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Al Qaeda Tag

The CIA has released thousands of documents, videos, computer files, and pictures that U.S. forces captured during the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan in May 2011. FDD's Long War Journal (LWJ) has been pressing the agency to release these items, which have given us insight into al-Qaeda and the man responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed over 3,000 Americans. This includes bin Laden's journal and more recent images of his son Hamza bin Laden.

In my memory, there are certain place markers in the history of terrorism that led to where we are today. The 1972 Munich Massacre of Israeli athletes (1972); the bombing of the Beirut Marine Barracks (1983), the World Trade Center attacks (1993 and 2001); the Jerusalem Sbarro Pizza bombing (2001) and the videotaped beheading of Daniel Pearl, February 1, 2002. I don't diminish the significance and horror of other attacks, it's just that these are memory reference points for me.

Before the Obamas could even move out of the White House at the end of the term, the president's legacy is unveiling itself across the Muslim World. From Mediterranean Sea to Persian Gulf, the forces of Radical Islam continue to score one triumph after another. Once reduced to hunted fugitives by President George W. Bush's military campaign of 2001, the emboldened Taliban fighters have once again raised the Islamist battle cry of 'Allahu Akbar' as they embark on a nationwide offensive to wrestle back control of Afghanistan. Taliban fighters have captured most of central Kunduz city, a strategically important city some 200 miles north-west of Afghan capital of Kabul, claims French news agency AFP. French television channel France24 showed footage of Taliban fighters in the centre of the city after having run over the city's defences -- before one could say Afghan National Army. Government forces still control the city's airport and started preparations to repel the Taliban out of Kunduz, French report claims.

Al Qaeda has a bit of advice for lone wolf jihadis planning terrorist in attacks in America -- make sure victims are white. Omar Mateen, ISIS devotee, chose a gay nightclub in Orlando for his jihad. Subsequently, Attorney General Lynch suggested love was the best weapon against hate (which would be true if the hate weren't blowing people up, decapitating, crucifying, and shooting up the Homeland), House Democrats built a pillow fort to protest the bill of rights, Hollywood demanded we DO SOMETHING ABOUT GUNS!, and the fact that a major terrorist attack occurred was sorely neglected. Fox News reported:

On Tuesday, German police in the State of North Rhine-Westphalia arrested a Syrian man charged with serious war crimes after arriving from Syria. The former militia commander is suspected of pillaging, plundering and committing brutalities against civilian in the city of Aleppo, Syria. The initial reports have not confirmed if the suspect entered Germany using a false identity or posing as a refugee. In 2015, Germany took in more than a million migrants. The actual figures are believed to be much higher. Just this week, the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung reported that according to Interior Ministry's estimates some 500,000 unregistered migrants were roaming across Germany.

I had not thought in a long time about Richard Reid, who attempted the shoe bombing of a passenger jet on December 22, 2001. You can read the indictment here, and the government's sentencing memo here. I thought about him early this morning when I read an old post of mine from 2011, about his sentencing by Judge William Young of the U.S. District Court in Boston in January 2003. It brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.

Newly released documents from the State Department indicate the U.S. government has known Islamic extremists have been entering the country via Mexico for over ten years.

A cable obtained by Judicial Watch under the Freedom of Information Act shows the U.S. was aware of "smuggling networks" that specialize in the trafficking of suspected Islamic extremists across the U.S.-Mexico border. The 2004 cable was sent to the State Department by the American Consulate in Juarez, Mexico.

Perhaps most alarming was the mention of a top Al Qaeda operative by the name of Adnan el Shukrijumah. The 2004 cable indicates the U.S. had human intelligence leading to his "exact whereabouts." It was not until December of 2014 - ten years later - that Shukrijumah would be captured (or in this case, killed in Pakistan).

Shukrijumah was described by FBI as "a grave danger to the security of the United States" and had ties to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed as well as to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Among other acts domestic and abroad, he helped plot the 2009 foiled bombing of Oprah Winfrey's Chicago studios and the Sears Tower.

On 9/11's 10th anniversary I wrote a post that contained this observation:
For those of us who were grownups when 9/11 happened, it’s also been transmuted—not to something that was always there, but to something that’s been incorporated into our view of the world. We’ve all done that differently. But for us, the shock and surprise and horror reoccurs (to a somewhat diminished extent, of course; there’s no shock like the first shock) whenever we see the footage, or when we think—really really think, without the protective shield of familiarity—of what actually happened on that day.
I believe that, in the four years that have passed since I wrote those words, 9/11 has been transmuted into something that was always there, something that no longer surprises. And although I haven't watched any footage today of the attack, I think there is less shock and no surprise. The reason for that is that a great deal has happened since I wrote those words four years ago. Since then, although we had responded in Afghanistan to 9/11 and then to Saddam Hussein's defiance of nuclear weapons inspections in Iraq, the Obama administration has purposely wiped out those gains, particularly in Iraq. When I wrote that 10-year anniversary piece in September of 2011, the US was poised on the brink of Obama's complete withdrawal from Iraq, which he was determined to accomplish against the opinion and advice of every military adviser. In the four years since that withdrawal, ISIS has risen up in the vacuum that was left, and it has wreaked horrors on civilian populations, barbarities that are of enormous scale and magnitude even compared to 9/11 and which have reverberated around the world with images of sadistic violence. Does anyone doubt for a single moment that the killers would wreak a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand 9/11s on us if they could?

A new memorial center has been created in Shanksville, Pennsylvania to honor the people on United Airlines Flight 93 which crashed in a field on September 11th when passengers fought back against the terrorists. Here's an Associated Press report via FOX News:
Flight 93 memorial visitor center is dedicated A new visitor center has been dedicated on a Pennsylvania hill overlooking the site where United Airlines Flight 93 came down during the 9/11 attacks. The visitor center is at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville. It uses photos, video, artifacts and interactive displays to tell the story of how passengers and crew fought to regain control of the plane. The hijackers are believed to have wanted to crash it into the U.S. Capitol. An outdoor platform offers a commanding view of the crash site where 33 passengers and seven crew members were killed. U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said at Thursday's dedication that the center captures "the real honor of the 40 and what they did."

At 8:46 a.m. in New York on September 11, 2001, the first airplane hit the World Trade Center North Tower. I was at my desk in Providence, RI, when I heard the first reports of a "small plane" hitting the World Trade Center. Seemed odd, but not out of the realm of possibility. Morning news shows interrupted coverage as the murky facts began to emerge. Slowly, it became clear it was no accident, as the South Tower also was hit (at 31:20 of video below). And then the Pentagon was hit And then the unthinkable, the Towers collapsed:

Today, 32 people died trying to escape Yemen. Houthi rebels fired a shell at their boat as it pulled out of port in the strategically-crucial gulf city of Aden. Overnight, fierce fighting had broken out in the al-Tawahi district between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and militia forces loyal to (deposed and yet back again) President Hadi. It was a territorial struggle; even more may have died on the ground as Saudi airstrikes attempted to push the Houthi back even further. This isn't a "crisis"; it's something else entirely. Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged $68 million in new U.S. aid to Yemen, and is working on securing a "pause" in the fighting so that humanitarian workers can get food, fuel, and medicine to civilians caught in the crossfire. We'll see. Maybe they'll give it to him.

At the end of March, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stood in front of the corps and dug a hole over the administration's handling of strategic ops in the Middle East. After Yemen's Western-backed Hadi government was forced to flee by Houthi rebels, the White House began fielding questions from the media about how the loss of the Hadi government would affect U.S. counterterrorism strategy in the region. ABC correspondent Jon Karl lashed out after Earnest (accidentally?) revealed that the administration still views Yemen as a model for counterterrorism strategy, in spite of Hadi's fall and the Houthi takeover. Karl's point was valid, and it still stands. The relationship the U.S. has (had) with the Yemeni government was productive to the extent that it allowed us to work with their agencies to control threats to US security in the Arabian peninsula. That capability began to deteriorate last year, even before the Houthi began their full-on assault on Sana'a. The model fell apart, but according to recent reports, we may still have some counterterror capabilities in the region. Earlier today, Yemen's al-Qaeda cell announced that top cleric and Saudi national Ibrahim al-Rubaish was killed by a drone strike. Al-Rubaish had a $5 million bounty on his head, so if this is true, it would provide some excellent optics for struggling US operations on the peninsula.

While diplomats postured and preened over their hard-fought "nuclear framework" intended to usher in the era of a nuclear-but-not-nuclear Iran, Yemen continued to burn. Today, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels made major progress in their attempt to seize control of Aden, Yemen's key strategic port city and site of ousted President Hadi's last-stand. (He fled to Saudi Arabia last week.) The Houthi don't yet exercise full control over Aden, but have managed to break through barriers armed by soldiers loyal to Hadi, briefly occupy the Presidential palace, and raise the Yemeni flag before withdrawing for fear of airstrikes. This isn't an insignificant accomplishment; if the Houthi eventually oust Hadi loyalists from Aden, they will have seized control over one of the most strategically important ports in the Middle East, and upped the ante on Saudi coalition forces currently trying to regain ground.

Earlier this year, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels evolved from regional threat into formidable occupation force. They moved out of their strongholds in north Yemen to threaten, menace, and finally occupy the capital city of Sana'a. Conditions deteriorated to the point where the U.S. embassy was forced to evacuate; reports quickly surfaced that the evacuation was botched, and questions arose about the status of weapons, vehicles, and other military aid supplies left behind when US forces left the region. Without an available surveillance infrastructure, the Defense Department has been unable to monitor the movement of small arms and other supplies, and now the Pentagon has come forward saying that they're unable to account for $500 million worth of supplies. From the Washington Post:
In recent weeks, members of Congress have held closed-door meetings with U.S. military officials to press for an accounting of the arms and equipment. Pentagon officials have said that they have little information to go on and that there is little they can do at this point to prevent the weapons and gear from falling into the wrong hands. “We have to assume it’s completely compromised and gone,” said a legislative aide on Capitol Hill who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. U.S. military officials declined to comment for the record. A defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon, said there was no hard evidence that U.S. arms or equipment had been looted or confiscated. But the official acknowledged that the Pentagon had lost track of the items.
Who likely got their hands on it? Either al Qaeda, or the Houthi---and neither prospect offers much hope for their return. WaPo created an infographic displaying military aid the US has sent to Yemen since 2010:

The Gulf Cooperation Council has announced that it will host a series of talks in Riyadh to address the current crisis in Yemen:
Saudi Arabia said on Monday the Gulf Cooperation Council had agreed to host talks in Riyadh to end the Yemen crisis, the state news agency SPA said, quoting a statement by the Saudi King's office. The statement said Saudi Arabia had asked the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, on the request of Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to host the talks in Riyadh where the headquarters of the organisation was, and that they had agreed. Yemen, a neighbour of top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and global security worry because of its strong al Qaeda presence, is caught in a stand-off between Western-backed President Hadi and the Houthi clan, now the country's de facto rulers who are supported by Iran. "The security of Yemen is part and parcel of the security of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries," the statement said.
The situation in Yemen has been devolving at an increasing rate since last year, when Iran-backed Houthi insurgents began taking control of key locations throughout the capital city of Sana'a. In late January, the Houthi laid siege to the presidential palace and took the president hostage; the American embassy made preparations to evacuate. Just days after the attack began, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his government resigned under pressure.

Yemen's al-Qaida branch has officially claimed responsibility for last week's terror attacks against satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. In two separate videos, one taken the day of the attack and another, longer message from the top al-Qaida commander in the Arabian Peninsula, the group takes responsibility for the attacks and warns of more "tragedy and terror." Fox explains what was revealed in the videos:
An eyewitness heard the gunmen say in French, "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad!" as they fled the newspaper office, while another witness claimed the gunmen addressed him before fleeing, saying, "Tell them this was Al Qaeda in Yemen." In the video, al-Ansi describes the Kouachi brothers as "heroes" and congratulates them for "this revenge that has soothed our pain.” “Congratulations to you for these brave men who blew off the dust of disgrace and lit the torch of glory in the darkness of defeat and agony,” an-Ansi added. In the video, al-Ansi made no claim to the subsequent Paris attack on a kosher grocery store, during which a friend of Kouachis, Amedy Coulibaly, killed a French policewoman Thursday and four hostages on Friday.
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