Archive for category Terrorism

Gang sends message with blogger beheading – Houston Chronicle


Gang sends message with blogger beheading

By DUDLEY ALTHAUS, HOUSTON CHRONICLE

Updated 12:51 p.m., Thursday, November 10, 2011

Police in Nuevo Laredo are investigating the slaying of a blogger, the fourth social media figure killed in recent months. Photo: Laredo Moring Times, Ulysses S. Romero / Laredo Morning Times

Police in Nuevo Laredo are investigating the slaying of a blogger, the fourth social media figure killed in recent months.

 Photo: Laredo Moring Times, Ulysses S. Romero / Laredo Morning Times

 

MEXICO CITY – Gangsters killed and beheaded an Internet blogger Wednesday in Nuevo Laredo, the fourth slaying in the city involving people associated with social media sites since early September.

“This happened to me for not understanding that I shouldn’t report on the social networks,” advised a note left before dawn with the man’s body at a key intersection in the city’s wealthier neighborhood.

The victim, identified on social networking sites only by his nickname – Rascatripas or Belly Scratcher – reportedly helped moderate a site called En Vivo that posted news of shootouts and other activities of the Zetas, the narcotics and extortion gang that all but controls the city.

The beheaded body of another blogger, 39-year-old Elizabeth Macias, who contributed to the blog, was found in the same location in late September.

A young man and a woman were hung from a highway overpass earlier that same month. A sign left with their bodies said they too had been killed for their social media activity.

Police investigators refused to provide details of Wednesday’s killing, citing security concerns.

Newspaper scales back

Social networks buzzed with the news. Some Twitter and blog posts encouraged others to press on against the criminals despite the dangers.

“No matter, I have to die of something,” said one post. “It will be for my people.”

With mainstream newspapers and broadcasters terrorized by the criminal gangs, whose violence has killed upward of 50,000 people across Mexico in five years, social media networks have become key information sources in many towns and cities.

A senior editor at El Mañana, Nuevo Laredo’s largest newspaper, was knifed to death after leaving work in 2004. Gunmen attacked the newspaper’s offices in 2006, crippling a journalist. The newspaper since has dramatically scaled back its reporting of the violence, as have other news organizations.

Anonymous steps in

Two weeks ago, a man representing himself as a member of Anonymous, the Internet hacker organization, posted a video on YouTube claiming that the Zetas had kidnapped one of the group. He demanded that the Zetas return the victim unharmed or Anonymous would publish identities of Zetas members and their protectors in government and business.

A few days later, the group said they were dropping the threat because of the danger it posed to innocent lives. A debate raged in Mexico and elsewhere over whether the kidnapping and subsequent threat to the gangsters was real or a hoax.

“Don’t speak on cellphones when walking in the street, especially when (gangster) convoys pass by,” warned an anonymous poster on the Nuevo Laredo En Vivo site Wednesday. “These ZZZZ’s think you’re talking to the army and will pick you up. Be careful.”

Police arrested two people in southern Veracruz state in September for posting rumors on Twitter about impending gangster attacks on schools that caused several traffic accidents as panicked parents rushed to their children’s aid.

Veracruz’s governor introduced a bill that would have outlawed such postings for “disturbing the public tranquility.” The bill was later dropped and the Twitter users released.

A Wednesday posting on Nuevo Laredo En Vivo after the blogger’s death declared, “Let’s continue denouncing them, now that we’ve seen it burns them, hurts them …. We have to continue. We can’t give in.”

 Gang sends message with blogger beheading – Houston Chronicle.

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Giving the F.B.I. What It Wants – NYTimes.com


OPINION

You Want to Track Me? Here You Go, F.B.I.

Hasan M. Elahi

By HASAN M. ELAHI

Published: October 29, 2011

 

ON June 19, 2002, I ran into a bit of a problem that turned my life upside down. It happened at the Detroit airport as I was entering the country. I realized something wasn’t right when the immigration agent at United States Customs slid my passport through the reader, then froze. “Is there something wrong?” I asked. He was still frozen. After a few moments, he said, “Follow me, please,” and I ended up at the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s airport office.

DigitalGlobe via, http://www.trackingtransience.net

Hasan Elahi’s location at 5:43 p.m. Oct. 26, as captured by satellite imagery.

It was a large room filled with foreign-looking people, and fear was written on all their faces; this was their first day in the United States, and things were evidently not going well. Typically, there is little overlap between the I.N.S. and American citizens like me, and when I tried to find out from one of the agents what I was doing there, he seemed just as confused as I was.

Eventually, a man in a dark suit approached and said, “I expected you to be older.” I asked if he could please explain what was happening, and he said, “You have some explaining to do yourself.”

We then entered an interrogation room, barren and stark white with a camera in the corner. He sat across from me at an L-shaped desk and asked me to retrace the path I’d taken since I had left the United States. He asked me various detailed questions for a good half hour and then, out of nowhere, said, “Where were you September 12?”

Fortunately, I’m neurotic about record keeping. I had my Palm P.D.A. with me; I looked up Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001 on my calendar. I read him the contents: “pay storage rent at 10; meeting with Judith at 10:30; intro class from 12 to 3; advanced class from 3 to 6.” We read about six months of my calendar appointments. I don’t think he was expecting me to have such detailed records.

He continued, “You had a storage unit in Tampa, right?”

“Yes, near the university.”

“What did you have in it?”

“Boxes of winter clothes, furniture I can’t fit in my apartment, some assorted junk and garage sale material.”

“No explosives?”

“I’m certain I didn’t have any explosives.”

“Well, we received a report that you had explosives and had fled on September 12.”

Given that I was very cooperative, and also had meticulous records that showed what I did when, I think he began to realize that whatever report he had was erroneous.

A few weeks later, a Justice Department official called my office in Tampa and said he wanted to speak to me about my interview in Detroit. He asked me to come to the Federal Building downtown, where he led me into a room where he and an F.B.I. agent interrogated me about where I’d been and when, and had I witnessed acts that might be detrimental to the interests of the United States or a foreign country, and had I ever met anyone from Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, Hamas or Hezbollah. The F.B.I. agent seemed to know quite remarkable details about things like the regular versus the Hezbollah bus routes in Beirut, and the person memorialized in the statue at the entrance of the American University there. His knowledge frightened me.

I COULD have contested the legality of the investigation and gotten a lawyer. But I thought that would make things messier. It was clear who had the power in this situation. And when you’re face to face with someone with so much power, you behave in an unusual manner. You dare not take any action. You rely on instincts and do what you need to survive. I told them everything.

The questioning went on for the next six months and ended with a series of polygraph examinations. I must have completed these to the agents’ satisfaction; eventually an interrogating agent told me that I had been cleared and that everything was fine and said that if I needed anything I should call him. I was planning to travel in the weeks ahead and was nervous about entering the country; I asked the agent about this, and he told me to call him with the information about my flights and said he would take care of everything.

Shortly after, I called the F.B.I. to report my whereabouts. I chose to. I wanted to make sure that the bureau knew that I wasn’t making any sudden moves and that I wasn’t running off somewhere. I wanted them to know where I was and what I was doing at any given time.

Soon I began to e-mail the F.B.I. I started to send longer e-mails, with pictures, and then with links to Web sites I made. I wrote some clunky code for my phone back in 2003 and turned it into a tracking device.

My thinking was something like, “You want to watch me? Fine. But I can watch myself better than you can, and I can get a level of detail that you will never have.”

In the process of compiling data about myself and supplying it to the F.B.I., I started thinking about what intelligence agents might not know about me. I created a list of every flight I’ve ever been on, since birth. For the more recent flights, I noted the exact flight numbers, recorded in my frequent flier accounts, and also photographs of the meals that I ate on each flight, as well as photos of each knife provided by each airline on each flight.

On my Web site, I compiled various databases that show the airports I’ve been in, food I’ve eaten at home, food I’ve eaten on the road, random hotel beds I’ve slept in, various parking lots off Interstate 80 that I parked in, empty train stations I saw, as well as very specific information like photos of the tacos I ate in Mexico City between July 5 and 7, and the toilets I used.

These images seem empty, and could be anywhere, but they’re not; they are extremely specific records of my exact travels to particular places. There are 46,000 images on my site. I trust that the F.B.I. has seen all of them. Agents know where I’ve bought my duck-flavored paste, or kimchi, laundry detergent and chitlins; because I told them everything.

I also provided screenshots of my financial data, communications records and transportation logs. Visitors to my site can cross-reference these records with my images in a way that’s similar to how the F.B.I. cross-references the very same databases. I provided information from third parties (including my bank, phone company, etc.) who can verify that I was at the locations indicated, on the dates and times specified on my Web site.

PEOPLE who visit my site — and my server logs indicate repeat visits from the Department of Homeland Security, the C.I.A., the National Reconnaissance Office and the Executive Office of the President — don’t find my information organized clearly. In fact, the interface I use is deliberately user-unfriendly. A lot of work is required to thread together the thousands of available points of information. By putting everything about me out there, I am simultaneously telling everything and nothing about my life. Despite the barrage of information about me that is publicly available, I live a surprisingly private and anonymous life.

In an era in which everything is archived and tracked, the best way to maintain privacy may be to give it up. Information agencies operate in an industry that values data. Restricted access to information is what makes it valuable. If I cut out the middleman and flood the market with my information, the intelligence the F.B.I. has on me will be of no value. Making my private information public devalues the currency of the information the intelligence gatherers have collected.

My activities may be more symbolic than not, but if 300 million people started sending private information to federal agents, the government would need to hire as many as another 300 million people, possibly more, to keep up with the information and we’d have to redesign our entire intelligence system.

East Germany tried this some decades back; it didn’t work out to be such a great plan for them. We have incredibly intelligent people and very sophisticated computer systems in various agencies in Washington, but the culture of these agencies prevents us from evolving beyond the cold-war-era mind-set. (There are people in Washington who still refer to China as “Red China.”) Fortunately, people in government have begun to see that collecting information is less useful than figuring out how to analyze it.

When I first started talking about my project in 2003, people thought I was insane. Why would anyone tell everyone what he was doing at all times? Why would anyone want to share a photo of every place he visited? Now eight years later, more than 800 million people do the same thing I’ve been doing each time they update their status or post an image or poke someone on Facebook. (Just to put this in perspective, if Facebook was a country, it would have the third highest population, after China and India.) Insane?

What I’m doing is no longer just an art project; creating our own archives has become so commonplace that we’re all — or at least hundreds of millions of us — doing it all the time. Whether we know it or not.

 Giving the F.B.I. What It Wants – NYTimes.com.

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Drone Kills Top Al Qaeda Figure – WSJ.com


OCTOBER 1, 2011

Drone Kills Top Al Qaeda Figure

 

By HAKIM ALMASMARI in San’a, Yemen, MARGARET COKER in Abu Dhabi and SIOBHAN GORMAN in Washington

The U.S. ushered in a new CIA-led counterterrorism program in Yemen on Friday, sending unmanned aircraft to kill an American-born cleric who occupied a top place on the U.S.’s anti-terrorist list.

The death of Anwar al-Awlaki eliminates a leading figure in Yemen’s branch of al Qaeda and one of its most charismatic recruiters. A Web-savvy Islamic preacher with sparkling English, Mr. Awlaki was known for his ability to couch extremist views in ways that appealed to Western youth. He had been linked to suspects in the 2009 Fort Hood, Texas, shooting spree and the botched bombing of a Detroit-bound jet that Christmas.

The strike marked another significant blow to the global terrorist group after the killing of Osama bin Laden earlier this year. It also highlights a conundrum about continued joint antiterror operations with the Yemenis: U.S. officials have publicly called for embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh to accede to the demands of an eight-month-old pro-democracy protest movement and step down from power, but counterterrorism operations are led by close Saleh relatives.

Mr. Awlaki, who had been on the run for months in Yemen’s remote tribal regions, was killed at approximately 9:55 a.m. local time outside a village in the northeastern province of Jawf, a Yemeni official said.

At least four people were killed in the operation, Yemeni officials said. These included a second American, Samir Kahn, who was an editor and illustrator for “Inspire,” the online magazine of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

On Saturday, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert saying that the killing of Mr. al-Awlaki has raised the risk of anti-American violence worldwide.

The strike represented the first test of a new covert CIA drone program in Yemen, an effort that works closely with military Special Operations forces, officials said, blurring the lines between military and intelligence operations. CIA-controlled drones carried out the strike, a U.S. official said, but other military attack “platforms,” presumably aircraft, also were nearby and were prepared to take action if needed.

The Hunt for Al Qaeda

The death of Anwar al-Awlaki, one of the U.S.’s most-wanted terrorists, is the latest blow to al Qaeda’s leadership. See who’s still at large, and take a look back.

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Both U.S. and Yemeni officials characterized the operation as a joint U.S.-Yemeni effort. The key tip that led to the strike on Mr. Awlaki came from Yemeni intelligence, according to U.S. officials.

The operation raises questions about the continued tenure of Mr. Saleh. The U.S., in large part, has funded and trained Yemen’s counterterrorism forces. As Mr. Saleh has battled to stay in power this year, his son and nephews, who command these counterterrorism forces, have lobbied their U.S. counterparts to remain in position as the best guarantor of robust action against Al Qaeda threats.

U.S. officials attribute the increase in Yemeni cooperation in part to Mr. Saleh’s desire to curry U.S. favor as he seeks to stay in power. It also reflects Mr. Saleh’s realization that AQAP was starting to seize territory and therefore posed a more serious threat to his regime.

[AWLAKI_map]

The White House said Friday that the operation in no way changed the U.S. call from Mr. Saleh to step down immediately.

“Our cooperation with Yemen and with civilian-military intelligence counterparts in Yemen is … not limited to one person and it has never been about one person,” said Press Secretary Jay Carney. “It’s been about a partnership around the goal of dealing with a threat.”

Mr. Awlaki isn’t the first American killed in a drone strike in Yemen. In November 2002, a Predator drone fired a Hellfire missile at a SUV carrying an al Qaeda lieutenant, Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, accused of helping plot the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.

Among the six people killed in that strike was an American named Kamal Derwish. Mr. Derwish, however, wasn’t the primary target in the strike and wasn’t considered a leading militant figure.

Within the Yemeni al Qaeda branch, Mr. Awlaki played a leadership role in foreign operations but had a limited role in the group’s local activities, according to AQAP members and Yemeni officials. The military leader of AQAP who directs local and regional operations against Saudi Arabia and Western targets in Yemen remains at large.

Mr. Awlaki was instrumental in recruiting foreign volunteers who have helped transform the group’s local and regional reach into a threat for Western countries. The loss of an al Qaeda operative fluent not just in English but also in American culture stands to hamper the group’s efforts to inspire so-called homegrown terrorists to mount solo attacks in the U.S.

“His death deals a real blow to al Qaeda’s lone-wolf strategy,” said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University in Washington.

093011Khanjpg

AP

This 2008 image taken from Fox News video shows Samir Khan in Charlotte, N.C.

Mr. Awlaki, who ran mosques in the U.S. before leaving in 2002, has long been among the top U.S. targets in Yemen. He has been on the run in Yemen since 2009, when U.S. officials publicly linked him to multiple terrorist incidents in the U.S., including the Fort Hood shootings in which 13 people were killed, the Christmas 2009 plot to blow up a U.S.-bound passenger plane and a separate plan to blow up a U.S.-bound cargo plane.

He also was considered the inspiration behind Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad’s 2010 failed attempt to detonate a car bomb in New York’s Times Square.

Military and intelligence operatives followed Mr. Awlaki for weeks before striking their target, whom they referred to internally as “Objective Troy.”

Details about Friday’s attack remain murky, but a senior Yemeni official said that Americans have been “directly” involved with tracking Mr. Awlaki around the country. They learned that he had moved to Jawf earlier this month, the official said. The area is near a historic smuggling route along a mountain range stretching the length of the country and located about 90 miles from the capital, San’a.

The U.S. narrowly missed him in a strike in May, when a U.S. drone fired on a vehicle in the southern Yemen province of Shebwa that the cleric had been driving in earlier that day. Since then, Mr. Awlaki moved hundreds of miles northeast, and earlier this month U.S. officials located him in the mountain range located in Jawf province, according to the Yemeni official.

Around daybreak Friday, Mr. Awlaki, Mr. Khan and a handful of fellow supporters set off in a multi-car convoy, say local residents and Yemeni officials.

The car carrying Mr. Awlaki and Mr. Khan was hit by a missile a few miles outside a mountainous village called Khashef, said Yemeni officials. Another vehicle was hit by a drone missile a few miles away across the border into Mareb province, according to several local residents who saw the strike and the charred hull of bodies and a Toyota pickup truck. A U.S. official said Mr. Awlaki was identified based on facial recognition rather than DNA testing. Though Yemeni government officials say that at least four people were killed, local residents said they saw five corpses. Local residents say there was no sign of soldiers in the vicinity of the missile strikes.

 Drone Kills Top Al Qaeda Figure – WSJ.com.

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Man arrested in ‘step-by-step’ plot to blow up Capitol, Pentagon – The Hill’s Blog Briefing Room


http://thehill.com/templates/thehill/images/space.gif

Man arrested in ‘step-by-step’ plot to blow up Capitol, Pentagon

By Jordy Yager - 09/28/11 03:45 PM ET

The FBI arrested and charged a man Wednesday for allegedly plotting to blow up the Capitol and the Pentagon.

The 26-year-old Massachusetts man, Rezwan Ferdaus, was arrested as part of an FBI sting operation in which he was made to believe he was working with members of al Qaeda, who were actually undercover agents.

Ferdaus allegedly gave the undercover FBI agents a detailed set of attack plans “with step-by-step instructions as to how he planned to attack the Pentagon and Capitol,” according to the Department of Justice. 

The plans focused on the use of three small remote-controlled drone-like aircraft loaded with C-4 plastic explosives, which he planned to fly into the Capitol and the Pentagon using GPS equipment, according to the DOJ.

The DOJ stressed that the public was never in danger from the explosive devices, which it said were controlled at all times by undercover FBI officials who closely monitored Ferdaus as he allegedly developed his plot. 

According to the DOJ, Ferdaus aimed to create a devastating psychological impact with the attacks, saying at one point, “I just cant stop; there is no other choice for me.”

“Although Ferdaus was presented with multiple opportunities to back out of his plan, including, being told that his attack would likely kill women and children, the affidavit alleges that Ferdaus never wavered in his desire to carry out the attacks,” the DOJ said in a news release.

Ferdaus, a Northeastern University graduate with a degree in physics, allegedly visited Washington in May, taking pictures of his intended targets and proposed launch-sites for the remote-controlled aircraft, according to the DOJ.

Ferdaus’s plan allegedly evolved to include a “ground assault” as well, in which six people would coordinate an automatic weapons attack with the aerial assault and massacre whomever came into their path, according to the DOJ.

For the past five months, Ferdaus has allegedly been stockpiling the equipment he needed for his proposed attack, including a remote-controlled aircraft, 25 pounds of fake C-4 explosives, six automatic AK-47 assault rifles and three grenades, according to the DOJ. He allegedly kept all of it in a storage facility in Massachusetts, where he was arrested. 

Ferdaus was also charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization — al Qaeda — in order to carry out attacks on U.S. soldiers stationed overseas, federal authorities said.

Ferdaus allegedly modified eight cellphones to act as detonation devices for improvised explosive devices, and gave them to the FBI agents to be used against American soldiers in Iraq.

“During a June 2011 meeting, he appeared gratified when he was told that his first phone detonation device had killed three U.S. soldiers and injured four or five others in Iraq,” according to the DOJ. “Ferdaus responded, ‘That was exactly what I wanted.’”

Last week, Ferdaus gave the FBI agents a training video he made demonstrating how to make cellphone detonators, authorities said. 

According to the DOJ, a focal point of Ferdaus’s plots revolved around “jihad” and his desire to carry out the will of Allah.

The U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Carmen M. Ortiz, stressed that any underlying religious motives to Ferdaus’s actions should not reflect on the Muslim culture at-large.

“I want the public to understand that Mr. Ferdaus’s conduct, as alleged in the complaint, is not reflective of a particular culture, community or religion,” Ortiz said. 

“In addition to protecting our citizens from the threats and violence alleged today, we also have an obligation to protect members of every community, race and religion against violence and other unlawful conduct,” he said. 

According to federal authorities, Ferdaus faces up to 15 years in prison on the material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization charge; up to 20 years in prison on the charge of attempting to destroy national defense premises; and a five-year minimum mandatory sentence, and up to 20 years, on the charge of attempting to damage and destroy buildings that are owned by the United States by using an explosive.

Pentagon spokesman George Little declined comment and referred all questions to the Justice Department.

 Man arrested in ‘step-by-step’ plot to blow up Capitol, Pentagon – The Hill’s Blog Briefing Room.

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Libyan rebels besiege Qadhafi’s hometown – The Associated Press – POLITICO.com


Libyan rebels besiege Qadhafi’s hometown

 

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | 9/25/11 7:33 AM EDT

SIRTE, Libya — Libya’s revolutionary fighters stepped up a siege of Muammar Qadhafi’s hometown on Sunday, hoping to wear down loyalist forces a day after an offensive failed to dislodge die-hard loyalists of the fugitive leader.

Anti-Qadhafi fighters set up new checkpoints and posted snipers in strategic areas on the outskirts of Sirte. But they said they were not planning another assault immediately after facing fierce resistance on Saturday that left seven of their comrades dead and more than 150 wounded.

 “It’s unlikely we’ll attack today unless we are attacked,” said Aiman Majub, who helps coordinate revolutionary forces. “The idea is to catch our breath and regroup so we can be more strategic instead of blasting our way in.”

Saturday’s battle for downtown Sirte was the first significant push in a week and included close-range gunfights with loyalists hiding in apartment buildings and throwing hand grenades from windows. The fighters pushed east along the city’s main thoroughfare into its urban center, overrunning a TV station as NATO warplanes supporting anti-Qadhafi forces roared overhead.

Osama Nuttawa al-Swehli, a revolutionary logistics officer, said the goal on Sunday was to squeeze the city and prevent any former regime figures believed to be holed up inside from escaping. Al-Swehli said he has heard Qadhafi’s son Muatassim communicating by radio with loyalist forces inside Sirte.

“We have to make sure that no supplies get in and that none of their assets escape,” he said.

“The priority today is to hold our positions while pounding their targets,” he said, adding that they needed to take out loyalist rocket launchers before making another push to take the city.

He said that seven men were killed and 152 wounded, 17 seriously, in Saturday’s fighting. Four of those injured lost limbs and four others had serious head wounds, he said.

Sirte, 250 miles southeast of Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast, is the Libyan city most associated with Qadhafi and one of three strongholds that have refused to surrender more than a month after revolutionary forces seized Tripoli and much of the rest of the North African nation.

Revolutionary forces have been working to help civilians trying to flee the city amid rapidly deteriorating living conditions. Al-Swehli said he thinks most of the families who intend to flee have already left the city. It remains unclear how many civilians remain inside the city and if they are helping loyalist forces.

Libyan rebels besiege Qadhafi’s hometown – The Associated Press – POLITICO.com.

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Assassination Deals Blow to Peace Process in Afghanistan – NYTimes.com


Assassination Deals Blow to Peace

Process in Afghanistan

Ahmad Masood/Reuters

Afghan policemen in Kabul guarded the area near the home of Burhanuddin Rabbani after a suicide bomber killed him on Tuesday. More Photos »

By ALISSA J. RUBIN
Published: September 20, 2011

 

KABUL, Afghanistan — An assassin with explosives hidden in his turban was ushered into the home of the head of Afghanistan’s peace process on Tuesday, embraced him and then exploded the bomb, killing him and dealing a potentially devastating blow to the effort to reconcile with the Taliban and end 10 years of war.

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TimesCast | Afghan Peace Chief Killed

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·         Times Topics: Burhanuddin Rabbani | Afghanistan

Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

Burhanuddin Rabbani attended a ceremony where more than 100 Taliban surrendered on Aug. 26 in Badakhshan. More Photos »

 

The assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the leader of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council and a former president, coming on the heels of a carefully planned attack on the American Embassy a week ago, underscored the fierce opposition of those who want to shatter the country’s tenuous stability and thwart its tentative steps toward peace.

It also demonstrated once again the ability of the government’s enemies to reach into even the most secure bastions of the capital, whether through treachery or frontal assaults, and to carry out a rising number of carefully selected assassinations. This one, however, may be the most significant of the war.

Without the 71-year-old Mr. Rabbani, it will be exceedingly difficult to move the peace process forward. A complex figure, he was nonetheless one of the few with the stature to persuade the Taliban’s enemies, the former Northern Alliance, to embark on reconciliation discussions.

Western diplomats said that recently Mr. Rabbani had begun discussions with some Taliban members who might have the power to engage in real negotiations. A number of previous contacts had proven to be with impostors or figures who had little authority.

The attack wounded four others, including Masoom Stanekzai, the head of the peace council’s secretariat, who has also been vital to advancing the talks, according to Afghan security officials. “Whoever did this decided they wanted to disrupt those talks,” a Western diplomat said.

Within hours of the killing, Northern Alliance leaders, most of whom are ethnic Tajiks and Hazaras, as well as some prominent Pashtun figures, were on television, denouncing the peace process and saying that the Taliban could not be trusted. The Taliban are predominantly ethnic Pashtuns.

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, a former presidential candidate and Northern Alliance leader, summed up the sentiments heard from many Northern Alliance figures in the wake of the assassination: “This is a lesson for all of us that we shouldn’t fool ourselves that this group, who has carried out so many crimes against the people of Afghanistan, are willing to make peace.”

Dr. Abdullah added: “We have to be realistic about what we are up against. We are up against people who don’t believe in any humanity. They assassinate people on the streets of Kabul, they assassinate those trying to achieve peace.” Last spring the Taliban had proclaimed that they would kill members of the High Peace Council.

“No one took it seriously and they should have and it is also time for President Karzai to wake up,” he said. “These are the people who he calls his ‘dear brothers,’ they are behind what happened.” He referred to President Hamid Karzai’s predilection for calling the insurgents “dear brothers” or “upset brothers.”

Mr. Karzai, who had planned a week of meetings in the United States and was at the United Nations when the attack occurred, cut short his trip and was on his way back to Afghanistan by Tuesday evening, after discussions with President Obama.

Calling Mr. Rabbani “an Afghan patriot who sacrificed his life,” Mr. Karzai pledged to continue to seek a peaceful way to end the fighting. “This will not deter us from continuing down the path we have started,” he said.

Mr. Obama called the assassination “a tragic loss.”

Western countries, including the United States, have made contacts with Taliban and former Taliban, hoping to jump-start the process. However, Western officials have emphasized that without strong Afghan involvement it will not be meaningful, because it is the Afghans who will have to trust each other enough to decide how to share power over the long term. That possibility seemed increasingly remote late Tuesday.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but several groups could have been involved, including the Taliban; the Haqqani Network, a terrorist organization based in Pakistan’s tribal areas and with affiliations to the country’s intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence; and even elements of Al Qaeda, given the method and precise and long-term planning involved in the assassination.

The attack, less than half a mile from the American Embassy, occurred in Mr. Rabbani’s home, indicating that he felt confident the meeting would be safe. Dr. Abdullah and other members of the High Peace Council said the bomber, whose name was Esmatullah, had been staying at a guest house in Kabul and had been in contact with the council over the past five months.

He had been in contact with the council through Rahmatullah Wahidyar, a peace council member who was a Taliban deputy minister for refugees and martyrs when the group ruled the country. Mr. Wahidyar, who has been living in Kabul for several years, was removed during the summer from the list of people facing United Nations sanctions. He served as a chairman of the High Peace Council’s detainee release committee, which worked to get people freed from prison, according to diplomats.

On Tuesday, Esmatullah called Mr. Wahidyar and said that he “he had a very serious message and a very important and positive message from the Quetta Shura” to give Mr. Rabbani, Dr. Abdullah said. The Quetta Shura is the Taliban leadership group.

Mr. Rabbani had just returned from a trip to Iran at around 4:30 p.m. and as soon as he was briefed by Mr. Stanekzai, the peace council official, with whom he worked closely, and by Mr. Wahidyar, the man named Esmatullah arrived.

Moments later, Mr. Rabbani was dead. Mr. Stanekzai was seriously wounded and Mr. Wahidyar was also wounded. Early Wednesday he was being questioned by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, but several people said it was unlikely that he had prior knowledge of the attack.

With a political career that spanned more than 40 years Mr. Rabbani, a native of the northern province of Badakhshan, came to symbolize the country with its strengths and weaknesses. He fought the Soviets in the 1980s and was a founder of Jamiat-e-Islami, a political party initially composed mainly of Tajiks.

Later, he served as a rather weak president from 1992 to 1996, when he was unable to abate the wrenching civil war that tore the country apart and paved the way for the Taliban takeover. When the Taliban were pushed out in 2001, he again moved into the political spotlight.

His death generated a sense of profound loss, not only among the northerners who knew him and fought the Russians with him, but also in the Pashtun south. For despite Pashtun doubts about whether Mr. Rabbani could be trusted, and suspicions that he was merely looking to burnish his legacy, his sincerity in his work over the past year had impressed people.

The 70-member High Peace Council, which had representatives of every stripe, had a nucleus of people who were working hard to reach out to senior Taliban commanders in Pakistan and also to persuade low-level Taliban fighters to join the government. Mr. Rabbani had traveled all over the country, setting up reconciliation councils in every province, and had gone to neighboring countries to push the project forward, impressing people with his dedication.

In Kandahar, people were aghast when the news broke of his death. A shopkeeper, Mohammed Raza, was glued to his radio, shaking his head in resignation and sadness.

“Afghanistan won’t be rebuilt,” he said. “Some elements don’t let people work in Afghanistan for peace. I am very sad. He was an elderly white-bearded man, respected by all Afghans, and he was working for peace. He paid attention to the south and was trying to end this ongoing riddle in Afghanistan, but the enemy of peace and of Afghanistan has killed him.”

 Assassination Deals Blow to Peace Process in Afghanistan – NYTimes.com.

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Remove anonymity in attacks of cyberbullies – chicagotribune.com


Remove anonymity in attacks by cyberbullies

 

By Peter V. Baugher

September 16, 2011

Anonymous bullying — deliberate, repeated and hostile behavior intended to harm others — is the dark side of Internet freedom. While most of us navigate the Net with little regard for its hazards, cyberbullying in the form of harassing emails, threats, sexual remarks, hate speech, false statements and ridicule routinely destroys reputations and lives.

The destruction is not limited to those who “deserve it.” Many of these assaults are from strangers who seem to target their victims randomly and without reason.

After the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, a person with the username KenZZ03 advertised “Naughty Oklahoma T-shirts” on an AOL bulletin board with slogans such as “Visit Oklahoma . . . It’s a BLAST!” and “McVeigh for President.” The post said customers should call “Ken” at Kenneth Zeran’s home phone number.

Zeran knew nothing about the ad — until he was deluged with angry calls and death threats. AOL delayed in removing the offending posts, and refused to retract those messages or screen for similar future postings. A radio station picked up the story, and Zeran’s woes multiplied.

Finally, he sued AOL. But the identity of the poster was never disclosed, and his case was ultimately dismissed when the court ruled that as an Internet service provider, AOL was immune from liability under federal law.

About to begin law school several years ago, Brittan Heller learned that she had become the subject of a message thread “Stupid Bitch to Attend Yale Law” on a website hosting discussions among law students, professors and lawyers. Heller had never heard of the site, which allowed people to write under fictitious names and promised not to keep poster addresses so they could not be traced.

The thread caught on, with new posts falsely claiming Heller had bribed her way into law school and was having a lesbian affair with one of the school’s administrators. These posts went to the top of Heller’s Google index, she was shut out of summer jobs and she later was hospitalized.

When neither Google nor the website would delete the diatribes against her, she filed suit. Much of the legal challenge was finding out who had been defaming her. Yet even after she had successfully settled the litigation, crude new excoriating posts pursued her to her post-graduation job in a legal education project in Afghanistan.

Think it can’t happen to you? Think again. Neither Zeran nor Heller had done anything to cause the Internet calamities inflicted on them. Their attackers did not know them or have any reason to target them specifically. They were singled out as a predator targets its prey.

While abusive behavior is not new, the old problem of schoolyard bullies is magnified exponentially by the speed, pervasiveness and longevity of Internet communications. And effective recourse is nearly nonexistent. Host organizations routinely deny any responsibility for postings, and they have been granted immunity from legal liability for what is written on their sites. They rarely invoke their “terms of service” agreements to impose standards on that traffic. Controversy increases readership.

Physical bullies can be confronted directly; electronic bullies are frequently anonymous, lobbing brickbats from websites with unnamed hosts, using pseudonyms, blogging comments that are unsigned or falsely attributed to others.

The ability to attack anonymously encourages anti-social behavior. Neither our laws nor our social norms have kept up.

Most states have criminal statutes covering both offline and online stalking and harassment, but these are of little practical use to the average victim of cyberbullying. In Illinois, a person is guilty of cyberharassment when he uses electronic media to threaten the victim or family members of the victim with bodily harm, sexual assault or confinement, or places the victim or the family members in reasonable fear of such threats.

In fact, scarce government resources are rarely available to safeguard social communications.

A defamation lawsuit could provide a remedy. But expressions of opinion, no matter how insulting, are protected by the First Amendment. And statements that are substantially true are not defamatory, even if they are dramatically derogatory.

Defamation defendants may have few assets with little to lose financially, making even successful suits uneconomic.

Defamation and other tort remedies all entail slow and costly lawsuits in an already cumbersome system. Sending more work to courts is not the answer. The legal burden for the victim is heavy and increased when the harasser’s identity is hidden. Faced with unknown attackers, victims are forced to undertake multistage lawsuits that often spawn their own satellite First Amendment litigation. Few people have the legal knowledge, financial capacity and persistence for a private suit to be effective.

Decoupling responsibility from the constraint of identity makes any solution more difficult and expensive. Worse, the harmful effect of these cloaked attacks is compounded by the viral, anonymous “mob” nature of online invective.

We need a new legislative approach. The absolute immunity enjoyed by online service providers needs to be qualified. At the request of a user, service providers should be required to give anonymous posters a firm choice: agree to reveal who they are (to accept responsibility for their posts in their own names) or their posts will be taken down.

Through this simple mechanism, an alleged victim can either have the abusive information removed or discover the identity of the harasser. This will minimize for service providers, courts and disputants both the need for making judgments about the legal propriety of posted information and the uncertainty and costs those judgments entail. It will also develop new expectations for online personal exchanges, which should occur openly in our own names with accompanying self-restraint. Challenged posts would be short-lived or the author’s identity would be exposed, subjecting cyberbullies to social sanctions and legal remedies.

By rebalancing consequences for anonymous online speech, the law will dissuade abuses without sacrificing the vitality of robust speech.

Peter V. Baugher is a partner at Schopf & Weiss, a Chicago business litigation firm.

 Remove anonymity in attacks of cyberbullies – chicagotribune.com.

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Qaddafi’s Wife and 3 of His Children Flee to Algeria – NYTimes.com


By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, ROD NORDLAND and RICK GLADSTONE
Published: August 29, 2011

 

TRIPOLI, Libya — Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s second wife and three of his children fled to Algeria on Monday, the Algerian Foreign Ministry said. It was the first official news on the whereabouts of any members of the Qaddafi family since he was routed from his Tripoli fortress by rebel forces a week ago, a decisive turn in the Libyan conflict.

In a brief announcement carried by Algeria’s official news agency APS, the ministry said Colonel Qaddafi’s wife, Safiya, daughter Aisha, and sons Hannibal and Mohammed, accompanied by their children, “entered Algeria at 08:45 a.m. (0745 GMT) through the Algeria-Libyan border.”

The announcement gave no further details. The whereabouts of Colonel Qaddafi himself remain unknown, along with those of his other sons, most notably Seif al-Islam, his second-in-command; Khamis, head of an elite paramilitary brigade; or Muatassim, a militia commander and Colonel Qaddafi’s national security adviser. A rebel spokesman said Sunday that Khamis al-Qaddafi may have been killed on Saturday, but that no positive identification had been made.

Colonel Qaddafi’s mysterious and vexing vanishing act has been the looming question in Libya since the alliance of Libyan rebels invaded Tripoli on Aug. 20, overran his heavily fortified compound on Aug. 23 and finally established control after days of bloody urban street fighting. The rebels have said they will not consider their victory complete until they capture or kill the colonel, who has ruled Libya for 42 years and was the Arab world’s longest-ruling leader.

Algeria is the only Libyan neighbor that has not recognized the Transitional National Council, the rebel government, as the legitimate rulers of Libya.

The news from Algeria came as the rebel forces in Tripoli took visible new steps toward installing themselves as the country’s official government, signing new energy deals with ENI, Italy’s biggest oil company, and permitting France and Britain, the leading countries in a NATO alliance that assisted the rebel movement, to send advance teams into Tripoli with the intent of re-establishing their embassies here.

An announcement by Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement small team of diplomatic and technical staff was “now on the ground in Tripoli as part of the preparations for that wider diplomatic presence.”

Rebel officials, meanwhile, appealed on Monday for NATO forces to continue the air campaign that has greatly weakened Colonel Qaddafi’s forces, saying they remain a threat.

“I call for continued protection from NATO and its allies from this tyrant,” Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the head of the council, as the rebel administration is known, said at a meeting of alliance defense chiefs in Doha, Qatar, on Monday, news reports said.

He spoke as rebel forces were reported to be approaching Surt, Colonel Qaddafi’s hometown. Surt, regarded as a last bastion of support for the dictator, is more than 200 miles east of Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast. News reports said the rebels were seeking a negotiated surrender of the town.

For its part, NATO seemed intent on continuing its mission, mandated by a United Nations Security Council resolution in March.

“We believe the Qaddafi regime is near collapse, and we’re committed to seeing the operation through to its conclusion,” United States Adm. Samuel Locklear, the head of NATO’s Joint Operations Command, told a news conference in Doha, according to Reuters.

“Pockets of pro-Qaddafi forces are being reduced day by day,” he said. “The regime no longer has the capacity to mount a decisive operation.” He said NATO air strikes had destroyed 5,000 military targets in Libya.

A NATO spokesman in Brussels said that alliance warplanes attacked Surt for a third day on Sunday.

The rebels have been adding to their military gains. On Sunday, they said that they had captured Bin Jawwad, a strategic eastern hamlet that has in the past been a stumbling block on their path toward Surt.

In Tripoli, the transitional council continued to struggle to restore running water, electrical power and fuel in the capital, and to provide adequate medical supplies for hospitals packed with wounded, tasks rebel leaders acknowledge will help make or break the legitimacy of their new government.

Officials working to restore water said that as Qaddafi forces retreated from Tripoli, hundreds of desert wells that pump water to it and much of the western coast had somehow been shut off. Restarting the pumps can be done only manually, but the threat of Qaddafi fighters’ continuing presence is keeping crews away. “They are not yet able to move because the area is not safe yet,” said Aref Nayed, a member of the council and a leader of its Tripoli stabilization team, adding that he believed the restart would be “days not weeks.”

Mr. Nayed said that the United Nations had agreed to send five million liters of bottled water — about two and a half liters for each Tripoli resident — and that some was already being distributed through mosques around the city. He said that two boatloads of aid had arrived, and that the provisional government had re-opened an airbase to receive cargo planes as well. Rebel fighters were close to securing Tripoli International Airport, he said.

In a symbolic transition, Libyan state television is set to begin rebroadcasting again, Libyan radio reported, under the control of the rebels it denounced until just a week ago as foreigners, terrorists and rats.

 Qaddafi’s Wife and 3 of His Children Flee to Algeria – NYTimes.com.

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The demise of Gadhafi — and an obnoxious talking point – Barack Obama News – Salon.com


TOPIC:

Barack Obama

MONDAY, AUG 22, 2011 07:42 ET

WAR ROOM

The demise of Gadhafi — and an obnoxious talking point

BY STEVE KORNACKI

 

The demise of Gadhafi -- and an obnoxious talking point

AP

The seemingly imminent demise  of Moammar Gadhafi — he apparentlyremains in control  of at least three sites in Tripoli but there are strong signs  the end is near — does not automatically validate President Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya, nor should it silence the debate over his failure to seek and obtain congressional authorization to do so.

But if this is, in fact, it for the Libyan strongman, it should do damage to a particularly obnoxious anti-Obama talking point from hawks on the right — the idea that he’s excessively deferential, naïve and just plain weak on the world stage and that his foreign policy can only lead to failure and humiliation.

The Libyan mission was supposed to be proof of this. “Leading from behind” is actually a phrase that an Obama advisor used in a New Yorker piece this spring  to describe the administration’s approach to toppling Gadhafi. The idea was that the president was seeking a sensible balance by trying to boost the rebel cause while minimizing the U.S. footprint, but the right giddily trumpeted the phrase as proof that Obama was only too willing to let America get bullied around. Charles Krauthammer led the charge :

It’s been a foreign policy of hesitation, delay and indecision, marked by plaintive appeals to the (fictional) “international community” to do what only America can.

Obama thinks anti-Americanism is a verdict on America’s fitness for leadership. I would suggest that “leading from behind” is a verdict on Obama’s fitness for leadership.

Others joined in and disdain for the “leading from behind” approachbecame a common refrain  among the GOP’s presidential candidates. For instance, Mitt Romney’s website brags that “[i]nstead of apologizing for America abroad and ‘leading from behind,’ Mitt Romney will pursue a strategy of American strength.” And in his own campaign announcement speech in June, Romney said  of Obama:

At a time of historic change and great opportunity in the Arab world, he’s hesitant and uncertain. He hesitated to speak out for the dissidents in Iran. His administration boasts that he is leading from behind in Libya.

In terms of making their case, it certainly helped the right that the NATO-led operation to which Obama committed American support didn’t immediately dislodge Gadhafi, and that it appeared throughout the spring and into the summer that the civil war would continue along indefinitely as a stalemate. It was during this window that Rick Santorum, Romney’s fellow candidate, opined  that Libya was “a morass.”

But then, all of a sudden, came the past few days and a series of dramatic advances by the rebels, culminating in their move into Tripoli and the arrest of two of Gadhafi’s sons. For now, Gadhafi himself is still at large and his remaining forces seem to be putting up some resistance; rebelswere forced to pull back  from Green Square on Monday afternoon Tripoli time. But it was still all enough for Obama to issue a statement Sunday night claiming that “the momentum against the Gadhafi regime has reached a tipping point” and that “Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of a tyrant.” And for French President Nicolas Sarkozy to say on Monday that “ehe end of Gadhafi and his regime is now inevitable and near.”

If Sarkozy is right, then it will be the outcome that hawks on the right have been saying they wanted all along. That it is now on the brink of being achieved five months after the implementation of the no fly zone would seem to suggest that, just maybe, there was actually some wisdom to “leading from behind.” At the very least, it exposes the attacks of Krauthammer, Romney and others for what they were: overheated efforts to reinforce the Obama-as-Carter caricature they’ve been pushing since the start of his presidency. Nor is it the first time Obama has defied this caricature: Remember when our “weak” and “naïve” president announced that Osama bin Laden — the man who had eluded George W. Bush for nearly eight years — had been killed?

It’s worth repeating that Gadhafi’s fall hardly would hardly guarantee that history will smile on Obama’s handling of Libya. What would come next for the country is an open question, and the possibility that the void created by Gadhafi’s departure will be filled by violence and chaos is all too real . There are plenty of people on both the right and the left who have insisted all along the U.S. had no business intervening, and the latest developments do not necessarily prove them wrong.

But they seem to be a blow to the right-wing hawks who still dominate the GOP’s foreign policy discourse. Not for the first time, they’ve spent months the past few months crowing that Obama was too incompetent to achieve a goal that he and they shared. But suddenly that goal is on the verge of being realized.The demise of Gadhafi — and an obnoxious talking point – Barack Obama News – Salon.com.

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Qaddafi


Kap - La Vanguardia, Spain - Qaddafi - English - Gaddafi, Qaddafi, Libia, Libya, war, Kaddafi, guerra, Tripoli, rebels, rebeldes, revolucion, islamic revolution, arab,

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