Showing posts from August 4, 2013

Saudis Pledge $100 Million for U.N. Counterterror Center

RIYADH—Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah announced a $100 million gift for a U.N. counterterrorism center, declaring that religious extremism in the wake of the Arab Spring posed a greater danger to the Arab community at large "than the weapons of our visible enemies." The urgent tone of the king's warning, in a statement Wednesday night marking the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr, emphasized the continuing concerns by the world's leading oil producer over security in the aftermath of revolutions that started in late 2010 elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa. Saudi Arabia has arguably emerged from the popular uprisings as the region's most influential political power, and as the most active opponent of Islamically oriented political movements and Islamically driven armed groups. Critics charge that the kingdom also often cracks down on rights activists at home, efforts the government has said are in the name of fighting terror. "We a

Friends, family key motivators for extremist behaviour, study finds

A study of what motivates people in Australia to become terrorists has found friends and family are bigger factors than extremist material posted online. The four-year project, carried out by Monash University and police, involved more than 100 interviews with extremists in Australia, Indonesia, Europe and North America. Researchers also spoke to counter-terrorism experts to try to identify ways to prevent violent extremism. They found Australian militants and terrorists frequently consulted and consumed online extremist material but other factors were more important in radicalising them. Social networks of friends and family, including contact with people who had fought overseas or been to terrorist training camps, had a stronger influence. Researcher Debra Smith says the way people join terrorist groups is similar to the way people get involved in other anti-social behaviour, such as drug use. "It can be very normal people going through very normal processes

Once A Melting Pot, Polish City Sees Uptick In Ethnic Violence

According to official statistics there has been an upsurge in xenophobic and racist incidents in Poland in the past two years. (file photo)  B IALYSTOK, Poland -- A local prosecutor in Bialystok -- a once majority Jewish city in northeastern Poland -- recently dismissed charges against vandals, calling the swastika they allegedly painted on a building an Asian "symbol of luck." Prosecutor Dawid Roszkowski's words should have shocked, but they came amid a string of racist, often violent, incidents directed against the town's non-Slavic minorities, who make up less than 1 percent of the local population. Since the beginning of the year, violence has included a physical assault on a black radio and TV host, an arson attack on a Polish-Indian couple, and several assaults on Chechen families. Vandals have sprayed swastikas throughout the town, including on historically Jewish sites. And activists warn that the incidents in the city of 300,000, which a

Al Qaeda's kinder, gentler image makeover

Al Nusra fighters stand ready to fight Syrian regime forces near Aleppo in April. Al Nusra has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst, a director at the New America Foundation and the author of " Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden -- From 9/11 to Abbottabad. " Jennifer Rowland is a program associate at the New America Foundation. (CNN) -- An al Qaeda-produced video posted on a website in early July opens with uplifting images of smiling Syrian children and jovial old men listening to speeches delivered by al Qaeda militants . The video seems startlingly out of place on a website usually devoted to serious young men learning to fire machine guns, bloodshed and graphic images of civilian casualties purportedly caused by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, the video, featured on a site aligned with al Qaeda, shows a Jordanian member of al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria ins

Suspected U.S. Drone Kills Eight In Yemen

A suspected U.S. drone strike has reportedly killed at least two people in eastern Yemen believed to be Al-Qaeda militants. It was the second such strike in a day and the seventh in less than two weeks. Local officials said the attack on August 8 in Hadramawt Province targeted a car carrying the suspected militants. Earlier on August 8, officials and witnesses said another suspected U.S. drone strike killed six alleged militants in central Marib Province. Witnesses and local officials said the drone fired at two vehicles at dawn. The strikes came days after the United States closed its diplomatic missions across the Middle East and Africa following warnings of a possible terrorist attack. It followed reports of intercepted messages from Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri ordering its Yemeni branch to carry out an attack. The U.S. and British embassies also evacuated all nonessential staff from Yemen. On August 7, Yemeni authorities said they had foiled an Al-Qaeda p

U.S. response to still murky terror threat scrutinized

Washington (CNN) -- First came the closing of U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the Middle East and North Africa this week, along with a worldwide travel alert warning of a possible al Qaeda attack in the region. In addition, Americans were told to leave Yemen, the epicenter of al Qaeda militancy in the Middle East, and the State Department pulled out non-emergency embassy personnel on military aircraft that flew them to Germany. U.S. forces in the region were put on two-hour alert for mission readiness, and now there have been seven suspected U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, where the local al Qaeda leader is now believed to be the terror group's global second-in-command. The seriousness of the U.S. response indicated that al Qaeda was not as decimated and on-the-run as President Barack Obama's administration has claimed for some time, including in last year's presidential campaign. Critics, including a miffed Yemeni government, quickly said the

Muslims celebrate Eid today amid terror fears

ISLAMABAD: The nation will celebrate Eidul Fitr today (Friday) with traditional fervour and amid security fears. Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee Chairman Mufti Munibur Rehman announced the sighting of Eid moon on Thursday, marking the beginning of the month of Shahwal. The celebration of Eid culminates the month of fasting wherein the faithful spent their time praying and beseeching Allah for forgiveness and mercy. The Eid moon was also sighted in India and Bangladesh while Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Egypt celebrated Eidul Fitr on Thursday. The Eid day would dawn with special sermons where clerics would stress on the unity of Muslims across the world. They will also pray for the prosperity and well being of the country. The largest Eid congregation in the federal capital would be held at Faisal Mosque. In Rawalpindi, the main Eid congregation would be held at Liaquat Bagh while in Lahore, the biggest Eid prayer gathering would be arranged at Badshahi Mosque. Eid cong

Since US global terrorism alert, at least five explosions have rocked Mindanao

An intercepted communication between Al Qaeda leaders prompted the closure of embassies in North Africa and Middle East over the weekend and   the issuance of a global travel alert warning Americans against going to these regions , in light of what is suspected as planned attacks by the terrorist group this month. Just a few days after the US issued the alert, a spate of bombings tore through various provinces in Mindanao, at the helm of ongoing peace talks between government and the country's largest Muslim secessionist group. The blasts raised speculations that these could not possibly be mere isolated incidents but part of the larger scheme of global terrorism. However, the police, the military, and  even President Aquino himself  have said they have not yet made such a connection. Previous reports show that since the raised US alert against terrorism, there have been five bomb explosions in just four days. At least 17 have died, mainly from the two major blasts in Cotabato and

When Ransoms Pay for Terrorism

Agence France-Presse — Getty Images An image released by Al Andalus, the media branch of Al Qaeda in the Magreb, shows two French hostages: Serge Lazarevic, left, and Philippe Verdon, whose body was found last month. Militant organizations in North Africa, including those affiliated with Al Qaeda, have received some  $120 million in ransoms over the past decade,  enabling terrorist networks  to expand. A foiled Qaeda plot  disclosed in Yemen this week would have raised the stakes further: seizing a port and kidnapping foreign workers. Most countries forbid negotiating with terrorists and kidnappers, but when a loved one’s life is at stake, it’s easy to find loopholes. Should ransoms ever be paid? What can be done to deal with this growing crisis in North Africa? Source

KSA vows zero tolerance for terrorism

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah on Wednesday reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s determination to combat terrorism and donated $100 million to support the international counterterrorism center under the United Nations. “Terrorism threatens global peace and stability,” King Abdullah said in a joint Eid Al-Fitr message with Crown Prince Salman. King Abdullah called for joint international efforts to fight terrorism without showing any leniency toward militants and their funders. “We should understand that terrorism will not disappear within a limited period. So we have to be prepared for a long fight with terrorism. Whenever we try to tighten the noose it could become increasingly aggressive and violent. But we have strong faith in God that it would be defeated,” the message said.  Muslims in the Kingdom, including expatriates, will celebrate Eid Al-Fitr on Thursday, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The Supreme Court has confirmed the sighting of Shawwal crescent by

Nazi-linked Russian vigilantes busted in bullying footage probe

Russian police are probing members of a group that gained notoriety over publishing online videos showing bullying of people they claimed to be sex offenders. A cache of weapons was confiscated in a recent raid. Police is suspecting three people in the small town of Kamensk-Uralsk in the Russian Urals of at least 11 beatings of different victims between April and June. The bust on the alleged assailants’ homes last week resulted in confiscation of dozens of melee and thrown weapons, including knives, knuckles, maces, baseball bats, a flail, nunchucks, and some ninja stars.  The suspects are members of a local branch of Okupay-Pedofiliay (the name is a wordplay reference to the Occupy Wall Street movement and pedophilia). It is a loosely-connected network of radically-minded people who supposedly share the goal of outing and publicly humiliating sex offenders. The network was inspired by the infamous Russian nationalist and far right-wing extremist Maksim Martsinkevich, nicknamed Tesak

Bahrain bans protests in capital ahead of major anti-govt demonstration

Bahrain's King Hamad, whose Gulf kingdom has been rocked by Shiite-led protests since 2011, has banned protests in Manama with an amendment to a law on public gatherings ahead of a major opposition rally scheduled for mid-August, BNA reported. The royal decree modifies the law to "ban organizing protests, rallies, gatherings or sit-ins in Manama, with the exception of sit-ins outside [offices of] international organizations" in the capital held with written police authorization, according to the agency.  Tensions in the kingdom have been escalating ahead of a major opposition rally. Following in the footsteps of demonstrators in Egypt, who ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, protesters in Bahrain have called for demonstrations against the government on August 14. Local authorities warned the protests would come against the  "force of the law"  and would be severely punished.  The authorities report a growing number of shootings and bombings targeting police

UNSC should condemn crimes committed against Kurds in Syria - Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks at a news conference after talks with Ghana's Foreign Minister Hannah Tetteh in Moscow, August 7, 2013 (Reuters / Maxim Shemetov) The UN Security Council must unambiguously condemn the reported killings of Kurds by radical forces, which try to establish an Islamist state in Syria, says Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Lavrov commented on Wednesday on the  reported slaughter of 450 Kurd civilians , including more than 120 children, by the Islamist Al-Nusra Front.   “ This was not the first report of such a massacre, but the continued violence is going off the scale. Yesterday there was a new terror attack in Damascus. It must be stopped immediately, ” Lavrov said. The international community must send a clear and coherent and unambiguous message condemning the killing of civilians in Syria by the forces opposing President Bashar Assad, Lavrov said.  “ We saw before some Security Council members reluctant to condemn terror attacks

Afghan cemetery attack: Bomb kills 14 in Nangarhar

A bomb has killed 12 women and two children in a cemetery in Afghanistan's eastern province of Nangarhar. They were visiting the grave of a wife of a pro-government tribal leader during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, when the device went off. It appears that many of the victims were from the same family. Four people were also injured. The graveside bombing is the latest in a series of attacks in the province on the border with Pakistan. It follows a massive blast at the Indian consulate in the provincial capital, Jalalabad, on Saturday. The latest attack occurred in Nangarhar's Ghanikhel district, according to Channel One TV, a private Afghan broadcaster. Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, the Nangarhar governor's spokesman, told AFP news agency that the bomb appeared to have been hidden near the grave. He suggested the motive may have been personal enmity. No group said it had carried out the attack. Earlier, President Hamid Karzai used his Eid message to urge Taliban militants to la

Pakistan Quetta suicide bomber kills at least 28 people

A suicide bombing at a funeral for a policeman in south-western Pakistan has killed at least 28 people including a senior police officer, police say. They say that the blast in Quetta, capital of Balochistan, also wounded at least 50 people. Quetta police chief Mir Zubair Mehmood told the AP news agency that the bomber detonated his explosives just before the funeral service was about to start. No-one has claimed responsibility for the attack. However suspicion is likely to fall on the Taliban who have in the past carried out numerous suicide bombings in Balochistan. The province is plagued not just by the Taliban's insurgency, but also by sectarian in-fighting between Sunnis and Shias and a rebellion by Baloch separatists. On Tuesday separatist gunmen killed at least 13 bus passengers near Quetta. 'Big blast' Deputy Inspector General of police Fayaz Sumbal, one of the most senior officers in Quetta, was among those killed, police say. They told the AP news agency that Mr S

Three killed, 9 others injured in blasts in eastern Afghanistan

Three civilians, including two children, have been killed and nine others wounded in twin explosions in the eastern Afghan province of Wardak. Local Afghan officials said the explosions happened in Tatro area of Nirkh district Wednesday evening  "The enemies of Afghanistan initiated a roadside bombing in Tatro area of Nirkh district at around 7:00 pm local time. Several people gathered following the blast. But another explosion went off causing the casualties," the provincial authorities said in a statement.  No group has yet claimed responsibility, but the Afghan government often blames the Taliban militants for such attacks in the war-torn country.  A recent United Nations report said there had been a sharp increase in civilian casualties in Afghanistan in the first half of the current year.  Roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices are by far the most lethal weapons Taliban militants use against Afghan forces, foreign troops, and civilians.  A series of US airstrike

In desert ambush, Syrian troops kill more than 60 rebels in latest blow to opposition fighters

BEIRUT — Syrian troops ambushed a large group of rebels Wednesday trudging through what once was a secret route through a desert road northeast of Damascus, killing more than 60 fighters in a barrage of machine gun fire and leaving their bodies in the sand. State television claimed those killed came from an al-Qaida-linked group that has joined the battle against President Bashar Assad, whose troops are trying to drive opposition forces from areas surrounding his seat of power in the capital. There were conflicting reports on the attack in Adra, which lies on a supply route between Damascus and rebel-held areas to the east that is often the scene of heavy clashes between the two sides. The dawn attack dealt another heavy blow to opposition troops following a string of recent regime successes. Syrian troops have been on the offensive in the past few months in an attempt to clear out Damascus suburbs held by opposition fighters. Syrian state-run media showed footage of bloodied corpses l

Yemen says it has thwarted terror plot; U.S. officials still on high alert

SANAA, Yemen – Yemeni authorities say they have thwarted a bold plot by al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch to disrupt this country’s economic lifeline by attacking two strategic southern ports and oil and gas facilities. It was not immediately clear whether the foiled plot was the attack alluded to in communications intercepted by intelligence agencies last week. U.S. intelligence officials are skeptical the danger has passed and said they remain on high alert. The intercepted messages — indicating that al-Qaeda’s leader has urged  the group’s Yemen affiliate to attack Western targets — prompted U.S. officials to temporarily shut down embassies across the Middle East and North Africa, a highly unusual move. The Obama administration also authorized a series of drone strikes  as part of an effort to disrupt the plot, including a strike on Wednesday in southern Yemen that killed seven alleged militants. One U.S. official said the plot as described by Yemen’s government may have been only one compone