The LWOT: North Carolina terror suspects plead not guilty

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North Carolina terror suspects plead not guilty

Five North Carolina men indicted in 2009 for conspiracy to carry out acts of terrorism abroad pleaded not guilty in federal court in Raleigh on August 15 (AP, Reuters). Two other figures in the case, including the alleged ringleader of a plot to attack the Marine base at Quantico, Daniel Patrick Boyd, pleaded guilty earlier this year to terrorism charges.

Lawyers for Wesam El-Hanafi, a Brooklyn man accused of allegedly purchasing seven digital watches to send to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), requested in a motion filed on August 12 to bar from proceedings any statements made by their client after being told he was on a no-fly list (Reuters). The attorneys argued that El-Hanafi was "deceived into ­believing that submission to an interview with the FBI was the only mechanism to secure his removal from the list.­­"

Two brothers of Mohamud Said Omar, accused of helping recruit more than 20 Somali-American men to fight with the Somali militant group al-Shabaab, said outside of Omar's first court appearance on August 15 that their brother is mentally and emotionally incapable of providing material support to terrorists abroad (AP). Lawfare Blog August 15 commented on the potential necessity of trying Omar in a civilian court as opposed to a military tribunal, and the broad definition of "conspiracy" the U.S. government appears to be using in the case (Lawfare). And on August 18 Long Island resident Mohammad Younis pleaded guilty to running an unlicensed hawala money-transfer business through which he may have unknowingly provided funds to Faisal Shahzad, the man who has admitted to attempting to set off a car bomb in Times Square last year (WSJ).

A federal judge on August 12 delayed the trial of Kevin Harpham, who is charged with planting a bomb at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Spokane, WA, due to concern over the fairness of the trial (AP). Harpham, who is closely linked to white supremacist groups, could face life in prison if convicted.

The U.S. Treasury Department on August 16 leveled sanctions against three alleged leaders of the al-Qaeda-linked Indonesian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, Umar Patek, Abdul Rahim Baasyir, and Jibril Abdul Rahman (AFP, Reuters). On the same day, the U.S. State Department sanctioned an alleged commander of the Taliban-linked Haqqani Network in Afghanistan, Sangeen Zadran (WSJ, AFP, AP). And in another designation, State Department officials imposed sanctions on Mumtuz Dughmush, a leader of the Hamas splinter group Ansar al-Islam, which is believed to be "ideologically aligned with al-Qaeda," according to the State Department press release (Bloomberg, DoS). Indonesian authorities on August 17 reduced the sentences of 84 convicted terrorists, including Abdul Rahman, in a move they customarily make on the country's Independence Day for convicts who have completed at least a third of their sentence (AFP).

Pentagon runs 9/11 trial rehearsal at Gitmo

Carol Rosenberg reported on August 15 on the environmental and technological challenges faced by the U.S. Department of Defense earlier this month during a clandestine dry run of the planned 9/11 mass murder trials at Guantánamo Bay (Miami Herald). The rehearsal involved around 60 officials with top-secret clearances, and was scripted from start to finish to test participants' readiness for difficult detainees and security risks that might be encountered during the trials; however, unexpected technological difficulties and Tropical Storm Emily disrupted some parts of the plan.

A federal judge on August 17 denied a motion filed by Kenyan Guantánamo detainee Mohammed Abdulmalik to gain access to the names and depositions of his interrogators in order to corroborate his allegations that he was abused while in custody in Mombasa (CNS).

And the last British inmate at Guantánamo, Shaker Aamer, is feared to be in dangerously bad health as he nears a decade in U.S. custody (Independent). Initially thought to have aided the Taliban, Aamer has not been charged with a crime by U.S. authorities and was cleared for release in 2007, but remains in the detention center, where he alleges he has been mistreated.

Breivik returns to massacre site

Norwegian police on August 14 brought Anders Breivik, who has admitted to killing nearly 80 people last month in a bombing attack in Oslo and subsequent shooting spree at a youth camp on the island of Utoya, back to the island to reenact the incident (AFP, Tel, CNN, Guardian, Reuters, Post, AP, BBC). Breivik reportedly showed no remorse, telling police that the massacre was, "necessary."

The U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri said on August 19 that it has expanded its jurisdiction to include three other attacks they believe could be linked (AP). The president of the tribunal also ruled on August 18 that the indictments of the four suspects in the case should be publicly advertised, and urged the Lebanese government to do more to arrest the men, who are believed to be part of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah (AJE). Following the release on August 17 of details of the tribunal's investigation, including the analysis of phone calls that led to the four suspects, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech that the indictments lack sufficient evidence (LAT, AJE, Daily Star).

Spain's Interior Ministry said on August 17 that Spanish police had arrested Moroccan Abdellatif Aoulad Chiba on suspicion of links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and inciting violence through an online jihadist forum (BBC, AP). AQIM on August 18 released a statement on an Islamic extremist website claiming responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on police headquarters in the Algerian city of Tizi Ouzou that injured 29 people (Reuters).

A measure enacted after the 2005 London transit bombings allowing the British Home Office to strip naturalized British nationals of their citizenship has been used to deny citizenship nine times since the United Kingdom's general election last year, compared to only four times in the four years after it came into force (Guardian).  

Trials and Tribulations

  • A U.S. State Department report released on August 18 says that while the number of terrorist attacks worldwide has increased by more than 5 percent in the last year, the number of deaths caused by terrorism has dropped by almost 14 percent  (Bloomberg). And U.S. president Barack Obama said on August 16 in an interview with CNN that he believes the most likely source of a terrorist attack is a "lone wolf," rather than a large-scale attack coordinated by a group like al-Qaeda (AFP, CNN, AP).  
  • The New York Times first reported on August 12 that according to classified intelligence reports, AQAP has been trying for at least the past year to obtain large quantities of castor beans, which can be used to make the highly toxic poison ricin (NYT, Tel, Reuters).
  • A series of coordinated attacks and explosions suspected to be the work of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) killed at least 80 people across the country on August 14, Iraq's deadliest day so far this year (NYT, Post, Guardian, CNN, LAT, Tel).    
  • In a video posted to jihadist websites on August 14, al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri called on supporters to launch attacks on the "criminal country" of the United States to avenge Osama bin Laden's death (AP, AFP).
  • The New York Times reported on August 17 on the growth of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, and suspicions that it is increasing ties with AQIM (NYT).
  • Chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said on August 18 that his committee has launched an investigation into the "possible involvement" of radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in the 9/11 attacks (Fox, Politico).
  • The German government on August 17 approved the extension of several anti-terrorism measures enacted following the attacks on 9/11, though some measures deemed to be useless or posing legal problems have been dropped (AP).
  • Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said on August 16 that his administration is seeking the removal of strict anti-abuse safeguards from the country's anti-terror law, in order to encourage law enforcement officials to use it to charge suspects (AP). The law has only been used twice since its passage in 2007, due to provisions that include an $11,700 fine per day for police or military officers who wrongfully detain a terrorism suspect.



The LWOT: Alleged Ft. Hood plotter indicted

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.

Alleged Ft. Hood plotter indicted on explosives charges

U.S. Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, who was arrested last month for allegedly plotting to attack American servicemen at or near Ft. Hood, was indicted by a grand jury in Texas on August 8 on charges of possession of an unregistered destructive device and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition (CNN, AP, Reuters, AFP, Politico). Before being arrested with bomb-making materials and instructions on July 27, Abdo had reportedly been absent without leave from his base in Kentucky, and had been accused of unrelated child pornography offenses. Lawfare Blog comments on the lack of charges (so far) specific to Abdo's Ft. Hood attack plot, and the legal difficulties of lone-wolf terrorism cases (Lawfare).

A lawyer assisting Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who allegedly attempted to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit on December 25, 2009, filed a motion on August 5 requesting that Abdulmutallab's trial be moved from Michigan so that his client could receive a fair trial (AP, Bloomberg, Politico). Abdulmutallab, who plans to represent himself in court, is also asking the judge to throw out statements he made while sedated when he was undergoing medical procedures for burns he suffered during the failed attack. A separate motion filed on August 5 by prosecutors in the case requested that Abdulmutallab be prevented from asking questions of government officials during the trial that may force them to reveal information sensitive to U.S. national security, a request granted August 9 (Politico, DFP).

A federal judge on August 9 approved a joint request from federal prosecutors and defense lawyers to delay the trial of two men accused of plotting to attack a military processing station in Seattle, Walli Mujahidh and Khalid Abdul-Latif, citing the complexity of the case and the large amount of evidence gathered by police and the FBI (Seattle Times, AP). Also on August 9, Pennsylvania man Emerson Begolly, indicted last month on terrorism and weapon charges, pleaded guilty to encouraging participants on his Islamic extremist Internet forum to carry out attacks on American military and civilian targets, and to possession of a firearm (AP, Reuters).

An attorney for Waad Ramadan Alwan, one of two Iraqi men facing terrorism charges in Kentucky, has said that he requested in a motion filed on July 19 that two unidentified charges against his client be dropped because the Geneva Convention prohibits those charges from being prosecuted in a U.S. civilian court (AP). Prosecutors in the case subsequently filed a motion on August 8 arguing that Alwan is not protected under the Geneva Convention, making it lawful for him to be tried on all current charges in a civilian court (AP).

A federal judge on August 8 denied bail for Irfan Khan, who along with his father and brother is charged with conspiring to provide material support for terrorists, specifically for plotting to send money to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) (Reuters). The attorney for Khan's father, Hafiz Khan, has requested the identity of the FBI informant whose recorded conversations with the defendants provide the "backbone" of the prosecution's case (AP). And former Minneapolis resident Mahamud Said Omar, who was arrested by authorities in the Netherlands last year and recently extradited to the U.S., is set to appear in court today to answer charges of involvement in recruiting at least 20 Somali-American men in 2007 and 2008 to fight alongside the Somali militant group al-Shabaab (Star Tribune).

Authorities on August 10 found a small explosive device attached to a timer on a gas pipeline in rural Oklahoma, though authorities say they have no leads in the case (CNN, AP, Reuters, AFP, ABC). And three people were arrested August 5 after a fake bomb was discovered in the carry-on bags of an Ethiopian woman at the Phoenix International Airport (AP).

Pentagon names new Gitmo commander

The Department of Defense on August 10 announced the appointment of Rear Adm. David Woods as the new commander of the Guantánamo Bay detention center (Miami Herald). Woods is currently the director of strategy and policy at the headquarters of Naval Operations, and is responsible for the war court known as "Camp Justice" established by the Bush administration to try those accused in relation to 9/11 and other war crimes.

Carol Rosenberg reported on August 6 that as most Guantánamo detainees begin their tenth Ramadan in prison, more than half of them are not fasting (Miami Herald).

And Time magazine has a must-read this week on the "terrorist hunters" of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, who are used increasingly to fight the nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism, but who some allege are overstepping their authority (Time).

Bali bomber extradited to Indonesia

Admitted Bali bomb plotter Umar Patek was extradited on August 10 to his native Indonesia, where he is being held in a detention center awaiting charges (AP, AFP, BBC, CBS, AJE). Indonesian authorities were initially reluctant to take custody of Patek because their terrorism laws were implemented in 2003 and are non-retroactive, prompting concern that it would be difficult for them to prosecute him for the 2002 Bali attacks. As a result, Patek is likely to face criminal charges of premeditated murder and violating an emergency law on explosives, but the only possible terrorism-related charges he may face would be for assisting Dulmatin, the fugitive mastermind of the Bali attacks killed in 2010 (NYT, Jakarta Post).

Trials and Tribulations

  • A federal judge in Oregon on August 10 ruled against a motion requesting a new trial for Pete Seda, who was convicted of raising money to send to militant extremists in Chechnya through his Islamic charity organization (AP).
  • A couple in the United Kingdom, Mohammed Sajid Khan and his wife Shasta Khan, was charged on August 5 with engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism (BBC).
  • In an audio message purportedly from al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and posted on August 8 to a jihadist Internet forum, the speaker calls on Sunni militants who left the insurgent group and joined the U.S. and Iraqi governments to return to AQI (AP, Reuters).  
  • The Somali militant group al-Shabaab withdrew from the capital city of Mogadishu on August 7 as the country's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) declared victory over the insurgent forces (LAT, Reuters, NYT, AP, AJE, CNN). However, al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Sharif Ahmed Rage rejected the notion that the group has been defeated, calling the withdrawal "tactical," and experts warn that a small expansion of government control will do little to bring peace to the nation. For the first time, the Somali government on August 9 offered amnesty to al-Shabaab militants still fighting in Mogadishu if they renounce militancy (Reuters, AJE).
  • In a manifesto posted to an extremist website, a radical anti-nanotechnology group claimed responsibility on August 9 for mail-bombs that injured two researchers in Mexico, and praised the "Unabomber" Theodore Kaczynski (AP).
  • A man of Palestinian origin known to the public only has Hussam S. is facing terrorism charges in Germany for posting videos, audio and texts on the Internet in support of violent jihad, and attempting to recruit people to al-Qaeda (AP).
  • The head of the U.N.-back tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri said in an open letter published on August 11 that the four Hezbollah figures indicted in the case will receive a fair trial if they turn themselves in, offering the option of appearing in trial via video-link instead of traveling to the Netherlands in person (AJE, AP, AFP, CNN).  

Joe Raedle/Getty Images