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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.
Al-Qaeda no. 2 reported killed in Pakistan
U.S. officials announced on August 27 that al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, was killed on August 22 in a U.S. drone strike in the tribal areas of Pakistan (AP, Reuters, Post, WSJ, LAT, NYT, ABC). A U.S. official called Rahman’s death "a tremendous loss for al-Qaeda" due to his role as a communicator and operational planner (Post).
Rahman was also a key liaison between al-Qaeda Central and its regional affiliates, and documents recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad show that Rahman was in frequent contact with the late terror leader (LAT, NYT). Experts warn that while this death is a blow to the center of the organization, it does little to weaken affiliates like al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) or al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) (WSJ).
Alleged Christmas Day bomber claims he worked for al-Qaeda
Prosecutors in the case against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man accused of attempting to blow Northwest flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009, said in documents filed on August 26 that Abdulmutallab admitted to authorities in the hours after the attempt that he was working for al-Qaeda (AP, Bloomberg). This was the first time prosecutors have said publicly that Abdulmutallab was operating on behalf of the group, and they requested permission to use this confession in court. Also on August 26, the federal judge presiding over Abdulmutallab’s case agreed to allow him to represent himself during the trial, with some assistance from his standby lawyer when he requests it (DFP).
A Maryland teenager of Pakistani origin is reportedly being held in secret detention on charges of soliciting funds for Colleen LaRose, better known by her Internet pseudonym "JihadJane," who pleaded guilty earlier this year to providing material support to terrorists (Post, AP, LAT). The youth, who has not been named because of his age, allegedly met LaRose in an Internet chat room two years ago at the age of 15.
Court proceedings were postponed August 26 in the trial of Mohamud Said Omar, who is accused of helping to recruit over 20 Somali-American men in Minneapolis to fight with the Somali militant group al-Shabaab in 2007, after Omar collapsed during his hearing (AP).
And Cody Crawford, an Oregon man charged in federal court with the firebombing of a local mosque, told law enforcement officers that he is a "Christian warrior" and that "jihad goes both ways. Christians can jihad, too" (LAT). The firebombing took place last November, injuring no one but destroying the building, and authorities believe it may have been in response to the arrest of a Muslim teenager accused of attempting to attack a Christmas Tree-lighting ceremony in Portland.
NYPD said to have "Demographic Unit"
Adam Goldman continued his reporting on NYPD surveillance efforts this week, providing more details on the department’s "Demographic Unit." (AP). Goldman writes that the unit is composed of officers who are able to blend into groups with "ancestries of interest" including Arab, South Asian, and African American Muslim communities; the covert officers are reportedly instructed to eavesdrop on private conversations between individuals, including those that are not suspected of any wrongdoing.
Court documents from a civil dispute between two aviation companies have revealed details of secret CIA renditions operated by private aviation companies overseen by the prominent defense contracting company DynCorp (Post, Guardian, AP). The documents appear to show flight plans that coincide with the dates and locations of major terrorists’ arrests, and show stops in places such as Bucharest and Bangkok, where the CIA is now known to have "black site" interrogation centers. Court records also reveal that one of the companies involved in the dispute made at least $6 million over three years from CIA contracts, a small percentage of the CIA’s business with private aviation companies, according to publicly available records (Post).
The Post reports today on the CIA’s growing role as a military force involved in lethal operations abroad, and the explosive expansion of the Agency’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC) in the years following the 9/11 attacks (Post). Meanwhile, the former co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission, Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, said in a report released on August 31 that the United States has failed to sufficiently implement nine of the 41 recommendations made in the Commission’s original 2004 report (WSJ). And the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force opened a new operations base at Logan International Airport on August 30, marking the first time a U.S. airport will house a counterterrorism office (AP, Boston Globe).
The Atlantic published on August 30 the first installment in a three-part series on the legal war on terror, identifying individuals who have emerged over the last ten years as "heroes" in this component of counterterrorism, and those who have reportedly disappointed (Atlantic).
Accused terrorist admits shooting U.S. servicemen
Kosovar Arid Uka confessed in a German federal court on August 31 to killing two U.S. servicemen in an attack on a U.S. Air Force bus at Frankfurt Airport in March, telling the court that he regretted his actions and had been influenced by false Islamic extremist propaganda (AP, Deutsche Welle, ABC, BBC, CNN, AJE). Uka has said that he watched a video the night before the attack that purported to show American soldiers raping a Muslim woman, but was in reality a clip taken out of context from the 2007 anti-war movie "Redacted."
The British High Court has rejected a request from lawyers representing Omar Awadh Omar, who is accused of playing a role in the July 2010 bombing in Kampala, Uganda that killed over 70 people, that the court force the government to release his interrogation documents, which Omar’s lawyers claim prove his innocence (BBC). Omar alleged earlier this month that he was kidnapped illegally in Kenya and taken to Uganda, where he says he was mistreated by British and U.S. operatives during interrogations.
Trials and Tribulations
- AQIM on August 28 claimed responsibility in a statement posted to a jihadist website for a suicide bomb attack on an Algerian military academy at Cherchell on August 26 that killed 16 officers and two civilians (AP).
- A purported spokesmen for the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility on August 27 for the attack the day before on the United Nations headquarters in Abuja that killed 23 people (AP, AFP, NYT). Nigerian authorities said on August 31 that they had arrested two suspected coordinators of the deadly attack just days before it happened, and were looking for a third who they said had connections to al-Qaeda (AP).
- In a newsletter posted by the U.S. military to a Guantánamo Bay website on August 27, officials confirmed for the first time that Rear Adm. David Woods assumed his position as commander of the Guantánamo detention facility on August 24 (Miami Herald).
- The Sri Lankan government approved new anti-terror legislation on August 30 in order to continue holding between 1,200 and 1,500 Tamil rebel suspects that were set to be released when the country’s emergency laws expired the same day (BBC, AFP).
- Two Mexicans are facing terrorism charges for false warnings of impending attacks by the Zetas drug cartel last week on Twitter, creating panic in the state of Veracruz (AP).