|Home Front: WoT|
|Gitmo Con Sez He's a New Man|
|SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Abdul Hakim Bukhary was once ready to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. But the former holy warrior has told his American captors he now loves democracy - and that hardline Taliban fighters prompted his conversion.|
Bukhary traveled from his native Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan in 2001 after the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan using a strict interpretation of the Quran, called for a jihad against American soldiers. The U.S. troops were set to invade in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Bukhary told his tribunal at Guantanamo Bay that he had been in Afghanistan earlier - in the 1980s to fight Soviet troops. His tale appeared in transcripts of hearings at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in eastern Cuba, where Bukhary was detained along with hundreds of other prisoners.
Bukhary said that as he waited in a guest house in Afghanistan for the U.S. invasion to begin, he told his Taliban hosts that he admired Ahmed Shah Massood, a veteran of the war against the Soviet occupation and a rebel commander revered by many Afghans. But Massood was an enemy of the Taliban who was killed days before the Sept. 11 attacks by a Taliban assassination squad posing as journalists. The Taliban disapproved of Bukhary's idle comment.
"It was a terrible time," he recalled. "Horrible."
Bukhary told the U.S. military tribunal that he was transferred from jail to jail before falling into custody of U.S. ground forces. He said Guantanamo was better than the prison in Kandahar. He could eat. He could talk. "Prisoners here are in paradise," he exclaimed. "American people are very good. Really. They give us three meals. Fruit juice and everything!"
Bukhary told the tribunal that, unlike the Taliban, the U.S. guards did not care if he talked.
"I like to talk because I found that nobody bothers me. Nobody beats me. Nobody hits me," he said, adding: "About democracy. It is really good."
The transcripts did not indicate whether Bukhary's testimony swayed the tribunal. It was unknown if he remained in custody.
|'Muslims are not cockroaches'|
|It may like to call itself proudly the "birthplace of human rights", but when it comes to dealing with Islamist clerics, France is rarely reluctant to set such scruples aside. The country waited only days after the London bombings before summarily expelling its first two radical preachers. It has since sent two more packing and plans to deport a total of some two dozen by the end of this month.|
Underlining a longstanding difference in approach between London and Paris, an interior ministry official said France had "no problem whatsoever" in deporting anyone accused of inflaming anti-western feeling - even if they had French citizenship and were formally recognised as preachers by the Muslim community. The planned arrests and expulsions follow repeated statements by the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, since the July 7 London attacks that France "must and will act against radical preachers capable of influencing the youngest and most weak-minded". Fundamental rights such as freedom of speech, that in Britain have, until very recently, protected the controversial clerics, count for precious little in France when the speech concerned is considered an incitement to hatred or violence.
French commentators have long looked with disbelief at what Islamist preachers were allowed to say publicly in Britain in the wake of the September 11 2001 attacks on the US. London rapidly became known as "Londonistan". France's strongly contrasting approach has been conditioned by the fact that it is, in many respects, a very different country from Britain. Central to these differences are the importance of the egalitarian Republican tradition and its rejection of multiculturalism; the ingrained expectation of French politicians that the justice system is at their command; the sheer size of France's Muslim community, put at between 5m and 8m out of a total population of 60m; the fact that France had its first taste of Islamist terror several years before 9/11.
Between July and October 1995, Algeria's Armed Islamic Group or GIA carried out a string of bomb attacks, mainly on public transport targets and mainly in Paris, which killed eight people and injured more than 200. The attacks were aimed at punishing France for its support of Algeria's military-backed government in its long war on Islamic insurgents. Since that campaign, French intelligence has devoted substantial resources to monitoring closely and even infiltrating the more radical elements in the Muslim community. By and large, police know who pose a threat and where to find them: ahead of the 1998 World Cup in France, dozens of Islamists considered a potential threat were quietly rounded up and placed in preventive detention for the duration of the tournament. Similarly, in the wake of 9/11, French arrests of militants with a possible al-Qaida link were all but instantaneous.
The latest undesirable to be deported since the London bombings was Amar Heraz, described by police as an "Algerian Islamist linked to terrorist networks", who was put on a ferry in Marseille earlier this week. Heraz, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 1999 and barred from France for a year, was expelled on the grounds that he had re-entered France illegally. He was preceded by Reda Ameuroud, a 35-year-old Algerian who was also staying in France illegally and whose speeches at a radical mosque in Paris's 11th arrondissement - described by police as "violent and hate-filled" - prompted the French intelligence services to classify him as an "ideological reference point". Ameuroud's brother, Abderahmane, 27, was sentenced to seven years in prison and banned from French territory in May after being convicted of giving "logistical support" to two Tunisians who assassinated the Afghan resistance leader Ahmed Shah Massood in 2001.
Another "part-time" imam, Abdelhamid Aissaoui, 41, was expelled from France earlier this month for urging youths to join the jihad or holy war. He had already served a four-year jail term for his role in an attempted 1995 bomb attack on a high-speed TGV train near Lyon by the GIA.
According to the interior ministry, about 1,100 imams have been identified in France and "the vast majority pose no problem at all". Some 50% are regular speakers, 150 preach only occasionally, and the remainder officiate only at Friday prayers. About 30% are Moroccan, 20% Algerian and 15% Turkish. Those now being targeted are radical imams and ideologists of mainly North African and Turkish origin, based in or around major cities with large Muslim populations like Lyon, Marseille and Paris. French intelligence services consider that about 40 of the country's 1,500 mosques and prayer centres are under the influence of radical ideologies ranging from "classic fundamentalism to violent and hate-filled rhetoric".
Police and ministry officials acknowledge that the greatest threat comes from occasional speakers who often have no formal training and little knowledge of the Qur'an but can exercise great influence over the impressionable youth of France's deprived big-city suburbs. At least seven French nationals are known to have been killed fighting with anti-coalition insurgents in Iraq, and a further 10 are believed to still be there. Several other young French jihadists also died in Afghanistan and fought in Bosnia.
The latest rash of arrests and deportations, however, has prompted the first stirrings of alarm in the moderate Muslim community. "Is it a crime to be a Muslim? If these people haven't killed, I don't know why they're being kicked out," one Algerian in Lyon told French radio. "Muslims are not cockroaches."
|France prepares to expel radical Islamist leaders|
Reda Ameuroud, a 35-year-old Algerian who was staying in France illegally, was deported on Friday, the spokesman said. Mr Ameuroud's "violent and hate-filled" speeches at a radical mosque in Paris's 11th arrondissement prompted the French intelligence services to classify him as an "ideological reference point". He is the brother of Abderahmane Ameuroud, 27, who was sentenced to seven years in prison and banned from French territory in May after being convicted of giving "logistical support" to two Tunisians who assassinated the Afghan resistance leader Ahmed Shah Massood in 2001.
|Paris Court Sentences 5 Islamic Militants|
|PARIS (AP) - A Paris court sentenced five Islamic militants Tuesday to jail terms for associating with "a terrorist enterprise," with some of the five convicted of helping the assassins of an anti-Taliban commander in Afghanistan. |
The five were sentenced to terms ranging from two to seven years. Those defendants included some convicted of providing logistical support to the killers of Ahmed Shah Massood, who was assassinated in 2001.
Massood, known as "The Lion of Panjshir," was fabled for his defiance of occupying Soviet forces during the Afghan war in the 1980s and later the Taliban. He was killed by suspected al-Qaida suicide attackers posing as journalists two days before the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. Two other defendants were acquitted.
All seven defendants faced allegations of "criminal association in relation to a terrorist enterprise" - a broad charge widely used in terrorism cases in France. They faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison each.
|France jugs 2 jihadis|
|Anti-terrorism judges placed two Paris pizzeria workers under investigation Friday in a probe into radical Islamic training camps set up in France during the 1990s, judicial officials said. |
The men, who are both about 30, were taken into custody Tuesday in the Paris region during the investigation into a network of Islamic radicals that once ran training camps for new recruits, the officials said. One camp was set up in the late 1990s in the Fontainebleau forest south of Paris.
The men are believed to have played only marginal roles in the case, the officials said.
The wider probe focuses on the death of anti-Taliban military commander Ahmed Shah Massood in Afghanistan. The anti-terrorism judges are looking into an alleged support network for Massood's killers.
|Murder of Ahmed Shah Massoud: Ordered by bin Laden|
|From 2nd Issue of 'Voice of Jihad' Al-Qa'ida Online Magazine, via MEMRI|
The magazine continued its biography of Sheikh Yousef Al-Ayyiri, who served as personal bodyguard to Osama bin Laden and manager of the Al-Qa'ida website, until he was killed by Saudi security forces. The biography addresses Osama bin Laden's order for the murder of Ahmed Shah Massoud. According to the biographer, after Sheikh Al-Ayyiri's release from a Saudi prison, he recruited youths and encouraged them to wage Jihad in Afghanistan and take part in the training camps there:
Afterwards, the greatest event in Afghan history occurred â the assassination of the despicable commander, Ahmed Shah Massoud, and there was no describing Sheikh Al-Ayyiri's joy. I remember asking him, 'What happened?' And he replied by saying that Sheikh Osama asked the brothers: 'Who will take it upon himself to deal with Ahmed [Shah] Massoud for me, because he harmed Allah and His sons?'
|Belgium orders trial in Afghan assassination|
|A Belgian court on Friday ordered 12 alleged members of a counterfeit passport ring to stand trial on charges of providing false documents used by the killers of the Afghan anti-Taliban leader Ahmed Shah Massood. |
It's only been a year and a half. What's the rush?
Massood was killed two days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by two suicide bombers who posed as journalists and traveled on false Belgian passports. Authorities believe the assassins were sent by Osama bin Laden to remove Massood. The alleged leader of the passport ring, Tarek Maaroufi, is suspected of having links to al-Qaida and will face charges that include recruiting for a foreign military force, prosecutors said. Maaroufi, who is of Tunisian origin, was arrested in Belgium on December 2001. Maaroufi is also a suspect in another al-Qaida-linked case centered on Nizar Trabelsi, a former professional soccer player from Tunisia who is suspected of planning to bomb the U.S. embassy in Paris and a Belgian military base used by American forces.
It being Belgium, the guy will probably get a sentence of no TV for a week, if he's not let off...
|UK forces chief ’was terror target’|
|Italian police are investigating claims that terror suspects may have been targeting Britain's most senior military official. |
A la Ahmed Shah Massood
A newspaper photograph of Britain's Chief of Defence staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, circled in red was reportedly discovered along with explosives during a raid in the southern city of Naples. It is understood Sir Michael is due to visit Nato's southern headquarters in the city later this month.
Italian police arrested 28 Pakistani terror suspects in a flat in Naples on Friday. The men were charged with association with international terrorism, illegal possession of explosive material and falsification of documents.
The men aged between 20 and 48 were found with enough explosives to blow up a three-storey building and with 100 mobile phones in a routine check for illegal immigrants, officials said.
A spokesman at Naples police headquarters said: "We are treating very seriously the discovery of a newspaper with a ringed photograph of Sir Michael Boyce."
A Ministry of Defence spokesman could not confirm the threat but said: "In his position, Sir Michael knows he must be a possible target for terrorists. "I am sure any relevant information would be assessed by his security advisers who would decide whether any changes in arrangements are necessary."
|Taliban official warned U.S. of al-Qaida in 1999|
|A senior Taliban official said he approached U.S. representatives three years ago for help in replacing the hardline Islamic leadership, but was told Washington was leery of becoming involved in internal Afghan politics, the former official said Sunday. Mullah Mohammed Khaksar, a former Taliban intelligence chief and later Afghan deputy interior minister, said he met with U.S. diplomats Gregory Marchese and J. Peter McIllwain in Peshawar, Pakistan, in April 1999 and told them he wanted to oust Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar because of his support for Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network. |
Interesting story. Did anything ever come of it?...
The two Americans promised to contact Washington, Khaksar said. Later, he received a letter - which he showed to The Associated Press - from Marchese saying the United Sates was nervous about backing Afghan factions because of its experience supporting hardline Islamic movements during the war against the Soviets. "We don't want to make mistakes like we made in the holy war," Marchese said in the letter, written in Afghanistan's Pashto language and translated by Khaksar. "We gave much help and it later went against us." Marchese added that "my boss is interested" - without identifying him by name. However, Khaksar said that was his last contact with the Americans. Marchese, now posted in Washington, confirmed the meeting with Khaksar but refused to say what was discussed. "I can confirm that I met Mullah Khaksar, then the Taliban regime's deputy interior minister, at my home in Peshawar in April 1999," Marchese said in an e-mail. "I can't get into the content of the meeting, however."
This particular tale has a ring of truth because of several factors. Marchese admits to the meeting, though he can't go into the content because it's probably classified Top Secret. Khaksar's got the letter. And most importantly, when the Talibs left Kabul in the dead of night with everything they could carry, Khaksar stayed put. No one seemed to turn a hair and there was never much of a splash afterward. This is the first time I've seen the guy's name in the press since. It's an opportunity the Clinton gang passed up.
It was unclear whether Khaksar's overture was relayed to the highest levels of the Clinton Administration. Nor is it clear whether the United States lost an opportunity to neutralize bin Laden and his Taliban protectors before the devastating attacks of Sept. 11. The State Department on Sunday said it had "no immediate comment" on Khaksar's comments.
We can pretty well bet that it was relayed to the undersecretary level, and probably to Albright...
Khaksar, a founding member of the Taliban, said he contacted the Americans because he feared the Islamic movement had been hijacked - first by Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency and then by bin Laden and his al-Qaida group. Khaksar said he and others in the Taliban wanted to "keep Afghanistan for Afghans" but found themselves marginalized because of bin Laden's influence over Mullah Omar. Bin Laden donated suitcases full of money to finance the Taliban's war-effort against the northern-based alliance led by the late guerrilla leader Ahmed Shah Massood. Mullah Omar, meanwhile, had fallen under the influence of bin Laden and a clique of Afghan clerics who were graduates from Pakistani religious schools with links to Pakistani intelligence. "They told him he could be the leader of all the Muslims, bring all Muslims together," said Khaksar, who lives in Kabul. "What were they doing? It wasn't Afghanistan anymore. My thinking was that they would destroy my country."
Seems like Khaksar had come to recognize the al-Qaeda thugs as an occupying power, just like the Sovs were, only more arrogant because they were so holy. As intel chief and then an interior ministry muckety-muck, he had to deal with the Paks and their proxies and didn't like it — bad enough to have an occupying power, but it must have galled him to have two of them. He couldn't have known for sure the Talibs were going to crash, must have doubted it, in fact, so our hats should be off to him for trying to do what he could under the circumstances.
|Masood is dead|
The opposition is ready to support American actions against the Taliban, said opposition spokesman Dr. Abdullah who uses only one name in an interview broadcast on Russia's state RTR television Sunday. "Definitely, we expect a reaction" to the American attacks "a military reaction," Abdullah said. "I think the aim the sole purpose of that military reaction should be destruction of the terrorists' camps," he added. "The whole people here are against the Taliban."
Massood was buried in his home village of Basarak in the Panjshir Valley, north of Afghanistan's capital, Kabul.
|Brits arrest Masoon assassination accomplice|
LONDON -- In Egypt, Yasser al-Sirri is a wanted man, convicted in absentia for a terrorist bombing plot that inadvertently killed a 12-year-old girl. In Britain for the past eight years, he has found freedom and safety. And, despite the death sentence hanging over him, he has been anything but anonymous. Al-Sirri, 38, founded the Islamic Observation Center and fashioned himself as a supporter of master terrorist Osama bin Laden. His statements, pamphlets and press releases, though, always fell within Britain's right to free speech. Even after Sept. 11, when al-Sirri posted bin Laden's threats of further attacks on his Web site, he drew little attention. But his protected life in Britain changed last week. London police arrested al-Sirri on Tuesday during a dawn raid on his apartment and nearby office. Police say there is evidence that al-Sirri helped arrange press credentials for two bin Laden operatives, who, posing as a television crew, assassinated Gen. Ahmed Shah Massood, the leader of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, on Sept. 1, just days before terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. Al-Sirri's arrest may signal the beginning of the British government's promised crackdown on known or suspected terrorists.