Entries in Attacks (23)


Sharp Decline in Terror Attacks After Bin Laden Death

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The number of worldwide terror attacks fell to 10,283 last year, down from 11,641 in 2010 and the lowest since 2005, the State Department reported Tuesday.

What’s made the difference? The State Department cites the May 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden and other top al Qaeda members killed last year including Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Anwar al-Awlaki, who was the head of Yemen’s Al Qaeda affiliate and had ties to the underwear bomber plot in 2010.

“The loss of bin Laden and these other key operatives puts the network on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse,” the report stated.

But Ambassador Dan Benjamin, the State Department’s coordinator for counter-terrorism, warned that for all the good news about the core of al Qaeda being weakened, affiliates of the group, particularly in Yemen and in Africa, continue to pose a real risk.

Nigeria was one of the few countries which actually saw an increase in terror attacks last year because of Boko Haram, and Kenya and Somalia continue to experience attacks by a weakened Al Shabab. Benjamin also noted that the Arab spring and other countries in transition could leave important allies like Egypt and Iraq vulnerable to terror groups.

“Inspiring as the moment may be, we are not blind to the attendant perils. Terrorists could still cause significant disruptions for states undergoing very challenging democratic transitions. Affiliates of the group, and violent extremist ideology and rhetoric continue to spread in some parts of the world,” said Benjamin.

Reports of al Qaeda operatives taking advantage of the instability in Syria is also a potential worrying situation, says Benjamin.  The U.S. has warned Syria’s opposition groups against allowing foreign fighters to join the resistance, and Benjamin says opposition groups have assured U.S. officials that they are being vigilant in keeping extremists out.  But he placed the blame for the conflict  squarely on Syria’s President Bashar al Assad.

“So long as Assad refuses to go and Syria’s transition is blocked, the danger grows of more foreign fighters, including extremists of the al Qaeda type, infiltrating Syria,” he said.

Though the report focuses primarily on the threat al Qaeda and its affiliates pose to the United States, the activities of Iran over the last year are also increasingly of concern, specifically Iran’s support for Hezbollah and the rogue nation’s involvement in the 2011 plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Taliban's Spring Offensive in Afghanistan Spurs More Attacks

Enayat Asadi/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- There's evidence that the Taliban might be regaining its footing in Afghanistan after the U.S. has started its gradual withdrawal set to be completed by 2014.

A coalition spokesman on Thursday said that insurgent attacks from April through June were up 11 percent compared to the same period one year ago.

Meanwhile, June also experienced the most daily attacks by the enemy since the war started in October 2001.  These include assaults by roadside bombs, mines, gun and rocket fire.

While the coalition believes the spike has to do with Afghan forces taking more responsibility for their own security, others are concerned that the Taliban is feeling emboldened by the eventual withdrawal of all international forces set for two years from now.

However, the coalition in Afghanistan is pushing back against such criticism, saying, "By forcing insurgents out of the more heavily populated areas…where violence has declined significantly, we can anticipate the insurgency will attempt to increase its attacks, primarily using improvised explosive devices and small-arms fire, in order to continue to retain influence and safe havens."

In another yardstick of how the Taliban is faring lately, the death toll of coalition troops last month was 39, which is substantially less than the 66 killed in June 2011 and 103 soldiers slain in June 2010, which was after President Obama ordered a troop surge in Afghanistan.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Iran Claims Arrests of Israeli 'Terrorists'

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Iranian government claimed Tuesday that it had arrested members of an Israeli-backed "terror" network plotting assassinations and sabotage inside the country.

Iran's intelligence ministry announced via state-run media that it had disbanded a "large and sophisticated Israeli terror and sabotage network after months of operations" just as the network was planning fresh attacks.

The statement also said that the government's apprehension of the "devils led to the discovery of the Zionists' regional command center" in a third country.

Iran has blamed Israel, the UK and the U.S. for a series of assassinations of nuclear scientists and explosions and disruptions at missile sites that began in 2007.

Iran has also accused neighboring Azerbaijan of sheltering spies who are planning attacks inside Iran. Iranian state media quoted an unidentified government official saying that "heavy bombs, machine guns, hand guns" and telecommunication equipment were recovered during the arrests, and that some arrests involved firefights.

Iranian accounts also cited past arrests of alleged "CIA and Israeli spies," saying that Iranian intelligence had disrupted an "espionage network" with a dozen members in Iran and Lebanon with the help of Hezbollah in 2011. U.S. officials confirmed to ABC News in November 2011 that Iran and Hezbollah had "rolled up" two distinct CIA espionage networks.

Time magazine reported in March that Israel was scaling back covert operations inside Iran, including assassinations, sabotage and spy recruitment, because of concerns that its networks had been compromised. According to Time, security officials said the confession by Majid Jamali Fashi that he had assassinated nuclear scientist Massoud Ali Mohammad by motorcycle bomb in January 2010 was legitimate. Fashi, who has been sentenced to death, claimed that he was paid $120,000 by Mossad to carry out the hit.

Several of the scientists who were killed or wounded by unknown assailants in Iran were attacked by motorcyclists using so-called "sticky" magnetic bombs, or via bombs apparently placed inside motorcycles. In two incidents of apparent attempted retaliation, a motorcyclist placed a sticky bomb on an Israeli vehicle in India, and Iranian suspects were allegedly interrupted before they could mount an attack in Bangkok.

Azerbaijani authorities said they had disrupted a similar Iranian plot against Israeli, U.S. and Jewish targets inside Azerbaijan, and accused the suspects of links to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The 22 Azerbaijani nationals arrested in the alleged conspiracy in March were originally accused of treason, but now reportedly face only drugs and weapons charges.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bombings of Israeli Targets Mimic Attacks on Iran Scientists

Daniel Berehulak /Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Has Iran decided to turn Israeli tactics against Israel?

In a strike virtually identical to attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists, U.S. sources say a passing motorcyclist attached a shaped charge to an Israeli diplomatic vehicle in New Delhi, India. The driver and the wife of Israel's deputy defense ministry representative to India were wounded.

Television footage showed flames pouring from a minivan with its back door blown out. The attack took place at 4 p.m. on Race Track Road, close to the Israeli Embassy.

A single source confirms to ABC News that a failed attack against an Israeli car in Tblisi, Georgia used a similar method, but the bomb did not detonate. A worker at the embassy alerted local police after seeing a black plastic bag attached to the bottom of the Israeli envoy's car. The bag held a hand grenade.

No attackers have been identified in either incident. An unconfirmed report says that a third Israeli facility in Amsterdam may also have been targeted.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly pointed the finger at Iran for the twin attacks in Georgia and India. Both attacks come one day after the fourth anniversary of the assassination of a top Hezbollah leader.

Motorcyclists with "sticky bombs" have been blamed in several mysterious bombings of Iranian nuclear scientists. The Iranian government has blamed Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. for the deaths. Both The U.S. and the U.K. have denied any involvement. In January, Mostafa Roshan became the fifth scientist or official involved in the program killed in the past two years. Iran had threatened to strike back for the deaths.

In New York, police have stepped up security at the Israeli consulate, at residences and on consulate vehicles. "The NYPD adjusts its counterterrorism posture to include information about events overseas," said Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne. "That's why the public may have noticed increased NYPD presence in recent weeks at Israeli government facilities and synagogues, although there has been no specific threat in New York."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Israel Warns US Jews: Iran Could Strike Here

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Israeli facilities in North America -- and around the world -- are on high alert, according to an internal security document obtained by ABC News that predicted the threat from Iran against Jewish targets will increase.

"We predict that the threat on our sites around the world will increase … on both our guarded sites and 'soft' sites," stated a letter circulated by the head of security for the Consul General for the Mid-Atlantic States. Guarded sites refers to government facilities like embassies and consulates, while 'soft sites' means Jewish synagogues, and schools, as well as community centers like the one hit by a terrorist bombing in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people.

The head of Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service, told an audience at a closed forum in Tel Aviv recently that Iran is trying to hit Israeli targets because of what it believes are Israeli attacks on it nuclear scientists. Yoram Cohen said that Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the same militant wing of the government linked to the recent alleged plot against the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., is working tirelessly to attack Israeli and Jewish targets abroad in order to deter Israel.

Local and regional law enforcement and intelligence officials in U.S. and Canadian cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Toronto have been monitoring the situation closely for several weeks, and have stepped up patrols at Israeli government locations and Jewish cultural and religious institutions. They have issued awareness bulletins reminding officers to stay vigilant.

Federal officials in those cities told ABC News that they have also increased their efforts to watch for any threat stream pointing to an imminent attack on either Israeli facilities, Jewish cultural or religious institutions or other "soft targets."

After the disruption of the alleged plot, regional intelligence centers issued bulletins similar to the recent Israeli warning.

The Israeli security bulletin came in the midst of heated rhetoric on the part of the U.S., Iranian and Israeli political religious and military leadership and follows the recent assassination of a key scientist in Iran's nuclear enrichment program. If the rhetoric is to be believed, there is a deep concern that Israel might launch a military strike against Iran during the spring of 2012.

The intelligence community assessment of that possibility, based on interviews conducted by ABC News, is considerably more nuanced, taking into account as it does the political will of the United States during an election year, the fragile nature of Great Britain's coalition government , the willingness of other allies to join in an offensive, the roles of Russia and China and Saudi Arabia in such a confrontation, and whether Israel would really be willing to launch a unilateral strike.

"But in this situation, the political rhetoric is actually quite important," one official told ABC News. "And that is why the official position -- of the U.S, England, France, Canada, Israel and allies -- is that nothing is off the table."

An apparent shift in the Israeli/U.S. relationship has complicated matters, however, said the official. In the past, Israel would probably have given the U.S. a heads up were it to launch a strike. Now that might not be the case. Among the English-speaking allies of the U.S., say multiple intelligence officials, there is currently a very limited expectation of any early warning.

While much of the public attention has focused on Israel and the rifts within its leadership on how to respond to Iran's nuclear weapons program, the reality for Iran's leadership is also problematic. After threatening to strangle the world oil supply through the straits of Hormuz, Iran "has boxed itself into a corner," said one Western intelligence official. "It would be quite humiliating for them to back down."

The Israeli security letter sums up the resultant risks very clearly.

"In conclusion, we operate according to the information that Iran and Hezbollah are working hard and with great intensity to release a 'quality' attack against Israeli/Jewish sites around the world."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dozens Dead in Latest Wave of Violence in Iraq

Antenna Audio, Inc./Getty Images(BAGHDAD) -- A wave of bomb attacks across Iraq's capital and the southern city of Nasiriya have left at least 68 people dead and more than 100 wounded.

An Iraqi military spokesman said it was too early to say who may have been behind the series of bombings, BBC News reported.

Critics of President Obama’s withdrawal strategy have feared an uptick in violence following the United States military’s departure from Iraq.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Nigeria Churches Rocked by Christmas Day Bombings

Antenna Audio, Inc./Getty Images(ABUJA, Nigeria) -- A pair of bomb attacks rocked Christmas Day church services in the central region of Nigeria, leaving at least 26 people dead, according to the BBC.

An estimated 25 people were killed in the first attack which struck a church in Madalla, not far from the Nigerian capital of Abuja. The initial number of fatalities was likely to rise, a spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency told the BBC.

Not long after the first attack, a second explosion near a church in Jos, northeast of the capital, killed at least one person.

Boko Haram, the same group that carried out attacks in Jos on Christmas Eve in 2010, reportedly claimed responsibility for at least one of Sunday’s bombings.

The office of White House spokesman Jay Carney issued the following statement Sunday condemning the attacks:

We condemn this senseless violence and tragic loss of life on Christmas Day.  We offer our sincere condolences to the Nigerian people and especially those who lost family and loved ones.  We have been in contact with Nigerian officials about what initially appear to be terrorist acts and pledge to assist them in bringing those responsible to justice.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Romney, McCain Point Finger at Obama for New Violence in Iraq

KHALIL AL-MURSHIDI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House came under a barrage of criticism by Republicans following a series of coordinated attacks in Baghdad Thursday that left at least 69 people dead and more than 170 wounded.

No group has taken responsibility for the 16 bombings that occurred in literally all areas of the Iraqi capital less than a week after the last American troops pulled out of the country.  Most of the neighborhoods hit are predominantly populated by Shiites.

The Obama administration issued a statement following Iraq's worst terror attacks in months, saying, "We strongly condemn the terrorist attacks against innocent Iraqis, which serve no agenda other than murder and hatred.  We offer our condolences to those whose loved ones were lost or wounded.  Attempts such as this to derail Iraq's continued progress will fail."

But reaction was swift from both the Republican who faced President Obama in the general election three years ago and the Republican who hopes to defeat him in 2012.

Arizona Sen. John McCain said the coordinated attacks were proof that the U.S. is, "paying a very heavy price in Baghdad because of our failure to have a residual force there.  I’m deeply disturbed by events there, but not surprised."

Meanwhile, White House hopeful Mitt Romney also agreed with McCain's assessment, telling reporters on the campaign trail, "The president's failure to secure an agreement and maintain 10,000 to 30,000 troops in Iraq has to be one of his signature failures."

Complicating matters in Iraq is that it's in the midst of a political turmoil with Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, with his Sunni opponents claiming they're being marginalized.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Twin Bombings Rock Syrian Capital; Dozens Dead, Injured

LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Two suicide bombers hit the Syrian capital of Damascus on Friday, killing and injuring dozens of military personnel and civilians, according to Syrian state TV.

The state TV says the twin attacks targeted security and intelligence buildings and left at least 30 people dead; another 100 were injured.

Friday's bombings mark the first time Damascus has been attacked since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began months ago.  The incident also comes on the heels of the arrival of a team of Arab League observers who are in the country trying to resolve the turmoil stemming from the deadly, months-long crackdown on anti-government protesters.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner issued a statement Friday condemning the violence in Damascus. Here is Toner's statement in full:

The United States condemns in the strongest terms the bombings today in Damascus.  We extend our sympathies to the families of the victims.  There is no justification for terrorism of any kind and we condemn these acts wherever they occur.

For nine long months the Assad regime has used torture and violence to suppress the aspiration of the Syrian people for peaceful political change.  Throughout this time we have spoken out against the violence in Syria, as we have in other countries since the moment peaceful movements for democratic change began in the region, and we will continue to do so.  It is crucial that today's attack not impede the critical work of the Arab League monitoring mission to document and deter human rights abuses with the goal of protecting civilians.  We hope that this mission will proceed unfettered in an atmosphere of non-violence.  The burden is on the regime to cooperate fully and quickly with the monitoring mission.

The Syrian people continue to suffer daily.  They deserve a peaceful political transition that begins with respect of their human rights and an immediate end to repression.  The United States will continue to support the Syrian people in their struggle for a peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pakistani Extremist Group Says It Attacked Shiites in Afghanistan

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Dozens were killed in Afghanistan Tuesday during a series of coordinated attacks that targeted Shiite Muslims observing their holy day of Ashura.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni extremist group in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the bombings that left at least 63 dead in Kabul, Kandahar, and Mazar-i-Sharif.  One U.S. citizen was among those killed in the attacks, the American embassy in Kabul confirmed.  

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a statement, "Never in our history have there been such cruel attacks on religious observances.  The enemies of Afghanistan do not want us to live under one roof with peace and harmony."

It's believed that this unprecedented instance of sectarian violence in Afghanistan was designed to undermine Karzai's fragile government as well as send a message that other groups besides the Taliban oppose the country's attempt at establishing a Western-style democracy.

For its part, the Taliban denied it was behind the attacks, saying, "We strongly condemn this wild and inhuman act by our enemies, who are trying to blame us and trying to divide Afghans by doing such attacks on Muslims."

Still, there's suspicion that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has not operated in Afghanistan before, might be supported by the Taliban, al Qaeda and extremist militant groups in Pakistan.  The country's rogue spy agency, the ISI, may also have a role in the group's operations in order to spark a sectarian feud in Afghanistan between Shiites and Sunnis.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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