Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • Russia begins unofficial evacuation of its citizens from Syria

    Russia has been a staunch ally of the Assad regime for decades, and there are thousands of Russians in Syria. They are becoming increasingly vulnerable as the rebels are gaining on the Assad regime. Fearing that the anti-regime militias will begin to take revenge on Russians because of Russia’s association with Assad, Moscow on Tuesday began a quiet evacuation of Russians from Syria. 

  • Pakistan bans two video games for depicting country as terrorist haven

    A government-licensed trade organization in Pakistan has banned two popular video games because they depict Pakistan as a country soft on terrorism. A trade association order to member stores instructed that the games be removed off the shelves of video game stores.

  • Algeria: use of overwhelming force against hostage-takers was necessary

    As the grim toll of the 4-day operation to wrest control of the Algerian gas drilling site becomes clearer, debate continues about the tactics the Algerian military pursued, which some in Western capitals consider rushed and heavy-handed. Algeria says it had no choice: the initial plan of the terrorists was to grab two-dozen foreign workers, take them to the nearby airport of Amena, hijack a plane, and fly them to Mali, then ask Western government for a hefty ransom. When that plan failed, the terrorists began preparations to blow up the entire complex, killing themselves and the 790 workers kept as prisoners on the site. Algeria says that if it did not act quickly, and with overwhelming force, the death toll would have been far higher.

  • Algerian hostage drama over; 48 hostages, 32 terrorists dead

    Algerian forces have taken control of the gas drilling site near the Algeria-Libya border, and the authorities are trying to determine the human toll of the 4-day drama. Initial estimates indicate that forty-eight hostages and thirty-two terrorists have died in the fire exchanges between the hostage takers and the Algerian military. The Algerian government says that five of the Islamist terrorists were captured alive. The forty Islamist hostage-takers came from six different countries, and trained for the operation in a base in Islamist-controlled north Mali.

  • French defense minister: campaign goal is “total reconquest” of Mali

    French fighter planes continued their attacks on training bases, weapon storage sites, and Islamist troop concentrations in north Mali, paying special attention the Islamists presence in and around the major cities of Gao and Timbuktu.

  • Many hostages dead in clumsy Algerian raid on gas drilling site

    Sketchy news from the Sahara desert gas field site indicates that up to thirty hostages may have been killed by their Islamic captors as Algerian special forces attacked the site. Algerian officials said that the thirty dead included eight Algerians, two Britons, two Japanese, and one French national. The nationality of the other seventeen hostages killed at the site had not been established. The British government more openly, and the French and U.S. governments more elliptically, raised questions about the tactics used by the Algerian military: Algerian helicopter gunships strafed the living quarters at the site when both hostages and terrorists were inside; helicopters also destroyed four jeeps carrying both jihadists and hostages. It appears that most of the hostages were killed by Algerian fire, not by the terrorists.

  • Metamaterial sensor improves security, collision avoidance

    Engineers have developed a novel sensor which is more efficient, versatile, and cheaper for potential use in such applications as airport security scanners and collision avoidance systems for aircraft, cars, or maritime vessels.

  • American Taliban wins court fight to allow Muslims group prayer in prison

    John Walker Lindh, an American who joined the Taliban forces in Afghanistan, has won a legal fight which will allow him and his fellow Muslim inmates to gather for their daily prayers. The judge said that by not allowing Muslim prisoners group prayers, but allowing other activities such as board or card games, the warden was violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

  • French air strikes begin campaign to evict Islamists from Mali

    France sent its planes to bomb al Qaeda-affiliated Islamist groups in Mali after hundreds of members of these groups began to move from the north-east portion of Mali, which they have controlled since last April, down south, into the remaining part of Mali. French fighter jets have pounded insurgent training camps, arms and oil depots as the French defense ministry confirmed reports of dozens of Islamist deaths. Islamist militants were fleeing Timbuktu, Gao, and other towns in northern Mali. A coalition of Western African countries is sending the 1,000 troops to Mali today – soon to be followed by 2,300 more – to begin ground operations against the Islamists. France has asked the United States for surveillance drones to help track the fleeing Islamic militants.

  • Neutralizing the effects of lethal chemical agents

    Organophosphorus agents (OPs) are used both in farm pesticides, and by terrorists and rogue states. About 200,000 people die each year across the world from organophosphorus agents (OP) poisoning, through occupational exposure, unintentional use, and misuse, mostly in developing countries like India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka and through deliberate terrorist activities. OPs include compounds like Tabun, which was developed in 1936 by German scientists during the Second World War, Sarin, Soman, Cyclosarin, VX, and VR. Researchers develop an enzyme treatment which could neutralize the effects of OPs.

  • Rep. McCaull urges Obama to reject calls from releasing the “blind sheik”

    The new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas), on Tuesday urged President Obama to reject calls for the release of “the blind sheik” from federal prison; Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind Egyptian cleric, was a preacher at a New Jersey mosque that served as a gathering place for the terrorists behind the 1993 attempt to blow up the Twin Towers; an FBI investigation found that he took an active part in planning the attack

  • U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki purchased tickets for 9/11 terrorists: FBI documents

    Within two weeks of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, FBI investigators had information that New Mexico-born jihadi cleric Anwar al-Awlaki had purchased air travel tickets for some of the hijackers; the information is contained in newly released, and heavily redacted, FBI documents; it appears that after the 9/11 attacks, the FBI, rather than arrest al-Awlaki, tried to work with him or track him for intelligence purposes, to see whether he would lead the agency to sleeping-cell terrorists still in the United States; Al-Awlaki was killed by a CIA drone attack in Yemen in September 2011

  • Court: Justice Dept. does not have to disclose legal memo justifying targeted killing of U.S. citizens

    Judge Colleen McMahon on Wednesday refused to order the Justice Department to disclose a memorandum which provided the legal justification for the targeted killing on September 2011 of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen; al-Awlaki, a fervent jihadi cleric, was killed in Yemen by a CIA drone

  • Explosives found in NYC apartment of upscale couple

    An apartment on Wet Ninth Street in New York, where Morgan Gliedman, 27, the daughter of a New York City physician, and her boyfriend, Aaron Greene, 31, son of the president of an acclaimed artwork-restoration business, live, was searched by police on Monday after a tip from a visitor to the apartment; the police discovered explosive ingredients, weapons, and bomb-making manuals; some described Greene as an “Occupy Wall Street activist,” but the police said they did not believe that Greene was active in any political movement, describing the couple as “admitted heroin addicts”

  • Egypt launches investigation of opposition leaders

    Three days after President Mohammed Morsi signed a decree to make the new Egyptian constitution the law of the land, the public prosecutor of Egypt has ordered an inquiry of three prominent opposition leaders; the inquiry will look into charges that the three leaders — Mohamed ElBaradei, Amr Mousa, and Hamdeen Sabahi —“incited the overthrow” of President Morsi