Important Indonesian terrorist arrested in Pakistan: The LWOT, March 29-April 1, 2011

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ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images
ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images
ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan arrests important Indonesian terrorist

Pakistani authorities reportedly acting on a tip from the CIA arrested Indonesian Umar Patek, a deputy commander in the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militant group, earlier this year, shooting and wounding him in the process (BBC, AP, AP). Patek, who may be taken back to Indonesia by a delegation dispatched to identify and question him, helped found JI after spending time in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s, and is believed to have played a key role in the 2002 Bali bombing that killed 202 people, including seven Americans (AFP, NYT).

Indonesia's chief anti-terrorism official told Reuters this week that violence from radical Islamists is on the rise in Indonesia, while Al Jazeera has a special report on an Indonesian man's quest for answers about his brother, who conducted a suicide bombing against Jakarta's JW Marriott hotel in July 2009 (Reuters, AJE).  

Pakistan arrests important Indonesian terrorist

Pakistani authorities reportedly acting on a tip from the CIA arrested Indonesian Umar Patek, a deputy commander in the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militant group, earlier this year, shooting and wounding him in the process (BBC, AP, AP). Patek, who may be taken back to Indonesia by a delegation dispatched to identify and question him, helped found JI after spending time in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s, and is believed to have played a key role in the 2002 Bali bombing that killed 202 people, including seven Americans (AFP, NYT).

Indonesia’s chief anti-terrorism official told Reuters this week that violence from radical Islamists is on the rise in Indonesia, while Al Jazeera has a special report on an Indonesian man’s quest for answers about his brother, who conducted a suicide bombing against Jakarta’s JW Marriott hotel in July 2009 (Reuters, AJE).  

Court reverses earlier decision in habeas appeal

In an important ruling, a U.S. federal appeals court on Mar. 29 overturned a lower court decision to grant habeas relief to Yemeni Guantánamo Bay detainee Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman, reinforcing earlier court rulings that allow the government to hold a detainee indefinitely based on circumstantial evidence of membership in al Qaeda (AP, ProPublica). Uthman was one of the detainees designated for indefinite detention by an Obama administration task force, and part of the original decision to free him was classified by the government (ProPublica). Benjamin Wittes notes at Lawfare Blog (Lawfare Blog):

[The decision] means that to prevail in a habeas case, the government does not need to produce direct evidence of anything. In the many cases-and there are many of them-in which there is little more than a suspicious pattern of travel and associations, it has merely to argue convincingly that those patterns are more likely to be the result of membership than they are of coincidence. Many fewer detainees will prevail under this understanding of the government’s evidentiary burden than would prevail under one less tolerant of a mosaic of incriminating facts.

And according to documents released by the website WikiLeaks, the Bush administration in 2007 approached Costa Rica, The Dominican Republic, Panama and Mexico about providing "life saving" medical care to Guantánamo detainees, so that they would not have to be transported to the U.S. for treatment (McClatchy). The countries declined. 

Canadians arrest Somali man at airport on terrorism charges

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested 25-year old Mohammed Hersi at Toronto’s Pearson Airport on Mar. 30 as he was about to board a flight to Egypt, a flight authorities say was the first leg in a journey to join the al Qaeda-linked militant group al-Shabaab in Somalia (National Post, BBC, Reuters). The arrest of Hersi, a 2009 graduate of the University of Toronto, sparked fresh concern in Canada about possible radicalization and recruitment efforts among the country’s Somalis, six of whom are believed to have left Canada to fight for al-Shabaab in 2009 (Globe and Mail, Toronto Star). Authorities reportedly had been investigating Hersi since Oct. 2010, after his employer became concerned about his possible radical beliefs and website visits (National Post).

"Flicker" of al Qaeda and others amongst Libyan rebels

Testifying before congress this week, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, said that U.S. intelligence had detected "flickers" of al Qaeda and the Lebanese group Hezbollah amongst Libya’s rebels, but said that most of the rebel leadership were "responsible men and women" (WSJ, CNN, Washington Post). The statement came amidst continued questioning over whether or not Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had been able to seize surface-to-air missiles from Libyan stocks, and after NATO publicly said it would not arm the rebels (CNN,WSJ, NYT). And Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa defected and fled to England Mar. 31, meaning British and Scottish authorities may receive more concrete information about Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s role in the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people (Guardian, Telegraph).

Also this week Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released the fifth edition of its glossy English-language magazine "Inspire," which featured a lengthy essay from radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki pushing back on the arguments of many terrorism analysts that al Qaeda was irrelevant in the uprisings in the Middle East (Guardian, NYT). New America Foundation National Security Studies Program director Peter Bergen, who was singled out for invective by Awlaki, responded to Awlaki’s challenge in a CNN piece on Mar. 31 (CNN).

9/11 Commission chairs say U.S. not prepared

Testifying before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Mar. 30, the chairs of the 9/11 Commission, former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN) and former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean said that nearly 10 years after 9/11 federal agencies had made uneven progress, and key recommendations of the 9/11 Commission remained unfulfilled (VOA, Bloomberg, McClatchy).

The chair and ranking member of that committee, Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) this week wrote to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano inquiring about federal guidelines for counterterrorism trainers, and expressed concern about "improper training" from individuals spreading misleading, false or racist ideas about Islam and terrorism (Washington Times).

Trials and Tribulations

  • The outgoing deputy commanding general of Ft. Hood this week granted a motion filed by the lawyer for Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, charged with killing 13 people at the base in Nov. 2009, to delay further proceedings in the case until late April, when a new base commander takes over (AP).
  • South African counterterrorism authorities this week arrested a former member of a white supremacist group on weapons charges, seizing several guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition from his house (AP). Authorities said they may also charge the man with terrorism offenses.
  • British authorities announced on Mar. 30 that they had arrested a London man in connection with a fake package bomb that was smuggled onto a United Parcel Service plane bound for Turkey (AP).
  • Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, responding to recent protests that have shaken the country, has indicated through the Syrian state news organization that he will replace Syria’s emergency law, in place for nearly 50 years, with a new anti-terrorism law (National Post).
  • Italian anarchists are believed to be responsible for three mail bombs that exploded or were discovered on Mar. 31 in Italy, Switzerland and Greece (NYT).
  • The FBI is currently investigating a series of letters bearing a Chicago postmark and written by someone claiming to be Osama bin Laden, who wrote that al Qaeda had hidden and was ready to detonate 160 nuclear bombs around the United States (UPI).

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