The LWOT: Sweden looks for accomplices in suicide bombing; Abdulmutallab hit with more charges

Foreign Policy and the New America Foundation bring you a twice weekly brief on the legal war on terror. You can read it on or get it delivered directly to your inbox -- just sign up here.

Sweden investigates possible accomplices in suicide bombing

Swedish investigators reportedly suspect that Taimour Abdelwahab al-Abdaly, who died last Saturday after a suicide bomb he was carrying allegedly detonated prematurely, had accomplices in the planning and perhaps execution of his attack (Guardian, Reuters, AFP). Authorities believe another person can be heard on the Swedish-language tape al-Abdaly sent to Sweden's intelligence services prior to the attack, and searches of al-Abdaly's residences in Sweden and the U.K. turned up no traces of explosives, indicating that he may have had assistance from another person in constructing the bombs (Telegraph, AFP).

Sweden's intelligence agency Säpo announced Dec. 15 that there are approximately 200 "violence-promoting Islamic extremists" in Sweden, though al-Abdaly was not being monitored before the attack (AFP). The assessment comes in a report commissioned in February, and highlighted the threat of radicals traveling abroad to fight and receive training (CNN).  Swedish officials announced Dec. 16 that they would not raise the official threat level in the country as a result of the attack or other threats (Reuters).  And Sweden's ultra-right wing National Democrats party have already seized on the bombing to criticize Sweden's pro-immigration policies and multiculturalism (Global Post).

Abdulmutallab hit with additional charges

Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, accused of attempting to set off a bomb aboard Northwest Airlines flight 253 last Christmas, was indicted by a grand jury on additional charges Dec. 15  (AP, VOA). The judge in Abdulmutallab's case pled not guilty on Dec. 16 on his behalf to the charges, "conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries" and "possession of a firearm or destructive device in furtherance of an act of violence," which carry a possible life sentence (CNN, CBS, WSJ). The previous charges filed against Abdulmutallab contain no references to terrorism, and the new charges could allow prosecutors to indict individuals abroad in connection with the case.

Movement in domestic terror cases

Former Guyanese parliamentarian Abdul Kadir was sentenced to life in prison Dec. 15 for his role in plotting to attack fuel depots at John F. Kennedy airport in New York (AP, AFP). Kadir was convicted earlier this year along with Russel Defreitas, after a trial that focused on the evidence - and credibility - of the government informant who infiltrated the plot. Co-plotter Abdel Nur confessed to providing support to the planned attack in June, and alleged plotter Kareem Ibrahim faces trial on the same charges as Kadir and Defreitas (AP). 

On Dec. 15 a British court heard arguments in the extradition hearing of Pakistani man Abid Naseer, indicted in the United States for his alleged role in planning and supporting a bomb plot against the New York Subway system, as well as plots to bomb Manchester, England and targets in Norway (BBC, Reuters, Guardian). Naseer was arrested last year after a British security official was photographed with classified papers detailing the country's investigations into the Manchester plot, but was released soon after. The Telegraph reports this week that the Subway plot, headed by Najibullah Zazi, was only five days away from taking place at the time of Zazi's arrest (Telegraph).

A Washington-area resident and naturalized U.S. citizen, Awais Yunis, was arrested this week after posting detailed threats to bomb Washington, D.C.'s metro system on his Facebook page (WSJ, Washington Post, AP, AFP). And a man acquitted three years ago in the "Liberty City" terrorism trial, Lyglenson Lemorin, is facing possible deportation to his native Haiti (Miami Herald).

CIA covers fees for contractors who waterboarded detainees

The CIA reportedly agreed to pay $5 million in legal costs for two contractors, Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who helped design the agency's "enhanced interrogation" program and also conducted dozens of waterboarding sessions at secret CIA prisons abroad (Reuters). This agreement marks the first confirmation of contractors performing waterboarding on terrorism detainees, and the two reportedly waterboarded high-value Guantánamo Bay detainee and alleged al Qaeda figure Abu Zubaydah 83 times. Lawyers for Abu Zubaydah have asked Polish prosecutors to open an investigation into allegations that their client was abused by U.S. agents at a secret prison in Poland (AP, AFP, Reuters).

And the American Prospect's Adam Serwer points out that language inserted into the Senate omnibus spending bill by an unnamed Senator would negate the ban on money for civilian trials of Gitmo detainees passed by the House last week (TAP). However, with the decision of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to drop the spending bill, it is unclear what will happen to the proposed ban (AP).

Trials and Tribulations

  • The incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Peter King (R-NY), will reportedly hold hearings early next year into "radicalization" of American Muslim communities, as well as what King characterizes as a lack of support from Muslim communities in fighting terrorism (NYT).
  • A drone strike in Pakistan Dec. 16 reportedly killed two "white" British citizens who converted to Islam (BBC, CNN). New releases from the website Wikileaks show U.S. concern over radicalization in the U.K. and failed efforts to combat it (Guardian, BBC).
  • An Italian court on Dec. 15 upheld the convictions and increased the sentences for 23 CIA agents convicted in absentia of involvement in the abduction and rendition from Milan of an Egyptian cleric who alleges that he was abused in U.S. custody (CBS, NYT).
  • Iraqi officials have reportedly obtained confessions from insurgents claiming planned terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe during the upcoming Christmas season (CNN, WSJ).
  • A suicide bombing in southeastern Iran on Dec. 15 against a mosque killed at least 39 people, an attack claimed by the terrorist group Jundullah (NYT).
  • A federal grand jury on Dec. 14 indicted 18 alleged members of the Colombian revolutionary group FARC, including a Dutch national, charging them with involvement in the kidnapping of three Americans in 2003 (Bloomberg, AP).
  • Spanish police have arrested eight individuals over their alleged membership in the outlawed youth wing of the Basque terrorist group ETA (Telegraph).



The LWOT: Suicide bomber targets Sweden; Holder pushes back against criticism of stings

Foreign Policy and the New America Foundation bring you a twice weekly brief on the legal war on terror. You can read it on or get it delivered directly to your inbox -- just sign up here.

We, like many others around the world, mourn the death of Amb. Richard Holbrooke, a towering intellect and force for good who brought peace to the Balkans, among his many other achievements, and whose final mission was to bring lasting stability to Afghanistan and Pakistan. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and to his many friends and colleagues. -- The Editors of the AfPak Channel and the Legal War on Terror.

Suicide bombing targets Stockholm

Two explosions minutes apart tore through the busy Stockholm shopping street of Drottninggatan Dec. 11, injuring two and killing one in Sweden's first terrorist attack in nearly thirty years and its first suicide bombing (WSJ, VOA, BBC, AP). The first explosion came from a white car packed with gasoline canisters, while the second came from a series of pipe bombs carried by the bomber and only mortal casualty of the attack, Taimour Abdelwahab al-Abdaly (Washington Post, NYT, Guardian, AJE). Minutes before the bombings, Sweden's intelligence service and a major Swedish media outlet received an email containing a recording in Arabic and Swedish condemning the country for its troop presence in Afghanistan and "silence" on cartoonist Lars Vilks' drawings depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a dog (CNN, AP). The email ends with the chilling phrase, "Now your children, daughters and sisters will die like our brothers and sisters and children are dying."

Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt called the bombing "unacceptable" while urging caution, and calling on his country to "stand up for tolerance" (Washington Post, BBC).

Swedish officials yesterday positively identified al-Abdaly, an Iraqi who moved to Sweden with his family in 1992 and lived until several weeks ago with his wife and children in London, as the bomber. Swedish and foreign media were the first to report his identity, which was later picked up by pro-jihad internet forums (NYT, Washington Post, Telegraph). Police now say that al-Abdaly carried three types of explosives, including a suicide vest, a backback filled with nails and an explosive, and another device in his hands (LAT). They believe that one of the devices detonated prematurely, heading off what could have been a far more devastating explosion (NYT).

Several papers have profiles of al-Abdaly, who studied sports medicine in the United Kingdom and reportedly traveled to Jordan, from where authorities suspect he transited to Iraq for jihad (NYT, Washington Post, Guardian, NYT). Police are investigating the possibility that al-Abdaly had accomplices, as well as links to established militant groups (AJE, NYT, Telegraph). Investigators are also looking into al-Abdaly's time in Luton, a hotbed of extremism in the United Kingdom. British authorities raided a house there Sunday, and were probing reports of his radicalization while living in the country, after a non-religious adolescence in Sweden that reportedly included beer, sports, and an Israeli girlfriend. (WSJ, NYT, Telegraph, FT, Telegraph). In a notable incident in 2007, al-Abdaly quarreled with Luton mosque leaders during Ramadan after his comments about Muslim oppression and overthrowing Muslim rulers disturbed some of the faithful, leading al-Abdaly to storm out of the mosque (NYT, BBC, Guardian).

Gitmo in the courts and Congress

A German court has dismissed a lawsuit from German citizen Khalid el-Masri seeking to try 13 alleged CIA officers el-Masri says abducted him in 2003 in Macedonia, thinking he was an al Qaeda operative with a similar name  (AP, Jurist). El-Masri says that he was taken to Afghanistan, where he was allegedly abused before being released five months later.

Protesters gathered in London this weekend to demand the release of Britain's last Guantánamo detainee, Shaker Aamer (BBC, AFP). Eight cases involving detainees are currently before the U.S. Supreme Court (AFP).

And the Senate this week will likely debate whether or not to pass an omnibus spending bill containing a provision that would prevent any of the bill's funds from being used to bring Guantánamo Bay detainees, and specifically 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to the United States for imprisonment or civilian trials (Washington Post).  

Holder defends sting operations

In a speech before the annual dinner of the civil rights group Muslim Advocates, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder explained the Justice Department's commitment to protecting Muslims from crime, while forcefully defending the use of sting operations in terrorism cases (NYT, Washington Post, AP). While the recent use of elaborate sting operations against Muslim men in Maryland, Oregon, and Northern Virginia have stoked mistrust among some Muslims and organizations like Muslim Advocates, Holder insisted that the stings were "essential law enforcement tool in uncovering and preventing potential terror attacks" (Politico).  He also told the 300 assembled guests that "Those who characterize the FBI's activities in this case as 'entrapment' simply do not have their facts straight - or do not have a full understanding of the law" (Reuters).

In a separate interview, Muslim Advocates director Farhana Khera said that while "there are actual threats that do exist, and as Americans who care about the country, we want law enforcement to be effective," sting operations had led to anti-Muslim crime and diverted attention from "actual threats" (NYT). And the Maryland man arrested last week in an FBI sting operation, Antonio Martinez, appeared briefly in court on Dec. 13, and was ordered to remain in custody (Washington Post, AP, CNN). His lawyer argued in court that Martinez was entrapped by authorities, an argument the presiding judge said would wait "for another day."

Trials and Tribulations

  • German police raided "Salafist networks" in three states today on suspicion that the groups in question wanted to install an "Islamic theocracy" in Germany (NYT).
  • The newest set of documents released by the website WikiLeaks reveal that U.S. diplomats in 2007 were so concerned with jihadist activity in Barcelona that they proposed setting up a counterterrorism center there (AP, Reuters).And according to other documents, during a meeting last year with then-National Security Advisor James L. Jones, India's defense minister alleged that there were 43 terrorist training camps in Pakistan, including 22 in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir (Reuters).
  • The web video sharing site YouTube will allow users to "flag" videos promoting terrorism for removal, a move made in response to pressure from lawmakers to do more to combat the use of the site by supporters of terrorist groups and acts to market their cause online (LAT, France24).
  • Radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has been charged with inciting terrorism  by police, a charge that in Indonesia carries the death penalty (BBC, CNN).Indonesian police today arrested four people on suspicion of possible links with terrorism (AP).
  • And lawyers for radical Egyptian cleric Abu Hamza, who preached at London's once-infamous Finsbury Park Mosque during the 1990's, will appear in a British court to ask for their clients' early release from prison on account of his several illnesses (UPI).