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The LWOT: Two arrested in Seattle terror plot; Guantánamo gets a new prosecutor

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

FBI disrupts alleged "homegrown" terror plot

The FBI and Seattle Police on Wednesday arrested two American citizens and Muslim converts, Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif and Walli Mujahidh, on charges that they allegedly planned to attack a military processing center south of Seattle with guns and grenades (DoJ, Guardian, BBC, ABC, CNN, AFP, Reuters, LAT). Police learned of the plot after Abdul-Latif is said to have contacted a Seattle Muslim in late May about obtaining weapons, who then notified the police and became an informant in the plot (SeattlePi, Reuters, CNN).

According to the criminal complaint, the informant recorded the men speaking approvingly about the Ft. Hood attacks and expressing a desire to kill U.S. soldiers in response to abuses the men said were committed against Muslims by the American military in Afghanistan and elsewhere; the informant allegedly supplied inert weapons to Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh before their arrest, including assault rifles and grenades (CNN, Bloomberg, Politico). The two suspects, who according to ABC News met and converted to Islam in prison, are expected in court next week for a detention hearing (ABC, Reuters).

Marine reservist charged in shootings raises terrorism questions

Prosecutors on June 23 charged Marine Corps reservist Yonathan Melaku in connection with five shootings at military installations last year, after he was arrested early last Friday in Arlington National Cemetary under suspicious circumstances (Post, NYT, ABC, CNN, Post, CBS/AP, NPR). Melaku was arrested with a backpack containing baggies with what he claimed was ammonium nitrate (though NPR reports that the material was inert), as well as a notebook containing the words "Taliban" and "al Qaeda," and a search of his apartment reportedly revealed a checklist of items necessary to fashion a  timer for an explosive device (NPR, CNN, Post, WSJ, ABC).

Lawyers for Oregon teen Mohamed Osman Mohamud, charged with allegedly plotting to bomb Portland’s Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, have filed a request for the FBI’s classified surveillance records in the case (AP). The lawyers allege that federal authorities tracked Mohamud as a minor, and  may have improperly obtained evidence against him (

In New York on June 21, federal prosecutors filed charges against Kosovar Arid Uka, who allegedly shot and killed two U.S. airmen outside Germany’s Frankfurt Airport in early March (FBI, CNN, DW, Reuters). And Norwegian investigators came to New York this week to interview two confessed al-Qaeda-linked terrorism plotters, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, as well as Bryant Neal Vinas, who has confessed to training and fighting with the terror group (AP, NY1).

An Ohio court on June 22 sentenced Amera Akl to 40 months in prison for her role in plotting to send hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Lebanese group Hezbollah (WSJ, AP). A judge in Minnesota this week refused to dismiss the charges filed against Somali women Amina Ali and Hawo Hassan for allegedly providing material support to the militant group al-Shabaab (AP). And prosecutors in Texas have filed a request for evidence in the case of Saudi student Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, who stands accused of trying to assemble a bomb from legally-available chemicals (

Senate committee approves detention bill

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved by a 25-1 vote last week a new bill governing detention practices for terrorism suspects (Politico, Lawfare Blog, Lawfare Blog, NYT). The compromise bill would notably mandate military detention for non-American "high value" al-Qaeda terrorists planning attacks against the United States (though such detention could be reversed by the secretary of defense), permanently prohibit the use of military funds for moving detainees from Guantánamo Bay to the United States for trial, tighten restrictions on detainee transfers from Guantánamo, and set up a review system before a military judge for "long-term" detainees at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan (NYT).

The White House this week pushed back against a similar House detention bill, writing in a seven-page policy paper that the bill attempts to "micromanage" defense policy and could foster perceptions that the United States is in an endless war against al-Qaeda and other groups (Politico). And in a confirmation hearing Thursday to head the CIA, Gen. David Petraeus asked lawmakers to devise a uniform standard of interrogation for terrorism suspects, and suggested that "special" techniques that go beyond those in the Army Field Manual could be used in certain cases (LAT, AP).

On Thursday, the Pentagon appointed Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, currently the head of the Rule of Law Field Force in Afghanistan, to be the new chief prosecutor at Guantánamo (Miami Herald, AP, DoD, Post). Martins, considered one of the army’s top lawyers, wrote a series of lengthy posts for Lawfare Blog last year dealing with legal issues in war and rule of law promotion in Afghanistan (Lawfare Blog). And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) this week continued his public spat with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder over whether terrorism suspects should be held and tried in military or civilian judicial systems (National Journal, NPR, The Hill, Lawfare Blog). 

Finally this week, a federal judge denied the habeas petition of Afghan detainee and former Taliban figure Khairullah Khairkhwa, despite a request for his release from Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, which is tasked with promoting reconciliation with the Taliban (AP, Lawfare Blog).

Trials and Tribulations

  • A New York court last Friday formally dismissed charges filed against slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 1998 (NYT).  
  • The Somali militant group al-Shabaab pledged its support to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a statement released last weekend, and affirmed that, "we are part of [al-Qaeda]" (CNN). And the Department of Justice in a lawsuit revealed that Abu Tayyeb, an al-Qaeda member, allegedly invested $27 million through a Chicago trading firm in 2005, losing up to $20 million of the money through poor investment choices (AP, Chicago Tribune).   
  • In Yemen this week, 62 suspected al-Qaeda militants escaped from prison through a 50-ft tunnel, after other fighters staged a coordinated assault on the compound (AP, Tel, Post, Reuters, BBC, AJE, NYT).  
  • A Jakarta court convicted three men of plotting terrorist attacks on June 21, while the trial of major terrorism suspect Abu Tholut began Monday (CBS, Jakarta Post, AP).  
  • Der Spiegel this week examines the case of a German detained by Austrian authorities after he allegedly returned from receiving militant training in Afghanistan (Der Spiegel, AP). 
  • A major increase in the past few weeks of attacks by the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has raised questions about the group possibly receiving advanced training from militants in other countries (BBC).  
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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