The LWOT: NYC “al-Qaeda sympathizer” faces terrorism charges

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NYC "al-Qaeda sympathizer" faces terrorism charges

New York City police on November 20 accused 27-year-old Jose Pimentel of multiple terrorism-related offences, including criminal possession of a weapon and conspiracy as a crime of terrorism, after detaining him the previous day as he was allegedly just one hour away from completing a pipe bomb he is accused of planning to use against post offices, police, and U.S. service members returning from abroad (ReutersAPBBC,CNNWSJNYTTel). At a press conference on the evening of November 20, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg described Pimentel as "a total lone wolf" who was "not part of a larger conspiracy," but was inspired by the late radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, and NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly presented a demonstration video of a bomb blast said to be similar to what would have been generated by the suspect’s pipe bomb.

Pimentel was under NYPD surveillance for two years, with the help of a confidential informant, who recorded Pimentel praising bin Laden and talking about killing Americans before he allegedly began following instructions from an article in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s English-language magazine, Inspire, entitled "Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom" (APGuardianNYT). The FBI reportedly turned down two opportunities extended by the NYPD to become involved in Pimentel’s investigation, because the Bureau did not believe he had "the predisposition or the ability to anything on his own," according to one official. This is the second time this year that a terrorism case brought by the Manhattan District Attorney will be tried in state court, rather than federal court, where terrorism trials are more often held (NYTAP). New York state criminal laws allow Pimentel to be prosecuted on "conspiracy" charges even though the alleged plot was made with someone who is not also charged – in this case, the informant (Lawfare).

Emails between Daniel Maldonado, a convicted terrorist, and his friend Tarek Mehanna, who is accused of providing material support to a terrorist group and attempting to travel to Yemen for terrorist training, revealed on November 18 in U.S. District Court in Boston, show that Maldonado warned Mehanna in 2005 that Egyptian authorities had asked about him, but Mehanna assured Maldonado "I swear there is nothing" (Boston Globe). Defense attorneys called into question Maldonado’s sudden decision to cooperate with authorities and testify against Mehanna, implying that he was changing his story in order to satisfy a plea agreement made with prosecutors that reduces his jail term from a life sentence to just ten years.

A lawyer for four convicted terrorists, Omar Mohammed Ali Rezaq, who hijacked an EgyptAir plane in 1985, as well as Ibrahim A. Elgabrowny, El-Sayyid Nosair and Mohammed Saleh, who all helped plan the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, appeared before a federal appeals court on November 17 to request her clients be returned to less restrictive prisons (AP). The four men were moved to the Supermax prison in Colorado after 9/11, "even though there was no relation to the acts of Sep. 11," the attorney told the Associated Press.

And the conviction of Texan Barry Bujol last week on terrorism charges following an extensive investigation using an informant has reportedly sparked concern from many of Houston’s Muslims about FBI tactics that could lead to entrapment (Houston Chronicle). Dr. Aziz Siddiqi, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, said these concerns could be addressed through a closer relationship between the FBI and the Muslim community.

Four more charged in UK terrorism investigation

Three 19-year-olds: Khobaib Hussain, Ishaaq Hussain, and Shahid Kasam Khan, along with 24-year-old Maweed Mahmood Ali, were charged in London on November 18 with fundraising for terrorist purposes, travelling to Pakistan for terrorist training, and travelling abroad to commit acts of terrorism (ReutersBBCIndependentAFP). They are the most recent to be arrested by British police in a far-reaching terrorism investigation linked to Pakistan, and were remanded into custody to await their next court appearance on December 9.

Britain’s Court of Appeals Court on November 22 ruled in favor of more than 100 Iraqi civilians pushing for a public inquiry into allegations of abuse by British soldiers in Iraq between March 2003 and December 2008, ordering the government to take another look at its decision not to hold pubic hearings on the matter (AP). And an accused terrorist acquitted in Australia in 2008, Hany Taha, is now suing the Australian government for compensation for alleged abuse he underwent while in prison from November 2005 to September 2008 (Herald Sun). Taha was one of four men acquitted out of a dozen accused of involvement in a home-grown terrorist cell, following a seven-month trial, which an Australian Supreme Court judge said at one point was unfair because of the harsh jail conditions, and ordered they be moved out of the prison’s high-security division.

German federal police president Joerg Zeircke on November 22 said that new details have emerged about a largely unknown group of neo-Nazis accused of at least ten murders, including evidence that they knew a policewoman they allegedly murdered in 2007 (AP). And in Parliament, Speaker Norbert Lammert said the German government is "ashamed" that authorities failed to stop the group from committing the murders, which were carried out over a period of around 10 years.

Malaysian police announced last week that they had arrested 12 suspected terrorists on November 14 and 15 linked to Malaysia’s Abu Omar group, which is alleged to be supplying weapons to other terrorist groups in Southeast Asia (LocalJakarta Globe). Indonesia has previously arrested 18 suspected members of the Abu Omar group, while two of last week’s detainees in Malaysia are reportedly Indonesian nationals. And a Turkish state-run news agency reported on November 22 that police had arrested 15 people in the central Turkish city of Konya on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda, but provided no further details (AP).  

Trials and Tribulations

  • NPR’s Dina Raston-Temple spoke on November 19 about her visit to Guantánamo Bay, calling it "a terrorist museum" (NPR).
  • On November 21, NPR spoke to Sebastian Rotella, the correspondent for a PBS documentary airing Tuesday entitled "A Perfect Terrorist," which tells the story of American David Headley, who pleaded guilty in 2010 to helping plan the devastating 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people (NPR).
  • The Iranian government on November 21 summoned Bahrain’s top diplomat in Tehran to protest Bahrain’s claim earlier this month that authorities had uncovered an Iranian-linked terrorist cell (AP).
Jennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.

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