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The LWOT: Iraqis arrested on terror charges in Kentucky

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AZHAR SHALLAL/AFP/Getty Images
AZHAR SHALLAL/AFP/Getty Images

Two Iraqis indicted on terrorism charges

Federal authorities on May 31 unsealed a 23-count indictment and criminal complaints against two Iraqi refugees living in Bowling Green, KY (documents available here), Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, on charges that the men allegedly conspired to provide material support in the form of money, weapons and explosives to Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and that Alwan plotted to kill Americans abroad and disseminate information about improvised explosive devices (IEDs) (DoJ, AP, CSM, CNN, LAT). Alwan and Hammadi arrived in the United States from Iraq in April and July 2009, respectively, and federal authorities opened an investigation into Alwan in September of that year.

An undercover informant met with Alwan in late 2010, and subsequently recorded Alwan allegedly claiming to have participated in insurgent operations in Iraq against U.S. forces until 2006 (CNN). Alwan reportedly told the informant that he had used IEDs "hundreds" of times, and allegedly sketched designs of bombs for the informant; after bringing Hammadi, whom Alwan characterized as a well-known insurgent, into the plot in January of this year, the two allegedly helped the informant deliver money, inert rifles, plastic explosives and eventually Stinger missiles for what they believed would be shipment to insurgents in Iraq (AP, ABC).  

Authorities in January reportedly matched Alwan’s fingerprints to those found on IED components recovered in Iraq in 2005 (AP, AP). Both men pleaded not guilty on Monday, and face life in prison if convicted. Bonus: explore the New America Foundation’s searchable database of homegrown jihadist terrorism arrests in the United States since 9/11 (NAF).  

Mumbai terror trial to conclude next week

Closing arguments are expected to begin next week in the trial of Pakistani-born Canadian Tahawwur Hussain Rana, accused of providing support to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, after his lawyers indicated this week that he would not testify in his own defense (AP, Reuters). Confessed terrorist David Coleman Headley wrapped up his testimony earlier this week, telling the court that: he had tried to lure his alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) handler Sajid Mir out of hiding; that terrorist leader Ilyas Kashmiri had a plan to attack the CEO of Lockheed Martin in retaliation for drone strikes targeting Pakistan’s tribal areas; and that he had previously lied to the government (AP, Chicago Tribune, WSJ, Washington Post, The Hindu, The Hindu). Headley also testified that senior Pakistani intelligence officials were not aware of the planning for the attack (AFP, Reuters).  The court also heard testimony from several FBI agents and a translator about what the agents described as email traffic between Rana, Headley and an alleged Pakistani intelligence officer about the plot (AP, Hindustan Times). 

The FBI is reportedly attempting to confirm the identity of a 25 year old Somali-American from Minnessota, Abdullahi Ahmed, whom the militant group al-Shabaab claims carried out a suicide attack against African peacekeepers on Monday (AP, CNN, AP, Global Post). If confirmed, Ahmed, who reportedly made an audio recording last week encouraging other young Americans to join the Somali jihad, would be at least the third Somali-American suicide attacker to die in Somalia since 2008.  

And a federal judge on May 31 ordered prosecutors in the case of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali-American teenager who allegedly plotted to bomb Portland, Oregon’s Christmas Tree-lighting ceremony, to hand over a tape recorder and battery prosecutors say malfunctioned during the first meeting between Mohamud and undercover federal agents (Reuters, AP, OregonLive.com). Mohamud’s trial date was also set for April 10, 2010.

Charges re-sworn against KSM, 9/11 plotters

U.S. military prosecutors re-filed murder, terrorism and conspiracy charges against 9/11 plotter Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four others on May 31, the first step towards a military trial and possible death sentence for the men (AP, Miami Herald, NYT, Washington Post, National Journal). The men, currently held at Guantánamo Bay, originally faced these charges in 2008, but they were dropped in 2009 so that the plotters could be tried in civilian court, a plan abandoned this year due to intense political opposition. However, an arraignment in the case is not likely for several months, and if convicted, authorities do not know how the defendants would be executed — that is left open to the Secretary of Defense (Miami Herald). 

New information this week revealed the identities and greater biographical information about slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s trusted courier and the latter’s brother,  Ibrahim and Abrar Said Ahmad, also known as Arshad and Tariq Khan (AP, WSJ, CSM). In Afghanistan, NATO officials this week announced that they had arrested an al-Qaeda facilitator and "former associate" of bin Laden’s in northern Afghanistan (AP, CNN). Dina Temple-Raston reports on the "treasure trove" of documents pulled from bin Laden’s Abbottabad, Pakistan compound (NPR). And the AP’s Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman reveal for the first time the identities of two CIA officers killed in al-Qaeda’s 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kenya (AP).  

Finally this week, two Guantánamo detainees, Fahmi Al-Assani and Suleiman Al-Nahdi, asked the D.C. Circuit Court to dismiss their pending habeas appeals (Lawfare Blog).  

Supreme Court rules American cannot sue in terrorism case

The Supreme Court ruled 8-0 on May 31 that Abdullah al-Kidd, an American convert to Islam detained in 2003 and held in harsh conditions for 16 days as a material witness in a terrorism case cannot sue then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft over his treatment (LAT, NYT, WSJ, NPR, Lawfare Blog). Al-Kidd charged that Ashcroft intended to hold him as a terrorism suspect rather than a witness, and four Supreme Court justices — Kennedy, Breyer, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor — expressed concerns about al-Kidd’s treatment and the scope of the material witness law. 

Catch and release

British probation officers yesterday expressed concern about the strain that may be caused by the release of up to 70 convicted terrorists in the next 12 months, many of whom will require extra attention, and some of whom may return to militant activity once released (AP). And four U.K. police officers were acquitted today of assaulting terrorism suspect Babar Ahmed in 2003 (BBC, Guardian, Telegraph). 

And the U.K. Foreign Office this week halted the release of an animated short film, "Wish You Waziristan" that was meant to counter homegrown radicalization, out of concern that the film might send mixed messages to young British Muslims (Guardian, Sky).   

Trials and Tribulations

  • Reports earlier this week that Islamic militants had taken over several cities in southern Yemen fueled concern about rising instability in the country, as Western counterterrorism officials indicated that operations against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have been hampered by the country’s tenuous political situation (Reuters, NYT, AFP, LAT). And British intelligence agents reportedly disrupted the launch of AQAP’s English-language Internet magazine "Inspire" earlier this year by inserting cupcake recipes into the magazine’s code (Guardian, Reuters).
  • A Danish court this week convicted Chechen Lors Doukaev of attempted terrorism after a bomb he was carrying, allegedly intended for the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, exploded prematurely in a Copenhagen hotel bathroom last September (Reuters, AP). He was sentenced to 12 years in prison (CNN).   
  • Philippine police have arrested one person in connection with a deadly bombing earlier this year that killed five in the capital Manila (AP). 
Andrew Lebovich is a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a doctoral candidate in African history at Columbia University. He is currently based in Senegal and has conducted field research in Niger and Mali.

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