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- By Jennifer RowlandJennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.
Anwar al-Awlaki reported killed in Yemen
Yemeni defense officials said today — and officials in the Obama administration confirmed — that radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was killed this morning in the Yemeni province of Jawf, reportedly by a U.S. jet and drone attack (NYT, AP, WSJ, Guardian, Post, BBC, ABC, CNN, Bloomberg, AFP). Al-Awlaki was believed to play an important role in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and has been linked to a number of terrorist plots in the West in recent years; Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said in July that eliminating Awlaki was one of his top two goals (NYT). Samir Khan, another American-born AQAP member and the suspected producer of the group’s English-language magazine Inspire, is reported to have been killed alongside Awlaki (ABC, AP, WSJ, NYT).
As an Imam at a San Diego mosque in 2000 Al-Awlaki met two of the 9/11 hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, and was interviewed by the FBI on several occasions during the investigation into the devastating attacks, but was not charged with any criminal acts (Post, AP, CNN, CBS/AP). In 2010, Al-Awlaki became the first U.S. citizen to be placed on a list for targeted killing approved by the Obama administration, and news of his and Khan’s deaths has prompted civil liberties groups to question the legality of killing Americans without affording them due process (ABC, LAT).
Mass. man arrested for alleged terrorist plot
A U.S. citizen of South Asian origin, Rezwaun Ferdaus, was charged in federal court in Massachusetts on September 28 with plotting to use a remote-controlled aircraft filled with explosives to blow up the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol building (NYT, Post, CNN,Reuters, CBS/AP, ABC, LAT, WSJ). Ferdaus’ arrest came after a months-long undercover FBI operation involving a cooperating witness and several undercover agents posing as members of al-Qaeda, and has sparked speculation about possible FBI entrapment (Guardian).
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds ruled on September 27 that the jury in the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airplane by detonating a bomb in his underwear, will be allowed to see a model of the bomb and a video demonstration of an explosion generated by a the same chemicals Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to use (AP, Reuters). And a federal judge in Oregon on September 28 postponed the trial of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who is accused of attempting to detonate what he believed was a bomb at a November 2010 Christmas Tree-lighting ceremony (AP).
A federal judge on September 27 ruled that Iraqi refugee Waad Ramadan Alwan may be tried on terrorism-related charges in a U.S. civilian court, despite the fact that some of the charges concern crimes Alwan allegedly committed in Iraq (AP). Alwan’s lawyers argued that the Geneva Convention precludes these particular charges from being brought against him in the United States. And another federal judge on September 27 sentenced Pete Seda, the former head of the U.S. branch of a now disbanded Islamic charity, the al-Haramain Foundation, to 33 months in jail for helping smuggle funds to militant Islamic groups in Chechnya fighting Russian security forces (AP).
Charlie Savage reported on September 27 that files released by the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the Bureau can choose to keep people on the U.S. government’s terrorist watch list even after they have been acquitted of terrorism-related charges if officials have "reasonable suspicion" to believe the suspect still has a connection to terrorism (NYT). The files show for the first time the legal framework for the FBI and other security agencies to add names to the watch list, which is now said to include about 8,000 Americans and 420,000 total names.
Finally, the Obama administration is reportedly considering trying alleged Hezbollah commander Ali Mussa Daqduq, who was detained in Iraq in 2007, in a military court on U.S. soil (AP). Lawfare Blog takes a closer look at this option (Lawfare).
Alleged Cole bomber to have military tribunal
The U.S. Department of Defense announced on September 28 that the accused mastermind of the 2000 U.S.S. Cole bombing, Guantánamo Bay detainee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, will face a military tribunal and potential death sentence if convicted of the charges (AFP, CNN, AP, Miami Herald, BBC, LAT, Post). The case marks the first capital military prosecution at Guantánamo under U.S. President Barack Obama.
Incoming Guantánamo crimes prosecutor Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, who will begin his new job on October 3, is reportedly planning to make the Guantánamo war court more transparent by transmitting proceedings almost in real time back to reporters and others in the United States (Weekly Standard, Miami Herald).
Three charged in Norway terror plot
A Norwegian public prosecutor on September 26 filed charges against Mikael Davud, Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak and David Jakobsen for allegedly plotting to attack offices of Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that published controversial cartoon images of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 (AP, BBC, Reuters). The three men were arrested last July, and are believed to have links to al-Qaeda cells in multiple countries.
Six men arrested in the United Kingdom last week were remanded into custody on September 26 on terrorism-related charges, which included training in militant camps in Pakistan, making "martyrdom videos" in preparation for a suspected suicide attack, and building explosive devices (NYT, CNN, Tel, AP, Guardian, BBC). Four of the men were charged with preparing to commit an act of terrorism in the U.K., two were charged with failing to provide information related to terrorist plots, and a seventh man is still being questioned by police.
The lead suspect in the deadly April bombing of a popular Marrakech café, Adel Othmani, on September 29 recanted his earlier confession in a Moroccan court, and told a judge that he has "never set foot in Marrakech" (AP). All nine suspects in the case have denied their involvement, and some alleged that they had been forced to confess under threat of torture.
Trials and Tribulations
- Governor Kashim Shettima of the Nigerian state of Borno told the AP that police had arrested a top commander of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, along with five other suspected members of the group (AP).
- The Telegraph reports that the United States and the United Kingdom are once again sharing intelligence at "full-scale" following the relaxation of limitations put in place by the U.S. after sensitive intelligence was revealed in U.K. court proceedings last year (Tel).
- Five Iraqis and one U.S. soldier were killed on September 29 by a suicide truck bomber outside of a bank in Kirkuk, an attack for which no group has taken responsibility (AP, Reuters, AFP).