A federal appeals court has upheld a radical British Islamist cleric's 2014 terrorism conviction.
Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, more commonly known as Abu Hamza, was convicted of 11 terrorism charges in Manhattan federal court and sentenced to life in prison. He was charged with multiple counts of providing material support to al-Qaida and with participating in a hostage-taking operation in Yemen. He also helped set up a terrorist training camp in Bly, Oregon, and facilitated violent jihad in Afghanistan.
In its ruling Tuesday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals did dismiss convictions on two counts relating to helping the jihad in Afghanistan in 2000-01 because U.S. law relating to providing material support to terrorists was confined to material support "within the United States" at the time of the conspiracy.
"Evidence that Mustafa, in London, arranged for [Feroz] Abbasi to be transported from London to Afghanistan, could not satisfy the statute's nexus requirement because no part of the conduct occurred within the United States," the court ruled.
The terrorism statute was amended after the 9/11 attacks to include material support that occurred outside the United States.
The Yemen attack took place in December 1998, and involved the abduction of 16 tourists, including two American. Abu Hamza "aided and abetted the terrorist Islamic Army of Aden" in the attack by providing a satellite phone and advice to the kidnappers. Four hostages were killed, which Abu Hamza subsequently described as "a good thing" in Islam.
In 1999, Abu Hamza and several co-conspirators tried to establish a terrorist training camp in Bly, Oregon, to support al-Qaida. He directed two men to travel from London to Bly to help set up the camp.
One, Oussama Kassir "brought with him various tools to conduct this training, including manuals on manufacturing poisons, nerve gas, and explosives...[and was] also was in possession of letters addressed to both Usama Bin Laden and Abu Hamza, reflecting his support for those individuals," a prosecution sentencing memo said.
Kassir was convicted in connection with the conspiracy and sentenced in 2015 to 20 years in prison.
At his sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest described Abu Hamza's conduct as "barbaric, misguided and wrong" and remarked, "[I]t is important to me that you have not expressed sympathy for the victims of the Yemeni kidnappings."
Pressure from pro-Israel attorneys convinced PayPal to cutoff donations to the British social justice group War on Want due to alleged ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group.
UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) and the U.S. based Lawfare Project filed a complaint with the U.K. Charity Commission last month alleging that War on Want "misuses charitable funds to support terrorist organisations and promote political propaganda." It also acts "contrary to the public benefit as it stokes hatred of Israel and Jews and encourages antisemitism."
The Lawfare Project and UKLFI pointed to a December 2016 War on Want project carried out in conjunction with Addameer called "Political Prisoners' Stories." It aimed to advance the PFLP's strategy of "using human rights forums" to promote a "national struggle," they said. The goal was to pressure Israel to release imprisoned PFLP comrades.
"Our relationship with Addameer ensures we can bring the latest news and reports affecting imprisoned Palestinians to our UK campaigns," War on Want's website says.
The PFLP originally was known for its pioneering of airline hijacking, but in recent years it has become a player in the international Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS aims to isolate Israel economically and politically through a regime of boycotts and sanctions.
PFLP terrorists claimed responsibility for an attack on a West Jerusalem synagogue in December 2014.
War on Want also works with the BDS National Committee, which coordinates the international BDS movement. PFLP, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and Fatah participate in the BDS National Committee as members of the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine.
"PayPal has decided to no longer allow its service to be abused by those who promote violence, lies and propaganda," Lawfare Project Director Brooke Goldstein said in a statement published online. "Congratulations to UKLFI on this result and to Paypal for taking a stand against the misuse of its platform."
The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas use systematic torture and repression to stifle any dissent against their rule, a two-year investigation by Human Rights Watch (HRW) found.
The PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza conduct arbitrary detentions targeting people who criticized them, using broad legislation prohibiting activities seen as promoting "sectarian strife" or offending "higher authorities."
Several PA agencies, including the Intelligence Services and Joint Security Committee, implement violent crackdowns on dissent and stifle many freedoms of expression and association, the HRW report said. Critics, from journalists to social media users, routinely are arrested in an effort to spread fear across Palestinian society and deter future activism.
For example, 10 PA security personnel detained a Hebron-based activist last year, only one hour after he used Facebook to criticize the arrest of a journalist.
Like Hamas, PA forces also detain activists engaging in peaceful demonstrations against governing authorities. University students and supporters of PA President Mahmoud Abbas' main rival Muhammad Dahlan are frequently persecuted.
Authorities put the detainees in pain-inflicting stress positions for a lengthy time to deter dissidents from expressing criticism. One journalist said that PA personnel tied his hands by rope to the ceiling of an interrogation room and slowly pulled the rope to apply pressure to his arms. Another young man held at a detention facility in Jericho claimed that officers used electrical shocks and tied a cord around his genitalia.
As a result, HRW determined that "torture is governmental policy for both the PA and Hamas" and may constitute a crime against humanity based on international human rights treaties to which Palestine is a party.
The report is based on 86 cases and interviews with 147 individuals across the Palestinian territories, mostly former detainees. Investigators also consulted lawyers and NGO officials in addition to other primary evidence drawn from court documents and medical reports.
Click here to view the full report.
While many observers expect a terrorist organization like Hamas to rule territory without respecting basic rights, the PA is often painted as a "moderate" governing body and primarily relies on funding from European countries and the United States. However, when it comes to crushing dissent, the PA is largely indistinguishable from Hamas.
The HRW issued recommendations for various actors, including specific Palestinian bodies and officials, to end these practices. It also suggests that the U.S. and European Union "suspend assistance to security forces involved in widespread arbitrary arrests and torture...until authorities take effective steps to stop arresting critics and torturing detainees and to investigate, prosecute, and punish security officers responsible for abuses, and publicly report on its compliance with these conditions."
The Trump administration took specific measures against the Palestinian Liberation Organization in last month, citing Palestinian incitement against Israelis as a major reason. In mid-September, the administration revoked residency permits for the family of the PLO's envoy to the United States and reportedly shut down all PLO bank accounts in the country. Along with violent incitement, the Palestinian Authority's widespread detention and torture practices deserve more international attention.
A Chicago-based man is charged with conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Ashraf Al Safoo "aided ISIS in using social media to spread propaganda supporting violent jihad, to recruit operatives, and to encourage others to carry out terrorist attacks," a criminal complaint unsealed Friday said.
Al Safoo, 34, was born in Mosul, Iraq and moved to the United States in 2008. He is a naturalized citizen. He is alleged to be part of the Khattab Media Foundation, an internet-based organization that has sworn allegiance to ISIS and helps create and disseminate online propaganda for the jihadist group.
According to the complaint, Khattab members hack social media accounts, using them to disseminate ISIS propaganda. Khattab allegedly translated the propaganda into English, French, Bengali, and Italian.
An October 2017 Khattab video, "The Brothers of Marawi," glorified dying while fighting for ISIS. A song playing in the background praised the fighters of Marawi saying, "diamonds and pearls and palaces awaiting the man of Tawheed [monotheism or 'Oneness of God' in Islam]."
Khattab promoted Al Safoo to head writer in March. In that role, he encouraged "Khattab operatives to support ISIS, through propaganda and other efforts, as extensively as possible," the complaint said.
In a video posted in May, Al Safoo directed other ISIS propagandists to "work hard brothers. Cut the issue to short clips. Take the pictures out of it and publish the efforts of your brothers in the pages of the apostates. Participate in the war. Spread fear."
Al Safoo is in federal custody and is scheduled to have a detention hearing Oct. 25. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Palestinian terrorists belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) and the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) and Hizballah trained Bahraini Shiite terrorists in camps near Damascus. Dissident Syrian military officers told the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat that the Assad regime and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) supervised the training.
Iran's embassy in Damascus provided logistical and material support for the terrorist training. IRGC Quds Force leader Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani also reportedly was involved.
The Bahraini terrorist trainees reportedly were taught to manufacture and use explosives. The training took place in regime-held territory near Damascus because Western and Arab intelligence operatives are well established in Iraq and Lebanon. Previous training by Hizballah took place in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.
Bahraini terrorists have been trained in in this way since 2008, in groups ranging from 15 to 30 fighters, a dissident Syrian officer told Al-Hayat. "They are moving to follow up with other courses in Lebanon and Iran."
Iran has been involved in destabilizing Bahrain, its Persian Gulf neighbor. Bahraini officials arrested more than 116 people on terrorism charges and for plotting attacks on government officials in March. They accused the IRGC of being behind this Bahraini terrorist network. Iran should annex Bahrain and turned into a province, IRGC commander Gen. Saeed Qasemi said in 2016.
Last month, Bahraini authorities detained 169 people, accusing them of trying to form "Bahrain's Hizballah" in collaboration with Iranian intelligence.
Bahraini youths were sent to the Shiite holy city of Qom in Iran under the pretext of their undertaking a religious pilgrimage. From there then were sent to join camps run by the IRGC. Iran's leadership pressured Assad to let them train the Bahrainis in Syria to evade detection by foreign intelligence services.
This is the latest example of Iran using Syria as a base to exert its power in the region.
Although Turkey and Russia agreed last month to "withdraw" all jihadist groups from Syria's Idlib Province, a former Turkish National Police official warns that Turkey may use al-Qaida-tied Syrian fighters against Syria's Kurds.
Turkey's MIT intelligence agency started cultivating relations with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in 2014, Ahmet Yayla told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). MIT used Turkey's Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) as an intermediary to arm the al-Qaida terrorists.
Yayla was chief of counterterrorism in the city of Sanliurfa near the Syrian border and now teaches at Georgetown University and MIT. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan replaced all of his counterterrorism police chiefs in 2014 and ordered intelligence operations against al-Qaida be stopped.
"Anyone who is saying that Erdogan, AKP and al-Qaida are enemies are making a huge mistake," Yayla said. "They don't like democracy, but they see that Erdogan is the best way for them to reach their objectives."
So far, HTS refuses to withdraw from Idlib, but Yayla believes the Turkish army will coerce it into laying down its arms. Erdogan likely will incorporate former HTS jihadists into the forces he will use against the Kurds because he wants to create a buffer area controlled by men loyal to Turkey. Erdogan has already warned that Turkey will cleanse northern Syria of Kurdish militiamen linked to the Marxist PKK. Turkey seized control of the formerly Kurdish-held Afrin area in northwestern Syria earlier this year.
"It is logical for HTS to work with Turkey otherwise the Russians are going to crush them," Yayla said. "Eventually they are going to give in."
Members of the jihadist-dominated Free Syrian Army (FSA) appear ready to attack the Kurds further east in the city of Manbij from adjacent Turkish-held areas, Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) member Bassam Ishak told the IPT. U.S. troops currently are stationed in Manbij. The SDC is the political arm of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that works closely with the U.S. military against ISIS in eastern Syria.
"This has been the model. Using Syrian and foreign jihadis with the logistics and support of the Turkish military to conquer Syrian land, so we are concerned about that for sure," Ishak said.
Sunni Arab jihadists will form the backbone of future operations against the Kurds in eastern Syria, Yayla said.
It is plausible that some former HTS fighters may be used against the Kurds, but terrorism researcher Kyle Orton doubts they will be employed in areas where American troops are stationed.
Turkey's ultimate goal is to divide HTS and liquidate elements that refuse reconciliation, Orton said, suggesting that the U.S. mediate between the PKK and Turkey to defuse the situation and block Russia from chipping away at NATO in the process.
Hizballah hackers used 'catfishing' techniques on social media to infiltrate mobile devices worldwide, according to a Monday release from the Czech Security Intelligence Service (BIS), as reported by Radio Praha (Prague).
Hizballah operatives posed as attractive women on Facebook to seduce users into downloading a "more private and secure application."
Those who installed the application gave the hackers access to sensitive information such as GPS data, photographs, contacts, and communications. The hackers could also secretly enable the recording function on a particular mobile device and spy on the target.
The cyber-attacks originated from the Middle East, the BIS press release said, and focused on targets across Europe and the United States.
The Czech intelligence service revealed that it cooperated with international partners to identify and disarm servers used in this particular case of Hizballah's cyber espionage campaign.
"The Czech Republic has traditionally been considered as an ally of Israel and the United States in this field and in the past we have seen many Czech activities against Hizballah," said Miroslav Mares, professor of international politics at Masrayk University. "In the previous decade, Czech diplomacy struggled for the addition of this organization [Hizballah] into the so called 'EU terrorist list'."
The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas also has used fake dating applications on several occasions, as recently as this past summer, in an attempt to seduce Israeli soldiers and install spyware on their phones.
In July, a senior intelligence official told YNet News discussed how Israel "identified a similar method in the January 2017 when the IDF uncovered that a Gazan terrorist group lures soldiers by using fake women's profiles before infecting their phones with spyware."
"The minute the spy software is installed on a smartphone the attackers can hear everything that is going on in the room, have access to each file downloaded on the phone, activate the phone's camera and get the specific location of the phone," explained Nitzan Ziv, vice president of Check Point Software Technologies.
Militant organizations with state-like cyber capabilities will increasingly exploit the cyber domain, among other asymmetric strategies, against their more powerful adversaries. The recent Hizballah case shows that the terrorist group not only targets Israel, but the United States and countries across Europe as well.
The Austrian government is considering outlawing a four-fingered salute representing support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan popularized it and began using it after Egypt's military toppled the Brotherhood in 2013.
Muslim Brotherhood members and sympathizers around the world use the image on websites, posters and literature. If the ban is approved, anyone in Austria who flashes the salute could be fined $4,600.
It also has been used by Muslim Brotherhood supporters in the United States, including members of Egyptian Americans for Freedom and Justice (EAFJ) and former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official Mohamed Elibiary.
Erdogan's role in popularizing the gesture seems to be driving the Austrian ban. It also would outlaw a wolf-head like salute used by the pro-Erdogan Turkish fascist group the Grey Wolves. Its most infamous member, Mehmet Ali Agca, tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981. The Wolves have become some of Erdogan's greatest non-Islamist supporters and aim to unify all Turkic peoples in Turkey across and throughout Central Asia into a single nation.
It was the only group besides Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that backed constitutional changes allowing him to consolidate power.
So far Turkey hasn't responded.
Relations between Austria and Turkey have become tense due to reports that Erdogan's intelligence agency, the MIT, spied on Erdogan's enemies in Austria. In February 2017, a member of Austria's Green Party alleged that an umbrella organization headed by the Turkish embassy's religious attaché had carried out spy operations in Austrian mosques.
Turkey was inserting "unacceptable Turkish government politics in Austria," said Green Party member Peter Pilz.
Austria closed seven Turkish-linked mosques in June due to concerns over political Islam. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz complained about "parallel societies, political Islam and radicalisation." The Turks responded by accusing the Austrians of racism. The imams were paid by Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs, also called the Diyanet. It has a close relationship with Turkey's MIT intelligence agency.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Qadri Abu Bakr, who directs the Palestine Liberation Organization's Commission of Prisoners' Affairs, recently issued a defiantly assurance that they won't end payments to terrorists and their families despite international pressure.
Bakr "emphasized that the leadership ... will continue to support the resolve of the prisoners and their families and will not succumb to the Israeli and American pressures calling to stop the Martyrs' (Shahids) and prisoners' salaries (rawatib) and allowances (mukhassasat)," reports the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al Jadida and translated by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).
Bakr's sentiment mirrors Abbas'.
"By Allah, even if we have only a penny left it will only be spent on the families of the Martyrs and the prisoners, and only afterwards will it be spent on the rest of the people," Abbas said on official PA TV in July, adding that "martyrs and prisoners" are "stars in the sky" and that these terrorists "have priority in everything."
These statements reaffirm that Palestinians convicted of attacking Israelis take precedent over all over sectors of Palestinian society. In fact, terrorists and their families receive far higher payments than welfare recipients.
The amount of money paid to imprisoned or released terrorists depends on the length of sentence, which is a function of an action's severity. The more brutal the attack or murder, the more money a Palestinian prisoner receives.
Despite growing international pressure to halt this practice, roughly half of the foreign aid that the PA receives is allocated for payments to terrorist inmates and the "families of martyrs."
The Palestinian government spends $355 million annually on terrorist salaries, about 7.5 percent of the PA's budget, a PMW analysis shows.
This form of Palestinian incitement is one of the main reasons the Trump administration has taken specific measures against the Palestinian Liberation Organization in recent weeks. In mid-September, the administration revoked residency permits for the family of the PLO's envoy to the United States and reportedly shut down all PLO bank accounts in the country. The White House announced the closure of the PLO office in Washington a week earlier.
Canada's Revenue Agency (CRA) has suspended the Islamic Society of North America-Canada (ISNA-Canada), the Global News reports.
Federal auditors say ISNA-Canada "failed to conduct any meaningful due diligence" for $136,000 it sent to an Islamist charity about a decade ago that may have gone into the hands of a terrorist group operating in the conflict-ridden Kashmir region.
Although the findings from the 2011 audit were communicated to ISNA-Canada in 2014, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) only sanctioned the organization on Sept. 5, the report said.
The one-year suspension took effect Sept. 12 and includes a $550,000 penalty.
During 2007-09, ISNA-Canada "gifted" $90,000 to the Relief Organization of Kashmiri Muslims (ROKM). ROKM is the "charitable arm" of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Pakistan and its armed wing, Hizbul Mujahideen, is a designated terrorist group in the United States and Europe. JI is a South Asian Islamist movement that seeks to promote a rigid interpretation of Islam in the U.S. and other secularly-government nations. Its leaders have defended terrorists and rationalized attacks against Western targets.
The audited records showed that ISNA-Canada gave an additional $46,000 to the Kashmiri Relief Fund of Canada that CRA earlier alleged raised money for ROKM.
According to the Global News, top Canadian officials have visited ISNA-Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke there in 2013 and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale was photographed there in April 2017.
"Providing resources to organizations operating in support of a political purpose, including the achievement of nationhood or political autonomy, are not recognized at law as charitable," CRA documents obtained by Global News said.
"In addition, Canada's public policy recognizes that the tax advantages of charitable registration should not be extended to organizations whose resources may have been made available, knowingly or unknowingly, to a terrorist entity."
CRA has acted against ISNA-Canada before. ISNA's Islamic Services of Canada and ISNA Development Foundation lost its charitable status after audits revealed possible funding to the Hizbul Mujahideen.
Lawyers representing ISNA-Canada acknowledge that "not all of its practices may have been in complete compliance," but pin the blame on "unauthorized actions" by a former secretary-general who resigned in 2011.
Corporate records show that ISNA-Canada was the "Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)" until October 2014, when it changed its name to "Islamic Society of North America Canada." ISNA is a leading Muslim Brotherhood group in North America and its conferences routinely feature rhetoric in support of terrorist groups and other radicalism.