Tag Archives: Najibullah Zazi

Conviction at Guantanamo; New Defendants in NYC Subway Plot Case

The Obama administration has its first conviction at Guantanamo Bay. Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi pleaded guilty to material support and conspiracy charges today.  He is expected to be sentenced next month.

Al Qosi, of Sudan, was charged with serving as “an accountant, paymaster, and supply chief for al-Qaida during the 1990s,” according to CNN. He acted as Osama bin Laden’s cook, driver, and bodyguard.

Al Qosi’s is the fourth conviction at Guantanamo, and the second by plea bargain. Australian David Hicks pleaded guilty to material support in 2007 and has since been released in Australia. Salim Hamdan, whose petition for habeas corpus resulted in the military commission system at the time being invalidated by the Supreme Court, was convicted of material support in 2008 and has since been released in Yemen. Ali Hamza al Bahlul, a citizen of Yemen who put up no defense to the case against him, was sentenced to life last year.

One hundred and eighty-one detainees remain at Guantanamo.

BBC, AP via Chicago Tribune, CNN’s This Just In blog, Miami Herald, St. Petersburg Times‘s PolitiFact, New York Times‘s Guantanamo Docket.

The case originally against Najibullah Zazi has expanded again, this time to defendants overseas.  In a superseding indictment, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York has charged Adnan El Shukrijumah, Adis Medunjanin, Abid Naseer, Tariq Ur Rehman, and a defendant listed only as “Ahmad,” “Sohaib” or “Zahid” in connection with the plot to bomb the New York City subway system.  All but Medunjanin are new additions to the list of defendants associated with the plot.  Naseer and Rehman were arrested in April 2009 in the UK in connection with other terrorism allegations, but they were both eventually released. A British immigration court found Naseer was a member of al Qaeda, but that the risk of torture prevented his deportation to Pakistan.  Naseer was re-arrested Wednesday in the UK.  Rehman, who returned to Pakistan after his release, is not in custody.  El Shukrijumah is also at large.

The indictment further connects the plot to another operation with targets in England, and alleges that Zazi’s plans were directed by high-level al Qaeda operatives, including El Shukrijumah, Saleh al-Somali, and Rashid Rauf.  El Shukrijumah, who grew up in the U.S., is believed to be the current head of external operations for al Qaeda, having taken over from al-Somali, who is thought to have been killed by a CIA drone strike.  Rauf, also believed killed in a drone strike, was previously linked to the 2006 airlines plot in the UK that resulted in restrictions on carrying liquids on planes worldwide.  He has also been linked to Bryant Neal Vinas, indicted for aiding al Qaeda in part by giving detailed information about the Long Island Railroad and its security to high-level al Qaeda members.

The plot is now believed to have spanned three countries – the U.S., the UK, and Pakistan.  Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay have both already pleaded guilty in relation to it.  Charges have been added against Medunjanin, alleging that the crash he was involved in when police attempted to arrest him was in fact a last-ditch effort at a suicide attack.

CNN, CBS News, MSNBCNewsweek‘s Declassified blog, Bloomberg Businessweek, New York Times, Wall Street JournalAPDaily News, ReutersTelegraph

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Today’s Terrorism News

NCTC Head Discusses Al Qaeda

Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, on Wednesday asserted that “the U.S. government has that same right of self-defense internationally” as a police officer who has a gun pulled on him – neither has to wait for a court order to respond. The remarks came during a question-and-answer session at the Aspen Security Forum, where Leiter defended the possibility that U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki – believed to be in Yemen – and other U.S. citizens could be targeted by U.S. drones in Pakistan and elsewhere, if they were involved in terrorist plots. Leiter affirmed that al-Awlaki had “a direct operational role” in the Christmas Day bombing attempt, and that it would be “irresponsible” for him and other senior intelligence and defense officials to not consider him and other U.S. citizens involved in plots to kill Americans as potential targets. Leiter stressed that while drone strikes have proven effective in weakening al Qaeda, there are still 50-100 operatives in Afghanistan and over 300 in Pakistan, specifying that “weaker does not mean harmless.” AP, CNN, Freep.com, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times.

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The Homegrown Threat

by Michael A. Sheehan

The homegrown terrorist threat is the current buzz among counterterrorism officials in Washington, DC.  The failed Christmas Day airline bomber plot and the arrests of several homegrown terrorists have increased counterterrorism officials’ concerns that the new threat is perhaps not an operative launched by Osama bin Laden from “al Qaeda Central” but rather an American citizen or long-term resident living a seemingly normal life within our communities. Notable examples include Najibullah Zazi (the Denver-based New York City subway plotter), Major Nidal Malik Hasan (the Fort Hood killer), David Headley (alleged to be involved in Mumbai attack), and Daniel Boyd (who trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan). Are their concerns valid – or is this just further hype and something for the terrorism community to talk and speculate about?

First, it should be noted that the homegrown threat is not really new. The NYPD Intelligence Division has been tracking this trend since 2002, and many of the arrests made by the FBI in the years immediately following 9/11 included homegrown Americans or long-term residents. In a 2007 report that was widely disseminated and briefed on Capitol Hill, NYPD discussed the growing threat and ways to identify people who are being radicalized to commit violence. As the examples above indicate, we must continue to take this threat seriously and maintain the vigilance necessary to uncover such homegrown threats before they materialize.

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