Entries in Terrorism (151)


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


US Resident Could Face Death Penalty in Sudan

Rudwan Dawod is shown at a Sudan Sunrise school in Sudan. Sudan Sunrise(NEW YORK) -- Rudwan Dawod, a permanent U.S. resident currently in a Sudanese jail facing charges including involvement in a terrorist organization, could now also face the death penalty there.

Dawod had been working in Sudan with the non-profit Sudan Sunrise to build schools and churches in his home country.  ABC's George Stephanopoulos spoke with Dawod's wife Nancy Williams Dawod, and asked her to respond to the accusation that her husband is involved in a terror group.

Watch the interview here:

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As mentioned in the interview, the Sudanese Embassy released a statement to ABC News. The embassy would not speak about Dawod’s case, but did comment on the protests in Sudan.

Here is the full statement from Seif Yasin, the Press and Information Counselor at the Embassy:

“Concerning the sporadic protests witnessed in the country, it is important to note first that Sudan affirms and protects the right of the citizens to demonstrate as they wish, provided that the rules and regulations in place are observed, as they are principally meant to ensure public order and safety.

It is during this delicate process of facilitating self-expression and maintaining public order on which some opportunists capitalize to inspire violence and chaos or smear Sudan’s image. Fair observers will note how easily things can get out of hand in such settings if the laws that regulate such an affair are not adhered to, be it in Sudan or the United States. The world has witnessed plenty of such disasters. Occupy wall Street protests are a case in point, where numerous arrests were made by the New York Police. While we cannot comment on any one specific case, if any arrests do occur in Sudan, the detained individuals will most certainly have a fair and just trial in court.

Moreover, these protests, though by no means comparable to the ones elsewhere in the world might very well reflect the genuine grievances of a few, relating to economy and job opportunities. And indeed the Government recognizes this and has been aggressively moving to tackle these same economic adversities that the entire world is today challenged with. But in this process, order must prevail, not chaos.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Intelligence Sets Up Threat Integration Center as Olympics Get Underway

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) said Wednesday that U.S. intelligence agencies have established a threat integration center with British Security officials to analyze threat information as the London Olympics get underway.
"For the past two years, NCTC, in coordination with our intelligence community and British partners, has been leading the U.S. effort to make sure that we are collecting and analyzing and sharing all potential threat information relating to the Olympics and that we are in a position to respond quickly to prevent any possible plotting tied to the games," Matthew Olsen Director of the NCTC testified Wednesday before the House Homeland Security Committee.
"In particular, NCTC, with our intelligence community partners, established a Threat Integration Center, designed to operate around the clock providing real-time situational awareness and threat analysis," Olsen said in his prepared testimony.
The threat analysis center will be staffed by officials from the CIA, NCTC and FBI as well as other U.S. intelligence services to review threat information and quickly share it with British security officials from Scotland Yard, MI-5, and MI-6.
According to officials the threat integration center which is housed at the U.S. Embassy in London became fully operational on Wednesday. Spokespeople from the CIA and FBI declined to specifically address how many employees and agents they have in the United Kingdom assisting with the Olympic security effort but two sources said the FBI had a contingent of about 50 employees and agents working in the United Kingdom.
"And we are, as part of our routine and ongoing and longstanding coordination with our close ally, we'll have some liaison personnel that will be in country during the Olympic Games.  They won't directly be providing security.  That's what the UK authorities will be doing.  But they'll be providing some routine liaison capability," Patrick Ventrell said at a July 17 State Department Briefing.
Along with the contingent of U.S. intelligence officials looking for terrorist threat information there will also be a contingent of security officers from Diplomatic Security and The U.S. Secret Service on hand to guard athletes and dignitaries as the games get underway.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Israeli PM Points to Iran in Deadly Bulgaria Blast

STR/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he suspects Iran was behind a deadly explosion aboard a bus full of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria today.

“All the indications are that Iran is behind this deadly attack,” the Israeli leader said, just hours after at least three people were killed in a fireball aboard a bus at an airport in the eastern Bulgarian city of Burgas.

Just minutes before Netanyahu’s statement, other Israeli officials said it was unclear if the explosion was the result of a terror attack. But Netanyahu said the new explosion was just the latest in a “consistent pattern” of Iran-backed attacks targeting Israelis around the globe.

Over the weekend a Lebanese man was reportedly arrested in Cyprus for allegedly planning to attack Israeli targets there in a plot that Netanyahu also said was part of “Iranian terrorism.”

In recent months, agents suspected of plotting deadly attacks on behalf of Iran have been arrested in the U.S., Azerbaijan and Thailand.

For its part, Iran has repeatedly blamed Israel for being behind the assassination of several of the country’s top nuclear scientists in recent years.

In his statement, Netanyahu also noted that today marks the 18th anniversary of a bombing attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina — an attack the Israeli government blamed on Iran.

The White House today condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the deadly attack in Bulgaria, but did not comment on who was responsible for the blast that struck a bus of Israeli tourists.

“The United States condemns such attacks on innocent people, especially children, in the strongest possible terms,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters. “The president's thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and those injured.”

Carney stressed that the U.S. stands with the people of Israel and Bulgaria. “Going forward, the United States will support our friends and allies as they confront terrorism. And of course our commitment to Israel's security remains unshakable,” he said.

Carney confirmed that the president has been briefed on the attack, but did not have any information on who was responsible. “I don't have information yet on anything specific to the incident itself, if in fact it was terrorism and who was responsible for it,” he concluded.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


2012 London Olympics: Officials Acknowledge Surprising Security Gaps

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- With less than two weeks before the Olympic torch is lit in London, British officials are offering public assurances that despite high-profile media reports on potential cracks in the $2 billion Olympic security plan, the Olympics will be safe and security teams will "get the job done."

British and American officials told ABC News beginning last week that it was becoming clear that G4S, a major security contractor hired to provide nearly 24,000 guards, students and volunteers, was falling short of its commitment. The British military has stepped in to fill the gaps and today Scotland Yard admitted their officers will be performing duties that were "not anticipated," but the overall plan hasn't changed.

"Working closely with LOCOG [the Olympic planning committee], G4S and the military, we are providing support to ensure the necessary levels of security are in place as venues move into lock down and the security regimes step up," National Olympic Security Coordinator Chris Allison said in a statement to reporters. "We will continue to work closely with all our partners to get the job done."

The statement also comes after Britain's The Observer published a report quoting border officials as saying known terror suspects had slipped through airport security at London's Heathrow international airport. Government officials told ABC News that report was not accurate, but said an independent auditor had claimed there are many new, hastily trained guards at the airport who sometimes do not question travelers as diligently as they should.

The security package for the 2012 Olympics is one of the largest, and most controversial, in the Games' history.

By the latest count, in addition to the private contractor and local police, the British military plans to deploy as many as 20,000 total troops – a tenth of the country's military – to provide security. The effort includes the use of surface-to-air missile batteries installed on the roofs of London apartment buildings and the docking of one of the Navy's largest ships in the Thames River.

"The Games present an attractive target for our enemies and they will be at the center of the world's attention in a month or so," said MI-5 head Jonathan Evans in a rare public speech last month. "No doubt some terrorist networks have thought about whether they could pull off an attack."

The London 2012 Athletes' Village officially opened Monday. At its peak, the village is estimated to house 16,000 athletes and officials from around the world.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


How the Delta 'Air Scare' Happened

Delta Airlines(NEW YORK) -- Thursday night's terror scare on a Delta Airlines flight from New York to Madrid began when an air marshal became suspicious of a passenger of Pakistani descent who had just left a lavatory, and ended with a heavily armed SWAT team storming the plane, only to find no terrorist and no bomb.

It was another false alarm in the air that had some in law enforcement questioning the judgment of federal air marshals. And over the next two weeks, prior to and during the London Olympics, there will be teams of marshals on virtually every U.S. carrier flight into or out of the major cities of Europe and the Middle East.

"I think reasonableness did not prevail on this flight," said ABC News consultant Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent, "and crying wolf too many times will then not help you when you have a real crisis."

Delta Flight 126, which left JFK airport at 8 p.m., was about 45 minutes into its trip when a federal air marshal saw a Pakistani-American man exit a lavatory. Inside the lavatory, the air marshal found two short pieces of wire with their ends tripped off, covered by a piece of dark straw. The marshal concluded, wrongly, that that they could be components for a bomb.

At the same time, a female passenger from Argentina began to have breathing difficulties, and other air marshals thought, again wrongly, that she could be a decoy, meant to distract the crew while someone else assembled a bomb.

The plane turned back toward JFK, first telling passengers there were mechanical difficulties but then admitting there was a "security" issue. After an emergency landing, the Delta jet was directed toward an isolated area. Passengers looked out their windows and saw firetrucks, security trucks and personnel in HAZMAT suits.

The pilot told air traffic control, "There may be actually a real team on board and we'd like to get security on the airplane as soon as we can."

He also explained how the Argentine woman could be a member of the "terror team," saying, "She's the one that is supposed to be the decoy that keeps looking at the gentleman that was playing the possible explosive device in the lavatory."

The SWAT team stormed the plane, finding nothing. The 277 passengers who had been evacuated from the aircraft were finally allowed to proceed to Madrid just before 4 a.m., nearly eight hours behind schedule.

Said passenger Dayna Kurtz, who was heading to Spain to perform with her band, "The scariest thing was landing and seeing all of the emergency people. Our first thought was, 'Wow, this could be a really big deal.'" She said the greatest hardship turned out to be waiting "about four hours" for access to a restroom.

Though in the end there was no real threat, federal air marshals are trained to react precisely as they did Thursday night.

They are trained to look for teams of terrorists and decoys, and told that terrorists may sneak bomb component parts on board to be assembled in washrooms.

They are also trained to shoot to kill, in the head, to prevent someone from detonating a bomb.

In a statement, Delta said the flight had been returned to JFK "due to the discovery of a suspicious item on board. As a precautionary measure, the plane taxied to a remote location where passengers were escorted off the plane. The aircraft was searched with negative results."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Terror Suspect Tagged, Tracked, Nabbed Near Olympic Park

Steve Rose/Getty Images(LONDON) -- An accused terrorist was re-arrested for repeatedly getting too close to London’s Olympic Park thanks to a GPS monitoring device. British authorities have used the device in special cases to track terror suspects who may pose a risk, but cannot be prosecuted, local authorities said Sunday.

The suspect, a 24-year-old identified in court documents only as CF, appeared in court in late June for allegedly taking public transportation that traveled near the Olympic Park on the way to his attorney’s office – a violation of government-mandated travel restrictions.

According to Britain’s Sunday Telegraph, which first reported the new arrest, CF was accused years ago of attempting to travel to Afghanistan for terrorist training and to take part in suicide missions in 2008. The charges against him were dropped in 2009, but only after he fled the country for Somaliland, a breakaway region of Somalia. He was arrested again in Somaliland and deported to Britain in January 2011 where he faced charges prompted by his attempted escape from Britain. He was granted bail in May 2011 and became one of the country’s first participants in the new Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) program.

The program allows the British government, with the permission of a high court, to impose a range of restrictions on anyone who “the Secretary of State reasonably believes… is or has been involved in terrorism-related activity” or people for whom a TPIM could conceivably help protect the public from terrorism, according to the British Home Office. The measures can include, among other things, strict travel restrictions within Britain and mandated electronic tracking devices.

The system, the Home Office said, is meant to protect Britons “from individuals who pose a real terrorist threat, but whom we cannot prosecute or, in the case of foreign nationals, deport.”

CF is only one of nine people who have been selected for TPIM, according to the BBC.

“Notwithstanding that… CF [has] now been subject to controls for longer than a year, it cannot be said that [he] has renounced his commitment to terrorism, nor has the passage of time significantly diminished the risk [he] presents,” the Telegraph quoted Home Office official James Eadie as saying in court documents. “As CF has previously re-engaged in Islamist extremist activity, despite being on bail, previous disruptive action has not been enough to dissuade him from his involvement in Islamist extremism.”

Attorneys for CF said that the Olympic Park violations were innocent incidents based on “erroneous advice” given to CF about whether the journeys constituted a TPIM violation. CF is scheduled to appear July 26 for a bail hearing.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Seven Men Arrested in UK on Suspicion of Terrorism

Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Seven men with suspected ties to terrorism were arrested this week in Britain following a routine vehicle stop, police said on Friday.

The men, ranging in age from 22 to 43, were detained between Tuesday morning and Thursday evening on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.  The news of their arrests comes one day after British police announced they had arrested five men and one woman as part of a months-long international terror probe.

The latest arrests, however, were not part of that ongoing investigation.

"The arrests followed a routine stop of a vehicle by police on the M1 motorway in South Yorkshire on Saturday (June 30th)," West Midlands Police said in a statement.  "The car was impounded on suspicion of having no insurance.  Firearms, offensive weapons and other material were later found hidden inside, prompting police to take action to trace and arrest the driver, passenger and others suspected of being involved."

Authorities are analyzing the materials found in the car and are carrying out searches of the suspects' homes.  All seven are being held in the West Midlands area.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


London Police Arrest Six on Suspicion of Terrorism

Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Authorities in London have arrested six possible terrorists -- subduing one with a stun-gun -- as part of a months-long international terror probe.

The investigation that prompted Thursday's arrests by armed police has so far revealed no known connection to the Olympic Games set to begin later this month, although several arrests occurred near the main Olympic venue in London, according to a police statement and intelligence sources.

Separately, as authorities searched eight homes on Thursday, police near Birmingham stopped a budget intercity bus after a passenger spotted a man pouring something into his bag, and then saw smoke coming out.

In that incident, on the M6 Motorway, armed police escorted passengers off the bus in what was intially described as a "counter-terror response."  Staffordshire Police later issued a statement saying they are not treating this as a counter terrorism incident.

As armed police officers and bomb-sniffing dogs continued their investigation, passengers remained seated on the motorway, which was closed in both directions.  At least 12 fire trucks were on scene supporting the police operation.  The fire department appeared to have erected inflatable "Hazmat" tents.

The incident was unconnected to the arrests, authorities stated.

In the terror probe investigation, five men and one woman, ages 21 to 29, were arrested in several locations across London by officers from Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command.

The arrests were the "executive action" phase of a long-running investigation led by British intelligence service MI-5.

The men and woman were all arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2000, police said.  They were taken to a southeast London police station where they are in custody.

Authorities would not disclose further details of the case that might compromise their strategy for interviewing the suspects.  What they seized in the searches is unknown.

Police said the arrests in London are related to a possible plot involving Islamist extremists and potential targets in the United Kingdom.  The incident and arrests occurred days after two people were picked up on suspicion of plotting an attack on the London Olympic canoeing venue.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Iranians Planned to Attack US, Israeli Targets in Kenya: Officials 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NAIROBI, Kenya) -- Two Iranian men who led officials to a 33 pound stash of explosives in Kenya have now allegedly admitted they were plotting to attack the U.S., Israel, Saudi or British targets there.

Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad and Sayed Mansour Mousavi, who appeared in a Nairobi court last week, were arrested on June 19 in Nairobi and then led Kenyan authorities to 15 kilograms of explosives in Mombasa. They are believed to be members of the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, say Kenyan officials.

Last fall, the U.S. disrupted an alleged plot by the Quds Force to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in Washington, D.C. Earlier this year, the Azerbaijani government arrested nearly two dozen Iranians who were allegedly plotting attacks on Western targets, and Thai police arrested a group of Iranian nationals after they allegedly attempted to flee a rented residence where bombs had detonated by flinging explosives at a taxi driver and police. Indian police have identified, but not apprehended, three Iranian suspects in the February bombing of an Israeli diplomatic vehicle. Israeli officials say a similar bomb was found on an Israeli vehicle in Tbilisi, Georgia but was defused.

"After Iran sent its people to assassinate the Saudi ambassador on American soil," said the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement Monday, "and carry out attacks in Azerbaijan, Bangkok, Tbilisi and New Delhi, now its intention to carry out attacks in Africa is revealed. The international community needs to fight the world's greatest exporter of terror."

One of the Iranian suspects, Ahmad Mohammad, alleged in court last week that the two men had been interrogated by Israeli agents while under arrest. He also said he was tortured while in detention, which a Kenyan prosecutor denied.

Israelis have long vacationed in Kenya, and some own hotels and retail properties in the country. In 2002, 13 people were killed in the bombing of an Israeli-owned beach hotel in Mombasa.

Over the past several years, at least five scientists linked to the Iranian nuclear program have been killed, and Iran has blamed the U.S., the U.K. and Israel for the attacks. Several were killed using magnetic "sticky" bombs attached to vehicles. Some of the apparent reprisal attacks allegedly carried out by Iranian suspects used the same method.

The arrests of Iranian suspects come in the midst of a series of terror attacks inside Kenya. The U.S. embassy issued an alert on June 22, three days after the men were arrested, warning Americans against travel to Mombasa, ordering government workers out of the city and suspending government travel there through July 1.

On Sunday, June 24, attackers killed three people at a bar near Mombasa. On Sunday, July 1, attackers using grenades and firearms killed 10 people at two churches in the eastern Kenyan town of Garissa, which is 120 miles from the Somalia border and close to a sprawling Somali refugee camp.

These recent attacks and others like them, often involving grenades, are believed to be the work of al Shabaab, the al Qaeda affiliate operating in neighboring Somalia. The Kenyan military launched an offensive against the Somali group last fall, and al Shabaab has threatened to level buildings inside Kenya in retaliation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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