The FBI isn’t the first intelligence agency to come under scrutiny for ignoring leads on young men who later proved to be terrorists. The U.K.’s MI5 faced similar questions after Islamist suicide bombers struck London’s subway system on July 7, 2005.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is under fire for not keeping Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who is accused bombing of Boston Marathon, under surveillance, despite a tip from Russia that he was interested in extremist Islamic groups.
There’s a lot we still don’t know about that episode and, as my colleague Tobin Harshaw writes, the agency needs to tell us more. Still, MI5 probably had a tougher case to answer in 2005.
While successfully tracking and preventing another bomb plot a year earlier, the U.K.’s domestic intelligence agency had monitored four phone conversations and taped two physical meetings between their top suspect, Mohammed Qayum Khan, and two unidentified young Britons who would later carry out the so-called 7/7 bombing. MI5 did almost nothing to find out who they were.
MI5 also had information that two men had traveled from the U.K. to train with Islamist militants in Pakistan and was looking for them. Yet M15 agents weren’t able to link the two unidentified 7/7 bombers to the aliases that they used on their trip to Pakistan until it was too late.
English-speaking jihadis seen in Mali, as a Canadian is reported to have co-ordinated Algeria attack
Canada is today investigating an allegation by the Algerian Prime Minister that one of its citizens co-ordinated the terror raid at the Saharan gas plant in which dozens of hostages were killed.
Westerners, including a man with blond hair and blue eyes, are believed to have been among the Islamist militants who launched last week’s attack on the Tigantourine complex near Algeria’s border with Libya.
A French jihadist, previously unknown to authorities, and two Canadians are suspected to have been involved in the hostage-taking, and reports also claim that a man with a Western accent was among the extremists who lured terrified gas workers from their rooms during the hostage crisis.
Five suspected members of the Islamist group which held foreign and local workers hostage at an Algerian gas plant have been arrested, reports say.
The reports came a day after the Algerian authorities said all 32 hostage-takers had been killed at the In Amenas gas installation.
At least 25 bodies were found at the complex on Sunday, reports say.
It is unclear whether they were captors or captives. Officials say a definitive death toll will be released later.
On Saturday officials said least 23 staff at the facility had died during the four-day siege, with some Western workers still unaccounted for.
The siege was ended in a raid by troops on Saturday.
Officials said the army launched its assault after Islamist militants began killing foreign hostages.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama have blamed “terrorists” for the hostages’ deaths.
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We are ready to negotiate with the west and the Algerian government, provided they stop their bombing of Mali’s Muslims”
Profile: Mokhtar Belmokhtar
Terror threat to last ‘decades’ - UK
And on Sunday French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the hostage-taking as an “act of war”.
Reports are emerging that some western hostages may also have escaped from the compound where they have been held by Islamist militants since early on Wednesday. Reuters is reporting that:
Algeria’s Ennahar television said 15 foreigners, including two French citizens, had escaped the besieged plant deep in the Sahara desert. About 40 Algerians had also been freed, mainly women working as translators, it said.
The agency said a security source had told it that the the captors, who are encircled by Algerian troops, were demanding safe passage out with their prisoners. Algeria has repeatedly refused to negotiate.
Terrorists are stepping up their attacks, this time in Algeria…
ALGIERS (Reuters) - Islamist militants attacked a gas field in Algeria on Wednesday, claiming to have kidnapped up to 41 foreigners including seven Americans in a dawn raid in retaliation for France’s intervention in Mali, according to regional media reports.
The raiders were also reported to have killed three people, including a Briton and a French national.
An al Qaeda affiliated group said the raid had been carried out because of Algeria’s decision to allow France to use its air space for attacks against Islamists in Mali, where French forces have been in action against al Qaeda-linked militants since last week.
The attack in southern Algeria also raised fears that the French action in Mali could prompt further Islamist revenge attacks on Western targets in Africa, where al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) operates across borders in the Sahara desert, and in Europe.
AQIM said it had carried out Wednesday’s raid on the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria, Mauritania’s ANI news agency reported.
Hamas’s latest battle against Israel sparked feverish Palestinian pride that spread beyond the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority-led West Bank. But it has also deepened a sense of futility here with the authority’s nonviolent, diplomacy-based approach to winning a Palestinian state.
The Gaza conflict catapulted the Palestinian cause back into international headlines and produced displays of unity across the Palestinian political spectrum. But it is a commonly held view here that the Islamist militants of Hamas — which refuses to recognize Israel — defeated their enemy, and that they did it with weapons, not words.
“They put Israel in its place. They forced Israel to withdraw,” Amanda Izzat, a 23-year-old university student who was shopping in Ramallah on Saturday, said of Hamas.
Many Palestinians say that the eight-day hostilities will energize the long-frozen pledges of reconciliation between Hamas and its rival Fatah, which leads the Palestinian Authority. But the conflict also underscored how starkly opposed the two factions’ strategies are. In a region where Arab Spring uprisings pushed political Islam to the forefront, some analysts say that Fatah’s secular nationalism looks more anachronistic by the day and that Hamas’s sudden strength has raised momentum for a more aggressive, even radical, posture in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Fatah member, dismissed Islamism as a fad. But she said she is increasingly worried that Palestinians will see armed resistance, which Fatah renounced in 1988, as the only mechanism that appears to win concessions from Israel.
Jordan has foiled a plot by an al Qaeda-linked cell to bomb its shopping centres and assassinate Western diplomats, state television said on Sunday, thwarting an attempt to destabilize the key U.S. ally.
Security forces had detained 11 suspects, all Jordanians, in connection with the plot, which envisaged carrying out attacks in the capital Amman using smuggled weapons and explosives from Syria, according to security officials cited by television.
The plot had been active since June.
Minister of Information Samih al Maaytah said the arrests underscored the serious threat posed by radical “terror groups” seeking to undermine the kingdom’s long tradition of stability.
A key U.S. ally in the Middle East and Israel’s peace partner, Jordan enjoys close ties with Western intelligence agencies and has often been targeted by al-Qaeda and other Islamist militants.
The cell had targeted two major shopping malls in the capital and was planning a bombing campaign in the capital’s affluent Abdoun neighborhood, where many foreign embassies are located.
A security source said the suspects had manufactured explosives “aimed at inflicting the heaviest losses possible”.
In the chaotic weeks during Egypt’s revolution, thousands of inmates escaped from jail. Untold hundreds among them were Islamist militants. Many more detained for belonging to jihadist groups have been released from detention in the 18 months since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted — and the activities of some are beginning to cause serious concern to Egyptian and Western intelligence agencies.
Muhammad Jamal Abu Ahmad, 48, was one of those released. A heavyset, bearded man, Abu Ahmad was raised in the poor and crowded Cairo suburb of Shoubra. He joined Egyptian Islamic Jihad as a young man and spent time in Afghanistan training mujahedeen and in Sudan in the 1990s — before being jailed when he returned to Egypt in 2002. He spent the next nine years in detention but appears never to have faced a trial.
Former jihadists who knew him describe him as “ultra-radical,” according to Barak Barfi of the New America Foundation, who has spoken with former senior members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad in Cairo.
Just what Abu Ahmad may be doing now goes to the heart of the dilemma facing counterterrorism agencies in the Arab world and the West: Of the thousands of Islamist militants now back in circulation in the wake of the Arab revolutions — who is taking up arms again in the cause of global jihad?
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Abu Ahmad is suspected of a role in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on September 11. The Journal quoted a former U.S. official as saying that intelligence reports suggested some of the attackers trained at camps Abu Ahmad established in the Libyan Desert.
“Mr. Ahmad, although believed to be one of the most potent of the new militant operatives emerging from the chaos of the Arab Spring, isn’t the only one, according to Western officials,” the article continued.
Two al Qaeda-linked militants and a pro-government tribesman were killed in clashes in Yemen’s restive south on Sunday, a local official and a tribesman said.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has made its base in the impoverished state, which slid into chaos last year after protests that eventually forced veteran ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.
The group has mounted operations in neighbouring Saudi Arabia as well as attempting to launch attacks against the United States.
The Yemeni army helped by local tribes launched a U.S.-backed drive in May to drive Islamist militants from Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), an offshoot of al Qaeda, out of several southern towns they had held for more than a year.
edouin tribal leaders in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula have agreed to help restore security in the lawless border area with the Gaza Strip and Israel.
In talks with Interior Minister Ahmed Gamal al-Din, they also backed plans to destroy smuggling tunnels into Gaza.
The move comes as Egyptian troops mass in the area in an operation to contain Islamist militants who have built up a presence there.
The militants are suspected of killing 16 Egyptian border guards on Sunday.
Egypt has deployed extra troops, tanks and other armoured vehicles.
It also closed the Rafah border with the Gaza Strip following the killings. The border - the only way in or out of the enclave without passing through Israel - was reopened on Friday, but only