The LWOT: Pakistan arrests two Frenchmen for terror involvement

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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).



The LWOT: DC-area man sentenced after terrorism plea; CIA aims to kill, not capture

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.

D.C.-area man changes plea, sentenced in terrorism case

A federal judge on Apr. 11 sentenced naturalized U.S. citizen Farooque Ahmed to 23 years in prison as well as 50 years of supervised release after Ahmed pled guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and helping plan a terrorist attack against a transit facility as part of what turned out to be an FBI sting (CNN, Washington Post, National Journal). Ahmed was arrested in Oct. 2010 after a six-month operation in which he agreed to perform surveillance of three D.C.-area metro stations for government agents posing as al Qaeda members (Leesburg Today). Ahmed also suggested a fourth target for the fictional attack, as well as the best times to attack, in order to, "kill as many Americans as possible," and reportedly planned to travel abroad to fight U.S. troops (Washington Post, BBC).

A federal judge said this week that the trial for Tawahhur Hussain Rana, a Chicago man accused of helping support the 2008 Mumbai attacks, will begin as scheduled next month (AP, AP). And authorities have reportedly identified a suspect in a crude explosive attack outside of a Santa Monica synagogue last Thursday (WSJ).

In other news, the Associated Press reported Apr. 11 that since the end of 2009, when a failed aircraft bombing near Detroit led to tighter restrictions on air travel, authorities had stopped 350 people with suspected links to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups from traveling to the United States (CNN, AP). And NY state lawmakers traded verbal barbs during a controversial hearing last Friday into homeland security and emergency preparedness that featured testimony from two well-known critics of Islam, Frank Gaffney and Nonie Darwish (AP, WNYC).

CIA aims to kill, not capture 

In a must-read story this weekend, the Los Angeles Times' Ken Dilanian delves into the CIA's move away under president Obama from interrogating or taking custody of high-profile terrorism suspects, in part out of concern over ongoing investigations into practices during the Bush administration and a lack of clarity over how high-profile terrorists can be detained (LAT). Dilanian writes, "Under Obama, the CIA has killed more people than it has captured, mainly through drone missile strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas. At the same time, it has stopped trying to detain or interrogate suspects caught abroad, except those captured in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Judge expresses frustration at habeas ruling

Sparks flew as a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court heard arguments Apr. 11 in the government's appeal of a lower court decision granting the habeas petition of Guantánamo Bay detainee Hussein Almerfedi, held since 2003 based on the accusation that he had served as an al Qaeda facilitator (Legal Times, Lawfare Blog). During the hearing, Senior Judge Lawrence Silberman, who has recently increased his criticism of the Supreme Court for its decision in 2008's Boumedienne v. Bush and for not giving lower courts adequate guidance in cases involving detainees, expressed concern that judges in detainee cases were relying on criminal standards of evidence rather than a "preponderance" of evidence required in habeas cases (Legal Times, The Atlantic, Lawfare Blog). Benjamin Wittes notes the tenor of the judges' questions and arguments at Lawfare Blog, writing (Lawfare Blog):

Hussain Salem Mohammad Almerfedi is going to have his head handed to him on platter by Judges Brett Kavanaugh and Laurence Silberman. The decision granting him habeas corpus is toast. The only question for the detainee bar is how ugly it's going to be... Judge Silberman in particular was flirting with some big themes here. Unless the desire for unanimity holds him back, this case could make some big new law. If I had a Guantánamo client, I would be very nervous about it.

Also this week, Benjamin Weiser looks at the court docket under which the 9/11 plotters' indictment was filed before the case was moved to military court last week, a docket first used in 1993 to file charges in the first World Trade Center bombing (NYT). Karen Greenberg and author William Shawcross weigh in on the planned military trial for the 9/11 conspirators (Washington Post, NYT).

Finally, Newsweek provides a primer on the twelve "most-wanted" Taliban commanders in Afghanistan, including two former Guantánamo detainees, Abdul Qayyum Zakir and Maulvi Abdul Rauf Khadim (Newsweek). And a Pentagon prosecutor apologized to the Seminole tribe of Florida for statements in court at Guantánamo that seemed to compare the Seminoles in 1818 to al Qaeda (Miami Herald).

Arrests made in Minsk bombing

Belarusian authorities have reportedly made several arrests after a bombing Apr. 11 in the capital Minsk's main metro station, located only 100 meters from the presidential headquarters, killed 12 and wounded more than 200 (AJE, AP, Washington Post). Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko said the bombing may have been the work of "outsiders" as security services stepped up checks on travelers and opposition figures expressed concerns that the bombing could be used as an excuse to crack down on dissent (Guardian, Reuters).

Canadians increasingly worried about al-Shabaab

Canadian authorities are growing more concerned about Canadian youth traveling to Somalia to fight for the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militant group, as security agencies and family members frantically search for information on a 19-year old Canadian girl and the niece of Somalia's prime minister who is believed to have joined the group (Toronto Star). Officials believe 20 Canadians have traveled to Somalia to fight with al-Shabaab (National Post).

Trials and Tribulations

  • The Associated Press this weekend reports on the southern Yemeni town of Jaar, taken over by Islamist militants last week after setting up what the AP terms a "Taliban-style microstate" (AP).
  • Sudanese officials said this weekend that they had "irrefutable proof" that Israel was behind a mysterious airstrike that killed two Sudanese driving in a car in the city of Port Sudan last week, in what the authorities claim was an attempt to disrupt Sudan's attempts to get off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism (AFP, Reuters).
  • Two suspected members of the Basque separatist group ETA were captured in France this weekend after a shootout and search that involved 300 gendarmes and an elite tactical unit (AFP).
  • The prosecution in the trial of radical Indonesian cleric and alleged terrorism supporter and plotter Abu Bakir Bashir is set to wrap up its case this week (VOA).
  • Iraqi authorities are reportedly blocking humanitarian aid to Iranian exiles at a camp run by the banned terrorist group the People's Mujahideen (Mujahideen-e-Khalq), after the group's spokesman said Iraqi forces fired on the camp, killing dozens (NYT, AFP).
  • Police this weekend in the Philippines defused a bomb outside of a hotel in the country's south, one of several to have exploded or been discovered recently, explosives which authorities have attributed to the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf (AP). Filipino authorities this morning also arrested a man they described as the local contact for the Indonesian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah (AP).  
  • A transient man was arrested Apr. 12 in Ohio in connection with a bombing of a Santa Monica Jewish center last week, the motive for which remains unclear (WSJ, AP).

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