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Author Archives: Administrator
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Islamists will stop at nothing, and Chechen Islamists are especially brutal, having massacred 385 innocents in Beslan.–AA
(CNN) — Another deadly blast has struck the southern Russian city of Volgograd, killing at least 14 people and further highlighting Russia’s security challenges as it readies to host the Winter Olympics in less than six weeks.
Like Sunday’s attack, the blast Monday was a terrorist act, Vladmir Markin, a spokesman for the country’s federal investigation agency, told the state-run news agency RIA Novosti.
No one claimed responsibility for the explosions. But they come several months after the leader of a Chechen separatist group pledged violence to disrupt the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Political Correctness hits the Courtroom: Apparently comparing jihadists to savages is not protected under the First Amendment now. Who’d have thought that the Court would want to protect the sensibilities of jihadists? –AA
A federal judge rejected a pro-Israel group’s assertion that its free speech rights were violated when the MBTA turned down a subway advertisement on the grounds that the ad was “demeaning or disparaging.”
The ad is paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a New York organization that seeks to combat the spread of Islam in the United States. With bold, all-capital-letter text placed against a stark black background, the ad reads: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel; defeat Jihad.”
Officials with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority rejected the ad in November on the basis that it violated the agency’s advertising guidelines.
On Friday, US District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton sided with the state’s transportation authority, saying in the ruling that “it was plausible for the defendants to conclude that the . . . pro-Israel advertisement demeans or disparages Muslims or Palestinians.”
This jihadist is linked to Shoebomber Richard Reid. The shoebomb attack occurred 12 years ago today. AA
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — A radical al-Qaida-linked preacher deported from Britain pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges at the start of his trial Tuesday in one of two terror cases against him before a Jordanian military court.
Abu Qatada, 53, is charged with plotting terror attacks against Israelis, Americans and other Westerners in Jordan in two foiled attempts in 1999 and 2000. In both cases, Abu Qatada, who was abroad at the time, was convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison.
But on his deportation to his homeland in July, those sentences were suspended and he had to be re-tried under Jordanian law.
Abu Qatada, whose real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman, has been described in courts in Britain and Spain as a senior al-Qaida figure in Europe who had close ties to the late Osama bin Laden.
Britain accused him of links with Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the United States over the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and with shoe bomber Richard Reid. Audio recordings of some of the cleric’s sermons were found in an apartment in Hamburg, Germany, used by some of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
On his arrival in Amman on July 7, Jordanian prosecutors charged him with conspiring to carry out terror attacks in Jordan twice — once in 1999 for a foiled plot against the American school in the Jordanian capital, and another time in 2000 for allegedly targeting Israeli and American tourists and Western diplomats during Jordan’s Millennium celebrations.
On Tuesday, the tribunal — consisting of two civilian judges and a military one — said the cases will be heard separately, and proceeded with the hearing in the case involving Israeli and American tourists.
But Abu Qatada objected to the presence of the military judge — Col. Mohammad Afif — and said it violated an agreement with Britain that paved way for his extradition and meant to guarantee him a fair trial in his homeland.
Sporting his tradition salt-and-pepper beard and wearing a dark brown prison uniform, Abu Qatada appeared defiant as he stood in the dock, his back to the bench. Later, he asked for a microphone and addressed the tribunal.
“I will not answer questions by this court because I do not recognize its jurisdiction,” he said. His relatives, including his son Qatada, and reporters crowded the courtroom. Cameramen and photographers were not allowed inside.
“This tribunal includes a military judge and this is a violation of the deal with Britain that encouraged me to return home for re-trial,” he added somberly.
More on terrorism originating in Africa;
The existence of militant religious groups is not a new phenomenon in Africa but their increasing presence and violence has become a growing concern. As a result of religious fundamentalism, tribal and ethnic tension, continued regional and political instability, and the extremist ideologies of groups to establish new states and reform old ones, Africa offers fertile ground for extremism. This year alone, scores of people lost their lives in attacks orchestrated by terrorist groups in various regions of the continent. The main groups are Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabab in Somalia and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), based in Algeria.
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sinful”, is an Islamic jihadist organisation based in Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon. Founded in 2001, the group is fighting to reform West Africa into an Islamic region ruled by sharia law. It operates in a cell-like structure and is popular for its use of motorbikes. Their current leader is Abubakar Shekau, who has been deemed a global security threat by the United States.
Earlier this year, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan considered offering an amnesty deal to the rebels, whose insurgency has left more than 3 00 people dead since 2009. Shekau reportedly rejected the deal, claiming they had not committed any wrong. In various incidents this year, Boko Haram have orchestrated beheadings, bombings, and attacks on schools and checkpoints.
Earlier in December, the most recent attack, the group attacked a military base in north Nigeria that left scores of civilians dead and forced the government to impose a curfew in certain areas.
Calling the United States a “prostitute nation of infidels and liars,” Abubakar Shekau says Boko Haram will strike outside of Nigeria and in America. However, very little media attention is paid to these thugs and lunatics.–AA
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau. Image from Vanguard.
A new video has surfaced showing Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claiming responsibility for the Dec. 2 attack on military installations in Maiduguri, and threatening attacks in the West. The emergence of the video further contradicts reports that he was killed several months ago.
In the 40-minute video obtained by AFP yesterday, Shekau is dressed in military fatigues and vest, and has a Kalashnikov rifle under his arm. He speaks for 19 minutes, then the rest of the video shows footage of the attack. The 46-second clip released by AFP contains excerpts showing Shekau speaking, Boko Haram fighters entering Maiduguri in trucks, and fighters calmly in control of the military air base as aircraft and buildings burn.
In his speech in Arabic, Hausa, and Kanuri, Shekau reportedly claims that the whole world fears him, including US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and even the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
Addressing the United States, Shekau calls it a “prostitute nation of infidels and liars,” and goes on to threaten that Boko Haram plans to attack outside Nigeria and even the US itself: “You are boasting you are going to join forces with Nigeria to crush us. Bloody liars. You couldn’t crush us when we were carrying sticks. By Allah, we will never stop. Don’t think we will stop in Maiduguri. Tomorrow you will see us in America itself. Our operation is not confined to Nigeria. It is for the whole world.”
Shekau’s threat follows the US’ addition of Boko Haram to the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations and Specially Designated Global Terrorist entities on Nov. 13 along with a splinter faction known as Ansaru. Shekau himself was added to the US list of global terrorists on June 21, 2012, along with Khalid al Barnawi and Abubakar Adam Kamba, both of whom “have ties to Boko Haram and have close links to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”
In the State Department’s official announcement of the Boko Haram designation, the group was described as “a Nigeria-based militant group with links to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) that is responsible for thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria over the last several years including targeted killings of civilians.” Ansaru, on the other hand, was described as focusing “on Nigerian military and Western targets.”
Boko Haram’s tactics have shifted lately, and are becoming more like those of Ansaru. As indicated by the recent attack in Maiduguri, Boko Haram has changed its tactics and grown more sophisticated. The group is now prepared to directly attack military installations, and in large numbers.
This is the second time in the past 30 days that Shekau has appeared in a video to claim responsibility for a Boko Haram attack. On Nov. 3, Shekau featured in a video titled “the Battle of Damaturu,” in which he claimed to have personally commanded the operation that killed 35 people on Oct 24. While the authenticity of the clip could not be independently verified in November, Shekau spoke in Arabic, Hausa, and Kanuri, as he did in the video obtained yesterday. The Damaturu attack was Boko Haram’s first significant raid in a major urban center in some time.
From the Long War Journal
Al-Qaeda, alive and well, is seeking to “help” Egyptian Muslims and to see Sharia enforced in that beleaguered land.
In a message released by al Qaeda’s As Sahab on Dec. 7, Muhammad bin Mahmoud Rabie al Bahtiyti, an al Qaeda official, said the group is following current events in Egypt, even though it is “away from them.”
“[W]e would have liked to be among them [Egyptian Muslims], helping them and supporting them, and blocking off the assaults of the oppressors and the tyrants,” al Bahtiyti said, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group. “Even though we are away from them – and that is imposed on us – this does not prevent us from addressing them and their plight and doing out duty towards them.”
With regard to the ongoing crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, al Bahtiyti argued that a peaceful approach will not do anything of importance. “Anyone who calls to resist falsehood with peacefulness is swimming in a sea of illusions, and perhaps in a sea of blood, in vain,” he declared.
He also called on Egyptian Muslims to work towards the implementation of sharia-based governance. Egyptian Muslims must “stand in the face of this fierce campaign led by the people of falsehood and the forces of delusion,” al Bahtiyti urged. They must “educate people about their obligation to support the religion and empower the Shariah,” he continued.
According to al Bahtiyti, force is necessary to ensure sharia-based governance is brought about. “The reality about which there is no doubt, is that falsehood will not be removed and will not go away except with force and with power,” al Bahtiyti’s message said.
Al Bahtiyti described the current government in Egypt as a “small band of secularists that imposed themselves … over the necks of the people.” He further denounced the current regime for allegedly trying to fight Islam, “extirpate its people, and prevent its empowerment, and to serve the enemy the Jews and Crusaders and to be their follower.”
This is surprising not just for the location, but because I’m always surprised at how bad paintings in courthouses are. –AA
Amid the last two years’ apparent uptick in art thievery, it was only a matter of time before this crime spree reached the heartland of America. As a footnote to a Columbia County Board meeting on December 4, clerk of courts Susan Raimer announced the theft of three pieces of art from the walls of the Columbia, Wisconsin courthouse, the Portage Daily Register reports.
The site of the theft, the courthouse’s Branch 2 jury room, is typically used for deliberating jurors, conferences between attorneys and their clients, and by courthouse employees in need of a table — perhaps to do some paperwork or eat their lunch. Raimer had ordered three framed pictures from a catalogue to brighten up the space. “You like to have things so that a courthouse isn’t such a scary place,” she told the Daily Register. “They were just something a little different.”
The framed pictures, each worth about $5, showed highly realistic three-dimensional scenery. The images changed — depending on which side they were viewed from, suggesting that they may have been lenticular prints.
Raimer has since replaced the stolen art, this time with motivational pieces similar to the other art in the jury room, and while security footage has been examined after the pieces were last seen on November 20, no leads have been disclosed to the public.
— Meredith Caraher
Since leaving the Boston Herald, Tom Mashberg is making a real impact in the world of investigating looting and the illicit trafficking of art. Here’s his latest for the New York Times. –AA
Assistant to Accused Antiquities Smuggler Pleads Guilty to Possessing Looted ItemsBy TOM MASHBERG
Aaron M. Freedman spent nearly 20 years managing the fine details of life at Subhash Kapoor’s art gallery on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Over that period, ending in 2012, the two men became good friends, shared an expertise in rare Indian artifacts and co-wrote several scholarly works.
On Wednesday, Mr. Freedman, 41, of Princeton, N.J., admitted in New York Supreme Court that he also helped Mr. Kapoor manage the shipment and sale of more than 150 items of looted Indian statuary, items in many cases dating back some 2,000 years.
Mr. Freedman pleaded guilty on Wednesday to six counts of criminal possession of stolen property valued at $35 million and agreed, under his plea, to help Manhattan and federal investigators with their prosecution of Mr. Kapoor, who is accused of smuggling more than $100 million in antiquities from India into the United States.
Mr. Kapoor, 64, is in prison in India but is expected to be extradited for trial in the United States next year.
Investigators are still hunting for dozens of the bronze and sandstone images of Hindu and Buddhist deities that they say were looted and sold over three decades under the supervision of Mr. Kapoor and his confederates.
Storage facilities associated with Mr. Kapoor were raided in 2012 by federal agents, and his gallery, Art of the Past, on Madison Avenue at 89th Street, is no longer operating.
“He is by far the biggest smuggler, in terms of numbers of antiquities stolen and their market value, that we have seen,” said James T. Hayes Jr., the special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in New York.
The authorities said that Mr. Freedman handled the day-to-day details of the gallery for Mr. Kapoor, while also helping to pay off smugglers, concoct false shipping and ownership papers, and arranging for sales to often unsuspecting collectors and museums.
On Wednesday, Mr. Freedman told State Supreme Court Acting Justice Charles H. Solomon that his multiple sclerosis was diagnosed in 2005 and that his condition worsened while he worked with Mr. Kapoor.
“I say this not to excuse my involvement with Mr. Kapoor’s criminal activities,” Mr. Freedman said, “but to state that in 2005, after the onset of my disease, obtaining employment at a reputable gallery or auction house was virtually impossible.”
The Manhattan district attorney’s office, which is working with federal officials on the case, agreed to release Mr. Freedman on personal recognizance while his cooperation continues.
“We take these crimes very seriously, and as the office manager for Mr. Kapoor, he was the one who made much of it happen,” said an assistant district attorney, Matthew Bogdanos. “On the other hand, Mr. Freedman, I believe, is sincerely and genuinely remorseful and repentant and he has taken significant steps toward making amends.”
Under India’s Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, no art object more than 100 years old may be removed from the country. But since the law was instituted in 1972, antiquities from many Indian temples and heritage sites described as “newly discovered” have been auctioned in New York and London. In four raids at separate sites controlled by Mr. Kapoor in 2012, federal agents say they seized about 90 items worth, in total, more than $100 million, all of them having come out of India after 1972. Another 50 or so items valued at more than $40 million remain missing, and investigators are asking the public to help locate them.
One of the items Mr. Freedman is accused of helping steal and conceal is valued at $15 million and is among the rarest and most cherished statues missing from India. Identified as the sandstone statue of a Yakshi, or female deity, from a stupa temple site in Bharhut, in Madhya Pradesh province in central India. It is more than seven feet tall and weighs about 500 pounds. Indian scholars say the stupa of Bharhut is one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world.
In a sales brochure for the statue that was sent by Mr. Kapoor to private buyers, Mr. Freedman wrote: “This sculpture is the most significant example of Indian sculpture known to exist outside of India. It is of pivotal importance to the understanding of the Bharhut stupa, and to the entire development of Indian art.”
Indian officials said that they hoped the relic would be repatriated early next year. It is now being held in New York.
Paul B. Bergman, Mr. Freedman’s lawyer, said his client was eager to “take concrete steps to rectify his serious mistakes.”
From Government Security News
According to a press release issued by CBP on November 26, Border Patrol agents working near the U.S./Mexico International Border were assaulted on November 24 with rocks and bottles.
More than 100 people illegally crossed the International Border from Mexico one-quarter-mile west of the San Ysidro port of entry in the Tijuana River channel. The group advanced toward a Border Patrol agent positioned one-eighth of a mile north of the border. The agent ordered the group to stop, said a news release issued by CBP. The group ignored his commands and continued to advance. The agent deployed his PepperBall Launcher System, an intermediate use-of-force device, in an effort to stop the group and protect himself. The crowd failed to respond appropriately.
Numerous agents responded to the scene as the crowd became increasingly unruly and began throwing rocks and bottles. The crowd struck several agents in the arms and legs with rocks; one agent was hit in the head with a filled water bottle. Agents deployed several intermediate use-of-force devices and Mexican law enforcement authorities were contacted. The use of intermediate use-of-force devices eventually caused the group to return to Mexico and disperse.
Paul Beeson, San Diego Sector chief patrol agent said “While attacks on Border Patrol agents are not uncommon, the agents showed great restraint when faced with the dangers of this unusually large group, and fortunately no one was seriously injured.”
No one was arrested and no one was able to continue north.