Morocco Breaks Up Radical Islamist Cell

Moroccan security forces broke up a radical Islamist cell that was planning attacks in Morocco, including on foreign targets, official media quoted the interior ministry as saying on Wednesday.

The cell had 18 members, including three Islamists who had been detained in the past over related offences, the official MAP news agency said, quoting a ministry statement.

The statement did not specify which targets the detained Islamists planned to attack or name the foreign countries whose interests were threatened by the cell members.

“The members of the cell were getting ready to carry out terrorist attacks and sabotage inside the national territory and against foreign interests in Morocco,” the statement said.

Museveni suggests stronger AMISOM mandate to fight Al Shabab

At present, the mission’s main task is to protect the isolated patches of the capital, Mogadishu, that are still held by Somalia’s weak Transitional Federal Government. In his opening speech to the summit Sunday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni called on the continent’s leaders to unite against those responsible for the attacks. “Let us work in concert to sweep them out of Africa,” Mr. Museveni said at the African Union summit. By “work in concert” Museveni means boosting the number of troops deployed to the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and strengthening the mission’s mandate so that it can go on the offensive against Al Shabab.

“These reactionary groups have now committed aggression against our  country,” Museveni said in a separate statement released ahead of the  meeting. “We shall now go after them.”

The call for a new offensive comes on the back of recent reports that – even given its currently limited mandate – AMISOM has been indiscriminately shelling civilian areas in Mogadishu and sparked fears of more civilian casualties.

Plagued by funding, payment, and personnel problems, it has taken AMISOM three years to reach just over three quarters of itsmandated 8,000 strength.Despite previous pledges to contribute troops from Nigeria, Ghana, and Malawi, the only two countries to have actually sent troops are Uganda and Burundi.

More troops to SomaliaIn the aftermath of the bomb attacks, Museveni pledged to send an extra 2,000 troops to the mission, finally boosting it to full strength. Museveni also backed calls from east African regional body the Intergovernmental Agency for Development,or IGAD, to raise final troop numbers to 20,000.

Now there seems to be some movement from other African countries. Guinea and Djibouti will likely send troops to supplement the AMISOM force, and eventual troop strength could top 10,000, AU President Jean Ping announced late last week. A battalion of Guinean troops is ready to go to Mogadishu, Ping said. They are just waiting for transport to be provided, a series of research trips to be completed, and Guinea to be reinstated to the African Union after it was suspended following a military coup in 2008.

President Obama’s envoy to the summit, Attorney General Eric Holder, promised in a speech to the African leaders to “maintain” – but not increase – support for the AU’s Somali mission. Since 2007, the US has given support worth over $176 million to the mission and intends to giveUgandan and Burundian troops “enhanced pre-deployment training” to help tackle Al Shabab, the state department says.

EU officials at the meeting – responsible for funding the $750 monthly allowances for each AMISOM soldier – said that the current €47 million budget for the second half of 2010 was meant to support 6,000 troops butthat money could be shifted around to cover any new deployment.

But Aidan Hartley in the NYT warns that a military build up is not the solution:

Mogadishu’s battlefield has become a stalemate, Al Shabab’s ranks show fresh internal divisions, popular support has ebbed and rival militias have mobilized against the extremists. Finding an outside target — especially in Kampala, the capital of a nation that provides troops for the African mission — was a means for Al Shabab to get back in the game.

What Mr. Roobow wants, as I witnessed on the road in Somalia, is a war against an alien enemy that will bring him international prestige and jihadi money before his group’s forces implode and his country’s people turn on him. The Uganda bombing is another reason the West has to find an intelligent diplomatic path out of Somalia’s crisis. A military backlash would give Mukhtar Roobow exactly the ammunition that he is looking for.

Uganda: Parliament insists on judicial oversight in wiretapping law

On July 15, 2010, in the wake of a terrorist attack on July 11 in Kampala that claimed 74 civilian lives, the Ugandan Parliament passed into law the Regulation of Interception of Communications Bill. The legislators insisted that there be judicial oversight of the process of communications interception, despite arguments put forward by the Ministry of Security that it should be in charge. The law will take effect after being approved by the President of Uganda.

Under the bill, a warrant for interception of communications is only valid for three months and may be issued if there is a “reasonable ground for a High Court judge to believe” that:

  • a felony that puts lives in danger has been or is being or will probably be committed;
  • the gathering of information concerning an actual threat to national security or to any national economic interest is necessary;
  • the gathering of information concerning a potential threat to public safety, national security, or any national economic interest is necessary; or
  • there is a threat to the national interest involving the state’s international relations or obligations. (

The initial language of the bill gave the authority to issue wiretapping warrants to the Minister for Security, a member of the executive branch of government. Parliament, however, on the recommendation of its Sessional Committee on Information and Communications Technology (ICT), decided to place such authority with the High Court in the final version of the bill. In making the recommendation, ICT argued that it was not appropriate to entrust the Minister for Security with the authority to issue warrants, as that would result in a conflict of interest and possible violations of the right to privacy.

(H/T Law Library of Congress)

Two killed in nothern Caucasus power station attack

Two carloads of assailants attacked a hydroelectric station in southern Russia on Wednesday, killing two workers and setting off bombs. The attack took place in Kabardino-Balkariya, part of the North Caucasus region where Russian authorities are battling a Muslim insurgency. However, there were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack.

The attack was a blow to Kremlin efforts to contain an Islamist insurgency in the mainly Muslim provinces of the North Caucasus. Analysts said the raid indicated rebels were fulfilling their promise to target economic infrastructure as part of their fight to create an Islamist pan-Caucasus state in south Russia.

“This shows the scourge of terrorism is not only not subsiding, but expanding geographically,” said Gennady Gudkov, deputy head of the security committee of Russia’s parliament. Kabardino-Balkaria is near Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan, but has suffered far fewer attacks.

Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, who calls himself the “Emir of the Caucasus Emirate,” has vowed to attack Russia’s energy pipelines and power stations.

“I think this is a change in tactics,” said Grigory Shvedov, editor-in-chief of the Caucasian Knot http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru Internet news agency. He said it would be reasonable to expect more attacks on economic targets.

Ex MI5 chief: Iraq war raised terror threat

Giving evidence to the Iraq inquiry, Baroness Manningham-Buller, chief of the intelligence agency from 2002 to 2007 said that Iraq posed little threat to Britain just before the 2003 war — but the danger of extremist attacks surged following the conflict. She also dismissed any connection between Iraq and the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States (read here the newly declassified MI5 memo).

Manningham-Buller said that in 2002, MI5 had advised Blair’s government that the “direct threat” from Iraq was “low”. She said she believed the intelligence on Iraq’s threat was not “substantial enough” to justify the action.

“We did think that Saddam Hussein might resort to terrorism in the theatre if he thought his regime was toppled but we didn’t believe he had the capability to do anything in the UK,” she said.

But MI5 “did not foresee” the number of Britons who became involved in extremist plots at home — such as the July 7, 2005 bombings in London which killed 52 people — following the conflict, she said.

“Our involvement in Iraq radicalised, for want of a better word, a whole generation of young people — not a whole generation, a few among a generation — who saw our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as being an attack on Islam,” she said.

“During 2003-04, we realised that the focus was not foreigners. The rising and increasing threat was a threat from British citizens and that was a very different scenario to, as it were, stopping people coming in.”

Baroness Manningham-Buller was part of the government’s Joint Intelligence Committee before the war, which drew up the controversial dossier on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction in September 2002. The dossier stated the weapons could be activated with 45 minutes of an order to do so.

Asked about the dossier, she said she had very limited involvement in its compilation but it was clear, with hindsight, that there was an “over-reliance” on certain intelligence.

MPs expressed the view that the former MI5 boss was getting her own back after she was drummed out of her job and blamed for failing to prevent the very terrorist attacks that she believes were stoked by the Iraq war. Patrick Mercer, former chairman of the Commons counter-terrorism committee, told the Daily Mail that the government ‘showed her the door’ because she was prepared to tell the truth. The baroness is the only member of the intelligence agencies to testify to the inquiry in public.

Watch the testimony here.

Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials on Al Shabaab Terrorist Organization

Read it here.

UN adds radical cleric al-Awlaki to terror list

The Miami Herald reports that the United Nations has added U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki to its terrorist list, requiring member countries to freeze his assets and ban his travel.

The action follows a similar move by the U.S. Treasury Department last week, and underscores the growing threat officials believe al-Awlaki represents as a terror recruiter and planner.

Based in Yemen, al-Awlaki has taken on a greater role with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, leading to his placement earlier this year on a secret U.S. government list of terror targets to be captured or killed, according to U.S. officials.

In announcing the U.N. sanctions, the State Department said the crackdown will help degrade AQAP’s ability to launch attacks.

The move, said Daniel Benjamin, State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, “is in direct response to the operational role he plays in AQAP, and most importantly because of the integral part he played in planning AQAP’s attempted destruction of Northwest Airlines flight 253 over the United States.”

Meantime, a senior US lawmaker urged the United States to add Eritrea to a terrorism blacklist over its support for an Al-Qaeda-linked group tied to last week’s deadly bombings in Uganda.

Representative Ed Royce, the top Republican on a House subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation and trade, urged US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a letter to designate Eritrea a state sponsor of terrorism.

The designation — currently only applied to Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria — carries a range of economic and diplomatic sanctions.

The California lawmaker said “Eritrea’s support for Shebab is well documented” and that the Uganda attacks underscored “the group’s threat to the region, continent and even the United States.”

(h/t Georgetown SLB)

ECtHR: recent decisions on violation of art. 3 arising from expulsion/deportation

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has recently delivered two judgments concerning the violation of article 3 arising from the risk of ill-treatment of the claimants, if returned to their country of origin.

The first case, A. v. The Netherlands, originated in an application filed by a Libyan national, Mr A., in which he claimed that his expulsion to Libya, following an exclusion order imposed on him, would violate his rights under Article 3. A. entered The Netherlands in 1997 and applied, unsuccessfully, for asylum as he feared persecution, imprisonment, and possibly execution, in Libya for his involvement since 1988 in a clandestine opposition group. In 2002 he was arrested on suspicion of belonging to a group conducting jihad against the Netherlands, but eventually acquitted. In 2005 an exclusion order was imposed on him, as he was found to represent a danger to national security. A. claimed that his expulsion to Libya would expose him to the risk of ill treatment not only because of his involvement in the opposition group, but also because of the criminal proceedings taken against him in The Netherlands. Despite being eventually acquitted, his case had been broadly covered in the media and the Libyan authorities had been informed that he had been placed in aliens’ detention for removal purposes.

The Governments of Lithuania, Portugal, Slovakia and the United Kingdom suggested that, where a State presents evidence that an individual is a threat to national security, it should be up to the individual to prove that it is “more likely than not” that he would suffer a violation of Article 3. In addition, these Governments criticized the approach generally adopted by the Court, which does not allow for weighting the risk of ill treatment with the reasons for extradition.

The Court rejected the Governments’ arguments, reiterating that the prohibition of ill-treatment under Article 3 was absolute, and that it was not possible to weigh the risk of ill-treatment against the reasons put forward for the expulsion in order to determine whether the responsibility of a State was engaged under Article 3. Similarly, the Court noted that the existence of domestic laws and accession to international human rights treaties by a State which was not party to the Convention does not ensure adequate protection from ill-treatment, especially in cases (such as that of Libya) where reliable sources had reported practices contrary to the Convention, which were actively pursued or tolerated by the authorities. Therefore, the Court concluded that it was likely that, once extradited in Lybia, A. would be detained, risking ill treatment. Accordingly, the Court concluded that A.’s expulsion to Libya would breach Article 3.

The second case, N. v. Sweden, originated in an application by an Afghan national, Ms. N., in which she claimed that her deportation to Afghanistan would be in breach of Article 3. N. applied for asylum, together with her husband X., claiming that they had been persecuted in Afghanistan because X. had been a politically active member of the communist party. Their request was rejected, and N. appealed the decision, claiming that, as she had in the meantime separated from her husband and started an extra-marital relationship, she would risk social exclusion and possibly death if she returned to Afghanistan. Her appeal was also rejected.

Despite the reports  of serious human rights violations in Afghanistan, the Court did not find that they would suggest that there would be a violation of the Convention if N. were to return to that country. However, examining N.’s personal situation, the Court noted that women were at a particularly heightened risk of ill-treatment in Afghanistan if they were perceived as not conforming to the gender roles ascribed to them by society, tradition or the legal system there. Among other things, the Court noted that a recent law, the Shiite Personal Status Act of April 2009, required women to obey their husbands’ sexual demands and not to leave home without permission. Unaccompanied women, or women without a male “tutor”, faced continuous severe limitations to having a personal or professional life, and were doomed to social exclusion. They also often plainly lacked the means for survival if not protected by a male relative. Accordingly, the Court found that if N. were deported to Afghanistan, Sweden would be in violation of Article 3.

Indonesia: The Dark Side of Jama’ah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT)

The International Crisis Group has published an overview on Jama’ah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), the organization led by Indonesia’s best-known radical cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir founded in 2008.

Quote:

An ostensibly above-ground organisation, it has embraced individuals with known ties to fugitive extremists. It has welcomed many members of the militant Jema’ah Islamiyah (JI) but clashed with the JI leadership over strategy and tactics.  It preaches jihad against Islam’s enemies but insists it stays within the law – though it rejects man-made laws as illegitimate.  (…)

The dark side of JAT’s activities came into the spotlight on 6 May 2010, when Indonesian police raided its Jakarta headquarters and charged three officials with raising funds for a militant training camp uncovered in Aceh in late February. On 12 May, police carried out a reconstruction of a meeting in South Jakarta involving two men now in custody known to have served as camp instructors and another, who wore a large name tag reading “Abu Bakar Ba’asyir”. JAT’s alleged involvement in fundraising and combat training immediately led to speculation that another arrest of 72-year-old Ba’asyir was imminent. 

Even if he is arrested – for the third time since the first Bali bombs – the impact will be limited, both in terms of Indonesian extremism and the domestic political fallout. Ba’asyir has been a perpetual thorn in the side of successive governments since the early 1970s. He is very much the elder statesman of Indonesia’s radical movement, but he is neither the driving force behind it now nor its leading ideologue, and he has numerous critics among fellow jihadis who cite his lack of strategic sense and poor management skills. (…)

The truth is that the jihadi project has failed in Indonesia. The rifts and shifting alignments so evident now in the jihadi community are a reaction to that failure. There is no indication that violent extremism is gaining ground. Instead, as with JAT’s formation, we are seeing the same old faces finding new packages for old goods. The far bigger challenge for Indonesia is to manage the aspirations of the thousands who join JAT rallies for its public message: that democracy is antithetical to Islam, that only an Islamic state can uphold the faith, and that Islamic law must be the source of all justice. (…)

Terror charge in alleged Danish cartoonist attack

Denmark’s top prosecutor on Friday charged a Somali man with terrorism for allegedly trying to kill a cartoonist who caricatured the Prophet Muhammad. Joergen Steen Soerensen said the man, who cannot be named under a court order, wanted to “seriously frighten the population” and destabilize Denmark in the January attack on Kurt Westergaard.

The suspect, who has been in custody since the attack, claimed he only wanted to frighten Westergaard and has denied all charges except of possessing weapons. Soerensen said the suspect was also charged with attempted murder of a police officer. If found guilty, he faces a life sentence, which in Denmark is generally reduced to 16 years in prison.

The Danish intelligence agency says the suspect has links with the Somali militant group al-Shabab and al-Qaida leaders in eastern Africa. A spokesman in Somalia for al-Shabab has denied the man is a member of the group.

Westergaard has faced several death threats over his depiction of Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban. The drawing was considered the most offensive of 12 Danish cartoons of the prophet that sparked an uproar in Muslim countries in 2006. He has lived under police protection since February 2008.