The "Futuwwa" program started last fall as an elective class and attracted thousands of teenaged boys, who are trained in everything from first aid to handling a Kalashnikov rifle to how to throw grenades. It is the brainchild of Hamas education chief Mohamed Siyam, who denied teenagers were receiving military training. Rather, he said, "we are providing information."
A video posted on Youtube indicates Siyam is being disingenuous. In it, Palestinian students attack an Israeli military post with guns and later seeming to blast it with a shoulder-fired rocket.
Though Hamas schools are gender segregated, Futuwwa may be open to girls next year. In a February column, Arab-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh criticized international human rights groups for their silence on "this form of child abuse."
"More disturbing is that only a few of the dozens of Western-funded human rights organizations that operate in the Gaza Strip have raised their voices against Hamas's abuse of children," Abu Toameh wrote. "Even the United Nations Children's Fund [UNICEF], which was created to work for children's rights, their survival, development and protection, has yet to condemn Hamas for recruiting school children to its military apparatus."
One Gaza-based human rights group, Al Mezan, has been critical, with spokesman Samar Zakout calling it "unbelievable" that Hamas would use schools "to create a resistance culture."
This is nothing new for Hamas, which has targeted the youngest school children with messages of jihad and martyrdom.
The program has the blessing of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who attended a January ceremony for the program, saying he wants to open a military college this fall.
Western nations need to consider this indoctrination in any discussion of a prospective Palestinian unity deal, or of whether to accept Hamas as an acceptable player in peace efforts, Abu Toameh wrote.
"By poisoning the hearts and minds of schoolchildren," he wrote, "Hamas is raising an entire generation of Palestinians on glorification of suicide bombers, jihad and terrorism."
A federal judge in New York has denied Arab Bank's motion to dismiss a lawsuit on behalf of 296 Palestinian terror victims, clearing the case for trial later this year.
The lawsuit accuses Arab Bank of violating the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act by "soliciting, collecting, transmitting, disbursing and providing the financial resources that allowed those organizations to flourish and to engage in a campaign of terror…" Part of that was done through funds from a Saudi charitable group which allegedly was used as "death insurance" for families of Hamas suicide bombers.
Lead plaintiff Courtney Linde lost her husband John during a 2003 attack in Gaza while he was guarding American diplomats.
U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon rejected some specific claims during a hearing Wednesday, but otherwise cleared the case for a jury trial which could come this fall.
It was filed in 2004. Attorney Gary Osen expressed relief to clear the last hurdle before a trial. "From our standpoint, it's time for the bell to toll," he said.
An Arab Bank spokesman called the banking activity at issue "routine and lawful" and said the bank didn't know there would be any connection to terrorist acts. But in a previous ruling, Gershon said Arab Bank would not be able to argue it was ignorant about doing business with Hamas.
In March, another federal judge paved the way for a similar lawsuit to proceed to trial against Credit Lyonnais, a leading European bank.
American courts have awarded billions of dollars in damages against Iran for its sponsorship of terrorist groups, but victims have had difficulty collecting on those rulings due to opposition from the State and Justice departments which object to seizing assets of foreign governments. A judgment against Arab Bank would be a different matter.
Hizballah may have lost the ability to move tens of millions of dollars tied to international money laundering and drug trafficking after U.S. Treasury officials acted against two Lebanese based money exchange operations. Each handled money from a drug network led by Ayman Joumaa.
When Joumaa was indicted in late 2011, Treasury officials also moved against the Lebanese Central Bank, which allegedly was moving as much as $200 million a month for Joumaa. The Halawi Exchange and Remeiti & Co. helped fill that void, a Treasury statement Tuesday said . The action marks the first time the Treasury Department used a provision in the Patriot Act to go after an informal financial operation.
Officials say Hizballah takes profits from drug sale and mixes the money with proceeds from West African used car sales. It all goes into the money exchanges, then the money is sent to the United States for other business, before making its way back to Africa and Lebanon.
"Hizballah is operating like a major drug cartel, and we're going to actively investigate them as such with all our law enforcement partners acting as one team," Drug Enforcement Administration Special Operations Special Agent Derek Maltz told reporters Tuesday. "This is another of many clear links between global drug trafficking and terrorism. Drugs and terrorism coexist across the globe in a marriage of mutual convenience. As state-sponsored terrorism has declined, these dangerous organizations have looked far and wide for resources and revenue to recruit, to corrupt, to train, and to strengthen their regime."
Hizballah increasingly has turned to criminal enterprises for money because Iran cannot provide the same financial support it used to, said David Cohen, Treasury's Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. The money funds global terror operations, he said, referring to a suspected Hizballah bombing of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last summer, and its ongoing support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's crumbling regime.
Hizballah "has long sought access to the international financial system in order to move its terrorist funds and to launder the profits from its involvement in illegal activity," Cohen said. "Make no mistake, [Hizballah] is both a full-fledged terrorist organization, lavishly funded over the years by Iran, and an enterprise that increasingly turns to crime to finance itself as the economic pressure on Iran mounts and Iran's financial situation becomes more tenuous."
The Treasury action requires American banks to report any new transactions by Remeiti and Halawi for the next 120 days. The department hopes to make that reporting requirement permanent.
An amendment to the FBI's appropriations bill signed into law by President Obama may bring back the 9/11 Commission to assess how its recommendations have been implemented since they were issued in 2004.
"We should not miss an opportunity to look at everything and look at anything inappropriate that we may have done differently in the past that we may have to do differently," amendment sponsor U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., told the Investigative Project on Terrorism. "We need to bring people who have a history of dealing with things like this and bring them in front of the Congress."
"They would look at everything," Wolf said. "What is the radicalization issue? What were some of the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission? How have they all been carried out? Is there anything based on new technology or whatever that we should be doing different to look at everything?"
He hopes the review also will examine the problems leading up to last week's Boston Marathon bombing.
Much has changed since the recommendations were made and al-Qaida has adapted, shifting toward using lone-wolf terrorists to attack America. It has also uses Internet tools such as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula's Inspire magazine for recruiting.
With accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev telling FBI investigators that he and his brother were radicalized online and that they found the design for their bombs in Inspire, the deficiency of traditional counter-terrorism approaches becomes apparent.
Homegrown terrorists such as the Tsarnaev brothers, Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan and Sgt. Jason Naser Abdo show the threat is more difficult to intercept.
"You don't get the chatter that you normally would if it was al-Qaida," Wolf said. "Some are impacted by abroad and some are impacted by just reading the magazine that's online.
Many questions remain about Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and their ability to carry out the Boston attack without the FBI and other government agencies detecting them.
Among those is the FBI's handling of a January 2011 inquiry triggered by contact from Russia's Federal Security Bureau (FSB) about Tamerlan's Islamic extremism.
The fact that the FBI didn't learn about Tamerlan's travel to Russia despite knowledge within the Department of Homeland Security underscores some of the problems that have remained unsolved since the 9/11 Commission issued its report.
A Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee report on the terrorism watch list from last July found that the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) lacked access to all intelligence databases despite the 9/11 Commission's desire to break down the walls between various agencies.
Wolf blames a comprehensive political correctness that he says has consumed all aspects of the Obama administration. Involving the American Muslim community in finding the extremists before they strike is an important part of preventing future attacks, he said, but the message emanating from come Muslim groups hinders that, he said. "[Muslims] should be out there speaking out on this, but if you recall you had CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) urging … young Somalians in the Minneapolis area and their families with this line of not to participate and not deal with the FBI."
Wolf has long been a critic of CAIR's effort to blind the FBI, DHS and other national security agencies in their quest to catch homegrown Islamic extremists before they turn to terror.
In a 2009 floor speech, he took CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad to task for his stated support for Hamas in a 1994 speech at Berry University and nailed CAIR officials for giving aid and comfort to such international terrorist groups.
His amendment would ensure the FBI's policy about limiting contacts with CAIR continues. "They have been more of a hindrance than a help," Wolf said.
A clerical error thwarted the FBI from discovering that now-deceased Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev had traveled to Russian last year for six months. It underscores broader problems that have persisted in federal counterterrorism databases since 9/11.
"He went over to Russia but apparently when he got on the airplane, they misspelled his name, so it never went into the system that he actually went to Russia," Graham said.
Tsarnaev arrived in the Russian republic of Dagestan around February 2012, but the details of his six-month trip remain sketchy. It isn't known who he met with, but the al-Qaida-aligned Caucasus Emirate terrorist group denied Sunday that it had anything to do with the Boston bombing.
The FBI interviewed Tsarnaev in January 2011 but found no indication he was a threat despite having been warned about him by Russia's internal security agency, the FSB.
Questions lingering from the FBI interview were enough to hold up Tsarnaev's naturalization application last year.
The terrorism watch list has been hampered by an inability to do keyword searches and by a cumbersome indexing system, among other issues.
"Meanwhile, tens of thousands of 'potentially vital' messages from the Central Intelligence Agency have not been included in the database, known as the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, congressional investigators found," the Wall Street Journal reported in 2008.
A Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee report issued last July found that the National Counterterrorism Center's (NCTC) computer systems were "substandard" and lacked access to all intelligence agency databases.
Problems with misspellings are nothing new, as shown by a 2006 GAO report. "Misidentifications most commonly occur with names that are identical or similar to names on the watch list," the report said.
A 2008 New York Times editorial opined that the $500 million software behind the terrorism watch list could not recognize slight misspellings of suspects' names.
Canadian authorities say they have two men in custody for plotting to attack a commuter rail line in Toronto.
Toronto resident Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser of Montreal allegedly were aided by al-Qaida elements in Iran, Canada's National Post reports. Officials did not release many details, including what explosives would be used in the attack, or where the suspects – who are not Canadian citizens – came from.
"Had this plot been carried out, it would have resulted in innocent people being killed or seriously injured," Royal Canadian Mounted Police official James Malidza told reporters. The men received "direction and guidance" from al-Qaida sources in Iran.
"This is the first known al-Qaida planned attack that we've experienced in Canada," said RCMP Supt. Doug Best.
The rail line targeted is believed to travel between New York and Toronto. More details could emerge when the suspects appear in court Tuesday. Law enforcement had been watching the suspects for more than a year, the CBC reports. The men had the ability to carry out the attack, but authorities moved in before there was an imminent threat to public safety, Malidza said.
"Project Smooth" began last August. It included the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and, in America, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, an RCMP statement said.
Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old surviving suspect in last week's deadly Boston Marathon bombings, was charged in a criminal complaint unsealed Monday with using a weapon of mass destruction against persons and property in the United States. The charges were announced by Attorney General Eric Holder in a Justice Department press release.
"Although our investigation is ongoing, today's charges bring a successful end to a tragic week for the city of Boston, and for our country," Holder said.
The April 15 bombings that took place close to the Marathon's finish line in quick succession of each other killed three people and injured more than 200. Tsarnaev was captured Friday evening, several hours after a dramatic shootout with police that resulted in the death of his older brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the other accused in the bombings.
A federal magistrate visited Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in his hospital room Monday to hold a preliminary hearing. Tsarnaev may face additional charges in a subsequent indictment.
An affidavit in support of the complaint provided detailed the suspects' movements before the explosions based on video footage captured by security cameras. The videos also showed the men placing bombs hidden in knapsacks at the bombing site.
The affidavit said that the suspects tried to escape from the city on April 18 soon after the FBI published video and pictures of them. Close to midnight, the Tsarnaevs carjacked a vehicle at gunpoint in Cambridge, Mass. They demanded money from the victim and used his ATM card to withdraw money before driving to a gas station/convenience store. The victim managed to escape when the men got out of the car.
A short time later, law enforcement officers located the stolen car and pursued the men who threw out two small improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at them. The violent shootout ended with Tamerlan dead. A police officer was killed and another critically wounded in the standoff.
Dzhokhar managed to escape and the car was later founded abandoned with several unexploded IEDs inside it. Dzhokhar was discovered several hours later in a covered boat with severe gunshot wounds on his body and neck. He is in serious but stable condition.
Tsarnaev faces the death penalty if convicted. He will "not be treated as an enemy combatant," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Monday. "We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice. Under U.S. law, United States citizens cannot be tried in military commissions," Carney said.
Read the complaint here.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's surprising apology last month for "operational mistakes" in the 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara was supposed to launch a new era of improved relations between Israel and Turkey.
"I am hopeful that today's exchange between the two leaders will enable them to engage in deeper cooperation on this and a range of other challenges and opportunities," President Obama said at the time.
But since the apology, Turkey's Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government have:
Announced his intention to visit the Hamas government in Gaza in May despite American opposition. "Our position is that engagement with Hamas is counterproductive, and we don't think it should continue," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Monday.
Become the "first state with an ambassador recognized by Palestine."
Helped derail a planned meeting of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue group which would have included Israel.
Chastised Israel's efforts to negotiate compensation for nine people killed on the Mavi Marmara. "Israel should perfectly know that this is not a process of bargaining. Compensation talks should not be turned into horse trading or dirty bargaining," an unnamed official said.
Vowed not to return an envoy to Israel until after Israel's naval blockade on Gaza is lifted.
Erdoğan's position emboldens the group least interested in a peaceful future. Subsequent investigations showed that passengers on the Mavi Marmara wanted to instigate a violent confrontation with Israeli troops and that the ship ignored numerous warnings to turn away. They wanted to break Israel's blockade on Gaza, which was imposed to try to slow weapons smuggling to Hamas terrorists. Despite Erdoğan's anger, the United Nations determined the blockade is legitimate and legal.
Rather than build on a diplomatic opening, Erdoğan seems intent on maintaining tension rather than building on a chance for warmer relations. As Daniel Pipes wrote in March:
"Perhaps after all the apology was a good thing. For a relatively inexpensive price – some words – Israelis and others have gained a better insight into the Turkish leadership's mentality. It's not that they suffer from hurt pride but that they are Islamist ideologues with an ambitious agenda. If the misguided apology makes this evident to more observers, it has its compensations and possibly could turn out to be a net plus."
Mohamed Alessa and Carlos Almonte pleaded guilty to conspiring to murder individuals overseas on behalf of al-Shabaab. They were arrested and charged in June 2010 while attempting to board separate international flights from New York's JFK International Airport.
The investigation began in 2006 following a tip from an acquaintance regarding the men's activities. An undercover New York police officer subsequently befriended the men and recorded their conversations. The undercover agent reported the men listened to radical sermons, watched jihadi videos, and planned to travel abroad to engage in violent jihad.
In a January 2010 conversation with the undercover officer, the men discussed U.S. troops deployed overseas returning home "in caskets" and "sliced up in 1,000 pieces cozy in the grace, in hell."
They also discussed carrying out jihad in America if their attempts to wage jihad overseas failed. "We'll start doing killing here, if I can't do it over there," the complaint quoted Alessa saying. Alessa also confided to the undercover officer: "I leave this time, God willing. I never come back. I'll never see this crap hole. Only way I would come back here is if I was in the land of jihad and the leader ordered me to come here and do something here. Ah, I love that."
During a car ride with the undercover, Almonte played a recording on his mobile phone of a sermon by now-deceased Yemeni al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki titled "Constants on the Path of Jihad." The American-born Awlaki spoke in support of lone-wolf jihad where "an individual need not rely on others or have a leader in order to wage violent jihad."
Agents found documents by senior al-Qaida leaders, including Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri on Almonte's computer.
"Alessa and Almonte wanted to join terrorists who shared their violent, extremist ideology so they could murder those who did not," New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said in a Justice Department press release. "We need not speculate about their intentions: their own words confirm the deadly mission for which they trained, planned, and attempted to embark. Their decades-long sentences are both a just punishment for their admitted actions and a warning to others who would be tempted down this dead-end path."
Investigators found "shredded pieces of pressure cookers" in the bomb debris, Fox reported, adding that a source said it was hidden inside a black backpack placed in a garbage can. The FBI is hoping to identify the cellular telephone which may have been used to trigger the bomb.
If the reports prove to be true, they could tie the attack to Islamist terrorists. Pressure cooker bombs are among the suggestions for terrorist attacks offered by al-Qaida's Inspire magazine. An article entitled "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom" is strikingly similar to what is known about Monday's attack that killed three people and injured more than 130 others gathered near the marathon's finish line.
Pressure cooker bombs should be "placed in crowded areas and left to blow up. More than one of these could be planted to explode at the same time. However, keep in mind that the range of the shrapnel in this operation is short range so the pressurized cooker or pipe should be placed close to the intended targets and should not be concealed from them by barriers such as walls."
A 2010 release from the Department of Homeland Security said pressure cookers "frequently have been used in Afghanistan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Pressure cookers are common in these countries, and their presence probably would not seem out of place or suspicious to passersby or authorities."
At least two previous terror plots in America included pressure cookers. One of the explosives Faisal Shahzad left in Times Square was a loaded pressure cooker, the DHS release said. And in 2011, Army Pvt. Jason Naser Abdo told investigators he planned to pack gun powder and shrapnel into pressure cookers as part of an attack on a restaurant popular with personnel from Fort Hood. When he was arrested, Abdo had a copy of Inspire magazine and explosive supplies and two pressure cookers.