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News, analysis and primary source documents on terrorism, extremism and national security.


Thursday, December 31, 2009
 

Detroit Bomber Attended AlMaghrib Institute In Houston During 2008

The Christmas Bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, attended a Houston-based Islamic seminar in 2008, according to the Detroit Free Press. He was in Houston for 17 days.

With the caveat that I don't want to read too much into this, it's interesting to note that American Jihadist Daniel Maldonado was a member of the AlMaghrib Institute's Internet forum using his online handle of Daniel Aljughafi. At the time of his arrest, he had only made two posts to the site. Oddly, one of those posts has since disappeared.

Threads of interest on the AlMaghrib site include:

Is it permissible to call non-Muslims kaffirs (infidels)?

Discussion of apostates including whether it is permissible to kill them and under what circumstances

A now deleted thread praising the writings of Anwar Awlaki (vis Google cache, I have a copy if this expires)

List of posts mentioning Awlaki

UPDATE: Internet Haganah has an extremely good post which sheds further light on Maldonado's connections to AlMaghrib and AlMaghrib's connection to other points of extremist interest on the Web.

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Intel: Awlaki Linked To Christmas Bombing

From the excellent Josh Meyer in the LA Times:

Intercepts and other information point to connections between terrorism suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Anwar al Awlaki -- who also communicated with the accused U.S. Army gunman in last month's attack on Ft. Hood, Texas, that left 13 people dead.

Some of the information about Awlaki comes from Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian charged with attempting to detonate a hidden packet of PETN explosive aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day, the officials said.

Under questioning by the FBI, Abdulmutallab has said that he met with Awlaki and senior Al Qaeda members during an extended trip to Yemen this year, and that the cleric was involved in some elements of planning or preparing the attack and in providing religious justification for it, officials said.

Other intelligence linking Awlaki to Abdulmutallab became apparent after the attempted bombing, including communications intercepted by the National Security Agency indicating that the cleric was meeting with "a Nigerian" in preparation for some kind of operation, according to a U.S. intelligence official.

Click here for the whole story.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009
 

Investigators Look At Possible Link Between Detroit Bomber and Awlaki

From the New York Times:

A senior American counterterrorism official confirmed that American and allied authorities are looking closely into Mr. Abdulmutallab’s possible connections to radical elements in Yemen, including extremist figures on Jihadist Web sites like Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical cleric linked to Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, the suspect in the Fort Hood shootings last month. Investigators are trying to determine whether Mr. Awlaki may have motivated Mr. Abdulmutallab.


UPDATE: Some later stories have been downplaying this possibility, but I'm in a wait-and-see mode. The Detroit attack appears to be well in keeping with Awlaki's "leaderless jihad" philosophy in which individuals carry out attacks with minimal guidance from headquarters. It is, of course, a critical question as to what organizational affiliation Abdulmutallab had and how strong it was. If this attack turns out to have a strong Al Qaeda component, I will have a lot to say about what that means for the future of the war on terror.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009
 

Anwar Awlaki Dead?

The government of Yemen seems to think that an air strike has killed Anwar Awlaki, the American citizen turned radical imam who was a spiritual leader to 9/11 hijackers, as well as Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hassan. The strike also supposedly killed a couple of important Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leaders. There have been plenty of false reports in the last year, so we'll wait a while to see how this pans out. Another ambiguity awaiting clarification -- did the U.S. play a role in the strike? If so, that sends a powerful message about this administration's tolerance for those who support terrorism. We will see.

12/25 UPDATE: Awlaki is reportedly still alive. Some of the stories out of Yemen said that his house (or what was believed to be his house) was specifically targeted in the strike. That question is an interesting one for the reason cited above. It speaks to the Obama administration's tolerance for terrorist supporters, and perhaps also to their definition -- as in, was Nidal Hasan's shooting spree terrorism?

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Thursday, December 17, 2009
 

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Jihadis

You may have heard that Mrs. Ayman Al Zawahiri has released a new communique urging Muslim mothers to raise their children with a healthy love for jihad.

The other part of that message is an appalling video released by the Ansar Al Jihad Web forum showing exactly what those children can expect. In addition to training in guns and fitness, child jihadis around the age of 11 or 12 shown in the video (titled "The Next Generation of Mujahideen") can be seen taking part in bare-fisted beatdowns that don't end until one kid is down for the count. Younger children are shown using boxing gloves, for whatever protection that provides when a child is repeatedly smashing another child in the face, before a crowd of laughing peers, with minimal adult supervision.







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Monday, December 14, 2009
 

As-Sahab: The College Years

A new "video" from Ayman Al Zawahiri came out today from Al Qaeda's As-Sahab production arm, just a day after a video release from American Al Qaeda Adam Gadahn. Aside from the message (more on this later), what's interesting here is that the video is actually an audio message with still photos and some rather basic graphics, and no subtitles.

This is similar to Osama bin Laden's messages of the last few years. However, Zawahiri has traditionally been able to provide full video -- and often video of a rather high quality. Gadahn's video from this weekend was true video, but of extremely low quality and low production values -- probably recorded from a webcam.

The Zawahiri release adds weight to previous observations around the CT community that As-Sahab (which is basically Gadahn) is on the ropes.

While this downgrade could be financially driven, it's most likely to be drone-driven. If As-Sahab (Adam and Ayman) are on the move, it makes sense they would be working with lower quality material -- it takes a lot less time to edit and upload audio and webcam video than the high-end stuff that As-Sahab used to produce.

So this could signal one of the following:

  • lack of electicity,
  • lack of Internet access,
  • lack of courier (i.e. drone killed the guy who was supposed to carry the video to Peshawar on a thumb drive), or
  • adequate Internet/courier access but great concern about security (i.e., they aren't where they are supposed to be, which is somewhere along the Af-Pak border).

    Any of these considerations could be temporary or permanent. Will the new As-Sahab be like the new Scrubs -- an obvious and disappointing downgrade that should have been canceled last year?

    And more importantly, are the days of fancy studios and Al Qaeda-logo coffee mugs finally finished?

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    Sunday, December 13, 2009
     

    Jihadi Art Show


    As you can see from this adorable ad, the folks at Al-Ansar are running an art show for jihadists. Well, a Photoshop show, really. The call went out for Web-friendly designs celebrating one of the following: "The Triumph of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan," "Good Times in the Islamic State of Iraq," or "The Winds of Victory in Somalia."

    The first perplexing entry to be submitted shows a Godzilla-sized mujahideen in a ski mask pointing a rifle at U.S. troops.



    Extra points for inserting the high-tension wires (a staple of Godzilla movies) to provide a sense of scale, but minus 100 due to the fact that the 400-foot-high protagonist appears to be standing in a 250-foot-deep hole. Also, isn't the rifle overkill? He's 400 feet high!

    The prize is "to be announced."

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    Saturday, December 12, 2009
     

    U.S. Air Force Contracts With Binladin Group For Communications Security

    The U.S. Air Force paid more than $38 million in federal contracts to Baud Telecommunications, a subsidiary of the Saudi Binladin Group, since 2001. More than half of those contracts are dated after the attacks of September 11 -- and the contracts continued through 2007.

    Air Force Contracts With Binladin Group, 2001-2007

    The majority of the contracts deal with security issues. About $21 million of the contracts were to provide communications security equipment and components for the Air Force's Electronic Systems Center. Another contract provided $17 million to the same office for modifications of communication equipment, including about $500,000 for cryptology equipment.

    The Army had two contracts with Baud prior to September 11, worth a bit more than $2 million, but no contracts after the attack. Prior to 2000, the Army, Air Force and Navy had contracts with Binladen Telecommunications, which changed its name to Baud in 1999 after Osama bin Laden's role in global terrorism became widely known.

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    U.S. Air Force Contracts With Binladin Group For Communications Security

    The U.S. Air Force paid more than $38 million in federal contracts to Baud Telecommunications, a subsidiary of the Saudi Binladin Group, since 2001. More than half of those contracts are dated after the attacks of September 11 -- and the contracts continued through 2007.

    Air Force Contracts With Binladin Group, 2001-2007

    The majority of the contracts deal with security issues. About $21 million of the contracts were to provide communications security equipment and components for the Air Force's Electronic Systems Center. Another contract provided $17 million to the same office for modifications of communication equipment, including about $500,000 for cryptology equipment.

    The Army had two contracts with Baud prior to September 11, worth a bit more than $2 million, but no contracts after the attack. Prior to 2000, the Army, Air Force and Navy had contracts with Binladen Telecommunications, which changed its name to Baud in 1999 after Osama bin Laden's role in global terrorism became widely known.

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    Friday, December 11, 2009
     

    Yahya Al Libbi: The Plot Thickens

    Pakistani officials speaking anonymously have claimed that the senior Al Qaeda leader killed in Pakistan this week by a drone attack was, in fact, Yahya Al-Libbi. See stories here, here and here.

    As reported here first yesterday, the jihadi forums have been rife with rumors that Al-Libbi was killed in the attack. However, a source at a leading Al Qaeda forum today posted that Al-Libbi was "100 percent alive and well," and the report was validated by the forum's moderator, which suggests the poster has some claim to credibility.

    Shykh Abu Yahya Al Libi Hafizaullah is alive and 100% ok with good health n eman the recent rumor spread by kuffar is just their stupidity insha'Allah they will get answer for it.
    All of this falls under the label "speculation," however. The Pakistanis have been eager to name names when these drone attacks occur. They have prematurely buried Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al Zawahiri and Mustafa Al Yazid on multiple occasions. They are, to be blunt, completely unreliable in these matters.

    UPDATE: According to the New York Times, Pakistani officials are insisting and U.S. officials are denying that Al-Libbi was killed in the attack. END UPDATE

    If Al-Libbi is dead, it's extremely good news for the U.S. I was one of the very first analysts to start making noise about the threat Al-Libbi poses to Western interests on many levels.

    On the down side, if he's alive, this false report is likely to enhance his standing. One of Al-Libbi's strengths, as I wrote before, is the fact he escaped from a U.S. run prison in Bagram air base in Afghanistan. This is a feat of military prowess which is very specific and very impressive, and the escape went a long way to establishing Al-Libbi's bonafides as a top-level jihadist -- he's a thinker and he's a tough guy, which is a compelling combination.

    For Al-Libbi to "come back from the dead" after a premature announcement by the Pakistanis or (God forbid) by U.S. officials would thrust him even further into the limelight. Which is a bad thing. Al-Libbi -- young, charismatic and tough as nails -- is potentially more dangerous as a long-term leader for Al Qaeda than the fading stars of Zawahiri and Bin Laden. The last thing he needs is any help from us.

    Previous stories on Al Libi:

  • A Leader Who Could Revitalize Al Qaeda
  • Infidel Bug Spoils Speech
  • The New Al Qaeda Central

    Other news on INTELWIRE:

  • AMERICAN JIHADISTS: 'Pakistan Five' Struck From The Mold
  • AMERICAN JIHADISTS: Five American Jihadists Arrested in Pakistan
  • INTELFILES: Hal Turner Court Records
  • AMERICAN JIHADISTS: David Coleman Headley
  • AMERICAN JIHADISTS: American Muslims Threatened Over Nidal Hasan
  • INTELWIRE WEBLOG: Convicting Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
  • AMERICAN JIHADISTS: A Key Failure In Understanding Nidal Hasan

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    'Pakistan 5' Will Be Deported To U.S.

    An update from Bloomberg:

    "It's quite clear that the next step for these men is to be deported to their home country, America, but we will do so only after a full investigation is complete," Punjab province Home Minister Rana Sanaullah said today in a telephone interview from Lahore, the provincial capital.

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    Thursday, December 10, 2009
     

    Yahya Al Libi: 'I'm Not Dead Yet!'

    This is far from a reliable source, but the jihadis at Ansarnet, an Al Qaeda-linked forum, are reporting on rumors that top Al Qaeda ideologue Yahya Al Libi was killed in a U.S. drone attack. The thread was locked by forum moderators for being entirely speculative. Rumors always run thick, however, so take this with more than the usual grains of salt.

    UPDATE: A rather cranky and surprisingly swift rebuttal has been posted to Al Ansar:

    Shykh Abu Yahya Al Libi Hafizaullah is alive and 100% ok with good health n eman the recent rumor spread by kuffar is just their stupidity insha'Allah they will get answer for it.

    The posting was done by a member but endorsed by a moderator, who threatened to start banning anyone who spread "kuffar" lies on the forum.

    The most important takeaway here: Who knew it was so easy to ring up Yahya Al Libi and check on his health? While there are a number of possible explanations for where and how this update originated, the fact that it came so quickly suggests that Al Libi is currently in a city in Pakistan (Peshawar?) and not out hiking in the mountains with Osama bin Laden. I don't think his iPhone gets reception out there.

    SECOND UPDATE: The rumors are starting to take on more force and are now being reported by other CT experts (such as here and here). On the off chance it turns out to be true, remember you read it here first... And on the off chance it turns out to be untrue, well, you read that here first too... Never let it be said I don't cover all the bases.

    Previous stories on Al Libi:

  • A Leader Who Could Revitalize Al Qaeda
  • Infidel Bug Spoils Speech
  • The New Al Qaeda Central

    Other news on INTELWIRE:

  • AMERICAN JIHADISTS: 'Pakistan Five' Struck From The Mold
  • AMERICAN JIHADISTS: Five American Jihadists Arrested in Pakistan
  • INTELFILES: Hal Turner Court Records
  • AMERICAN JIHADISTS: David Coleman Headley
  • AMERICAN JIHADISTS: American Muslims Threatened Over Nidal Hasan
  • INTELWIRE WEBLOG: Convicting Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
  • AMERICAN JIHADISTS: A Key Failure In Understanding Nidal Hasan

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    Americans in Pakistan: A Classic Case

    On CNN's Situation Room, CNN correspondent Arwa Damon said Pakistani officials told her the five Americans arrested there this week "were not motivated by Islam" but were instead traveling to a combat zone to defend Muslims against "ongoing atrocities." The report also stated that they said attacking a Muslim anywhere in the world was the same attacking all Muslims.

    I have no doubt this is an accurate quote of what Damon was told, but it's a tremendous misdirection to say that these young men were not motivated by Islam. The narrative of Muslim victimization -- and Muslim solidarity against victimization -- is the dominant theme of jihadi recruitment, and an important recurring theme in Islam generally and in jihadist thought specifically.

    It's also one of the most important factors which leads Americans to jihad, as I will discuss at more length in my forthcoming book. Americans are especially responsive to the Muslim victimization theme, for a number of reasons including media consumption, American political dialogue and cultural principles.

    If these young men said what is attributed to them (and I'm quite certain they did) that places squarely in the center of Islamic jihadist thought, and the American Jihadist theme -- not off to one side as this report suggests.

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    Five Americans In Pakistan Linked to Al Qaeda, Pak Officials Say

    This from the Wall Street Journal:
    Five young Americans detained in eastern Pakistan had developed contacts with al Qaeda operatives through the Internet and were on their way to North Waziristan to join a militant training camp, said a senior Pakistani intelligence official.

    The story cited intelligence from the men's laptops.
    Scores of radical Muslims from the West are believed to have received training in al Qaeda camps in recent years and have now been fighting on both sides of the border Afghanistan and Pakistan border. In September, Pakistani security forces arrested Mehdi-Muhammed Ghezali, a Swedish national and a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, who was trying to go to Waziristan to join al Qaeda.

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    Wednesday, December 9, 2009
     

    Would-Be American Jihadists Held in Pakistan

    Five young men from Virginia were arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of trying to connect with jihadist groups there. According to a Pakistani newspaper and The Investigative Project on Terrorism, the five are named Ahmed Abdullah, Waqar Khan, Eman Hassan, Ramy Zamzam and Yasir (last name unknown).

    The five were arrested just a couple weeks after leaving the U.S., at the home of Khalid Farooqi, a member of Jaish-e-Muhammad, according to the Pakistani paper. JEM is a jihadist group focused mainly on Kashmir. It's also connected to Lashkar-e-Tayiba, which has attracted American Jihadists in the past, and both groups are suspected of playing a role in the murder of Daniel Pearl by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

    One of the group left behind a video which appeared to be expressing jihadist sentiments, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which held a press conference today to say it was assisting the investigation. In light of recent threats against American Muslim organizations by an Al Qaeda-linked forum, it will be interesting to see how the jihadists react to CAIR's collaborative role with law enforcement in this case.

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    Tuesday, December 8, 2009
     

    Hal Turner Court Records

    A mistrial has been declared in the case of Hal Turner, the white supremacist radio host accused of inciting violence against law enforcement figures and judges. The mistrial due to deadlocked jury does not appear to hinge on the accusation that Turner was an FBI informant, but much digital ink has been spilled on this subject during the course of the trial. Here are some of the key documents.

    Hal Turner criminal complaint

    Hal Turner indictment

    The following transcripts are related to Turner's claim of being an FBI informant, including the government's concession that the radio host had "intermittent" contact with the FBI.

    Transcript of July 28, 2009

    Transcript of August 10, 2009

    Affidavit of Phyllis Turner (claiming her husband worked for the FBI)

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    Monday, December 7, 2009
     

    New charges in Chicago for alleged LeT member David Coleman Headley

    This from this Justice Department this morning:

    New federal charges filed today allege that a Chicago man, who was arrested in October for planning terrorist attacks against a Danish newspaper and two of its employees, also conducted extensive surveillance of targets in Mumbai for more than two years preceding the November 2008 terrorist attack on India’s largest city that killed approximately 170 people, including six Americans, and injured hundreds more.

    The defendant, David Coleman Headley, a U.S. citizen, earlier this decade allegedly attended terrorism training camps in Pakistan maintained by Lashkar e Tayyiba (Lashkar), and conspired with its members and others in planning and executing the attacks in both Denmark and India, federal law enforcement officials announced today.

    Also today, a criminal complaint was unsealed in federal court in Chicago charging Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed (Abdur Rehman), a retired major in the Pakistani military, with conspiracy in planning to attack the Danish newspaper and its employees. Another Chicago man, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Canadian citizen and native of Pakistan, was arrested in October on federal charges filed in Chicago relating to the Danish terrorism plot.

    Through his attorneys, Headley has authorized the Justice Department to disclose that he is cooperating in the ongoing investigation of both the Danish and Indian terror plots. He has remained in federal custody without bond since he was arrested in Chicago on Oct. 3, 2009. No date has been set yet for his arraignment in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

    I've been tied up working on the book for the last couple of weeks, but I'll have some updates on this story (including documents) and some other American jihadist cases within the next few days.

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