The LWOT: Gunman kills two U.S. Airmen at Frankfurt Airport; Two NJ men plead guilty to attempting to join al-Shabaab

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.

Newsstand: The current edition of Washington Monthly magazine features a must-read piece on the proliferating and nearly unregulated rise of counterterrorism "experts" who train local police, often imparting misleading ideas about Islam (Washington Monthly). 

Gunman kills two U.S. Airmen in Germany

A 21-year old gunman from Mitrovica, Kosovo opened fire on U.S. Airmen on a bus at the Frankfurt Airport on Mar. 2, killing two and wounding two before his pistol jammed (Der Spiegel, NYT, BBC, AP, ABC). The suspect, Arid Uka, reportedly shouted "Allahu Akhbar" before and during the shooting, which targeted a security detachment on their way from RAF Lakenheath in England to Ramstein Air Force Base and then Afghanistan (Guardian).

Uka reportedly confessed in full to German authorities after his arrest, and officials said he appeared to be a "lone wolf" attacker, motivated in part by a video he reportedly watched several days ago showing alleged U.S. atrocities in Afghanistan (Washington Post, Reuters). Still, authorities believe Uka was motivated by a radical Islamist ideology, based on his confession and posts on his Facebook page (CNN, NYT, Deutsche Welle). Officials are also investigating allegations that Uka befriended a Syrian-German man currently in jail on terrorism-related charges, Rami Makanesi (WSJ).   

Two NJ men plead guilty to attempting to join al-Shabaab

Two New Jersey men, Mohamed Mahmood Alessa and Carlos Almonte, pleaded guilty Mar. 3 to conspiracy to commit murder abroad after the men were arrested at John F. Kennedy Airport last June on their way to Egypt and then Somalia to join the Somali militant group al-Shabaab (NYT, Bloomberg, WSJ, CNN). The men were observed and secretly recorded for several years making statements in favor of fighting non-Muslims abroad or possibly in the United States, and traveled to Jordan in 2007 in a failed attempt to link up with extremist groups there (NY1, While both men could face life in prison, part of their plea deal was an agreement that the government would not seek more than 30 years in prison when sentencing takes place June 20. 

The Supreme Court this week continued to hear arguments in the case of American Abdullah al-Kidd, who is attempting to sue former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft for al-Kidd's 2003 detention in harsh conditions under the material witness statute, which al-Kidd argues was used as a pretext to hold Muslim men suspected of terrorism without charge (NPR, Washington Post, WSJ).

The Village Voice newspaper this week interviewed David Williams, convicted in a highly contentious trial last year for his role in a planned terrorist attack against several Bronx synagogues and an Air National Guard Base (Village Voice). In the interview, Williams said the plotters never spoke privately about jihad, but only went along with the plot to get money from government informant Shahed Hussain, who told the men he was a representative of a terrorist group and promised them $250,000 and a luxury car if they carried out the attack. 

A federal judge this week denied bail to Boston terrorism suspect Tarek Mehanna, arrested in 2009 and accused of plotting to attack a judge, politicians, and a shopping mall (AP). 

Holder: Gitmo likely won't close before 2013

In testimony before a House appropriations subcommittee on Mar. 1, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder responded to a question about the prospects for the prison at Guantánamo Bay closing before Nov. 2012 by saying, "I don't know...We will do all we can" (Telegraph, The Hill, CNN). Holder reiterated the Obama administration's desire to close the prison and discussed the prison's value as a recruiting tool for groups like al Qaeda, but did not provide specifics on how the remaining 172 detainees at the prison, barred from being moved to the United States by Congress, would be dealt with.

NPR this week has a must-read two-part look inside the prison centers dubbed "Gitmo North" where well-known terrorism suspects, along with violent criminals and some with at-best dubious ties to Muslim radicalism, are kept under 24-hour surveillance and prohibited from praying in groups (Part I, Part II). These centers at Terre Haute, Ind., and Marion, Ill., called "Communications Management Units" (CMU) are set up to ostensibly diminish the possibility of prison radicalization, but civil liberties advocates and former prisoners say the men housed there are overwhelmingly Muslim and are often not given an explanation as to why they were transferred to the centers or given the opportunity to contest the move.

In an interview this week with a German newspaper, former Guantánamo detainee Murat Kurnaz alleges that doctors at the prison force-fed unnecessary medication to prisoners, using them as "guinea pigs" for drugs (Deutsche Welle).And Australian former detainee David Hicks is circulating a petition among Australian lawyers asking them to recognize the alleged torture he endured at Guantánamo (The Australian).

Trials and Tribulations

  • British security officials are trying to identify an individual who appeared in an al Qaeda martyrdom tape under the name "Musa the British" (Telegraph). If his identity is verified, he will be the first Briton to appear in a martyrdom tape since the 7/7 bombers. And the BBC this week profiles one of those bombers, Shehzad Tanweer (BBC).  
  • Lawyers for Canadian Sayfildin Tahir Sharif, accused of aiding a terrorist group that killed five U.S. soldiers in a suicide bombing in Iraq in 2009, argued this week that the warrant justifying the search and seizure of their client's property was illegal (Globe and Mail, The Canadian Press).
  • Security experts in Indonesia are warning of growing connections between the remnants of terrorist groups there and ostensibly non-violent Muslim fundamentalist groups, resulting in increased targeting by terrorists of Christians and minority Muslim groups (VOA).
  • Russian prosecutors have charged three people with involvement in the Jan. 24 suicide bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport, including the brother and teenaged sister of the bomber (Reuters).
  • A former member of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) who attempted to attack the French Embassy in Bamako and escaped from prison in Mali earlier this week was recaptured Mar. 3 in the northern Malian of Gao (BBC).
  • A Swedish appeals court has overturned the guilty verdicts against two Swedes of Somali and Saudi descent for planning a suicide bombing in Somalia (AP).



The LWOT: British court convicts Awlaki-linked terror plotter; Texas terror suspect to plead not guilty

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.

Must-read: The website Public Intelligence has released a 2006 FBI report on terrorist training and recruitment in three post-9/11 terrorism investigations in Lackawanna, NY, Portland, OR and Northern Virginia (Public Intelligence). 

British court convicts major terrorism plotter

A British court on Feb. 28 convicted former British Airways IT specialist Rajib Karim of four terrorism charges, with the jury finding that Karim collaborated with radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki to plot the possible downing of a U.S.-bound aircraft as well as a potential attack on BA's computer servers (CNN, Guardian, Bloomberg, WSJ, AP). Karim, who now faces life in prison, reportedly began communicating with Awlaki in 2009 using heavily-encrypted email messages that took counterterrorism agents nine months to crack (BBC).

Security agents testified that in the messages, Awlaki urged Karim to stay in the United Kingdom instead of trying to engage in jihad abroad, and asked him for information on x-ray machines used in British airports, as well as the possibility of putting a package or a man with a package on board an airplane (Telegraph). Awlaki also reportedly emphasized the importance of attacking the United States, even if larger attacks were feasible in the United Kingdom.

In another important ruling last week, a British court dismissed the appeal of convicted British terrorist Rangzieb Ahmed, who claimed that he was tortured in Pakistan with the complicity of British authorities (BBC, Guardian, FT).The Telegraph reports that a young British man convicted last week of disseminating terrorist propaganda, Mohammed Gul, had also contacted other extremists in search of bomb components (Telegraph). And finally, the BBC reported last week that only one in four people arrested on terrorism charges in the United Kingdom last year was eventually charged with a terrorism-related offense (BBC).

Texas terror suspect to plead not guilty

Saudi national Khalid Aldawsari briefly appeared in a Texas court Feb. 25, as a lawyer for the alleged terrorism plotter said that his client would plead not guilty to charges that he attempted to construct and use a homemade explosive (NYT, Reuters, CBS News, Fox34). Aldawsari was first reported to authorities by a chemical company and a shipping company who became suspicious of an order Aldawsari placed for phenol, which he allegedly intended to use in the construction of the explosive TNP.

The case has prompted some lawmakers, including House Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King (R-NY) to call for greater surveillance of foreign students fitting a certain "profile" (The Hill). King said:

[I[f you're coming from Saudi Arabia and you want to major in chemistry... I think you should be able to monitor the Internet and be able to see what these people are doing." 

The Washington Post this weekend reports on the concern that King's upcoming hearings on Muslim radicalization have prompted among several very different groups, ranging from Muslim leaders and their critics to counterterrorism professionals (Washington Post).

Former Gitmo detainee calls for rebellion in Middle East

In an audiotape released this weekend by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), former Guantánamo Bay detainee Ibrahim al-Rubeish called for Arab populations to overthrow their rulers and establish Islamic law (AP). Al-Rubeish, a key AQAP ideologue and religious leader, was released from Guantánamo in 2006 and was enrolled in Saudi Arabia's terrorist deradicalization program before joining AQAP (Jamestown).

A Spanish court on Friday ruled that it would investigate allegations by former Guantánamo detainee, Lahcen Ikassrien, that he was tortured during his detention at the prison (AFP). In other news, the Texas board that oversees the granting of licenses to practice psychology in the state has dismissed a complaint against Jim Mitchell, who helped design the CIA's interrogation program at Guantánamo (AP). And Carol Rosenberg this week reports on the four-person cellblock where convicted war criminals at Guantánamo are kept segregated from the rest of the prison population (Miami Herald).

Supreme Court to hear material witness lawsuit

The Supreme Court on Mar. 2 is scheduled to hear arguments in a lawsuit brought by American citizen Abdullah al-Kidd against former Attorney General John Ashcroft challenging the use of the material witness statute to hold al-Kidd without charge in 2003 (SCOTUS Blog). Al-Kidd was held under harsh conditions for 16 days under the statute, an experience he called "one of the most, if not the most, humiliating experiences of my life" in an interview this weekend (AP).

And American and British human rights lawyers on Feb. 28 publicly filed documents with the Gambia-based African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, asking the commission to take up the case of Mohammed al-Asad, who says he was seized in 2003 in Tanzania and moved to Djibouti and other CIA "black sites," before being released in 2006 without charge (Washington Post).  

Trials and Tribulations

  • The banned Kurdish terrorist organization the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) announced Feb. 28 that it was ending a cease-fire with Turkey, originally scheduled to last until June (WSJ). 
  • President Barack Obama signed into law last Friday a three-month extension of three controversial Patriot Act provisions (The Hill). The Senate will begin debate this week on extending the provisions further.
  •  A former member of the group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) who last month attempted to throw an explosive at the French Embassy in Bamako, Mali escaped from prison Mar. 1 (AFP). And AQIM this weekend released three hostages kidnapped from the town of Arlit in Northern Niger last September - a Togolese, a Malagasy, and a French woman who suffers from cancer and whose husband remains in captivity with the group (Reuters).
  • Spanish police have arrested four members of the Basque separatist group ETA on suspicion of involvement in several terrorist attacks in the past few years (AP).

Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images