|Home Front: WoT|
|Subway Terror Plot Had Global Reach|
|Federal prosecutors charged a senior al Qaeda leader Wednesday with helping to mastermind last year's attempted bombing of New York City's subway and said the effort was part of a larger plot that included a failed terrorist attempt in the U.K.|
Three suspected al Qaeda members were arrested in Europe Thursday morning in what Norwegian and U.S. officials said was a bombing plot linked to the New York and U.K. plans.
In an indictment unveiled in federal court in Brooklyn Wednesday, prosecutors said 34-year-old Adnan el Shukrijumah, described as a leader of an al Qaeda program dedicated to terrorist attacks in the U.S. and other Western countries, "recruited and directed" three U.S. citizens to carry out suicide bombings in Manhattan in September 2009.
The indictment also charged Abid Naseer and Tariq ur Rehman, who were previously arrested by authorities in the U.K. as part of a raid in relation to suspected terrorist activity there. Prosecutors said the two cases were "directly related." The charges underscored "the global nature of the terrorist threat we face," said David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security.
On Wednesday, U.K. police again arrested Mr. Naseer, who is 24 years old and of Pakistani descent, in Middlesbrough, in the northeast of England, according to a police spokesman. Mr. Rehman isn't in custody and is believed to be in Pakistan. The last known lawyer for Mr. Naseer didn't respond to requests for comment. Mr. Rehman, 39, reached in Peshawar, North East Pakistan, said: "Of course I deny all these charges. Of course I will fight my case."
A day later, three men were arrested on suspicion of "preparing terror activities," the Norwegian Police Security Service said. Two of the men were arrested in Norway and one in Germany, said Janne Kristiansen, the head of Police Security Service. She said one of the men was a 39-year-old Norwegian of Uighur origin, who had lived in Norway since 1999. The other suspects were a 37-year-old Iraqi and a 31-year-old citizen of Uzbekistan, both of whom have permanent residency permits in Norway. The three had been under surveillance for more than a year.
Officials told the Associated Press that the men were attempting to make portable but powerful peroxide bombs, but it wasn't clear whether they had selected a target for the attacks. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they believe the plan was organized by Salah al-Somali, al Qaeda's former chief of external operations who was charge of plotting attacks world-wide but is believed to have been killed in a CIA drone airstrike last year.
U.S. prosecutors, meanwhile, said the New York and U.K. plots were directly linked by a man identified in court documents as "Ahmad," who was also charged on Wednesday, though he wasn't in custody and prosecutors said his identity was unknown. Prosecutors said Ahmad transported Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan native who worked as an airport shuttle driver in Colorado, and two others to Waziristan, Pakistan, so they could receive training. Mr. Shukrijumah recruited them at a camp there, prosecutors said.
The indictment, unveiled on the fifth anniversary of bombings in London's transport network, said that Mr. Shukrijumah, together with others, including Mr. al-Somali recruited individuals to conduct a terrorist attack in the U.S.
Authorities in the U.S. have been searching for Mr. Shukrijumah, a Saudi Arabia native, for several years and are offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. They are planning to put him on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's most-wanted list as early as Thursday.
Prosecutors described Ahmad as an "al Qaeda facilitator" and said he communicated separately with Mr. Naseer and Mr. Zazi, who were in Pakistan in the same period in 2008, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors said Mr. Naseer sent emails to the same account that Ahmad allegedly used to communicate with Mr. Zazi. Mr. Naseer referred to different explosives in coded language and spoke of planning a large "wedding" for numerous guests in April 2009, and said Ahmad should be ready, prosecutors alleged. A similar code, meaning an attack was ready to be executed, was used by Mr. Zazi when he discussed the planned New York attack with Ahmad, prosecutors said.
When Mr. Naseer and Mr. Rehman were arrested in the U.K. last year as part of a bigger raid that also led to the arrests of 10 others, U.K. authorities found large quantities of flour and oil, as well as surveillance photographs of public areas in Manchester, according to U.S. authorities.
But "Operation Pathway," which led to the arrests, was carried out prematurely after the U.K.'s top counterterrorism official at the time, Bob Quick, was photographed entering No. 10 Downing Street carrying documents that clearly identified key aspects of the operation. All of the men who were arrested were released without charge due to what U.K. prosecutors believed had been insufficient evidence.
British authorities tried to deport 11 of the men arrested, saying they posed a threat to national security. Mr. Naseer won an appeal in May in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission that stopped his deportation back to Pakistan. The U.S. government is seeking to extradite Mr. Naseer, according to London's Metropolitan police service.
In February, Mr. Zazi pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and other charges. He admitted that he drove to New York last September with explosives and other bomb-making materials and intended to carry out an attack on Manhattan subway lines.
Two other men, Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin, allegedly traveled to Pakistan with Mr. Zazi. In April, Mr, Ahmedzay pleaded guilty to conspiracy and providing material support to al Qaeda.
Mr. Medunjanin, a part-time building superintendent in Queens, N.Y., has denied wrongdoing and is fighting the charges. Wednesday's indictment adds additional terrorism charges against Mr. Medunjanin, who was arrested in January after allegedly attempting to crash his car into another car on the Whitestone Expressway in Queens as a last attempt to carry out a suicide attack on American soil.
"There's nothing new in the indictment as it pertains to Mr. Medunjanin," said his lawyer, Robert C. Gottlieb. "The government from Day One threatened to add charges as well as defendants." He said his client isn't guilty and intends to proceed to trial.
|Home Front: WoT|
|US officials link Shukrijumah to New York plot|
|Current and former counter-terrorism officials of the United States have linked Adnan Shukrijumah, one of the most wanted persons, to thwarted plot to bomb the subway system in New York City last year, authorities said.|
The officials said Shukrijumah, top al Qaeda operative, met with one of the would-be suicide bombers in a plot that Attorney General Eric Holder called one of the most dangerous since the 9/11 attacks. In Brooklyn, federal prosecutors have named Shukrijumah in a draft terrorism indictment but the Justice Department was still discussing whether to cite his role.
Some officials feared that the extra attention might hinder efforts to capture him. The involvement of Shukrijumah shows how important the (subway bombing) plot was to al Qaeda's senior leadership. Intelligence officials believe Shukrijumah is one of the top candidates to become al Qaeda's next head of external operations, the man in charge of planning attacks worldwide.
The counter-terrorism officials discussed the case on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak about it. Shukrijumah, 34, has eluded the FBI for years. The Saudi-born operative studied at a community college in Florida, but when the FBI showed up to arrest him as a witness to a terrorism case in 2003, he already had left the country. The US is offering $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.
Intelligence officials started unraveling the subway plot last year, when US intelligence intercepted an electronic mail from an account that al Qaeda had used in a recent terrorist plot, officials said. The mail discussed bomb-making techniques and was sent to an address in Denver, setting off alarms within the CIA and the FBI from Islamabad to the US.
Najibullah Zazi and two friends were arrested in September 2009 before, prosecutors said, they could carry out a trio of suicide bombings in Manhattan. Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay have pleaded guilty and admitted planning to detonate homemade bombs on the subway during rush hour. A third man, Adis Medunjanin, awaits trial. A fourth suspect, known as Ahmed, traded the emails with Zazi, who was frantically trying to perfect his bomb-making recipe, the officials said.
The US wants to bring the Pakistani man to the US for trial on charges that are not yet public. The CIA learned valuable information about al Qaeda and its operations from Ahmed. The officials in Pakistan have also arrested a fifth person, known as Afridi, who worked with Ahmed, the officials said. The FBI and the US attorney's office in Brooklyn had no comment.
The US officials told The Associated Press about how the men hooked up with al Qaeda. The new account provides a rare glimpse into the recruiting process. The trio's lengthy odyssey took them from their homes in Queens to the mountainous tribal areas in northwest Pakistan. The prosecutors said the men, motivated by their anger at the war in Afghanistan, travelled to Peshawar in the summer of 2008 to fight against the US forces.
Before splitting up, the men stayed at the house of Zazi's uncle. Zazi remained in Peshawar while Ahmedzay and Medunjanin headed into Afghanistan where they hoped to join the fight against the Americans, they said. But Ahmedzay and Medunjanin never made it. They were stopped at a roadblock and briefly detained by the police who were suspicious of their Western looks and their US passports.
The two men talked their way out of the bind, however, and the police never contacted the US about it, the officials said. Undeterred, the men regrouped in Peshawar and were recruited to meet an al Qaeda facilitator at local mosque in Peshawar. While al Qaeda was eager to recruit Americans, the group was also deeply suspicious of the trio and wanted to make sure they were not US spies.
Once they passed that initial test, Ahmed drove them to North Waziristan and delivered them to a rudimentary terrorist camp. The three received weapons training, but al Qaeda had bigger plans for the men than the Afghanistan front line. Salah al-Somali, then the head of external operations, and Rashid Rauf, a British national linked to a 2006 jetliner bomb plot, explained to the three men that they were more useful as bombers in the US.
It was at that camp that the US officials believe Ahmedzay, and perhaps the other two men, met Shukrijumah. In 2004, then attorney general John Ashcroft called Shukrijumah a clear and present danger to the US. Abu Zubaydah told US authorities that Shukrijumah was among the most likely candidates to attack the US or Europe. The trio completed about two weeks of training and left the camp with the promise of returning. But only Zazi made the trip back to Waziristan to take a course on explosives.
In early 2009, Zazi flew to New York and moved to Denver, armed with bomb-making notes. Unlike the Sept 11, 2001, attacks they chose the target, not Osama bin Laden. The emails that tipped off US intelligence triggered "Operation High Rise," an FBI investigation that had to come together within days. Agents scrambled as Zazi sped toward New York on September 9, armed with about two pounds of the powerful explosive.
He was stopped on the George Washington Bridge, but authorities failed to find the explosive material (TATP) stashed in a bag in the trunk. Spooked after the traffic stop, Zazi gave the TATP to Ahmedzay, who flushed it down the toilet. That week, the FBI raided the homes of all three friends, bringing a swift end to the plot.
|Eight killed in drone attack in North Waziristan|
|[Dawn] A US missile attack killed eight people, including foreign militants on Friday in the second such attack in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt in two days, security officials said.|
The strike took place in the district of Mir Ali, northeast of Miramshah, the main town of the North Waziristan tribal district, officials said.
'At least eight people were killed in the drone attack. A compound used by militants was targeted,' a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Another security official described the target as a Taliban training centre in Palooseen village. There were foreigners among the dead, the official said, using a term employed widely in Pakistan to mean Al-Qaeda operatives.
North Waziristan neighbours South Waziristan, where Pakistan has been pressing its most ambitious offensive to date against Taliban militants since October 17, sending troops backed by fighter jets and helicopter gunships into battle.
Northwest Pakistan has seen a surge in the US strikes, which fan anti-Americanism in the country, since President Barack Obama took office and put the country on the frontline of the war on Al-Qaeda.
Obama has reportedly increased pressure on Islamabad to fight not just Tehrik-i-Taliban, which launches attacks within Pakistan, but those using Pakistan as a base from which to fight the Kabul government and Western troops in Afghanistan.
Another US drone attack killed six militants, including three foreigners, in North Waziristan overnight Wednesday to Thursday, officials said.
A foreign 'terrorist' named Salah al-Somali was the target, but there was no confirmation on whether he died or not, military officials said.
The US military does not, as a rule, confirm drone attacks, which US officials say have killed a number of top-level militants but Islamabad publicly opposes as a violation of its sovereignty.
Criticism of the strikes has lessened somewhat in public since a US drone attack killed Pakistan's much feared Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud on August 5 and analysts say Islamabad gives its tacit support to the strikes.
Since August 2008, at least 65 such strikes have killed around 625 people, although it is difficult to confirm the precise identity of many of those who die given that the remote region is largely closed to outsiders.