Counterterrorism Blog
The first multi-expert blog dedicated solely to counterterrorism issues, serving as a gateway to the community for policymakers and serious researchers. Designed to provide realtime information about terrorism cases and policy developments.
May 2006 Archives

NSA Eavesdropping Cases Now Being Fought Out in the Courts

By Victor Comras

Press revelations last December that the NSA was engaged in limited domestic eavesdropping set off a landslide of protests and congressional concerns over the legality of such activities. These issues are now also well entangled in our courts. Numerous legal challenges are underway, including to criminal cases where information collected by the NSA might have been used to help convict those alleged to have engaged in, or supported, terrorism. A number of class actions have also been filed against the phone companies for allegedly providing telephone logs for government data mining and surveillance use.

The Justice Department filed responses May 26th to two major cases brought on behalf of a variety of clients by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights which directly challenged the NSA’s right to continue with such activities. They argued that defending these cases would require disclosure of state secrets and that this would be contrary to national security interests. Key to their argument is the Supreme Court Ruling in the 1953 case, United States v. Reynolds. In that case the court recognized the so-called “States Secrets Privilege.” This “privilege” was invoked quite sparingly prior to 9/11. But since then, it has been successfully invoked more than 23 times, including to block a recent case against the CIA involving the “rendition” of Khalid El-Masri

In another lawsuit brought back in 2002 by Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of several Muslims clients who were rounded up, detained and deported following the 9/11 attack, US Magistrate Steven Gold entered an order May 30th requiring the government to indicate whether they were aware of the government monitoring conversations between the Sept. 11 detainees and their attorneys. The government is expected to appeal this ruling. The Justice Department maintains that its lawyers had not seen any such communications, but they could not rule out that others at the Justice Department were aware of such communications. They indicated that such information would be classified and not available for presentation to the court.

One of the more serious court challenges arising from the NSA program was launched earlier this year by Oregon attorney Thomas Nelson who represented Soliman al-Buthe and the Ashland Oregon branch of Al Haramain Islamic Foundation. The now defunct charity was linked to the Saudi Al Haramain Foundation which was designated by the US Treasury Department and the UN for its support of al Qaeda, and its assets were frozen.

According to legal papers filed by Nelson, the case against his clients was based on information derived from illegal NSA eavesdropping andt evidence derived therefrom should be surpressed. Nelson claims he has physical evidence to prove that these conversations were tapped as part of the NSA program. This includes allegations that the government used logs of conversations between Soliman al Buthe and other Haramain personnel and their lawyers. The logs were allegedly obtained without a warrant. It appears that the FBI inadvertently released these classified documents to Buthi and his attorneys. While the lawyers subsequently returned the documents to the FBI, Al Buthi who now resides overseas, retained his copy. The Government has asked the court to turn back to the government any classified material associated with Nelson's complaint.

Several lawsuits have also been filed to bar AT&T, Verizon, Bell South and other phone companies from turning over customer phone records for government scrutiny in the absence of any court oversight. The Justice Department has argued that all of these cases should also be dismissed.

It is said that "bad cases can make bad law." And the outcome of these cases are not likely to advance our sense of justice or our security. Let's hope that the jurisprudence that results from these cases just doesn't do too much damage to either.

More Stories of Fallen Al-Qaida Fighters in Iraq

By Evan Kohlmann

A new video recording is now available for download from the NEFA Foundation website documenting the phenomenon of foreign fighters in Iraq and their precise role within the ongoing insurgency. (, look for download link at mid-right: "The Role of Foreign Fighters in the Iraqi Jihad")

Additionally, a torrent of reports has continued to flood radical Internet chatrooms concerning the identities and biographies of fallen Al-Qaida combatants in Iraq, most of them foreign nationals. Among those chronicled in these latest reports:

- Abu Dujanah al-Qahtani (Saudi Arabia): A former Saudi National Guard soldier who participated in various assaults in far western Iraq organized by senior Afghan-trained Al-Qaida commanders.

- Abu Hummam al-Urdani (Jordan): A black belt Tae Kwon Do instructor who "assumed responsibility for training at the desert-based Rawa military camp" in 2003. The now-defunct Rawa camp is widely hailed in mujahideen circles as Al-Qaida's first training camp for foreign fighters in Iraq. Al-Urdani later joined Al-Qaida's notorious Omar Corps, dedicated to murdering Shiite militiamen and their families.

- Abu Radwan al-Urdani (Jordan): Better known as Raed al-Banna, a law student from Salt, Jordan who spent time working in the United States, including during the period of September 11, 2001 "when the men of Islam finally struck and wrought destruction in the heartland of America in broad daylight." According to the mujahideen, the weight of 9/11 "moved Abu Radwan and so he embraced blessed Allah once again." Abu Radwan, a.k.a. Raed al-Banna, later volunteered as an Al-Qaida suicide bomber in Iraq targeting Shiites in the town of Hilla. The devastating attack that he carried out "claimed the lives of 150 cursed enemies, and wounded more than 300--we ask Allah that they do not recover from their injuries."

- Abu Usama al-Ansari (Iraq): A former illegal arms smuggler during the regime of Saddam Hussein who reformed himself and became a mujahid after the U.S. invasion in 2003. According to the mujahideen, Abu Usama "was inspired by the Shaykh and mujahid, Abu Anas al-Shami [a.k.a. Omar Yousef Jumah]... who spent a period of time residing at Abu Usama's house, urging people to join the fight. Abu Usama used to teach his brothers many of the lessons and sayings of Abu Anas."

- Abu Asil al-Jazairi (Algeria): A former senior official in the comparatively moderate Muslim Brotherhood movement who was "eventually guided toward the righteous path" and used his "administrative and organizational experience" to help Al-Qaida instead. According to the mujahideen, Abu Asil "was assigned the responsibility of overseeing the borders [of Iraq]. In other words, he was responsible for all the Arab brothers that came to fight in the jihad... He loved to quote from Shaykh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's statements... and did this so frequently that he practically knew all of his speeches verbatim by heart."

- Abu Ibrahim al-Tunisi (Tunisia): A veteran Tunisian mujahideen commander who "spent most of his life fighting on the frontlines and practicing jihad in Afghanistan, Europe [presumably Bosnia-Herzegovina], and Iraq. He was responsible for Shaykh Usama Bin Laden's guesthouses in Afghanistan... [and later] arrived in Rawa [Iraq], the city of martyrs, where he spent some time and assumed the role of commander of [Al-Qaida's] security branch."

Two days after the Kabul riot

By Bill Roggio

Kabul, Afghanistan: The city of Kabul has settled down after Monday's violent outbreak that followed a traffic accident involving a runaway U.S. military vehicle and Afghan civilians. The riots were suppressed in eight hours, and the Karzai government instituted an overnight curfew, which has been extended for Wednesday night. While many businesses were closed on Tuesday (I ventured out to pick up a cell phone on Tuesday but the business was closed), there was plenty of traffic and Afghan police and army on the streets. Several long-time residents of Kabul stated today it was business as usual, and the level of security on the streets was not out of the ordinary. Today I saw the streets filled with taxis, civilian cars and bicycles, businesses and markets were open, and the entrepreneurial street vendors selling phone cards, newspapers and other items were everywhere.

The preliminary investigation shows the accident was caused by "a mechanical failure of the vehicle’s brakes." The convoy was traveling down a steep hill and the vehicle was described as "a heavy cargo truck." From one to six Afghanis were killed in the accident, and up to a dozen were killed and over a hundred wounded in the waves of demonstrations and riots that followed. There are accusations the U.S. Army and Afghan police fired into crowds, but this is still under investigation.

The rioting occurred one of the more socially liberal and less secure neighborhoods in the city. The neighborhood includes Western expatriots, Non-Government Organizations, numerous businesses, restaurants, bars (yes, they exist in Afghanistan) and even a brothel. The Afghan Attorney General resides in the neighborhood. Rioters attacked several Afghan businesses and restaurants, and looted and torched the NGOs CARE Afghanistan and ACTED. The brothel was also set ablaze, and the owner died later that day of a heart attack.

The violence was not Taliban-inspired, but composed mainly of Hazaris. The Haziris are an ethnic group that fought the Taliban under the banner of the Northern Alliance and followers of Ahmad Shah Masood , who was killed by al-Qaeda two days prior to 9-11. Masood's image is prevalent in Kabul. The Hazaris have recently been marginalized by the Karzai administration after they lost their last cabinet post. The rioters were largely young, unemployed males, and there was a significant criminal element involved.

I spoke to several aid workers, contractors and Afghanis about the violence, and their conclusion was the demonstrations were organized, and the traffic accident was merely a catalyst. While there is frustration with driving habits of Western contractors and the military (particularly with the aggressive driving of some security company employees), the subsequent violence was primarily directed at the Karzai administration The neighborhood was targeted because of its relatively light security and the high-profile institutions that are housed there. There is concern among the community about the current security situation in Afghanistan, particularly with the increase in violence in southeastern Iraq and the murder of eight aid workers.

I also spoke to an American woman who lives in the neighborhood where the riots broke out. She was present during the riots and her home was right behind the brothel that was torched. She described how the mobs came in waves. She witnessed three waves before being evacuated, and each successive wave included a progression of violence. The first wave consisted of angry protesters banging on gates and shouting, the second included gunshots, and the third included detonated hand grenades and overturned cars.

There have been questions about the performance of the police during the riots. Jawed Ludin, President Hamid Karzai's Chief of Staff, described the police's performance as "shameful" and stated "we have to strengthen our police." There have been reports that some police joined in the violence. But their performance was not a complete failure. Subduing a violent riot within eight hours is no small feat (see the past and current riots in France), particularly for a relatively new police and military. There has been no follow-on violence two days after the accident. And the American woman who escaped the riots in her neighborhood grudgingly gave credit to the police, which she is critical of for being heavy handed at times.

When her Afghan friend took her out of the home, he put her in the back of a truck and covered her so she would not be seen by the angry crowds. Afghan police nearby noticed this, stopped her friend, questioned them both, and even called over a policeman who spoke English (even though she spoke Farsi) to ensure she was not in danger. The police then provided them an escort out of the danger area. That certainly demonstrates a level of awareness of the situation, organization and an ability to act. Riots by definition are chaotic by nature, and the best of police forces have difficulty containing them.

Radio Programming Note:

I will be on the radio Friday night at 10:30 Eastern / 8:30 Mountain with Rob Breakenridge, host of The World Tonight on AM 770, Calgary, Alberta. To listen online visit AM 770 CHQR and click LISTEN LIVE.

Germany and Jihad

By Jeffrey Imm

With the World Cup opening June 9 in Munich, Germany is having an increasing problem with the growth of radical Islamism. German Federal Prosecutor Kay Nehm has recently stated that the country is sitting on a "powder keg" of radical Islamist migrants who could be plotting an terror attack in Germany. Today - Der Spiegel has reported on a foiled suicide bomb plot by three German women. German intelligence sources prevented three German Muslim women from traveling to Iraq; one of the German women planned to blow herself up with her child in Iraq. At least one of the women was a convert to Islam and sources state that all the German women were sympathizers of Ansar al Islam. Ansar al Islam has a history of smuggling suicide bombers from Germany to Iraq. Germany's domestic security agency, the Verfassungsschutz, has also reported recent growth of Islamists in Germany - 32,100 as of 2005, including representation in Hamas, Hezbollah, Muslim Brotherhood, Milli Gorus (Turkish group). Islamists are also angry over the recent death of Amir Cheema, a Pakistani who died in Berlin, while in custody as a suspect in a plot to kill Die Welt's editor-in-chief over publication of Muhammed cartoons. Moreover, the goals of radical Islamism's growing ranks are supported by a growing Neo-Nazism which plans to use the World Cup event to defend Iran's Holocaust Denial and denying Israel's right to exist. Germany is anxious to avoid a repeat of the 1972 Munich Olympics where 11 Israeli athletes were killed by a Palestinian terror group. Some experts believe that Germany is not sufficiently prepared in terms of security for the World Cup and that security plans are relying too much on emergency forces.

EU Court Annuls US-EU Agreement On Airline Passenger Data

By Victor Comras

The European Court of Justice acted May 30th to annul a US – EU agreement under which passenger information was provided to US Homeland Security authorities in advance of boarding on all transatlantic flights from EU countries to the United States. Under the agreement airlines are required to supply the US Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) more than 34 items of information about each passenger, including name, address and ID numbers and credit card details, all within 15 minutes of departure for the US. The agreement also covers special meal requests, which can indicate a passenger's religion or ethnicity. This info has been provided since March 2003 under an interim accord. That accord was formalized in May 2004, provoking a challenge from the EU Parliament which asked the European Court of Justice to rule on the legality of the arrangement (see my earlier blog).

The EU Court ruled that the provision of such information violated EU privacy rights legislation. The Court also held that there was no legal basis on which the EU Commission or Council could base such action.

The Court judgment will only take effect after September 30th, at the end of the expected busy summer travel period. This will allow time for both sides to develop new basis and criteria for furnishing and protecting such information. Nevertheless, this new development threatens to significantly complicate future air travel from Europe to the United States as US Homeland Security authorities are likely to continue to insist that such information be provided before EU origin air passengers are landed in the United States.

Public Support Vital in Iraq, Afghanistan

By Douglas Farah

During the Central American wars, perhaps because of the nearness to the Vietnam experience, there as a broad understanding that, to neutralize a highly-motivated enemy it was vital to have the population in the enemy's theater of operation at worst neutral and at best cooperative.

Civilian populations caught in conflict zones often make their calculations on who to support based on who they think can inflict the most pain if they do not cooperate. This is true up to a point, but when repression becomes unbearable, civilians will also join the side they believe will help eliminate the oppressor.

This lesson seems to be lost in much of what is going on in Iraq, looking at Anbar province, and Afghanistan, with the rioting in Kabul. The Washington Post has an interesting article quoting the Sunni leaders of Anbar province on their reality:

"We hope to get rid of al-Qaeda, which is a huge burden on the city. Unfortunately, Zarqawi's fist is stronger than the Americans'," said one Sunni sheik, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of insurgent retaliation. My full blog is here.

Militants in Indonesia

By Kenneth Conboy

Though not terrorism in the strictest sense, Indonesia-watchers have been noting with concern that hard-line, often violent, Islamic militant groups are growing more aggressive around the country. This comes after several years when they had largely receded into the background, save for annual bursts of activity when they would raid nightspots in and around Jakarta during the Islamic holy month.

Returning with a vengeance, these militants got a major boost earlier this year during the furor over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad. Reaction in Jakarta was especially pronounced, culminating in an unruly 19 February protest outside of the U.S. embassy by several hundred members of the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam, or FPI). Given the robust improvements made in that embassy's perimeter since 2000, the demonstrators could do little more than throw objects at the street-side guard house. Still, the U.S. ambassador deplored the protest as an act of thuggery.

Since February, militant activity has continued to rise. The FPI, whose members are easily recognizable in their white robes, now boasts chapters in most major cities. Often they are joined by a second group calling itself the Betawi Brotherhood Forum (known by the initials FBR), ostensibly a secular organization based in Jakarta that, suspiciously, only seems to take on religious causes.

The size of these groups is difficult to determine. This is because both the FPI and FBR more often then not act—literally—as crowds for hire. During major events, for example, militant leaders can reportedly troll among the unemployed masses in Jakarta and quickly hire hundreds of demonstrators, who for a small stipend will outfit themselves in FPI/FBR uniforms and rant at a designated rallying point for a specific amount of time; violence is optional. Who bankrolls FPI has not been fully apparent, though there is speculation that FPI’s nightclub raids during the fasting month help fund their activities during the rest of the year.

Among the issues they have championed as of late:

• The anti-pornography bill. An anti-pornography bill is currently being debated in the Indonesian national assembly. The name of this bill is a misnomer: it is actually a clever end-run by conservative Islamic political parties to implement elements of Islamic law, even though this would go directly against Indonesia’s secular constitution. (Example: public kissing is deemed “pornography” under the current version of the bill.) Not surprisingly, militant groups in several Indonesian cities have participated in massive rallies calling for its passage into law. They have also resorted to violence: after one rally in mid-May, FPI members raided several entertainment venues in the outskirts of Jakarta which they accused of degrading moral values.

• Foreign Investment. In recent months, militant groups have been trying to find ways of appealing to a wider audience. One way has been to latch themselves onto to issues that have little to do with religion, but resonate among the masses. Once such issue has been foreign investment, more specifically the major role played by U.S. mining/oil and gas firms. During several major demonstrations against mining companies like Freeport and ExxonMobil in April, militants played a prominent role in condemning American “economic imperialism.”

• Middle East. During May, militants staged large demonstrations in several cities over U.S. policy vis-à-vis Hamas. In this, they have been joined by the hard-line grassroots organization Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia.

• Playboy. FPI militants took a lead role in condemning the publication of the Indonesian version of Playboy in April. Several hundred hard-liners raided the Playboy editorial office in Jakarta, forcing the magazine to suspend publication after one issue. Ironically, the magazine had no nudity, and was deemed far less risqué than many other men’s magazines already in the Indonesian market.

• Opposition to former President Gus Dur. Militants have long been at odds with former President Gus Dur, who is renowned for his tolerance and moderation. When attempting to give a speech in West Java last week, Gus Dur was forced from the stage by FPI members. FPI and FBR conducted further anti-Gus Dur protests this past week; during these rallies, many they openly marched with clubs and other crude weapons.

Although this increase in militant activity has been noted with concern, the Indonesian government has been reluctant to implement a crackdown. This is true for several reasons. First, the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is supported by a fragile coalition of political parties, including key support from several small, hard-line Muslim parties. The president, therefore, could not move to stamp out the militants without alienating his coalition partners.

Second, with Indonesia’s democratic reforms has come reluctance on the part of the security forces to respond forcefully against activists for fear of being accused of human rights abuses.

Third, it has long been rumored that groups like FPI traditionally had patrons within elements of the security forces—with whom they shared the spoils of their raids on night spots. This nexus remains unproven, but has the ring of truth.

For whatever reason, there is no denying that violent militant groups have grown more aggressive in recent months. And with the government looking unwilling or unable to check this growth, it is likely that their attacks will grow more brazen in the coming weeks and months.

Combat in Southeastern Afghanistan; Mullah Dadullah not captured

By Bill Roggio

The fighting in southeastern Afghanistan continues as Coalition and Afghan forces press into previously unpatroled Taliban strongholds. Over the weekend clashes occurred in Kandahar, Helmand and Ghazni provinces. These provinces have been the scene of the majority of the fighting over the past few months.

Five "key senior Taliban leaders"
(as of yet unnamed) were killed during Coalition air strikes "on an isolated insurgent training facility" near the town of Qal’a Sak, which is on the Pakistani border in the south of Helmand province. Coalition forces followed up the air strikes with a raid, confirmed the targets were destroyed, and discovered an IED factory. Up to fifty Taliban are estimated to have been killed in a seperate air strike in the Kajaki district of Helmand. The BBC's Alastair Leithead provides an update on last week's fighting in Musa Qala, where an Afghan police patrol was ambushed by a large Taliban force, and beaten back after Afghan and British reinforcements were called as reinforcements.

The Afghan police continues to be a target of the Taliban, as their training and equipment is lacking compared to that of the Afghan Army and Coalition forces. Another Afghan police patrol was ambushed in Ghazni province, with one policeman killed and six wounded. The police fought back, killing three Taliban in the counterattack.

Kandahar's Panjwai district remains a focus of joint Afghan and Coalition operations. Canadian Press' Bob Weber describes the fighting as the "Battle of Panjwai," and describes how the Canadians of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and the Afghan police and army conducted a cordon and search operation in the town of Banzya, and reacted to a Taliban ambush. Ten Taliban were captured during the operation. Contact with the Taliban was also made in the village of Pashmul.

Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban military commander, has appeared on Al Jazeera, and claimed the Taliban is now in control of southeastern Afghanistan and is specifically targeting NATO forces (the Daily Times report states Dadullah claims to control southwestern Afghanistan, but the bulk of the NATO deployment is in southeastern Afghanistan). This confirms prior reports the Taliban is looking to fracture the NATO mission in Afghanistan as the Taliban believes the various NATO governments and their citizens do not have the will to fight a protracted insurgency in Afghanistan. Dadullah was thought to have been captured over a week ago, but his arrest was never confirmed by Coalition or Afghan authorities.

A Shocking Memorial Day Weekend

By Bill Roggio

A quick note: My Memorial Day weekend will consist of numerous flights. I'll be in Afghanistan by the beginning of the week and look forward to getting out into the field.

MY Little Girl.jpg

Michael Yon's photo and post on the child killed in Mosul. Click to view.

On this Memorial Day weekend, we should take the time to honor the sacrifices of our servicemen and women. They fight hard for our freedom, under very difficult circumstances and at great personal risk and hardship. Unfortunately, the HFM media conglomerate has chosen this weekend to launch "Shock" magazine, and the lead story is dedicated to shocking the audience by showing photographs of our wounded soldiers and drawing parallels between Iraq and Vietnam.

As if that is not offensive enough, the publishers have stolen Michael Yon's photograph of Major Mark Bieger cradling an Iraqi child murdered by a suicide bomber in Mosul, and have placed this image on the cover of the magazine. Michael is a friend, fellow traveler and Veteran. He has taken risks himself to cover the fight against al-Qaeda and the insurgency in Iraq, and has recently traveled to Afghanistan as well.

Register your displeasure with HFM for dishonoring our troops on their weekend, and for their blatant theft and misuse of Michael's work. Blackfive has the details.

Bin Laden's May 2006 Statement: Not "Competition" or a "Bid for Status"

By Jeffrey Cozzens

Many expert commentaries on bin Laden’s recent spate of talkativeness assert matter-of-factly that he is seeking to regain standing lost to Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, or is seeking to re-assert his personal relevance to the global jihad. However, both of these theories are, of course, highly speculative. Evidence to the contrary suggests that bin Laden and other ‘core’ al-Qa’ida (AQ) figures, such as Saif al-Adel and Ayman al-Zawahiri, are generally supportive of al-Zarqawi’s overall efforts to “raise the banner of jihad” and consider him a dear, if more extreme and overly eager, brother-in-arms and/or protégé. Many first-hand accounts of bin Laden also paint a picture of anything but an egotistical leader who insists on being the centerpiece of the jihadi movement.

Al-Zarqawi’s alleged competition with bin Laden and other AQ figures does not square with the “father-son” relationship evidenced by recent AQ documents, even if there is a difference on some points of ideology and resulting tactics (differences that are historically noted and primarily concern Muhammad al-Maqdisi’s doctrine of “loyalty and renunciation”). The tenor of this relationship was quite apparent in the letter written by al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi, which was seized in 2005 and published by the U.S. intelligence community. We must not confuse examples of al-Zawahiri’s (ergo bin Laden’s) “fatherly” guidance to al-Zarqawi with competition, especially when considering that the former’s suggestions were apparently followed by al-Zarqawi, evidenced by his subsequent rhetorical and operational pattern shifts. Several examples of al-Zarqawi’s concessionary decision-making surfaced in his recent video, including his re-affirmation of loyalty to bin Laden and the prominent picture of al-Zawahiri playing on the television behind him. Moreover, al-Zarqawi’s decision to operate within the framework of the Mujahideen Shura Council (ostensible to paint a greater Iraqi “face” on his operations) appears to be in direct response to al-Zawahiri’s counsel. Al-Zarqawi would not demonstrate this level of deference and might even publicly respond to al-Zawahiri’s letter (much as he did to al-Maqdisi’s 2005 criticism) if there was actual competition.

In terms of the AQ core’s ideological differences with al-Zarqawi, as al-Adel wrote in a 2005 biography of the al-Qa’ida in Iraq leader, these should be largely overlooked in the interest of fostering unity amongst the mujahideen and cooperating against a clear and present threat: coalition forces. This is an outstanding example of the AQ core’s relative pragmatism; it views the present struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan with such importance that it is willing to tolerate much wider ideological variance under its banner than it did in the late 1990’s, when bin Laden withdrew his support of the GIA for some of the same reasons noted in al-Zawahiri’s letter. For bin Laden et al, the perpetuity of the global jihad is far more important than highly doctrinaire positions—a point echoed in the recent works of Abu Mus’ab al-Suri.

That bin Laden might be “jealous” of al-Zarqawi, or seek personal aggrandizement through releasing videotapes, however plausible, is unlikely given the accounts of journalists who have met bin Laden, such as Hamid Mir and Abdel Bari Atwan. Outside of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and a few other jihadi egoists, humility over arrogance, a commitment to asceticism over love for the world, brotherhood over individualism, and a consistent preference for fighting the adversary over inaction (or merely “calling” others to follow the path of the Salaf) appear the surest ways to win loyalty and affection inside the “culture” of global jihad. Most personal accounts of interaction with bin Laden suggest that he embodies these characteristics, all of which are glorified throughout the jihadi literature.

From another vantage, al-Qa’ida’s leadership has long fostered a self-conception that it is the catalytic “spark” that will kindle “fires” of jihad throughout the Muslim world—fires (such as the "al-Zarqawi generation”) that will burn long after their demise. This is why bin Laden is sometimes described as a mujaddid—one who would “revive the true spirit of Islamic faith and (help) the Muslims see the authentic teachings of their religion”—who would rally the ummah to its destiny through jihad. It is also why the rising AQ was so careful to document every step of its infancy through its video archive; they saw themselves as vanguards of a new era that will eventually bring about the end of time and salvation for the few. Therefore, while it makes sense for senior AQ leaders to provide direction to al-Zarqawi, it seems strange that they would envy their conceptual offspring, which they have so publicly venerated. The longer one is in this business, the more one realizes that jihadi ideologues are typically sincere in their pronouncements and writings. We are not witnessing Western corporate competition or politics, however often these analogies are employed.

Instead of seeing bin Laden’s latest message as “proof” of a popularity contest between him and al-Zarqawi (in fact, the latter has sworn a binding oath of allegiance to the former), or as a continual effort to demonstrate his relevance to a new generation of jihadis, perhaps we should look at what he is actually saying. In so doing, his latest speech is another clear attempt to fight war at its “moral” level. In this case, he quite rationally insinuates that the U.S. government purposely overlooked key facts in the Moussaoui case and willfully dismisses “clear” evidence about Guantanamo inmates in order to “create justifications for the massive spending of hundreds of billions of dollars on the Defense Department and on other agencies in their war against the Mujahideen.” Bin Laden’s latest statement is intended to justify and inspire further attacks against American interests and divide the American public, not compete with al-Zarqawi.

Iran and its neighbors are preparing for war

By Olivier Guitta

Military activity in the Gulf has been increasing tremendously in the past few months. According to British sources, the stock of weapons, missiles and combat planes in the six neighboring countries to Iran is now three times what it was at the onset of the Iraq war in 2003.
This arsenal is also composed of submarines, destroyers belonging to Iran and also to the international community in the Sea of Oman. An impressive number of offensive and defensive weapons are also deployed in the region. For instance, since March ,Gulf refineries and vital oil installations are protected by batteries of Patriot missiles. Furthermore, according to the Kuwaiti daily Al Seyassah, the US has built a massive stock of oil and could ask the temporary stop of Gulf refineries in order to prevent heavy damage in case of an Iranian attack. Iran has indeed warned Gulf monarchies that their oil facilities would be the first target in case of a US operation on Iranian nuclear facilities.

The Emerging Shape of the Coming Jihad

By Douglas Farah

The coming shape of the Islamist jihad war is becoming clear: self-starting groups that are increasingly decentralized structure, linked by shifting networks and communicating almost exclusively through the Internet.

The chief architect of this strategy is the Spanish-Syrian strategist Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, the subject of a very nice piece in The Washington Post, whose 1,600 page treastise, "The Call for a Global Islamic Resistance," has been circulating on Web sites for 18 months.

Written under the pen name Abu Musab al-Suri, the document espouses the concept of "nizam, la tanzim," or ‘System, not organisation.’ Jihadist groups should develop a template that allows them to create structures wherever they are, and carry out recruitment, fund-raising and attacks.

The leadership, as traditionally understood in hierarchical structures, would be limited solely to general guidence of the true believers. This would essentially do away with the role of the traditional al Qaeda leadership in directing attacks or plotting a grand military strategy. My full blog is here.

Iraqi Government Forms; Recent Counterterrorism Ops

By Bill Roggio

The establishment of the Iraqi government, after five long months of contentious negotiations, has dealt Zarqawi and al-Qaeda in Iraq's efforts to derail the political process. As Zarqawi stated in his 2004 letter to Osama bin Laden, once the Iraqi people begin to take control of the political and and security responsibilities, al-Qaeda's foothold in Iraq will become tenuous. In Zarqawi's own words, "If we fight them [the Iraqi government], that will be difficult because there will be a schism between us and the people of the region. How can we kill their cousins and sons, and under what pretext, after the Americans start withdrawing? The Americans will continue to control from their bases, but the sons of this land will be the authority. This is the democracy, we will have to pretext [to continue to fight]."

The Iraqi government is not yet fully formed, as the crucial ministries of Defense and Interior, and the National Security posting remain unfilled. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki plans to submit nominations by week's end, and has committed to applying "maximum force" to subdue the insurgency and bring the militias under control. Baghdad and Ramadi remain two major areas of strength for the insurgency, and there is talk of conducting major operations to reestablish order in the cities.

As the Iraqi government takes shape, Coalition and Iraqi forces work to disrupt al-Qaeda and insurgent cells and operations. Jordanian intelligence recently arrested Ziad al-Karbouli (a.k.a. Abu Houthiyfah), who was complicit in the kidnappings and murders of Arab diplomats last summer. al-Karbouli also was "a customs employee on the Iraqi border," which would allow him to facilitate al-Qaeda movement to and from Iraq. His confession was carried on Jordanian television.

Task Force 145 conducted several raids in Baghdad, Ramadi and Yusifiyah over the past week, resulting in over a dozen al-Qaeda operatives killed or captured. The Ramadi strike resulted in six killed and three captured. The main target was an al-Qaeda commander known as the “Prince of IEDs,” who is described as "a financier, an IED maker and a bomb facilitator for al-Qaida in Iraq in Ramadi." An assortment of car and roadside bomb equipment was discovered in the safe house. Raids in Baghdad targeted Abu Ahad, who "managed foreign fighter facilitation and also provided a modicum of command and control between several terrorist cells operating throughout the vicinity of Fallujah, Baghdad , Yusifiyah, Taji and Mahmudiyah," as well as an unnamed associate of Ahad. Yet another strike was carried out in Yusifiyah. Three al-Qaeda were killed, and one was wearing a suicide vest. Yusifiyah has been an area of interest for Task Force 145 over the past few months, and numerous strikes have been carried out in the city.


Muthanna Complex. Click to Enlarge.

Conventional U.S. and Iraqi forces struck at an insurgent training camp in the Jazeera desert region during Operation Iron Triangle and dismantled an insurgent cell in Muqdadiyah. A company of U.S. soldiers from 101st Airborne Division and and a company of Iraqi soldiers from the 4th Division conducted an air assault on the Muthanna State Establishment, a chemical weapons production facility under Saddam Hussien's regime.

The Muthanna complex was identified as an insurgent training and staging facility. Over 200 suspected insurgents were detained, including ten members of Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad terrorist organization. Last evening, in a follow on raid (likely by TAsk Force 145), two suspects were captured, and four killed, including a Yemeni. "The forces found Yemeni, Saudi Arabian, Tunisian, Sudanese and several Iraqi passports," according to the Multinational Forces - Iraq press release. The Lake Thar Thar region where the Muthanna complex is located in a region where Baathists have settled, and numerous weapons caches were prepositioned in anticipation of the current insurgency. This is an ideal location as it is strategically located near Baghdad, Samarra, Balad, Ramadi and Fallujah. The Jazeera desert region has been the focus of numerous Coalition and Iraqi Army operations over the past half year, and the Iraqi Army has begun to conduct independent operations in this area.

Finally, Some Truth on Bogus Saudi Claims"

By Douglas Farah

The Washington Post Outlook Section finally called the Saudi Royals, and current U.S. ambassador, Prince Turki al-Faisal, on the lies of their intolerance. It is about time someone did in a consistant manner. The myth the Saudi royals perpetrate about removing hate speech against everyone who does not believe as they do is important to the narrative of its own progress the kingdom hopes to develop.

The problem is, it is simply not true, as the piece documents. Ambassador Turki and others want to believe that repeating a lie often enough makes it true. That is what they are paid to do, and they pay millions to get others to repeat the lies.

It seems that is the plan with the repetition of many things related to the kingdom that are not true, and yet are repeated day after day, month after month: the Financial Investigative Unit is functioning; designated individuals are being punished; efforts to curb terror finance are proceeding.

In fact, none of these are true. My entire blog is here.

Afghanistan, Embed Updates

By Bill Roggio

A quick update on the embed status: I ran into a problem with the travel arrangements and will be headed to Afghanistan late this week if all goes well. I worked hard to leave last weekend but it was not possible. The delay will not effect my time spent in country, I am pushing back the dates to accommodate the delay in travel. Afghanistan has been quite active of late, particularly in the Kandahar region where I will be embedding. I plan on posting daily while in Afghanistan, and have set up podcasts and radio interviews. Please support this embed by donating to the Counterterrorism Foundation. We can use your support in funding this embed as well as planned embeds in the future. And a big thank you to everyone who has contributed and supported this endeavor. We could not do this without your help and I am truly grateful for your generosity.

Now, an Afghanistan update:

Recent activity in Southeastern Afghanistan. Click to Enlarge.

Coalition forces continue to maintain the offensive against the Taliban in Southeast Afghanistan. A joint task force of Afghan and Coalition security forces encountered "organized armed opposition" from the Taliban during a joint operation near the town of Azizi in Uruzgan province. Twenty Taliban were confirmed killed, with up to 80 suspected killed after a combined ground and air assault on Taliban positions. This would put the number of Taliban killed in action over the past week between 220 to 280. In a separate raid, Mullah Mohibullah, the Taliban commander for Helmand province, was captured in a bazaar in Uruzgan province.

The engagement in Azizi follows a week of combat in the southeastern provinces of Kandahar, Uruzgan, Helmand and Ghazni. The majority of the fighting has been initiated by joint Afghan-Coalition operations designed to root out Taliban strongholds and safe havens in the region. Independent journalist Michael Yon recently traveled this region, and detailed the security problems and pervasiveness of the poppy crops. Afghan and Coalition forces are pushing into relatively uncharted territory and are now encountering resistance from the Taliban and their allies.

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Fighting in Afghanistan, Talibanistan

By Bill Roggio

Recent activity on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Click to Enlarge.

The latest estimate of Taliban casualties during the fighting over the past few days is approaching 200, with 25 Coalition, Afghan security forces and civilians killed. The Daily Times of Pakistan reports the fighting around Kandahar City, which was initiated by two separate Coalition operations, resulted in an estimated 100 Taliban killed. The U.S. military reported up to 60 Taliban were killed in the fighting at Musa Qala, where the Afghan security forces thwarted a major Taliban assault.

Agence France-Presse reports two French commandos were killed and one wounded in an "engagement against the Taliban in the region of Kandahar" - during offensive operations. A U.S. soldier was also killed in Uruzgan. Fighting continued in Helmand through Saturday, as the Taliban ambushed an Afghan convoy. At least 15 Taliban and 4 Afghan soldiers were killed, and 13 Afghan soldiers are missing. the Afghan Army called for reinforcements and air support, and beat back the attack. The reporting continues to conflate Coalition and Taliban operations.

Assadullah Khalid, the governor of Kandahar reiterated the claim that three Taliban commanders were captured, and described them as "high-ranking Taliban, members of their leadership council." The arrest of Mullah Dadullah has not been confirmed, however a one legged man fitting Dadullah description is said to be in custody. A man claiming to be Dadullah phoned a Pakistani newspaper and refuted the claims.

The violence in Afghanistan cannot be viewed in a vacuum. The Taliban has established safe havens in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) agencies of North and South Waziristan, Bajaur, Tank, Khyber and Dera Ismail Khan - a region now being referred to as Talibanistan.

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The Patchwork Insurgent Network Behind Recent Clashes in Ramadi

By Evan Kohlmann

Yesterday, the U.S. military conceded that the deteriorating situation in the restive Sunni Iraqi town of Ramadi required a "significant number" of additional coalition troops to be dispatched as reinforcements. According to the military, there has been intense, nearly constant fighting in the region surrounding Ramadi since at least May 7. Interestingly, a variety of different insurgent and extremist groups are boasting of their roles in waging these "battles" in Ramadi with U.S. and Iraqi government forces--among them:

- The Al-Fatihin Army--a breakaway faction of the influential Islamic Army in Iraq (IAI)--has claimed credit for IED detonations targeting two U.S. Humvees, nearly half a dozen sniper attacks on American soldiers, and a series of armed assaults on Iraqi goverment checkpoints in Ramadi.
- The Ansar al-Sunnah Army--a pro-Bin Laden movement based in northeastern Iraq believed to have been formed from the remnants of the terrorist group Ansar al-Islam--has claimed responsibility for two IED attacks on U.S. minesweepers in the region and an additional ambush with RPGs and machine guns on a U.S. Humvee.
- The Mujahideen Army--a Sunni Iraqi insurgent group that has waffled between, at times, threatening to kill Danish cartoonists and then later openly condemning "ethnic separatism and extremism"--has claimed a handful of sniper attacks on U.S. forces and the "destruction" of a U.S. Humvee in Ramadi.
- The Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC)--the militant umbrella network formed in Iraq by Al-Qaida and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi--has issued a new statement announcing "victories" in clashes with U.S. and Iraqi forces in Ramadi:

"Your brothers from the Military Wing of the Mujahideen Shura Council... on Wednesday May 17, 2006, began a new battle... Your brothers initiated clashes with the crusader enemy and its pagan guard stooges with rocket launchers and light weapons near the intelligence complex... in Ramadi, and many of them were either killed or wounded. After that, your brothers laid down cover fire in order to enable their martyr brother Abu Dujana al-Muhajir to enter one of the buildings [in the complex] used as an enemy barracks with his GMC Suburban vehicle. In front of the building, there were three Humvees carrying passengers from the pagan guard and the crusader army. Your brother detonated his vehicle packed with explosives in the midst of them. Their bodies were scattered into pieces, their vehicles were set ablaze, and the building collapsed on the heads of the crusaders and the apostates... killing at least thirty five enemies and destroying three vehicles. Finally, the mujahideen were able to safely withdraw while chanting, 'Allahu Akhbar!'"

How Will State Department Personnel Changes Impact Counterterrorism Policy?

By Andrew Cochran

Personnel selections can signal important shifts in policy and also have unforeseen impacts. Secretary of State Rice announced numerous personnel changes in personnel this week which will hopefully change recent one State Department trend in counterterrorism policy. Many of the senior officials at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, the focal point for foreign policy formulation, are changing chairs or leaving. Liz Cheney, the Vice President's daughter, is leaving after three years, and Ambassador Jim Jeffrey, former Deputy Chief of Mission in Baghdad and current Coordinator for Iraq, and Scott Carpenter, another top official there, will assume more duties. Other officials at NEA are also moving. We will be interested in the impact these changes will have on recent and counterproductive State Department accommodations with the Muslim Brotherhood, as discussed by Lorenzo Vidino and Doug Farah.

Secretary Rice also named Dr. Gregg Rickman as Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism, pursuant to the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004. Gregg has been chief counsel for the U.S. House International Relations Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and was lead counsel for the committee's critical work in exposing the Oil-for-Food scandal. He also was lead counsel for hearings on terrorism issues, such as "Visa Overstays: Can We Bar the Terrorist Door?" with Michael Cutler testifying (read his testimony here) and "Offshore Banking, Corruption, and the War on Terrorism", which focused on UBS's currency violations which enabled Iran and Cuba to obtain U.S. currency. Recently, he began a review of the Saddam Hussein intel docs, which I hope the subcommittee will continue to pursue. He is a friend and big CT Blog fan whose work enabled us to post several scoops (here and here). I know Gregg will bring energy, intellect, and experience to the new position, and his appointment is a positive development.

The Inaccurate Taliban Offensive; Taliban military commander Mullah Dadullah reported captured

By Bill Roggio

mullah dadallah.jpg

Mullah Dadullah may have been captured during recent fighting in Afghanistan.

The news reports of a major Taliban offensive in southeastern Afghanistan are inaccurate, as Coalition offensives and Taliban attacks have been lumped together to give the impression of a coordinated Taliban assault in multiple provinces. A reading of the various reports indicates that while the Taliban has launched a major strike on a police station and government center in Helmand province and a small scale attack on a police patrol in Ghazni, as well as two suicide attacks against U.S. contractors in Herat and an Afghan army base in Ghazni, the fighting in Kandahar was initiated by Afghan and Coalition security forces during planned operations. Over 100 have been reported killed during the fighting, with 87 being Taliban. Well over half of those killed were killed during the Coalition offensives in Kandahar.

There were two separate major engagements in Kandahar province, and both were initiated by the Coalition. Coalition forces conducted a raid and subsequent air strikes against a Taliban safe haven in the village of Azizi. As many as 27 Taliban are believed to have been killed during the operation. A joint Canadian and Afghan security force conducted a sweep in the Panjwai district of Kandahar, and killed 18 Taliban and captured 26 in the process. One Canadian officer was killed and three Afghan police were wounded during the operation.

The fighting in Musa Qala in Helmand province is a bonafide major Taliban attack. The Associated Press reports an "estimated 300-400 militants with assault rifles and machine guns attacked a police and government headquarters" in Musa Qala. The Afghan police provided reinforcements to the beleaguered police station, fought off the Taliban force, reestablished control over the region, and killed 40 Taliban and took thirteen casualties of their own. Two police patrols were ambushed in Ghazni, and resulted in the death of two policemen. There is no evidence the attacks were coordinated. And they certainly weren't coordinated to occur in conjunction with Coalition operations.

It is important to understand how the fighting was initiated, as the current reporting is giving the impression of a coordinated Taliban uprising. This provides the Taliban with a propaganda victory, as their power is perceived as far greater than it actually is, which can negatively influence the government and peoples of the Coalition forces serving in Afghanistan. The narrow passage of the extension of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan (by a 149-145 vote in Parliament) illustrates the fragile nature of the support for the mission in some Western nations.

During the fighting of the past few days, the Coalition may have scored a major victory. The BBC's Alastair Leithead reports Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban's most senior commander, has been captured, however the military has yet to confirm this report. The Jamestown Foundation describes Mullah Dadullah as "The Military Mastermind of the Taliban Insurgency" as well as "a member of the 10-man leading council of Taliban insurgents." Dadullah reportedly escaped the U.S. and Northern Alliance onslaught of the Taliban regime in the winter of 2002 and surfaced in South Waziristan, Pakistan, where he raised funds and organized the Taliban insurgency. Dadullah would be a treasure trove of information on the Taliban's operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Qari Naeem, the Taliban commander of Ghazni province, was also killed.


Richard Fernandez of The Belmont Club and I conduct a interview on the recent riot in Kabul and the current situation in Afghanistan. Pajamas Media has the audio.

Return of Euro-Jihadis a Threat to America

By Bill West

Today, the Washington Times ran a report that publicizes a threat known for some time to Western intelligence and law enforcement agencies. This is the threat posed by radical Islamic Jihadis from Europe who infiltrated into Iraq to fight with al-Qaeda forces there who are now beginning to return to their Euro-homelands. These combat experienced and battle-hardened terrorist veterans, estimated to be at least in the high hundreds, who not only possess violent extremist Islamic radicalization but European citizenship, will prove to be a major challenge to the security forces of Europe. There is surely no reason to believe these hardened Jihadi fighters will leave their violent ways behind in Iraq.

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Iran Could Rescue the Palestinian Authority

By Douglas Farah

My European contacts say Iran's Shi'ite regime is gearing up to rescue the Hamas-led, bankrupt Palestinian Authority with significant amounts of cash.

This move would serve two purposes: deeply embarrass and humiliate the Sunni-led regimes in the Gulf, who so far have failed to come up with a way to help Hamas despite repeated vows to do so; expand Iran's influence at a time when the threat of isolation from the West is growing. Swelling oil revenues have given the Iranian regime the revue they need to be able to pull this off.

While Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other government struggle to overcome the banking obstacles they would face in funding Hamas, the Iranan leaders appear willing to take significant risks to win the race and claim the mantle of protectors and defenders of the Palestinians. It would also expand Iranian influence in a region where it already controls Hezbollah, giving it two military factions that could be called on internationally should there be military action against Iran. My full blog is here.

The Canadian Mission in Kandahar

By Bill Roggio

Afghanistan NATO 1.JPG

Map of ISAF Mission in Afghanistan. Click to Enlarge.

Almost five years after the liberation of Afghanistan from the Taliban, the American public is largely unaware of the scope of NATO's commitment to providing stability for the Afghan people and combating al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Through the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), NATO plans to increase its personnel in Afghanistan to approximately 15,000, and will expand the mission into the southeastern provinces of Day Kundi, Helmand, Kandahar, Nimroz, Uruzgan and Zabul. These provinces are areas of increased Taliban and al-Qaeda activity, and suicide bombings, roadside bombings and small scale assaults against Afghan and NATO security forces have risen dramatically over the past year.

Canada is playing a crucial role by securing Kandahar province, which is the birthplace and former seat of power of the Taliban within Afghanistan. The Canadian government has committed over 2,300 Canadian troops to Task Force Afghanistan, which is commanded by Brigadier-General David Fraser. BGen Frazer also commands the Multi National Brigade for Regional Command South.

Task Force Afghanistan is comprised of a headquarters and communications team, various support elements, an engineer squadron, an artillery battery, an armored reconnaissance troop, a Provincial Reconstruction Team, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle team, medical personnel, and an assortment of advisers to the Afghan government and security forces. Task Force Afghanistan's main punch is provided by over 1,000 troops from 1st Battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Regiment (1 PPCLI), which is augmented by a company from the 2 PPCLI.

The 1 PPCLI is commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Ian Hope, and is based out of Edmonton, Alberta. The fist of the battalion is comprised of four rifle companies. The companies are supported by reconnaissance, mortar, anti-armor, assault pioneers (engineers), signals, logistics and headquarters platoons. The combat vehicles include LAV IIIs (Light Armored Vehicles), M-113A1, the Grizzly armored personnel carrier, and newly purchased RG-31 Nyalas. The battalion arrived in Kandahar in February of this year and their deployment ends in August.

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Immigration, Fraud and Terror

By Bill West

Today, pro-immigration law enforcement crusader Michelle Malkin posted on her Blog a stark reminder of the linkage between illegal immigration, document fraud and terrorism. With the release of the security video of the hijacked American Airlines jetliner attack on the Pentagon on 9/11, our political leaders continue to debate massive immigration “reform” that may lead to the legalization of millions of illegal aliens within the United States.

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EU Commission Wants New Law-and-Order Authority to Combat Terrorism and Cross Border Crime

By Victor Comras

Since the April 2004 Madrid bombing, EU countries have sought to improve EU-wide coordination and cooperation in combating terrorism. They focused on strengthening judicial cooperation and ties between their various national intelligence, investigative, justice, and police agencies. A special coordinator, Gijs de Vries, was appointed to oversee this task. But, while some significant improvements have been made, its still pretty much old hat when in come to dealing with terrorism and cross border criminal activities. Each country still does its own thing. And cross border judicial cooperation continues to be slow and burdensome.

EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini, complained in a May 10th letter to the European Parliament that the 25 members were still not cooperating fully with the mechanisms the EU has created to foster cooperation and often chose to bypass EUROPOL and EUROJUST in carrying out their investigations and prosecutions. It seems just as difficult today to get cross border police and judicial cooperation as it did before Madrid. These problems were underscored last fall when Spain sought to have Germany hold and extradite Mamoun Darkanzali to face possible terrorism charges. At the time the German Constitutional court ordered Darkanzali released when it held the EU Arrest Warrant under which Darkanzali was being held invalid. (see my earlier blog). Since then problems continue to plague the use of the EU Arrest Warrant, and other key cooperative measures.

Now the EU Commission wants a greater and more direct role in coordinating counter-terrorism and counter-criminal actions throughout the EU. José Manuel Barroso, President of the EU Commission announced May 8th that the Commission intends to press for these authorities at the EU Council in late June. They will propose that the Commission be allowed to “exploit to the full the headroom available to them under the present Treaties to transfer to the Community a large number of the decisions in the fields of justice, freedom and security that can be dealt with more effectively at European level than at national level.” This includes new directive authorities with regard to the collection of evidence, extradition, prison sentences and financial penalties. They reportedly will also seek to move ahead with the creation of a “European Evidence Warrant,” establish joint investigative teams, and further empowering Europol and Eurojust. Many of these authorities were included in the proposed new EU Constitution, which was sidetracked last year. “Such a decision will mean a substantial improvement in our capacity to find common responses to common problems,” Barroso said. “People are asking for "more Europe" in order to combat terrorism and organized crime, he said, and “It is our duty to respond to this appeal, with or without a Constitution.” The new plan will likely be subjected to considerable debate, and will inevitably require unanimous assent from the EU 25

Credible threats against the Danish cartoonists

By Olivier Guitta

If you thought that the Cartoon Jihad was over, think again.

Indeed, several European secret services are on the lookout for special Islamist commandos allegedly trying to kill the 12 Danish cartoonists involved in the Jyllands Posten Muhammad cartoons. Most probably, a European sleeper cell could be activated for that mission. Nonetheless, an entrance of dangerous Pakistani elements thru Turkey is envisioned.

In fact, a couple of Al Qaeda messages are warning of targeting the cartoonists along with some European countries. The first one is the April 23 Bin Laden's call in a video to boycott products from the US and European countries which supported Denmark over the publication of the cartoons . Bin Laden had also severely critisized France for pts supposedly harsh treatments of Muslims, referring most probably to the anti-hijab law passed in 2004. Then the Islamist website Ansar Al Sunna published the exhaustive list of newspapers which published the cartoons and called for vengeance against them; adding that they deserve the same fate as Theo Van Gogh, who was savegely murdered by an Islamist in November 2004.

Then on May 2, Hamid Mir, the editor in chief of the Pakistani daily Ausaf, who met Bin Laden a couple of times, reported that credible sources told him that a team of 9 Afghans and 3 Pakistanis were on their way to murder the Danish cartoonists.

In a May 11 35-minute video, Libyan Mohammed Hassan, who escaped from US custody at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan last July stated: "Muslims avenge your Prophet .... We deeply desire that the small state of Denmark, Norway and France ... are struck hard and destroyed," said "Destroy their buildings, make their ground shake and transform them into a sea of blood".

All this is happening while a Pakistani student who tried to kill the editor in chief of the German daily Die Welt for publishing the cartoons, was found dead in his German cell on May 3. The cause of death was suicide but the Pakistani press and opinion think differently and anger is brewing.

What did Bout Do With Weapons for Iraq?

By Douglas Farah

In one of the strangest twists of recent Bout-related events, a company in Bout's business orbit was found to have flown several hundred thousand AK-47 assault rifles from Bosnia to Iraq, theoretically for use by the new, U.S.-traine Iraqi army and police. Unfortunately, there is no record of the weapons ever actually landing in Iraq, although it appears that the now-defunct air freighter, Aerocom, did make the flights.

This was first reported in a new report by Amnesty International report and I have confirmed the basic outlines from other intelligence sources.

Aerocom shared an address and telephone number in Moldova with Jetline, a company publicly named as a Bout company by then senior Pentagon official Paul Wolfowitz. But when the first the Aerocom flights were made (Aug. 7, 8, 21, 22, 2004) , the airline had lost its vital Air Operating Certificate, issued by Moldova. The AOC expired on Aug. 6, 2004 and has not been renewed.

As the AI investigation found, there is no record of the 200,000 AK-47s flown from the U.S-military controlled Eagle Base near Tuzla, Bosnia, ever actually reached Iraq. The End User Certificate were from the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority and the interim Iraqi administration. My full blog is here.

Task Force 145 Strikes in Latifiyah; Nets Abu Mustafa

By Bill Roggio

Task Force 145 appears to have been busy over the weekend. In conjunction with the raid in Yusifiyah, which killed 25 al-Qaeda and resulted in the downing of a Coalition helicopter and the death of two U.S. Soldiers, TF-145 struck near the town of Latifiyah. Multinational Forces – Iraq reports 15 al-Qaeda were killed and 8 captured during series of raids over the course of two days on May 13-14.

Abu Mustafa, an al-Qaeda cell leader wanted for leading the cell which downed a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter, was among those killed. “Abu Mustafa was also a known weapons smuggler who allegedly facilitated the movement of missiles and rockets within the al-Qaida terrorist network,” according to the Multinational Forces – Iraq press release.

A reading of the press release shows the importance of good intelligence combined with the swift exploitation of intelligence gained from current operations. Four raids were carried out, the first resulting in the death of Abu Mustafa and an “an unknown affiliate.” One day later, three more raids resulted in the death of 14 additional al-Qaeda members and the capture of four others.

The area directly south of Baghdad, known as “The Triangle of Death,” appears to be an operational staging area for al-Qaeda's assault on Baghdad, and has now resulted in the death and capture of hundreds of al-Qaeda over the past few months. Task Force 145 has some good intelligence and is taking advantage of it, disrupting and destroying al-Qaeda cells on a regular basis.

Libya: Steps in Getting Off the Terrorism List

By Michael Kraft

The Bush Administration’s decision to take Libya off the terrorism list is an example of how the sanctions mechanism is supposed to work, even though it leaves some questions and some of the families of Pan Am 103 families are unhappy.

Libya is the first country proposed for removal that has not undergone a change in government (such as Iraq) or a merger with a neighbor (South Yemen). If Congress does not block the removal, Libya could be off the terrorism list in 45 days. See Andy Cochran’s earlier blog posting with links to key statements.

Ironically, the terrorism list of state sponsors of international terrorism was prompted by Libya. It was created by the Export Administration Act of 1979 partly in reaction to the Commerce Department’s approval of the sale to Libya of 400 heavy duty trucks that could be used as tank transports instead of moving oil equipment as claimed in the license application

A formal designation by the Secretary of State that a country is a “repeated supporter of international terrorism,” triggers more than half a dozen sanctions, including bans on foreign assistance, tightened scrutiny of export licenses for dual use items, and prohibitions against financial transaction. One of the sanctions is designed to discourage investments. It denies tax credits to American firms or individuals who earn income in a designated country.

U.S. business interests, especially oil companies, have been pressing for Libya’s removal from the terrorism list, just as various financial interests have generally opposed sanctions against other terrorist-supporting countries.

To remove a country from the terrorism list, the President has to make a determination that:

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Recent State Department Report & Public Comments Pointed to Libya Decision (UPDATED)

By Andrew Cochran

UPDATE: You can read President Bush's decision to rescind Libya's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism here (Acrobat file). You can read a statement on the matter by the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Richard Lugar, here (Word file).

The removal of Libya from the list of state sponsors of terrorism comes less than a month after the release of the 2005 "Country Reports on Terrorism," in which Libya was still included on the list. You can see from the following report segment on Libya that the Department was close to recommending removal from the list:

Libya continued to cooperate with the United States and the international community in the fight against terrorism. Specifically, Libya began working more closely with the United Kingdom to curtail terrorism-related activities of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). In addition, Libya extradited to Egypt a member of the terror cell responsible for a bombing that claimed the lives of three tourists in a Cairo bazaar.

Despite its increasing level of cooperation, Libya remained on the state sponsors of terrorism list and was subject to corresponding sanctions. The United States continued to evaluate Libya's assurances to halt the use of violence for political purposes in light of allegations that Libyan officials attempted to facilitate the assassination of then-Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah in 2003. In August 2004, Abulrahman Alamoudi pled guilty to one count of unlicensed travel to and commerce with Libya, and as reported in the 2004 Country Reports on Terror, stated that he had been part of a 2003 plot to assassinate the Crown Prince at the behest of Libya officials. In October 2004, Alamoudi was sentenced by a U.S. federal judge to the maximum of 23 years in prison for his dealings with Libya. In August, Saudi King Abdullah pardoned five Libyans held in Saudi Arabia in connection with the plot.

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The Battle of Yusifayah

By Bill Roggio

Yusifiyah is yet again the focus of Coalition raids. Unnamed Coalition forces, most likely Task Force 145, slugged it out with al-Qaeda in the city on Sunday. Multinational Forces - Iraq reported the strike forces killed “more than 25 terrorists, detained four, destroyed three safe houses and a vehicle loaded with weapons and ammunition.” Task Force 145 also took some casualties, as the defending al-Qaeda forces were able to shoot down a helicopter, killing two Americans in the process. While the military hasn't identified the type of helicopter shot down, it is likely based on the casualties that this was a OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, which is used for armed reconnaissance and has a crew of two.

Evan Kohlmann noted that Zarqawi's most recent videotape contained footage of terrorists armed with MANDPADS (man-portable surface-to-air missiles). As there have been relatively few shoot downs of helicopters and airplanes compared to Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, I speculated last month al-Qaeda's access to the weapons is limited, and the anti-aircraft missiles have been distributed to protect senior al-Qaeda command elements. Zarqawi was believed to have been in Yusifiyah and witnessed a Task Force 145 raid in early April, and one of his guards was killed while preparing to fire a surface to air missile.

There is also the possibility the Army helicopter was shot down by an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) aimed at the tail fin, however this is a more difficult shot as it requires the helicopter to be in a hover and the shooter is exposes to fire. Al-Qaeda first used this technique on October 3, 1993 against U.S. helicopters in the imfamous “Black Hawk Down” incident in Mogadishu, Somalia. Earlier this month, a British Lynx helicopter was shot down in Basra using the same technique.

An Apache helicopter was shot down in Yusifayah on April 1 and numerous raids have been conducted on al-Qaeda hideouts and safe houses in the city.

Renewed Ties with Libya Are a Result of Progress on Key Issues

By Daveed Gartenstein-Ross

Today it was announced that the Bush administration will be removing Libya from the list of state sponsors of terror and restoring diplomatic ties with it. One of the most prescient articles written about possible U.S. rapprochement with Libya is Ray Takeyh's "The Rogue Who Came in from the Cold," published in the May/June 2001 Foreign Affairs. In it, Takeyh notes three potential barriers to re-establishment of relations: Libya's support for terrorism, its development of WMD's, and its opposition to the Arab-Israeli peace process. Progress has been made on at least two of these issues since then.

On terrorism, Libya had severed ties to its terrorist clients by 2001. There was concern that Libya had neither accepted responsibility nor made restitution for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103; but it did that when it paid the families of victims $2.7 billion. On WMD's, after the invasion of Iraq Qadaffi acknowledged the country's nuclear weapons program and agreed to allow international inspectors to verify that he was ending his WMD programs. And on the peace process, despite Qadaffi's often shrill rhetoric, Takeyh noted back in 2001 that "on a practical level Libya has yielded to American demands by terminating its support for rejectionist Palestinian groups and accepting the Palestinian Authority's right to negotiate with Israel."

Another interesting aspect of Takeyh's article is its discussion of the impact that the sanctions regime had on changing Libya's orientation:

Another reason for Qaddafi's shift was the much-derided U.N. sanctions regime imposed on Libya after the Lockerbie bombing. The colonel had long believed that Libya's oil wealth and commercial appeal would undermine any cohesive opposition to his revolutionary excesses. But the Lockerbie sanctions, enacted by the United Nations in 1992, shattered that conviction. The United States managed to convince even states with close economic ties to Libya, such as Italy and Germany, to support the sanctions as a way to force Qaddafi to hand over the bombing suspects. . . .

Prior attempts to coerce Libya had proven ineffective: U.S. air strikes in 1986 only enhanced Qaddafi's domestic power and led to his lionization in the developing world. But the U.N. sanctions -- particularly the prohibition on the sale of oil equipment and technology and a ban on financial transfers -- hit Qaddafi where it hurt the most, undermining his government's ability to extract and export its main source of revenue. Libya estimates that the sanctions have deprived its economy of $ 33 billion, whereas the World Bank puts the damage at the lower but still daunting sum of $ 18 billion. Whatever their actual cost, the basic efficacy of the sanctions demonstrated Libya's special vulnerability to such multilateral coercion. Libya's economic vitality and its government's popularity depend on access to international petroleum markets. Thus the same resource that gave Qaddafi the power to upset the international order also let the world community undermine him.

Washington Times: Assad Under Siege

By Daveed Gartenstein-Ross

I have been working on a series of articles with my colleague Nir Boms about the state of Middle Eastern democratization (see our previous articles about the overwhelming trend toward elections in the Middle East and the U.S.'s options for promoting liberal institutions). Today we have a piece in the Washington Times that examines the rise of democratic movements in Syria that may eventually be able to provide a feasible alternative to Syrian president Bashar Assad's regime -- and the need for the U.S. to distinguish between genuine and faux democrats. An excerpt:

President Bashar Assad has showered the Syrian people with promises, yet has failed to deliver on them. His weakness and ineptitude combined with an increased international focus on Syria's involvement in Lebanon and Iraq have helped reinvigorate the opposition. While that opposition can't yet offer a solid political alternative, Mr. Assad's growing efforts to silence it show that it is gaining strength.

Indeed, it is becoming difficult to keep track of the large number of Syrian groups and activists who are working on the cause of political reform inside and outside Syria. A number of conferences, such as those organized by the Syrian Democratic Coalition (SDC), claim to have brought representatives of over 30 such groups together. The SDC, which is led by Farid Ghadry, can be credited with raising international awareness of the existence of a vibrant Syrian opposition. The SDC is now working to establish a parliament in exile that will seek to coordinate the various opposition groups.

That coalition was recently challenged by former Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam. Mr. Khaddam has joined with exiled Muslim Brotherhood leader [Ali Sadreddine] Bayanouni to establish what they dub the "National Salvation Front." He is attempting to establish a government in exile with Ba'ath-like functions such as a minister of information. This effort probably won't be well-received in Syria, where Mr. Khaddam is seen as a major player in the corrupt Syrian Ba'athist apparatus.

Read the whole article here.

Task Force 145 Strikes Near Ramadi

By Bill Roggio

Suspected locations of Task Force 145 raids on al-Qaeda cells. Click to Enlarge.

Task Force 145, the mix of special operations forces assigned to hunt Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and al-Qaeda in Iraq leaderships and cells, appears to have struck again, this time in Julaybah, an area “identified as a terrorist safe haven” which is located about 8 miles east of Ramadi. Three terrorists were killed and four captured during the fight. The Multinational Forces – Iraq press release provides an overview of the engagement:

Upon arrival... the Coalition troops began receiving rifle and machine gun fire. The terrorists then began to launch ineffective mortar fire from across a nearby river. Coalition Forces neutralized both the direct and indirect fire with small arms fire and close air support and simultaneously raided five structures, associated hide outs and vehicles. After killing three terrorists and detaining four others, the troops conducted a thorough search of the area. They found six affiliated vehicles, three of which were loaded with various weapons and explosives to include rifles, mortars and improvised explosive device material. The troops also uncovered numerous weapons caches with AK-47's, rocket propelled grenades, mortar rounds and IED material... Five safe houses, six cars, and all lethal material were destroyed on target.

Again, the tell-tail signs of a Task Force 145 operation are contained within the Multinational Forces – Iraq press release: vague details of the strike, an unidentified Coalition unit and unnamed air support, the targeting of an al-Qaeda cell, a suspected “wanted terrorist” on the target list (it is unknown if he was killed or captured during the raid), and the swift raids on multiple targets.

The raid in Julaybah is the latest in a series of TF-145 operations over the past month, which included Yusifayah, Balad, Baghdad, Samarra and Karbala. The targeting indicates al-Qaeda is concentrating in and around Baghdad, which squares with the recently seized al-Qaeda gameplan for the battle of Baghdad.These raids have netted the unedited Zarqawi tapes and internal al-Qaeda communications, as well as senior Ansar al-Islam commander and veteran jihadi Ali Wali, along with senior al-Qaeda commander Abu Aisha. Scores of al-Qaeda terrorists have been killed or captured over the past month.

Independent Operations and the Iraqi Army

By Bill Roggio

Nearly one year ago, the media questioned the "readiness" of the Iraqi Army and declared "few Iraqi battalions are operational." This stemmed from Multinational-Forces Iraq's attempts to establish metrics for the readiness of the Iraq military, and the media's lack of understanding of the meaning of these metrics.

The media focused on "Level 1" battalions, units which could operate with complete independence from Coalition forces, and ignored the significance of Level 2 & 3 Iraqi Army units. Level 2 & 3 battalions lack the organic logistical capabilities (Level 2) or required Coalition forces to operate alongside in combat (Level 3). Level 2 units gather their own intelligence, conduct their own planning and are deemed "in the lead" during combat operations. Both Level 2 & 3 units are in the fight against the insurgency.

Late last summer, 36 Iraqi Army combat battalions were rated as Level 2. Less than one year later, 75 battalions are rated as in the lead, according to Major General Rick Lynch. About 30% of the company-sized operations and above are independent Iraqi Army operations, and about 50% are conducted by combined Iraqi and Coalition units. During combined operations, the Iraqi Army conducts the search, while Coalition forces provide the outer security cordon.

Two recent operations in and near Mosul highlight the increasing independence of the Iraqi Army: Operation Lion’s Hunt [May 3] and Operation Cool Spring VIII [May 10]. Designed to "introduce a strong Iraqi Security Force presence in the city’s diverse communities and clean out pockets of terrorists," Lion’s Hunt was comprised of "nearly 1,500 Iraqi Soldiers and police officers," - a battalion sized operation. The operation was an "Iraqi-planned effort" with "a small contingent of Task Force Band of Brother Soldiers from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team... assisting the mission by augmenting an outer security ring as the Iraqi forces." And in a sign the Iraqi security forces understand the importance of the information aspect of the war, "local media were invited to accompany the mission."

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London Bombing Report Should Lead to Banning Hizb ut-Tahrir in UK

By Zeyno Baran

Yesterday the British Intelligence and Security Committee published its much-awaited report analyzing the London terrorist attacks of July 7, 2005. The report concluded, among others, “we remain concerned that across the whole of the counter-terrorism community the development of the home-grown threat and the radicalization of British citizens were not fully understood or applied to strategic thinking.”

It might help to watch the program by Muslim journalist Shiraz Maher, who was a former member of the radical Islamist movement, Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT). As a student in Leeds—home to three of the 7/7 bombers, Shiraz has unique insights and believes HT needs to be banned.

Fighting Jihad in the West

By Jeffrey Cozzens

In the wake of the release of the 7/7 inquiry reports, American analysts should take stock of how well they are applying the lessons learned by Her Majesty’s Government (and other European regimes) in dealing with our own homegrown jihadi threat, even if the nonlinear development and specific contexts of these threats make comparisons appear problematic.

One way to overcome this methodological impediment is to expand our analytical framework and consider what differentiates jihadi radicalization processes and fighting in the West—even in two liberal democracies as demographically, politically and socially distinct as the U.S. and the U.K.— from the Muslim world. We must compare apples to apples to allow useful parallels to emerge.

Some prominent characteristics separating jihad in the West from jihad in Muslim world are as follows:

•The development of unique Western jihadi cultures that are defined and reinforced both ideologically and operationally by the “cyber ummah”—the online jihadi “community,” consisting of radical chat rooms, message boards, websites, etc—and its antithesis, the Western culture in which the militants live
Common ideas concerning the legitimacy of striking one’s Western “refuge.” These ideas, which are compelling enough to mitigate against fighting jihad overseas, are generally grounded in the concept that the Western militants’ nations of residence are waging war against Muslims at home and abroad (especially in Iraq). As a result, “defensive jihad” in their country of residence is prescribed as legitimate.
•The use of both converts and formerly “secular” Muslims (often the children or grand children of immigrants) in Western operations and jihadi logistical networks who bring personal experiences and social (sometimes criminal) connections atypical of jihadis in the Muslim world
•The legal back drop of liberal democracies, and domestic intelligence agencies with limited experience dealing with militant Islam whose powers are generally restrained

The poignancy of these qualities, specific to “homegrown” Western jihadis and their operating environments, was seen retrospectively in the development of the 7/7 plot. These points will also likely emerge during the upcoming trial of the Islamic converts accused of plotting attacks in Los Angeles in 2005.

Understanding why Western citizens or residents choose to fight jihad in the West, and how they go about doing so, is becoming increasingly important to our national security as the narrative of global jihad takes root in increasingly disparate sectors of Islamic communities in the West. Let’s hope that we are comparing notes effectively with our allies overseas, and that this information-sharing has strategic, as well as tactical, effect.

Do We Have the Intel Needed to Prevent a Nuclear Terrorist Attack?

By Andrew Cochran

The subcommittee in the U.S. House which takes first crack at writing FY 2007 appropriations for the Homeland Security Department met yesterday and passed the first draft of that bill. The bill includes $500 million for the DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office "to coordinate global nuclear detection and tracking," and much of the discussion during the session centered around classified and unclassified briefings given to members by the Energy Department and the intelligence community on the risk of nuclear terrorist attack. I have no knowledge of what they've been told, but it must have been very serious, because many Members commented on the gravity and quality of the information (the chairman, Rep. Hal Rogers, said the classified briefing was one of the best he had ever seen).

Do we have the intel we need to prevent such an attack? I highly recommend a Congressional Quarterly piece a week ago titled, "FBI Under the Gun," about the problems inside the FBI's culture, including whether it can manage an intel function. The NSA phone record story raises policy and legal questions (see Daveed Gartenstein-Ross' post for one view), but from what I heard yesterday, Congressmen aren't confident that we're ready.

Lost in Translation – Misunderstanding or Marketing?

By The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT)

It is increasingly clear that there is either a) a major communication gap or b) a very deliberate campaign to keep repeating an unfounded assertion until everyone has heard it so many times they assume it must be true. Case in point, an article in yesterday’s Toledo Blade, "Group claims snub by U.S. Treasury", states:

“A public relations battle is continuing between the treasury department and the nation’s largest Muslim organizations — whose leaders say their charities have been shut down without cause since the War on Terror began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”

It is not a coincidence that most of the charities referred to here were part of the Council of American Muslim Charities (CAMC) and should be looked at as a network of like-minded Islamist charities rather than several charities which happen to be Islamic.

Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLFRD) (See the Department of Treasury Press Release; the Department of Justice Indictment {pdf}; and the Department of Justice Press Release)
Al-Haramain (See the Department of Treasury Press Release)
Islamic African Relief Agency (IARA) (See the Department of Treasury Press Release)
Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) (See the Department of Treasury Press Release)
Global Relief Foundation (GRF) (See the Department of Treasury Press Release)

Without Cause?
Perhaps this is where there is a loss of translation. What does “cause” mean? The reasons for the closures, in all of these cases, have been outlined in painful detail in indictments, press releases, and sentencing documents. In the case of the Holy Land Foundation, the HLF even had the opportunity to sue the Department of Justice for their funds. They lost, generating even more evidence to the public. These are not esoteric documents, they are easily accessible to anyone who wishes to read them. Media outlets have also tracked down original source materials and reported on the evidence.

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National Review Online: NSA Nonsense

By Daveed Gartenstein-Ross

The big story of the day yesterday was the news in USA Today that the NSA has secretly collected a massive database containing the phone-call records of tens of millions of Americans. Today I have a piece at National Review Online that examines the legality of this program.

As could be expected, the story’s publication was accompanied by a torrent of criticism directed at the Bush administration. A quick scan of liberal blogs shows that the program is being attacked as not only unwise, but also illegal. Yet for this to be true, an actual law must have been broken. Yet the two most likely legal authorities—the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ("FISA") and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution—do not prohibit the alleged government activity.

FISA distinguishes between "electronic surveillance," which collects the substantive content of electronic communications, and "pen registers," which collect only the addressing information of electronic communications. Although the language of FISA is somewhat convoluted, information about what calls were being made that doesn’t involve listening in on the discussions themselves should be classified as a pen register rather than electronic surveillance under the statute.

However, the definition of "pen register" in FISA shows that the statute doesn’t regulate the government with respect to the technology at issue here. FISA states that the regulations governing pen registers do not "include any device or process used by a provider or customer of a wire or electronic communication service for billing, or recording as an incident to billing, for communications services provided by such provider." That is precisely what was alleged in this case: The sources who spoke to USA Today said that the three participating telecommunications companies handed over information that was collected pursuant to their regular billing procedures. FISA does not implicate such action.

Nor would the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures, make the conduct in question illegal. The Supreme Court held in Smith v. Maryland (1978) that government collection of phone numbers called does not violate the Fourth Amendment. The Court reasoned that callers cannot have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the numbers they dial . . . .

Read the whole article here.

Indonesian Police Make Arrests in Sulawesi

By Kenneth Conboy

Amidst much confusion, the Indonesian authorities apparently made progress this past week in unraveling the extremist network responsible for the gruesome beheading of three Christian high school girls in Poso, Central Sulawesi, last October. By way of background, Poso district has a population almost evenly divided between Christians and Muslims, and was the scene of bloody communal violence during 199-2002. The perpetrators of the beheadings apparently intended—though failed—to re-ignite that violence.

The latest police operation started on 5 May, when they arrested five males in Tolitoli sub-district, Central Sulawesi; confiscated in their rented house were some bullets and books on jihad. The initial police statement claimed that at least two of the five had earlier provided safe haven to top Jemaah Islamiyah fugitive Noordin M. Top on the island of Java.

Three days later, the police recanted their charge that any of the five were linked to Top. Instead, on 8 May they asserted that two of the five were linked to the 2004 murder of a reverend in a Poso church.

Once again, the story did not hold up. On 9 May, the police said that none of the Tolitoli five were linked to the murder of the reverend, but three were involved in the 2004 murder of a soldier’s wife and the October 2005 beheadings. That same day, two other men were placed in custody in Central Sulawesi for the beheadings.

On a roll, members of Indonesia’s counter-terrorist unit, Detachment 88, on 8 May attempted to arrest the alleged mastermind of this crime, 25-year old Taufik Bulaga. But when they placed him under custody after exiting a Poso mosque that morning, dozens of his neighbors poured onto the street, beating the arresting officers and torching two police motorcycles.

As of 12 May, a total of seven men are now in police custody for the beheadings. The police have once again claimed that some of these suspects might be linked to Noordin M. Top, though no other details have been forthcoming. Taufik Bulaga remains at large, with the authorities appealing to the residents of Poso to hand him over.

(All of the above takes place against the backdrop of three Christian militia leaders facing the death sentence for their role in the Poso sectarian violence. This week the three lost their second and last appeal to the Indonesian supreme court, paving their way for their executions to take place at an unannounced time within the next few weeks. As their execution will likely spark outrage among the Christian population in Poso, the reinvigorated crackdown on Islamic radicals in Poso might be seen as the government’s way of showing an equal intolerance of extremism from either community.)

al-Qaeda's assessment of the state of affairs in Baghdad, “the epicenter of jihad”

By Bill Roggio

The latest internal al-Qaeda in Iraq document, which was captured in conjunction with the video outtakes from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's latest tape, highlights the state of affairs of al-Qaeda in Iraq. The document is titled "A glance at the reality of Baghdad in light of the latest events." It provides a blunt assessment of al-Qaeda's strategy and tactics in the battle for Baghdad. Combine this document with the "Al Qa'ida in Iraq Situation Report" released in April, which discussed the state of affairs in Anbar province, and it becomes clear al-Qaeda in Iraq is very concerned about their strategic situation and the desertion of influential Sunni tribes and political groups. Some highlights from the document:

- The state of affairs in Baghdad and Anbar is far worse than they were years ago as the Coalition and Iraqi government have absorbed the terror blows. In the unnamed commander's words: "every year is worse than the previous year as far as the Mujahidin’s control and influence over Baghdad." The increased participation of Iraqis in security forces and political process is exactly what Zarqawi feared when he wrote his letter to Osama bin Laden in 2004 outlining the strategy to incite a Sunni-Shiite civil war.

- al-Qaeda in Iraq fears the influence of Iraqi Islamic Party, the Islamic Scholars Committee, the Sunni tribes, and their cooperation with the government, as they possess a media wing and have dominance at the mosques: "The role that the Islamic party and the Islamic Scholars Committee play in numbing the Sunni people through the media is a dangerous role. It has been proven from the course of the events that the American investment in the Party and the Committee were not in vain. In spite of the gravity of the events, they were able to calm down the Sunni people, justify the enemy deeds, and give the enemy the opportunity to do more work without any recourse and supervision."

- AQIZ is mired in a tactical game of car and suicide bombings to influence the American media, however the campaign has so far failed to destroy the will of the Iraqi government and Coalition. The foreign media is only group influenced by the bombings -" the significance of the strategy of their work is to show in the media that the American and the government do not control the situation and there is resistance against them... What is fixed in the minds of the Shiite and Sunni population is that the Shiites are stronger in Baghdad and closer to controlling it while the mujahidin (who represent the backbone of the Sunni people) are not considered more than a daily annoyance to the Shiite government."

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Somalia a Vital Front in Countering the Spread of Radical Islamists

By Douglas Farah

Somalia, reeling from decades of strife, civil war and chaos, has emerged as an important front in confronting the spread of armed Islamist groups with links to al Qaeda. Recent fighting in and around the rubble of what remains of Mogadishu has been the first armed response by a coalition of unsavory warlords against the growing strength of Islamist militias that have moved to impose sharia law on the land.

The warlord's coalition is a self-styled "anti-terrorism alliance" aimed at pushing back against gains made by Islamist militias that contain members who trained in Afghanistan and elsewhere by al Qaeda and its allies. Osama bin Laden's men helped train the Somali militias that downed the U.S. Blawkhawk helicopter in 1994 and dragged the bodies of U.S. troops through the streets. In the years since, bin Laden has mentioned Somalia as a possible venue for a "third war," after Afghanistan and Iraq, to tie up U.S. troops and weaken the West.

There are reports of U.S. support for the warlords, who have blood on their hands from years of brutal warfare but resent and fear the growing strength of the Islamist militias. The U.S. has not confirmed or denied the reports of support for the alliance, but Somalia presents another variation of the constant set of poor options available to U.S. counter-terrorism policy: support bad people who will fight the enemy to the death, or allow the Islamists to gain access to another safehaven with easy access and the multiple advantages of operating unfettered in a geographic region. My full blog is here.

Update on the Insurgency in Southern Thailand

By Zachary Abuza

By April 2006, as the commander of Thailand’s 4th Army, Lt-Gen Ongkorn, was asserting that “The situation in the three southern border provinces should improve since the militant network has been weakened by the arrest of its top members,” the insurgency was spiking back to the levels reached in May-July 2005. To date, more than 1,200 people have been killed, and several thousands more have been wounded.

In reality there has been little progress in Thailand’s own counter-insurgent operations. Police assert that they have now detained 123 individual and have concrete evidence that at least 105 of the 123 are linked to the insurgency, yet few have been in leadership positions. Their intelligence is still weak, coordination of the 80,000 government personnel from at least a dozen offices and agencies is spasmodic, and several heavy-handed counter-insurgent policies have backfired. By most estimates there are some 1,000 insurgents, 247 “red zones,” or villages controlled by insurgents, and the government still has only a rudimentary understanding of the organizations infrastructure involved. The government claimed credit for a sharp down tick in attacks in December 2005 and January 2006 – but that was clearly more a factor of the rains than any good police work. A lull in attacks did not portend an end to the insurgency and government pronouncements were overly optimistic. In 2006 alone, over 150 people have been killed, 7 in one day. Three soldiers, 17 police and 130 civilians were among those dead, with 36 soldiers wounded, 34 police wounded and 174 civilians wounded.

The number and efficacy of bombings has decreased because of the blocking of unregistered prepaid cell phones. This did have an immediate impact. In the fortnight before the 15 November blockage, there were 11 bombings, in the fortnight afterwards, there were three. Insurgents have stepped up theft of cell phones and can use Malaysian SIM cards near the border. They have also been experimenting with other triggering mechanisms, such as infrared and other command-detonation systems.

There have been three beheadings in 2006, bringing the total to 24. There is little reason to share the government’s optimism. Drive by assassinations are up, as are arson attacks- especially on cell phone towers (in apparent retaliation of the government’s blockage of pre-paid cell phones). Their raids are increasingly bold and employing larger numbers of militants. They have also taken on a more ominous sectarian tone.

The head of the Thai Army has recently acknowledged the existence of “blacklists.” Though he denied that individuals on these lists were being targeted by government hit squads, a large number of individuals have been killed in questionable manner, reinforcing public acrimony over the security force’s culture of impunity. With the Thai government still mired in a political deadlock and the former architect of security policy in the south now serving as caretaker PM, it is unlikely that there will be any change in policy.

Bombings are down, but the militants have adapted well and employed tactics to circumvent government counter insurgent operations. The violence is climbing back to the record levels set a year ago, with no end in sight.

New Reports of Al-Qaida's Foreign Fighters Killed in Iraq

By Evan Kohlmann

Over the past two months, despite a tightening of security on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border, reports continue to stream out of Iraq and neighboring regions concerning foreign fighters recently killed in clashes between Al-Qaida and U.S. forces. Among those reports:

- A videotaped eulogy for half a dozen Palestinian fighters from South Lebanon loyal to Asbat al-Ansar who were killed in various locations from Karabilah to Samarra.

- The biography of Saudi Arabian national Abu Muaz al-Janoobi--who failed in his first effort to join the jihad in Afghanistan--only to later travel on to Iraq, where he allegedly crashed an ambulance packed with more than a ton of explosives into a U.S. base in Husaybah.

- The biography of Yemeni national Abu Uthman al-Yemeni, who also drove a suicide car bomb into a U.S. post in Husaybah, and who modeled himself after one of the suicide bombers featured in Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's first full-length propaganda film, "The Winds of Victory."

- The biography of Abu Hamza al-Shami, a Syrian national who reportedly fought alongside such notorious figures as Abdelaziz al-Muqrin, Abu Hafs al-Masri, and Abu Zubair al-Haili during the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001. Afterwards, the veteran Abu Hamza traveled on to Saudi Arabia, and then to Iraq where he became "a mobile war machine who loved the sound of bullets and 'takbirs.'"

- The biography of Sudanese national Abu Hamza al-Sudani who used to constantly urge his comrades, "The most important thing is that we wreak havoc upon the enemies of Allah and ask Allah for martyrdom."

- The biography of Abu Bakr al-Qasimi, from Saudi Arabia, who was an influential jihad financier for Arab-Afghan campaigns in Chechnya, Afghanistan, and elsewhere and who believed that the Saudi jihad front "was of paramount importance and that this was an integral part of the plan to fight the Americans and the Jews wherever they may be." Later, his work in an Al-Qaida anti-aircraft unit based in Iraq was so productive that it merited personal visits by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and chances to participate in "several large-scale operations," including a dramatic suicide bombing attack in the Iraqi city of Al-Qaim by Abu Shaheed al-Lubnani.

See also: April 2005 video of suicide bombing by Abu Shaheed al-Lubnani

Please Support Independent, Open-Source Research, Starting With Bill Roggio's Embed in Afghanistan

By Andrew Cochran

To our loyal readers: Over the past 16 months, tens of thousands of individuals have come to rely on The Counterterrorism Blog to provide unbiased, thought-provoking reporting and analysis on the daily happenings in the Global War on Terror. The CTB has become a recognized leader in the security blogging community because we remain committed to institutional independence and rely on world-class contributors to the counterterrorism space. Today, I am asking you to help the CTB continue this tradition by supporting the efforts of the newly created Counterterrorism Foundation, which will fund the Blog’s activities and an aggressive plan for expansion.

Of immediate note, the Counterterrorism Foundation will fund Bill Roggio’s upcoming embed to Afghanistan, where he will tour with the Canadian military, producing daily accounts from the field coupled with pictures and analysis, just as he did so well in Iraq last year. Supporting independent embedded reporting and the CTB are perfect examples of why the establishment of the Counterterrorism Foundation is so important in today’s corporate media age. As a non-profit organization, the Foundation will be devoted to the promotion of innovative research and reporting on the GWOT. The Foundation will focus on alternative media projects and research endeavors that highlight underreported stories, offer unique approaches to coverage, and promote qualified but non-instutionally supported researchers and journalists.

In order to demonstrate my commitment to the vision of the Counterterrorism Foundation and my faith in projects such as Bill’s embed to Afghanistan, I am going to personally donate at least $500 to the Foundation. Although we have achieved much since we began, the CTB and the Foundation cannot succeed without your support.

Aiding Palestinians Without Helping Hamas: A Difficult Task

By Victor Comras

Can Pressure be maintained on Hamas without unduly harming the Palestinian People? This is the question being addressed by the Quartet (UN, US, EU, and Russia) as it seeks some mechanism to channel aid to the Palestinians without strengthening the position of its Hamas government. The Quartet reportedly agreed May 9th to a suggestion put forth by the EU to seek to develop a temporary plan to funnel humanitarian assistance through channels that bypass Hamas. According to the official statement issued at the end of the meeting, the provision of this assistance would be dependent upon its being “limited in scope and duration, operating with full transparency and accountability, and ensuring direct delivery of assistance to the Palestinian people.” It would be reviewed after three months to determine its effectiveness. The decision to move forward on such planning came after day long consultations hosted by Kofi Annan, which included meetings also with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

European Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who attended the Quartet meeting told the International press that “What we propose is to have a meeting of experts as soon as possible in Brussels in order to really draw up the parameters. And thus, of course, try to get this together as speedily as possible. But of course, since it is not an easy mechanism, it’s not a matter of days. But I do hope it’s a matter of weeks.” In the meantime provision is being made to get needed humanitarian and medical aid to the Palestianian territory. For its part the United States has indicated it will go ahead with a $10 million in kind donation of needed hospital equipment.

Israel has reportedly indicated its interest also in using such a channel, if it can be developed, to pass back the revenues it has collected on behalf the Palestinian Authority. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni welcomed the Quartet plan. She indicated that it was Israel’s understanding that the Quartet plan did not include PA president Mahmoud Abbas as a conduit for the money. Abbas, she said, already has access to funds that he continues to withhold from the Hamas controlled Palestinian Authority.

The Hamas leadership apparently still doesn’t have a clue as to what this all signals. The Palestinian Authority’s Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haneya, expressed anger that the Quartet was seeking to bypass his government. He called the ploy harmful to Palestinian interests. At the other end of the spectrum, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat , a Fatah member, hailed the Quartet decision as a breakthrough on relief for the Palestinian people. "We would wait to see the essence of that mechanism and the nature of aid, but the most essential thing is delivering it," Erekat said.

The devil in developing this program will certainly be in working out the details. But, one additional aspect that must be considered is the nature, scope and extent of other assistance currently being channeled to, and through, the Hamas government. It is one thing for the quartet to divert assistance around Hamas in order to help the Palestinian people. It is quite different if the result is simply to lessen Hamas payroll burdens so as to permit it to sustain itself with other sources of funding. One would hope that such matters will also play a role in determining how to proceed with this assistance. So far, there is no commitment from Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other potential Hamas donors, to desist from continuing to channel financial and other aid directly to the Hamas government.

Steven Emerson: Admadinejad Letter "a very effective ploy"

By Andrew Cochran

Steven Emerson appeared on Fox News discussed the letter from Iranian President Admadinejad to President Bush. You can see the interview video on the website of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, and here is the transcript:

BILL HEMMER: More now with Chrystia Freeland, joining me now, who is managing editor of the Financial Times and counterterrorism analyst, Steve Emerson, with me as well. Good afternoon to both of you. Chrystia, is this letter to be considered serious and, if so, do you listen to it and in what way?

CHRYSTIA FREELAND: I think Condoleezza Rice is absolutely right that the content of the letter is not substantive. It’s rambling. It touches on a number of points and most of the content is not content which we would be sympathetic to. But the fact of the letter is really interesting, both as an overture and as really quite a clever diplomatic gambit.

HEMMER: Do you think it is clever, Steve? Do you listen to it? What do you get out of it?

STEVE EMERSON: I don’t get anything out of it. It is clever on their part, because this is typical of their strategy of basically trying to preempt pressure by appearing conciliatory. But, honestly, there is nothing in the letter we can agree on and it is only designed basically to pull the wool over our eyes or those of our allies.

HEMMER: If that is the case, Steve, why write it?

EMERSON: Well, he was certainly effective in trying to fool some of our allies. Perhaps the Chinese and Russians are going to use this as paper for their decision not to go along with the resolution invoking article seven in the U.N. this week that would be a prerequisite to sanctions or even military action. It is a very effective ploy and the only question is whether we can basically poke holes in it to show that it is really not sincere.

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Video of the Andijan attacks

By Zeyno Baran

The Uzbek government has finally made available video recorded by members of Akramiya (a Hizb ut-Tahrir splinter group) during the uprising in Andijan, Uzbekistan on May 14, 2005. A recent presentation of the video clips in DC by Dr. Bakhtiar Babajanov, a prominent independent Uzbek expert on Islamist extremism demonstrated how insurgents used violence and Islamic slogans -- facts which many Western observers have challenged.

Notwithstanding the severity of the Uzbek government’s response, the organizers of the uprising were not, as some have claimed, “peaceful Muslims.” They attacked the local police and military police station, killed several soldiers and guards, and confiscated guns and other military equipment; they then seized the local prison, and released the prisoners (over 500; they took hostages and killed several of them.

The Uzbeki Islamists’ success in portraying themselves as “peaceful” or “moderate” Muslims and simply as victims of government oppression is part of a growing trend of which we need to be aware—not just in Uzbekistan but, but also globally.

Interview with Co-Founder of Al-Qaida's anti-Shiite Omar Corps in Iraq

By Evan Kohlmann

In April 2006, credible representatives of mujahideen fighting in Iraq released a new audiotape recorded by an individual identifying himself as “Abu Anas al-Maqdisi” (likely of Palestinian origin). According to the tape, “this production took place somewhere inside Iraq after overcoming tight security measures… We were able to meet with dear brother Abu Ali al-Sharqi and brother Abu Abdullah al-Shamali who agreed to give us this rare opportunity to talk to them, because they are very busy in conducting and overseeing the different military operations executed against the enemies of Allah.” Abu Ali al-Sharqi is further identified as the commander of a fighting unit based in the Iraqi city of Al-Qaim and, furthermore, a co-founder of Al-Qaida’s notorious Omar Corps which, according to the tape, “was responsible for destroying the [Shiite] Badr Corps in Baghdad and assassinating its leaders.”

Some highlights from the interview:
- "The death [of Saudi Al-Qaida leader Abdallah al-Rashood] is a major loss for us. I remember that that day was when the American forces initiated a massive attack in the Karabilah area... In the morning after the attack, we were informed that Abdallah al-Rashood, Abu al-Ghadiyah al-Suri [from Syria], and Abu al-Laith were killed in the bombing. When we reached the area, we saw Abdallah al-Rashood smiling with his index finger pointing and the scent of musk in the air..."
- "We get nervous when we use modern advanced weapons and we feel much more confident using old shotguns and RPG launchers... Every time we were faced with hard times in one city, we were counting successes in other places. When we had hard times in Al-Qaim, then in Baghdad or Samarra things would be working to our benefit, praise be to Allah for his blessing. Your al-Tawheed brothers are spread out everywhere, and we should not forget to mention our Ansar brothers [native Iraqi recruits] who assisted us and have led some of the major operations... Those who failed to adopt this path are the biggest losers. Before I joined the path of jihad, I used to care about driving the nicest cars and wearing the most beautiful clothing—but now, you see your fighting brothers caring less about such things. They care about having their weapons ready, praying, serving each other (both locals and foreigners), and purchasing big trucks (common among the martyr brothers). Our most precious possession is our weapon. Our intention is to obey Allah and attack the enemies of Allah. Our wish is to die in the cause of Allah when the time comes without any hesitation.”

Click to view English transcript of audiotape c/o

See also:
- Biography of Al-Qaida leader Khallad al-Najdi
- The death of Al-Qaida leader Abdallah al-Rashood in Iraq

Embedding in Afghanistan

By Bill Roggio

The plan to embed in Afghanistan has come to fruition. Late next week, I will be headed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, and will embed with the Canadian Army, and will spend about three weeks in country. The activity in and around Kandahar has been intense as the Taliban are attempting to reestablish control of southeastern Afghanistan. There is still a chance I may meet up with a U.S. Army unit operating in Afghanistan (the Marine unit I wanted to embed with is rotating out of country.)

I need your help to cover the costs of the embed. We do not have the ad revenue that the major media can draw upon to fund their reporters. We're counting on your generosity and your desire for an independent media source for news on the Global War on Terrorism. Please support the Afghanistan embed, as well as future embeds in Africa and Iraq later this year by donating to the Counterterrorism Foundation. Although we are happy to accept donations of any amount we are actively seeking donors at the level of $250 and above. As a thank you for that level of contribution donors will receive day-to-day communications from me while in Afghanistan (security and logistics permitting) and pictures/reporting not published on the Counterterrorism Blog or elsewhere. 

Also, I've created a page that contains the information from my embed in Iraq. This page serves as an index of posts and articles for Iraq, as well as over three hundred photographs that have previously been unpublished. The photo galleries include Election Day in Barwana, riding the Euphrates River, and a collection of guns seized from insurgents in western Anbar province. The Iraq trip was a wonderful experience, and I promise to put forth the same effort and output while in Afghanistan.

Thank you for your support. And many thanks to Marvin Hutchens of ThreatsWatch for helping me put together the photogalleries for the Iraq embed.

American Spectator: FDR's Domestic Surveillance

By Daveed Gartenstein-Ross

After a short lull, the debate over the administration's warrantless NSA surveillance seems certain to heat up again. Proof of this can be seen in Sen. Arlen Specter's April 27 press conference, in which he demanded that President Bush disclose details of the NSA's surveillance program and threatened to suspend the program's funding. While there is no fool-proof solution to the proper balance between security and civil liberties in this case, one of the problems with the debate over NSA surveillance is the degree to which it has been personalized around President Bush. Many critics of the surveillance -- although clearly not all -- have an obvious hatred for the president that colors the way they see the administration's actions. Thus, it's instructive to see how the Roosevelt administration handled a similar situation on the eve of World War II.

My new article at the American Spectator, co-authored with my colleague Adam White, examines FDR's surveillance program. In researching the article, we obtained relevant memos from Justice Jackson's archives at the Library of Congress that haven't been previously discussed in the press. The controversy then generated is strikingly similar to the present debate over NSA surveillance. An excerpt:

Despite FDR's readiness to use his inherent authority, he and [attorney general and future Supreme Court justice Robert] Jackson pushed Congress to give the administration statutory authority. As Jackson recounted in his memoir, the administration sought authorization for surveillance for not only "espionage [and] sabotage," but also "extortion and kidnapping cases." The House was willing only to authorize FBI wiretapping "in the interest of national defense." As today, any such legislation was opposed by the ACLU, as well as (in Jackson's words) "others of liberal persuasion."

FDR and Jackson also opposed those who sought to require that surveillance be approved not only by the attorney general but also by the courts, through warrant requirements. As Jackson wrote in a March 19, 1941 letter to Rep. Hatton Summers, "I do not favor the search warrant procedure.... Such procedure means loss of precious time, probably publicity, and filing of charges against persons as a basis for wire tapping before investigation is complete which might easily result in great injury to such persons."

In the end, FDR and the Congress weren't able to agree on a legislative compromise. Nonetheless, President Roosevelt continued to authorize national-security surveillance. All of this predated America's entry into the Second World War.

Read the whole article here.

Dr. Magnus Ranstorp Joins Us As a Contributing Expert (updated)

By Andrew Cochran

We are honored to announce the addition of the esteemed Dr. Magnus Ranstorp to The Counterterrorism Blog. Dr Ranstorp is the Research Director of the Centre for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defence College, directing a large funded project on Strategic Terrorist Threats to Europe which focuses on both radicalisation and recruitment of salafist-jihadist terrorists across Europe and the critical issue of the convergence between CBRN and terrorism. Previously he was the Director of Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. He is the author of Hizballah in Lebanon and other numerous articles and monographs on terrorism and counter-terrorism. His most recent edited book is Mapping Terrorism Research: State of the Art, Gaps and Future Direction (Routledge, 2006) (view the Table of Contents). He is on the International Editorial Advisory Board of the academic journal "Studies in Conflict and Terrorism."

He is internationally recognised as a leading expert on Hizballah, Hamas, al-Qaeda and other militant Islamic movements. He has conducted extensive field work around the world, interviewing hundreds of terrorists as well as members of militant Islamic movements. His work on the behaviour of the Hizballah movement was recognized by Israeli media in March 2000 as among the contributing factors leading to the decision by the Israeli government to withdraw from southern Lebanon.

Dr Ranstorp has briefed many senior government and security officials from around the world and lectures regularly to most major universities, think tanks and intergovernmental organisations. In 2003, he was invited to testify before the 9-11 Commission in its first hearing. He was also a member of an Advisory Panel on Terrorism in Europe advising the EU counterterrorism coordinator. In 2005, he was a contributor to the George C. Marshall Center directed project on: Ideological War on Terror: Synthesizing Strategies Worldwide (a project funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defence). In 2006 Dr Ranstorp was invited to join the European Commission Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation, an advisory body on all matters relating to radicalisation and recruitment of extremists within the EU.

Hayden's Challenges if Confirmed

By Douglas Farah

If Gen. Michael V. Hayden is confirmed as CIA director, he will inherit an organization with several overwhelming problems: morale is near rock-bottom; almost an entire generation of senior agents and managers have walked out the door; the large recruiting classes are bringing in smart people but hardly any with real-world experience or institutional knowledge; and bureaucratic infighting has left the agency in a much weaker institutional position than it was when Porter Goss took over.

While recruiting classes are large and the quality of recruits high, it is almost impossible to overstate the feeling foreign intelligence officials, retired officers and others have when they deal with the agency that the agency is operating with little adult supervision. There is no doubt reform was desperately needed after the end of the Cold War, as state threats merged with the threat of non-state actors sliding through the seams of globalization.

But those who left were not just the dinasours who couldn't change. There were also people who know how to successfully run clandestine operations, who think about exploiting the slight cracks among the different groups that emerge as enemies, those who know how to run covert information and disinformation campaigns. All of this must be done in a radically different world than the world that existed before the early 1990s, but the skills themselves are still vital. And the talent charts in the agency of those who have them is slim indeed.

Publicly floating the idea of bringing back Stephen R. Kappes as Hayden's deputy is a direct slap at the Goss legacy. Kappes resigned less than two months after Goss took over as CIA director in late 2004.
My full blog is here.

Task Force 145 may have struck again in Samarra

By Bill Roggio

Suspected locations of raids on al-Qaeda cells. Click to Enlarge.

Over the past month, Task Force 145, the special operations unit designated to hunt Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other high value al-Qaeda targets, has dismantled al-Qaeda cells in the cities of Yusifiyah and Balad. It appears Task Force 145 has struck at two more al-Qaeda cells and killed a senior member of Ansar al-Islam over the weekend. On Friday, two al-Qaeda cells were dismantled near the city of Samarra.

On Saturday, Ali Wali (a.k.a. Abbas bin Farnas bin Qafqa) who is described as "Ansar al-Islam's military command responsible for training and military operations including the planning of suicide operations, ambushes and kidnappings... an expert in the implementation of explosives as well as in the use of artillery, tanks and anti-aircraft weapons... and allegedly was an expert in toxins and poisons." CENTCOM provides a time line of Ali Wali's history:

1986: Ali Wali lived in Afghanistan, where he received training and instructed on military tactics for over a decade; Prior to 1998: Ali Wali was a member of the Islamic Unity Movement of Kurdistan;
1998-2001: Ali Wali, having moved to northern Iraq, provided instruction in terrorist tactics, explosives and weapons handling to Ansar al-Islam members;
2001: Ali Wali was imprisoned for about three months while returning to Iraq from Afghanistan for false documentation; and
2002: Ansar al-Islam members, including Ali Wali, were allegedly manufacturing liquid containing "poisons" in northern Iraq.

Task Force 145 was not identified as the unit conducting the Samarra strikes, but U.S. Central Command rarely discusses the actions of special operations forces. The target of the operation, the lack of disclosure of the unit and the vagueness on details such as the supporting aircraft used point to a special operations strike. The CENTCOM press release provides the details of the raid. It is believed a senior al-Qaeda in Iraq commander was detained in this series of raids:

Read More »

Michael Cutler to Testify - Other Congressional Terrorism-Related Hearings Scheduled

By Andrew Cochran

Michael Cutler will testify this Thursday before the U.S. House Intenational Relations Oversight Subcommittee on the subject, "Visa Overstays: Can We Bar the Terrorist Door?" Other open terrorism-related hearings this week will touch on preventing biological attacks and the State Department's recently released "Country Reports on Terrorism," which you can download from the "CT Library" page. Here is a Word file of the hearings this week.

The Inside Story of Al-Qaida's First Terrorist Training Camp in Iraq

By Evan Kohlmann

In April 2006, credible representatives of mujahideen fighting in Iraq released a 2-hour audiotape recorded by an individual identifying himself as “Abu Mohammed al-Salmani.” The purpose of the audiotape was to document the early history of Al-Qaida’s movement in Iraq now headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Among the most interesting excerpts:

- "We thought that the American insult against Iraq was more tolerable than the Iraqi regime [of Saddam Hussein]. The Americans were obviously stronger and had much more sophisticated weapons, but they lacked the acceptance among the public and that made them less dangerous to us than the Iraqi regime—which was able to infiltrate every household in Iraq... I returned to the city of Al-Qaim and I witnessed many men from almost every Arab and Muslim country. These young men from abroad said that they were ready to declare jihad by helping the Iraqi forces in their battles against the Americans—but we told them that those [Iraqi] forces were always renowned for their hatred of Muslims and Islam."

- "We decided to establish our training camp in the area of Rawa which was secluded and enabled us to train freely. We built several shelters around the camp that enabled us to hide during the day, in case we needed to, and to train at night. We had some experience in building those hiding places. In addition, the enemy did not have the requisite intelligence to locate these hiding places. Subsequently, the training commenced and the young men evinced high levels of excitement and enthusiasm and good Islamic morals. The training course at that camp lasted for approximately 30-45 days."

- "The city of Al-Qaim was the main city of jihad. Any jihad operations that took place in Iraq—especially in Fallujah—were initiated in Al-Qaim.”

- "Abu Mohammed al-Lubnani... came to us from Denmark where he had lived for all his life. He knew Arabic because both his parents had taught him the language and raised him according to true Islamic values."

- “Most of the brothers, including the commander, were from Saudi Arabia... brother Abu Usama went to Saudi Arabia to recruit more brothers and raise some money—and when he came back, he had 5 brothers with him, including two who were among those who participated in the attack on the U.S.S. Cole warship in Yemen and later were arrested in Syria... In addition, Abu Usama had brought with him [from Saudi Arabia] a sum of $100,000."

Alongside the audiotape, the same sources also distributed copies of journalist Essam Diraz’s noted work narrating the early days of Al-Qaida at the Al-Massada camp in Afghanistan during the 1980s. According to the mujahideen, the lessons contained in Diraz’s book greatly “helped the brothers in establishing their own first camp” in Rawa, Iraq.

Click to view English translation of audiotape c/o

Is al Qaeda playing politics in Europe again?

By Lorenzo Vidino

As the latest messages from Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri have once again confirmed, al Qaeda is a careful observer of Western political affairs, often crafting its words and actions in order to have an impact on political decisions made by Western leaders. One of al Qaeda’s main short-term goals, as formulated by many of the group’s strategists, has been to force countries that have contributed to U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan to withdraw their troops. As a consequence, in al Qaeda’s plans, the U.S. will find the financial, military, and political burden of conducting the two campaigns too burdensome.

The strategy has been outlined, among other places, in “Jihadi Iraq, Hopes and Dangers,” a sophisticated political analysis of the war in Iraq that was circulating on the Internet around the fall of 2003. The document has been considered the ideological inspiration for the March 2004 Madrid train bombings, as it indicated Spain as the weak link of the chain among the European countries that had troops in Iraq. “We think that the Spanish government could not tolerate more than two, maximum three blows, after which it will have to withdraw as a result of popular pressure,” said the document. It was wrong: one blow strategically executed a few days before the elections made Spaniards oust the pro-war Aznar government. The newly elected Socialist government, as promised during the campaign, immediately withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq, signaling al Qaeda’s first success in manipulating the political life of a European democracy.

It appears that al Qaeda is playing politics in Europe once again, this time targeting Italy. Last April Italian voters ousted Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a staunch supporter of U.S. efforts in the war on terror who sent a contingent of 1,600 troops to Afghanistan and 2,700 to Iraq. Italians voted to replace Berlusconi with Romano Prodi, who heads a coalition government whose main components have repeatedly called for the withdrawal of all Italian troops. Since Prodi’s election Italian troops have been hit with repeated attacks in both Iraq (3 soldiers killed on April 27) and Afghanistan (2 killed today). The attacks came as surprises, since Italian troops are involved mostly in peace-keeping missions and have been attacked only sporadically in the three years they have been operating on the ground in the two countries. Hence the suspicion, revealed by Italian military intelligence, that the attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan have been coordinated in order to put “pressure on the new Italian government to withdraw its military contingents.” Knowing that the new government is already inclined to withdraw troops, but has not taken the decisive step in order not to open its mandate with a faux pas with Washington, al Qaeda might be trying to put additional pressure and to, once again, influence the democratic process of a European country. We’ll see in the next weeks if they have scored another victory.

Alazam 5 Rockets and the Zarqawi Tape

By Bill Roggio

Schematic of an Alazan rocket

In last week's posting, The Military & Propaganda Messages in Zarqawi's Tape, I pointed out the missiles that were so prominent in video were crude and ineffective weapons as the rockets were small and unguided. While this is true in a conventional sense, it turns out the weapons depicted in the video are Alazam 5 rockets, some of which have been modified for a very unconventional purpose, as a delivery vehicle for a radiological weapon. An unnamed military source contacted me to identify the rockets shown in the video, and stated, "It was known as the Alazan 5 a former Soviet weather rocket in which the Chechen's modified as a surface to surface missile... There were many missing from Moldova and we had reports of five warheads that were modified as RDDs [Radiological Dispersion Devices] also missing." The military source followed up with a confirmation, and noted "They are most definitely the same missile... It shows there is a weapons link [from] the Moldova black market [to Iraq]..."

Alazan 5 rocket from the Zarqawi tape. Click to Enlarge.

In December of 2003, the Washington Post reported on the rampant black market activity in the "tiny separatist enclave known as Transdniester," a breakaway region of the former Soviet Republic of Moldova. "At least 38 Alazan warheads were modified to carry radioactive material," according the Washington Post, and several of the warheads and missiles were unaccounted for. In May of 2005, a reporter from the Sunday Times of London stated he posed as an Algerian Islamist and was able to arrange for the purchase of three Alazan 5 missiles armed with a radiological warheads, "They were offered to the reporter for $500,000 (£263,000) after he approached a senior officer in Transdniester's secret police, claiming to represent a militant group in Algeria. The officer contacted a local arms dealer who arranged meetings with the reporter on a bridge in Transdniester and later at a hotel in neighbouring Moldova." In November of 2005, MosNews.Com reported "The authorities of Moldova's breakaway region, the republic of Transdniester, deny reports that Soviet Alazan radiation rockets are openly sold in the region," and called the Sunday Times incident a "hoax."

Photograph of an Alazan 5 rocket. Click to Enlarge.

It is unclear if the Alazan 5s shown in the video are artifacts from the Saddam regime, or if the rockets were purchased and brought into Iraq by al-Qaeda after the fall of Saddam's regime. No matter how the weapons were obtained [and this is not to minimize the importance of how these weapons entered Iraq], the likelihood is that al-Qaeda in Iraq is aware of the radiological capabilities of the Alazan 5. There is an unusual amount of footage of these rockets within the Zarqawi videotape. al-Qaeda in Iraq may be sending a message: we have a delivery system available to launch radiological weapons inside Iraq - and beyond.

Indonesia Update

By Kenneth Conboy

Indonesian police continued their sweep of radicals in Central Java with a trio of arrests in and around the provincial capital of Semarang. On 30 April, 45-year old Budiyono (Indonesians often use only one name), believed to be a JI finance officer, was captured after a lead from Malaysian authorities. Caught over the ensuring two days were 45-year old Slamet Pramono and 38-year old Najib, the latter believed to be a recruiter of suicide bombers.

These arrests were separate from the raid on a JI safe house in Wonosobo, Central Java on 29 April, which resulted in the deaths of two extremists. Noteworthy was the fact that a laptop found in the safe house reportedly contained a plan to use suicide bombers with explosive backpacks (as was used in Bali on 1 October 2005) during Christmas 2006. This appears to support speculation by some Indonesian authorities that JI in the future may be shying away from the use of truck bombs in favor of backpacks--this because backpacks are a cheaper alterntive, and because of the dwindling number of JI bomb experts who can fashion the relatively sophisticated detonators needed for a large truck bomb.

Hunting Zarqawi and Tales of the Tape (Updated)

By Bill Roggio

Updated: ABC News has the footage of the 'Zarqawi Bloopers'. CENTCOM has a 20 second clip of Zarqawi misfiring the SAW. He is receiving instructions and definitely does not know how to handle this weapon. His handler clears the weapon for him. FOX News has a four minute clip.

In today's weekly media briefing from Baghdad, Major General Rick Lynch stated Coalition and Iraqi forces are closing in on Zarqawi and his network. "We believe it is only a matter of time until Zarqawi is taken down. It's not if, but when," said Maj. Gen. Lynch, "He's willing to pull his people from outside the perimeter of Baghdad into Baghdad to go full out on operations inside of Baghdad. Which leads us to believe his personal location is probably somewhere close to those operations. Zarqawi is zooming in on Baghdad, we are zooming in on Zarqawi." Zarqawi's focus on Baghdad is forcing him to concentrate the organization's resources and energy on the capital (I noted on December 10, 2005 that the insurgency is focusing on the 'core' of Iraq - Baghdad and the surrounding regions, and reiterated this at the end of March). The focus on Baghdad is exposing his network to Task Force 145 - the hunter-killer teams of Special Operations Forces put together to track down Zarqawi and al-Qaeda in Iraq high command.

It is difficult to be optimistic about the prospects of finding Zarqawi, as Coalition and Iraqi forces believe they have been close several times in the past two years. Zarqawi is a skilled and careful operator. But while Zarqawi has evaded capture or death, his network has not been so fortunate. The Associated Press reports, "31 'foreign fighters' had been killed since April and 161 al-Qaida in Iraq leaders were killed or captured since January." Maj. Gen. Lynch noted the raids in Yusifiyah over the past month have generated intelligence that has cascaded into future raids and intelligence windfalls on Zarqawi's network. One of the raids in Yusifiah turned up the complete, unedited version of the Zarqawi videotape. Reuters and the Associated Press have similar accounts from Maj. Gen. Lynch's briefing:

Associated Press: "It's supposed to be automatic fire, he's shooting single shots. Something is wrong with his machine gun, he looks down, can't figure out, calls his friend to come unblock the stoppage and get the weapon firing again," Lynch said.

"This piece you all see as he walks away, he's wearing his black uniform and his New Balance tennis shoes as he moves to this white pickup. And, his close associates around him ... do things like grab the hot barrel of the machine gun and burn themselves," the military spokesman added.

Read More »

What Happened at Bank al-Madina?

By Douglas Farah

Investigators of terrorist financial issues are growing increasingly interested in Bank al Madina, a looted bank in Beirut that seems to have been a center for terror finance, Saddam Hussein's food-for-oil scam of billions of dollars, West African blood diamonds, Syrian government payoffs and massive criminal money laundering. In other words, a worthy successor to the infamous Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).

By far the best thing publicly available on this is in Fortune Magazine's May 15 issue.

The bank collapsed in 2003 after being looted of some $1.65 billion, and, as Mitchell Prothero points out in his Fortune piece, several of the key players in the fraud were named in the U.N. report as participating in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. One of the reasons seems to be that Hariri was planning on reopening the stalled investigation into the collapse of the bank, and had accused the Syrians of financial corruption.

"Was the scandal part of the reason Hariri was killed?" asks Marwan Hamade, Lebanon's Minister of Telecommunications and a Hariri confidant who was himself the target of a car-bomb assassination attempt. "Absolutely. It was certainly one of the cumulative reasons. If he had been reelected, Hariri would have reopened the file, which we know goes directly to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad through the [Lebanese] presidential palace in Baabda." My full blog is here.


By Walid Phares

Should we be surprised by the watershed debate following Zacarias Moussaoui’s trial ending? Not really. The jury rendering of its recommendation is not unusual throughout the American legal war with Terrorism: For the five years court struggle to try al Qaida members and other terrorists in the US legal structure hasn’t been working. After the classroom, America’s court room is too alien to the conflict. In short Moussaoui’s case is not the only one to display a systemic crisis, all other cases did and will continue to do. My take on it, as an analyst of past and future terror wars, can be simplified: The terrorists are processed in the wrong courts and our debate on this legal process is the wrong debate.

Let me be clear from the beginning: The issue I am raising is not about the death sentence or life in prison sentencing. That part should have been the last stage in the debate: The one that seals the sentencing logic, not the discussion that makes the debate. The Moussaoui trial is not about the principle of common criminal sentencing per se; it is about criminalizing Terrorism and its root ideologies. Here are few points that make my analytical case:

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Moussaoui Verdict Shows Terrorism Planners How to Cheat Death Penalty (updated)

By Andrew Cochran

UPDATE, May 4: The complete court docket, with all publicly available motions, is here at the US Attorney's site. The judge agreed with the jury's recommendation and officially sentenced him to life in solitary imprisonment. Mousaoui railed against the CIA and yelled "God curse America! God save Osama Bin Laden - you will never get him!" in a tirade in a political statement at the sentencing.

I invite everyone to carefully review the redacted jury verdict form (Acrobat file posted on the website of the U.S. Attorney for the case). The replies to the questions provide a roadmap to future terrorism planners to kill thousands of Americans but avoid the death penalty (at least in the Eastern District of Virginia). Here's how:

1. Plan the attack so you can show the jury that each conspirator had "limited knowledge" of the total plan or play a "minor role - in other words, compartmentalize your attack just as Al Qaeda did with the 9-11 attack plans;

2. Take some time to persuade the conspirators that each had some combination of an "unstable early childhood and dysfunctional family," "a home life without structure," and a father with "a violent temper" who "physically and emotionally abused his family" such that your siblings "all suffered from psychotic illnesses" - and it doesn't matter that you aren't psychotic; after all, the Moussaoui jury found that he wasn't psychotic;

3. Coach each conspirator to complain, if caught, that they have been "subject to racism as a youngster" due to his Muslim background which "affected him deeply" - and count on the public defender to find jurors who are highly sensitive to any assertion of racism, because American public defenders always play the race card, and many Americans will excuse any act if the criminal has been "subject to racism";

4. If possible, conduct the attack in a state such as Virginia, in which the federal prisons are so good that your public defender can successfully argue that you won't be "a substantial risk to prison officials or other inmates if he is sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of release." In that way, you'll remain a potential pawn during any capture of an American overseas.

I appreciate the service of the Moussaoui jurors, but their verdict is a miscarriage of justice and a dangerous precedent. I am not a full-throated proponent of the death penalty, but Moussaoui should fry.

The Moussaoui Verdict: No Defeat for America

By Daveed Gartenstein-Ross

After seven days of deliberation, jurors in the Moussaoui case today determined that he should spend the rest of his life in prison rather than face the death penalty.

Was the verdict a major loss for the prosecution, or for the country? It doesn't seem to be. A major part of the jury's deliberation was likely the argument made by defense attorney Gerald Zerkin that the death penalty would give Moussaoui the martyrdom that he desired: "You can confine him to a miserable existence until he dies. Not the death of a jihadist -- the long, slow death of a common criminal." And the available evidence suggests that Moussaoui did indeed want to be put to death.

During the sentencing phase of trial, Moussaoui testified twice. Both times he testified against the advice of his court-appointed lawyers, and both times his testimony only helped the prosecution. In the initial testimony, Moussaoui handed the prosecution the evidence it needed to make him eligible for the death penalty by claiming that he and Richard Reid were supposed to fly a fifth plane into the White House on 9/11. The second time he testified, Moussaoui did nothing to win jurors' sympathy: He mocked the heart-breaking testimony of the families of 9/11 victims, said that he had "no regret, no remorse," and openly wished for every day to be a 9/11. In the days leading up to trial, he even offered to testify for the prosecutors.

As Moussaoui left the courtroom today, he defiantly stated, "America, you lost. I won." But whether or not he received the death penalty, we could expect this kind of bluster from Moussaoui. What speaks louder than these words are his actions during the sentencing phase -- actions that scream out a desire for martyrdom. Did America lose in this case? In my opinion, it did not.

UPDATE, 10:18 P.M.: While Moussaoui was clearly a man seeking death, the special verdict form that the jury filled out makes it clear that this factor did not sway the jury's decision. See, for example, pages 6 to 7 of the form:

E. That a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release, under the strict conditions the Bureau of Prisons is likely to impose, will be a more severe punishment for ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI than a sentence of death. Number of Jurors who so find: none.

F. That ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI believes that his execution will be part of his Jihad and will provide him with the rewards attendant to a martyr's death. Number of Jurors who so find: none.

G. That the execution of ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI will create a martyr for radical Muslim fundamentalists, and to al Qaeda in particular. Number of Jurors who so find: none.

In contrast, page 7 shows that nine jurors found Moussaoui's unstable early childhood and dysfunctional family to be a mitigating factor, nine found his father's violent temper and abuse to be a mitigating factor, and three found the racism he was subjected to as a youngster due to his Moroccan descent to be a mitigating factor.

Although I don't think this result was Moussaoui's preferred outcome, the reasoning employed by the jury in reaching it seems increasingly indefensible -- and quite possibly the kind of logic that makes the enemy perceive us as soft, pampered and weak.

Kofi Annan Proposes Comprehensive UN Strategy To Combat Terrorism

By Victor Comras

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has finally produced the recommendations he promised at last year’s Madrid Conference for a Comprehensive United Nation’s Counter Terrorism Strategy with emphasis on strengthening the UN’s capacity to combat terrorism. His Address to the General Assembly and his 32 page report to the UN General Assembly May 2nd, deserve close study. But, it is more a blueprint of what needs to be done than a plan on how what needs to be done can be accomplished. There are a number of critical elements in the report, that, if implemented by the UN and the international community in general, would truly constitute important steps in countering terrorism. And motivating the United Nations to improve the way in which it implements its own role is an important first step.

Much of the report deals with the role the UN should address in combating the elements that foster terrorism. It tracks the “dissuasion, denial, deterrence, development of State capacity and defence of human rights” strategy outlined by the Secretary General at the Madrid conference. It hits all the basics, including enhancing international action to counter extremist ideologies, promote tolerance, address the root causes of terrorism, enhance peacekeeping, treat and resolve local conflicts, and keep weapons, especially manpads and WMD, out of the hands of terrorists. Yet, it falls short when it comes to the institutional reforms necessary to adequately monitor what countries are doing to implement and enforce these measures.

With this report the Secretary General draws attention to the need for enhanced coordination and cooperation, and the development of new synergies, by and between the different UN offices and agencies dealing with terrorism related issues. He should be applauded for establishing, on his own, a new Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force to bring together key UN and other International partners to improve coordination and information sharing, and to develop many of the ideas contained in his report.

Also on the positive side, the Secretary General now follows through on his pledge to support a clear, unequival definition of terrorism. A definition that has been held up by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) as it seeks to implant loopholes that would excuse the terrorist acts of organizations such as Hamas and Hizbollah ( see my earlier blog on this topic). The Report makes it clear that the UN must “reinforce the inexcusability and unacceptability of terrorism…” The UN, it says, “must make absolutely clear that no cause, no matter how just, can excuse terrorism. This includes the legitimate struggle of peoples for self determination.” The report calls on the Security Council, The General Assembly, regional organizations and the heads of states and government to steadfastly condemn all such acts of terrorism. This also means moving ahead with the adoption of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism, which will send a strong signal of international unity and strengthen the moral authority of the United Nations.

The Secretary General also draws needed attention to the increased use of the internet by terrorist groups to recruit and build support for their activities. He calls for greater coordinated actions to respond to this challenge, while preserving the integrity of the internet. He correctly places great importance on States acting to effectively criminalize recruitment for terrorism and iincitement to terrorist acts. Member States are already required to report to the Counter-Terrorism Committee on the steps they are taking to implement such measures, but, the report recognizes that considerable additional action is still necessary to deal with these problems. The UN should play a greater role in this issue.

The Secretary General's Report also places great emphasis on the work being conducted by the Security Council’s Counter Terrorism Committee and the role it should play in bolstering member state capabilities to combat terrorism. He also recognizes the importance of the al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee and the UN financial sanctions system. The UN needs to ensure effective action against terrorist financing, he says, and more must be done to improve the accountability and transparency of these sanction regimes. Yet, his recommendations fall short on recommending new steps or mechanisms to improve UN enforcement or oversight. They are limited to calling for closer cooperation with and between other interested organizations and international financial institutions. Both Committees will likely continue to be hampered by the same diplomatic, political, and bureaucratic forces that hold sway today. I refer the reader to my previous blog and Congressional Testimony on the need to establish an independent counter-terrorism oversight group that would be insulated from these pressures.

On the arrest of Mustafa bin Abd al-Qadir Setmariam Nasar

By Jeffrey Cozzens


Mustafa bin Abd al-Qadir Setmariam Nasar.

Despite Mustafa Setmariam Nasar’s (“Abu Mus’ab al-Suri”) arrest, which likely happened months ago, his work as one of the most important (and few) jihadi strategic thinkers of this era will continue to inspire and define Islamic militancy well into the future. Beyond his work’s popularity in online jihadi communities (certain to grow after his arrest), Nasar’s writing is especially germane owing to its rational style and seeming applicability.

Da’wat al-muqawamah al-islamiyyah al-‘alamiyyah (The Call for a Global Islamic Resistance), Nasar’s 1600-page magnum opus, written over a two-year research “sabbatical,” is noteworthy given its pseudo-academic style and “egalitarian” conception of future jihad. I mentioned this two weeks ago in a post highlighting the defining work on Nasar, Brynjar Lia’s “The al-Qaida Strategist Abu Mus’ab al-Suri: A Profile.” In some ways, Nasar’s writing reminds us of the late Saudi jihadist Yusuf al-Ayiri’s, especially since both not only preached, but actually participated in jihad. However, Nasr is perhaps less dogmatic than al-Ayiri (the latter was known for his rhetorical attacks on Shi’a) and more global in perspective (Ayiri was highly-focused on the Gulf, especially the U.S. invasion of Iraq). These qualities elevate Nasr’s work far above that of strategic and theological poseurs like Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, whose vitriol, lack of theoretical depth and narrow focus appeal largely to a more adolescent caste of militants. In contrast, more sophisticated or pragmatic jihadis might appreciate Nasar’s somewhat scholarly and direct analysis, which perhaps reflect his familiarity with the West, or his background as a London-based journalist.

In particular, Nasar’s call for “nizam, la tanzim” (system, not organization), articulated in chapter eight of his book (and covered extensively by Lia), is critically important as it contrasts the largely-Egyptian model of regionally-focused elite jihadi vanguards determined to seize power from the top —an aspiration derived from Sayyid Qutb’s writings that define Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Egyptian heyday. Instead, Nasar sketches a new de-territorialized system of fighting suited to the complexities of the global battlefield and cognizant of the trials of the ummah: “Jihad of Individualized [or cellular] Terrorism.” With this concept Nasar cogently proffers a vision of future jihad guided by a global narrative and strategic direction (much as we have witnessed lately from bin Laden and al-Zawahiri) and a “comprehensive (self-) education program” absent the structural, organizational and leadership impediments typically present in more robust and inter-connected global networks. Nasar’s “system” is safer, more effective, simpler to enact and it feeds on the pre-existing ideological superstructure of the global jihad. No jihadi strategist has ever articulated this autonomous, self-contained and ideas-driven system of fighting so clearly; Abu Ubayd al-Qurayshi’s adaptation of William S. Lind’s fourth generation warfare theory might come the closest (even if Nasar’s work could be seen as the fulfillment of al-Qurayshi’s). In some ways, Nasar’s theories also reflect “commander’s intent,” a military concept central to fourth generation warfare that guides special operations forces working for long periods in the adversary’s territory, far-removed from their command structures and under deep cover (although Nasar, of course, sees formal command structures as entirely antithetical to effective warfare and argues for an “everyman’s” jihad, not that of elite fighting forces).

As witnessed in the London and Madrid attacks, Nasar’s model has already proven influential: both seemingly draw from his organizational paradigm and the advice he gives to “cell builders” (also noted by Lia). The U.S. intelligence community would do well to translate the entirety of Nasar’s book, beginning with chapter eight. It would also be of enormous value to the entire CT community if anyone with an English translation (complete or partial) of The Call for a Global Islamic Resistance would be willing to share it. My pledge would be to post it on the CT Blog’s library and give complete anonymity to the source (if so desired).

al-Qaeda's Assassination Program in Anbar

By Bill Roggio

al-Qaeda continues its campaign of targeted assassinations against Sunni leaders cooperating with the elected government of Iraq. Today, a suicide bomber put Maamoon Sami Rasheed al-Awani, the governor of Anbar province, in its sights and attempted to kill him with a suicide car bomb. al-Awani survived the attack, but ten Iraqi bystanders were killed in the ensuing blast. “This is a cowardly attempt, and this is not in the best interest of Anbar or the country,” Awani said. “On the same day of the attack, I am here and am ready to work. I will continue working to serve my people, to serve the people of Anbar and Iraq.” Multinational Forces - Iraq reports this is "approximately the 29th attempt on his life," and his son was recently kidnapped but safely returned.

While I was in Ramadi, Major General Richard Huck, the the Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Division, Brigadier General James Williams, the Assistant Commander of the 2nd Marine Division, and Colonel John Gronski, the commanding officer of the 2/28th Brigade Combat Team spoke highly of Mr. Awani. His family is confined to a compound as they are under the constant threat of death or kidnapping, yet he continues to show up to work.

The Center for Combating Terrorism at West Point recently published three Harmony documents. The document titled "Al Qa'ida in raq Situation Report" [PDF] discusses the state of affairs in Iraq and the problems al-Qaeda is encountering in Anbar province. In the document, Awani is identified as one of al-Qaeda's eight main targets for assassination ("7- Mamun al-‘Alwani, al-Anbar governor, attached to you the security report in Ramadi.") Other Sunnis targeted for assassination include two generals, four tribal sheikhs and the manager of the Sunni Endowment. The unnamed author is seeking approval to carry out the murders. The unnamed author laments the procedural obstacles that stand in the way of conducting assassinations:

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Terrorist Cell Dismantled Near Balad

By Bill Roggio

Suspected locations of raids on al-Qaeda cells. Click to Enlarge.

Two weeks ago, Task Force 145 struck at what was believed to be the hideout of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the city of Yusifiyah. Five terrorists were killed in the raid, and Coalition forces discovered suicide vests and suicide notes along with various weapons. A week later twelve terrorists were killed in a similar raid in Yusifayh.

Last night, Coalition forces have conducted another raid, this time near Balad, which very likely was directed at another al-Qaeda in Iraq cell and perhaps even Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Ten terrorists were killed and one wounded during the strike, and again, suicide bombs were present. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) describes the event:

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Competition Between the Brotherhood and al Qaeda?

By Douglas Farah

Across Europe, according to intelligence sources, the international Muslim Brotherhood is competing for recruits and cash with armed, radicalized Islamist groups operating in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The competition is not over the ultimate goal of the Islamist project: the recreation of a Muslim caliphate in the areas of the world once ruled by Muslims and the eventual Islamization of the entire world. Rather, it appears that the Brotherhood, long able to recruit among the best and brightest Islamists in Europe and the Arab peninsula, is now struggling to make its more staid message of incremental change relevant to those who would join the Islamist movement.

The Brotherhood has long served as a key financial node for different Islamist groups, and the intelligence officials say that has not changed signficantly. What has changed is the unwillingness of many potential young recruits to play the long-standing double game that the Brotherhood has mastered. This includes a moderate public discourse, particularly for non-Islamist audiences; deception; denial of the true goals and aims of the Brotherhood; and the stated need to portray the Brotherhood as modern and open to assimilation in the West. My full blog is here..

Pakistan & U.S. Confirm Capture of Abu Musab al-Suri, a.k.a. Mustafa Setmarian Nasar (updated)

By Andrew Cochran

UPDATE: Pakistan and U.S. authorities confirm the capture of top Al Qaeda operative Mustafa Setmarian Nasar, better known as Abu Musab al-Suri (a.k.a. Omar Abdel Hakim), last November and his transfer to U.S. custody. Nasar is one of the senior theorists and operatives in Al Qaeda, and our interrogation of him could be as or more fruitful as that of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed since his capture in March 2003. I wrote a post about him at the time of his capture, which links to other posts by Lorenzo Vidino and Evan Kohlmann. Evan has also written the following posts here with additional information about him: A Chilling Final Threat from Abu Musab al-Suri: "O' Sleeper Cells, Wake Up Now!" -- Alleged London Bombings Suspect Threatens to Use Dirty Bombs Against America and Abu Khabab al-Masri: A Master of Terror. Jeffrey Cozzens wrote on Dr Brynjar Lia's "The al-Qaida Strategist Abu Mus'ab al-Suri: A Profile" last week.

Associated Press Picture


Sami Into The Sunset

By Bill West

Today, as reported earlier by Steve Emerson on this Blog and in other media outlets, Sami Al-Arian was sentenced in Federal court to 57 months in prison after pleading guilty to one felony count linking him to support for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist organization. As part of the plea agreement, the Government dropped the remaining counts against Al-Arian. Al-Arian also agreed to be removed (deported) from the US as part of the deal. The sentencing effectively ends the criminal case against the former University of South Florida (USF) professor, and although US District Court Judge James Moody gave Al-Arian credit for the more than three years he has already been incarcerated, he will spend something close to another year and a half being detained before facing deportation.

That deportation itself may prove problematic for the Government. As noted in a previous article in this Blog, removing stateless Palestinians, and Al-Arian is that, is not an easy task. One who is a convicted felon with a terrorist background becomes even harder to deport. Finding a country to physically accept such a person is the problem. Making arrangements for transferring those deportees directly back to the Palestinian controlled territories is not necessarily an answer, either, since dealing with the Palestinian Authority before the election of the new Hamas government was never easy and under the new circumstances may be nearly impossible. Working these matters with moderate and somewhat friendly third countries will likely be the only solution to successfully deporting Al-Arian and some of his similarly situated fellow Palestinian “colleagues.” At least with Al-Arian, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will now have some added time to work through the removal issues.

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Safe Havens & Iraq

By Bill Roggio

The debate over Iraq being a safe haven and training ground, or a magnet and killing ground for terrorists has been ongoing since the inception of al-Qaeda's terrorist attacks in the summer of 2003. The reality is there is merit to both arguments. al-Qaeda has managed to establish enclaves for small periods of time, particularly in Anbar province during 2005, and has been able to recruit and train fighters from inside and outside the country. Senior al-Qaeda operatives, some with ten to fifteen years of experience in al-Qaeda's ranks, have been killed or captured in Iraq. What is often not factored into the argument is how significant elements of the Sunni population have begun to turn on al-Qaeda, entering the political process and joining the security forces.

Two recent findings help shed light on the status of al-Qaeda in Iraq: the U.S. Department of State's 2005 Country Reports on Terrorism, and the continuing analysis of al-Qaeda documents released from the Harmony database at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.

The 2005 Country Reports on Terrorism, chapter 3, Terrorist Safe Havens (PDF), states "Iraq is not currently a terrorist safe haven, but terrorists, including Sunni groups like al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), Ansar al-Islam (AI), and Ansar al-Sunna (AS), as well as Shia extremists and other groups, view Iraq as a potential safe haven and are attempting to make it a reality." While al-Qaeda declared formation of the Islamic Republics of Qaim and Haditha throughout 2005, their command of these towns was short lived (if at all), and the Iraqi and Coalition push through the Euphrates River Valley over the course of the summer and fall of 2005 destroyed al-Qaeda's short term goal of establishing rump Islamic Caliphates in the region. The report goes on to note al-Qaeda is attempting to disrupt the political process and working to destroy the nation's infrastructure. Iran and Syria are implicated in facilitating al-Qaeda and the Iraqi insurgency, and in Chapter 6 (PDF) and they are again listed as State Sponsors or Terror.

The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point looks at newly released al-Qaeda communiques from the Harmony database. The final analysis concludes (PDF) "al-Qa`ida operational commanders [in Iraq] are increasingly vexed by the continued loss of popular support, which they attribute to the willingness of Sunni tribal leaders and politicians to participate in the political process." The report continues:

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Judge Calls Al-Arian PIJ Leader, Hands Down Maximum Sentence (UPDATED-May 2)

By Steven Emerson

Full transcript of U.S. District Judge James Moody's statement

In a compelling sentencing hearing this morning, U.S. District Judge James Moody sentenced former University of South Florida Professor Sami Al-Arian to 57 months in jail, the maximum allowed under Al-Arian’s guilty plea for “conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a Specially Designated Terrorist.” Al-Arian will get credit for time served (he has been imprisoned for 38 months already), and will finish out the last year and a half of his sentence at the FCI Coleman Federal Penitentiary north of Tampa, before being deported.

Speaking to Al-Arian at the hearing, the Judge Moody said, "You are a master manipulator. The evidence is clear in this case. you were a leader of the PIJ." Commenting on Al-Arian’s level of compliance with PIJ terrorism, Moody continued, “[y]ou lifted not one finger. To the contrary, you laughed when you heard of the bombings.” Sentiments close observers of the investigation and trial have known for quite some time.

Further, Moody knocked down the defense’s position that Al-Arian was merely working on behalf of pro-Palestinian charities, telling Al-Arian: "[y]our only connection to widows and orphans was that you create them,” and blasted Al-Arian’s repeated abuses of American hospitality, stating: "[y]our children attend the finest universities in this county, while you raise money to blow up the children of others."

In a stirring letter to Judge Moody, Stephen Flatow, father of Alisa Flatow, an American victim of PIJ terrorism, requested the maximum possible sentence for Al-Arian, writing:

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Sunni Iraqi Insurgents Deny Reported Friction With Zarqawi

By Evan Kohlmann

The Al-Fatihin Army--a breakaway faction of the prominent insurgent group known as the Islamic Army in Iraq (IAI)--has issued a new statement denying that there has been any recent friction between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Al-Qaida movement and other Sunni insurgents in Iraq. According to the communique released by Al-Fatihin Army commanders, "We remain steadfast alongside our brothers from Al-Qaida’s Committee in Mesopotamia and all the other groups fighting the crusaders and their allies." It should be noted that the Al-Fatihin Army remains outside of Zarqawi's official jihadist alliance in Iraq known as the "Mujahideen Shura Council."

Click to view English translation of statement c/o

See also:
- "Countering the 'New Dayton': A Shift in Strategy for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi."
- Chart - Major Sunni Militant Groups in Iraq

Two Terrorism-Related Congressional Hearings This Week

By Andrew Cochran

Just two open terrorism-related hearings in the U.S. Congress this week: The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will hold an oversight hearing this Tuesday on the FBI. Topics are likely to include the extent of information sharing with other agencies (or lack thereof) and the status of troubled FBI computer systems. The U.S. House Government Reform Committee's national security subcommittee will review the viability of future U.N. sanctions in light of the Oil-for-Food scandal and proposed U.N. management reforms. The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, and others will testify. Considering the tension now existing over Iran's nuclear capabilities and terrorism connections, this hearing is timely and provide some insight into the Bush Administration's intentions.

JI: Police Raids Uncover a New Wave of Bombings Being Planned

By Zachary Abuza

On Saturday, Indonesian police raided a safehouse in a small town in Central Java where they believed one of JI’s top operatives, a Malaysian national, Noordin Mohammed Top, was hiding. Though he was not there, two individuals were arrested and two people were killed. The police identified one of the dead as a senior JI leader, but provided no additional information. As a result of the captives’ interrogation, investigators uncovered a cache of weapons in a storage unit in the Central Java town of Temanggung. Police found a backpack filled with explosives, a similar design of the bombs that were used in Last October’s triple Bali bombings that killed 20 people. Additional bomb making materials were recovered. Other materials seized were two weapons, a laptop computer, SIM cards for mobile phones and documents.

When Noordin’s accomplice Dr. Azahari bin Hussin was killed in late 2005, Police found a cache of 30-35 bombs in various states of production in his safehouse. All were smaller backpack-style bombs, a clear departure from the group’s modus operendi of using large truck/car bombs. While this shift to smaller bombs could indicate diminished funding and resources, it more likely reflects both a desire to increase the tempo of attacks as well a response to stepped-up counter-terrorism efforts. Despite a large number of arrests, JI remains the single greatest security risk in Indonesia and has shown a stubborn determination to continue perpetrating attacks in an attempt to destabilize the Indonesian government.

In other JI news, today an Indonesian court sentenced two JI members for their roles in supporting JI operations. Joni Akmad Fauzani (32) was sentenced to four years for harboring Noordin in early 2005. Abdullah Sonata (27) was jailed for seven years. Sonata was a key operative in Central Java and was in charge of dispatching operatives to the southern Philippines for training. Sonata was also tasked with recruiting suicide bombers to be used in the Philippines.