D.C.-area man changes plea, sentenced in terrorism case
Afederal judge on Apr. 11 sentenced naturalized U.S. citizen Farooque Ahmed to 23 years in prison as well as 50 years of supervised release after Ahmed pled guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and helping plan a terrorist attack against a transit facility as part of what turned out to be an FBI sting (CNN, Washington Post, National Journal).Ahmed was arrested in Oct. 2010 after a six-month operation in which heagreed to perform surveillance of three D.C.-area metro stations for government agents posing as al Qaeda members (Leesburg Today).Ahmed also suggested a fourth target for the fictional attack, as well as the best times to attack, in order to, "kill as many Americans as possible," and reportedly planned to travel abroad to fight U.S. troops (Washington Post, BBC).
Afederal judge said this week that the trial for Tawahhur Hussain Rana, aChicago man accused of helping support the 2008 Mumbai attacks, will begin as scheduled next month (AP, AP).And authorities have reportedly identified a suspect in a crude explosive attack outside of a Santa Monica synagogue last Thursday (WSJ).
In other news, the Associated Pressreported Apr. 11 that since the end of 2009, when a failed aircraft bombing near Detroit led to tighter restrictions on air travel, authorities had stopped 350 people with suspected links to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups from traveling to the United States (CNN, AP).And NY state lawmakers traded verbal barbs during a controversial hearing last Friday into homeland security and emergency preparedness that featured testimony from two well-known critics of Islam, Frank Gaffney and Nonie Darwish (AP, WNYC).
CIA aims to kill, not capture
In a must-read story this weekend, the Los Angeles Times'Ken Dilanian delves into the CIA's move away under president Obama frominterrogating or taking custody of high-profile terrorism suspects, in part out of concern over ongoing investigations into practices during the Bush administration and a lack of clarity over how high-profile terrorists can be detained (LAT).Dilanian writes, "Under Obama, the CIA has killed more people than it has captured, mainly through drone missile strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas. At the same time, it has stopped trying to detain or interrogate suspects caught abroad, except those captured in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Judge expresses frustration at habeas ruling
Sparksflew as a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court heard arguments Apr. 11 in the government's appeal of a lower court decision granting the habeas petition of Guantánamo Bay detainee Hussein Almerfedi, held since 2003 based on the accusation that he had served as an al Qaeda facilitator (Legal Times, Lawfare Blog).During the hearing, Senior Judge Lawrence Silberman, who has recently increased his criticism of the Supreme Court for its decision in 2008's Boumedienne v. Bushand for not giving lower courts adequate guidance in cases involving detainees, expressed concern that judges in detainee cases were relying on criminal standards of evidence rather than a "preponderance" of evidence required in habeas cases (Legal Times, The Atlantic, Lawfare Blog). Benjamin Wittes notes the tenor of the judges' questions and arguments at Lawfare Blog, writing (Lawfare Blog):
Hussain Salem Mohammad Almerfedi is going to have his head handed to him on platter by Judges Brett Kavanaugh and Laurence Silberman. The decision granting him habeas corpus is toast. The only question for the detainee bar is how ugly it's going to be... Judge Silberman in particular was flirting with some big themes here. Unless the desire for unanimity holds him back, this case could make some big new law. If I had a Guantánamo client, I would be very nervous about it.
Alsothis week, Benjamin Weiser looks at the court docket under which the 9/11 plotters' indictment was filed before the case was moved to military court last week, a docket first used in 1993 to file charges inthe first World Trade Center bombing (NYT). Karen Greenberg and author William Shawcross weigh in on the planned military trial for the 9/11 conspirators (Washington Post, NYT).
Finally, Newsweek providesa primer on the twelve "most-wanted" Taliban commanders in Afghanistan,including two former Guantánamo detainees, Abdul Qayyum Zakir and Maulvi Abdul Rauf Khadim (Newsweek).And a Pentagon prosecutor apologized to the Seminole tribe of Florida for statements in court at Guantánamo that seemed to compare the Seminoles in 1818 to al Qaeda (Miami Herald).
Arrests made in Minsk bombing
Belarusianauthorities have reportedly made several arrests after a bombing Apr. 11 in the capital Minsk's main metro station, located only 100 meters from the presidential headquarters, killed 12 and wounded more than 200 (AJE, AP, Washington Post).Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko said the bombing may have beenthe work of "outsiders" as security services stepped up checks on travelers and opposition figures expressed concerns that the bombing could be used as an excuse to crack down on dissent (Guardian, Reuters).
Canadians increasingly worried about al-Shabaab
Canadianauthorities are growing more concerned about Canadian youth traveling to Somalia to fight for the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militant group, as security agencies and family members frantically search for information on a 19-year old Canadian girl and the niece of Somalia's prime minister who is believed to have joined the group (Toronto Star). Officials believe 20 Canadians have traveled to Somalia to fight with al-Shabaab (National Post).
Trials and Tribulations
- The Associated Press this weekend reports on the southern Yemeni town of Jaar, taken over by Islamist militants last week after setting up what the AP terms a "Taliban-style microstate" (AP).
- Sudanese officials said this weekend that they had "irrefutable proof" that Israel was behind a mysterious airstrike that killed two Sudanese driving in a car in the city of Port Sudan last week, in what the authorities claim was an attempt to disrupt Sudan's attempts to get off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism (AFP, Reuters).
- Two suspected members of the Basque separatist group ETA were captured in France this weekend after a shootout and search that involved 300 gendarmes and an elite tactical unit (AFP).
- The prosecution in the trial of radical Indonesian cleric and alleged terrorism supporter and plotter Abu Bakir Bashir is set to wrap up its case this week (VOA).
- Iraqi authorities are reportedly blocking humanitarian aid to Iranian exiles at a camp run by the banned terrorist group the People's Mujahideen (Mujahideen-e-Khalq), after the group's spokesman said Iraqi forces fired on the camp, killing dozens (NYT, AFP).
- Police this weekend in the Philippines defused a bomb outside of a hotel in the country's south, one of several to have exploded or been discovered recently, explosives which authorities have attributed to the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf (AP). Filipino authorities this morning also arrested a man they described as the local contact for the Indonesian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah (AP).
- A transient man was arrested Apr. 12 in Ohio in connection with a bombing of a Santa Monica Jewish center last week, the motive for which remains unclear (WSJ, AP).Foreign Policy