A naturalized U.S. citizen and former member of the Palestinian terrorist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was charged with immigration fraud in an indictment filed Tuesday in a federal court in Detroit. Founded in 1967, the PFLP has been responsible for a number of high-profile terrorist attacks worldwide, including airplane hijackings.
Chicago-area resident Rasmieh Yousef Odeh was convicted in Israel for her role in two 1969 terrorist plots, one in a crowded supermarket and the other at the British Consulate in Jerusalem. The supermarket attack killed two people and injured several others. The consulate bombing caused property damage. Odeh was sentenced to life imprisonment in Israel but was released after 10 years in a prisoner swap which freed 76 Palestinians in exchange for one Israeli soldier held in Lebanon.
Odeh came to the United States in 1995 and was naturalized as a citizen in 2004. In her immigration documents, Odeh failed to mention her arrest, conviction, and imprisonment in Israel. Immigration forms ask several questions about an applicant's criminal background, including whether the applicant has committed "a crime involving moral turpitude" and ever was convicted of a crime carrying more than five years in prison.
"An individual convicted of a terrorist bombing would not be admitted to the United States if that information was known at the time of arrival," U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade said in a Justice Department press release. "Upon discovery that someone convicted of a terrorist attack is in the United States illegally, we will seek to use our criminal justice system to remove that individual."
Odeh will be stripped of her citizenship if convicted and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for naturalization fraud.
A verdict against New York resident Ashrafuzzaman Khan for alleged crimes against humanity during Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence could come any day. Testimony before a war crimes tribunal wrapped up in late September.
Khan, a naturalized American and a leader of the Islamic Circle of North America's (ICNA) New York chapter, is accused of being the "chief executor" of a killing squad loyal to the Pakistani army. As Bangladesh moved toward independence, the squad allegedly rounded up intellectuals – scholars, doctors and journalists – and then tortured and killed them to deprive the new nation of leadership.
Niether he nor ICNA has commented publicly since the charges were issued.
Last week, the ICNA New York chapter quietly removed the names of executive board members, including Khan, from its web page. Previous IPT stories on Khan linked to that page when it included Khan's name. A writer identified only as Shehab described asking ICNA back in July whether the chapter's board member was the same man facing the war crimes tribunal.
If it is the same man, Shehab said he wrote in his email to ICNA ,"does ICNA have any plan to initiate its own investigation about the role of Ashrafuz Zaman Khan in Bangladesh during 1971 and the channel which associated him with ICNA hiding his past?"
He received no response until last week. After the web page was scrubbed, Shehab says he received an email from ICNA Secretary Hafiz Zafeer Ali. "He advised me to 'focus on my study and do not involve [in] back home politics'," Shehab wrote.
Khan previously served as ICNA's secretary general. He and Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, a prominent imam in the United Kingdom who helped create the Muslim Council of Britain, were tried in absentia. One eyewitness, a hostage who escaped before he could be killed, testified that he saw Khan giving orders to the death squad members. Other witnesses said they later recognized Khan as the man who took their relatives away at gunpoint after his picture appeared in Bangladeshi newspapers.
ICNA was founded by South Asian Muslims and its constitution draws heavily from the Jamaat-e-Islami. The Jamaat was loyal to Pakistan during the 1971 war. The killing squad, known as Al Badar, was a Jamaat offshoot.
ICNA's curriculum also emphasizes writings by Jamaat founder Syed Abul Ala Maududi. He advocated that Muslims "must strive to change the wrong basis of government, and seize all powers to rule and make laws from those who do not fear God."
As of Friday, Khan remained listed on the contact page for the North American Imams Federation Northeast regional office.
Two men being held in jail while awaiting trial for cigarette trafficking are accused of plotting to kill witnesses against them. In an indictment unsealed in Brooklyn Supreme Court Thursday,
Basel Ramadan and Yousseff Odeh are charged with conspiracy to murder witnesses and with soliciting a potential hit man.
The murder-for-hire plot was hatched from New York City's Rikers Island jail where the two have been held since their May arrest on the initial cigarette-trafficking and money laundering charges.
The Staten Island Advance reports that Odeh was a supporter of blind sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the spiritual guide for the 1993 World Trade Center bombers who is serving a life sentence at the Supermax penitentiary in Colorado for his role in a subsequent conspiracy to bomb several New York landmarks.
Odeh also reportedly had close ties to Abdel Sattar, a key associate of the blind sheik. Sattar was convicted in 2005 for aiding Rahman in his efforts to direct terrorist activities from his cell in the United States.
Odeh and Ramadan were charged with 14 others last spring for their alleged involvement in a cigarette trafficking ring that laundered more than $55 million in illegal proceeds and evaded more than $80 million in New York taxes. Similar schemes in the past have helped fund terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hizballah.
The new indictment alleges that in August, Odeh and Ramadan gave someone "descriptive information" about people they expected to serve as witnesses against them, including their names and addresses. Ramadan then made a phone call from Rikers Island Sept. 17 seeking a contract killer. But his call went to an undercover police officer. Ramadan told the undercover officer that he has "one of those problems" and expressed his appreciation when the officer said he could "take care of it."
Ramadan and Odeh face from 25 years to life in prison if convicted on the new charges.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdoğan's hostility toward Israel and embrace of Hamas terrorists is well established. He has called Zionism, the belief in a Jewish state, "a crime against humanity."
But a report published Wednesday evening by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius raises the question of whether Erdoğan, head of a NATO state, deliberately sabotaged efforts to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program out of spite for Israel.
Erdoğan's government reportedly gave the Islamic Republic the names of up to 10 Iranians who were meeting Mossad officers inside Turkey last year.
"Knowledgeable sources describe the Turkish action as a 'significant' loss of intelligence and 'an effort to slap the Israelis,'" Ignatius reports. "The incident, disclosed here for the first time, illustrates the bitter, multi-dimensional spy wars that lie behind the current negotiations between Iran and Western nations over a deal to limit the Iranian nuclear program. A Turkish Embassy spokesman had no comment."
Other Turkish officials have expressed anger about the report, casting themselves as the aggrieved party in an effort to discredit the country.
Israeli officials have not commented.
But veteran Israeli intelligence reporter Yossi Melman writes that the report, if true, exposes "a very egregious – even unprecedented – act. In fact, this is the basest act of betrayal imaginable." Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom told Israel Radio that Iran likely executed those Turkey gave up.
"It's against all the rules which have existed for many years, the unwritten rules concerning cooperation between intelligence organizations that reveal sensitive information to one another and trust one another not to use that information to harm whoever gave it to them."
Ignatius, described by Melman as "a journalist who is known to maintain extensive contacts with both the American and Israeli intelligence communities," reports that Turkey's Milli Istihbarat Teskilati intelligence service "conducts aggressive surveillance inside its borders, so it had the resources to monitor Israeli-Iranian covert meetings."
Its director, Hakan Fidan, has close ties with Tehran, Ignatius reports.
Despite all this, U.S. officials seem alarmingly dispassionate about Turkey's betrayal and the possible damage done in the effort to stop Iran's march to nuclear weapons capability.
They see the loss of the Iranian spies as unfortunate, Ignatius writes, but "they didn't protest directly to Turkish officials. Instead, Turkish-American relations continued warming last year to the point that Erdogan was among Obama's key confidants."
Read Ignatius's full report here.
U.S. plans to reduce aid to Egypt could hurt other American interests in the Middle East, several critics of the plan say. Egypt's military rulers have already begun to look to Gulf States to fill the void, and speculation suggests they could also look to Russia.
"…Egypt is the strategic linchpin of the region – as important to peace with Israel as it is to the stability throughout Africa – expect the Russians to be aggressive recapturing influence lost after the Camp David Accords secured Egypt's position as a key American ally," Col. Ken Allard, a noted military and intelligence analyst, wrote in a Washington Times op-ed published Sunday. "With characteristically adept footwork, Russian President Vladimir Putin is poised to pick up the pieces left scattered across the Middle East chessboard by administration intent on adhering to its adversaries as it is to leading from behind."
Saudi Arabia promised Cairo it would offset any cutoff of U.S. aid in August after Egyptian security forces killed more than 600 people in clearing out Muslim Brotherhood supporters from their encampments. Israeli officials called cut of hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid "a strategic error" and reportedly persuaded the U.S. not to cut funds being used to fight jihadists in the Sinai.
In announcing the aid cut, The State Department said in that it would "work with the interim government to help it move toward our shared goals in an atmosphere free of violence and intimidation." But Obama administration officials had little to say last December when Muslim Brotherhood militiamen attacked anti-Morsi protesters and tortured them.
And, Allard pointed out, Egypt is well on its way to establishing a new constitution, a first step in moving toward the new elections the U.S. wants.
"Not only will religious toleration and separation of powers be established, but each sector of Egyptian society will be represented," Allard wrote.
He doesn't buy the administration's argument that it is acting in the name of advancing democratic reforms. Rather, he sees the Obama administration as "suspiciously supportive" and "oddly tolerant" of the Muslim Brotherhood's policies.
He noted that ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is about to face trial in Egypt for encouraging violence and torture against opponents during December's protests against his rule. President Obama's decision to reduce aid gives "his Egyptian counterparts every incentive to reveal secret dealings and maybe even White House complicity" in helping Morsi and the Brotherhood rise to power, Allard wrote.
"Think the price of gas is high right now? Then what happens if the Middle East oil supplies are disrupted by military pressures against the Suez Canal?" Allard wrote.
Two New York City men were arrested Friday and charged with conspiring to funnel money and equipment to terrorist groups, including al-Qaida and the Taliban, fighting American forces in Afghanistan.
Humayoun Ghoulam Nabi, a Pakistani national, and Ismail Alsarabbi, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Kuwait, allegedly conspired to supply Afghan mujahideen with warm winter clothing and other supplies to better equip them to fight U.S. troops in the region. According to the complaint issued by the district attorney in Queens, New York, Nabi admitted "he had engaged in a plan to provide outerwear and boots to fighters in Afghanistan who were fighting American soldiers and that he did so because he hates the United States, Jewish people, and US soldiers specifically and that he wanted to give those fighting the Americans equipment that would level the playing field."
Nabi told a government informant that "America's strength is their equipment, specifically good jackets, good goggles, good GPS, and this was how they fight." He suggested sending jackets and other supplies to the Afghan fighter "so they can get warm … and realize they got something to fight with." He confided "that the governments in Muslim countries cannot be trusted to stand up for pious Muslims." He further compared "his efforts to those of Osama bin Laden" and said he wanted to build a "Leshkar" or small army to fight the Americans.
Nabi confided to the informant that "he was involving himself in a non-profit from which he could build resources and money which he could then siphon away and provide to the brothers fighting in Afghanistan." He added, "We are sitting here breathing in peace eating chicken and roasts and our brothers, they are dying buddy." Referring to American soldiers in Afghanistan, Nabi said that "they [Afghan mujahideen] should kill them and then cut them into pieces."
In March 2012, on the advice of Alsarabbi, a Palestinian associate and co-defendant in the case, Nabi wired approximately two thousand dollars through the Western Union bank to his father in Lahore, Pakistan. Nabi later confided in the informant that his father had "zillions of trucks" moving in and out of Kabul.
"The arrests of these two New York City residents, Nabi and Alsarabbi, demonstrate the spectrum of terrorism threats that the New York City Police Department must continue to guard against," New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in a press release. "The cold weather gear and electronics the pair sought to provide could have endangered the safety of Americans as much as supplies of guns and ammunition."
Nabi and Alsarabbi face up to seven years in prison if convicted.
In Nairobi, well-armed gunmen stormed a shopping mall intending to kill as many people as possible. They asked victims about their religion, sparing the lives of Muslim shoppers.
At least 67 people were killed in the attack. The world rightly sees this as an act of terrorism.
Six years earlier, a well-armed gunman stormed a shopping mall in Salt Lake City, intending to kill as many people as possible. Witnesses say he shouted "Allahu Akbar!" — or "Allah is greatest!" as he opened fire, killing five people before being shot by an off-duty police officer.
Described as a religious Muslim, the gunman reportedly bragged of a jihadist grandfather and attended a mosque suspected of radicalizing him.
Sulejmen Talovic's February 2007 attack is not classified as a terrorist attack, but rather cast as "the act of a madman." In a New York Post column Sunday, writer Paul Sperry wonders why. And he points out that fears of a terrorist attack on an American mall, based on the Kenya attack by the Islamist terrorist group al-Shabaab, ignore the fact that such attacks already have happened here.
The FBI's Salt Lake City special agent in charge said the presence of religious beliefs alone is not enough to designate the shooting a terrorist act. That may be true, Sperry writes, but "it strains credulity that Talovic wasn't animated by his faith. There was an abundance of clues he was motivated at least in part by jihadist impulses."
It is much more than a semantic issue.
Minimizing or outright ignoring the role radical Islam plays in attacks like the Salt Lake City mall raises serious concerns whether "law enforcement can effectively glean and analyze intelligence from the Muslim and immigrant communities to disrupt copycat attacks on malls and other domestic soft targets," Sperry writes.
Read his full column here.
Al-Qaida-linked Syrian rebels from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant sacked a Melkite Greek-Catholic Church in the Syrian town of al-Raqqa.
The Melkites follow the Roman Catholic pope but use the rituals of the Greek Orthodox. They have remained loyal to the Assad regime out of fear of heightened persecution by Islamic extremists.
Footage shown on al-Aan TV shows the rebels systematically disassembling the church. They tear down the cross on top of the church and replace it with a black jihadist flag. They chant "Allahu akbar!" and sing hymns throughout the operation.
The video also shows young children desecrating the cross taken from the church.
A Saudi militant is heard saying of the cross, "The 'Nazarenes' (Christians) worship it." And a child is heard saying, "This is the 'Messiah' (Christ) they worship."
An Armenian Orthodox church was also attacked.
Christian leaders such as Melkite Patriarch Gregory III have warned Syria's Christian population could a major casualty should Assad fall and Syria descend into chaos.
"Enough with the intervention," Gregory told the Catholic News Service in August. "It is fueling hatred, fueling criminality, fueling inhumanity, fueling fundamentalism, terrorism -- all these things are the fruit of intervention. Enough!"
A study by IHS Jane's found that nearly half of the 100,000 rebel fighters seeking to oust al-Assad are either jihadists or hardline Islamists. Of them, 10,000 fighters belong to Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate.
Rebels around al-Raqaa, located in north-central Syria, professed their allegiance to al-Qaida on Sept. 21, according to a video posted on social media and released by the Daily Mail. The rebels had been aligned with the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA).
According to the BBC, the FSA is an umbrella group that includes numerous groups that act independently. Estimates suggest there are 1,000 bands of fighters in the conflict.
Concerns have been raised about funding the FSA due to lingering questions about connections to al-Qaida.
"It is no secret that we have ties with everybody, even the brothers in the Nusra Front, and we cooperate in many places," FSA Gen. Abd Al-Baset Tawila said in a June 13 interview with Al-Jazeera Arabic translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). "In all candidness, I would like to see a civilized state, with Islamic law. Let me give you an example. We would like our army, in the future, to have a clear Islamic nature."
More than 40 Syrian Islamist groups recently announced they had formed an "Army of Islam" to fight against Assad on Sunday.
Thirteen rebel brigades previously announced they were disaffiliating with the FSA and the Syrian National Council (SNC), which is recognized by the Obama administration as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people, and uniting into an "Islamic Alliance."
Usually when a person is exposed for padding her resume, it's difficult to land high-prestige jobs.
That's not the case for Elisabeth O'Bagy, hired last week by U.S. Sen. John McCain as a legislative assistant. O'Bagy, 26, became an influential analyst on policy toward Syria after publishing a column in the Wall Street Journal which advocated arming Syrian rebels fighting dictator Bashar al-Assad despite concerns about radical jihadists in their ranks.
It turns out O'Bagy lied about having a PhD. and worked as the Syrian Emergency Task Force's political director when the group helped arrange a secret trip to Syria for McCain to meet rebel leaders last May. Several task force officials have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and reports indicate that the Arizona Republican inadvertently met with terrorists on his trip.
Meanwhile, O'Bagy also vouched for Eric Harroun, an American who fought with Syrian rebels, in a sworn affidavit. Harroun was charged with providing material support to al-Qaida affiliated terrorists, but O'Bagy claimed Harroun fought with an independent group called the Al Aqsa Islamic Brigades, Fox News reported.
Harroun signed a sealed plea agreement to a lesser charge in Alexandria, Va. Sept. 19, sentenced to time served and released.
McCain chose to embrace O'Bagy despite her academic fraud and work with questionable forces in Syria's opposition.
"Elizabeth is a talented researcher, and I have been very impressed by her knowledge and analysis in multiple briefings over the last year," McCain told The Cable.
Dalia Moghaed, credited with helping President Obama draft his June 2009 Cairo speech about American relations with the Islamic world, recently downplayed attacks against Egypt's Coptic Christians on a Facebook page.
More than 80 Coptic churches were burned by Brotherhood supporters after the Egyptian military's crackdown last month on Muslim Brotherhood encampments in Cairo. A local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party appeared to sanction violence in retaliation for the Coptic Church's backing of the Egyptian military.
Nonetheless, Mogahed pointed the finger at the Egyptian media.
"The Egyptian media took advantage of the Copts to achieve many personal/political gains, which has angered the West," Mogahed said in a Sept. 22 post which appeared on the Facebook page of the Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights (EADHR).
Mogahed isn't the only American Islamist tied to the Obama administration to slam the Copts on social media.
In a Sept. 15 Twitter post, Mohamed Elibiary, a member of the Department of Homeland Security's Homeland Security Advisory Council, accused American Coptic activists of fanning hatred of Islam.
"For >decade since 9/11 attack extremist American #Coptic activists have nurtured anti #Islam & anti #Muslim sentiments among AM RT wing," Elibiary wrote.
In earlier tweets, Elibiary attacked American Copts for protesting against how their relatives in Egypt have been treated by the Islamists.
"Good read by @mwhanna1 on need to reform #Coptic activism in #US including stop promoting #Islamophobia," Elibiary wrote Sept. 14.
"I think the Obama administration should be ashamed to have had someone like this in their administration," said Michael Meunier, president of Egypt's Al-Haya Party and a Coptic activist. "This underscores the thinking inside the Obama administration."
Brotherhood groups in the United States and their supporters are lashing out at the Copts, who have been among the Muslim Brotherhood's visceral critics, and dismiss their grievances as mere bigotry. Meunier charged that the Brotherhood is trying to slander the Copts to reduce their effectiveness.
"The Copts have nothing to be ashamed of. Morsi made the Copts' lives' hell, so they got together with the moderate Muslims to overthrow Morsi," Meunier said. "The Muslim Brotherhood victimized the Copts, and now it wants to blame them."