Pakistan arrests two French citizens linked to Indonesian terrorists
French and Pakistani officials confirmed Apr. 14 that two Frenchmen, identified by Reuters to be Sharaf Din and Zohaib Afzal, both of Pakistani descent (earlier reports referred to one of the suspects as a convert to Islam), were arrested in Lahore in early January after meeting with al Qaeda faciliator Tahir Shehzad, whose arrest produced information that helped lead Pakistani authorities to arrest Indonesian terrorist Umar Patek, a key figure in the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah, in late January (Reuters, AFP). The men were allegedly planning to travel to Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal agency with Patek to seek training and possibly to meet with senior al Qaeda officials, though French officials said they were unsure the Frenchmen knew Patek (AP). French officials believe at most 20 to 30 French citizens are currently in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region currently. And the Associated Press has new details about Patek's arrest in Abbottabad, Pakistan (AP).
In other al Qaeda-related news, a rare video of the group's no. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri appeared yesterday, in which Zawahiri lauded the continued uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa but called on Muslims to reject Western intervention in Libya (ABC, AFP). And a growing number of messages on jihadi Internet forums have called on Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to attack France over the country's ban on the niqab, which went into effect on Apr. 11 (Reuters).
Administration official testifies on Gitmo recidivism
In testimony Apr. 14 before the House Armed Services Committee, Amb. Dan Fried, the U.S. envoy responsible for coordinating the closure of Guantánamo Bay, told the committee that of the 68 prisoners released from Guantánamo under President Barack Obama, only three had returned to militancy (McClatchy, CNN). The new figures represent a significant drop from the 79 detainees out of 532 released by President George W. Bush the government claims have returned to militancy. Many of the alleged recidivists' names have not been revealed, making it difficult to check government claims. Bonus: How many Gitmo alumni take up arms? (FP)
Lawyers for five Uighur detainees ordered free nearly two and a half years ago have filed a new plea with the Supreme Court in the case known as Kiyemba v. Obama, seeking the courts to force their release into the United States and arguing that the 2008 ruling that gave courts the power to free Guantánamo detainees has been "nullified" (SCOTUS Blog). The government shot back on Apr. 13 arguing that the writ of habeas corpus was effective at Guantánamo, and that the Uighurs had refused opportunities to resettle in third countries (SCOTUS Blog).
Also this week, a Spanish judge rejected a request to investigate six former senior Bush administration officials for establishing a legal framework for abuse at Guantánamo (AP).
Rana may say he was working for ISI at trial
Court documents indicate that Chicago resident and Canadian citizen Tahawwur Hussain Rana, who will go on trial in May for providing support to the 2008 Mumbai attackers, will argue that he did not know about the planned bombings but believed he was working for Pakistan's powerful intelligence service, the ISI, when he provided the cover identity used by David Coleman Headley to scout targets in Mumbai (Globe and Mail, Press Trust of India). The Indian government is reportedly considering signing onto a lawsuit being filed in the United States by the families of two Americans killed in the attacks, usually attributed to the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) (Times of India). Adm. Robert Willard, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, testified before Congress this week that LeT was expanding its reach and ambitions beyond South Asia (Reuters, AP).
Also this week, A Pakistani man living in Massachusetts who was arrested last May for giving money to failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad pled guilty to immigration and illegal money-transfer charges, and will be deported to Pakistan (AP, NY1).
Convicted terrorist and one-time "dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla this week appealed the ruling throwing out his lawsuit against the United States for abuse he says he sustained while imprisoned at the U.S. Navy brig at Charleston, SC (AP). And two Somali women arrested in Minnesota last year on charges that they raised money for the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab organization, Amina Ali and Hawo Hassan, will go on trial Oct. 3 (AP).
Trials and Tribulations
- A suspected suicide bomber in Indonesia attacked a mosque on a police compound in Cirebon, West Java on Apr. 15, wounding up to 28 people, mostly police officers (BBC). This is the first suicide attack to hit Indonesia since attacks on two luxury hotels in 2009.
- Hamas security forces have found the body of an Italian pro-Palestinian activist in the Gaza Strip a day after he was kidnapped by the radical salafist militant group Tawhid and Jihad, who demanded the release of their imprisoned leader in return for the Italian's release (NYT). Hamas officials said the man had been hanged.
- The Telegraph reports this week that Britain's internal security service MI5 is altering its tactics in some domestic radicalization cases, confronting some suspected radicals preemptively in order to "scare them into abandoning potential plots" (Telegraph).
- Two people arrested in relation to the bombing Apr. 11 of Minsk's main metro station confessed to the bombings on Apr. 13, as Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko said he would examine opposition parties for possible links to the bombing (NYT, AJE, Reuters, WSJ). Belarus on Apr. 14 made public closed-circuit TV footage purportedly showing the bomber minutes before the blast (BBC).
- The trial of eight Germans, including one woman, on charges of translating and distributing German-language terrorist propaganda over the internet and incitement to violence began Apr. 12 in Munich (Deutsche Welle).
- Turkish authorities this week reportedly arrested 40 members of al Qaeda and Hezbollah, including the man Turkish officials called the head of al Qaeda in Turkey, Halis Bayancuk ( Reuters).
- Spanish security forces on Apr. 14 seized 1.6 tons of explosives during an operation against the Basque separatist group ETA, the biggest ever seizure in an operation against the group (AFP).
- Jordan on Apr. 12 released from prison four members of a banned radical Islamist group that has been linked to plots against the U.S. and Israeli embassies in the country, after the group's members threatened major protests (AP).
- Morocco's King Mohammed VI has pardoned or cut the sentences of 190 prisoners, including many imprisoned under the country's strict anti-terrorism laws (AFP).
- A man arrested this week for detonating a bomb in front of a Santa Monica synagogue was sent back to California from Ohio on Apr. 13 (AFP, Reuters).