Al-Qaeda uses Twitter to mobilize Saudi youth

In a bid to reach Saudi youth, al-Qaeda recently used the Syrian revolution as a pretext to spread its extremist ideas through its numerous Twitter accounts. At first, these accounts took on an innocent character. Yet lately, al-Qaeda has used the cards of identity, belonging and nation to attract young people and push them toward the battlefields [of Syria].Al-Qaeda’s use of the Internet is not new, but Saudi Arabia has continuously fought this development with its Communications and Information Technology Commission, which would block the group’s websites and forums within the kingdom.

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How U.S. courts have dealt with al-Qaeda terrorists

• “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman

Sentenced in 1996 to life in prison for planning, together with nine co-defendants, to wage a “war of urban terrorism” against the United States. Prosecutors said the plot included plans to detonate bombs on a single day at several New York City landmarks, including the United Nations building, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington Bridge and the main federal office building in Manhattan. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center was part of the plan, prosecutors said.

• Ramzi Yousef

Sentenced in 1998 to life in prison without parole for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and an airplane bombing in 1994. Yousef, a Pakistani, killed six people and injured 1,000 at the WTC, and killed one person on the plane.

• John Walker Lindh

Sentenced in 2002 to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to aiding the Taliban against U.S.-backed Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in 2001. Prosecutors said he had received training at al-Qaeda’s al Farouq training camp and attended a lecture by Osama bin Laden.

• Richard Reid

Sentenced in 2003 to life in prison for trying to blow up a 2001 flight from Paris to Miami with a bomb in his shoe. Reid said in court he was a member of al-Qaeda.

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Islamist Outlaws

Saudi Arabia Takes on the Muslim Brotherhood

On March 7, Saudi Arabia took the extraordinary step of declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, on par with Hezbollah and al Qaeda. The move came just two days after the kingdom, together with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, withdrew its ambassador from Qatar because of Qatar’s alleged support of Brotherhood interference in internal politics. Although Saudi Arabia’s dislike of Brotherhood political activities abroad is well known, for decades the kingdom has tolerated (and sometimes even worked with) the local Saudi branch of the Brotherhood. Its sudden reversal is an expression of solidarity with its politically vulnerable allies in the region and a warning to Sunni Islamists within its borders to tread carefully.

This story goes back to the Arab Spring, when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Saudi Arabia’s longtime ally, was ousted, and Egypt elected Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood­–linked politician, to fill his shoes. Riyadh feared that the group, now empowered, would try to export the Egyptian revolution regionwide, calling for action against the House of Saud and displacing Saudi’s friends and allies such as the UAE. Those fears were not entirely unfounded.

In Saudi Arabia, members of the Muslim Brotherhood had been at the forefront of the Awakening movement, a push in the early 1990s for political change in response to alleged Saudi government corruption and the basing of U.S. troops in the country. But, as the political science professor Stéphane Lacroix documents in his book Awakening Islam, most members of the Saudi Muslim Brotherhood had quickly fallen into line once the regime began to arrest or sanction its leaders. The Saudi Brotherhood simply had too much to lose: its members helped build the Saudi state and occupied important positions in the religious and educational establishment.

That détente ended with the Arab Spring, when a number of prominent Islamists added their names to a 2011 petition calling for political reforms in the kingdom. They also obliquely criticized the lack of political freedom in Saudi Arabia by lavishing praise on fellow travelers in Tunisia and Egypt. Even Nasir al-Umar, a hard-line Sururi (a blend of Brotherhood and ultraconservative Salafism), was singing the praises of democratic change. Then Crown Prince Nayef and future Crown Prince Salman pressed them into silence. According to one person I spoke to on a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, some were forced to sign a pledge to cease criticizing the lack of political freedom in the kingdom. But the renewed détente was fragile, hinging on events in tumultuous Egypt.

There was some reason for Saudi Arabia to fear for its allies in the region as well. Under Mubarak, Egypt had been a dependable Saudi ally. But Morsi sought to chart a neutral course between Saudi Arabia and Iran, following an early fundraising visit to the kingdom with an attempted rapprochement with Iran. The United Arab Emirates was worried, too. The Brotherhood has had a small presence in UAE since the 1960s, but after 9/11 the government started to see the group as a national security threat. It didn’t help that when the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt some members of the UAE branch began agitating for political reforms, going so far as to sign a petition calling for elections and real authority for the UAE’s advisory council. The government responded by arresting group members across the country, including men belonging to an alleged terror cell with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

In response to what they saw as Egyptian meddling, Saudi Arabia tried to economically isolate Morsi and hasten his departure. In May 2013, just two months before the military overthrow of Morsi, the Egyptian finance minister complained to the Saudis that Egypt had only received $1 billion of the $3.5 billion in aid promised after Mubarak’s downfall. When the Egyptian military overthrew Morsi just a year into his rule, Saudi Arabia applauded and quickly promised Egypt a new aid package of $5 billion, together with one from the UAE for $3 billion and from Kuwait for $4 billion. When the new regime massacred Brotherhood protestors in August, the taciturn King Abdullah uncharacteristically voiced his public support for the slaughter as a blow against terrorism. When the new Egyptian government declared the group a terrorist organization in late December 2013, Saudi Arabia followed suit. When UAE decided not to replace its departing ambassador in Qatar — partly to punish Qatar for its refusal to discipline an influential Qatar-based Brotherhood spiritual leader who preached that the UAE is against Islamic rule — Saudi Arabia recalled its own ambassador in solidarity.

Saudi Arabia’s moves have provoked some unhappiness at home. Saudi Islamists, particularly the Brothers, are convinced that Morsi’s overthrow was part of a Saudi plot to roll back Islamist political gains of the past three years. In defiance, they festooned their social media profiles with symbols of Brotherhood resistance and criticized their government for its complicity. The defiance has become more muted recently, after the local press reported that the government was contemplating declaring the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. According to former members of the Saudi Muslim Brotherhood I spoke with, the 25,000 or so members of the Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia reacted to the news of the deliberations by preemptively keeping a low profile, closing some of its gatherings so as not to further stoke the government’s ire. Until the Saudi government actually begins making arrests, its recent announcement is more of a shot across the Brotherhood’s bow than an attempt to sink the ship.

Nevertheless, person after person I interviewed asserted that the level of Islamist anger toward the Saudi government is higher than at any time since the early 1990s. That does not mean Brotherhood leaders will move against the regime in the near term. In the 1990s as now, they have too much to lose institutionally. There is also some benefit in a wait-and-see approach, which is why Salman al-Awda, a prominent Saudi Islamist, is privately counselling his followers to wait for the regime’s factions to sort things out among themselves. But the younger rank-and-file Brothers in Saudi, like those in other Brotherhood franchises outside Egypt, are starting to lose hope in peaceful political change. That frustration can lead to apathy. But it can also lead to violence — and if it does, the Saudi government’s decision to declare the group a terrorist organization will have been a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Iraqi militants accidentally set off bomb, 21 dead

An instructor teaching his militant recruits how to make car bombs accidentally set off explosives in his demonstration Monday, killing 21 of them in a huge blast that alerted authorities to the existence of the rural training camp in an orchard north of Baghdad. Nearly two dozen people were arrested, including wounded insurgents trying to hobble away from the scene.  The fatal goof by the al-Qaida breakaway group that dominates the Sunni insurgency in Iraq happened on the same day that the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, a prominent Sunni whom the militants consider a traitor, escaped unhurt from a roadside bomb attack on his motorcade in the northern city of Mosul.

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13,000 teens complete Hamas training camps to emulate ‘suicide martyrs’

weapons-trainingThe Hamas government in Gaza celebrated the graduation on Monday of paramilitary camps geared at training high-school children “to follow in the footsteps of the suicide martyrs.”  The camps, titled “the pioneers of liberation,” are run by Hamas’s ministries of education and interior. Some 13,000 students in grades 10-12 participated in the one-week training camps this year, compared to 5,000 last year when the program was launched, Israeli sources with knowledge of the program said.  The corps of instructors consists mainly of active members of Hamas’s security forces, and the curriculum includes weapons training, first aid, self defense, marching exercises and “security awareness” classes on identifying Israeli spies.  Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Interior Minister Fathi Hammad and Education Minister Usama Mzeini attended the graduation ceremony on Monday, each delivering fiery speeches stressing the importance of military training in developing a new generation of Palestinian combatants.

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The emerging links of Saudi Arabian state sponsorship of 9/11

wtc 911

After the 9/11 attacks, the public was told al Qaeda acted alone, with no state sponsors.  But the White House never let it see an entire section of Congress’ investigative report on 9/11 dealing with “specific sources of foreign support” for the 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudi nationals.  It was kept secret and remains so today.  President Bush inexplicably censored 28 full pages of the 800-page report. Text isn’t just blacked-out here and there in this critical-yet-missing middle section. The pages are completely blank, except for dotted lines where an estimated 7,200 words once stood (this story by comparison is about 1,000 words).

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See also here.  And here.  And here.

 

The Return of the Twelfth Imam

ayatollahIn a fascinating article for FrontPage Magazine titled “Now the Twelfth Imam Can Come,” scholar of Islam Robert Spencer provides a crash course on the nature of Twelver Shi’ite theology, with particular reference to a nuclearizing Iran. Shi’ites believe in the return of the so-called Twelfth Imam who is descended from Mohammed’s son-in-law Ali ibn Abni Talib, the fourth caliph assassinated in 661 in a succession war, after which the split between Sunnis and Shi’ites eventually became permanent. As Spencer explains, the Shi’ites continued a line of imams, “members of Muhammad’s household and his prophetic heirs. Each one in turn, over two centuries, was poisoned.…According to the traditions of Twelver Shi’ism, the official religion of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the twelfth of these Imams, a boy of five years old, disappeared under mysterious and disputed circumstances in the year 874 – but remained alive.” Though communicating with the world through various agents, he entered the state of “occultation” in 941, promising to return when the time would be propitious.  The reigning authority on Twelver Shi’ism is the historian Emmanuel Sivan, who in his magisterial volume on the subject, Radical Islam: Medieval Theology and Modern Politics, warned that an integral part of Shi’a Islam’s belief and thought involves the initiating of a planetary conflagration. This belief system posits that Allah’s kingdom will be established on earth by the Twelfth or Hidden Imam, also known as the Mahdi, whose advent can be hastened by creating the right set of circumstances: friction and misunderstanding among the nations and violent upheavals in a welter of blood and fire.

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Iraq government loses control of Fallujah

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has vowed to eliminate “all terrorist groups” from Anbar province after al-Qaeda-linked fighters gained control of the town of Fallujah.  Maliki, speaking on state television on Saturday, said his government would end “fitna”, or disunity, in the province and would “not back down until we end all terrorist groups and save our people in Anbar”.  His comments came after a senior Iraqi security official told the AFP news agency that the government had lost control of Fallujah to fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  The police chief of Anbar, Hadi Razeij, later said the centre of Fallujah had fallen completely into the hands of ISIL fighters. “The walls of the city are in the hands of the police force, but the people of Fallujah are the prisoners of ISIL.”  Videos showed ISIL fighters also in control of the main Fallujah highway, and officials and witnesses inside the town told the Reuters news agency that ISIL was in northern and northeastern parts of the town.

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A Deadly Mix in Benghazi

A boyish-looking American diplomat was meeting for the first time with the Islamist leaders of eastern Libya’s most formidable militias.  It was Sept. 9, 2012. Gathered on folding chairs in a banquet hall by the Mediterranean, the Libyans warned of rising threats against Americans from extremists in Benghazi. One militia leader, with a long beard and mismatched military fatigues, mentioned time in exile in Afghanistan. An American guard discreetly touched his gun.  “Since Benghazi isn’t safe, it is better for you to leave now,” Mohamed al-Gharabi, the leader of the Rafallah al-Sehati Brigade, later recalled telling the Americans. “I specifically told the Americans myself that we hoped that they would leave Benghazi as soon as possible.”  Yet as the militiamen snacked on Twinkie-style cakes with their American guests, they also gushed about their gratitude for President Obama’s support in their uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. They emphasized that they wanted to build a partnership with the United States, especially in the form of more investment. They specifically asked for Benghazi outlets of McDonald’s and KFC.

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Al-Qaeda’s brutal tactics in Syria forces out moderates

“I was handcuffed, blindfolded when I was taken to their base. Like the six other detainees with me, we were whipped 70 times every day.”  “We were mostly accused of setting up ‘Sahwa’ – Awakening Councils – against the state.”  Mohammed’s horrific tale of torture from Syria might not sound that unusual if the “state” his captors’ were referring to was the government of President Bashar al-Assad.  But they were from the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an al-Qaeda affiliate that has become an equally feared force in rebel-held areas.  Mohammed, an engineer in his early 50s who is the father of four children, joined the peaceful protest movement against Mr Assad when the uprising in Syria began in 2011.  When Raqqa province fell under rebel control, he helped set up a local council to provide basic services in the absence of the state.  On 9 July 2013 – the first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan – Mohammed and six other members of the council in the border town of Tal Abyad were detained by members of ISIS, who handcuffed and blindfolded them and took them to the city of Raqqa.  Over the next 33 days, Mohammed was tortured on a daily basis by the jihadists

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Hundreds of Turks join Al-Qaeda fighters in Syria

Five hundred Turks have crossed the border into Syria to fight with Al-Qaeda linked jihadists against the government, according to a Turkish interior ministry report.  Turkey’s government, which is fiercely opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, has come under fire for allegedly turning a blind eye to militants and weapons crossing the long border into Syria.  The interior ministry report, published in several Turkish newspapers on Wednesday, said about 500 Turkish citizens had joined the ranks of the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  “Some have received training in Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the report said, according to Today’s Zaman newspaper.

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Pope says ‘no Middle East without Christians’

AFP – Pope Francis on Thursday said the Catholic Church will not accept a Middle East without Christians, who often find themselves forced to flee areas of conflict and unrest in the region.  “We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians,” he said after meeting with patriarchs from Syria, Iran and Iraq, before calling for “the universal right to lead a dignified life and freely practise one’s own faith to be respected.”  The political upheaval that has swept the Arab world over the past three years has led to a rise of radical Islam, leaving minority Christians feeling threatened and sometimes forcing them to emigrate.  Francis said he had spoken to the patriarchs about “those who live in the Middle East, often in small flocks, in environments marked by hostility and conflicts” and “the size of the diaspora, which is notably growing.”  He said he was concerned by “the situation of Christians, who suffer in a particularly severe way the consequences of tensions and conflicts in many parts of the Middle East.”  “Syria, Iraq, Egypt and other areas of the Holy Land sometimes overflow with tears,” he said.

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How Zawahiri Lost al Qaeda

Rebel SyriaLike any sprawling organization, al Qaeda has seen its fair share of bureaucratic infighting. But the squabbling has reached fever pitch since Ayman al-Zawahiri began his tenure as head of the organization two years ago. Two of al Qaeda’s four main affiliates, al Shabaab and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), are bitterly, and sometimes violently, feuding for supremacy in North and West Africa. Another affiliate, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), has openly defied Zawahiri’s will in Syria. If Zawahiri wants to assign blame for the lack of order, he should look no further than himself: the squabbling is largely a result of his decision to expand al Qaeda too broadly.

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Hundreds of Britons fighting in Syria – MI5 chief

Brits Jihad

The number of British Islamists who have gone to Syria to fight in the war there is in the “low hundreds”, a senior UK intelligence official says.  Andrew Parker, head of domestic intelligence service MI5, told a parliamentary hearing the conflict was attracting al-Qaeda UK sympathisers.  Their interaction with militant groups abroad was a “very important strand of the threat” the UK faced, he said.  One in 10 foreign militants in Syria is believed to be from Europe.  Most of them come from Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Libya. MI5 has previously said that up to 200 British fighters are in Syria.  Last month, BBC News learnt that a group of 20 young men from the UK were fighting against forces allied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the Turkish border.

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Nigerian wedding party in Borno State massacred by gunmen

Nigeria gunman

Gunmen in north-eastern Nigeria have killed more than 30 people in a attack on a wedding convoy.  It happened on a notoriously dangerous stretch of road between Bama and Banki in Borno State, east of the regional capital Maiduguri.  The groom was reportedly amongst the victims.  The Islamist militant group Boko Haram has carried out frequent attacks in the area despite a state of emergency declared in north-east Nigeria in May.  Thousands of additional troops have been sent there to fight Boko Haram – which had been fighting to create an Islamic state since 2009. However attacks on civilians have continued.  A week ago dozens of people were killed during a lengthy gunfight after suspected militants attacked the town of Damaturu, burning police and military buildings.  A motorist who saw the bodies told AFP news agency that many of the victims appeared to have suffered gunshot wounds.  “All the victims were brutally murdered by the attackers,” said the driver, who did not wish to be named.

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Yemen’s Slide Into Chaos Risks Militant Haven on Saudi Border

In the impoverished capital of Yemen, tribal militias roam freely and their leaders drive through crowded streets guarded by heavily armed followers.  Security in Sana’a has deteriorated since popular unrest pushed President Ali Abdullah Saleh from office in 2011. Dozens of intelligence and security officials have been assassinated, al-Qaeda continues to attack government targets and Shiite-Muslim Houthi rebels, who are fighting Sunni Islamists in the north, are encamped in the city. Western diplomats who visit do so with greater protection and foreign nationals fear kidnapping more than they did a year ago.  “Yemen is slipping into chaos,” Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, said by phone. “Assassinations of intelligence figures and threats to foreigners are rising.”

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US troops capture a senior Pakistan Taliban leader in Afghanistan

APTOPIX Mideast Israel Palestinians SyriaKABUL, Afghanistan —The U.S. confirmed on Friday that American troops are holding a senior Pakistani Taliban commander, a blow to the Pakistani Taliban who have waged a decadelong insurgency against Islamabad and were responsible for the failed 2010 attempt to detonate a bomb in New York’s Times Square.  Latif Mehsud, a leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, was captured by U.S. forces in a military operation, Marie Harf, deputy spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said in Washington.  “Mehsud is a senior commander in TTP, and served as a trusted confident of the group’s leader, Hakimullah Mehsud,” Harf said. “TTP claimed responsibility, as folks probably know, for the attempted bombing of Times Square in 2010 and has vowed to attack the U.S. homeland again. TPP is also responsible for attacking our diplomats in Pakistan and attacks that have killed countless Pakistani civilians.”

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Target in U.S. Raid on Somalia Is Called Top Shabab Planner of Attacks Abroad

NAIROBI, Kenya — The target of the American commando raid in the Horn of Africa, a Kenyan of Somali origin known as Ikrimah, is one of the Shabab militant group’s top planners for attacks beyond its base in Somalia, an American official said Sunday. Though Mr. Ikrimah had not been tied directly to the Shabab’s deadly assault on a shopping mall in Nairobi last month, fears of a similar attack against Western targets broke a deadlock among officials in Washington over whether to conduct the raid.  Special-operations commanders were in favor, pushing for a more aggressive response to the rising threat from the group in Somalia, while administration officials were nervous about incurring American military casualties.

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Sex Jihad and Western Disbelief

The sex jihad is back in the news.  Last Thursday, during an address to the National Constituent Assembly, Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi Bin Jeddo announced that Tunisian girls who had traveled to Syria to perform “sex jihad” had returned after being sexually “swapped between 20, 30, and 100 rebels and they come back bearing the fruit of sexual contacts [from pregnancies to diseases] in the name of sexual jihad and we are silent doing nothing and standing idle.”  Several video interviews with Tunisian females who went to the sex jihad further testify to the veracity of this phenomenon.

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‘Eyes gouged out, bodies hanging from hooks, and fingers removed with pliers’: Horrific claims of torture emerge as soldiers reveal gory Kenyan mall massacre details

mall massacre

Soldiers told of the horrific torture meted out by terrorists in the Nairobi mall massacre yesterday with claims hostages were dismembered, had their eyes gouged out and were left hanging from hooks in the ceiling.  Men were said to have been castrated and had fingers removed with pliers before being blinded and hanged.  Children were found dead in the food court fridges with knives still embedded in their bodies, it was claimed.  Most of the defeated terrorists, meanwhile, were reportedly discovered ‘burnt to ashes’, set alight by the last extremist standing to try to protect their identities.  The horrifying details came yesterday as the first pictures emerged from within the wreckage of the building, showing piles of bodies left strewn across the floor.   A third of the mall was destroyed in the battle between terrorists and Kenyan troops. 

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