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Entries in Terrorists (23)

Tuesday
Sep272011

20,000 Surface-to-Air Missiles Missing in Libya

Human Rights Watch(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. officials had once thought there was little chance that terrorists could get their hands on many of the portable surface-to-air missiles that can bring down a commercial jet liner.

But now that calculation is out the window, with officials at a recent secret White House meeting reporting that thousands of them have gone missing in Libya.

"Matching up a terrorist with a shoulder-fired missile, that's our worst nightmare," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D.-California, a member of the Senate's Commerce, Energy and Transportation Committee.

The nightmare has been made real with the discovery in Libya that an estimated 20,000 portable, heat-seeking missiles have gone missing from unguarded Army weapons warehouses, thanks to the U.S. and NATO-aided rebellion against Moammar Gadhafi.

The missiles, four- to six-feet long and Russian-made, can weigh just 55 pounds with launcher.  They lock on to the heat generated by the engines of aircraft, can be fired from a vehicle or from a combatant's shoulder, and are accurate and deadly at a range of more than two miles.

Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch first warned about the problem after a trip to Libya six months ago.  He took pictures of pickup truckloads of the missiles being carted off during another trip just a few weeks ago.

"I myself could have removed several hundred if I wanted to, and people can literally drive up with pickup trucks or even 18 wheelers and take away whatever they want," said Bouckaert, HRW's emergencies director.  "Every time I arrive at one of these weapons facilities, the first thing we notice going missing is the surface-to-air missiles."

The ease with which rebels and other unknown parties have snatched thousands of the missiles has raised alarms that the weapons could end up in the hands of al Qaeda, which is active in Libya.

"There certainly are dangerous groups operating in the region, and we're very concerned that some of these weapons could end up in the wrong hands," said Bouckaert.

"I think the probability of al Qaeda being able to smuggle some of the stinger-like missiles out of Libya is probably pretty high," said Richard Clarke, former White House counterterrorism advisor and now a consultant to ABC News.

Adding to the urgency is the fact that America's passenger jets, like those of most countries, are sitting ducks, despite years of warning about the missile threat.  Since the 1970s, according to the U.S. State Department, more than 40 civilian planes around the world have been hit by surface-to-air missiles.  In 2003, Iraqi insurgents hit a DHL cargo plane with a missile in Baghdad.  Though on fire, the plane was able to land safely.  Four years later, militants knocked a Russian-built cargo plane out of the sky over Somalia, killing all 11 crew members.

Now there are calls in Congress to give jets that fly overseas the same protection military aircraft have.

"I think we should ensure that the wide-bodied planes all have this protection," said Sen. Boxer, who first spoke to ABC News about the surface-to-air security threat in 2006.  "And that's a little more than 500 of these planes."

According to Boxer, it would cost about a million dollars a plane for a system that has been installed and successfully tested over the last few years, directing a laser beam into the incoming missile.

"For us to sit idly by and not do anything when we could protect 2 billion passengers over the next 20 years [with] a relatively small amount of money [from] the Department of Defense, I think that's malfeasance," said Boxer.  "I think that's wrong."

And it could be more practical than trying to round up all the missing Libyan missiles.

"Once these missiles walk away from these facilities, they're very difficult to get back, as the CIA realized in Afghanistan," said Bouckaert.

When the Afghan mujahideen were fighting the Soviets more than two decades ago, the CIA supplied the Afghans with 1,000 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, which had a devastating effect on Soviet military aircraft.  After the Soviets had retreated, however, the CIA spent millions of dollars trying to buy back the remaining missiles from the Afghan fighters.  According to Bouckaert, the CIA spent up to $100,000 apiece to reacquire the Stingers.

"In Libya we're talking about something on the order of 20,000 surface-to-air missiles," said Bouckaert.  "This is one of the greatest stockpiles of these weapons that has ever gone on the loose."

Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, which advises President Obama, says that a State Department expert "is on the ground in Libya working with the [Transitional National Council]," the rebels' interim government, to develop a "control and destruction program" for the missiles.  Vietor also said the administration has sent five specialists to help the TNC "secure, recover and destroy" weapons, including surface-to-air missiles.

Said Vietor, "Since the beginning of the crisis, we have been actively engaged with our allies and partners to support Libya's efforts to secure all conventional weapons stockpiles, including recover, control, and disposal of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles." Given the sheer number that have gone missing, however, experts agree the danger from these missing missile systems is very real.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep152011

Venezuela Supports Native Son Carlos the Jackal, Official Says

-/AFP/Getty Images(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- Venezuela is actively supporting Carlos the Jackal, one of the world's most notorious terrorists, while he sits in a French prison, a top Venezuelan official said.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said on state television Wednesday that the country is providing "permanent contacts to support" the Cold War-era radical "from a human point of view".

Maduro did not elaborate on exactly what kind of support the country was providing but said Carlos, a Venezuelan native whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, faces "very difficult circumstances in France."

Carlos, now 61 years old, is serving a life sentence in France for the murder of two French agents and another person in 1975. Carlos rocketed to international infamy the same year as the murders for a highly-publicized terror attack on a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in which he, along with several accomplices, allegedly took 11 high-powered hostages and reportedly got away with millions of dollars in ransom.

For nearly two decades afterwards, Carlos was able to elude a massive, international manhunt while allegedly planning and carrying out a string of bombings in Europe that killed at least a dozen people.

He was finally captured in 1994 in Khartoum, Sudan, and taken back to France for trial. Carlos later argued that his dramatic capture and extradition -- one of the first highly publicized incidents of "rendition" -- was illegal, but the European Court of Human Rights upheld the action.

According to the ECHR, Carlos was held in solitary confinement for more than eight years for his "dangerousness, the need to maintain order and security in the prison and the risk of him absconding." From jail, Carlos claimed that his operations had killed up to 2,000 people, the ECHR said. In a recent interview with a Swedish news station from jail, the Jackal reflected on the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, saying the terror leader was a "martyr".

While Carlos sat in his cell, his legend grew outside the prison walls. Numerous books and movies have featured a sometimes-romanticized version of the convicted killer, most recently a highly praised French miniseries called Carlos.

In 2009, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez praised Carlos as a "revolutionary fighter." In the past, Venezuela's communist party has pressured the government to try to free Carlos from the French prison and bring him back home.

"They're delicate issues that must be dealt with, let's say, carefully," Maduro said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep142011

CIA Director Petraeus Warns Al Qaeda's Down But Not Out

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Al Qaeda is a weaker terrorist organization than it was a decade ago but still remains a major threat to national security, according to new CIA Director David Petraeus.

The retired four star general and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congressional lawmakers Tuesday that the U.S. has done much to cripple al Qaeda's ability to operate since the 9/11 attacks.

Petraeus, who just took the helm of the CIA last week, said the terrorist group, which has sustained the loss of leader Osama bin Laden and other top figures in just several months, faces a "window of vulnerability."

Yet, this is no time for complacency, Petraeus warned lawmakers, because despites its losses, al Qaeda and its network of affiliates and sympathizers pose a "very real threat."

Two of the most dangerous new affiliates are al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen and Al Shabaab in Somalia, both of which have spread terrorist acts beyond their own borders.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep082011

Al Qaeda in Dire Financial Straits, Treasury Official Says

Al Qaeda in dire straits financially, Treasury official says(WASHINGTON) -- Al Qaeda has been handicapped by financial problems, the Treasury Department’s top sanctions attack dog said Thursday.

Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said that “in the last few years, it became clear that al Qaeda was encountering financial difficulties” and that the organization was in its worst financial position in years in 2010. He adds that after assessing al Qaeda’s situation, it would “not only impair its ability to operate, but also would likely send al Qaeda and its affiliates in search of new sources of funding.”

Cohen said that recent intelligence shows the terror group’s detailed accounting practices betray its budget woes.

He touted efforts that began under the Bush administration and continued under President Obama to target sources of al Qaeda’s funding. The Treasury Department has sanctioned individuals and entities who have facilitated fundraising for terror groups and has encouraged other countries to cut off flows of cash. Those methods, he said, have hindered their ability to carry out attacks.

There are stilll challenges, however. As their traditional sources of funding, like donors in Saudi Arabia, were choked off, Cohen said Kuwait and Qatar have emerged as “permissive environments for extremist fundraising.”

Likewise, al Qaeda and its regional affiliates have turned to new tactics to fund their operations. Specifically, Cohen said kidnapping for ransom has become the most worrisome trend. He said al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the terror branch in North Africa, has raised “tens of millions of dollars” since 2008 through ransom operations.

The shift in funding tactics poses a new problem for those looking to weaken al Qaeda financially. The new methods are harder to combat since they are not as vulnerable to sanctions and other financial instruments that the U.S. government and its allies can employ.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Thursday
Aug042011

Former CIA Counter-Terror Chief Says Al Qaeda Will Go Cyber

John Foxx/Stockbyte(WASHINGTON ) -- The former head of the Central Intelligence Agency's Counter Terrorism Center said that a battered al Qaeda will likely focus more on a new front in their global jihad against the West: cyberspace.

Cofer Black, who spent nearly 30 years with the CIA and was head of the CTC during the Sept. 11 terror attacks, said al Qaeda would likely fall back into "small and agile" tactics, including online attacks.

"They will enter the cyber world because it's comparatively remote, comparatively safer than strapping on a bomb," Black said during his keynote speech at the Black Hat Technical Security Conference in Las Vegas Thursday. The Black Hat conference is an annual convention that attracts thousands of the world's top cyber security experts and hackers alike.

Just last month the British Home Office said in a report that al Qaeda has called on its supports to wage "cyber jihad." The first known terror cyber attack, it says, was an email spamming attack in 2010 that, while relatively primitive, managed to infect the emails of thousands of U.S. and international corporations.

Cyber attacks, whether from terrorists, criminal groups or nation-states, have reordered counter-terror experts' views on the greatest dangers to the U.S., Black said.

One of the major turning points in defense thinking, he said, was the Stuxnet worm that reportedly attacked and physically damaged an Iranian nuclear facility in 2010. After the worm's discovery, a U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security hearing marked the attack as the beginning of a new era in cyber warfare: The Age of Stuxnet.

"The Stuxnet attack is the Rubicon of our future," Black said. "This is huge."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Wednesday
Jul202011

Famine Aid Delivery Complicated by Somalia Terror Group

A young child is given a vaccine in the Ifo refugee camp which makes up part of the giant Dadaab refugee settlement on July 20, 2011 in Dadaab, Kenya. The ongoing civil war in Somalia and the worst drought to affect the Horn of Africa in six decades has resulted in an estimated 12 million people whose lives are threatened. Oli Scarff/Getty Images(NAIROBI, Kenya) --  International aid groups are preparing to return to southern Somalia nearly two years after threats by a radical Islamic group forced them out, but a devastating and spreading famine has forced the the agencies to do whatever is necessary to save lives.

The agencies are also acting in the face of U.S. concern that the aid could end up bolstering the al Qaeda-affiliated terror group Al-Shabaab.

Parts of southern Somalia have now been officially declared a famine, the first of the 21st century, according to the United Nations. Nearly three million Somalis are affected, and aid organizations are grappling with how to reach the most destitute areas, which are currently under the control of the militant Islamic group Shabaab.

The humanitarian "emergency" became a "famine" after the U.N. determined more than 30 percent of children in the areas were suffering from acute malnutrition, and two adults or four children out of a group of 10,000 people were dying of hunger each day.

"If we don't act now, famine will spread to all eight regions of southern Somalia within two months, due to poor harvests and infectious disease outbreaks," said Mark Bowden, the humanitarian coordinator for Somalia. "We still do not have all the resources for food, clean water, shelter and health services to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Somalis in desperate need."

International humanitarian organizations have not operated in the area for nearly two years. Most pulled out in early 2010 because of insecurity and demands by Al-Shabaab, such as banning women aid workers and charging a "tax" on all assistance. The tax was particularly problematic because giving any money or goods to the group would be violating U.S. anti-terrorism funding laws.

Al-Shabaab has been declared a terrorist organization by the United States, which historically has been the largest funder of food aid to Somalia.

But now, with hundreds of thousands Somalis starving to death as they take the treacherous journey from their drought-stricken homes to overcrowded refugee camps in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia, humanitarian agencies say there is no choice but to do whatever is necessary to save lives, even if that means dealing with Shabaab.

Some organizations have been openly critical of the U.S., saying that its position is partially responsible for the current disaster.

Bowden told reporters Wednesday in Nairobi, Kenya, that the United States' sanctions against al-Shabaab "complicates efforts through increased levels of suspicion and motivation so it may lead to access problems in parts. We hope there is an understanding that this is a humanitarian imperative to get assistance in."

The United States maintains that the problem is not with U.S. policy, but with al-Shabaab. The group is known for its brutal leadership including stoning a 13-year-old girl to death after she was raped, dismembering alleged thieves, and banning movies, cellphone ringtones and even bras.

"U.S. sanctions are not the issue or the problem," says Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of African affairs at the State Department.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in a statement that the United States will provide an additional $28 million in emergency aid money to the Somalis in dire need.

Copyright 2011 News Radio

Wednesday
Jul132011

CIA Assists Somali Terror Interrogations, But No Secret Prison in Somalia

CIA.gov(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. official tells ABC News that the CIA has provided assistance to Somalia’s fragile government as it interrogates terrorism suspects, but refutes a report that the agency runs a secret prison in that unstable country.

A story published in The Nation said that the CIA was running a secret prison to house and interrogate terror suspects belonging to al Shabab, the Somali terror group linked to al Qaeda.  The facility is said to be located in the in the basement of Somalia’s security in Mogadishu.

The report also described "a sprawling walled compound" recently set up in a remote corner of the Mogadishu airport  that is used to train a Somali force in counterterrorism.  Consisting of more than a dozen buildings, the facility is said to be protected by Somali soldiers, though access is controlled by the CIA.   

The U.S. official denied that there is a CIA counterterrorism detention facility in Somalia  but acknowledged that the CIA has provided support to Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) during interrogations of terror suspects.

According to the official, “the agency, as you would expect, provides counterterrorism support to the TFG fighting al Shabab in their own country.”

The official characterized that support as having occurred  “on very rare occasions” when “CIA officers provide support to the TFG during debriefings of terror detainees in TFG custody.”

The official called the assistance “the logical and prudent thing to do.”  

Senior U.S. officials have expressed concern that al Shabab may be trying to expand its terror operations beyond Somalia, much as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has launched attacks on western targets outside of Yemen.

Somalia is of particular concern because the TFG has little control beyond Mogadishu, and U.S. government officials worry that those lawless regions might become a safe haven for al Shabab and other terror groups.

In the past, the U.S. military has sometimes launched air strikes targeting al Qaeda leaders who have sought refuge in Somalia.

Most recently in late June, the secretive Joint Special Operations Command used a new tool against terror targets, for the first time using a drone to launch missiles at a terror suspect. The military has also been using drones to strike at terror suspects in Yemen, much like the CIA has been doing over Pakistan’s tribal regions for several years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May182011

Authorities Hunt for Terrorists Named in Files Found at Bin Laden's Compound

CNN via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The entire U.S. intelligence community is busy pursuing leads from files recovered from Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound to determine whether bin Laden's plots had gone beyond the discussion and planning phase to concrete threats, government sources told ABC News.

Sources familiar with bin Laden's handwritten journal and computer files told ABC News that names of suspected al Qaeda operatives had been found in the files, and that an intense effort was underway to find the individuals attached to those names.

A special Media Exploitation Task Force "working 24/7" in shifts has been set up on the grounds of CIA headquarters to exploit the bin Laden files.

U.S. intelligence has been trying to determine if the names in the files are real or aliases, and has called on Great Britain and Canada to help it nail the identifications.

"The names that they are finding are extremely important," former FBI Agent Brad Garrett said in an interview with ABC News. "I believe that they're under a lot of pressure to resolve and identify these people as quickly as possible."

Travel records are being combed to see if any of these people have entered the U.S. already, and names are being added to terrorist watch lists in case any operatives try to come here.

Some officials have expressed shock that bin Laden kept so much sensitive material with him in what has been described as the most significant terrorism trove ever discovered.

Analysts pouring over the bin Laden files have found a number of references that signal he was pushing the terror network to ready an attack on U.S soil on or before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Some analysts worry that such a plot could already be in motion, even though they have found no evidence of it.

But al Qaeda plots are often months in the making. The 9/11 plot, which bin Laden and Khalid Sheik Mohammed dubbed "The Planes Operation," took more than two years to conceive and execute.

The bin Laden files indicate that he and al Qaeda discussed not only attacks against commuter trains but plots against airplanes and airports, buildings, vehicle bombs and hits like the one in Mumbai in which terrorists used guns and small explosives to execute victims in cold blood, sources familiar with the documents told ABC News.

Now intelligence officials are studying the files to figure out if bin Laden's writings reflect simply his aspirations or plans to be put in motion.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar252011

Netanyahu: Israel Prepared to 'Act with Great Force' Against Terrorism

Jim Hollander - pool/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a warning against terrorists Friday following a new wave of rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza.

"We stand ready to act with great force and great determination to put a stop to it," Netanyahu said.  "I know that the United States has been doing the same and would do the same."

"Any civilized society will not tolerate such wanton attacks on its civilians.  Israel will not tolerate such wanton attacks on its civilians," the prime minister added.

The rockets fired by Palestinian militants Thursday landed deep inside Israel and came a day after a bombing in Jerusalem left one British woman and at least 25 others injured.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec312010

Rehab for Terrorists? Pakistan Works With Extremist Teens

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SWAT, Pakistan) -- Once a terrorist always a terrorist? Not so, says Pakistani military officials who are using psychiatry, education and religion to rehabilitate more than 150 teenage extremists.

Opinions on whether terrorists can be rehabilitated are still mixed. Saudi Arabia has tried to re-educate known jihadists for the past few years with limited success. But the Pakistani military believes its program can teach the young men -- ages 14 to 17 -- how to think for themselves and become productive members of society.

The teenagers are housed in a compound in Pakistan's Swat valley, an area that just a few years ago was a Taliban stronghold, where beatings and beheadings were constant. Today, Taliban headquarters is gone, destroyed by the Pakistan army, and the area is home to reopened schools and shops. But the half-million people who live there vividly recall the days of Taliban rule -- hundreds of them sided with the terrorists, many, the army says, out of fear.

The young men undergoing rehabilitation are kept in their compound 24 hours a day, meeting with psychologists, teachers and religious instructors. Security is a constant presence. Some of the young men have killed or tortured their countrymen and were ready to carry out suicide bombings. One of them told ABC News that the Taliban told him fighting the Pakistani army "was the right thing to do."

A student in the reintegration program told ABC News that he thinks differently now and would never go back to the Taliban.

Only 11 of the 152 young men going through the program are considered ready for reintegration. In Pakistan, the army and the community will help to monitor the young men for a year or more and help them to get jobs.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio