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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.
"Credible but unconfirmed" terrorist plot identified
U.S. officials announced on September 8 that they had received intelligence within the previous 48 hours about a potential terrorist plot timed to coincide with the upcoming 9/11 anniversary by al-Qaeda militants targeting Washington D.C. or New York City (WSJ, AP, Reuters, NYT, BBC, LAT, Post, Guardian, Politico). News reports also said that intelligence agents know of three suspects who may have left Afghanistan and entered the United States last month.
The New York Times has a must-see series of articles, videos and photos looking back on the 9/11 attacks, a decade of war, and the significant changes in U.S. and world society (NYT). A September 8 Reuters article looks at the improvements in information-sharing between U.S. intelligence agencies following the 9/11 attacks, but reports that issues which could allow officials to miss a terrorist threat still exist (Reuters). Meanwhile, the National Journal points out that ten years after 9/11, the United States still does not have a clear policy for the handling of suspected terrorist detainees (National Journal). And United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon has called for a global anti-terror treaty to replace the many separate treaties concerning terrorism, terrorist financing, and weapons of mass destruction (Reuters, AP).
Pakistan captures key al-Qaeda leader
Pakistani officials announced on September 5 that Pakistani intelligence agents, with the help of U.S. intelligence, had arrested in Quetta top al-Qaeda operative Younis al-Mauritani, who is said to be responsible for planning and executing terrorist attacks abroad (BBC, AJE, AP, LAT, Guardian, CNN, NPR). An unnamed U.S. official called this "another major blow to al-Qaeda," and White House spokesman Josh Earnest hailed the arrest as "an example of the longstanding partnership between the U.S. and Pakistan in fighting terrorism" (McClatchy, Reuters, AFP).
The U.S. Treasury Department announced in a press release on September 7 that it had levied sanctions against three al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, including al-Mauritani, listed by his real name, ‘Abd al-Rahman Ould Muhammad al-Husayn Ould Muhammad Salim (WSJ, AFP). The sanctions also apply to alleged al-Qaeda propaganda chief Abu Yahya al-Libi and facilitator-cum-courier Mustafa Hajji Muhammad Khan. And on September 8, U.S. Treasury officials Timothy Geithner and David Cohen said that the targeting of terrorist finance networks has been "integral" to protecting U.S. national security, and that al-Qaeda today "struggles" to obtain funding (Bloomberg, AFP, ABC).
Indian police on September 8 detained five suspects at an Internet café in Kashmir in relation to the September 7 bombing outside a New Delhi court that killed 13 people (Reuters, BBC). The owner of the café, his brother, and an employee were among those taken in for questioning, after an email taking credit for the attack on behalf of the militant group Harakat-ul Jihad Islami (HuJI) was traced back to the café. A second email sent to news outlets claiming responsibility for the attack on behalf of the Indian Mujahideen is also being investigated (AFP).
A German police spokesman said on September 8 that officers in Berlin arrested two terrorist suspects of Middle Eastern origin after an extensive investigation, during which the men bought chemicals that could be used to make a bomb (Reuters, Deutsche Welle, CNN, BBC, WSJ, AP).
Virginia man arrested, facing terrorism charges
On September 2, Pakistani-born Virginia resident Jubair Ahmad was arrested and charged in a federal court in Virginia with providing material support to a terrorist group in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and lying to federal investigators during their investigation (Reuters, Post, AP, AFP). Jubair, who allegedly attended LeT training camps in Pakistan as a youth, is accused of communicating with the son of LeT leader Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, as well as posting a jihadist video to a website in support of the militant group.
A federal judge in Manhattan on September 7 sentenced Laguerre Payen to 25 years in prison for his role in a 2009 New York City synagogue bomb plot, as well as plans to obtain and use Stinger missiles to shoot down military aircraft (Bloomberg, LAT, Reuters, AP, WSJ). Payen was convicted last year along with three others after being arrested in 2009 in an elaborate and controversial FBI sting operation. And a federal judge in Minnesota ruled on September 7 that confessed Somali terrorist suspect Kamal Said Hassan will be released to his family’s home under strict restrictions until his sentencing (AP).
White supremacist Kevin Harpham pleaded guilty in U.S. district court in Spokane, WA on September 7 to planting a bomb at a Spokane Martin Luther King Jr. parade in January, agreeing to serve between 27 and 32 years in prison (AP, Reuters, LAT, CNN). Also on September 7, U.S. authorities said that an unidentified person threatened on September 5 to blow up the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in a voicemail left at the center (AP). Local police have stepped up security at the mosque, which has been the victim of vandalism and arson in the past.
The AP on September 3 revealed that more than 35,000 people have been convicted on terrorism charges since 9/11 (AP). A third of the convictions came from Turkey, while China has reportedly arrested more than 7,000 individuals under a law that encompasses terrorism, extremism and separatism.
The Los Angeles Times on September 6 looked at the increased role played by law enforcement agencies in running counterterrorism operations following 9/11 (LAT). And New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on September 7 defended the New York Police Department’s reported surveillance of Muslim communities by comparing it to the screening of children for measles (AP). He added that generalizations should not be made about any one group of people, but that law enforcement agencies have a responsibility to be proactive about potential terrorist threats.
Documents reveal Western intelligence officials’ ties with Gaddafi regime
Documents recovered at an office building in Tripoli appear to reveal the close relationship maintained by the CIA and British intelligence agency MI6 with the intelligence officials of ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi (TIME, Guardian, AFP, BBC). The documents reportedly provide details of secret CIA renditions of terrorist suspects to Libya between 2002 and 2004, run with the help of British and Libyan intelligence agents (TIME).
One individual rendered to Libya, current security chief for the Libyan rebels Abdelhakim Belhaj, alleged in an interview with the Independent that British intelligence agents were aware that he was being tortured by Libyan security officials, but did not try to stop the abuse (Independent). British Prime Minister David Cameron said on September 5 that his government’s ongoing inquiry into the country’s potential involvement in the mistreatment of suspected terrorists will now include a probe into the ties between U.K. intelligence agents and the Gaddafi regime (AP, Guardian, CBS, Independent, BBC).
NATO officials said on September 3 that Afghan and coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan killed an insurgent leader they called Sabar Lal, believed to be former Guantánamo Bay detainee Sabar Lal Melma, who was released in 2007 (NYT, Reuters, AP). Officials also said that Melma was in contact with senior al-Qaeda members and was responsible for organizing and financing attacks on coalition forces in the Pech District of Afghanistan, though locals and members of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council dispute the allegations (NYT).
The Atlantic highlighted on September 5 a provision in the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would place all foreign terrorist suspects into military custody, a potential departure from the current system in which the president chooses whether the FBI or the military should handle suspects (Atlantic). And the White House has reportedly threatened to veto the House version of the Intelligence Authorization Act over several provisions, including one making the selection of director of the National Security Agency contingent upon Senate approval, and one requiring that the State Department reveal cables dealing with Guantánamo Bay detainees to Congress (Politico).
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan said on September 8 that he is "concerned" about congressional efforts to limit the administration’s ability to deal with terrorist suspects on a case-by-case basis, and that no new terrorism detainees will be brought to Guantánamo (WSJ, Politico).
Northern Ireland "supergrass" trial underway
Fourteen members of the banned Protestant paramilitary group the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) went on trial amid tight security in Belfast on September 6, facing charges linked to the murder of rival Loyalist group Ulster Defense Association (UDA) leader Tommy English (AFP, Guardian, BBC, Reuters, CNN, Guardian). The case rests on the new testimony of brothers David and Robert Stewart, who in 2008 turned themselves in for their part in the brutal 2000 murder of English in front of his wife and children (BBC).
Trials and Tribulations
- A spokesman for the Ethiopian government said on September 5 that Ethiopian forces have detained 29 suspected terrorists, including include at least two opposition politicians (AP, Reuters). And Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman Anders Jorle said on September 7 that two Swedish journalists arrested in Ethiopia in July have been charged with terrorism (AP, Bloomberg).
- The AP reported on September 3 on the lack of terrorist convictions in Norway despite the arrests of eleven terrorist suspects since 2000, and the potential loopholes in the country’s anti-terror laws (AP).
- Thai police said on September 6 that suspected Islamic militants killed three people in the country’s south that day (AP).
- The U.S. Department of Defense announced on September 7 that it would be raising the force protection level at U.S. military bases throughout the nation in the lead-up to the tenth anniversary of 9/11 (CNN, Politico, AFP, AP, WSJ, Post).