September 29, 2006
Terrorism Headlines of the Week
Investigation of Islamic charity complicates Ramadan giving
DETROIT Before last week, AbuSayed Mahfuz didn't hesitate to donate to Life for Relief and Development, an international Muslim humanitarian organization that is active in Iraq and Afghanistan and has partnered with the U.S. government.
But an FBI search of the organization's Southfield, Michigan headquarters is making Mahfuz think twice about future contributions.
Just as the holy month Ramadan, which began Saturday, has many Muslims thinking about their religious obligation to give alms, the investigation of the prominent Islamic aid group has prompted fears that giving to charity could bring scrutiny from the U.S. government.
FBI agents assigned to a terrorism task force last Monday searched Life's offices, taking computer servers, donor records and other financial documents. They have also searched the homes of the charity's chief executive, an ex-employee and two board members.
"After hearing this, I don't feel secure at all," said Mahfuz, a computer consultant and editor of a Bangladeshi community newspaper. He said he would still consider supporting the organization, but the investigation would force him to weigh that decision carefully.
No charges have been brought in the case, and Life has sought to reassure the community that it is perfectly legal to donate money to the organization, which was founded in 1992 by Iraqi immigrants.
Experts: U.S. Must Protect Food Supply
The United States needs to continue taking steps to protect its food supply from terrorism just as it would its buildings, airports and other infrastructure, FBI deputy director John S. Pistole said.
"The threat from agroterrorism may not be widely recognized, but the threat is real and the impact could be devastating," Pistole said Monday. "The recent E. coli outbreak in California spinach has captured the public attention even without a terror nexus."
Pistole, keynote speaker at the second International Symposium on Agroterrorism, pointed to a nonterrorism example - a single case of mad cow disease in the United States in 2003 - to illustrate the potential impact.
"Days after the discovery, 53 countries banned U.S. beef imports. The economic loss to the U.S. cattle industry from the loss of beef imports just to Japan was more than $2 billion a year," Pistole said. "Almost three years later, countries have reopened their borders to U.S. beef, but exports still have not reached 2003 levels."
U.S. prosecution of Padilla no slam dunk so far
MIAMI -- The Bush administration's decision to drop the "enemy combatant" label from alleged al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla and prosecute him on civilian terror charges has not gone smoothly, with even the judge in the case raising questions about sketchy evidence and a vague indictment.
Trial for Padilla - an American once accused of planning to detonate a radioactive bomb - and two co-defendants was initially scheduled for early September. But it's now off until January and may be delayed further into 2007 if prosecutors file their expected appeal of U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke's dismissal of a crucial charge.
Cooke has also pronounced the U.S. case "weak on facts" and agreed with defense lawyers that prosecutors must provide more details about what crimes the trio may have actually committed instead of relying on sweeping allegations that they were involved in a violent Islamic jihad over a decade on several continents.
In response to one question about identities of any alleged victims, prosecutors listed armed confrontations against the Russian military in Chechnya and Tajikistan, opposing Muslim factions in Afghanistan and Serbian and Croat forces in Bosnia. They also cited violent acts against more moderate Muslim governments around the world.
Court delays verdict for 'Guantanamo six'
PARIS: A French court Wednesday postponed its verdict in the terrorism trial of six former Guantanamo inmates, scheduling more hearings for next May to consider new evidence from intelligence agents.
The court had been expected to hand down a verdict on the six defendants, who were held for up to three years at the US base in Cuba following their capture in Afghanistan in 2001.
"I am sorry," said Judge Jean-Claude Kross, addressing the lawyers. "We have to start again from scratch.
"We may have to consider obtaining access to classified intelligence material," he added.
The court notably wants to hear from French foreign intelligence agents who questioned the suspects in Guantanamo.
At the men's trial in July, defence lawyers accused France of colluding with the US authorities over the Guantanamo detentions by sending secret service agents to question them in Cuba, outside of any legal framework.
Source: Agence France Presse
Tape Tied to Al Qaeda Urges More Attacks in Iraq
An audiotape posted on a Web site today and attributed to the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq called for an escalation of attacks and the kidnapping of foreigners to try to force the release of a high-profile Muslim cleric imprisoned in the United States.
A mans voice, said to be that of the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, called in the tape for fighters to come to Iraq and join a jihad, or holy war, during the current Muslim month of Ramadan. It was the second time this month that Mr. Muhajir has called in an audio message for attacks since he was named successor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Qaeda leader who was killed by an American airstrike in June.
It pleases me at the end of my speech to announce the beginning of a great militaristic campaign, said an excerpt from the tape, as translated by the SITE Institute, which tracks jihadist messages. By it, we will eradicate the limb of the infidel and the apostate.
Source: New York Times
Iraq and jihad: A consensus surfaces
WASHINGTON The bleak conclusions of a just-declassified intelligence assessment on terrorism are unlikely to push the Bush administration to change its policies in the fight against Al Qaeda. The report's finding - that Islamist terrorism continues to spread around the world - is far from new, say experts. The White House has known of its contents for months.
But the disclosure of the assessment's main points could put the White House on the political defensive at a crucial moment, with midterm elections only weeks away. It also reveals a depth of pessimism in the US government about near-term prospects for the fight against Al Qaeda that surprised some terrorism analysts.
National Intelligence Estimates, after all, represent the thinking of a wide range of US intelligence agencies. It is not as if the CIA alone has decided that the Iraq war is an underlying factor increasing Al Qaeda's appeal in the Arab world.
"It's not the assumptions that surprised me. It's the fact that this was a consensus document," says Jessica Stern, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and a terrorism expert.
The existence of the terrorist NIE, along with some of its conclusions, were first revealed Sunday by the The New York Times. On Tuesday, President Bush ordered portions of the document declassified, saying that its contents were being distorted in the media. He said Wednesday he would not release the full report.
Source: Christian Science Monitor
Foreign jihadists seen as key to spike in Afghan attacks
Before the Taliban regime fell five years ago, al Qaeda trained its fighters in Afghanistan's cavernous mountains and dusty valleys, and then exported them to wage war in places like Chechnya and Kashmir.
Today, terrorism experts say, the direction of trade has reversed: Afghanistan now imports international jihadists who have honed their fighting skills in the vast deserts and shrapnel-scarred city streets of Iraq.
The growing involvement of veterans of the Iraq insurgency is a major factor behind the surge of attacks in Afghanistan -- the heaviest since the Taliban government fell in 2001, observers say.
Under their influence, a revived Taliban movement and newer groups are using suicide bombs and remote-controlled bombs to attack U.S. and coalition forces and Afghan civilians, instead of the Kalashnikov rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and unsophisticated land mines that were once the hallmarks of the Afghan guerrilla movement.
"The increase in vehicle bombings in Kabul -- that's straight-out-of-Iraq stuff," said Brian Jenkins, an expert on terrorism at the Rand think tank. "Now Iraq is the source of the expertise, and Afghanistan is receiving."
Last Monday, three bombings in different parts of the country killed at least 19 people, including four Canadian soldiers. On Tuesday, Afghan police arrested four militants in Kabul who had been hiding more than 15 highly sophisticated explosives in a mosque. Senior police official Ali Shah Paktiawal told Reuters that the bombs must have come from outside the country.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle
Key 9/11 planner linked to London bombings: Musharraf
ISLAMABAD - The chief architect of the September 11, 2001 attacks was also linked to last years suicide blasts on the London transport network, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf says in his memoirs.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2003, confessed that Al Qaeda sized up Londons subway for an attack at the same time as it hatched a plan to crash jets into Heathrow, Musharraf says in In the Line of Fire.
Another Al Qaeda militant tasked by Mohammed to carry out the reconnaissance later revealed a connection to two of the bombers who struck in London on July 7, 2005, the controversial book published on Monday says.
We had learned from KSM (Mohammed) that Al Qaedas planners were thinking seriously about, and discussing, bombing Heathrow Airport in London ... as well as Londons subway system, Musharraf writes.
The suspect had been told by KSM to carry out reconnaissance of, and prepare a plan to attack, Heathrow Airport. After initial planning, he also suggested Canary Wharf and Londons subway system as additional possible targets.
Mohammed, the self-proclaimed key conspirator behind the September 11 attacks on the United States, has previously been linked to the foiled Heathrow plot but not to the subway attacks.
Source: Agence France Presse
Bomber convicted for 1993 Mumbai bombings
Mumbai, Sept. 27(AP): An Indian court on Wednesday convicted a man for planting two bombs during the 1993 Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed 257 people.
Mushtaq Tarani was the 19th person found guilty by Judge Pramod Kode in the lengthiest trial in India's judicial history. More than 100 people have been charged and are awaiting the judge's verdict in the 11-year trial.
Tarani, 33, faces the death sentence for planting two bombs in Mumbai on March 12, 1993. Three people were injured when the suitcase bomb he placed in a hotel room exploded; another bomb he hid in a scooter parked on a crowded downtown street failed to explode.
Qaeda Operative Is Killed in Iraq
BAGHDAD, Sept. 25 A senior operative of Al Qaeda who brazenly escaped from a high-security American prison in Afghanistan last year was killed Monday in a predawn raid by British soldiers in a quiet, wealthy neighborhood in southern Iraq, an American official and an official in Basra said.
About 250 soldiers wearing night-vision goggles and carrying specially equipped rifles stormed a house in the Junainah neighborhood of Basra, intending to capture the operative, whom the spokesman for the British military in Iraq identified as Omar al-Faruq, an Iraqi. They were fired upon as they entered, and shot back, killing Mr. Faruq.
The British military spokesman, Maj. Charles Burbridge, said Mr. Faruq was a terrorist of considerable significance who had been hiding in Basra, but declined to say whether he was the same man who had escaped from the American military detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, in July 2005. An American official in Washington and an official in Basra, neither of whom was authorized to speak publicly on the subject, said Mr. Faruq was the same man.
At the time of his arrest, in Jakarta, Indonesia, in June 2002, Mr. Faruq was described as one of the most important Qaeda figures ever captured by the United States. He reportedly told C.I.A. interrogators at Bagram that he had been sent to the region to plan large-scale attacks against American embassies and other targets in Southeast Asia.
Source: New York Times
Scientists develop more powerful nuclear fuel
Fri Sep 29, 2006 1:59pm ET
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By Scott DiSavino
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. researchers have designed a reactor fuel that they believe can make nuclear power plants 50 percent more powerful and safer, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said.
Researchers say their new technology should be ready for commercial use in existing reactors in about 10 years.
In a nuclear reactor, the fission of uranium atoms provides heat used to produce steam for generating electricity.
Already, one pickup truck full of uranium fuel in a nuclear reactor can supply a city with enough electricity for a year. The MIT scientists believe they have found a way to make the fuel go even further, boosting output by about 50 percent.
Uranium fuel typically is formed into cylindrical ceramic pellets about half-inch in diameter. The pellets look like a smooth, black version of food pellets for small animals.
Pavel Hejzlar and Mujid Kazimi of MIT recently completed a three-year project for the U.S. Department of Energy, along with scientists from Westinghouse and other companies. The researchers looked at how to make fuel for pressurized water reactors more efficient while maintaining safety margins.
About two-thirds of the 103 reactors operating in the United States are pressurized, using high pressure to prevent the water from boiling.
The scientists changed the shape of the fuel from solid cylinders to hollow tubes, adding surface area that allowed water to flow inside and outside the pellets, increasing heat transfer.
The new fuel design also is much safer because it reaches an operating temperature of about 700 degrees Celsius, much lower than 1,800 degrees for conventional fuel and further from the 2,840 degrees melting point for uranium fuel.
Hejzlar, a principle research scientist in MIT's Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, said it could take up to 10 years to commercialize the new fuel concept.
Hejzlar did not have time to patent the concept before accepting more than $2 million in federal research money and publishing the results. He said several reactor manufacturers and utilities have expressed interest in the new fuel.