Detained American on no-fly list says he was beaten in Kuwait during interrogations

The NY Times reports that an American teenager detained in Kuwait two weeks ago and placed on an American no-fly list claims that he was severely beaten by his Kuwaiti captors during a weeklong interrogation about possible contacts with terrorism suspects in Yemen.

The teenager, Gulet Mohamed, a Somali-American who turned 19 during his captivity, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday from a Kuwaiti detention cell that he was beaten with sticks, forced to stand for hours, threatened with electric shocks and warned that his mother would be imprisoned if he did not give truthful answers about his travels in Yemen and Somalia in 2009.

American officials have offered few details about the case, except to confirm that Mr. Mohamed is on a no-fly list and, for now at least, cannot return to the United States. Mr. Mohamed, from Alexandria, Va., remains in a Kuwaiti detention center even after Kuwait’s government, according to his brother, determined that he should be released.

Mr. Mohamed said that Kuwaiti interrogators repeatedly asked whether he had ever met Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric now hiding in Yemen who is suspected in terrorist plots by Al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate. He said that the Kuwaitis also asked detailed questions about his family in the United States and his family’s clan in Somalia — information he said he assumed that American officials provided to the Kuwaitis.

Mr. Mohamed denies ever meeting with militants. “I am a good Muslim, I despise terrorism,” he said in the interview.

On Tuesday, his lawyer wrote a letter to the Justice Department demanding an investigation into the episode.

“The manner of his detention and the questions asked of Mr. Mohamed indicate to him that he was taken into custody at the behest of the United States,” wrote Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer appointed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Yemen deputy Prime Minister admits lying to Parliament on US involvement of bombings

In a meeting (see cable 10SANAA4) between David Petraeus and President Saleh of Yemen the US involvement in Yemen’s fight against terrorism was discussed:

President Obama has approved providing U.S.  intelligence in support of ROYG ground operations against AQAP targets, General Petraeus informed Saleh.  Saleh reacted  coolly, however, to the General’s proposal to place USG  personnel inside the area of operations armed with real-time,  direct feed intelligence from U.S. ISR platforms overhead.  “You cannot enter the operations area and you must stay in  the joint operations center,” Saleh responded.  Any U.S.  casualties in strikes against AQAP would harm future efforts,  Saleh asserted.  Saleh did not have any objection, however,  to General Petraeus’ proposal to move away from the use of  cruise missiles and instead have U.S. fixed-wing bombers  circle outside Yemeni territory, “out of sight,” and engage  AQAP targets when actionable intelligence became available.  Saleh amented the use of cruise missiles that are “not very  accurate” and
welcomed the use of aircraft-deployed  precision-guided bombs instead.  “We’ll continue saying the  bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh said, prompting Deputy  Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just “lied” by  telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa  were American-made but deployed by the ROYG.

U.S. deploying drones in Yemen to hunt for Al-Qaeda, has yet to fire missiles

The United States has deployed Predator drones to hunt for al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen for the first time in years but has not fired missiles from the unmanned aircraft because it lacks solid intelligence on the insurgents’ whereabouts, senior U.S. officials said on Sunday in the Washington Post.

The EU as a counter-terrorism actor abroad

This paper by the EPC looks at thehandling of counter-terrorism in the ensemble of EU external relations and assistance vis-à-vis five countries of recognised importance for European interests: Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, Pakistan, and Indonesia.

Yemen begins in absentia trial of Al Awlaki

Two others are on trial along with al Awlaki: a relative, Othman al Awlaki, and Hisham Mohammed Assem, a gunman who killed a Frenchman at the site in Yemen of the Austrian oil and gas company OMV last month. They are also being tried in absentia.

The prosecutor, reading out the charges, aid the three were “members of an armed gang that targeted foreigners,” the prosecutor said when reading out the charges.

The US Treasury has blacklisted al Awlaki as a “specially designated global terrorist”, a move that freezes any assets he may have under US jurisdiction.

Foiled Yemen Bomb Plot Heightens Talk of Putting Elite U.S. Squads in CIA Hands

The Wall Street Journal reports that support was growing both within the military and the administration for shifting more operational control, including putting “elite U.S. hunter-killer teams” that operate secretly in the country, under CIA authority in Yemen.

Allowing the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command units to operate under the CIA would give the U.S. greater leeway to strike at militants even without the explicit blessing of the Yemeni government. In addition to streamlining the launching of strikes, it would provide deniability to the Yemeni government because the CIA operations would be covert. The White House is already considering adding armed CIA drones to the arsenal against militants in Yemen, mirroring the agency’s Pakistan campaign.

Yemen has allowed the U.S. military to carry out a series of strikes on
al Qaeda targets over the past year. But in some cases, Sana’a has
delayed or objected to U.S. operations. A shift to the CIA would
streamline U.S. decision-making, giving the White House more direct
control over day-to-day operations.

Placing military units overseen by the Pentagon under CIA control is unusual but not unprecedented. Units from the Joint Special Operations Command have been temporarily transferred to the CIA in other countries, including Iraq, in recent years in order to get around restrictions placed on military operations. The CIA conducts covert operations based on presidential findings, which can be expanded or altered as needed. Congressional oversight is required but the information is more tightly controlled than for military operations. For example, when the military conducts missions in a friendly country, it operates with the consent of the local government.

The New York Times reports that the US sees the complexities of the bombs made as “link” to Al Qaeda. American officials said their operating assumption was that the two bombs were the work of Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, Al Qaeda in Yemen’s top bomb-maker. Asiri is believed to have built both the bomb sewn into the underwear of
the young Nigerian who tried to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight last
Dec. 25, and the suicide bomb that nearly killed Saudi Arabia’s
intelligence chief, Mohammed bin Nayef, months earlier.

Related: LA Times article on Yemen.

US accused of Yemen proxy detention

Al Jazeera reports that Yemeni security agents abducted and detained Sharif Mobley, an American citizen living in Yemen, on behalf of the US government. Mobley disappeared after visiting the US embassy in in Sana’a.

Mobley says he was chained, blindfolded, to a hospital bed, being interrogated by two men who introduced themselves as “Matt and Khan” and said they worked for the US government. His lawyers say the two men told him that he would never see his family again and would be raped in Yemeni prison.

The lawyers say he was interrogated repeatedly over the coming weeks, and that he was badly beaten by Yemeni security forces while being moved between detention facilities.

Eventually he says he was taken to another hospital, where Matt and Khan continued to question him over his links to al-Awlaki. His lawyers say that at no point was he offered consular assistance, and that he was desperate for news of his family, who he was told would be arrested.

In early March, Mobley is alleged to have launched an escape bid from the hospital, in which he is accused of shooting dead one of his guards and wounding another. Murdering a guard is a capital offence in Yemen; if found guilty in his upcoming trial, Mobley could be executed by firing squad.

Meanwhile, his lawyers are calling for US authorities to release all information pertaining to his case as a matter of urgency, arguing that the court needs the full facts surrounding Mobley’s initial detention in January to ensure he has a fair trial.