The LWOT: Chicago man convicted of supporting Lashkar-e-Taiba

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Rana convicted of some terror charges

A court in Chicago late on June 9 sent back a mixed verdict on Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Hussain Rana, convicting him of conspiring to support the group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as well as a plot to attack a Danish newspaper, but acquitting him of providing support to the 2008 Mumbai attacks (Reuters, BBC, Chicago Tribune, FT, Bloomberg, Times of India). Rana faces 30 years in prison, though his lawyer indicated that he will appeal the verdict.

Sebastian Rotella writes that the trial, while answering questions about how terrorists intersect with the Pakistani government, left many open questions about key witness and confessed terrorist David Coleman Headley's time as an informant for the United States government, while he was simultaneously engaged in militant activity (ProPublica, ProPublica). Several people indicted in the case remain at large, including a purported Pakistani intelligence officer and militant commander Ilyas Kashmiri, who may have been killed in a U.S. drone strike June 3 (NYT). For full coverage of the circumstances surrounding Kashmiri's possible death, sign up for the AfPak Channel Daily Brief (FP). 

Somali-American indicted on terror charges

Police in Ohio on June 9 arrested an American of Somali descent, Ahmed Hussein Mahamud, charging him with providing material support to the militant group al-Shabaab (indictment available here) (DOJ, Reuters, AP). Mahamud, who will be sent to Minnesota to face the charges, is the 20th person of Somali descent from the state to be charged with attempting to aid al-Shabaab. One of those indicted previously was Farah Mohamed Beledi, whom the FBI identified June 9 as one of the suicide bombers who attacked an African Union base in Somalia last week (FBI, Minnesota StarTribune, MPR). Somalia's government said this week it had killed a Canadian fighting for al-Shabaab, and CIA director Leon Panetta told Congress this week that the group wants to strike targets outside of Somalia (Globe and Mail, AFP).

In North Carolina this week Zakariya Boyd, indicted along with six others in 2009 for training and plotting to wage jihad abroad, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists (DOJ, NYT, CNN, AP). Boyd's father Daniel has already pled guilty in the case, and the five remaining defendants, including Boyd's brother Dylan, face trial in September. Bonus: explore the New America Foundation's searchable database of homegrown jihadist terrorism arrests in the United States since 9/11 (NAF). 

Two Iraqi refugees arrested last week in Kentucky for allegedly plotting to send arms and money to Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) waived their rights to bail hearings this week (AFP, Bowling Green Daily News, NPR). A 76-year-old Florida imam charged with allegedly providing financial support to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) requested bail on June 8 (AP). And federal prosecutors in New York on June 8 asked a court to sentence four men convicted of plotting to attack Bronx synagogues and an Air National Guard base to life in prison (Bloomberg, AP).  

Wrapping up this week, CNN reports that the U.S. government is in the "final stages" of finishing its first official counterterrorism strategy, as the head of the National Counterterrorism Center, Mike Leiter, announced that he will retire from his post in six weeks (CNN, AP, NYT, National Journal, Reuters). Congressman Peter King (R-NY) has announced that his Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing June 15 on prison radicalization in the United States (WSJ, AFP). And the Washington Post reports that in the past two years the Department of Homeland Security has significantly cut back its analysis of non-Muslim radicalism, even as incidents of right wing and other extremism have increased (Washington Post).  

Al-Qaeda releases Zawahiri video 

Al-Qaeda's media arm released a video this week from Ayman al-Zawahiri eulogizing slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, expressing support for the ongoing Arab rebellions, and renewing al-Qaeda's pledge of loyalty to Taliban leader Mullah Omar (BBC, CNN, Washington Post). The video did not, however, answer still-burning questions about al-Qaeda's leadership in the wake of bin Laden's death (Miami Herald). The AP's Kimberly Dozier reports that U.S. intelligence analysts are "95 percent done" sifting through the information seized from bin Laden's Abbottabad compound (AP). And the United States is ramping up drone attacks against Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) (CNN, NYT).    

Britain announces counterterrorism reforms

British Home Secretary Theresa May on June 7 announced major reforms to the UK's controversial Prevent program, telling the House of Commons that funding for the program will be reduced, Muslim groups receiving money from the government would be scrutinized for their views on democracy, human rights and more, and that groups deemed too extreme would not receive funding (Reuters, Guardian, BBC, BBC). The government's official report on Prevent also found that in the past, "extremist" groups had inadvertently received government funding, money was wasted on counter-radicalization programs abroad, and warned that radicalization was ongoing in prisons, universities, and at street stalls (Guardian, Guardian, Telegraph, BBC, Telegraph, Telegraph).  

European parliament asks for Gitmo reprieve

The European Parliament this week passed a resolution asking the United States not to seek the death penalty in the upcoming military trial of Guantánamo Bay detainee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is charged with allegedly planning the 2000 U.S.S. Cole bombing (Miami Herald).  

In an order signed May 23 but not released until June 8, a federal judge barred the government from using some statements made in custody by Abdu Ali al-Haji Sharqawi against him in habeas proceedings, on account of abuse Sharqawi suffered during his detention in Jordan and Afghanistan (Courthouse News). And a forthcoming report from the British government on torture will reportedly look at the role Britain played in the "improper treatment of [British] detainees" held at Guantánamo, as well as the rendition of terrorism suspects (Guardian).

Trials and Tribulations

  • The militant group the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) released a video last Friday claiming the death of a German jihadist in battle against U.S. forces in Afghanistan (Der Spiegel). At least seven Germans have died fighting in recent years with militants in Afghanistan or Pakistan.  
  • Turkish police in the country's south arrested 10 people this week over suspected connections to al-Qaeda (AP).  
  • Radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakir Bashir on June 6 rejected the legitimacy of the court trying him on terrorism charges as "outside Islamic law" in his last appearance in the court before his verdict is announced (AP, Sydney Morning Herald).  
  • Czech authorities on June 7 released a Pakistani man held on an international arrest warrant for terrorism and other charges, after Pakistan, the country that filed the warrant, failed to apply for the man's extradition within 40 days of his arrest (Dawn). 



The LWOT: Iraqis arrested on terror charges in Kentucky

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.

Two Iraqis indicted on terrorism charges

Federal authorities on May 31 unsealed a 23-count indictment and criminal complaints against two Iraqi refugees living in Bowling Green, KY (documents available here), Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, on charges that the men allegedly conspired to provide material support in the form of money, weapons and explosives to Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and that Alwan plotted to kill Americans abroad and disseminate information about improvised explosive devices (IEDs) (DoJ, AP, CSM, CNN, LAT). Alwan and Hammadi arrived in the United States from Iraq in April and July 2009, respectively, and federal authorities opened an investigation into Alwan in September of that year.

An undercover informant met with Alwan in late 2010, and subsequently recorded Alwan allegedly claiming to have participated in insurgent operations in Iraq against U.S. forces until 2006 (CNN). Alwan reportedly told the informant that he had used IEDs "hundreds" of times, and allegedly sketched designs of bombs for the informant; after bringing Hammadi, whom Alwan characterized as a well-known insurgent, into the plot in January of this year, the two allegedly helped the informant deliver money, inert rifles, plastic explosives and eventually Stinger missiles for what they believed would be shipment to insurgents in Iraq (AP, ABC).  

Authorities in January reportedly matched Alwan's fingerprints to those found on IED components recovered in Iraq in 2005 (AP, AP). Both men pleaded not guilty on Monday, and face life in prison if convicted. Bonus: explore the New America Foundation's searchable database of homegrown jihadist terrorism arrests in the United States since 9/11 (NAF).  

Mumbai terror trial to conclude next week

Closing arguments are expected to begin next week in the trial of Pakistani-born Canadian Tahawwur Hussain Rana, accused of providing support to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, after his lawyers indicated this week that he would not testify in his own defense (AP, Reuters). Confessed terrorist David Coleman Headley wrapped up his testimony earlier this week, telling the court that: he had tried to lure his alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) handler Sajid Mir out of hiding; that terrorist leader Ilyas Kashmiri had a plan to attack the CEO of Lockheed Martin in retaliation for drone strikes targeting Pakistan's tribal areas; and that he had previously lied to the government (AP, Chicago Tribune, WSJ, Washington Post, The Hindu, The Hindu). Headley also testified that senior Pakistani intelligence officials were not aware of the planning for the attack (AFP, Reuters).  The court also heard testimony from several FBI agents and a translator about what the agents described as email traffic between Rana, Headley and an alleged Pakistani intelligence officer about the plot (AP, Hindustan Times). 

The FBI is reportedly attempting to confirm the identity of a 25 year old Somali-American from Minnessota, Abdullahi Ahmed, whom the militant group al-Shabaab claims carried out a suicide attack against African peacekeepers on Monday (AP, CNN, AP, Global Post). If confirmed, Ahmed, who reportedly made an audio recording last week encouraging other young Americans to join the Somali jihad, would be at least the third Somali-American suicide attacker to die in Somalia since 2008.  

And a federal judge on May 31 ordered prosecutors in the case of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali-American teenager who allegedly plotted to bomb Portland, Oregon's Christmas Tree-lighting ceremony, to hand over a tape recorder and battery prosecutors say malfunctioned during the first meeting between Mohamud and undercover federal agents (Reuters, AP, Mohamud's trial date was also set for April 10, 2010.

Charges re-sworn against KSM, 9/11 plotters

U.S. military prosecutors re-filed murder, terrorism and conspiracy charges against 9/11 plotter Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four others on May 31, the first step towards a military trial and possible death sentence for the men (AP, Miami Herald, NYT, Washington Post, National Journal). The men, currently held at Guantánamo Bay, originally faced these charges in 2008, but they were dropped in 2009 so that the plotters could be tried in civilian court, a plan abandoned this year due to intense political opposition. However, an arraignment in the case is not likely for several months, and if convicted, authorities do not know how the defendants would be executed -- that is left open to the Secretary of Defense (Miami Herald). 

New information this week revealed the identities and greater biographical information about slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's trusted courier and the latter's brother,  Ibrahim and Abrar Said Ahmad, also known as Arshad and Tariq Khan (AP, WSJ, CSM). In Afghanistan, NATO officials this week announced that they had arrested an al-Qaeda facilitator and "former associate" of bin Laden's in northern Afghanistan (AP, CNN). Dina Temple-Raston reports on the "treasure trove" of documents pulled from bin Laden's Abbottabad, Pakistan compound (NPR). And the AP's Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman reveal for the first time the identities of two CIA officers killed in al-Qaeda's 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kenya (AP).  

Finally this week, two Guantánamo detainees, Fahmi Al-Assani and Suleiman Al-Nahdi, asked the D.C. Circuit Court to dismiss their pending habeas appeals (Lawfare Blog).  

Supreme Court rules American cannot sue in terrorism case

The Supreme Court ruled 8-0 on May 31 that Abdullah al-Kidd, an American convert to Islam detained in 2003 and held in harsh conditions for 16 days as a material witness in a terrorism case cannot sue then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft over his treatment (LAT, NYT, WSJ, NPR, Lawfare Blog). Al-Kidd charged that Ashcroft intended to hold him as a terrorism suspect rather than a witness, and four Supreme Court justices -- Kennedy, Breyer, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor -- expressed concerns about al-Kidd's treatment and the scope of the material witness law. 

Catch and release

British probation officers yesterday expressed concern about the strain that may be caused by the release of up to 70 convicted terrorists in the next 12 months, many of whom will require extra attention, and some of whom may return to militant activity once released (AP). And four U.K. police officers were acquitted today of assaulting terrorism suspect Babar Ahmed in 2003 (BBC, Guardian, Telegraph). 

And the U.K. Foreign Office this week halted the release of an animated short film, "Wish You Waziristan" that was meant to counter homegrown radicalization, out of concern that the film might send mixed messages to young British Muslims (Guardian, Sky).   

Trials and Tribulations

  • Reports earlier this week that Islamic militants had taken over several cities in southern Yemen fueled concern about rising instability in the country, as Western counterterrorism officials indicated that operations against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have been hampered by the country's tenuous political situation (Reuters, NYT, AFP, LAT). And British intelligence agents reportedly disrupted the launch of AQAP's English-language Internet magazine "Inspire" earlier this year by inserting cupcake recipes into the magazine's code (Guardian, Reuters).
  • A Danish court this week convicted Chechen Lors Doukaev of attempted terrorism after a bomb he was carrying, allegedly intended for the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, exploded prematurely in a Copenhagen hotel bathroom last September (Reuters, AP). He was sentenced to 12 years in prison (CNN).   
  • Philippine police have arrested one person in connection with a deadly bombing earlier this year that killed five in the capital Manila (AP).