Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • Credibility of informer at the center of California terrorism trial

    The trial of Sohiel Omar Kabir, 36, and Ralph Kenneth Deleon, 25, both accused of planning to travel to Afghanistan to join al-Qaeda, continued this week as prosecutors hope to convict the men on five counts of conspiracy. Kabir is accused of persuading Deleon, Miguel Alejandro Santana, and Arifeen David Gojali to go to Afghanistan to join al Qaeda. Much of the evidence against the defendants comes from an informant named Mohammad Hammad, who was used by the government as an informant in other cases. Civil rights advocates question Hammad’s credibility, saying he is more of an agent-provocateur than an informant.

  • Israel, again, tries to kill Muhammad Deif, Hamas military leader

    Israel last night [Middle East time] tried, for the fifth time in fifteen years, to kill Mohammed Deif, the head of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing. It is not yet clear whether he was killed in the attack, but the dead bodies of his wife and his small child were pulled. It appears that Israel became aware that Deif, believing that there would be a few days of calm while Israeli and Palestinian delegations were in Cairo to work out the details of a truce, was planning to emerge from his bunker to meet with the commander of Hamas’s rocket force at the home of that commander. Deif’s wife and child were to meet him there as well. Israeli missiles struck to house when it appeared that Deif had arrived, destroying the building. Three bodies were pulled from the rubble — a woman, a small child, and a man in his late 40s or early 50s (Deif was born in 1965).

  • What goes on in the mind of a militant extremist?

    So far, the ongoing discussions about radicalization of extremists both at home and abroad have tended to emphasize its sociological aspects. These discussions have focused on concepts such as the religion and social environments of individuals. Psychological accounts of extremist activity are infrequent, and it is often forgotten that only a few of those who hold strong ideological, political, and religious views get involved in violent acts. Personal dispositions, feelings and beliefs may play a decisive role in explaining why people become radicalized. Psychological research into radicalization may thus complement political science and religious studies in countering terrorism in Western society. Monitoring the strength of militant extremist mindset endorsements in different communities could be helpful. It may be useful to establish regular polling practices that would gauge the extent of radicalization over time and in reaction to terrorist-related political acts at home and globally.

  • CIA used Anwar al-Awlaki’s desire for a third wife to track and kill him

    Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born jihadist preacher and one of the leaders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQIP), grew impatient with his two wives, and wanted to a marry a third one. A Danish Islamist who was close to Awlaki – but who was, in fact, a CIA agent – agreed to help Awlaki find a third wife, and found a Croatian woman who converted to Islam, and who was attracted to Awlaki from pictures she saw. The woman, and the expensive gifts the Danish agent bought the couple, helped the CIA track the elusive terrorist, and he was killed on 30 September 2011 with Hellfire missiles launched at his convoy from two CIA Predator drones operating in Yemen.

  • Jihadist’s wife guilty of financially supporting terrorism

    Nawal Msaad, a student at London Metropolitan Universitywho was accused of trying to smuggle 20,000 Euros in her underwear to support Aine Davis, a British Jihadist in Syria, has been cleared of conspiring to fund terrorism. Her friend, Amal El-Wahabi, who is Davis’s wife, has become the first Briton to be found guilty of financially supporting terrorism in Syria under the Terrorism Act. El-Wahabi will face sentencing on 12 September 2014, with a maximum of fourteen years in prison.

  • U.S. to ship arms to Iraq; France to send arms to Kurds

    The United States is planning to accelerate arms shipment to Iraq, especially as it becoming clear that divisive prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has accepted the fact that he would not continue in power. The U.S. shipments will include missiles, guns, and ammunition. The shipments will start when Haider al-Abadi officially becomes Iraq’s new prime minister. France has announced it is beginning to ship arms to the Kurds, while Spain and Italy said they would begin to do so shortly

  • ISIS militants kill 500 Yezidis, burying women and children alive, forcing 300 women into slavery

    Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, Iraq’s human rights minister, on Sunday said that Islamic State (ISIS) militants have killed 500 members of the Yazidi ethnic minority, including some women and children who were buried alive. Another 300 women were kidnapped and forced into slavery. U.S. bombing of ISIS forward units allowed Kurdish forces to recapture two towns taken by ISIS early last week. U.S. is dropping supplies to 40,000 Yezidis stranded on Sinjar Mountain. ISIS leaders announced that Yezidi “devil worshippers” faced a choice: convert to Islam or die on the mountain.

  • Iraq’s Yazidis are on the brink of genocide – who will save them?

    U.S. president Barack Obama has confirmed that the U.S. military made targeted airstrikes and carried out a humanitarian operation in Iraq, marking the deepest U.S. engagement in the country since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011. There will be no troop presence on the ground. This means that the IS [Islamic State, which is the new name adopted by ISIS] threat won’t be removed from Iraq — at least in the short term. The IS fighters will continue their massacres after the limited U.S. operation has finished. Iraq needs immediate, comprehensive and unlimited military and political assistance to eradicate IS fighters from the country. IS is not just a normal terrorist group and it is not a political opposition. Rather, it has become a professional irregular army with more than 20,000 well-trained soldiers and a very strong ideology, operating in a region from Iraq to Lebanon with many sleeper cells worldwide.

  • Morocco arrests recruiter involved with French terror network

    Moroccan security forces two weeks ago arrested a French jihadist who was operating in the country to recruit fighters in order to send them to al-Qaeda affiliated organizations. The unnamed suspect had fought in Bosnia before joining the ranks of al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria. His arrival is believed to be connected to recent strife in Libya and coordinated by the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist cell in Syria.

  • U.S. ready to strike ISIS targets in Iraq, drops supplies to besieged refugees

    Yesterday, President Obama authorized the U.S. military to attack ISIS targets in Iraq, at the same time that USAF transport planes began dropping food and other supply to help the 40,000 or so Iraqis who fled to the mountains in the last two days after ISIS militants took over four Christian-majority towns in north Iraq. Administration officials said on Thursday that the crisis on Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq had forced their hand, with tens of thousands of people sheltering in the bare mountains without food, water, or access to supplies.

  • Hamas, Israel exchange fire as Gaza cease-fires collapses

    The fighting between Israel and Hamas has resumed after the 72-hour Egypt-sponsored cease-fire collapsed. Hamas has so far fired more than twenty rockets on towns in southern Israel, while Israel, in response struck the Sheikh Radwan area with air strikes and artillery fire. Thousands of Gazan have again fled their homes in anticipation of a forceful Israeli response. The talks in Cairo over a post-war arrangement in Gaza have stalled as a result of what appear to be unbridgeable differences between Israel and Egypt, on the one hand, and Hamas, on the other hand. The 72-hour Egypt-sponsored cease-fire came to an end 08:00 local time (02:00 EST). As was the case swith earlier cease-fire, Hamas fired into Israel an hour before the formal end of the truce. Hamas spokesmen said that Egyptian and Israeli proposals failed to meet Palestinian expectations. They said that the organization would resume firing rockets into Israel unless an agreement is reached.

  • Ebola outbreak could inspire African terrorist groups to weaponize the virus: Experts

    Recent discussions about Ebola have mainly focused on the disease as a public health hazard, but counterterrorism officials are concerned that the new outbreak could inspire terror groups, specifically those based in West Africa, to weaponize the virus. The fear of weaponized Ebola dates back decades to when the Soviet Union’s VECTOR program, aimed at researching biotechnology and virology, was thought to have researched the creation of Ebola for warfare. In 1992 a Japanese cult group called Aum Shinrikyo tried, but failed, to collect samples of the Ebola virus in Zaire.

  • Tens of thousands flee as ISIS militants seize Iraq's largest Christian town

    The largest Christian towns in Iraq — Qaraqosh, Tal Kayf, Bartella, and Karamlesh — emptied of their original populations as Jihadist ISIS fighters take control. Tens of thousands of the towns’ residents have fled to the autonomous Kurdish region. The towns were captured by Kurdish peshmerga forces at the same time that ISIS forces from Syria came down from Syria and captured the Sunni Anbar province to the west. Kurdish commanders said the Kurdish forces were over-stretched, and that they had to withdraw from the Christian towns in order to be better prepared for the coming drive east by ISIS militants.

  • Al Qaeda-affiliates derive most of their funding from ransom paid to free Europeans

    In its early years, al-Qaeda received most of its financing from affluent donors from the Middle East, but counterterrorism officials now believe the group finances a significant portion of its recruitment, training, and arms purchasing from ransoms paid to free Europeans. “Kidnapping for ransom has become today’s most significant source of terrorist financing,” said David Cohen, the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. “Each transaction encourages another transaction.”

  • Opportunities for regional realignment not likely to be seized

    After the first twenty-four hours, the 72-hour Egypt-sponsored Gaza cease-fire appears to be holding – something which could not be said for the previous five cease-fires, which were violated by Hamas within minutes of supposedly going into effect. The Israeli delegation yesterday flew to Cairo to begin negotiations on a longer-term arrangement. The reason why this cease-fire is likely to hold has to do with the realization by Hamas Gaza leaders of their isolation and the growing destruction Israel’s attacks were inflicting on Hamas’s war machine and Gaza’s already-dilapidated infrastructure. A militarily weakened Hamas, a moderate Arab block hostile to militant Islam, and a convergence of interests between Israel and the moderate Arab states provide the foundation for profound strategic transformation in the region. It is doubtful, however, that the Netanyahu government will seize the opportunity for a breakthrough in Israel-Palestinian relations, on which such a transformation depends. During the month-long war, Netanyahu has given no indication that he sees this round of Israel-Hamas war in anything other than tactical terms, and has offered nothing to show that he plans to exploit the military results of the war, together with the changing political context in the region, for a bold and creative initiative which would change Israel’s relations with the PA, transform Israel’s strategic position, and realign regional politics.