Ex-MI6 counterterror chief urges caution in tackling ISIS threat

Richard BarrettBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Britain should not hurriedly change its laws to counter the perceived danger posed by homegrown militants that have joined the Islamic State, according to the former head of counterterrorism for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). Richard Barrett, a former diplomat, served as Director of Global Counter Terrorism Operations for MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence agency, and is considered an international authority on counterterrorism. He told The Guardian newspaper that it would be wrong for the British government to introduce legislation effectively criminalizing travel to Iraq or Syria by British subjects. Barrett was responding to a newspaper article by London mayor Boris Johnson, who criticized Britain’s conservative government for not taking active steps to prevent British citizens form traveling to Syria and Iraq in order to join the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS. Johnson said he supported calls for British members of the Islamic State to be stripped of their British citizenship, even if that meant they would be left stateless —a violation of United Nations law. The London mayor further suggested that all British citizens travelling to Syria and Iraq without first notifying the government, should be legally considered as having traveled there “for a terrorist purpose”. He added that the burden should be on them to prove that they were “acting innocently” while abroad. But Barrett dismissed Johnson’s proposals, saying that they would cancel age-old principles of British common law and could potentially criminalize British citizens who traveled to the Middle East for legitimate purposes. Read more of this post

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White man allegedly led Kenya Islamist attack that killed 60

Mpeketoni, KenyaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Survivors of a militant Islamist attack on a Kenyan coastal town said they witnessed a white man speaking in English and Arabic coordinating the operation that left 60 people dead. The bloody attack took place on Sunday in Mpeketoni, a small town located near the Kenya’s Lamu archipelago on the Indian Ocean. Witnesses said a group of 40 heavily armed men stormed the town in small teams and took it over last Sunday morning. Once they had established control, they visited almost every house asking residents if they were Muslim. If they failed to pass a simple test, they were executed on the spot. The attack is believed to have been carried out by al-Shabaab, a Somali-based Islamist group that has links to al-Qaeda. But survivors of the horrific raid have told British newspaper The Daily Telegraph that the leader of the attackers was “pale-skinned” and “spoke English and Arabic”. The paper quoted Mpeketoni schoolteacher Mary Gachoki, who said she saw “a white man who was speaking in fluent British English commanding the rest of the attackers”. The Telegraph report cited the accounts of several more witnesses, including a woman who saw “a white man” among the attackers, who “was commanding them and was shooting now and then”. She added that “at one point he spoke in Arabic but most of the time in English”, with a British accent. One witness said the pale skinned man “was either white or an Arab”. These accounts are believed to strengthen the view that the attack was indeed carried over by al-Shabaab. The group has strong links with foreign Arab or European-born Islamists who routinely travel to Somalia to join the group’s ranks. But the claims also bring to mind similar allegations made following last September’s attack at the upscale Westgate shopping mall in Kenyan capital Nairobi, which killed nearly 70 people. Read more of this post

British, American citizens among Kenya shopping center attackers

Westgate shpping mallBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Several Americans and at least one British subject were allegedly involved in planning and carrying out the armed attack on a shopping center in Kenya last week, according to the Kenyan government. The bloody attack was carried out on September 21 at the upscale Westgate shopping mall in Kenyan capital Nairobi. At least 15 attackers stormed the shopping complex and executed several shoppers in cold blood, before proceeding to take several people hostage. Responsibility for the attack has been claimed by Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab. The group has been at war with the Kenyan government since October of 2011, when Kenyan troops invaded Somalian territory. The group said that the attack had been carried out as retribution for Kenya’s invasion of Somalia. Kenyan officials have so far refused to speculate on the precise identity of the perpetrators of the Westgate attack. But on Tuesday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said during a televised address to the nation that some of the identities of the armed militants who stormed the complex had been confirmed. He added that the perpetrators included a British woman and “two or three” American citizens. A few hours later, Kenyan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amina Mohamed, said during a press conference that, according to information currently available, “one Brit[ish subject], a woman”, had been involved in the attack. She added that the female suspect “has done this many times before”, implying that she is a seasoned Islamist militant. Minister Mohamed added that “two or three Americans [...], aged about 18 or 19”, were also involved in the attack, adding that they were Arab or Somali in origin and had moved to Africa from “Minnesota and one other place” in the United States. Read more of this post

Hezbollah cell ‘connected with Boko Haram’ arrested in Nigeria

Weapons cache discovered in KanoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Nigerian authorities have announced the arrest of three alleged members of Lebanese group Hezbollah, following the discovery of a large weapons and explosives cache in northern Nigeria. Representatives of the West African country’s military and the State Security Service said on Thursday that three Lebanese nationals had been arrested between May 16 and 28. They were identified as Mustapha Fawaz, Abdullah Tahini and Talal Roda, with the latter being a dual Nigerian-Lebanese citizen. They are accused of being members of Hezbollah, the militant Shiite group that controls large swathes of Lebanese territory. All were reportedly arrested in Kano city, northern Nigeria’s most notable commercial center, which is home to a substantial Lebanese community of merchants. Nigerian security forces raided a warehouse adjacent to a residence belonging to a Lebanese national, where they discovered a hidden underground bunker below the master bedroom. In there they found and confiscated large quantities of assorted weapons, including a dozen anti-tank rockets, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher with 21 missiles, 19 AK-47 and submachine guns, as well as 76 grenades. Nigerian government representatives told local journalists on Thursday that the cache was “a Hezbollah armory” belonging to “a cell of Hezbollah”. A few hours later, officials of Israel’s Counter Terrorism Bureau (CTB) said Tel Aviv was aware of the Nigerian government’s operation. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #832 (foiled Canada terror plot)

Toronto, CanadaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Two arrested in Canada terror plot. Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, who live in Montreal and Toronto, were planning to derail a Via Rail passenger train in Toronto  with support from “al-Qaeda elements located in Iran”, Canadian police said Monday. “This is the first known al-Qaeda planned attack that we’ve experienced in Canada”, Superintendent Doug Best told a news conference. Police said the men did not receive financial support from al-Qaeda, but declined to provide more details. There was no apparent reason to think the planned attacks were state-sponsored.
►►Canada foils ‘al-Qaeda inspired’ terror attack on train. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said the surveillance operation leading to the arrests of the two suspects was “a result of extensive collaborative efforts”. Chief Spt Jennifer Strachan said the two men had sought to target “a specific route, but not necessarily a specific train”. At the same time, the RCMP said they believed the plot was in the planning stage and “there was no imminent threat to the general public”.
►►Tip from Muslim community ‘helped foil’ al-Qaeda plot. Canadian lawyer Hussein Hamdani told CTV News Channel that a tip from the Muslim community helped investigators foil the alleged al-Qaeda plot. “This goes to show the partnership between the Muslim community in Canada and the RCMP and all the police services,” said Hamdani. It might not be well known but collaboration between Muslims and government agencies —like the RCMP, CSIS, Canadian Border Services Agency and the Department of Justice— is quite common, according to Hamdani.

News you may have missed #831 (Boston Marathon bombings)

Site of one of the Boston Marathon blastsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Russia had warned FBI Tsarnaev had radical links. The Russian FSB intelligence security service shared with the FBI in early 2011 information that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the brothers suspected in the Boston marathon bombings, was a follower of radical Islam. The Russians allegedly told the FBI that Tsarnaev, 26,  had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the US to join unspecified underground groups.
►►FBI interviewed dead Boston bombing suspect years ago. The FBI admitted Friday they interviewed the now-deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev two years ago but failed to find any incriminating information about him. The FBI probe culminated in a sit-down interview where they probably asked him a lot of questions about his life, his contacts, his surroundings. All of this was then written in a report.
►►Ex-CIA/FBI official says Boston bombings were not terrorism. Counterterrorism expert Philip Mudd, with experience in the CIA and the FBI, told Fox News: “What I fear is that people too quickly categorize this as terrorism. This looks more to me like Columbine than it does like al Qaeda. Two kids who radicalized between themselves in a closed circle and go out and commit murder. I would charge these guys as murderers, not terrorists”.
►►Ex-US Attorney General says Boston bombings were terrorism. Michael Mukasey, Attorney General of the United States from 2007 to 2009, says that the Boston attack “was obviously a suicide operation –not in the direct way of a bomber who kills all his victims and himself at the same time by blowing himself up, but in the way of someone who conducts a spree, holding the stage for as long as possible, before he is cut down in a blaze of what he believes is glory. Here, think Mumbai”.

News you may have missed #830 (Boston bombings analysis)

Site of one of the Boston Marathon blastsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Despite WMD fears, terrorists still focused on conventional attacks. The United States has spent billions of dollars to prevent terrorists from obtaining a weapon of mass destruction even as the bombings in Boston further show that a nuclear weapon or lethal bioagent is not necessary for causing significant harm. However, experts warn that, even though there is a considerably lower probability of a WMD attack versus a conventional strike, the much higher consequences necessitate continued US investment in prevention and preparation.
►►Why isn’t terrorism in the US a whole lot more frequent? While the horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon has brought concerns about terrorism back to the forefront of national attention, it is worth remembering that terrorism inside the United States is exceedingly rare. Over the past 40 years, just over 3 people on average have been killed by acts of terrorism per year (remove 9/11, and the average is 1.4 deaths per year). After 9/11 or an event like the Boston attack, we often think “it would be so easy to [fill in the blank] and cause massive damage.” And it’s true. Then why doesn’t it happen more often?
►►Boston bomb investigators can’t decide: foreign or domestic? Even the most experienced investigators are still trying to decide whether the Boston marathon bombs were carried out at the hands of domestic or foreign attackers. The inability to settle that question is proving frustrating to investigators. Former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes told CNN: “I’ve run bomb scenes in Iraq and also in the US”, adding that the attack in Boston “has the hallmarks of both domestic and international, and you can see either side of that”.
►►Smoke color is key clue to analyzing Boston Marathon bombs. As a team of investigators led by the FBI begins deciphering the bombs that killed three people and wounded 150 more in Boston this week, a key clue is already in plain sight on countless videos taken during the blasts: the color of the smoke. Analyzing the color of the smoke can provide information about the explosive that powered the bombs, which in turn provides clues about its sophistication —and, possibly, that of the people who made it.

Analysis: Five dangerous myths about the Boston Marathon bombings

Investigating the Boston bombingsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The endless opinion pieces about the Boston bombings that have flooded the media-sphere since Monday have one thing in common: they are highly speculative and, for the most part, unreliable. At this early stage, nobody outside the security or intelligence establishments has any idea about the identity or motives behind the attacks —and if they say they do, they are lying. Even those on the inside routinely refer to the ongoing investigation as one of the most complex in the country’s post-9/11 history. As the probe continues, and the nation deals with the meaning of the Boston bombings, it is critical that some of the dangerously misinformed and premature notions about the attacks are dispelled.

To begin with, the Boston Marathon bombings were not necessarily terrorism. They were clearly calculated and indiscriminate, but in order for them to qualify as terrorism, their planners must have a broad political or ideological objective. Terrorism is a tactic used to further a political goal. There is a reason why we don’t refer to school shootings, such as the one that took place on December 14, 2013, at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, as terrorism. They are calculated and extremely violent, but they do not contain a political motive. Before we can attach a terrorist label to the Boston bombings, we have to uncover the motive of the perpetrator(s). Barring that, the incident must be treated simply as a criminal act. Read more of this post

Technical analysis offers first clues about Boston Marathon bomber(s)

Site of one of the Boston Marathon blastsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Counterterrorism experts probing Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon are bound to start searching for the culprits by focusing on the technical specifications of the attacks. According to the Boston Police Department, three people were killed and at least 144 were injured —many of them critically— by the blasts, which rocked downtown Boston at 2:45 p.m. local time. The second explosion was carefully timed to coincide with the initial blast, and occurred just ten seconds later, fewer than 100 yards down the road from the site of the first explosion. At least one report stated that law enforcement teams found and dismantled up to five additional devices at the site, which had failed to detonate. But one police official later denied these reports, saying that “closer examinations led [the police] to doubt that [the devices] were bombs”. If additional devices were indeed present at the site of the blast, it is likely that they failed to detonate due to the collapse of the wireless network in Boston, which was knocked down by a sudden spurt in usage following the initial blasts. If, as it appears, these bombs were types of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and if suicide terrorism was not involved, chances are the devices were remotely triggered using the diodes commonly found inside the speakers of inexpensive cell phones. Depending on the constitution of the bombs themselves, they could contain ball bearings, screws, or other metal fragments stuffed inside a container around some type of explosive. Read more of this post

Canadian passports still highly coveted by spies and terrorists

Canadian passportBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An extensive investigation into a bus bombing that targeted Israeli tourists in Bulgaria points to the continued attraction of forged Canadian passports for terrorist groups and intelligence agencies. Bulgaria’s Minister of the Interior, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, said on Tuesday that the July 18, 2012, terrorist attack, was perpetrated by Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, the military wing of Hezbollah. The militant Shiite group, which controls large parts of southern Lebanon, has denied involvement in the bombing, which killed seven people, including five Israeli tourists. Tsvetanov said that, during a lengthy police investigation, which was assisted by American and Israeli investigators, the printer used to produce forged driver licenses found on two of the plotters was traced to Lebanon. He also told a press conference in Bulgarian capital Sofia that the suicide bomber, who died in the attack, entered Bulgaria using a forged Canadian passport. Commentator Paul Koring, of Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, correctly suggests that the revelation by the Bulgarian authorities points to the continued status of Canadian passports as the international travel documents of choice for both spies and terrorists. In the 1970s, Hezbollah’s biggest enemy, the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, used Canadian passports in Operation WRATH OF GOD (also known as Operation BAYONET). The operation exterminated almost every original member of Black September, the Palestinian group that perpetrated the massacre of the Israeli athletes in the 1972 summer Olympic Games in Munich. In 1997, the Israeli spy agency employed Canadian passports once again, during the famously disastrous attempt to kill Khaled Mashal, Chairman of the Political Bureau of Palestinian militant group Hamas, in Jordan. Read more of this post

German authorities had monitored Turkish bomber of US embassy

Ecevit ŞanlıBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Some observers were surprised by news last week that the suicide attack at the US embassy in Turkish capital Ankara was perpetrated by secular Marxists, instead of religious extremists. But students of terrorism know that modern suicide bombings have historically been employed by secular separatist groups. These include the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka, as well as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey. The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), which assumed responsibility for last Friday’s attack in Ankara, is a Marxist-Leninist splinter group, which has carried out suicide operations against its ideological enemies since at least 2001. Last week’s attack, which killed two and injured over a dozen people, was perpetrated by Ecevit Şanlı, a 40-year-old Turk from the city of Gölköy in northeastern Turkey. A member of DHKP/C for at least 20 years, in 2000 Şanlı became a cause célèbre among far-leftists in Turkey. During that year, he played a leading role in a hunger strike organized by self-described political prisoners in Turkey, in protest over prison conditions. The protest was brutally suppressed by Turkish security forces, and Şanlı barely survived it. He was eventually released on probation after serving a lengthy prison sentence. According to German sources, upon his release from prison, Şanlı moved to Germany, home to the world’s largest Turkish expatriate community. While there, he joined local leftist causes and appears to have been active in DHKP/C’s network of supporters among the Turkish community there. In 2009, German authorities briefly detained Şanlı after he was found in possession of propaganda literature belonging to DHKP/C, which is a designated foreign terrorist organization by the German government. Read more of this post

Will former US government informant face terror charges in India?

David HeadleyBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A former United States government informant, who helped an Islamist militant group plan the 2008 Mumbai attacks in India, has been sentenced to 35 years in prison. David Coleman Headley, a former US Drug Enforcement Administration informant, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2009 for helping to plot an attack by Islamist radicals on a Danish newspaper. It eventually became apparent that Headley had been a member of Pakistani militant group Lashkar e-Taiba and had also helped plan the 2008 attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai. The terrorist plot involved at least a dozen attacks on tourist and other civilian targets in India’s largest city, conducted by small cells of highly trained LeT members who had arrived from Pakistan by boat. The coordinated attacks, which began on November 26 and ended three days later, killed 164 and wounded over 300 people. According to the FBI, Headley, who was born to a Pakistani father and an American mother, took advantage of his Western manners and physique to travel to Mumbai posing as an American tourist, in order to help map out the LeT operation. On Thursday, a court in Chicago sentenced Headley to 35 years in prison. Prior to his sentencing, Headley had pleaded guilty to all 12 counts brought against him by US prosecutors and is said to be cooperating with authorities —which is reportedly why he was spared the death penalty. However, the question in the minds of many terrorism observers is, will Headley be extradited to India to face charges there for what is often referred to as ‘India’s 9/11’? The answer is not so simple. Read more of this post

US wants immunity for Pakistanis implicated in attacks that killed 166

2008 Mumbai attacksBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States government has argued in court that current and former officials of Pakistan’s intelligence service should be immune from prosecution in connection with the 2008 Mumbai attacks. At least 166 people, including 6 Americans, were killed and scores more were injured when members of Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba stormed downtown Mumbai, India, taking the city hostage between November 26 and 29, 2008. The Indian government has openly accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) of complicity in the attack, which has been described as the most sophisticated international terrorist strike anywhere in the world during the last decade. Using evidence collected by the Indian government, several Americans who survived the bloody attacks sued the ISI in New York earlier this year for allegedly directing Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Mumbai strikes. But Stuart Delery, Principal Deputy Attorney General for the US Department of State, has told the court that the ISI and its senior officials are immune from prosecution on US soil under the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. According to the 12-page ‘Statement of Interest’ delivered to the court by Delery, no foreign nationals can be prosecuted in a US court for criminal actions they allegedly carried out while working in official capacities for a foreign government. The affidavit goes on to suggest that any attempt by a US court to assert American jurisdiction over current or former Pakistani government officials would be a blatant “intrusion on [Pakistan’s] sovereignty, in violation of international law”. It appears that nobody has notified the US Department of State that the US routinely “intrudes on Pakistan’s sovereignty” several times a week by using unmanned Predator drones to bomb suspected Taliban militants operating on Pakistani soil. Washington also “intruded on Pakistan’s sovereignty” on May 2, 2011, when it clandestinely sent troops to the town of Abbottabad to kill al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #792 (US diplomatic attacks edition)

US consulate in Benghazi, LibyaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Attack on US diplomats ‘was intelligence failure’. James Corum, an American military historian and the author of several books on military history and counter-insurgency, argues that the mob attacks on US diplomatic facilities in Cairo, Benghazi and Sana’a marked “one of the worst intelligence failures in American history”. Either, he says, US intelligence agencies had no warnings of mass action against the embassies, or senior intelligence officers disregarded or downplayed the information received from field agents. Finally, he suggests that “the real explanation is probably the latter”.
►►Attack on consulate in Libya ‘may have been planned’. Senior US officials and Middle East analysts raised questions Wednesday about the motivation for the Benghazi attack, noting that it involved the use of a rocket-propelled grenade and followed an al-Qaeda call to avenge the death of a senior Libyan member of the terrorist network. Libyan officials and a witness said the attackers took advantage of a protest over the film to launch their assault. Libyan Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif said the security force was outgunned by the attackers, who joined a demonstration of “hundreds” of people outside the consulate
►►What happened in Benghazi was a battle. “It was not a simple mob that attacked the US consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday, killing four Americans. Benghazi was the scene of a pitched battle, one in which unknown Libyan assailants besieged American diplomats with small-arms fire for over four hours, repelling several attempts by US personnel to regain control of it. Nor was what happened in Benghazi a simple story of Americans assaulted by the Libyans they helped to liberate from Muammar Gaddafi last year. Libyan security forces and a sympathetic local militia helped the Americans to suppress the attack and get the diplomats inside to safety”.

Ex-CIA officer urges Bulgaria to probe alleged Hezbollah attack alone

Robert BaerBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A 22-year veteran of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, who spent over a decade in the Middle East, has urged Bulgaria to probe a recent suicide attack against Israeli tourists on its soil without relying on American or Israeli assistance. Robert Baer, who is considered a foremost intelligence expert on Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group accused of orchestrating the attack, said that Bulgarian authorities should keep the investigation free of the “intelligence games” currently taking place between the US, Israel and Iran. He was speaking Sunday on Bulgaria’s bTV, in reference to the July 18 blast that hit a bus stationed outside the main airport building in the Black Sea resort town of Burgas. The suicide bomber, whose identity remains unknown, killed himself, the Bulgarian bus driver and five Israeli tourists. Soon after the attack, Israel announced that it had gathered “unquestionable intelligence” showing that Hezbollah, backed by Iran, was behind the suicide bombing. But according to Baer, who spent several years in Lebanon in the 1980s, Israeli and American intelligence investigators are too politicized to be able to provide objective evidence as to the culprits of the attack. The former CIA case officer told bTV that both Tel Aviv and Washington “want to lead a war in Iran” and that they will be tempted to point at Tehran as the main instigator of the suicide blast in Burgas. Read more of this post

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