British Home Office to strip naturalized British nationals of their citizenship has been used to deny citizenship nine times since the United Kingdom’s general election last year, compared to only four times in the four years after it came into force (Guardian).
Trials and Tribulations
- A U.S. State Department report released on August 18 says that while the number of terrorist attacks worldwide has increased by more than 5 percent in the last year, the number of deaths caused by terrorism has dropped by almost 14 percent (Bloomberg). And U.S. president Barack Obama said on August 16 in an interview with CNN that he believes the most likely source of a terrorist attack is a "lone wolf," rather than a large-scale attack coordinated by a group like al-Qaeda (AFP, CNN, AP).
- The New York Times first reported on August 12 that according to classified intelligence reports, AQAP has been trying for at least the past year to obtain large quantities of castor beans, which can be used to make the highly toxic poison ricin (NYT, Tel, Reuters).
- A series of coordinated attacks and explosions suspected to be the work of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) killed at least 80 people across the country on August 14, Iraq’s deadliest day so far this year (NYT, Post, Guardian, CNN, LAT, Tel).
- In a video posted to jihadist websites on August 14, al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri called on supporters to launch attacks on the "criminal country" of the United States to avenge Osama bin Laden’s death (AP, AFP).
- The New York Times reported on August 17 on the growth of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, and suspicions that it is increasing ties with AQIM (NYT).
- Chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said on August 18 that his committee has launched an investigation into the "possible involvement" of radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in the 9/11 attacks (Fox, Politico).
- The German government on August 17 approved the extension of several anti-terrorism measures enacted following the attacks on 9/11, though some measures deemed to be useless or posing legal problems have been dropped (AP).
- Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said on August 16 that his administration is seeking the removal of strict anti-abuse safeguards from the country’s anti-terror law, in order to encourage law enforcement officials to use it to charge suspects (AP). The law has only been used twice since its passage in 2007, due to provisions that include an $11,700 fine per day for police or military officers who wrongfully detain a terrorism suspect.