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Entries in Terrorism (151)

Thursday
May232013

London Attack: Man Hacked to Death Was a British Soldier

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- British authorities are debating whether to raise the country's threat level one day after a British soldier was hacked to death by suspects shouting jihadist slogans in southeast London.

Britain's top leaders held an emergency meeting Thursday in the equivalent of the White House Situation Room, deciding whether they believe the assault could lead to more attacks.

Counterterrorism police searched a home in northeast England, according to police in Lincolnshire, and officers were seen meticulously searching a parking garage and a lawn in Woolwich, where the attack took place. They also continue to interview the two suspects, who are in the hospital under arrest after they were both shot by armed police. It's unclear whether they are cooperating with authorities.

One of the alleged attackers was a British Christian who converted to Islam, according to Anjem Choudary, the former leader of the group Al Muhajiroun, a banned Islamist Organization.

Choudary told ABC News that the killer's name is Michael Adebolajo, who converted to Islam in 2003 and changed his name to Mujahid, meaning one who wages jihad.

Choudary said Adebolajo was never a member of Al Muhajiroun, but knew him because he attended the group's rallies from about 2005 to 2011.

After 2011, Choudary said, Adebolajo stopped attending rallies. Choudary said he has no idea what Adebolajo has been doing since, and he said that Adebolajo never suggested any antipathy to British soldiers or any willingness to commit violence.

"He was a very peaceful man," Choudary told ABC News. "Never saw any kind of violence streak in him. Very quiet, timid man, in fact."

After the attack, instead of fleeing the scene, Abedolajo and his alleged accomplice invited eyewitnesses to interview them on their camera phones. Abedolajo spoke to one eyewitness while holding two bloody knives. His hands were stained deep red and he used rhetoric similar to that used in martyrdom videos.

"We swear by almighty Allah, we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone, your people will never be safe," Abedolajo said calmly, according to ITV News, which first obtained the video. "Tell them to bring our troops back so we -- so you -- can all live in peace."

The attack occurred a few hundred feet from an army barracks in Woolwich, home to the Princess of Wales' regiment and the King's Troop, a ceremonial unit. Authorities have increased security at the 10 army barracks across London, according to British officials.

British Prime Minister David Cameron praised the police response Thursday morning.

"This was not just an attack on Britain and the British way of life. It was also a betrayal of Islam," Cameron told reporters after chairing the meeting of senior government officials. "There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly barbaric act."

Police and community leaders feared violent backlashes following the attack, especially in Woolwich, which has had a past history of racial tensions.

A few hundred members of the anti-immigrant and right-wing party the English Defense League poured into the area last night, wearing masks and throwing rocks at police. And police reported two separate attacks on Muslim centers in southern and eastern England.

Police in Essex, east of London, arrested a 43-year-old who was holding a knife outside of a Muslim prayer center Wednesday night. They charged him with attempted arson as well as suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon, Essex police told ABC News.

And in Gillingham, Kent, which is south of London, another man was arrested Wednesday night outside a mosque on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage, Kent police told ABC News.

British Muslim organizations were quick to condemn the attack.

"We must come together, isolate those who believe that extremism and violence are acceptable, and work to ensure that they meet the full force of the law," Fiyaz Mughal, the director of Faith Matters, said in a statement. "We as the Muslim community will work against anyone who promotes such hatred."

Still, at a moment when much of the country was upset by a crime clearly designed to shock, there were signs of impressive bravery.

After the attack, a mother of two Ingrid Loyau-Kennett approached one of the attackers and engaged him in conversation. Loyau-Kennet can be seen in a photograph calmly talking to the man. He was holding a bloody knife and she appeared unafraid.

"I just talked to him. He looked like a normal guy. He wasn't high, he wasn't on drugs. A normal guy pissed off with the fact [as he said], 'Muslim women and children are dying in their countries by the hand of white men,'" she told ITV's Daybreak. "He was very, very close to me. He was almost touching me ...I asked him, what's the point. [He said] 'war in London.'"

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May082013

New Terrorist Magazine Targets Obama, Drones

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Barack Obama appears with a bull’s-eye on his head in a new English-language magazine published online apparently by Islamist militants, who also urge Muslims around the world to try to hack and manipulate American drones.

“Wanted Dead Only. Barack Obama Mass Murderer. Reward: in the Hereafter,” reads the full page poster that depicts a darkened image Obama as a target.

Elsewhere in the 80-page tome, the magazine calls upon the “Ummah,” the community of Muslims all over the world, to hack and manipulate U.S. drones, identifying drone attacks as “one of the utmost important issues that the Ummah must unite to come up with an answer to.”

“This is a call to anyone in the Islamic Ummah with knowledge, expertise and theories regarding anti-drone technology. [...] These drones can be hacked and manipulated as evidenced by the efforts of the Iraq Mujahideen” says the article, possibly in reference to the reported interception of video feeds from U.S. predator drones by Iraqi militants in 2009.

While the magazine doesn’t explicitly say what the jihadi hackers should to with the drone, there is a significant difference between accessing unencrypted videos captured by a drone and actually commandeering a drone, according to Richard Clarke, former counter-terrorism advisor to the White House and current ABC News consultant.

“Taking over the controls of a drone is beyond the capabilities of members of such militant organizations,” said Clarke. “For that to happen they need to hack into the private encrypted network of the Pentagon or physically overpower the links between the drone and GPS with airplanes, which these organization do not have.”

The new color magazine is entitled Azan – A Call to Jihad and was discovered online on May 5, though the issue itself is dated March 2013.

Azan, call to prayer in Arabic, holds a striking resemblance to Inspire, the English-language magazine published by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), though no militant organization has claimed responsibility for the publication yet.

Nevertheless, the magazine’s header reads “Taliban in Kuhrasan,” an indication that it might be published by islamists in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Kuharasan is an ancient term for the region spanning Afghanistan, Northwest Pakistan, parts of Iran, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

An American intelligence official told ABC News that the intelligence community was aware of the publication and that analysts are currently “evaluating Azan as they would any jihadist publication advocating international terrorism.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct312012

Americans Slip From Minnesota to Somali Terror Group, FBI Says

File photo. SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Young American men continue to slip through a terrorist recruiting pipeline from the homeland to join the ranks of jihadists half a world away in East Africa, with two going as recently as three months ago, according to federal officials.

The FBI confirmed that in July two young men disappeared from their neighborhoods in Minneapolis and are believed to have traveled to Somalia to join al-Shabaab, the embattled al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group.

Under "Operation Rhino," for years the FBI has been investigating what has been described as a recruiting pipeline from the Twin Cities, which boast large Somali immigrant populations, to Somalia. Both top U.S. officials and at least one prominent member of al-Shabaab said Americans account for dozens of the terror group's fighters. A 2011 congressional report put the number around 40.

"Minnesota represented!" writes American-born rapping jihadist Omar Hammami in an autobiography posted online in May, though he claimed most of the U.S. recruits were already dead. "Those Minnesota brother[s] have almost all left their mark on the [jihad] and most have received martyrdom, while the rest are still waiting."

Kyle Loven, chief division counsel for the FBI's Minneapolis field office, said recruits going to Somalia from Minnesota "continues to be a matter of grave concern and the FBI remains fully committed to resolving this situation."

Al-Shabaab has suffered several recent defeats at the hands of African military forces and lost its final urban stronghold in Somalia earlier this month. But Western and Somali security experts told ABC News they are concerned such defeats may tempt the terror group into abandoning insurgency in Somalia for a renewed focus on international terrorism.

An African Union official said there is worry that the same fighters driven out of Somalia could launch attacks abroad, from Kenya and Uganda to the U.S.

During congressional testimony in January, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper listed al-Shabaab as one of the most significant terror threats to the homeland, in part due to a "foreign fighter cadre that includes U.S. passport holders... [who] may have aspirations to attack inside the United States."

U.S. Special Representative for Somalia James Swan told reporters last month that al-Shabaab's recent losses caused some of the terror group's foreign fighters to flee, but Swan did not know if that meant they were abandoning jihad or simply heading to a different al Qaeda-affiliated group in another country such as Yemen.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct222012

Jordan Foils ‘Major Terrorist Plot’

Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(AMMAN, Jordan) -- Eleven men have been arrested by Jordanian intelligence services which accuse them of planning a “major terrorist plot” involving an attack on shopping centers, residential buildings and foreigners, including diplomats.

Jordan’s state-run news agency, Petra, reported on Sunday that the plan was uncovered months ago during its early stages as the accused terrorists carried out surveillance on potential targets and armed themselves with explosives, guns and mortars.

The men were described as “terrorists associated with the ideology of Al Qaeda.”  Photos posted on the agency’s website showed four of the men with the bushy beards often associated with Salafism, an ultra-conservative brand of Islam.

The plot, it was reported, was dubbed “9/11 (2),” and would start with an attack on diplomats in hotels.  Then, two shopping malls would be bombed, followed by other attacks using TNT and “new types of explosives to be used for the first time.” 

Some of the weapons allegedly came from Syria and the accused were said to have consulted with al Qaeda explosives experts over the Internet.  Suicide bombers and car bombs would also be used.

The Jordanian authorities said the group was “under constant surveillance at every stage” and that they had started choosing members to carry out the attacks.

“Their objective was to create a highly destructive explosive that would cause the highest number of casualties and extensive physical damage,” said the statement on the Petra website.

Jordan has not seen the protests and violence that many of its neighbors have during the so-called Arab Spring, but discontent with the ruling monarchy is growing.  Earlier this month, King Abdullah II dissolved parliament and new elections have been announced for January.  Around 15,000 people, most of them supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, called for reform on Oct. 5 in the biggest demonstrations the country has seen since the Arab Spring began.

Jordan has also taken more than 200,000 Syrian refugees, with that number expected to grow dramatically in the coming months as the violence in Syria continues unabated.  A second refugee camp is due to open to cope with the influx.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct152012

Guantanamo Court Chaos Replaced by Order

Comstock/Thinkstock(GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba) -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other defendants charged in the 9/11 terror attacks were back before a military judge in Guantanamo Monday, and the proceedings bore little resemblance to their last, chaotic appearance in the courtroom on May 5.

As family members of the 9/11 victims watched, all five defendants, who were dressed in white, sat quietly except when answering direct questions posed by the judge, Col. James Pohl. Admitted 9/11 mastermind Mohammed, sporting a long, henna-dyed red beard, read legal papers. Monday was the first day of hearings expected to last through the week.

Five months ago, an arraignment expected to last several hours dragged on for 13, as the defendants took off their headsets, refused to answer questions from the judge and stood up to engage in prayer. Defendant Ramzi Binalshibh began ranting, and another defendant was brought into the courtroom in a restraint chair.

On Monday, the defendants enjoyed several legal victories, including the right to skip the rest of the week's proceedings. The prosecution had filed a motion requesting that the defendants be required to attend all hearings. Judge Pohl ruled that, for this week at least, attendance is not mandatory.

"The accused can, prior to assembly, choose voluntarily not to attend a session of the commission as long as...he understands his right to be present and what his options may or may not mean," ruled Pohl. The judge will also provide a sheet disclosing their rights that must be read to the accused in their cells if they elect to skip future sessions.

Later Col. Pohl individually read each of the defendants the options on the waiver form. The defendants replied in the affirmative either in English or through English translation. Most were puzzled by the part in the waiver that indicated the proceedings could take place if they were no longer under U.S. military control at Guantanamo.

Pohl had to explain to them the "unlikely" hypothetical that if they were to escape out of U.S. military control the military commission would still continue in their absence. The defendants agreed with this after it was explained to them.

When it was Mohammed's turn, he said through a translator, "Yes, but I don't think there's any justice in this court."

Earlier, the defense had moved that an additional civilian counsel be allowed to represent defendant Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi, a Saudi who allegedly helped finance the 9/11 attacks. Col. Pohl granted the motion after Hawsawi indicated that he wanted the attorney. In May, Hawsawi had stared straight ahead and refused to answer when Col. Pohl asked the same question.

Pohl also granted a defense motion that a military lawyer who had once represented Binalshibh be allowed to join Hawsawi's defense team. Pohl ruled that the attorney could represent Hawsawi, provided she did not share what she had learned while representing Binalshibh.

Outside observers were most interested in a motion that will likely be heard Tuesday. The ACLU is attempting to block a "protective order" that would prevent the revelation of classified details gathered during the defendants' CIA interrogations. The ACLU argues that the restriction will keep the public from learning about the conditions of the defendants' captivity, including torture.

Five 9/11 victims' family members chosen via lottery and their five invited guests attended Monday's hearings in Guantanamo. Victims' families are also eligible to watch via closed-circuit television at locations in Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, but a Pentagon spokesman said that only four family members were watching Monday's proceedings. The four family members were watching the proceedings at Fort Hamilton, N.Y.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct102012

Indonesia: Terror Warning Issued Ahead of Bali Bombing Anniversary

Chris McGrath/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Indonesia has issued a terror threat warning, ahead of a somber national anniversary.

Indonesian police are warning of a possible terrorist threat targeting dignitaries planning to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Bali bombings later this week.

While security has been tightened at all entry points to the island, some tourists aren't bothered.

“We love Bali,” one traveler said. “You know they're not gonna scare us off.”

“I'm not scared,” said another. “This is actually a good place to come to.”

The local police chief says the threat warning is based on what he calls reports on the movements of "certain individuals."

More than 200 people were killed in the Oct. 12, 2002, bombings.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct092012

Did the CIA Have a Double Agent Inside al Qaeda?

Jyllands-Posten(VIBY J, Denmark) -- A Danish man claims he worked with the CIA to infiltrate al Qaeda as a double agent for years and helped track radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki until the prominent al Qaeda figure was killed in an American drone strike, according to a Danish news report.

The man, who calls himself Morten Storm, provided evidence to the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten that he was a former radical who had been turned by the Danish intelligence service (PET) and later worked with the CIA so closely that he says President Obama knew his name. Storm said he was the one who sent Anwar al-Awlaki, the al Qaeda preacher linked to several American terror plots, a USB stick that contained a tracking device that eventually allowed an American drone to take him out in September 2011.

Among the evidence that Storm gave Jyllands-Posten are alleged letters between Storm and Awlaki and what appears to be a secret recording of a conversation between Storm and people he calls PET agents and an officer from the CIA in a swanky Denmark hotel in October 2011. During a private conversation, the alleged CIA officer, identified only as Michael, confirms Storm's work for the PET and CIA and makes the claim that the President is aware of the operation.

However, the purported CIA man maintains that Awlaki was killed thanks to a parallel mission and not because of Storm's work.

Storm said he was a radical, militant Islamist in the United Kingdom in the mid-2000s who appeared at at least one anti-American rally, but was turned by PET in 2006.

In a statement from PET's chief, the Danish spy organization said that as a matter of policy it does not publicly confirm sensitive information about its operations, nor does it deny incorrect information.

"It should be noted, however, that in no way does PET engage in or support operations aimed at taking civilian lives. Consequently, PET has not contributed in connection to the military operation that led to the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen," the statement said.

The CIA declined to comment and a White House official did not immediately return requests for comment on this report.

Storm told the newspaper he wanted to come forward now because he was proud of the work he had done and wanted some recognition. He reportedly also wanted his family to know he had been fighting terrorism for years.

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and contributor to The Daily Beast, said that for the most part, Storm's account seems plausible.

"This story is consistent with how you would infiltrate a terrorist group like al Qaeda," Riedel told ABC News. "You need someone who's a plausible recruit ... He's the perfect kind of infiltrator, perfect kind of plant inside of al Qaeda."

Riedel said that as good as America's technological capabilities are in fighting terrorism, there's little substitute for having a man inside.

"The drones themselves are amazing technical phenomena, but the information that leads the drones to the target is what really matters," Riedel said. "In the end it's human beings and the little technical means they can put on somebody to track them down."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct052012

Accused Terrorist Abu Hamza en Route to US

Abu Hamza in 2004. Bruno Vincent/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, the man authorities said tried to set up a terrorist training camp on American soil, is finally on his way to stand trial in the U.S. after an eight-year delay.

Hamza, along with four other suspected terrorists, will fly to the States in the custody of U.S. Marshals, British officials told ABC News just hours after the defendants lost a last ditch appeal to the British courts. The officials said there had been "dreadful weather" but they still have "every intention to get them airborne tonight."

"There is great relief here that these men who have used every opportunity to delay and frustrate extradition will soon be on their way to face justice in U.S.," one British government source told ABC News.

An indictment against Hamza, the one-eyed and hook-handed former imam at the Finsbury Park mosque in London, was unsealed after his arrest by British authorities in 2004. It accused Hamza of a litany of terrorism-related crimes including his alleged role in what turned out to be a deadly hostage-taking operation in Yemen. It also said Hamza had tried to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon and was accused of providing material support to al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The four other suspects, Adel Abdul Bary, Khalid al-Fawwaz, Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan, are also facing terrorism-related charges.

Together, the group had put up fierce legal opposition to extradition and had argued they had human rights concerns about the conditions they would face in U.S. prisons. The U.S. government first requested Hamza's extradition when he was picked up by British police in 2004.

The U.S. Embassy in London said in a release it was "pleased" with the U.K. court's decision to extradite the group and said the move marked "the end of a lengthy process of litigation."

"The U.S. Government agrees with the ECHR's findings that the conditions of confinement in U.S. prisons -- including in maximum security facilities -- do not violate European standards. In fact, the Court found that services and activities provided in U.S. prisons surpass what is available in most European prisons," the embassy said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep282012

Iranian Group Dropped from US Terror List After Political Push

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A controversial Iranian group that the U.S. declared a terrorist organization nearly 15 years ago has been taken off the terror list in the wake of a high-profile political campaign aimed at Washington, D.C. decision-makers.

The State Department released a statement Friday saying the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), a group of dissident Iranian nationals based in Iraq, has been removed from the official list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, meaning that the group is no longer subject to financial and material restrictions by the U.S. government.

The MEK was added to the list in 1997 after the American government accused them of being behind the murders of several U.S. servicemen and civilians in Iran during the 1970s. The group also reportedly allied itself with Saddam Hussein's regime in opposition to Iran in the 1980s and 1990s and, most recently, Iranian officials have accused the MEK of being linked to the assassinations of nuclear scientists there. The group has said that it renounced violence a decade ago but still pushes for the overthrow of the Iranian government.

"With today's actions, the Department does not overlook or forget the MEK's past acts of terrorism," the State Department said. "The Department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organization, particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members. The Secretary's decision today took into account the MEK's public renunciation of violence, the absence of confirmed acts of terrorism by the MEK for more than a decade, and their cooperation in the peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf, their historic paramilitary base."

The MEK has lived for the past quarter century at Camp Ashraf, a refugee camp in Iraq, and have recently been in the process of giving up their weapons and moving from the camp -- which the State Department said the MEK had historically used as a paramilitary base -- to a former U.S. base, Camp Hurriya, before being re-settled in a third country.

The decision to de-list the group comes in the wake of a dogged campaign in support of the dissident group that featured prominent American former military men, security officials and politicians from both parties including the first Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former presidential candidate Howard Dean. Two former CIA directors, James Woolsey and Porter Goss, also threw their support behind the group.

In an editorial for Fox News in January, Ridge said that the previous failure to de-list MEK "continues to stymie prospects for democratic change in Iran" and said the group has provided the U.S. with "valuable intelligence" about Iran's controversial nuclear program.

However, a senior State Department official said that the new decision was "not made to appease any group of lobbyists, no matter how famous they are."

"The United States government is not going to take anyone off the list if it genuinely believes that they pose an imminent threat, that they're going to commit terrorist acts or that they are somehow wedded to violence that is the key desideratum," he said. "That's how we do this."

"I should add that the United States Government has not claimed that the MEK was involved in the assassination of scientists in Iran," the official said.

The MEK has also come under fire from critics for appearing to be a cult-like organization. A 2009 study by the RAND Corporation said its leaders "imbued the MEK with many of the typical characteristics of a cult, such as authoritarian control, confiscation of assets, sexual control (including mandatory divorce and celibacy), emotional isolation, forced labor, sleep deprivation, physical abuse, and limited exit options." Similar allegations are made in a 2005 Human Rights Watch report.

MEK members and supporters reportedly object to such accusations, saying it's all Iranian propaganda.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep242012

Libya Attack Not Just ‘Mob Action,’ Obama Says

ABC/Donna Svennevik(NEW YORK) -- Asked Monday by the hosts of ABC’s The View if the deadly assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was a “terrorist attack,” President Obama said that “there is no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn’t just a mob action.”

The administration, which is still investigating the attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, has previously said that, based on what they knew so far, the assault was linked to broader protests fueled by an anti-Islam movie.

“We don’t have all the information yet and so we’re still gathering it,” the president said. “But what’s clear is around the world there’s still a lot of threat out there. That’s why we have to maintain the strongest military in the world, that’s why we can’t let down our guard when it comes to the intelligence work that we do and staying on top of -- not just al Qaeda, but all these various fringe groups that have started to develop.” While the “overwhelming majority of Muslims they want the same things that families here want,” the president said, “there are extremist frames that are there and these countries are still going through transition.”

“They don’t have strong institutions … they don’t have a strong police force, a strong military and in that vacuum what you start seeing is these extremists trying to take advantage,” Obama explained.   The president said the U.S. is not going to “shrink back from the world” because of this attack and the growing unrest in the Muslim world, a message he is expected to convey in his remarks before the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday.

“We are going to hunt down those who did this,” he said of the attackers. "We will bring them to justice. We will make sure that we do everything we have to do to protect our embassies and our diplomatic posts, but we’re going to stay engaged.”

The president and first lady’s interview on The View airs Tuesday at 11 a.m. EST on ABC.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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