Sept. 11 Co-Conspirators Charged

Sept. 11 Co-Conspirators Charged

             The Defense Department announced today that charges have been sworn against six detainees at Guantanamo, alleged to be responsible for the planning and execution of the attacks upon the United States of America which occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. Those attacks resulted in the death of nearly 3,000 people.  The charges allege a long term, highly sophisticated, organized plan by al Qaeda to attack the United States.
            The accused are: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarek Bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi, and Mohamed al Kahtani.
            Each of the defendants is charged with conspiracy and the separate, substantive offenses of: murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism.
            The first four defendants, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarek Bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, and Ali Abdul Aziz Ali are also charged with the substantive offense of hijacking or hazarding a vessel.
            All of the charges are alleged to have been in support of the attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
            Now that sworn charges have been received, the convening authority will review the charges and supporting evidence to determine whether probable cause exists to refer the case for trial by military commission. The chief prosecutor has requested that charges to be tried jointly and be referred as capital for each defendant. If the convening authority, Susan Crawford, in her sole discretion, decides to refer the cases as capital, the defendants will face the possibility of being sentenced to death.
            The charge sheet details 169 overt acts allegedly committed by the defendants in furtherance of the Sept. 11 events.
            The charges allege that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks by proposing the operational concept to Usama bin Laden as early as 1996, obtaining approval and funding from Usama bin Laden for the attacks, overseeing the entire operation, and training the hijackers in all aspects of the operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
            Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarek Bin ‘Attash is alleged to have administered an al Qaeda training camp in Logar, Afghanistan where two of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were trained. He is also alleged to have traveled to Malaysia in 1999 to observe airport security by U. S. air carriers to assist in formulating the hijacking plan.
            Ramzi Binalshibh is alleged to have lived with the Hamburg, Germany, al Qaeda cell where three of the Sept. 11 hijackers resided. It is alleged that Binalshibh was originally selected by Usama bin Laden to be one of the Sept. 11 hijackers and that he made a “martyr video” in preparation for the operation.  He was unable to obtain a US visa and, therefore, could not enter the United States as the other hijackers did. In light of this, it is alleged that Binalshibh assisted in finding flight schools for the hijackers in the United States, and continued to assist the conspiracy by engaging in numerous financial transactions in support of the Sept. 11 operation.
            Ali Abdul Aziz Ali’s role is alleged to have included sending approximately $120,000 to the hijackers for their expenses and flight training, and facilitating travel to the United States for nine of the hijackers.
            Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi is alleged to have assisted and prepared the hijackers with money, western clothing, traveler’s checks and credit cards.  He is also alleged to have facilitated the transfer of thousands of dollars between the accounts of alleged Sept. 11 hijackers and himself on Sept. 11, 2001.
            Mohamed al Kahtani is alleged to have attempted to enter the United States on August 4, 2001, through Orlando International Airport where he was denied entry.  It is also alleged that al Kahtani carried $2,800 in cash and had an itinerary listing a phone number associated with Hawsawi.
            If the convening authority refers the charges to trial, the prosecution bears the burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard applied in all U.S. and military criminal trials.
            In the military commissions process, every defendant has the following rights: The right to remain silent and to have no adverse inference drawn from it; the right to be represented by detailed military counsel, as well as civilian counsel of his own selection and at no expense to the government; the right to examine all evidence used against him by the prosecution; the right to obtain evidence and to call witnesses on his own behalf including expert witnesses; the right to cross-examine every witness called by the prosecution; the right to be present during the presentation of evidence; the right to have a military commission panel of at least five military members determine his guilt by a 2/3 majority, or in the case of a capital offense, a unanimous decision of a military commission composed of at least 12 members; and the right to an appeal to the Court of Military Commission Review, then through the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals to the United States Supreme Court.
            These rights are guaranteed to the defendant under the Military Commissions Act, and are specifically designed to ensure that every defendant receives a fair trial, consistent with American and international standards of justice and the rule of law.
            The sworn charges are only allegations that each accused has committed a war crime under the Military Commissions Act. The accused are presumed innocent of any criminal charges unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt at a military commission.

NATO ROW OVER TROOP DEPLOYMENT

Germany Sending Small Combat Unit to Afghanistan

The German government said on Wednesday it will send a unit of combat troops to northern Afghanistan as part of a NATO Quick Reaction Force to replace a Norwegian unit of 250 soldiers. But it reiterated its rejection of US and NATO calls to deploy troops to help its allies fight the Taliban in the south.

German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung has praised the performance of German troops in Afghanistan.

The German government on Wednesday rejected accusations from NATO allies that it wasn’t bearing its fair share of the burden in Afghanistan and reiterated its refusal of a US request for German troops to be deployed from the relatively peaceful north to help fight a Taliban insurgency in the south.

German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said Germany was already the third-biggest troop provider in Afghanistan and that redeploying troops away from the north would be a “decisive mistake.”

He did however repeat Germany’s vague pledge to provide its NATO allies with military assistance when required, and announced that Germany will be sending a unit of combat troops to northern Afghanistan to replace the 250-strong Norwegian Quick Reaction Force being withdrawn.

“I want to make clear that we will continue our mission in the north which I think our soldiers are carrying out very successfully,” Jung told a news conference in Berlin. “The regional division of responsibilities is clever and right. Neglecting the north would be a decisive mistake. But I repeat that if friends are in trouble we’ll of course help them.”

Jung had already rejected calls for a redeployment of German forces last week from US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

Troops from the United States, Britain, Canada and the Netherlands are bearing the brunt of a resurgence of Taliban violence in southern Afghanistan. Canada has threatened to pull out unless other allies do more of the hard work.

Germany has around 3,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan. Under its parliamentary mandate, Germany can send up to 3,500 soldiers to the less violent north as part of the roughly 40,000-strong NATO International Security Assistance Force.

The US contributes a third of the ISAF mission, making it the largest participant, on top of the 12,000 to 13,000 American troops operating independently. The US plans to send an extra 3,200 Marines to Afghanistan this spring, including 2,200 combat troops to help the NATO-led force in the south.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice piled on further pressure on Wednesday, saying during a visit to London: “It’s true and we’ve made no secret about it that there are certain allies that are in more dangerous parts of the country and we believe very strongly that there ought to be a sharing of that burden throughout the alliance.”

“That said, I think we ought not to also dismiss the contributions that are being made by all alliance members,” she told reporters.

Canadian lawmaker Rick Casson, the defense policy spokesman for Canada’s ruling Conservative Party, said Germany should become more involved in Afghanistan. In an interview with Tagesspiegel am Sonntag newspaper published last Sunday, he said it was “decisive for the future of the Afghan mission and for the future of NATO that Germany and other countries become more strongly involved.”

But Jung said Germany was already stretched with its missions in Afghanistan and in Kosovo where it was the biggest international troop provider, and that it was committed to continuing its “comprehensive approach” — providing a combination of military security, development and reconstruction — in the north.

He added that Germany was already providing military assistance to NATO troops in the south in the form of Tornado jet reconnaissance flights and air transport.

 

FYI about Terrorism

General Information About Terrorism

Terrorism is the use of force or violence against persons or property in violation of the criminal laws of the United States for purposes of intimidation, coercion, or ransom.

Terrorists often use threats to:

  • Create fear among the public.
  • Try to convince citizens that their government is powerless to prevent terrorism.
  • Get immediate publicity for their causes.

Acts of terrorism include threats of terrorism; assassinations; kidnappings; hijackings; bomb scares and bombings; cyber attacks (computer-based); and the use of chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological weapons.

High-risk targets for acts of terrorism include military and civilian government facilities, international airports, large cities, and high-profile landmarks. Terrorists might also target large public gatherings, water and food supplies, utilities, and corporate centers. Further, terrorists are capable of spreading fear by sending explosives or chemical and biological agents through the mail.

Within the immediate area of a terrorist event, you would need to rely on police, fire, and other officials for instructions. However, you can prepare in much the same way you would prepare for other crisis events.

General Safety Guidelines:

  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Move or leave if you feel uncomfortable or if something does not seem right.
  • Take precautions when traveling. Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behavior. Do not accept packages from strangers. Do not leave luggage unattended. You should promptly report unusual behavior, suspicious or unattended packages, and strange devices to the police or security personnel.
  • Learn where emergency exits are located in buildings you frequent. Plan how to get out in the event of an emergency.
  • Be prepared to do without services you normally depend on—electricity, telephone, natural gas, gasoline pumps, cash registers, ATMs, and Internet transactions.
  • Work with building owners to ensure the following items are located on each floor of the building:
    • Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries.
    • Several flashlights and extra batteries.
    • First aid kit and manual.
    • Hard hats and dust masks.
    • Fluorescent tape to rope off dangerous areas.

For more information click the logo below:

The Face of Pakistan’s New Taliban

Suicide Bomb Taliban Pakistan

Already blamed by Pakistan and the CIA for killing Benazir Bhutto, Baitullah Mehsud is just getting started. The articulate, baby-faced commander of the Tehrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal wilds along the Afghan border is waging an increasingly coordinated insurgency threatening further destabilization on the eve of parliamentary elections. His forces have embarrassed the Pakistani military in recent weeks by attacking its forts, inflicting heavy losses and seizing weapons before retreating into the mountains of South Waziristan, Mehsud’s home turf.

In what appears to be a coordinated effort, the attacks on the forts in South Waziristan came at the same time as the electrical grid and another fort in neighboring North Waziristan came under attack. The upsurge of attacks in an area that has been relatively calm of late rings alarm bells for terrorism analyst Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Pakistan Institute For Peace Studies. “We are seeing this now, simultaneous attacks from different regions. This is a strong indication that different groups are working together. They are coordinating attacks, sharing the same objective.”

The thirtysomething Mehsud cut his teeth fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, and later sharpened his political aspirations while serving the Afghan Taliban’s Mullah Omar, to whom he refers as his “Ameerul Momineen,” or Commander of the Faithful. But some local analysts see Mehsud as potentially an even more formidable jihadist than his mentor.

Mehsud is an affable jokester who wears a camouflage vest over his traditional tunic and trousers, according to Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan, Pakistan bureau chief for al-Jazeera. Zaidan interviewed Mehsud just days after he was chosen by several diverse militant groups in December to lead the new Tehrik-i-Taliban movement. The interview, which will air Friday, is a first for the commander who seems to take his PR cues from the notoriously camera-shy Mullah Omar. Mehsud was surprisingly plump, says Zaidan, but his soft, stout figure and easy camaraderie belie a powerful charisma and laser-like focus. Zaidan attributes some of Baitullah’s savvy to better education and more exposure to al-Qaeda: “These militant leaders now, they are living in the eye of the storm. They learn more in one minute than the Taliban did in a year.”

By comparison, says Zaidan, “I interviewed Mullah Omar once, in 1995. He was just starting out, like [Baitullah] is. But Baitullah is much stronger, much better. His way of talking, how he acts — he is a much more powerful leader.”

The Pakistani government appears to agree. It has accused Mehsud of orchestrating the attack that killed former Prime Minister Bhutto in December, and CIA Director Michael Hayden has indicated that he supports this conclusion. Authorities are currently interviewing Aitzaz Shah, a 15-year-old militant who confessed last week that he had been part of a backup plan, one of several local suicide cells scattered across the country that was ordered to attack when the right opportunity presented itself.

A recent Gallup poll shows that more than half of Pakistanis remain unconvinced; some even suspect government involvement in the assassination. Mehsud, through his spokesman, has denied involvement, but Zaidan believes Mehsud would certainly have had a motive to kill Benazir. “If I put myself in his shoes, of course I’m not going to take credit. Why give a clear answer to the intelligence services? Make them work. From Mehsud’s interest point, it suits him to kill her. Musharraf is no longer of use to the West; he is too unpopular. But Benazir could deliver. She had popular support. These people think once you eliminate Bhutto, you have given a big blow to the government.”

To Rana, the confession of the boy bomber meshes well with the modus operandi of Mehsud’s loose coalition. “Mehsud is not only organizing in the tribal areas,” says Rana. “He is trying to unify all of the insurgent movements, even from Karachi and Baluchistan. These groups will have mutual understanding on one issue, and they will work together to achieve their common goals.”

Their primary agenda is ousting Western forces from Afghanistan, and they have made clear their intention to attack all local allies of the U.S. and NATO. That makes the Pakistani government a prime target, and U.S. and Nato commanders in Afghanistan have noted that al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the border areas appear to have shifted their focus away from Afghanistan to striking targets in Pakistan.

The Tehrik-i-Taliban is due to meet again in the coming days, says Rana. An umbrella movement in its infancy, it will need time to iron out internal differences and optimize its operational capacity. But already, Rana has seen evidence of enhanced capabilities and the sharing of training and resources. And, following the classic guerrilla warfare playbook, the movement is combining military assaults on army posts with political work among the local civilian population. “Once they are united, with support bases in Karachi, Baluchistan and the North West Frontier Province, they will form small Taliban committees,” says Rana. “They will not be violent or militant. They will preach to the people, they will say this is good, and this is against Islam. They will praise those who go to mosque and shame the others. They will tell the people they are just there to bring Sharia. Once they are accepted, then will come their militias.”

That vision sounds frighteningly similar to the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s. Of course, Mehsud was with Mullah Omar when the Taliban first started. Clearly he took notes.

—With reporting by Rahimullah Yusufzai/Peshawar

Was Al-Qaeda Behind Beirut Bombing?

Friday, Jan. 25, 2008

Firefighters extinguish burning cars at the site of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon Friday, Jan. 25, 2008.

As a top Lebanese police investigator into a spate of bomb attacks as well as the activities of al-Qaeda-inspired groups in the country, Captain Wissam Eid had no shortage of potential enemies. One of those foes got to Eid Friday morning, killing him and at least three other people in a powerful car bomb explosion, nearly identical to the attacks he had been investigating.

“We got the message but we will carry on our mission in protecting Lebanon,” said Brigadier General Ashraf Rifi, the head of Lebanon’s paramilitary Internal Security Forces, at the scene of the attack. The 31-year-old Eid ran the technical department of the ISF’s intelligence branch and was a communications specialist.

So who killed Eid? Neighboring Syria seeking to re-impose its grip on Lebanon? Al-Qaeda-related groups attempting to destabilize Lebanon? A combination of the two, perhaps?

The explosion below an overpass in an eastern suburb of Beirut turned Eid’s car into a tangled wreck of fire-blackened metal, destroyed or damaged at least 20 other vehicles, shattered glass in a nearby office building and sent a plume of dark smoke into the sky from burning vehicles. Soldiers sealed off the area as fire engines and ambulances raced to the scene of the blast.

Most Lebanese have become grimly accustomed to the sporadic bomb blasts blighting Lebanon since October 2004. But the rate of attacks has sharply increased in the past month, matching rising tensions in Lebanon as a prolonged political crisis between pro- and anti-Syrian factions shows every sign of worsening. The majority of bomb assassinations in the past three years have targeted anti-Syrian politicians and journalists, spurring many Lebanese to blame Damascus. These latest attacks have struck senior Lebanese security officials and foreign targets, and come amid heightened activity by al-Qaeda-related groups in Lebanon.

At the end of December, Osama bin Laden described the U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon as “Crusaders” sent to Lebanon “to protect the Jews” of Israel. On January 7, another taped message was aired on a jihadist website purportedly from Shaker al-Absi, the fugitive leader of the al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam group, which waged a bloody three month battle against the Lebanese army last summer. In the 58-minute message, Absi threatened attacks against the Lebanese army. “The mill of war has started to grind … between the infidels and the believers,” he said.

The next day, suspected Sunni jihadists fired at least two rockets from south Lebanon into Israel, and hours later a roadside bomb exploded beside a U.N. vehicle, lightly wounding two Irish peacekeepers. On January 15, a vehicle driven by American embassy security personnel was damaged in a car bomb explosion. Three bystanders were killed — although the occupants of the embassy car survived — in what was the first attack against an official American target since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Furthermore, Western intelligence sources tell TIME that Al-Saadi Nahed, a Saudi extremist and veteran of the insurgency in Iraq, has been appointed “emir” for al-Qaeda in Lebanon. Nahed, who, according to intelligence sources, arrived in Lebanon earlier this month, has replaced Fahd al-Mughamis, who was arrested last June in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley along with other members of his cell while plotting to carry out bombings. Last month, an indictment against Mughamis stated that he was al-Qaeda’s coordinator for Lebanon, Jordan and Syria and that his cell had been trained by Esbat al-Ansar, a jihadist faction based in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in south Lebanon.

“Bin Laden’s statement seems to have heralded an al-Qaeda resurgence here,” said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb of the Carnegie Endowment’s Middle East Center in Beirut. “There is a logical correlation between these recent [bomb] incidents and this latest one [Eid’s assassination] related to al-Qaeda activity.”

But other analysts and commentators suspect Syria is to blame, arguing that Eid’s murder fits the pattern of past professionally conducted car bomb assassinations in which Syrian involvement was strongly suspected. Writing in the anti-Syrian Al-Mustaqbal newspaper last week, columnist Fadi Shamieh said that recent attacks in Lebanon suggest a convergence of interests between Syria and some Sunni jihadists operating in Lebanon. “Even if there are no ideological links between these two sides, both are diligently working to create trouble as soon as possible which would serve the interest of the extremists … [and] the objectives of hostile intelligence service,” he wrote.

Omar Nashabe, security and judicial affairs correspondent of the Al-Akhbar newspaper, which is close to pro-Syrian groups in Lebanon, said that Eid’s involvement with investigations into past bombings had made him a potential target. “He told me that he felt he was under threat,” Nashabe told TIME. He added that while Eid could have been killed by Sunni jihadists, other suspects should not be ruled out. “He was helping in the investigation into Rafik Hariri’s death,” he said.

Hariri, a former Lebanese Prime Minister who opposed Syrian dominance of Lebanon, was killed in a massive truck bomb blast in February 2005. His death, which many Lebanese blamed on Syria, sparked protests that compelled Damascus to withdraw its troops from Lebanon two months later. Since then, Syria’s critics in Lebanon accuse Damascus of seeking to reimpose its hegemony over Lebanon through assassinations and intimidation. Syria denies any involvement in Hariri’s death and the subsequent assassinations.

Still, as with other killings in Lebanon over the past three years, the truth behind Eid’s death lies lost in the depths of Lebanon’s Gordian knot of intrigue, conspiracy, prejudice and deceit.