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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 chief of operations in Pakistan reported killed
Anonymous U.S. officials said on September 15 that senior al-Qaeda figure Abu Hafs al-Shahri had been killed earlier in the week in the tribal areas of Pakistan, with some reports indicating that al-Shahri may have been one of four militants killed in a drone attack on September 11 (AFP, Reuters, BBC, Tel, AP, CNN, Guardian, NYT, Post). Officials also said that al-Shahri, who was in charge of the organization’s operations inside Pakistan, may have been poised to take on the responsibilities of recently killed second-in-command Atiyah Abd al-Rahman.
Officials within the Obama administration and Congress have said that the White House is debating whether the U.S. may target low-level militants in Somalia and Yemen with drone attacks as it does in Pakistan, an expansion of the current policy of attacking "high-value individuals" (NYT). As the core of al-Qaeda weakens in Pakistan and the attention of counterterrorism officials shifts to affiliated groups, particularly in Somalia and Yemen, the result of this debate may help chart the course for America’s continued war against al-Qaeda.
Study reveals new details about right- and left-wing terrorism
A study released on September 10 by the New America Foundation and Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Policy documents 114 incidents of non-jihadist homegrown terrorism in the United State since 9/11 (CNN). The database, which is searchable by case and includes an interactive map with case information by state, found that:
- While no cases of jihadist terrorism since 9/11 have involved chemical, biological, or radiological weapons, at least five non-jihadist cases involved the presence of or attempts to acquire such materials;
- More than a third of cases involved individuals motivated by an anti-government ideology;
- Informants, cooperating witnesses, and undercover government agents were involved in more than half of right-and left-wing terrorist cases;
- In both right-and left-wing terrorism and jihadist cases, families and social or religious communities were just as likely to provide authorities with tips that either let to arrests or aided investigations.
Four arrested on suspicion of terrorist plotting in Sweden
Swedish police on September 10 arrested four individuals believed to be plotting a terrorist attack in the city of Gothenburg, and evacuated an arts center as a precaution (NYT, Tel, Bloomberg, BBC, Reuters, AP, AJE, Deutsche Welle). Court documents filed on September 12 revealed that three of the four men are of Somali origin, while the fourth is Iraqi — they were identified as Kulan Mohamud Abel, Mahamud Abdi Aziz, Mohamud Abdi Weli, and Mahmood Salar Sami (CNN, AP, AFP).
The Spanish National Court today convicted Basque separatist Arnaldo Otegi on terrorism charges, and handed him a ten-year prison sentence for attempting to revive the banned political wing of the militant separatist organization ETA (AP). And attorneys defending Michael Campbell in his terrorism trial in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius claimed today that Campbell was framed by Britain’s MI5, and that he is innocent of charges that he tried to buy weapons for the Northern Irish terrorist group the Real IRA from an undercover Lithuanian intelligence agent (AP).
Two suspects on trial in Uganda for the July 2010 Kampala bombings that killed 76 people were given sentences of 25 and five years, respectively, today after pleading guilty to terrorism and conspiracy charges (AP, Reuters, AFP, BBC). Five other suspects were freed on September 12, including prominent Kenyan human rights activist al-Amin Kimathi (BBC, AP, WSJ, CNN, Reuters).
"Underwear bomber" prosecutors secure pre-trial wins
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds, who is presiding over the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man accused of attempting to blow up a flight to Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009, ruled on September 15 that prosecutors will be allowed to use incriminating statements made by Abdulmutallab to federal investigators immediately after being detained (CNN, Reuters, AP, Bloomberg). An FBI agent who questioned Abdulmutallab following the suspect’s alleged attempt testified at a hearing on September 14 that the suspect was not read his Miranda rights immediately after his arrest because investigators believed he may have known of additional suicide bombers in the air, while a nurse testified that Abdulmutallab was not overmedicated during the questioning (Bloomberg, Bloomberg, AP).
Abdulmutallab’s prosecutors requested in court filings on September 9 that they be allowed to show the jury video demonstrations of explosions caused by chemical mixtures similar to those found in the bomb the defendant allegedly hid in his underwear (AP). Judge Edmunds also ruled on September 9 that the jury will remain anonymous when proceedings begin next month (Reuters, AFP).
A third member of a North Carolina family arrested and indicted on terrorism charges in 2009, Dylan Boyd, pleaded guilty on September 15 to conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, and faces up to 15 years in prison (LAT, AFP, AP, Reuters). Prosecutors in the case of Michael D. McCright, who is accused of trying to run two U.S. servicemen off the road in Seattle in July, said on September 13 that McCright’s phone records show he had attempted to call alleged terrorist plotter Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif three times just before the incident (AP). The servicemen were targeted as they left the same military recruiting center Abdul-Latif and accomplice Walli Mujahidh allegedly planned to attack.
And the judge in the case of Tarek Mehanna, who is accused of plotting to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq, agreed on September 15 to postpone the trial to give the defense team more time to prepare its case (AP).
Britain sentences Taliban recruiter
Former Taliban fighter Munir Farooqi was found guilty by a British court on September 9, along with Matthew Newton and Israr Malik, of preparing for acts of terrorism and soliciting to murder, after a year-long undercover police operation revealed the men’s efforts to recruit others to fight against international forces in Afghanistan (AP, AFP,Guardian, BBC, Tel, Independent). Farooqi was given four life sentences at Manchester Crown Court by Justice Richard Henrique, who called him "a very dangerous man," while a fourth defendant was acquitted.
A British student has recently received £20,000 (approximately $30,000) and an apology from police for his wrongful arrest and seven-day detention in 2008 after police were tipped off that he had downloaded an al-Qaeda training manual, which was in reality part of his research for a master’s degree (Guardian, BBC, AP).
Military appeals court upholds sentence
A U.S. military appeals court on September 9 upheld the November 2008 conviction and life sentence of Guantánamo Bay detainee Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, who delivered a 40-minute speech honoring Osama bin Laden during his trial (AP, Miami Herald). Al-Bahlul was alleged to have been Osama bin Laden’s personal assistant and public relations secretary.
A tribal elder in Afghanistan said on September 10 that former Guantánamo detainee Said Amir Jan was arrested by Afghan and coalition forces on September 2 in the same raid that resulted in the death of fellow ex-detainee Sabar Lal Melma (AP). On September 10, Ernesto Londoño looked at the difficulties faced by one former Gitmo detainee who is now struggling to rebuild his life in war-torn Afghanistan, after having been branded an infidel by the Taliban for refusing to join their fight (Post).
On September 14, a representative of the Tunisian Justice Ministry said at a conference hosted by the British humanitarian group Reprieve that the country will soon send a delegation to the United States to lobby for the repatriation of the five Tunisians who remain at Gitmo (AP). And Carol Rosenberg reported on September 13 that the Gitmo remained calm and quiet through the 10th anniversary of 9/11, unlike past years that have seen taunts and paper airplanes flung at guards (McClatchy).
The U.S. House of Representatives on September 9 passed the Intelligence Authorization Act, after responding to the Obama administration’s veto threat by dropping provisions that would have included a requirement that cables and memorandums on Gitmo detainees be revealed to Congress, as well as one requiring Senate approval of the President’s appointed director of the National Security Agency (NYT, Post, Post). The Senate Intelligence Committee, meanwhile, approved on September 13 an intelligence authorization act that contains similar provisions to the original House bill (Reuters).
Trials and Tribulations
- The U.S. State Department has added the Indian Mujahideen to its official list of banned terrorist organizations, freezing any assets the group may have in the United States and prohibiting U.S. citizens from doing business with the group (WSJ, Reuters, AFP, CNN, AP)
- Indonesian prosecutors on September 15 recommended in a Jakarta court that convicted terrorist facilitator, fund-raiser, and recruiter Abu Thulot be jailed for 12 years (AFP, AP).
- U.S. Defense Department spokesman George Little said on September 14 that the Pentagon believes al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is still in Pakistan (AFP).
- Thai police said that five soldiers were killed on September 15 by a roadside bomb in Thailand’s restive southern province of Pattani (AP).
- September 16 marked a year since seven employees of the French energy firm Areva and a subsidiary were kidnapped in northern Niger by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) (AFP). Four remain in captivity.