German federal prosecutors say they’ve charged four Islamic extremists with forming a terrorist cell with the goal of killing a small far-right party’s leader.
The prosecutor’s office said in a statement Thursday that Tayfun S., 23, Marco G., 26, Enea B., 42, and Koray D., 24, were all charged with membership in a terrorist organization, weapons violations and other crimes.
All are German citizens; their last names were not released due to privacy regulations.
Authorities have said the four are ultraconservative Salafi Muslims. That religious movement faces increasing scrutiny since its members clashed last year with police at a demonstration of the far-right pro-NRW party.
This should give the EU reason enough to finally declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
LIMASSOL, Cyprus — A Hezbollah operative who worked as a courier for the group in Europe said at his trial Thursday that he had instructions to record the arrival times of passenger flights from Israel to Cyprus, prompting Israel to press the European Union to formally declare the militant group a terrorist organization.
During a cross-examination, Hossam Taleb Yaacoub described himself as “an active member of Hezbollah” with the code name “Wael,” and that he had received a salary of $600 a month since 2010. Asked why he had a code name, he answered through an interpreter, “In general, the party is based on secrecy between members. We don’t know the real names of our fellow members.”
Mr. Yaacoub said that his handler, a shadowy figure known only as Ayman, told him to track the landing times for an Arkia Israel Airlines flight between Tel Aviv and Larnaca, Cyprus. Ayman also asked him to look into the rental prices of warehouses, he said.
Mr. Yaacoub, 24, who holds Lebanese and Swedish passports, described himself as a pawn, following orders but not involved — or at least not knowingly involved — in planning an attack. But prosecutors say that is exactly what he was doing. Intelligence experts in the United States and Israel say that Mr. Yaacoub was one small player in the covert war that has pitted Israel against Iran and the militant group.
Mr. Yaacoub’s testimony, which began here on Wednesday, has provided an unusual look inside the operations of the secretive group. Mr. Yaacoub on Thursday described the weapons training he had received as a member of the group.
The Muslims of America demands retractions and a gag order against further defamation. It also wants sales of the book “Twilight in America” enjoined.
The book was published in October 2012.
“Defendants repeatedly refer to plaintiff as a terrorist organization engaging in terrorist acts and running terrorist training camps in the United States,” the complaint states. “Defendants bolster their claims through the use of intentionally misleading documents and sources in order to deceive and mislead the public about plaintiff. … In committing the acts herein alleged, the defendants acted willfully with malice in conscious disregard of the plaintiff’s rights and with intent to cause injury to plaintiff.”
Mawyer, who founded the nonprofit Christian Action Network in 1990, once worked as editor-in-chief of the Moral Majority Report, published by the evangelical fundamentalist Rev. Jerry Falwell, according to CAN’s website.
Based in Lynchburg, Va., CAN describes itself as a public advocacy and education organization “based on biblical principles, values, traditions and American ideals.” The website says it uses documentaries, radio and TV interviews, books and alliances with other organizations “to impact change.”
The lawsuit claims that Mawyer has appeared on the Fox News shows “The O’Reilly Factor” and “Hannity” as well “Entertainment Tonight” and NBC’s “Today” show, where “he continues spreading various sensational, erroneous theories and presents them as fact.”
The group claims that Mawyer and CAN have spent the past decade “waging excessive divisive and intolerable attacks against the plaintiff.”
The Muslims of America was organized in the mid-1980s around congregations that sought to escape big-city problems in the countryside, according to the complaint.
More: Courthouse News Service
As I’ve pointed out in the past, Al Qaeda and their affiliates often join and support good popular causes in the Middle East - it’s part of how they operate. It’s for essentially the same reasons that HAMAS runs ‘charities.” They gain recruits and momentum by joining popular causes and trying to suborn them and the people leading them to their evil ends. It’s a front for their efforts to destabilize.
It’s a new day in Islam however, and after 11 years of watching as Al Qaeda and their affiliates murdered more Muslims than anyone else, the people of Syria probably have a wary eye on this ally of convenience.
However, the vague language in the agreement and deep hostility between the combatants made it far from certain that the bloodshed would end.
Israel launched the offensive on Nov. 14 to halt renewed rocket fire from Gaza, unleashing some 1,500 airstrikes on Hamas-linked targets, while Hamas and other Gaza militant groups showered Israel with hundreds of rockets.
It was the worst fighting since an Israeli invasion of Gaza four years ago.
The eight days of relentless strikes killed 161 Palestinians, including 71 civilians, and five Israelis. Israel also destroyed key symbols of Hamas power, such as the prime minister’s office, along with rocket launching sites and Gaza police stations.
Despite the high human cost, Hamas claimed victory Thursday.
“The masses that took to the streets last night to celebrate sent a message to all the world that Gaza can’t be defeated,” said a spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri.
While it is far from certain that Hamas will be able to pry open Gaza’s borders in upcoming talks, the latest round of fighting has brought the Islamists unprecedented political recognition in the region. During the past week, Gaza became a magnet for visiting foreign ministers from Turkey and several Arab states — a sharp contrast to Hamas’ isolation in the past.
Israel and the United States, even while formally sticking to a policy of shunning Hamas, also acknowledged the militant group’s central role by engaging in indirect negotiations with the Islamists. Israel and the West consider Hamas, which seized Gaza by force in 2007, to be a terrorist organization.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, defended his decision not to launch a ground offensive, in contrast to Israel’s invasion of Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009.
Israeli reserve soldiers remove detonators from shells in a 155 mm artillery position near Israel Gaza Border on Thursday.(Photo: Ariel Schalit, AP)
“You don’t get into military adventures on a whim, and certainly not based on the mood of the public, which can turn the first time an armored personnel carrier rolls over or an explosive device is detonated against forces on the ground,” he told Israel Army Radio.
The sole survivor of a neo-Nazi terrorist cell suspected of killing nine people with immigrant backgrounds and a policewoman in Germany has been indicted and will soon face trial. Commentators praise the development but warn that German officials might also face some tough questions about their botched investigation.
In what is expected to be the biggest terrorism trial in Germany since police foiled the Red Army Faction’s far-left murder spree of the 1970s and ’80s, Germany’s Federal Prosecutor’s Office issued indictments on Thursday against the sole surviving member of a deadly neo-Nazi terror cell and its supporters. Munich’s higher regional court will now consider charges of accessory to murder in the slaying of 10 people and membership in a terrorist organization for Beate Zschäpe, who is believed to have been a key figure in the National Socialist Underground (NSU).
Federal Prosecutor General Harald Range said Zschäpe and the terror cell’s two other members had comprised a “unified killing commando” in which all three members were on an equal footing.
One year ago, police uncovered the terror cell after Zschäpe set fire to the apartment where she lived together with Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, who died earlier in an apparent murder-suicide pact. The group is believed to have murdered nine mostly small business owners of Turkish and Greek descent as well as a policewoman. They are also believed to have committed 15 armed robberies over the years to support their life in the underground. Zschäpe herself has been in investigative custody for a year as charges against her were prepared, but she has so far refused to share her version of events with investigators.
The case has been a source of extreme discomfort for German authorities — not only because it has drawn international attention to persistent xenophobia in some parts of society here, but even more so because it has underscored the failures of the country’s security apparatus, particularly the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), a domestic intelligence organization with branches at the state and federal levels that is tasked with monitoring extremist activity in the country.
Syrian violence had already crossed the border into Turkey. Now, following the assassination of Lebanese security chief Wissam al-Hassan, there are fears that Lebanon might be next. German commentators fear that, should protests lead to instability in Beirut, the West might get pulled in as well.
Violence from the conflict in Syria spilled into neighboring Lebanon this weekend, after a Lebanese security chief was killed in a car bomb and his funeral triggered protests against the government in Beirut. Though the violence lasted only hours, it exposed the fault lines in Lebanon that could erupt as the civil war rages in Syria.
On Friday, a car bomb killed eight people including Major General Wissam al-Hassan, a polarizing figure who is associated with Lebanon’s Sunni led anti-Syrian faction. Hassan’s investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri ended up assigning blame to Syria and the Shiite militia Hezbollah, which the US government considers a terrorist organization.
After Hassan’s state funeral on Sunday, opposition protests erupted into violence in Beirut, with protesters accusing Syria of being behind Hassan’s assassination. Protestors say that Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati is too close to the Syrian government, led by autocrat Bashar al-Assad.
Mikati, who assumed power in 2011 and is backed by Hezbollah, denounced Friday’s attack and called for a national day of mourning, but was criticized for failing to make a public appearance. On Saturday, he had originally suggested that he might resign from office, but then announced he would stay in power after all.
Protestors gathered for the funeral in Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square and then moved to the streets in front of the prime minster’s office, calling for him to step down. Security forces fired shots into the air and lobbed tear gas canisters into the crowd. By nightfall, violence had dissipated.
On Monday German newspapers said that it comes as no surprise that Lebanon is now being dragged into the Syrian civil war. They argue that if violence continues, it will only be a matter of time before the West will have to become involved as well.
In my books this decision is simple, unless the leadership has changed completely, then they are, were, and will remain a terrorist organization. Just because they tone it down at convenient times and sometimes pretend to act as interlocutors doesn’t mean they are not terrorists. Once a terrorist, always a terrorist. That doesn’t mean we can’t talk to them, we have with other terror orgs, and if we are to have peace in Afghanistan at some point in the future we are also going to have to talk to the Taliban. I’ve been saying that since 2006 - that doesn’t mean we change their designation however.
UPDATE: Haqqani Network declared Terrorist
The Obama administration faces a weekend deadline to decide whether the Pakistan-based Haqqani network should be declared a terrorist organization, a complicated political decision as the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan and pushes for a reconciliation pact to end more than a decade of warfare.
Enraged by a string of high-profile attacks on U.S. and NATO troops, Congress has ordered Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to give her verdict by Sunday. U.S. officials say there are disagreements within the administration over what to decide.
With a Congressional reporting deadline looming, the Obama administration appears ready to designate the Haqqani network as a terrorist organization, risking a new breach in relations with Pakistan.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and top military officials are said to favor placing sanctions on the network, an insurgent group operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan that is responsible for some of the most spectacular assaults on American bases and Afghan cities in recent years, according to half a dozen current and former administration officials. But a spirited internal debate has American officials, including those at the White House, weighing the consequences that such a decision would have not only on United States-Pakistan relations but also on peace talks with the Taliban and on the fate of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only American soldier known to be held by the insurgents.
And perhaps most important, administration and Congressional officials say, is whether the designation would make any difference in hampering the group’s ability to raise money from wealthy private donors in Persian Gulf countries and other patrons. Several of its leaders have already been designated individually as “global terrorists,” so the issue now is what would be gained by designating the entire organization.
Even though Mrs. Clinton is leaning toward designating the Haqqani network as a terrorist organization, no final decision has been made, the officials said.
Some rebel checkpoints in Syria are currently flying the black flag of al-Qaida. One of the flags is attached to a stick stuck into a tire weighed down with rocks in front of a checkpoint manned by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Aleppo, the country’s largest city. The Islamic creed, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God,” is written in Arabic on the flag.
Even though it is Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, the clean-shaven men at the checkpoint offer the foreign reporter something to drink. Some do not abide by the fasting requirement.
When asked whether they know they are flying the al-Qaida flag, one of the fighters responds: “Of course we know, but is it al-Qaida’s invention? It’s also the flag of the Prophet, and we fly it because we are Muslims and we are waging a holy war.”
Nothing illustrates the gray area between reality and perceptions of the war in Syria more concisely than this flag, which comes in various colors. Sometimes it has white lettering on a black background, and sometimes black lettering on a white background.
Western intelligence agencies report that the al-Qaida network, founded by Osama bin Laden, has “up to 1,500 combatants” participating in the Syrian civil war. In response to an inquiry from the German parliament, the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, stated that, in the first half of 2012, it had counted about 90 attacks “that can be attributed to organizations or jihadist groups affiliated with al-Qaida.” United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is apparently referring to similar analyses when he says that the presence of the terrorist organization in the region has created “very serious problems.”
However, these assessments are based on a small number of sources that are sometimes murky. According to the Washington Post, the CIA didn’t have a single agent in Syria by the end of July but, rather, “only a handful stationed at key border posts.” In contrast to the situation in Libya a year ago, the Americans must now rely on information from the intelligence agencies of Turkey and Jordan.