Tag Archives: Terrorism

More on al-Suri, from the National Journal

By Michael Hirsh

“I think al-Qaida’s capabilities for a strike into the United States are more dangerous and more numerous than before 9/11.” Congressman Mike Rogers

Ever since the death of Osama bin Laden, President Obama and his senior lieutenants have been telling war-weary Americans that the end of the nation’s longest conflict is within sight. “Core al-Qaida is a shell of its former self,” Obama said in a speech in May. “This war, like all wars, must end.” That was the triumphal tone of last year’s reelection campaign, too.

The truth is much grimmer. Intelligence officials and terrorism experts today believe that the death of bin Laden and the decimation of the Qaida “core” in Pakistan only set the stage for a rebirth of al-Qaida as a global threat. Its tactics have morphed into something more insidious and increasingly dangerous as safe havens multiply in war-torn or failed states—at exactly the moment we are talking about curtailing the National Security Agency’s monitoring capability. And the jihadist who many terrorism experts believe is al-Qaida’s new strategic mastermind, Abu Musab al-Suri (a nom de guerre that means “the Syrian”), has a diametrically different approach that emphasizes quantity over quality. The red-haired, blue-eyed former mechanical engineer was born in Aleppo in 1958 as Mustafa Setmariam Nasar; he has lived in France and Spain. Al-Suri is believed to have helped plan the 2004 train bombings in Madrid and the 2005 bombings in London—and has been called the “Clausewitz” of the new al-Qaida.

Whereas bin Laden preached big dramatic acts directed by him and senior Qaida leaders, al-Suri urges the creation of self-generating cells of lone terrorists or small groups in his 1,600-page Internet manifesto. They are to keep up attacks, like multiplying fleas on a dog that finds itself endlessly distracted—and ultimately dysfunctional. (A classic Western book on guerrilla warfare called The War of the Flea reportedly influenced al-Suri.) The attacks are to culminate, he hopes, in acts using weapons of mass destruction.


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CNN: The Next Bin Laden?

Interesting piece with Cong. Rogers and Peter Bergen on the Syrian terrorist who might be the next bin Laden.

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November 16, 2013 · 11:01 am

Massachusetts Terrorist Mehanna Verdict Upheld

Good news from the Federal Courts, and more vindication for the great work done by the FBI agents who investigated Mehanna for years.  It’s also not a good day to be a client of JW Carney, as today his other client–Whitey Bulger–was given two life sentences plus five years from Federal Judge Denise Casper.–AA

The U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction and 17-year prison sentence imposed on Islamic extremist Tarek Mehanna, calling terrorism “the modern-day equivalent of the bubonic plague: It is an existential threat.”

The 31-year-old former Sudbury pharmacist was found guilty last year of conspiring with al-Qaeda to kill U.S. troops in Iraq, and traveling to Yemen in a failed attempt to enlist in a terrorist training camp. Prosecutors said Mehanna was also making plans to shoot up a local shopping mall.

Mehanna argued unsuccessfully that his convictions weren’t supported by the evidence and that many of his statements interpreted as anti-American jihadist rants were protected political speech.

Appellate Justices Jeffrey R. Howard, Bruce M. Selya and O. Rogeriee Thompson found Mehanna “was fairly tried, justly convicted and lawfully sentenced.”

“We do not pretend to understand why the defendant chose to go down such a treacherous path,” they wrote. “Nevertheless, the jury found that he knowingly and intentionally made that choice, and that finding is both supported by the clear weight of the evidence and untainted by legal error.”

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End of the Week Headlines in Homeland Security



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CNN Exlusive: Inside Syrian town living under al Qaeda reign of fear

By Nick Paton Walsh, Raja Razek and Gul Tuysuz, CNN

Gaziantep, Turkey (CNN) — Raqqa was, a matter of months ago, one of Syria’s most liberal cities. Now locals call it Tora Bora. They say it’s as if the Taliban of Afghanistan have taken over.

After months of bombardment by the regime and a chaotic lack of control by weak and divided moderate rebels, al Qaeda have found a broken society, made it their home, and imposed on it hardline Islamist law.

Each morning, activists told us, they seem to awake to a more conservative city. The “Bayanaat” or rulings sometimes appear on town walls. Many limit women’s rights — to walk alone, to style or show their hair. Other edicts come by word of mouth — no smoking, no cameras. Behind them are often foreign jihadists from the al Qaeda linked militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

The fear that now grips the city can be felt in the shocking bruises on Adnan’s body. Adnan, whose name has been changed out of fears for his safety, was behind some graffiti in Raqqa that told ISIS to get out. They caught him filming too, and dragged him into the burned-out ruins of a church they had torched and labeled as a new ISIS base.

Read the rest here

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Memorial to UTA Flight 772

The link below is worth every second you spend reading the page and looking at the moving photos.  It’s a short story of sorts about the desert memorial to UTA Flight 772, downed in a Libyan terrorist attack in 1989.


The memorial can be seen from Google Earth and Google Maps.


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Long War Journal: Al Qaeda in Iraq, Syria a ‘transnational threat’

Could it be that President Obama’s decision to pull out of Iraq years ago was premature?  Today, as the Long War Journal (www.longwarjournal.org) points out, al-Qaeda has a strong and growing presence in Western Iraq. When Obama took office, al-Qaeda in Iraq was on the run.  We’ve let the situation there slip, and Syria is headed in that same direction with the prospect of it degenerating into a quasi-Afghanistan now a reality. –AA




During a press briefing on Wednesday, Oct. 30, a “senior administration official” updated reporters on recent meetings between an Iraqi delegation, headed by Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, and their American counterparts, including Vice President Joe Biden. The official’s main focus was the “reemergence” of al Qaeda in the region, especially under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, or Levant (ISIS).


ISIS is now “really a transnational threat network,” the official warned. “This is really a major and increasing threat to Iraq’s stability, it’s [an] increasing threat to our regional partners, and it’s an increasing threat to us,” the official continued.


Earlier this month, a senior Republican congressman offered a similar assessment. Al Qaeda’s affiliates inside Syria are “talking about conducting external operations, which is exactly what happened in Afghanistan, which led to 9/11,” Rep. Mike Rogers, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said.


“The only thing we think is stopping it now is the fact that there is this struggle between al Qaeda core leadership saying, ‘hold off, don’t do it yet’,” Rogers said at the 2013 Foreign Policy Initiative Forum in Washington. Rogers also said that there are more than 10,000 “committed” al Qaeda fighters in eastern Syria alone.


Rogers’ comments indicated that al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliates, the Al Nusrah Front and ISIS, are anxious to lash out at the West, while al Qaeda’s senior leadership has been more focused on consolidating the terror network’s territorial gains.


European counterterrorism officials have repeatedly worried out loud about the possibility of jihadist recruits fighting for al Qaeda or affiliated groups in Syria and then returning to their home countries to commit terrorist attacks.


Iraqi government outgunned in west


The senior Obama administration official also warned about the deteriorating environment in western Iraq, once home to the Awakening, which, along with American support, turned back al Qaeda’s advances during the so-called surge.


Prime Minister Maliki “recently met with the Governor of Anbar province to discuss some efforts in terms of counterterrorism and trying to isolate the increasingly strengthening al Qaeda networks in Anbar province,” the official explained.


It “is a fact now that al Qaeda has a presence in western Iraq, and it has a presence in terms of camps and training facilities and staging areas that the Iraqi forces are unable to target effectively,” the official continued. “Now, that’s just a fact that goes to their capabilities.”


The Iraqis are unable to effectively target al Qaeda’s presence in western Iraq. Some of the “al Qaeda networks that are coming in from Syria and that are based in Iraq now really have heavy weapons.” Al Qaeda is targeting “Iraqi unarmored helicopters” with “PKC machine guns.”

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Benghazi suspect al-Kashef added to al Qaeda sanctions list

One day, there will be a price to pay for what happened in Benghazi on 9/11/12.  At least there ought to be.  In any event, this from The Long War Journal:

The United Nations added Muhammad Jamal al Kashef, a longtime subordinate to al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, to its sanctions list on Oct. 18. The UN’s sanctions web page for Jamal, as he is commonly known in intelligence circles, contains many of the same details included in the US government’s designation earlier this month. [See LWJ report, State Department designates longtime Zawahiri subordinate.]

However, the UN mentions two key aspects of Jamal’s career that were omitted from the announcement of the US government’s designation.

The UN notes that both Jamal and members of his network (the Muhammad Jamal Network, or “MJN”) are “reported to be involved in the attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya, on 11 Sep. 2012.” The US announcement did not mention Jamal’s connection to the attack in Benghazi, even though it was first reported by The Wall Street Journal and subsequently other outlets, including The Long War Journal.

The UN describes Jamal as the head of the “Nasr City terrorist cell in Egypt in 2012.” The Long War Journal has reported on Jamal’s role in the Nasr City cell, which has multiple ties to al Qaeda.

The Nasr City cell has been tied to terrorist plots inside Egypt, according to Egyptian officials, including a planned attack on a Western embassy.

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Excerpt from the missive by the Marathon Bomber just before his capture

In the United States Government’s recent District Court filing in opposition to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s motion to vacate the Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) under which he is incarcerated, a portion of the letter he wrote just before his capture while hiding out on a docked boat in Watertown, Massachusetts was revealed.  His words are in bold. The surrounding narrative is from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts.

Tsarnaev’s desire to inspire others to commits acts of terrorism is evident in the message he wrote in pen on the inside of the boat where he took refuge after his own ability to commit terrorist acts was exhausted. He wrote: “The U.S. government is killing our innocent civilians but most of you already know that. As a M[uslim] I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished, we Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all . . . [T]he ummah [i.e. the Muslim people] is beginning to rise]. . . . Know you are fighting men who look into the barrel of your gun and see heaven, now how can you compete with that. We are promised victory and we will surely get it.” This was a clarion call to radical militants to follow in his wake. Tsarnaev’s self-evident goal in writing these words was tomotivate others to commit acts of the same or similar nature, putting the American people at constant risk.

SAMs are the usual very restrictive measures that the government uses for often for terrorists to stop their communications with others both inside and outside of the prison.  Interestingly, Shoebomber Richard Reid successfully got the Eric Holder to alleviate the SAMs under which he was held, and that has never made an ounce of sense to me (nor to the Bush administration, which for eight years successfully kept Reid under the SAMs).

An interesting question arises from Tsarnaev’s words. After his capture, Governor Patrick stated to the press that Tsarnaev’s motives were unclear.  Surely he knew of the aforementioned words he wrote. How could the motive be unclear? And why was the Governor of Massachusetts so intent on turning a blind eye to obvious Islamist terrorism?

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US Airline Pilots Warn of Terrorists’ Dry Runs

An internal memo obtained by security experts at the U.S. Airline Pilots Association reportedly details a “dry run” by terrorists just last month during a flight from Washington to Orlando.

Several “Middle Eastern men” caused a commotion and appeared to be conducting a test run to gauge procedure and reaction to an in-flight threat during an incident aboard US Airways Flight 1880 from Reagan National Airport to Orlando International Airport on Sept. 2, according to the U.S. Airline Pilots Association security memo, first obtained by 10 News in Tampa, Fla.

“They are trying to pull out air marshals if they are on board, or law enforcement if they are on board,” an unidentified federal air marshal told the station. “They are looking for how the crew reacts.”

U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., has since called for an investigation into the “suspicious” incident.

“It is government’s obligation and responsibility to remain vigilant,” the statement read. “While the specifics of the US Air incident are not public, federal authorities must review the matter.”

Experts said the incident could be an indication of another attempt to detonate a bomb aboard an airplane while midflight. Ret. Col. Mike Pheneger, former director of intelligence at Special Operations Command, said it’s “impossible” to absolutely prevent terrorist attacks.

“We can only make it more difficult for people to attack an airplane or a facility,” he said. “We can’t make it impossible. We have to be lucky 100 percent of the time and they only have to be lucky once.”

Despite the constant threat, Pheneger said the odds of being on a plane taken over by terrorists are slim.

“But somebody is eventually going to be unlucky, and that will happen,” he said. “And I’m surprised quite frankly it hasn’t.”

Four passengers aboard the flight were detained by local law enforcement authorities upon arrival in Orlando due to suspicious behavior during the flight, according to a statement by Michelle Mohr, a spokeswoman for US Airways.

“TSA performed a full security sweep of the aircraft before it departed for its next scheduled flight,” the statement read. “The aircraft was cleared, and it departed on a slight delay as a result of the additional security precautions taken by US Airways and the TSA.”

Federal authorities also downplayed the incident, saying it required no additional investigation.

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