Entries in Terrorists (7)


Two Planes Held at JFK Airport for Threat Investigation

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Officials cleared two flights held for a time at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport after a threat involving the aircrafts was phoned in Monday.

A caller told authorities that the flights, a Fin Air flight from Helsinki and an American Airlines flight from San Francisco, had "two individuals" described as terrorists "secreted in the wheel wells." This claim led law enforcement officials to search each plane, a Port Authority official told ABC News.

Investigators viewed the threat as one with low credibility, but the planes taxied to a secure area, where the crews of each plane were interviewed.

No explosives or terrorists were found.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Feds: US Terrorist Took Out Murder Contract on Witnesses

A convicted member of a North Carolina cell of Islamic radicals, Hysen Sherifi,who planned to attack Quantico Marine Corps base in Virginia, has been accused of plotting to kill the witnesses who helped convict him. (ABC)(WASHINGTON) -- A man already convicted of taking part in a terror plot to attack the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va., has now been accused of plotting the beheading of key witnesses against him and his co-conspirators.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed this week, Hysen Sherifi tried to arrange for the witnesses to be murdered for $5,000 apiece by a hitman named "Treetop," but the go-betweens in the murder-for-hire scheme were actually federal informants.

Hysen Sherifi was convicted of providing material support to terrorists, conspiracy to murder U.S. military personnel and firearms charges in October 11 for his role in the foiled Quantico plot. Three other men in his North Carolina-based terror cell pled guilty to terrorism charges in 2011, and three more defendants were found guilty at trial. Another defendant still awaits trial, while an eighth suspect remains at large.

Sherifi, 27, was sentenced to 45 years in federal prison on Jan.13. In an FBI affidavit unsealed this week, however, authorities claim that prior to Sherifi's sentencing he tried to take out a murder contract on key witnesses against him.

According to the affidavit, Sherifi confided in an informant that he wanted to kill three witnesses who testified against him and a prisoner he believed had stolen from him.

"[The Informant] contacted the FBI to advise that Hysen Sherifi had confided in him and requested his/her assistance for the purpose of hiring someone to kill several individuals. Three of the intended victims are witnesses who testified against him at his federal trial."

The affidavit alleges that Sherifi showed his brother's girlfriend, Nevine Aly Elshiekh, notes that he wanted passed on to another individual who was also an informant in the case.

Elshiekh allegedly passed the information on to the second informant, who claimed to be in contact with a hitman known only as "Treetop." During a Jan. 2, 2012, meeting the second informant allegedly showed Elshiekh a picture of one of the targets and the two discussed a $5,000 payment for the killings. "I got the picture from Treetop," the informant allegedly told Elshiekh, "and Treetop wants to make sure it's the right person to be killed."

On Jan. 8, 2012, Sherifi's brother Shkumbin Sherifi visited his brother at the New Hanover County jail. Two hours later, Shkumbin allegedly arranged a call with the second informant to meet him and get money to him. The court papers note that Shkumbin Sherifi allegedly brought the informant $4,250.

During the meeting the informant allegedly asked Shkumbin Sherifi, "You need to ask [Hysen] Sherifi which one he want [sic] killed. The black guy or Arab."

Shkumbin allegedly told the informant, "Okay, um does he, um, are you guys in touch?"

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Feds Foil Remote-Controlled Terror Attack on Washington

FBI(WASHINGTON) -- A Massachusetts man was arrested Wednesday for allegedly masterminding a plot to hit the nation's capital with explosive-laden remote-controlled airplanes followed by a ground assault, the Department of Justice said.

Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old U.S. citizen and Northeastern University graduate, was nabbed in an elaborate FBI sting after he told undercover officers exactly how he planned to arm "small drone airplanes" with explosives in order to hit the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol building before opening fire on the survivors, federal officials said in a statement.

"The conduct alleged today shows that Mr. Ferdaus had long planned to commit violent acts against our country, including attacks on the Pentagon and our nation's Capitol [building]. Thanks to the diligence of the FBI and our many other law enforcement partners, that plan was thwarted," U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen M. Ortiz said.

According to investigators, Ferdaus believed he had been working for al Qaeda since 2010 when he began modifying cellphones to serve as electrical switches for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to be passed on to fighters in the Middle East.

"During a June 2011 meeting, he appeared gratified when he was told that his first phone detonation device had killed three U.S. soldiers and injured four or five others in Iraq. Ferdaus responded, 'That was exactly what I wanted,'" the Department of Justice statement said.

The cellphones, however, never got anywhere near the Middle East as Ferdaus was actually handing them over to undercover officers for the FBI. Still, Ferdaus appeared to want to do more, investigators said.

"Ferdaus envisioned causing a large 'psychological' impact by killing Americans, including women and children, who he referred to as 'enemies of Allah,'" the DOJ's statement said. "According to the affidavit, Ferdaus' desire to attack the United States is so strong that he confided, 'I just can't stop; there is no other choice for me.'"

Ferdaus allegedly wanted to command a team of six operatives that would use up to three remote-controlled aircraft filled with explosives in the "aerial" part of the attack before firing on any survivors in a follow-up "ground" attack.

Federal investigators said Ferdaus traveled to Washington, D.C., to "conduct surveillance" and take photographs of his targets before acquiring his weapons Wednesday, including six AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and what he believed to be C-4 explosives.

"Although Ferdaus was presented with multiple opportunities to back out of his plan, including being told that his attack would likely kill women and children, the affidavit alleges that Ferdaus never wavered in his desire to carry out the attacks," the DOJ said.

Ferdaus has been charged in connection to the plot as well as attempting to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda.

An attorney for Ferdaus, Cathy Byrne, was not available for comment for this report.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Kentucky Terror Arrests Fuel Ongoing Battle: Guantanamo or US Courts?

John Moore/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Although it is far from the headlines, the battle over where to try terrorism detainees wages on between Attorney General Eric Holder and Congress.

In the latest salvo, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky argued Wednesday that the two alleged terrorists arrested in his home state should be sent to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, after Holder criticized Congress last week for blocking efforts to bring detainees from Cuba to U.S. soil for trial.

Holder, speaking Thursday to a friendly crowd of lawyers at the American Constitution Society, reiterated his belief that civilian courts are more than capable of handling terrorist trials.

"Our criminal justice system has proven...time and again, that it provides all the authority and flexibility we need to effectively combat terrorist threats," he said. "Since 9/11, hundreds of individuals have been convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offenses in civilian courts."

Holder said in November 2009, with great fanfare, that the alleged mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, would be tried in civilian courts in New York. But the decision was later overturned by the Obama administration after state officials and congressional Republicans expressed security concerns.

Since then, Congress has stymied efforts to transfer detainees to U.S. soil.

Holder has consistently maintained that accused terrorists should be tried in either civilian courts or military commissions, depending on the circumstances of the specific case. But Holder's speech Thursday was directed at the criticism of using civilian courts.

He said the Article III court system was the country's "most effective terror-fighting weapon" and that "in disrupting potential attacks and effectively interrogating, prosecuting and incarcerating terrorists, there is, quite simply, no more powerful tool than our civilian court system."

McConnell pushed back hard Wednesday in the Washington Post, writing that Holder insulted those on the front lines when he suggested the courts were the "most effective terror-fighting weapon." He also accused Holder of attempting to "justify the Obama administration's two-year misadventure in treating captured terrorists like common criminals."

McConnell pointed to a case brewing in his home state of Kentucky, where two Iraqi nationals -- Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi -- were arrested last month in Bowling Green and indicted for allegedly providing assistance to al Qaeda in Iraq.

In his op-ed article, McConnell presented the case for moving the men to Guantanamo.

"The Justice Department says Alwan and Hammadi should be tried in a civilian setting because they were caught here," he wrote. "This is ludicrous."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


247 On US Terror Watchlist Bought Guns In 2010

David De Lossy/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- More than 200 individuals who were on the federal terrorism watch list passed background checks and were allowed to buy guns in 2010, according to a new government review.

A review by the Government Accountability Office determined that 247 people on the watch list bought guns last year, and also showed that between 2004 and 2009, more than nine out of ten individuals on the list who tried to buy guns succeeded.

"It defies common sense," said Sen. Lautenberg, D-N.J., who requested the GAO report, "that people on the terror watch list continue to be cleared to buy weapons legally in the United States."

Current federal law does not prohibit people on the terrorist watch lists from purchasing guns unless there is a prohibiting factor, such as being a fugitive, a felon, renouncing U.S. citizenship or suffering mental impairment. Sen. Lautenberg has introduced legislation that would close this loophole and prevent known or suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms.

"This is a homeland security issue, not a gun issue," said. Sen. Lautenberg, "and there's no reason we shouldn't be able to stop a terrorist from buying a dangerous weapon in the United States."

In 2009, though they are not known to have been on the terror watch list, two men who had been under federal scrutiny for possible terror ties bought firearms that they then allegedly used to kill U.S. soldiers.

In August 2009, accused Ft. Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan purchased a handgun despite having been the subject of an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation for his contacts with radical Yemeni cleric Anwar Al Awlaki. Hasan is now charged with killing 13 people during the November 2009 shooting spree at the Army's Ft. Hood in Texas.

Just months before the Ft. Hood massacre, Carlos Bledsoe was arrested for allegedly shooting two Army privates and killing one in Little Rock, Arkansas. Bledsoe, also known as Abdul Hakim Muhammad, was allowed to purchase a rifle at a Walmart in the weeks before the shooting despite having been under investigation by the FBI for his extensive travels to Yemen.

The GAO sent a letter to Sen. Lautenberg on Wednesday detailing the results of its review. The letter notes, "From February 2004 through February 2010, individuals on the terrorist watch list were involved in firearm and explosives background checks 1,228 times, of which 1,119 (about 91 percent) of the transactions were allowed to proceed while 109 were denied."

Under existing federal law, legal firearms purchases are checked with the FBI's National Instant Background Check System, which runs record checks through the FBI's National Crime Information Center. Part of the NCIC database checks the FBI's Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File for individuals with gang or terrorism records.

The FBI unit responsible for background checks on gun purchases does provide leads to the FBI about some high priority terrorism suspects; but that watch list is not inclusive of everyone the government may have concerns about.

Although an FBI background check was run on Carlos Bledsoe, the FBI counterterrorism investigators working his case were apparently unaware and never informed of his purchase.

At a June 2009 Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III explained the current notification system. "We are notified when there is a -- appears to be a purchase of somebody who is affiliated with a terrorist group," said Mueller. "But that is different than barring that individual from the outset from purchasing a weapon. But again, I have to defer to the Department of Justice in terms of the policy position that it is going to take on that issue."

Asked about Sen. Lautenberg's proposed legislation, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said, "The Department is committed to doing everything within its power to keep firearms out of the hands of persons who may intend to use those weapons to commit terrorist acts. To the extent Congress wishes to provide the Department with additional tools that would improve the status quo, we remain committed to working with them to achieve that goal."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FBI Releases Unseen 9/11 Investigative Records and Documents

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI has recently posted a trove of documents related to 9/11 including a detailed chronology of the hijackers movements.  The documents also include details about their trips to Vegas and Spain that have not previously been released. 

Simply called “Hijackers Timeline,” the chronology is super detailed and begins with the hijackers individual births and includes every action that the FBI can find a record for, such as individual ATM withdrawals, all reservations they made, DMV records, training flights, gym memberships and the final events leading to the 9/11 flights.
This shows the FBI had little difficulty figuring out the plot once the attacks took place, but could not prevent the attack. For example, FBI agents and the CIA did not share information that two of the hijackers -- known to be Al Qaeda operatives -- were in the United States in the months before the attacks, or other missed signals and opportunities.
A highly detailed account and summary of the FBI’s PENTBOMB investigation, the largest FBI investigation in the agency's history can be found online. The FBI has established a new electronic reading room where they have posted documents called the “Vault” these include documents that have been requested under Freedom of Information Act requests.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


New Charges in New York Subway Terror Plot

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- U.S. and Canadian authorities announced new terrorism charges Tuesday related to the 2009 plot to bomb New York City's subway system, an attack which investigators said was averted just days before it had been planned to take place, around the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced the charges against Canadian citizen Ferid Ahmed Imam, who allegedly helped train Najibullah Zazi, the key operative in the plot, and his associates.

Charges unrelated to the NYC plot were also announced against another Canadian citizen, Maiwand Yar, who investigators said conspired to participate in a terrorist group.

The RCMP alleged that both men traveled to Pakistan in March 2007 before they were to graduate from the University of Manitoba. There, investigators said Imam acted as an instructor to would-be terrorists, including Zazi. Zazi was arrested in Denver in September 2009 and pleaded guilty last year to terrorism charges, admitting that he planned to attack the New York subway system with a series of bombs that he was planning to make.

When he was arrested, after more than a year of surveillance by the FBI, Zazi was found to have chemicals and hydrogen peroxide-based beauty products to make the peroxide bombs. Zazi said he was recruited by al Qaeda in Pakistan and had discussions with al Qaeda about "target locations" in the subways. Two men authorities said worked with Zazi, Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay, were arrested in January in 2010.

The head of the New York FBI field office, Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice Fedarcyk said in a statement, "The three men already charged with conspiring to set off bombs in New York were also charged with receiving overseas training to accomplish that nefarious goal. Among other alleged acts of terrorism, Ferid Imam helped them get that training."

The charges against Imam and Yar were unsealed on Tuesday as part of the investigation, which Canadian authorities dubbed "Operation Darken." The two are part of a trio of Canadian men who have been dubbed the "Lost Boys of Winnipeg" according to Canadian press reports, and both men are currently fugitives who officials believe to be in Pakistan. The whereabouts of the third man, Muhannad al-Farekh are unknown.

"These warrants are the result of a lengthy and thorough national security criminal investigation involving key partners throughout Canada and the U.S.," Assistant RCMP Commissioner Bill Robinson said.

Zazi and his associates were allegedly in contact with senior members of Al Qaeda when they traveled to Pakistan in 2008. Among the senior members they met included Adnan Shukrijumah, a top operational planner in the terror group who has long been sought by the FBI for his connections to other Al Qaeda plots and possible connections to Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. The charges unsealed today charge Imam with aiding and abetting Zazi and his associates, allowing them to receive military type training, use of a destructive device and providing support to Al Qaeda.

Last July Shukrijumah, who is also a fugitive, was charged in an indictment for recruiting and directing Zazi, Ahmedzay, and Medunjanin to return to the United States to undertake the attacks. The FBI and State Department have issued a $5 million reward for information resulting in Shukrijumah's capture.

Shortly after Zazi was arrested, it was disclosed at a court hearing that Zazi had traveled on several occasions to Canada, but it is not known if he had previously met with Imam.

Last year, Ahmedzay pleaded guilty to three terrorism charges for his role in targeting the New York City subway in the planned attacks, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass of destruction, conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, and providing material support to Al Qaeda. Medunjanin is awaiting trial on terrorism charges scheduled top begin in January 2012.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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