A 30-year-old Uzbekistan national living in Boise, Idaho, was arrested Thursday morning as part of a wide scale federal terrorism investigation.
Fazliddin Kurbanov is charged in separate indictments in Idaho and Utah for conspiring to support the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and distributing information related to the manufacture and use of an explosive or weapon of mass destruction.
Kurbanov had a combination of parts to make a bomb, including a hollow hand grenade, hobby fuse, aluminum powder, potassium nitrate, and sulfur, a three-count indictment filed in Boise said. Kurbanov is charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists knowing that the support was to be used for carrying out an attack involving a weapon of mass destruction, and possession of an unregistered destructive device.
A second indictment filed in Salt Lake City charged Kurbanov with distributing information relating to explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction. Kurbamov allegedly "showed internet videos, conducted instructional shopping trips, provided written recipes and gave verbal instructions on where to obtain the necessary components to construct and use improvised explosive devices." The indictment further alleged that Kurbanov sought to use the explosive devices to bomb public places, transportation, and other infrastructural facilities.
"Today's arrest and these indictments underscore our commitment to aggressively and thoroughly investigate those who conspire to engage in unlawful terrorist activities," Wendy J. Olson, U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho, said is a Department of Justice press release announcing the charges.A detention motion filed in the case described Kubarnov as a serious flight risk. Kurbanov faces a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted on the Idaho charges. The Utah charge carries a longer prison sentence of 20 years.
Eleven shots ring out – plus two more for good measure – leaving 11 Syrian soldiers dead or dying in the sand. Moments earlier, flanked by the black flags of Jhabat al-Nusra, an unidentified man invokes the "name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate" and reads a condemnation:
"The Sharia Court of the Nusra Front (Jhabat al-Nusra) in the Eastern Region in Deir al-Zour has decreed killing upon these apostate soldiers for the massacres they have committed against our brothers and our people in Syria." With that, the grisly video plays on bullet by bullet as the man deals out a perverted form of justice in the name of God. (Note: Due to the extremely graphic and disturbing nature of the video, The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) has decided not to post it or link to it.)
Hot on the heels of a similarly grotesque video depicting the leader of the Syrian rebel Independent Omar al-Farouq brigade, Abu Sakkar, mutilating a dead Syrian soldier's body and taking a bite out of his heart, this latest video highlights the increasingly-gruesome war-crimes playing out on all sides of this multi-faceted Syrian civil war.
Thanks in large part to their battle-hardened capabilities, al-Qaida-tied Jhabat al-Nusra is becoming increasingly popular among the opposition forces. With members of the more secular Free Syrian Army (FSA) defecting to join its ranks, al-Nusra's power and influence are increasing – adding to the concern about proposals for the United States to arm Syrian rebels.
While the Assad regime's primary focus seems limited to quelling the rebellion, Jhabat al-Nusra and its parent group al-Qaida in Iraq see Assad's overthrow as the first step in a far grander plan to create an Islamic state in Syria under Sharia law. Then they can use the more advanced weapon systems they hope to gain against Israel.
The border with Syria – the Golan Heights – has been relatively peaceful since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. This region, now the site of Syrian rocket attacks and threats of re-entry by Syrian forces, stands as the most likely target for Jhabat al-Nusra's aggression and "justice."
Recent assessments cast Assad in a position of renewed strength, and although Jhabat al-Nusra appears to hold both Israel and Iranian-supported Hizballah with equal disdain, al-Nusra's advances indicate a peaceful era is a long way off.
One can only begin to imagine the moment; huddled beneath a tarp, severely wounded from a shootout with police, his brother and accomplice dead potentially by his own hand, hiding from one of the largest manhunts in American history, and all but certain that death was imminent. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev scribbled what he likely believed to be his last words.
As the administration and media work to increase the distance between Islam and terrorism, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's note seems to paint a vastly different picture. CBS News reports:
The note -- scrawled with a marker on the interior wall of the cabin -- said the bombings were retribution for U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, and called the Boston victims "collateral damage" in the same way Muslims have been in the American-led wars. "When you attack one Muslim, you attack all Muslims," Tsarnaev wrote.
Dzhokar said he didn't mourn older brother Tamerlan, the other suspect in the bombings, writing that by that point, Tamerlan was a martyr in paradise -- and that he expected to join him there soon.
Meanwhile, Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), released an article last week entitled "A Word of Truth on Jihad and Islam" wherein he states, "There is a growing attempt by some commentators to label the recent bombings in Boston as 'jihad' and to blame the deadly blasts on a non-existent concept they call 'radical Islam.'" Radical Islam doesn't exist, he wrote, "because radicalism or extremism is not permissible in Islam." That's a bit like saying there are no murderers in the United States because murder is illegal.
Given the suspect's own admission, it is a gross mischaracterization to classify this brutal attack on American soil as anything but a product of radical Islam. Tsarnaev seems to disagree with Awad by addressing not only what he believed to be the universality and singularity of the Muslim faith but also by his firm belief that he and his brother would be shuhada (martyrs) for that faith.
Awad is free to explain why Tsarnaev may be mistaken, or to make it plain that Tsarnaev's views are not shared by the vast majority of Muslim Americans. But don't tell us it doesn't exist. It's scrawled on the inside of a boat in Watertown, Mass.
Hamas has several business fronts operating in Saudi Arabia and Sudan which launder money for the terrorist group, the Arab News claimed in a report Wednesday.
The report claims "high-level Gulf sources" confirmed a previous story in Kuwait's al Seyassah about the illicit activity. The Gulf Cooperation Council is expected "to put an end to the illegitimate financial activity Hamas is carrying out, without excluding these authorities arresting and prosecuting the movement's leadership cadres," an IPT translation of the Arab News report said.
The story named four specific businesses serving as fronts benefitting Hamas. It did not make clear what crimes generated the money, thus requiring its laundering.
Three of the companies identified are in and around Jeddah; al Sawa'id Technical for Contracting, "Al Afaq for Computer Technology and Amsar for Trade. The fourth, Hassan and Abed International for Roads and Bridges, was described as operating in Sudan's capital Khartoum.
If true, the report shows Hamas continues to use front groups for some of its operating money. In the United States, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and five former officials were convicted in 2008 of illegally routing more than $12 million to the designated terrorist group. The foundation was one of several U.S.-based charities which were found to be supporting Hamas.
A District of Columbia federal judge levied $8.4 billion in damages on the Iranian government Thursday, in a case brought by victims of Hizballah's Beirut attacks on the U.S. Embassy and its Annex. Sixty-three people were killed in the April 1983 embassy bombing, and many more injured. The September 1984 assault on the relocated embassy ("the Annex"), killed at least 11 people and injured more than 50 more.
The case, Estate of Doe, et al. v Republic of Iran, et al., was brought under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA"), after a 1996 amendment removed immunity protection for terror-sponsoring governments. Although the waiver of this immunity initially applied only to American victims or claimants, Congress amended the statute to expand jurisdiction to cases of foreign national victims who were employed by the U.S. government, killed or injured while acting within the scope of their employment.
The plaintiffs in this case are 58 foreign national employees and one American employee of the US government who were working at the embassy and were killed or injured as a result of the attacks, and 255 of their immediate family members.
Evidence showed "that the attacks were carried out by the terrorist group Islamic Jihad, known most commonly as Hezbollah, operating with Iranian support and encouragement," the court found. In a previous decision, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates found that "Iran and its Ministry of Information and Security ("MOIS") directed and facilitated the 1983 and 1984 attacks."
The court entered a final judgment of liability in favor of plaintiffs in 2011 and referred their claims to U.S. Magistrate John Facciola to determine damages. After receiving evidence, Facciola filed a 220-page Report & Recommendation in which he extensively analyzed the issues pertaining to each of the plaintiffs' claims.
In Thursday's opinion, Judge Bates adopted most of the Report & Recommendation with a few modifications, to award the plaintiffs a total judgment of over $8.4 billion.
"The record in this case is filled with horrors; the suffering of the plaintiffs and the shattered lives left in the wake of the attacks are apparent on every page," Bates wrote. "Cases like this vividly illustrate the faint approximation of full compensation the law offers where human lives, family relationships, and physical health have been destroyed. The Court hopes that, despite their inherent inadequacy, the compensatory damages awarded here will help alleviate plaintiffs' physical, emotional, and financial injuries. So, too, the Court hopes that the punitive damages award will help deter Iran and MOIS from again inflicting such suffering on innocent people."
Of course, as we have noted before, it remains to be seen whether the plaintiffs will be able to collect payment on this ruling, due to the usual objections by our State and Justice Departments to seizing foreign governments' assets.
Last month's Boston Marathon bombings exposed that federal and local law enforcement agencies still haven't corrected failures in intelligence sharing emphasized after the 9/11 attacks, according to testimony given Wednesday before the House Homeland Security Committee.
"We learned over a decade ago, the danger in failing to connect the dots. The cornerstone of the 9/11 Commission Report was that agencies had 'stove-piped' intelligence, which prevented us from seeing potential terror plots," Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said in his opening statement. "In fact, the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) was created in the wake of 9/11 to help fix this problem. My fear is that the Boston bombers may have succeeded because our system failed.
"I was disturbed in the days following the attack to read some 'officials' had closed the case on whether there was a 'foreign connection,'" when the FBI had just begun its investigation," McCaul continued. "As a former counterterrorism prosecutor, this rush to judgment was both premature and irresponsible."
Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis testified that his department received no information about Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from the FBI prior to April 19, when the rest of the world learned their identities.
Davis said his department would have kept tabs on them if he knew that Russian intelligence informed the FBI about Tamerlan Tsarnaev's Islamic radicalism.
The Massachusetts State Police, which has seven troopers on a Joint Terrorism Taskforce, similarly was unaware of the Tsarnaev brothers prior to the bombing, said Massachusetts Undersecretary for Homeland Security & Emergency Management Kurt Schwartz.
"My understanding is that at no times prior to the bombings did any member of the Massachusetts State Police or the fusion center have any information or knowledge about the Tsarnaev brothers," Schwartz said.
McCaul and former Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who testified at the hearing, expressed concern about an emerging narrative that downplays the spread of the global jihadist movement. Lieberman criticized those who oversimplify the problem by making it solely about al-Qaida.
"The Boston Marathon attacks should again teach us that the enemy we face is violent Islamic extremism, not just al-Qaida," Lieberman said. "Osama Bin Laden is dead and the remaining leadership of al-Qaida is on the run but the ideology of violent Islamic extremism is rapidly spreading.
"We do not know yet whether the Tsarnaev brothers were involved with any foreign group, but we do know that the extremely false narrative of violent Islamic extremism – that Islam and America involved in a struggle to the death with each other."
Lieberman stressed the need for better relations with the Muslim community to intercept people like the Tsarnaev brothers before they strike because they will be the "first line of defense."
In January, reporter Richard Behar called out the media for ignoring newly uncovered recordings showing Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi referring to Jews as "the descendants of apes and pigs" and saying that Muslims should "nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews…"
"Surely, if the president of virtually any other country in the world had defamed an entire people in such a way — only a couple years before they got the top job, to boot — it would have at least gotten a few column-inches," Behar wrote. "Yet Morsi gets a free pass."
This week brings two bone-chilling examples of Palestinian radicalism from supposedly "moderate" voices that, thus far, have gone largely unnoticed in American media. First came a Palestinian Media Watch video of senior Palestinian Authority official Jibril Rajoub wishing he could drop a nuclear bomb on Israel. In an April 30 interview with a Lebanese television station, Rajoub – the ruling Fatah Party's Central Committee deputy secretary and head of the PA's Olympic committee – said, "I swear that if we had a nuke, we'd have used it this very morning" during a discussion of efforts to renew peace talks.
A Google news search identifies the Washington Times as the only American news outlet to report on Rajoub's statement. The Palestinian Media Watch report also cited Abu Al-Einein, a former advisory to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and head of the Palestinian Council for NGO Affairs, praising a man who stabbed to death an unarmed Israeli as a "heroic fighter."
In Hamas-controlled Gaza, meanwhile, Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, considered the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual guide, urged Palestinians to never seek peaceful compromise with Israel.
"Our wish should be that we carry out Jihad to death," Qaradawi said.
This rhetoric is not new for Qaradawi – who last month boycotted an interfaith gathering in Qatar because it might mean sharing a platform with Jews – and previously has endorsed Muslim nations' obtaining nuclear weapons "to terrorize thereby the enemy of God and your enemy" and said he prayed for a chance to "shoot Allah's enemies, the Jews" before he died. In 2004, he joined in a statement advocating attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq as "a shari'a duty incumbent upon anyone belonging to the Muslim nation."
Three State Department whistleblowers told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Wednesday that bureaucratic wrangling led to the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012 that left four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, dead.
The whistleblowers included Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of Mission and Charge d'Affairs in Libya; Eric Nordstrom, diplomatic security officer and former State Department regional security officer in Libya; and Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for Counterterrorism.
Inadequate security, combined with substandard building requirements at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, resulted in the tragedy, Hicks' testified.
A seven-member security team was dispatched from Tripoli to Benghazi as soon as reports emerged that the diplomatic mission was under attack. Stevens was reported missing by the time the team arrived, according to a timeline provided by the Defense Department last year.
As the assault unfolded, four Army Special Forces members, part of a second team, were told not to go although they were poised to board a Libyan C-130 bound for Benghazi as early as 1:45 a.m.
"They were told not to board the flight, so they missed it," Hicks said.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., pressed Hicks on whether Stevens had told him about a demonstration outside the consulate the afternoon before his death.
Stevens had made no mention of any demonstration before the consulate was attacked, Hicks said. He was "shocked and embarrassed" when U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on five Sunday morning talk shows the following Sunday to say that the attack had been the result of protests against the "Innocence of Muslims" video.
Gowdy then disclosed the contents of an email sent to top State Department officials the day after the attack saying Ansar al-Shariah was responsible. The email from Beth Jones, acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, was sent to then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"When he (the Libyan ambassador to the United States) told me that former elements of the Gaddafi regime was responsible, I told him that the group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al-Shariah, is affiliated with Islamic terrorists," the email said.
Rice's comments hindered the FBI investigation into the Benghazi attacks because it made getting the Libyans to cooperate more difficult, Hicks said.
Fellow whistleblower Nordstrom testified that the Benghazi consulate was considered temporary and was not built to the specifications needed for a high-risk area.
Nordstrom blamed Clinton for the less-than-secure design of the Benghazi consulate, saying she was the only person who could grant waivers to except it from the standards put in places following the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
All three witnesses placed responsibility for the inadequate security at the Benghazi mission on the higher ups at the Departments of State and Defense.
As investigators continue to search for possible accomplices in the Boston Marathon bombings, and clues as to how Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were radicalized enough to commit violence, two writers say one mystery is obvious.
The embrace of a radical Islamist ideology was central to the attack, which mirrored plans spelled out in al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula's Inspire magazine, academic Jeffrey M. Bale and Muslim physician Qanta Ahmed write in separate columns.
"[T]hey had embraced a radical Islamist ideology that enjoined them to wage armed jihad against the 'infidel' enemies of Islam," writes Bale, director of the Monterey Terrorism Research and Education Program, in a column for the U.S. Naval Institute. "It hardly matters why the Tsarnaev brothers became disgruntled or angry—people can become disgruntled and angry for a vast array of both legitimate and delusional reasons. What matters is that this underlying emotional attitude made them receptive to and ultimately caused them to embrace Islamist doctrines, which offered them an explicit, coherent, and theologically sanctioned justification for perpetrating violence."
Ahmed, writing in the New York Post, agrees.
The narrative at the core of radical Islam is that violence is a necessity to "the idea of reclaiming a mythic Golden Age of Islam, a 'glory' that can be 'restored' only through violent jihad. Both their 'Islam' and the narrative are utterly fictional, yet the consequences of their make-believe are diabolically real."
The media often is reluctant to address this ideology, argues Bale, who has studied violent extremists for three decades. He criticizes "a blatant double standard" when violence is carried out by other extremists like neo-Nazis, white supremacists or anti-government groups.
"Nor do the media customarily refrain from noting the communist ideological agendas of left-wing terrorists, or the underlying beliefs fueling the violent actions of certain eco-radicals. Why, then," Bale asks, "is the role of Islamist ideology so often downplayed or denied in connection with acts of jihadist terrorism?"
By stifling the discussion, "we only shield the political Islamists," Ahmed writes, ignoring their often-lethal ambition to carry out attacks in the name of the faith. "Violent jihad is not a motive, but his sum raison d'etre. Without it, there can be no existence for the jihadist. Until he commits violent jihad, he doesn't truly exist — to feel real, he becomes a jihadist. And if he truly succeeds, his realized existence both births and extinguishes him simultaneously."
Bale and Ahmed have support from a former radical Islamist. "Jihadists who strike in America believe that by attacking the 'far enemy, — that is, the United States — they can weaken American resolve for supporting the 'near enemy', the rulers who stand in the way of a Middle Eastern jihadist superstate," Maajid Nawaz wrote in London's Sunday Times.
Those who argue other factors drove the Tsarnaevs to attack "are either being disingenuous or living in a state of psychological denial, if not in a parallel mental universe," Bale writes. Nawaz, who now works to counter the narrative he once embraced, said it's not enough to target the people plotting violence. The West also must defeat "the cause they espoused."
Hizballah has always proclaimed to be the vanguard of the "resistance" against Israel, while claiming to advance Lebanese national interests as its priority.
But the ongoing Syrian civil war has exposed the terrorist organization "to be nothing more than a mere tool of the mullahs in Tehran, promoting the lies of the 'resistance' while condemning all those who have refused to fall for this charade," a column in the prominent London-based Asharq Al-Awsat says.
Opinion Editor Mshari Al-Zaydi says Hizballah's "resistance" slogan has been deceitful for "more than ten years" since the organization takes direct orders from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Its blatant fighting on behalf of dictator Bashar al-Assad makes this clear.
If the Assad regime falls, Hizballah suffers a severe setback to its influential position within Lebanon and the government. The organization also loses a strategic ally that has helped facilitate the transfer of weaponry and material from Iran.
As the European Union debates designating Hizballah a terrorist organization in light of recent terror activity, including its direct involvement in last summer's Bulgaria terrorist attack, Bahrain became the first Arab country to blacklist the group, as Sunni ruled countries are increasingly threatened by Hizballah's pro-Iranian activities in their countries.
Hizballah critics used to face blowback that they were supporting Israel and America. But the Syrian conflict exposes that empty deflection, Al-Zaydi writes. By siding with the dictator, Hizballah shows that it was using the "resistance" slogan for propaganda purposes to earn legitimacy within Lebanon and the Arab world. In reality, it acts along sectarian lines to advance Iran's Shi'ite-based hegemonic endeavors that cost tens of thousands of Arab lives.