Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • Training people to fight terrorism at grassroots

    Secretary of State John Kerry, in a Friday speech to the Global Counterterrorism Ministerial Forum, unveiled a new U.S. initiative to address the root causes of violent extremism. The United States will increase its contribution to the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and create two training centers to help train people in fighting terror attacks: one center — the Center for Excellence in Countering Violent Extremism – is already open in Abu Dhabi, and a second, called the International Institute of Justice and the Rule of Law, will open in Malta next year.

  • Powerful groups abandon rebel coalition, join Jihadist al Nusra Front

    The Syrian rebel coalition fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad – its official name is the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, and it is led by Ahmad al-Jarba — has suffered a major blow Tuesday when eleven rebel groups, among them some of the most powerful ones in the rebel coalition, announced they were abandoning the coalition and joining forces with al Nusra Front, an al Qaeda-affiliated group. Among the eleven groups are secular groups aligned with the Western-backed opposition’s Supreme Military Council. It thus appears that the move by the eleven groups was motivated less by ideological or religious considerations, and more by an assessment that strengthening the al Nusra-led side among the rebels would be a more effective way to bring down the Assad regime.

  • Number of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen significantly reduced

    In the past several months, the United States has reduced the number of drone strikes on terrorist targets in Pakistan and Yemen. The United States launched 117 drone strikes in Pakistan in 2010, compared to twenty-one so far this year. Representative Mike Rogers (R-Michigan), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, is concerned. “[The threat of terrorism is] not diminishing,” he said. “There have been counterterrorism changes made by the administration that have concerned us all, things that we’ve been working on for a period of months that we’re trying to work through that are very, very concerning. This is no time to retreat.”

  • Series of spectacular attacks indicates growing weakness of African terrorist groups: experts

    Islamic terrorists in Africa launched a few spectacular attacks this year, the last one on the Westgate mall in Nairobi. Terrorism experts argue, however, that such spectacular attacks may, in fact, be a sign of growing weakness, even desperation, on the part of these terrorist groups, rather than a sign of strength and confidence. These experts say these attacks, and other, smaller ones, may well be the result of the growing challenges these various Jihadi groups face, and an indication that these groups are now on the defensive.

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  • Al Qaeda increases efforts to defeat U.S. drones

    Drone attacks have been an important part of America’s war against terrorism. These airstrikes have considerably limited the movements and operational freedom of al Qaeda operatives and other militants in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Al Qaeda has been exploring strategies and experts to allow it to counter America’s drone campaign.

  • Kenya mall attack may help terrorists recruit in U.S.

    Some security experts believe that the deadly terrorist attack on a Nairobi shopping mall by Somali al Shabab militants is a “great shot in the arm” to the al Qaeda-linked group’s efforts to recruit fighters from the West, including the United States. Al Shabab is believed to have several thousand fighters, among them a few hundred foreigners. Some of those foreigners include recruits from Somali communities in the United States and Europe.

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  • Three charged in Brooklyn with training to be suicide bombers for al Shabab

    Prosecutors say that three men facing federal terrorism charges in New York City have strong ties to al Shabab, the group responsible for the Nairobi mall attack. Prosecutors in Brooklyn describe the defendants — Ali Yasin Ahmed, Madhi Hashi, and Mohamed Yusuf — as “dangerous and influential” members of al Shabab who were part of an elite unit of suicide bombers. They were captured in Africa last year while traveling to Yemen to team up with the al Qaeda offshoot there.

  • Egypt bans the Muslim Brotherhood, confiscates group’s assets

    Egypt has banned the Muslim Brotherhood, continuing the process of marginalizing the Islamist movement and pushing it out of the country’s public life. A Cairo administrative court on Monday ordered the confiscation of the Brotherhood’s funds, buildings, and assets, and also banned the activities of the Islamist movement’s various spin-off groups. In effect, since early July, when then-president Mohammed Morsi was ousted, the movement has been forced underground.

  • Conference marks opening of UMass Lowell’s new Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

    Top counterterrorism and law enforcement officials and leading researchers are today (Tuesday) gathering at UMass Lowell to discuss the challenges they face in protecting the public and their work to find solutions to security threats. The event marks the opening of UMass Lowell’s new Center for Terrorism and Security Studies.

  • Kenyan security forces in “final assault” on terrorist-held mall

    Kenyan security forces last evening were preparing what they described as a “final assault” on the luxury shopping mall in Nairobi where armed Islamic militants were still holding about thirty hostages. As night fell on Nairobi, loud explosions could be heard from the Westgate mall where the members of the Somali jihadist group al-Shabaab had been barricaded since shooting their way into the mall on Saturday. The Kenyan authorities say that so far they have counted sixty-eight dead, 175 injured, and forty-nine missing, but that toll will likely rise. Unconfirmed reports said that three of the attackers were U.S. citizens of Somali descent.

  • Aon calls on U.S. to extend expiring Terrorism Risk Insurance Act

    Aon plc called on the U.S. government to extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), saying that TRIA remains the best solution for handling the terrorism insurance exposure in the United States. Aon says that if the program is allowed to expire, more than 85 percent of insurers will no longer continue to insure terrorism risk. Ultimately, in the unfortunate event of a large-scale attack, the U.S. government would face the full burden of the associated costs of said terrorism.

  • Syria’s chemical program, inventory

    The Syrian chemical weapons program began in the 1970s when the Hafez al-Assad regime purchased chemical munitions from the Soviet Union. In the 1980s, Syria launched a broad program of acquiring the materials, products, and knowledge necessary to set up an autonomous chemical weapons production capacity. In the nearly four decades of acquisition, research, development, and production, Syria has amassed what experts consider to be the world’s largest chemical weapons stockpile, consisting of about 1,000 tons of chemical agents and precursor chemicals.

  • Nigerian terrorist to be extradited to U.S.

    Nigeria is set to extradite Lawal Babafemi, also known as Abdullah Ayatollah Mustapher, to the United States to answer terrorism charges. Babafemi was paid $8,600 by AQAP to recruit English speaking Nigerians to work in AQAP’s English-language media network, al-Malahem, which includes a magazine titled Inspire.

  • Rebels capture historic Christian town

    Maaloula, located about forty miles northeast of Damascus, is a small town of about 3,300 residents, famous mostly for the fact that it is one of three places (the other two being two villages nearby) where western Aramaic – the language spoken by Jesus, even though his dialect was different — is still spoken. Most of the town’s residents are Melkite Greek Catholic and Orthodox Christians, so the fact that it was sitting in the middle of rebel-held territory was a source of unease for its mostly pro-regime residents. Over the weekend, anti-regime rebels had taken over the town — and many Christians in Syria watched the battle for the town nervously, as they have been watching other gains by the rebels, fearing that the alternative to Assad’s regime would be far less tolerant of minority religions. These worries about the Sunni-led rebellion against Assad have caused large segments of Syria’s minority communities to continue to support the Assad regime.

  • U.S. pays growing attention to insider threats

    Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have repeatedly sought to infiltrate the U.S. intelligence community by having supporters apply for intelligence jobs, according to a classified budget document. The U.S government investigates thousands of employees a year to make sure such infiltration does not happen. The CIA says that 20 percent of job applicants whose backgrounds raised questions had “significant terrorist and/or hostile intelligence connections.”