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The LWOT: State Department establishes Bureau of Counterterrorism

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

State Department establishes Bureau of Counterterrorism

The U.S. State Department on January 4 announced that the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism headed by Amb. Daniel Benjamin is being upgraded to become the Bureau of Counterterrorism, fulfilling one of the recommendations made in the December 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (StateCNN). Amb. Benjamin said at the press briefing that "Bureau" status will provide the coordinator’s office with a better infrastructure to implement initiatives it has been developing to increase the counterterrorism and counter-radicalization capabilities of foreign governments through bilateral diplomacy efforts. 

On January 5, the U.S State Department named the al-Qaeda Kurdish Battalion (AQKB) as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity, thus freezing any U.S. assets held by the organization and prohibiting Americans from doing business with it (StateWSJ,Reuters). According to the State Department press release, AQKB was formed in 2007 and operates primarily along the Iran-Iraq border, and has been responsible for several terrorist attacks on Kurdish targets in Iraq since its inception.

Pakistani man sentenced to more than 4 years

A federal court in Washington D.C. on December 5 handed a 50-month sentence to Pakistani citizen Irfan Ul Haq, who pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists for attempting to smuggle a person he thought was a member of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) into the United States (APCNNPost,AFP). Haq, along with two other Pakistani men, were living in Quito, Ecuador in January 2011 when they were contacted by a U.S. federal informant, who asked them to smuggle a member of the TTP into the United States; they were arrested on March 13 after accepting a payment from the informant and procuring a fake Pakistani passport.

Federal prosecutors in Detroit argued on December 3 that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the self-confessed "underwear bomber" who attempted to detonate an explosive on an airplane on Christmas Day 2009, is not entitled to a new standby lawyer at his sentencing because he represents himself (Local). Abdulmutallab said he is unhappy with his current standby lawyer because he doesn’t visit him in jail and has failed to provide documents related to his upcoming sentencing.

Bobby Joe Rogers, an Alabama resident, was arrested on December 5 in Pensacola, FL on suspicion of starting a fire at the American Family Planning Clinic – an abortion clinic – in Pensacola in the early morning hours of January 1 (AP). Rogers is charged with a federal explosives crime and could face 20 years in prison if convicted.

A judge in San Luis Obispo County, CA on January 5 refused to drop the terrorism charge being levied against four defendants accused of burning a cross near the home of a mixed-race family (Local). And a 69-year-old Oklahoma man, William Codrey, faces a terrorism-related charge for attempting to unbolt an electrical tower from its foundation because he was angry that power lines crossed his property (Local).

Experts: Breivik "not psychotic"

A team of four experts who have been monitoring Anders Behring Breivik, the self-confessed perpetrator of two bombing and shooting attacks on July 22, 2011 in the Norwegian capital of Oslo and island of Utoya that killed 77 people, said on December 4 that — contrary to court-appointed psychiatrists — they do not believe Breivik is psychotic and is not in need of any medication (APBBCTelAFP). The judge will decide in the next few weeks whether to order a new psychiatric evaluation of Breivik, who goes on trial for terrorism-related charges on April 16, regardless of his determined mental state.

A former Turkish military chief, Gen. Ilker Basbug, was arrested on December 6 accused of heading a terrorist organization and conspiring to overthrow the government by funding anti-government websites in 2009 (APBBCReuters). Gen. Basbug’s arrest came as part of the government’s expanding investigation into the "Ergenekon" network — an alleged ultra-nationalist group linked to the country’s military and believed by some to be in control of numerous terrorist groups — of which around 400 suspects have already been arrested, including 58 serving generals or admirals, according to the military.

The Times’ Floyd Whaley reports on what one expert called a "lawless" region of the Philippines where a 53-year-old Australian man, Warren Rodwell, was kidnapped and is believed to be held by an extremist group linked to Abu Sayyaf, which has ties to al-Qaeda (NYT). Rodwell’s wife received a ransom video before Christmas, in which her cuffed and apparently wounded husband asks on behalf of his captors for $2 million, a request the Australian government has refused to fulfill.

Trials and Tribulations

  • A series of bomb attacks on December 5 in southern Iraq and mainly Shi’a neighborhoods of Baghdad killed at least 71 people, and are believed to be the work of the country’s Sunni insurgents (NYTPostLATGuardianAJETel).
  • The son of an alleged Egyptian terrorist who is being held in Canada, al-Muzir es-Sayyid, is being deported from Canada after his continued involvement with gangs made him a "danger to the public of Canada" (National Post). Es-Sayyid is not suspected of involvement in terrorism.
  • An Indian Army official said on December 3 that the Pakistani terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba is training a group of 27 female terrorists at one of its bases in Kashmir for use against targets in India (Hindustan Times). 

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