A Somali-American man will serve 30 years in prison for plotting to detonate a massive car bomb at a crowded 2010 Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore.
Mohamed Mohamud, 23, was arrested in November 2010 after repeatedly trying to detonate the bomb, which was parked amid thousands of people, including children.
Prosecutors asked that Mohamud be sentenced to 40 years, describing in detail his plot and his motivations. FBI agent in undercover operatives to monitor him after his father contacted law enforcement to express concern about Mohamud's radicalization, a prosecution sentencing memo said.
In writings and recordings, "Mohamud had made it clear he thought terrorism targeting Americans was 'a justified response to what he perceived as the killing of innocent Muslims in Afghanistan by the United States and its allies.'"
Defense attorneys suggested a 10-year sentence, arguing that Mohamud has taken responsibility for his actions, expressed remorse and tried to change his life.
Prosecutors challenged the sincerity of those actions, saying he continues to argue entrapment – a defense rejected by jurors who convicted him in January 2013. Mohamud, the sentencing memo says, "attempted to kill thousands of people in the name of his distorted and radical view of Islam."
Defense attorneys agreed, to some extent.
"There was no question that Mohamed was involved in Islamic extremism before any government contact," they wrote. But he didn't start planning the attack before undercover agents reached out to him and he would not have been able to build a bomb without their assistance.
But blowing up the lighting ceremony of a 70-foot Christmas tree was Mohamud's idea, and the undercover handlers repeatedly pressed him about the carnage that would result, including the deaths of so many children.
"I want whoever is attending that event to be, to leave either dead or injured," Mohamud said in a recorded conversation.
Despite such statements, and the defense acknowledgment of Mohamud's intent, some American Islamist groups, led by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), minimize the case, arguing the FBI concocted the case to create "a sensational story."
FBI agents were drawn to Mohamud after he wrote four articles for Jihad Recollections, an online magazine later tied to al-Qaida, and posted on other jihadi web sites. In addition, before he tried repeatedly to go to Yemen for jihad training.
At the tree lighting, Mohamud tried repeatedly to detonate an 1,800-pound bomb packed into a van. FBI agents rendered it inert, and arrested Mohamud after the failed attempts.
Prosecutors downplayed any statements of remorse and argued that should not lead to a shorter prison sentence: "There is simply no 'reliable' evidence in this case that defendant will pose less of a danger following a lengthy term of incarceration than other aspiring jihadists who have been intercepted, convicted, and sentenced..."
The Obama administration has acknowledged that its strict policy of preventing civilian deaths does not apply to American airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.
The statement confirming the loosening of high standards pertaining to minimizing collateral damage comes amid reports that as many as a dozen civilians, including women and children, were killed by a U.S. strike of a Syrian village.
U.S. officials believed that members of the Khorasan group, an al-Qaida splinter organization, were based in the village that was struck by the U.S. Air Force, resulting in civilian deaths.
Last year, President Obama issued a policy prohibiting U.S. drone strikes unless there was a "near certainty" that collateral damage will not result. The "near certainty" standard only applies "when we take direct action 'outside areas of active hostilities'…," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told the Jerusalem Post.
This standard, she said, "simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now."
This relaxation is fuelling allegations of double standards against the Obama administration. Throughout the summer conflict between Israel and Hamas, the White House criticized Israel's counterterrorism operations as disproportionate and harshly condemning Israel's rules of engagement.
"The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians," the Statement Department said after Israel shelled a United Nations school that was used as a Hamas terrorist base. Secretary of State John Kerry was also highly critical of the civilian death toll in Gaza.
"It's a hell of a pinpoint operation," Kerry sarcastically said to an aide, caught by an open microphone while preparing to do an interview in July.
Syrian rebel commanders briefing the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week presented evidence of innocent Syrian civilians killed by U.S. airstrikes. Pictures of injured children were also posted on YouTube, resulting in anti-American protests in some Syrian villages.
Islamist terrorists operating in Syria and Iraq are increasingly blending into the civilian population, a tactic explicitly adopted by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
The United States openly criticized Israel for its counterterrorism operations; however the U.S.-led campaign in the region is also producing collateral damage against al-Qaeda groups and the Islamic State.
Two Hamas terrorists responsible for kidnapping and murdering three Israeli boys in June are being honored by the Palestinian Authority as "martyrs," according to a Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) report.
"Shahid," or martyr, is a designation for people who "achieve [the] highest status in Islam" and will be rewarded in the afterlife, the report said.
That's how numerous PA officials are describing Marwan Kawasme and Amer Abuysha, both tied to Hamas terrorist activity, who were killed in a firefight last week as Israeli troops raided their hideout.
PA religious affairs minister Yusuf Ida'is referred to the terrorists as "martyrs" who were "assassinated" by Israeli forces. According to the Palestinian Ma'an news, Ida'is "denounced the heinous 'Israeli' crime committed by the occupation forces in Hebron…"
The official PA News agency WAFA also described the two as Shahids, without mentioning the context behind the Israeli raid.
Hailing the dead terrorists follows a long tradition within the PA, which has named schools, parks, buildings and other public facilities after dead terrorists. And it comes as PA President Mahmoud Abbas claims to be ready to make dramatic compromises in order to reach a historic peace deal with Israel.
But Abbas' Fatah movement condemned Israel's targeted killing as a "cowardly execution" and official PA TV referred to the killing of the terrorists as a "cold-blooded execution."
Denial of Hamas' involvement in the abduction and murder of the youth is still prevalent in the PA, despite a senior Hamas official confirming that the terrorist organization was behind the attack.
Click here to see Palestinian Media Watch's compilation Palestinians' reactions and support for the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli students.
After the initial kidnapping, many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza celebrated the terrorist attack. Following the Israeli raid, thousands of Palestinians mourned the deaths of the terrorists by staging a mass funeral procession.
A Turkish man who was part of a flotilla that violently tried to break Israel's blockade on Gaza in 2010 has been killed in bombing raids targeting ISIS terrorists in Syria, media reports say.
Yakup Bülent Alnıak was in Syria researching a book, a statement from a charity group called Iyilikder, said Jordan's JN News reported. But other reports in Turkish media indicate Alniak was fighting with a rival jihadist group, the al-Qaida tied Al Nusra Front.
The 2010 voyage of the Mavi Marmara ended with nine people dead after passengers attacked Israeli commandos with knives, metal bars and other weapons as they tried to take control of ship. A United Nations investigation found that Israel's blockade on Gaza – meant to slow weapons smuggling into the Hamas-controlled territory – was legitimate and legal.
Turkey, the report found, could have done more to stop organizers from pursuing plans to force a confrontation with Israel. Other ships were part of a flotilla with the Mavi Marmara, but those passengers did not attack the Israeli commandos and no one on those ships was injured.
One of the group's organizing the flotilla, Turkish-based IHH, has been linked to both Hamas and al-Qaida. To IHH, Hamas is not a terrorist group, but a legitimate political party. In 2010, 87 U.S. senators asked President Obama to investigate the group for possible designation as a terrorist group but that designation has not developed.
U.S. court documents show that IHH also had ties to al-Qaida. IHH played an "important role" in the al-Qaida planned millennium bomb plot by Ahmed Ressam, French intelligence expert Jean Louis-Bruguiere said during Ressam's trial. Bruguiere also told the Associated Press in June 2010 that IHH was "basically helping Al Qaeda when (Osama) bin Laden started to want to target U.S. soil."
President Obama praised a radical Muslim cleric during his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday. The president referenced Abdullah Sheikh bin Bayyah in an attempt to promote moderate Muslim responses to radical Islamist ideology.
"The ideology of ISIL or al Qaeda or Boko Haram will wilt and die if it is consistently exposed, confronted, and refuted in the light of day," Obama said. "Look at the new Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies – Sheikh bin Bayyah described its purpose: 'We must declare war on war, so the outcome will be peace upon peace.'"
By itself, this quote may appear to be moderate. But it overlooks bin Bayyah's deeper record of radical associations and views.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism documented bin Bayyah's problematic connections last year after he met senior officials at the White House. Bin Bayyah was vice president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), a group founded by and headed by radical Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Qaradawi, regarded as the spiritual leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood movement, is banned from the United States for his extremist views, including calling for the killing of Americans and Jews.
Bin Bayyah reportedly left the IUMS in September 2013. The IUMS is extremely hostile toward Israel and supports terrorist attacks against the United States and the Jewish state. A 2004 fatwa, issued while Bin Bayyah was an IUMS board member, sanctioned "resistance," meaning attacks on American troops in Iraq as "a duty on every able Muslim in and outside Iraq."
Moreover, bin Bayyah criticized the West in 2011 for designating Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad as terrorist organizations and treating them in the same category as al-Qaida.
"[P]lacing the Palestinian resistance, which defends internationally recognized rights, on an equal footing with intercontinental terrorist organizations (al-Qaida) is not based on any moral principle and would be detrimental to the cause of the fight against terrorism and mix the cards and raises questions to the world conscience and serves terrorists," he said.
Click here to read the IPT report on the White House meeting.
A group that reportedly has been supplied with American anti-tank guided TOW missiles has issued a statement condemning the U.S.-led airstrikes against ISIS terrorists in Syria.
In an Arabic language social media post Tuesday, the rebel group Harakat Hazm said that, "The aerial bombardments are an assault against the national sovereignty" which only help the Assad regime cling to power. The statement argues that the better move would be to arm "the Free Syrian Army without condition [otherwise] the result will be failure and destruction that reach the whole region."
The United States carried out its first attacks inside Syria against the terrorist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State, early Tuesday. U.S. fighter jets and ship-based Tomahawk missiles bombed targets in Raqaa, an ISIS stronghold, among other targets.
Fighter jets from Bahrain and other regional Arab countries reportedly joined in the attack.
Harakat Hazm is a confederation of rebel groups created in January, and purportedly is among the more moderate Syrian rebel groups. The alliance includes about 7,000 fighters. It has fought alongside al-Qaida linked jihadist groups, including Jabhat al Nusra and Ahrar Al Sham, according to this video posted on YouTube in June by a supporter of the Islamic State.
Ironically, Harakat Hazm's statement further highlights the challenge of finding reliable partners for the United States and its allies among Syrian rebels. In an April interview with the Washington Post, Harakat Hazm leader Abdullah Awda played it coy when asked if the United States directly provided the TOW missiles.
"These missiles are available in the countries of the [Persian] Gulf, they are available in Libya," he said. "The Americans have a long list of countries that they sell weapons to."
Awda also said he wants democracy for Syria, but "any government will have to take laws from Islam, be inspired by Islam, because "at the end of the day Islam is the religion of the country and the religion of most of its people. Thus, the government should consider Islam as a source, but the true, moderate Islam."
Thousands of Palestinians mourned the deaths Tuesday of two Palestinian men suspected of kidnapping and killing three Israeli students in June, the Jerusalem Post reports. A massive funeral procession honoring Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abuysha moved through the streets of Hebron, featuring mourners waving Palestinian and Hamas flags. Both Hamas affiliated terrorists were killed after they opened fire on Israeli troops moving in to arrest them.
Many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza celebrated the initial kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, 19, and 16-year-olds Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel, in June. The terrorists were previously jailed in both Palestinian Authority and Israel and actively involved in terrorist activities on behalf of Hamas.
"We promised the families that we would find the murderers. This morning, we did just that," IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said Tuesday morning.
The families of the victims thanked Israeli troops for locating the Hamas suspects today, saying that an "evil circle has been closed" with their demise, the Times of Israel reports.
Israeli politicians also praised the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for carrying out the raid. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement vowing that Israel "will continue to hit terror everywhere."
"This is a clear message to all of our enemies that we will settle the score with any terrorist, no matter where they are hiding," Israeli MK Danny Danon said.
Hamas officials initially denied involvement in the boys' kidnapping and murders, and some media reports accused Netanyahu of taking advantage of the crime to go after Hamas infrastructure and members in the West Bank.
However, a senior Hamas official admitted in August that the terrorist organization was responsible for the abduction and murders. Salah al-Aruri, based in Turkey, praised the "heroic action of the Kassam Brigades (Hamas' military wing) who kidnapped three settlers in Hebron."
Hamas issued a statement after Tuesday's raid, praising Kawasme and Abuysha as martyrs, "and we stress that their assassination will not weaken the resistance."
A New York federal jury on Monday found Arab Bank liable for enabling terrorist attacks by Hamas by routing money to the players involved. It's a landmark decision – in the first trial of its kind against a financial institution under the Anti-Terrorism Act– which advocates already are hoping will have a deterrent effect.
"Every bank, every company and every government in the world now has to decide whether it is willing to continue doing business with an institution proven to have knowingly supported terrorism and proven to have helped murder Americans," said plaintiffs' attorney Gary Osen.
The civil verdict comes after just two days of deliberations, following a six-week trial. The lawsuit was filed a decade ago on behalf of nearly 300 victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks and their families, many of whom are Americans. It alleged that Arab Bank violated the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act by knowingly providing banking services to terrorist groups like Hamas "that allowed those organizations to flourish and to engage in a campaign of terror…" That included money from a Saudi charitable group which allegedly was used as "death insurance" for families of Hamas suicide bombers.
In a move which shows the political obstacles terrorist victims often face in civil litigation, the U.S. State Department waited until after jury deliberations began to release a memorandum saying the U.S. gave Saudi officials evidence in 2003 showing that a charity there "was forwarding millions of dollars in funds to the families of Palestinians engaged in terrorist activities, including those of suicide bombers."
It was information sought by the plaintiffs for six years, attorney Michael Elsner said in a Jerusalem Post report.
"We don't expect the State Department to take sides in a civil case, but by withholding critical evidence until the jury began its deliberations, the State Department continues its unfortunate pattern of siding with foreign interests against American victims of terrorism," Elsner said.
The bank's lawyers promise an appeal, saying, "The trial was infected by scores of errors..."
Damages against the bank, which has $46 billion in assets, will be determined later.
Fresh from congressional approval to arm and train Syrian rebel groups fighting the vicious Islamic State terrorist group, the White House met this week with Syrian American advocates to discuss how to proceed.
But one of the people consulted is on record defending and sympathizing with Syrian rebels tied to al-Qaida.
Mohamad Alla Ghanem, government relations director for the Syrian American Council, touted his White House visit on his Facebook page Thursday.
Last November, Ghanem wrote about a trip to Doha, where he got to meet Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a spiritual guide to the Muslim Brotherhood who has endorsed attacks against American troops in Iraq and suicide bombings against Israelis.
"I love this appreciated scholar very much," Ghanem wrote, "even I adore his jurisprudence. I consider this a great honor. Now, I am over the moon." Qaradawi has been banned from entering the United States and United Kingdom due to his support for terrorism.
But that's not the only time Ghanem has praised jihadists.
In December2012, Ghanem wrote a column in Washington Post in which he criticized the United States for classifying Jabhat Al Nusra as a terrorist organization. Sure, many Jabhat leaders are ideological on par with al-Qaida, he wrote, but not all of its members share that view. And the group "has achieved military successes and has delivered critical civilian aid."
In a column published a week ago by The Hill, Ghanem noted a recent Islamic State attack that wiped out the leadership in the Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham. It is perhaps "the most hardline Syrian rebel group," and founded by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's personal representative in Syria, but it is an Islamic State rival nonetheless.
Ghanem said he didn't mention the group to endorse it, but argued it was "a great shame that" American support to Syrian rebels was held back "for fear of rebel groups like Ahrar al-Sham as Syrians were slaughtered by the thousands."
Advocates for increased U.S. support for Syrian rebels acknowledge the steep challenge of ensuring weapons and training don't go to other radical jihadists. Having Ghanem advise the White House on the issue, when it either didn't know about his past statements or didn't care, isn't going to instill confidence.
And Ghanem's organization, the Syrian American Council, sponsored last year's U.S. fundraising visit of Rateb Al Nabulsi. Nabulsi is a Syrian Islamic scholar who labeled all Jews as legitimate targets for suicide bombers. Now Al Nabulsi, along with an imam named Osama Al Rifai, who also came to the U.S with the help of SAC to raise money, are on the Syrian Islamic Council, which issued a statement opposing the American airstrikes against the Islamic State.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan compared Israel to Hitler and predicted that the Jewish state "will drown in the blood that they shed" at a rally prior to his presidential election last month, a Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translation of his address posted on the Internet on Aug. 3 shows.
"Just like Hitler tried to create a pure Aryan race in Germany, the State of Israel is pursuing the same goals right now," Erdogan told a cheering crowd.
He continued his anti-Semitic rant, accusing Israel of genocide.
"They kill the women so that they will not be able to give birth to Palestinian babies. They kill the babies so that they will not be able to grow up to be men. They kill the men so that they will not be able to defend their homeland."
Given attitudes like that from the political leadership, it's easy to see why Turkey, though a NATO ally, has become a base of Hamas operations. Turkey is considered a top Hamas funder. More than a dozen Hamas officials now live there, the Washington Free Beacon's Adam Kredo reported last month. That includes Saleh al-Aruri, who acknowledged Hamas was responsible for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli yeshiva students in June.
In addition, Aruri reportedly was involved in a coup plot against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that was broken up by Israeli officials during the summer.
Erdogan is notorious for his anti-Semitic statements and worldview. In the past, he has referred to Zionism as a "crime against humanity" and senior Turkish officials have blamed their country's internal problems on the Jews.
Meanwhile, Turkey has balked at joining emerging coalition of countries trying to beat back the terrorist Islamic State which has been terrorizing neighboring Syria and Iraq. As many as 1,000 Turkish citizens have joined the Islamic State, and critics say the country has not done enough to seal its borders to stem that tide.
Turkey's open support for a designated terrorist organization, according to the U.S. and key Western allies, should be scrutinized in light of the fact that Turkey remains a NATO member.