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Entries in Al Qaeda (85)

Wednesday
Nov142012

American Rapping Jihadi Added to FBI’s Most Wanted

FBI(WASHINGTON) -- An Alabama-born rapping jihadi fighting half a world away is among the new entries on the FBI’s infamous Most Wanted List, the bureau announced Wednesday.

Omar Hammami, also known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, has been fighting with the Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab since 2006. Hammami has allegedly been a propagandist for the al Qaeda-linked group and has released several rap songs praising jihad against the West.

Hammami was originally indicted in the U.S. on terrorism-related charges in 2007 and faced additional charges in a superseding indictment in 2009.

Douglas Astralaga, the Supervisory Special Agent for the FBI in Mobile, Ala., told ABC News he couldn’t comment on exactly why Hammami was being added to the list now, but said there is an ongoing investigation into Hammami’s alleged terrorist activities and, after a lengthy review, information against him “met the criteria” for being added to the list.

Earlier this year Hammami said he feared for his life, but it wasn’t the American government he was worried about. In a video posted online, Hammami said he suspected his fellow militants might turn their guns on him due to ideological “differences.”

He has apparently survived that tiff, but his terror group has been on the losing end of several recent battles in Somalia. In September, al-Shabaab was pushed out of its last urban stronghold in Kismayo by African troops.

In a recent autobiography written by Hammami and posted online, he describes a daily fear of drone strikes and jokes that the drones are “racist” – they prefer to target white people in Somalia.

He may have reason to worry. In late September 2011, a high-profile al Qeada recruiter, Anwar al-Awlaki, and an al Qaeda propagandist, Samir Khan, were killed in a CIA drone strike. Both were American citizens.

In addition to Hammami, the FBI added Raddulan Sahiron, a suspected leader of the Filipino terror group Abu Sayyaf, to the list. The bureau said it is also seeking information about Shayk Aminullah, an alleged recruiter for al Qaeda and the Pakistani-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug232012

SEAL’s Bin Laden Raid Book Stirs Controversy

John Moore/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The former Navy SEAL who penned a firsthand account of the mission to kill Osama bin Laden did so without the permission of the U.S. government, officials said, and is now at the center of an ongoing controversy within the secretive special operations community over unauthorized disclosures.

The author of the book, who writes under the pseudonym Mark Owen, was a SEAL Team Six team leader during the mission that took out the al Qaeda leader and was “one of the first men through the door on the third floor of the terrorist leader’s hideout,” according to a statement from the book’s publisher, Dutton. The book, No Easy Day, is set to be released next month on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

But no U.S. officials – from the White House to the Department of Defense to the CIA – have reviewed the book’s account of the top secret mission for any possible breaches of national security, officials from the departments said.

The book’s announcement comes as the special operations community, especially the SEALs, have risen to the forefront of a discussion over the controversial leaking of classified information. Following the May 2011 raid that killed bin Laden, the Obama administration came under harsh criticism from Republican lawmakers for allegedly leaking too much about the mission for political gain.

Most recently, a small group of former special operations and intelligence officials — many with Republican ties — published an online video called “Dishonorable Disclosures” in which they say the president was trying to take credit for bin Laden’s death from the SEALs on the ground. That video was later reportedly criticized by others in the military as “unprofessional” and “shameful.”

Brandon Webb, a former Navy SEAL and writer, told ABC News that Owen may be compromising one of America’s most elite and secretive commando groups, even if he used a pseudonym and changed the names of the other team members.

“Operational security is at play here regardless of whether or not any classified information has been disclosed in this memoir,” he said, noting that even innocuous details could be enough to put other team members at risk. “This is not a good day for SEAL Team Six. An individual has compromised their ethos and mantra that the deed is more important than the glory.”

Webb said his own memoir, The Red Circle, was also not vetted by the Department of Defense but said it did not disclose any classified information, and that any potentially sensitive details about events described in the book, which occurred approximately 10 years ago, were changed.

Another former SEAL, who is still active in the intelligence community, said everyone needs to wait and see what’s actually in the new book before passing judgment.

“It seems pretty quick, but at the same time, I don’t know what he says in the book,” said the ex-SEAL, who requested not to be named for his own security. “This guy dedicated a majority of his life to the service of his country and he was on a historic mission. It’s his story to tell… It really comes down to what type of information he’s disclosing.”

Dutton said Owen plans to donate a majority of the proceeds from his book to charities that help the families of fallen Navy SEALs.

A White House-sanctioned Hollywood movie about the bin Laden raid is scheduled to be released in December.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug132012

Wife Pleads for Release of Md. Man Held by Al Qaeda

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- On the first anniversary of his kidnapping, the wife of a 71-year-old Maryland man abducted in Pakistan and held by al Qaeda is pleading for his release, saying he is "not in good health" and needs immediate attention from doctors.

"One year ago my husband, Warren Weinstein, was kidnapped while working in Pakistan," said Elaine Weinstein in a statement released Monday. She said that her husband has a heart condition, high blood pressure and severe asthma. "We fear that Warren's health will deteriorate if he is not allowed to see the doctors and specialists that have helped keep him alive in recent years."

Elaine Weinstein also said her family was "devastated that it has been a year since he has been with us… Our grandchildren are growing and changing so fast. They miss their grandfather and ask for him every day. It is so difficult to explain why he can't be with them."

Weinstein, a former Peace Corps and USAID official, was working for a private contracting company in Lahore, Pakistan when gunmen broke into his house and took him away. He had told employees he was due to finish his work for J.E. Austin and leave Pakistan very soon.

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri first claimed that al Qaeda was holding Weinstein in December 2011, and implied that he would use his hostage as a bargaining chip to free "captive soldiers of al Qaeda."

"[President] Obama has the power, capacity and authority to free [Weinstein]," said Zawahiri. "He could also leave him in captivity for years, and if he does something stupid, kill him."

In March, Zawahiri demanded the release of Pakistani doctor Aafia Siddiqui, "blind sheikh" Omar Abdel-Rahman and members of Osama bin Laden's family in return for Weinstein.

In May, Al Qaeda released a tape of Weinstein in which he begs President Obama to give in to the demands of the terrorist organization to save his life.

"My life is in your hands, Mr. President," Warren Weinstein says in the video, which was released. "If you accept the demands, I live. If you don't accept the demands, then I die. It's important that you accept the demands and act quickly and don't delay."

"I've done a lot of service for my country, and I would hope that my country will now look after me and take care of me and meet the demands of the mujahedeen, he continued."

In today's statement, Elaine Weinstein says her husband "loves Pakistan and lived there for eight years so he could dedicate his time and energy to working with the people."

"My only hope is that Warren will safely come home and be with me, our children and grandchildren, and the people who love us."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul102012

Would Al Qaeda’s Wildfire ‘Ember Bomb’ Really Work?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Al Qaeda’s plan to attack America by using an “ember bomb” to ignite wildfires is so impractical that the terror group would be better off armed with a cigarette lighter, according to California fire officials who recently tested an al Qaeda-prescribed incendiary device.

In early May, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the state’s threat assessment center conducted a “practical evaluation” of a home-made “ember bomb,” a complex device described in detail in a recent edition of the al Qaeda-produced Inspire magazine under the title “It Is of Your Freedom to Ignite a Firebomb.”

“In America, there are more houses built in the [countryside] than in the cities,” the Inspire article’s author says under the pseudonym The AQ Chef. “It is difficult to choose a better place [than] in the valleys of Montana.”

In response, California officials went about building and testing a sophisticated version of the device, complete with time-delay ignition, according to a “For Official Use Only” document published online today by the anti-secrecy website Public Intelligence.

During the test, which was conducted on the concrete floor of a training facility, the device lit a fire that burned on its own fuel for just under 12 minutes. While the testers said the fire could have potentially spread to any nearby brush, the device itself did not produce any embers and all the heat was concentrated in one location – meaning it would not start other fires on its own – and left behind a large, black, “obsidian-like substance” where the device had burned.

“The ‘Ember Bomb’ device is an effective heat source and will ignite vegetation; however, we judge it is highly impractical based on the amount of energy and time it takes to construct the device, and the amount of physical evidence that will likely remain following its use,” the document said. “…[T]here appears to be little practicality associated with employing this method versus other that would likely leave far less physical evidence, such as manually starting a burn with a cigarette lighter.”

Capt. Ryan Stonebraker, head of the California State Threat Assessment Center, told ABC News he has not seen any indication anyone has attempted to start a fire with such a device, but said that regardless of how a blaze starts, the “threat is still on my mind.”

“It’s very difficult to stop fires,” he said. “I think what’s important is that first responders are aware of the methodology… The threat isn’t just from al Qaeda [abroad], but homegrown extremists as well.”

Stonebraker said the test was the first-ever collaboration between the threat assessment center and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the results were sent to law enforcement agencies across the country.

“We thought this was kind of obviously something different, so we did the tests so that first responders could see how it worked… and what to look for,” he said.

The firebomb device was described in the ninth edition of Inspire, a magazine produced by al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate, AQAP. Earlier editions of the sleek magazine were believed to be crafted by U.S.-born radical Samir Khan before he was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in September 2011.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun152012

JetBlue Pilot Who Disrupted Flight Declared Competent to Stand Trial

Courtesy: Randall County Sheriff’s Office(DALLAS) -- A Texas judge has cleared the way for a JetBlue Airways pilot to go to trial.

JetBlue flight 191 from New York was about half-way to Las Vegas on March 27 when, according to passengers, captain Clayton Osbon started screaming about al Qaeda and had to be restrained. The first officer radioed for help and turned toward Amarillo.

"JetBlue 191, emergency," the voice from the cockpit radioed to air traffic controllers. "We're going to need authorities and medical to meet us at the airplane.

Now a judge has found the 49-year-old Osbon competent to stand trial, while simultaneously sealing the results of his psychiatric evaluation.  Osbon, a pilot since 1989, is charged with interfering with a flight crew.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May222012

Virtual Terrorism: Al Qaeda Video Calls for 'Electronic Jihad'

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Al Qaeda may be turning its destructive attention to cyber warfare against the United States. In a chilling video, an al Qaeda operative calls for "electronic jihad" against the United States, and compares vulnerabilities in vital American computer networks to the flaws in aviation security before the 9/11 attack.

The al Qaeda video calls upon the "covert mujahidin" to launch cyber attacks against the U.S. networks of both government and critical infrastructure, including the electric grid. The video was obtained by the FBI last year, and released Tuesday by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

"This is the clearest evidence we've seen that al Qaeda and other terrorist groups want to attack the cyber systems of our critical infrastructure," Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said in a statement.

"This video is troubling as it urges al Qaeda adherents to launch a cyber attack on America," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the ranking member on the committee. "It's clear that al Qaeda is exploring all means to do us harm and this is evidence that our critical infrastructure is a target."

The national security community says the threat of cyber attack is real, and the gap between terrorist aspirations and capability is closing. The senior intelligence official at Cyber Command, Rear Adm. Samuel Cox, has said al Qaeda operatives are seeking the capability to stage cyber attacks against U.S. networks and terrorists could purchase the capabilities to do so from expert criminal hackers.

Increasing evidence also suggests that Iran is looking to commit cyber attacks against the United States, according to testimony last month before the House Committee on Homeland Security. Iran's sponsorship of terrorist groups takes on a new dimension in cyberspace, where it could develop a powerful cyber weapon and pass it on to a terrorist group.

Lieberman is using the al Qaeda video to underline what he says is the need for new legislation.

"Congress needs to act now to protect the American public from a possible devastating attack on our electric grid, water delivery systems, or financial networks," he said. "As numerous, bipartisan national security experts have said, minimum cyber security standards for those networks are necessary to protect our national and economic security. That is why the Senate needs to act on our bipartisan Cyber Security Act that requires minimum security performance requirements for key critical infrastructure cyber networks."

The Homeland Security Committee says the Department of Homeland Security received more than 50,000 reports of cyber intrusions or attempted intrusions since October, an increase of 10,000 reports over the same period the previous year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May172012

American Terrorist's Mom Wants Him Back Home

FBI(WASHINGTON) -- An Alabama mother whose son joined an al Qaeda group in Africa said she can't turn her back on her boy even though he advocates attacking America and hasn't been in direct contact with her in years.

"If I could touch him for five minutes, I would be thrilled," Debra Hammami of Daphne, Ala. said of her son Omar who this week published a 127-page account of his road to terrorism from a small town in the American South.

"The silence has been devastating," she told ABC News. "I don't agree with the ideology of any of that, but I do love my son and I do have that motherly love."

Her son's account, "American Jihadist," comes two months after he released a video online in which he said he feared for his life after a falling out with other members of the al Qaeda group, called al-Shabaab. In the document he describes the roles and deaths of numerous Americans, mostly from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, who also joined with the al Qaeda group.

"Minnesota represented!" he writes. "Those Minnesota brother have almost all left their mark on the [jihad] and most have them received martyrdom; while the rest are still waiting [sic]."

Debra Hammami said that even though she doesn't agree with what her son has become, the memoir was something of a comfort considering it's the fullest account yet of what her 27-year-old has been doing in the shadows for the last few years. The two have had no direct contact since he disappeared in 2006 after telling his family he was going to Dubai for work and instead headed to the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

Omar Hammami, who later took on the moniker Abu Mansoor al-Amriki or "The American," recounts in his book his arrival in Somalia and how he fumbled his way through the city for days before meeting the militants he hoped to join.

"At any rate, I took them to the house and they told me that they were the Shabaab... and that they had come to take me to the place of the mujihadeen," Hammami says in the book. "I was extremely excited again."

Hammami describes the training he received, including from one instructor just called "The Spy," and joked that the American drones buzz overhead a "racist" against the white people in Somalia.

"They just want to kill off every white [fighter] they can," he says.

Throughout, Hammami is unrepentant for his decision to join the jihad and for his calls for violence against the West.

Amended to the book are his answers to questions posed by a journalist. When he is asked if he has any final remarks, Hammami just says, "Viva la Revolution!"

For her part, Debra Hammami said she still fears for her son's life and wants him back home.

"It is very devastating, [but] it's a day to day process," she said. "But I do love my son. I have that motherly love."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May162012

Counterterrorism Director Addresses Terror Threats, Media Leaks, Wiretapping

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, broadly addressed counterterrorism issues speaking before the American Bar Association’s standing Committee on Law and National Security Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
 
Olsen used his speech to push for renewal of sections of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which will expire at the end of the year. Recently Olsen and FBI Director Robert Mueller have been saying the impact of not renewing the FISA amendments would leave the U.S. defenseless in the counterterrorism realm by not being able to intercept certain overseas communications.
 
Olsen said that core al Qaeda leaders are having difficulty communicating with operatives. Repeating the analysis of Mueller and other top intelligence community officials Olsen cited AQAP as the most active and dangerous of the al Qaeda affiliates.
 
Olsen said that the intelligence community is taking action to locate AQAP’s bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri, noting the bomb maker is “a very important person for us to find out where he is and to take appropriate action.”
 
On the issue of homegrown terrorism Olsen said the intelligence and law enforcement community face “real obstacles on the homegrown side,” citing the difficulty in detecting lone extremists who may not provide typical warning indicators of terrorist activity.
 
In a question-and-answer session, Olsen also addressed the issue of media leaks relating to the recent bomb plot and called it “devastating.” “Leaks do endanger people’s lives...that is not an exaggeration,” Olsen said.
 
One reporter questioned Olsen about his preference for using drones to neutralize terrorist threats, or if he favored capture and interrogation. Olsen responded saying, “I have a strong preference for gaining intelligence. That is our goal...we need to always take advantage of whatever opportunities we have to interrogate."
 
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May162012

FBI Investigates Media Leaks in Yemen Bomb Plot

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- FBI director Robert S. Mueller III Wednesday disclosed that the FBI is investigating leaks to the news media about the recently disrupted plot by al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate to smuggle a bomb designed to be concealed in underwear onto a U.S.-bound jet.

A day after the plot was first reported, it was revealed that the individual at the center of the plot was a double agent working for Britain’s MI-6 secret intelligence service and the CIA along with Saudi Arabian intelligence assets.

“We have initiated an investigation into this leak,” Mueller testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.  “Leaks such as this threaten ongoing operations, puts at risk the lives of sources, makes it much more difficult to recruit sources, and damages our relationships with our foreign partners.”

“Leaks such as this have a -- I don’t want to overuse the word ‘devastating’ -- but have a huge impact on our ability to do our business, not just on a particular source and the threat to the particular source, but your ability to recruit sources is severely hampered,” Mueller said, describing the implications of the leak of sensitive national security information.

Mueller continued, “In cases such as this, your -- the relationship with your counterparts overseas are damaged [sic] which means that an inhibition in the willingness of others to share information with us where they don’t think that information will remain secure.  So it also has some long-term effects, which is why it is so important to make certain that the persons who are responsible for the leak are brought to justice.”

The investigation is likely being run by the Justice Department’s counterespionage section and agents from the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

Justice Department officials and an FBI spokesman declined to comment on the nature of the investigation. The CIA also declined comment.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is also conducting a review with the DNI’s general counsel to see if the leaks originated in any of the 16 agencies that DNI director James Clapper oversees.

Earlier in the day Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, addressed the issue of media leaks relating to the plot and called it “devastating.”

“Leaks do endanger people’s lives...that is not an exaggeration,” Olsen said, speaking before the American Bar Association’s standing Committee on Law and National Security, in Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May102012

Al Qaeda Mole Recruited By British Intelligence: Officials

Saudi fugitive Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri. (Saudi Interior Ministry/Landov)(WASHINGTON) -- A mole recruited by British intelligence is the hero who penetrated al Qaeda's most recent bomb plot, intelligence sources told ABC News.

The operation in which the mole -- who travelled on a European Union passport that would have gotten him through U.S. security, should that have been a part of the plot -- had been in place for several months and the American role in the operation only took on operational urgency in the past two or so months, the officials said.

The long running operation with the deep cover operative was one that intelligence agencies planned to keep running. It was pulled up short in the past week when leaks developed and put the infiltrator in jeopardy. Sources involved in the intelligence operation said the plan was to keep the operation running until a more complete picture of the still developing plots and plans of the Yemen based group and its sinister, creative bombmaker, were learned.

"This was gold dust," one senior intelligence official said. "Such assets are few and far between."

Authorities would not discuss the whereabouts of the wanted bombmaker, known as Ibrahim al-Asiri, at this time.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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