Posts tagged terrorism
The biggest threat to Al-Qaeda may now be its erstwhile allies. In fact, the extremist group that has long been the international symbol of jihadist terrorism faces a growing risk of irrelevance, and that poses new dangers to the West.
The strongest evidence of this comes from a declaration this week by a Sunni fundamentalist group in Iraq that it was founding a global Islamic state and naming its own leader as the supreme religious and political ruler of the new sovereign nation. In recognition of its decision, the group—previously called Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria (ISIS)—also announced that it was changing its name to the more grandiose “Islamic State” (IS).
The pronouncement that IS is forming what is known as a caliphate may seem inconsequential to some in the West—a bit of hubris perhaps, or maybe a public relations move by a savvy extremist group looking to raise its prominence on the international stage. It is anything but. “The challenge is direct to Al-Qaeda,” says Richard Barrett, who for nine years headed the United Nations Monitoring Team concerning Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and who is now a senior vice president of the Soufan Group, a strategic intelligence firm. “[IS leaders] have thrown the glove down. They are saying Al-Qaeda should swear allegiance to them, and that they are obeying God.”
MORE: Iraq’s ISIS Is Eclipsing Al-Qaeda, Especially With Young Jihadists

The biggest threat to Al-Qaeda may now be its erstwhile allies. In fact, the extremist group that has long been the international symbol of jihadist terrorism faces a growing risk of irrelevance, and that poses new dangers to the West.

The strongest evidence of this comes from a declaration this week by a Sunni fundamentalist group in Iraq that it was founding a global Islamic state and naming its own leader as the supreme religious and political ruler of the new sovereign nation. In recognition of its decision, the group—previously called Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria (ISIS)—also announced that it was changing its name to the more grandiose “Islamic State” (IS).

The pronouncement that IS is forming what is known as a caliphate may seem inconsequential to some in the West—a bit of hubris perhaps, or maybe a public relations move by a savvy extremist group looking to raise its prominence on the international stage. It is anything but. “The challenge is direct to Al-Qaeda,” says Richard Barrett, who for nine years headed the United Nations Monitoring Team concerning Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and who is now a senior vice president of the Soufan Group, a strategic intelligence firm. “[IS leaders] have thrown the glove down. They are saying Al-Qaeda should swear allegiance to them, and that they are obeying God.”

MORE: Iraq’s ISIS Is Eclipsing Al-Qaeda, Especially With Young Jihadists

Samson Dawah was nervous. For two weeks, he had waited for any bit of information regarding his niece, who was among the 234 Nigerian school girls likely kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram. This week, he gathered his extended family. He had news but also an unusual request. He asked that the elderly not attend. He wasn’t sure they could bear what he had to say.

“We have heard from members of the forest community where they took the girls,” he told them, adding that there had been a mass marriage. ”They said there had been mass marriages and the girls are being shared out as wives among the Boko Haram militants.”

The girl’s father fainted, the Guardian reported, and has since been hospitalized. But the news got worse. Village elder Pogo Bitrus told Agence France Presse locals had consulted with “various sources” in the nation’s forested northeast. 

“From the information we received yesterday from Cameroonian border towns our abducted girls were taken… into Chad and Cameroon,” he said, adding that each girl was sold as a bride to Islamist militants for 2,000 naira — $12.

The Washington Post could not independently verify such claims, and the Nigerian defense ministry didn’t immediately return requests for comment Wednesday morning. But if true, the news would add another terrifying wrinkle to an already horrifying set of events that has galvanized the nation, spurred foreign leaders to take notice, and exposed the powerlessness of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in the face of a radicalized and murderous militant group named Boko Haram. 

Hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian school girls reportedly sold as brides to militants for $12, relatives say

Samson Dawah was nervous. For two weeks, he had waited for any bit of information regarding his niece, who was among the 234 Nigerian school girls likely kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram. This week, he gathered his extended family. He had news but also an unusual request. He asked that the elderly not attend. He wasn’t sure they could bear what he had to say.

“We have heard from members of the forest community where they took the girls,” he told them, adding that there had been a mass marriage. ”They said there had been mass marriages and the girls are being shared out as wives among the Boko Haram militants.”

The girl’s father fainted, the Guardian reported, and has since been hospitalized. But the news got worse. Village elder Pogo Bitrus told Agence France Presse locals had consulted with “various sources” in the nation’s forested northeast.

“From the information we received yesterday from Cameroonian border towns our abducted girls were taken… into Chad and Cameroon,” he said, adding that each girl was sold as a bride to Islamist militants for 2,000 naira — $12.

The Washington Post could not independently verify such claims, and the Nigerian defense ministry didn’t immediately return requests for comment Wednesday morning. But if true, the news would add another terrifying wrinkle to an already horrifying set of events that has galvanized the nation, spurred foreign leaders to take notice, and exposed the powerlessness of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in the face of a radicalized and murderous militant group named Boko Haram.

Hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian school girls reportedly sold as brides to militants for $12, relatives say

This week’s Newsweek cover: How ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ predicts the future. The story, by Daniel Klaidman, explores the question: Could the Obama administration someday announce that the “war on terror” is over? Klaidman reports on the growing signs that the administration may be debating when to consider the war “finished.” 
An excerpt:


It’s a question that President Obama has quietly discussed with his closest advisers. He has raised the issue publicly only in the vaguest terms: when he said, to rousing cheers on election night, that “a decade of war is ending,” it sounded more like a reference to Afghanistan and Iraq than a statement about the war on terror as a whole. Yet behind the scenes, Obama has led a persistent internal conversation about whether America should remain engaged in a permanent, ever-expanding state of war, one that has pushed the limits of the law, stretched dwindling budgets, and at times strained relations with our allies. “This has always been a concern of the President’s,” says a former military adviser to Obama. “He’s uncomfortable with the idea of war without end.” It is still considered politically treacherous for anyone, especially Democrats, to question whether war is the right framework for fighting terrorism. But just as the intelligence and military communities were criticized twelve years ago for having had too much of a “pre-9/11 mentality,” some in the administration have now begun to gingerly ask whether we today have too much of a “post-9/11” mentality. Or, as one adviser to Obama recently put it to me, “Is it time to start winding down the state of emergency?”


Here’s the full feature. If you’d rather read it on your shiny new iPad, download the issue here.

This week’s Newsweek cover: How ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ predicts the future. The story, by Daniel Klaidman, explores the question: Could the Obama administration someday announce that the “war on terror” is over? Klaidman reports on the growing signs that the administration may be debating when to consider the war “finished.” 

An excerpt:

It’s a question that President Obama has quietly discussed with his closest advisers. He has raised the issue publicly only in the vaguest terms: when he said, to rousing cheers on election night, that “a decade of war is ending,” it sounded more like a reference to Afghanistan and Iraq than a statement about the war on terror as a whole. Yet behind the scenes, Obama has led a persistent internal conversation about whether America should remain engaged in a permanent, ever-expanding state of war, one that has pushed the limits of the law, stretched dwindling budgets, and at times strained relations with our allies. “This has always been a concern of the President’s,” says a former military adviser to Obama. “He’s uncomfortable with the idea of war without end.” It is still considered politically treacherous for anyone, especially Democrats, to question whether war is the right framework for fighting terrorism. But just as the intelligence and military communities were criticized twelve years ago for having had too much of a “pre-9/11 mentality,” some in the administration have now begun to gingerly ask whether we today have too much of a “post-9/11” mentality. Or, as one adviser to Obama recently put it to me, “Is it time to start winding down the state of emergency?”

Here’s the full feature. If you’d rather read it on your shiny new iPad, download the issue here.

Barack Obama, moments ago: ”I am continuing in effect for an additional year the national emergency that was declared on September 14, 2001, with respect to the terrorist threat.”

Barack Obama, moments ago: ”I am continuing in effect for an additional year the national emergency that was declared on September 14, 2001, with respect to the terrorist threat.”

Russia’s Female Menaces

Before she turned herself into a bomb, Aminat Saprykina was a professional actress and dancer in Dagestan. At the peak of her theatrical career, she performed the lead role of a charming witch, Olesya, in Alexander Kuprin’s Forest Witches. Fellow actors remember her as a joyful girl and a graceful break-dancer. A video from that period of her life features the future mass murderer dressed in a sexy black skirt, swirling in a dance.

But after her conversion to Islam, Saprykina took another name: Kurbanova. And it was with this name that she became at least the 42nd female suicide bomber in the last decade in Russia, according to Caucasian Knot, an online news source that has been tracking the disturbing trend.

Last week, the 30-year old ethnic Russian took a taxi to the home village of Dagestan’s most influential Sufi Muslim leader, Sheikh Afandi, and entered his house, which was full of kneeling believers. She then blew herself up, killing the Sheikh and at least seven of his followers.

Anna Nemtsova looks at the region fostering one of the most disturbing threats to peace in Russia: female terrorists.

This is alleged to be the suicide bomber in Bulgaria, who died when his backpack exploded on or near a bus of Israeli tourists. He’s a white dude with shoulder length hair. Take that, racial profilers.

Update: Might be a wig.

Update2: He was a detainee at Gitmo from 2002 to 2004. Also, might not be a wig after all.

Update3: Let’s add an allegedly to Update2.

Update4: Born in Sweden.

Update5: From @BreakingNews on Twitter: “US intelligence officials say no evidence former Guantanamo Bay detainee is suspected suicide bomber in Bulgaria bus attack - @NBCNews.” So! This is a very fluid situation.

An Act of Futility?

An article in the Apr 12, 2010 issue of Newsweek argues the killing of radical Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki would do more harm than good, as his links to attacks on American targets are speculative (at the time, administration officials today would likely disagree) and it’s not even known for certain if he is a member of al Qaeda.

As the lawyers and judge who will try Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab move this week to outline the contours of his hearing, the Obama administration is trying to prevent a repeat attack. The White House announced last week that the CIA will try to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki, the Qaeda-linked American citizen living in Yemen who tutored Abdulmutallab. Awlaki will be hard to find—he is currently hiding in southern Yemen, protected by his powerful tribe—but if a drone operator has a shot, he will take it.

Today, a drone operator took that shot. Awlaki was killed. In the coming days, the Obama administration will have to defend its decision in taking out an American citizen by a drone-fired missile.

The rationale here seems self-evident. First, Awlaki has already been linked to two recent attacks in the U.S.: Abdulmutallab’s attempted bombing and also the Fort Hood rampage, where Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan went on a shooting spree at his home base, killing 13 people and wounding 30 others. (Hasan was advised over the Internet by Awlaki.) Second, Awlaki’s ability to speak English and recruit Westernized Muslims poses a continuing threat: just last month, he called on Muslims living in the United States to carry out similar strikes in the coming months. Eliminating him now, the White House claims, will do much to prevent a third attack. And third, the optics are great: Obama is a president who has promised to bring the fight to Al Qaeda.

Unfortunately, the administration’s argument is based more on frustration and assumption than real strategy. Killing Awlaki will do little to disrupt Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Inside that organization, he is a nobody—at best, a midlevel functionary in a local branch. There are dozens of men who could do more harm to the United States, and killing Awlaki would only embolden them and aid in recruitment. For an organization as resilient and adaptive as AQAP, his death would be a minor irritant, not a debilitating blow. The futility of such a strike should give Obama pause before he greenlights the assassination of a fellow citizen.

Read the rest of the piece. Do you think his killing is justified?

The Obama team has its rationale for drone attacks. It stresses that the drone attacks have degraded the capabilities of the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda, without putting U.S. troops in harm’s way on Pakistani soil. What this calculus ignores is the damage drone attacks inflict on America’s reputation in the Muslim world and the “possibilities of blowback,” about which the CIA, which leads the drone war, has rightly warned. The war on the AfPak border has replaced Iraq as the main source of homegrown radicalization. Qaeda’s effort to find and recruit terrorists has been replaced by a bottom-up flow of volunteers, a flow that is currently very weak, and extremely difficult to track. What these individuals had in common was that they were radicalized online, typically by coverage of the AfPak battles.

Because it sometimes takes hours, or even days, for all airlines to enter new “no fly” listings in their reservation computers—the idea being that once someone is put on the “no fly” list no airline should sell that person a ticket or give them a boarding pass—in cases where a name (like that of a major crime suspect) is added to the list at the last minute, Homeland Security does maintain procedures for sending out what amounts to an APB about the new listing. In the case of Faisal Shahzad, who was added to the “no fly” list around 12.30 pm on May 3 after investigators determined he was the prime suspect in the failed car bombing on the evening of May 1, Homeland Security started to make phone calls to various airlines to warn them that Shahzad’s name had been added to the list and that they should check their reservations and passenger manifests carefully.

However, the officials said, at the FBI’s request, some, but not all airlines, were notified of the new listing. The official said the FBI was concerned that giving out Shahzad’s name to too many people might fuel news leaks that grew into a torrent during the afternoon of May 3. Among the airlines which was not phoned with the APB about the new “no fly” listing for Shahzad: Emirates Airlines, the very carrier Shahzad had chosen to try to evade a massive dragnet.