Archive for the ‘Terrorism Monitor’ Category

My latest for the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor, this time looking in some detail at the disrupted plot in the U.S. from late last year around the Afghan Najibullah Zazi. The particular focus here is on the ever-elusive Rashid Rauf who in recently published U.S. court documents was identified as a key Al Qaeda contact. While it seems as though he might now be dead, though no-one seems absolutely sure, he continues to pop up, a sort of ghost in the machine.

Rashid Rauf and the New York City Subway Bombing Plot

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 18

May 7, 2010 11:31 AM

By: Raffaello Pantucci

As security agencies pursue ethnic Pakistani suspects in the attempted Times Square bombing, another New York City bomb plot with connections to Pakistan and the U.K. is working its way through U.S. courts. The case involves an aborted attempt by natives of Pakistan and Afghanistan to mount suicide attacks on the New York subway system in September 2009 to mark the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

In November 2009, British newspapers broke the story that counterterrorism officers had been responsible for the intelligence that had alerted the FBI to the cell around Afghan immigrant Najibullah Zazi, the plot’s main conspirator. New Scotland Yard officers watching an email account connected to an investigation codenamed “Operation Pathway” noticed some new traffic in September that apparently provided instructions for a New York bomb plot and passed the lead onto their American counterparts (Telegraph, November 9, 2009). The tip provided American agents with a crucial break in the Zazi plot, and led to a series of arrests, followed by admissions of guilt from both Zazi and co-conspirator Zarein Ahmedzay related to an attempt to carry out a bombing campaign in New York City (alongside a third suspect, Adis Medunjanin) on September 14, 15 or 16, 2009. [1]

That the link came from the United Kingdom has in retrospect proved to be somewhat appropriate, given the centrality in the plot of Rashid Rauf, the mysterious British-born ethnic-Pakistani who has been repeatedly referred to as a key operative in a series of plots targeting the West. According to prosecutors, the suspects met with Rashid Rauf and al-Qaeda operative Saleh al-Somali in Pakistan in August, 2008. The suspects allegedly told Rauf and al-Somali that they wished to fight in Afghanistan, but as holders of U.S. resident’s documents, the al-Qaeda operatives suggested it would be more valuable if they were to return to America to carry out mass casualty attacks in New York City (Daily Times [Lahore], April 24; Indo-Asian News Service, April 24). Saleh al-Somali is believed to have been killed in a December, 2009 missile attack by a CIA-operated drone   (Dawn [Karachi], December 13, 2009). Rashid Rauf was similarly said to have been killed in a November, 2008 drone attack, but his death has never been confirmed and remains a subject of dispute (Guardian, November 25, 2008, September 8, 2009; Asia Times Online, August 11, 2009; Telegraph, September 10, 2009).

Rauf first came to notice in the wake of the August 2006 Transatlantic Airline plot in which a group of British nationals plotted to bring down eight or more airliners on transatlantic routes. After the plot was disrupted by British security services, Rauf was identified as one of the main planners. [2] Since then, Rauf has been connected to the July 7 and 21, 2005 plots against London’s public transport system. More recently, he was the alleged contact for a 2008 plot in which British security services believe a group of individuals were sent from Pakistan to carry out a terrorist plot in the U.K. (Telegraph, September 8, 2009). [3]

In September 2008, Pakistani forces intercepted Bryant Neal Vinas, an American-Hispanic convert to Islam who had trained at al-Qaeda camps and fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. Vinas revealed he had been in contact with Rauf and may have ultimately been the source for information which led to his possible death by a Predator strike. It would also appear as though information from Vinas may have set events in motion that led to the discovery of the New York City subway plot. In December 2008, Belgian police arrested a group of individuals around Malika al-Aroud, the former wife of one of the men who killed Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud in 2001 (Radio Télévision Belge Francophone, December 11, 2008). Vinas admitted having met some of these individuals at al-Qaeda training camps. An informer amongst this group warned investigators that Rauf had dispatched a number of cells throughout the West. This led in the first instance to Operation Pathway, and later to the New York City plot (Sunday Times, April 12, 2009).

According to information released after Ahmedzay’s admission of guilt, Ahmedzay, Zazi, Medunjanin and a fourth conspirator (arrested in Pakistan in April, but as of yet unnamed) went to Pakistan in August 2008 (AFP, April 12). After being advised to carry out attacks in New York, the men underwent further training in Waziristan and discussed possible targets with al-Qaeda leaders. By July, 2009 they had returned to the United States and procured the necessary elements from beauty supply stores to build hydrogen peroxide-based bombs, similar to those used in the July 7, 2005 London bombings. By early September of the same year they were ready to carry out suicide operations. However, upon arriving in New York for the final stages, Zazi was alerted by a New York-based Afghan immigrant imam (Ahamad Wais Afzali) that he was under police surveillance (AFP, April 15). Realizing the FBI was alert to his activities Zazi quickly left the city to return to Denver. Soon afterwards, the FBI swooped in and the cell was rapidly rolled up. The revelations linked to Ahmedzay’s confession show how close they had come to carrying out a major terrorist attack. [4]


1. Department of Justice Press Release, April 23, 2010,

2. For the ringleaders,; and for the support group:

3. See also Lord Carlile’s report:

4. Department of Justice Press Release, April 23, 2010,

New piece for Jamestown covering the proscription of the Shabaab in the UK and Canada. I am working on a much larger piece about this topic, but it is likely to be a while before that lands. Any tips in the meantime of course appreciated.

Al-Shabaab Proscribed in Canada and the United Kingdom

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 11

By: Raffaello Pantucci

In the first week of March, the British and Canadian governments both added the Somali al-Shabaab group to their respective list of proscribed terror groups. [1] The decisions mean that it will now be illegal to fundraise or support al-Shabaab in both nations, while Canadian Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews specified, “The Government is taking this step to help protect Canadian families from the activities of this organization. The Government received reports from the Somali community that al-Shabaab has attempted to radicalize and recruit young Canadians. The listing of al-Shabaab will help the Government of Canada to better support the Somali community of Canada.” [2]

The respective decisions follow previous proscriptions in Australia, Norway, Sweden and the United States. They reflect a growing trepidation amongst Western governments regarding the growing threat from the Somali group – in particular their ability to attract young men with local passports to their cause and the movement’s growing regional assertiveness. Furthermore, reports indicate that the group appears to be increasingly attracting fighters from the Somali diaspora and other sources in the West (Independent on Sunday, September 13, 2009; see Terrorism Monitor, January 14).

For Canada and the United Kingdom in particular, the decision to proscribe follows a series of stories indicating that steady streams of young men are going abroad to fight in East Africa. In autumn 2009, a group of six young Somalis disappeared from their local community in Toronto, with reports suggesting they had ended up fighting in Somalia (National Post, December 12, 2009). A report from earlier in the year in the U.K. indicated that most recently “almost a dozen” British Muslims had left the U.K. to join the Shabaab in Somalia, including some students from the prestigious London School of Economics and King’s College London (Sunday Times, January 24).

Furthermore, plots have emerged from the Somali diaspora community in both nations; at least two of the attempted bombers and a substantial number of the support network involved in the July 21, 2005 plot to attack London’s public transport system were of Somali extraction. In Canada, two Somalis were among the 18 suspects arrested for planning a series of bombings and assassinations in Toronto and Ottawa (National Post [Toronto], June 5, 2006; September 21, 2009; see also Terrorism Focus, June 6, 2006). [3] However, in neither case was the al-Shabaab group implicated in any way, nor was Somalia a feature on the broad canvas offered by each plot. Rather, individuals from the diaspora were drawn into plots fostered by local networks to prepare for large-scale domestic attacks.

More recently, however, there has been a greater law-enforcement focus on Shabaab. Aside from the Toronto cells, the RCMP and FBI ramped up their efforts after an informant told overseas U.S. embassy staff that a group of Somalis had crossed the border from Canada with the intention of launching an attack on President Obama’s inauguration ceremony. The information proved to be a hoax, but it highlighted the reality of security concerns (CanWest News Service, February 4). [4] In the U.K., on the other hand, the government attempted to shut down what it believed was an al-Shabaab fundraising and support network last year, though the case against the two Somali-Britons did not stand up in court (Press Association, July 28, 2009).

Beyond this, there is a clear sense of growing trepidation surrounding Somalia’s al-Shabaab; its decision to formalize the connection to the Ras Kamboni group, the declaration of allegiance to al-Qaeda and its connection to al-Qaeda operative Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan (killed by a U.S. Special Forces raid in September 2009 while helping train Shabaab fighters), all point to a strengthening network (for Ras Kamboni, see Shabelle Media Network, February 1; Garowe Online, February 2; Terrorism Monitor, February 10). Its influence can increasingly be seen abroad; examples include an alleged plot to target Secretary of State Hilary Clinton when she was visiting neighboring Kenya in August 2009, the recruitment of Somali youths in Minneapolis, the attempted assassination of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and an alleged plot to attack a military base in Melbourne (see Terrorism Monitor, January 14; Terrorism Monitor, September 10, 2009).

Reaction from Somalia to the terrorist designations was swift; al-Shabaab spokesman Ahmad Dayib Mursal held a press conference in Mogadishu to announce the group was “saddened” by the British decision (Holy Koran Radio [Mogadishu], March 2). Senior al-Shabaab spokesman Shaykh Ali Mahmud Raage (a.k.a. Shaykh Ali Dheere) condemned the Canadian and British designations, claiming some Western nations were trying to find ways of looting the properties of Somali Muslims living in their countries (Radio Simba [Mogadishu], March 8). More favorable reaction came from the deputy prime minister of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, Professor Abdirahman Haji Adan Ibi, who welcomed the British decision (Shabelle Media Network, March 4).

As of yet, no major plots appear to have been hatched in the West drawing specifically on this network and direction from Somalia. However, given previous experiences of threats emerging from radicals with Western passports associated with groups fighting abroad, as well as the rather abrupt shift from the near enemy to the far enemy by the previously regionally-focused al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al-Shabaab is clearly a threat that needs to be watched with some care. The respective proscriptions give British and Canadian authorities further legislative tools to deal with this threat.


1. For the complete British order effective from March 4, 2010, please; and the Canadian announcement, effective March

2. “The Government of Canada lists Al-Shabaab as a terrorist organization,” Ministry of Public Safety Press Release, March 7, 2010,

3. Of the “Toronto 18,” seven suspects have pled guilty or been convicted, seven have had their charges stayed and three remain to be tried.

4. The alleged plot was first described in Martha Joynt Kumar, “The 2008-2009 presidential transitions through the voices of its participants,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 39(4), December 1, 2009

My latest for the Jamestown Terrorism Monitor, looking at a different aspect of the legal problems that the British government is having with some of the cases they are pursuing in the courts. This looks in particular at the case against Mohammed Atif Siddique who was recently released in Scotland, and went on to do a series of awkward interviews.

U.K. Prosecutors Lose a Legal Option in Preventing Terrorism

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 8

February 26, 2010 10:22 AM Age: 14 hrs

On January 29, 2010 an appellate court in Scotland declared it was quashing a terrorism charge against 24-year old Mohammed Atif Siddique, the first person to be convicted on charges related to Islamist terrorism in Scotland. [1] Initially convicted on charges of disorderly conduct, setting up websites to disseminate extremist material, disseminating extremist material, and possessing items related to terrorism, the appeals court concluded that the conviction on the last of these charges was unsound, resulting in a “miscarriage of justice.” Siddique has at this point already served four years which the Crown Prosecution Service considered sufficient to cover the other charges and he was released on February 9 (BBC, February 10).

Reporting on the case naturally centered around the “miscarriage of justice,” though reports also pointed out that the convictions still stood on the other two terrorism-related charges and the disorderly conduct charge (Times, January 29; BBC, February 10; UK Press Association, February 9). In a series of interviews after his release, Siddique was unable to provide much explanation for the actions which led to his initial convictions, beyond that he was a “numpty” (a Scottish pejorative for a foolish person), and that he was bored and trying to find out “the other side of the story” (BBC Radio 5 Live, February 10; Scotsman, February 11). His justification for providing links to extremist material was that it was all “freely available” on the internet (he claimed to have obtained some of his material from the Israeli-based website run by Reuven Paz, former head of the Mossad research department) and that anyway, it was all in Arabic, a language he didn’t understand (BBC, February 10). He further dismissed statements he had made that he was planning to become a suicide bomber, by pointing out that he had also claimed to have met with Osama bin Laden – painting himself as a naïf eager to impress others (BBC, February 10). Siddique suggested he was a victim of racism and bad timing. “Had a white person downloaded this stuff, there would have been no prosecution… My trial came at a time when there was a lot of hostility – the Glasgow Airport attacks had just happened, my trial finished on the anniversary of 9/11″ (The Scotsman, February 11).

The reason for the decision to quash the conviction was based around a failure by the trial judge to instruct the jury that it had to be sure that the items Siddique possessed were intended for use in a terrorist act, according to section 57 of the Terrorism Act 2000:

“A person commits an offence if he possesses an article in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that his possession is for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism. [2]”

According to section 57, the jury must be sure that the intended possession of terrorism-related material is under “circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion” that they were part of a terrorist plot.  By failing to indicate this crucial point, the judge “misdirected” the jury, rendering their conclusion unsound. [3]

The case is not, however, without precedent. Siddique was part of an online sub-culture of individuals involved in At-Tibyan publications and their related websites. Individuals involved in this network, including Aabid Khan and Younis Tsouli are currently incarcerated on terrorism charges, while a separate group, mostly from Bradford, was released under circumstances similar to Siddique’s in February 2008. [4] In that case, the appeals judge concluded that the jury had been equally misdirected about the specific nature of the charges connected to Section 57 and that it was unclear whether the materials the suspects possessed were linked to planned terrorist acts. [5] The men were allegedly planning to join the mujahideen in fighting NATO forces in Afghanistan; Siddique was initially stopped after he attempted to board a flight going to Pakistan, claiming he was going to visit an uncle’s farm.

Later in 2008, Samina Malik, the self-described “Lyrical Terrorist” was cleared of a conviction under section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (which states that “a person commits an offense if: they “collect” or “possess” “information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”). The conviction was overturned after the appeals judge concluded that it was too intertwined with the Section 57 charge of which she had already been cleared. [6]

The key prosecution charge in all of the aforementioned cases came under Section 57; the individuals involved possessed substantial volumes of radical material they had obtained online and were using in furtherance of terrorist plots. While all (aside from Samina Malik) were initially convicted on this charge, the government’s case was undermined on appeal by nature of the wording used in court around the charge, something which highlights the difficulty in bringing a conviction based on possession of extremist material as the main charge. The point is that the individuals were not caught in possession of weaponry or other clearly bellicose accoutrements, but rather online tracts and handbooks which, when taken in conjunction with other evidence, amounted  to, in the prosecution’s view, tangible evidence that a terrorist conspiracy was afoot. The defense instead painted these materials as merely evidence of youthful curiosity.

In all of the cases, other factors would appear to support the accusation that something suspicious was occurring: Mohammed Atif Siddique was initially interdicted as he attempted to board a plane to Pakistan, something he may have been inspired to do after online conversations with Aabid Khan (BBC, August 18, 2008). The Bradford group gathered with the alleged intention of going abroad to fight, and Samina Malik was passing information on Heathrow security to Sohail Qureishi, a dental technician who was arrested before ever reaching Afghanistan, where he had intended to fight. But in all three cases, the wording of the legislation resulted in a successful appeal mounted by the defense against the initial conviction.

Mohammed Atif Siddique is now likely to return to life as a young man in Scotland; but the implications of his release are hard to gauge. The government has faced criticism in the past over the heavy burden placed upon defendants to prove they are innocent under section 57 and has tried to soften this with later amendments to legislation. But more specifically, the problem of proving whether extremist material that is often widely available is going to be used in pursuit of a terrorist action is something that presents an ongoing problem for British authorities. In one recent case, an individual was picked up after gathering materials during the course of post-graduate research, and was later released with no charges against him. This was a public relations disaster, with the student’s professor declaring that he was no longer going to teach terrorism courses for fear that his students may be detained (Guardian, February 5). In another case, two individuals pled guilty to charges of possessing and disseminating terrorist material, though it was unclear whether they were involved in any direct plotting of attacks (Halifax Courier [UK], December 18, 2007).

With the threat of terrorism and radicalization in the U.K. remaining very real, the government continues to seek ways to intercept individuals before they move too far down the road to action. It increasingly appears that conviction on the basis of possession of extremist material is no longer an available measure.


1. The complete court judgment can be found at:
2. The complete Act can be found at:
4. For more on the Khan/Tsouli network, please see Raffaello Pantucci “Operation Praline: The Realization of Al Suri’s Nizam, la tanzim?,” Perspectives on Terrorism, vol.2, no.12, November , 2008; and Evan Kohlmann, “Anatomy of a Modern Homegrown Terror Cell: Aabid Khan et al. (Operation Praline),” September 2008,  – others from this network have also been incarcerated elsewhere around the globe.
5. Regina vs. Zafar & Ors, before Supreme Court of Judicature, Court of Appeal, handed down February 13, 2008.
6. Regina vs. Samina Hussain Malik, before Court of Appeal, handed down June 17, 2008.

Another piece on the Al Muhajiroun ban, this time for Jamestown looking in some detail at the rationale behind the ban and a bit of history about the group. Title a little long, though I have a feeling this will be a piece that I can reuse in a few years when we go through this process again…[tt_news]=35936

Ban on U.K. Radical Islamist Group al-Muhajiroun Raises Free Speech Questions

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 3
January 21, 2010 02:53 PM Age: 3 hrs
Category: Terrorism Monitor, Global Terrorism Analysis, Home Page, Terrorism, Europe, Featured
Members of Islam4UK at a press conference in London after it was announced that the group would be banned.

The British Home Office finally proscribed the radical Islamist organization al-Muhajiroun (The Emigrants) and a number of its successor organizations on January 14. The ban included the best-known offshoot of al-Muhajiroun, Islam4UK. Described by the Home Office as a sort of “cleaning up” following the proscription in July 2006 of two predecessor organizations, al-Ghurabaa (The Strangers) and the Saved Sect, the order awakened a heated debate in the United Kingdom about whether the government was taking responsible security measures or criminalizing dissent and persecuting Muslims. U.K. Home Secretary Alan Johnston cited al-Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect in his defense of the proscription of al-Muhajiroun in a letter to the Guardian, which had been critical of the move:

“Prior to its proscription in 2006, those two organizations called for readers of its websites to “kill those who insult the prophet,” praised the terrorist actions of Osama bin Laden, and advised that it was forbidden to visit Palestine “unless you engage in the main duty of that place, i.e. jihad.” These are not views that are merely provocative – they are designed to encourage violence and legitimize violent acts in the name of religion. They are vehemently opposed by the vast majority of Muslims.”

More about the Western-Somali connection for Jamestown, this time exploring the Denmark-Somalia connection in some detail. I have touched upon this briefly before, and more generally on Shabaab’s internationalization for ASPI and a couple for Jamestown (the Melbourne group, Operation Neath; and the Minneapolis group). Separately, am working on something with some friends trying to understand the phenomenon globally, so would welcome any other thoughts or stories people come across on this topic. (oh and to those who don’t know it, Esther’s blog is an excellent resource for translated material).[tt_news]=35909

East African Terrorism Comes to Scandinavia

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 2
January 14, 2010 02:09 PM Age: 3 hrs
Category: Terrorism Monitor, Global Terrorism Analysis, Home Page, Terrorism, Africa, Europe
The Somali man who attacked Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard is carried to court on a stretcher.

In a scene right out of the cinema, a young Somali man armed with an axe and a knife came crashing through the door of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard’s Aarhus house late on January 1. Hitting a panic button specially installed in the house, Mr Westergaard was barely able to scramble with his five-year old granddaughter to his safe room while security services raced to the scene. Hearing police arrive, the young man turned to confront them, bellowing “I’ll be back” in broken Danish before being shot in the arm and leg by police.

This is the first time that Islamists seeking revenge for the infamous “Muhammad cartoons” have been able to take revenge in the West. Previous bombing plots were broken up in Denmark in September 2006 and September 2007, with convictions resulting in both cases, and prosecutors claiming that the cartoons were definitely the motivation for the plotters in the second of the two cases (AP, August 11, 2008). In July 2008, two Tunisian men were picked up by Danish police in Aarhus as part of an alleged plot targeting Westergaard, though charges did not stick. In the end, one man was deported and the other released (AP, January 2). Late last year, the FBI arrested David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana on charges (amongst others) that they were planning a terror attack on the “facilities and employees of Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten.” [1] Jyllands-Posten was the newspaper that first published the cartoons while Kurt Westergaard is the most prominent of a group of 12 cartoonists who accepted the editor’s challenge to depict images they associated with the Prophet Muhammad. In hiding until last year, Mr Westergaard announced that he was emerging from seclusion as he was “too old to be afraid” and he wanted to play his part in defending “democratic values” (BBC, April 5, 2009).

American Jihad

Posted: December 4, 2009 in Terrorism Monitor
Tags: , , , ,

My latest for Jamestown, this time looking at the new revelations around the group in Minneapolis (and interestingly a parallel group that appears to be popping up in Canada). Am still trying to track down some of the court documents, so if anyone comes across any more, I would be hugely appreciative.

American Jihad: New Details Emerge About al-Shabaab Recruitment in North America

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 37
December 3, 2009
Mahmoud Said Omar, an arrested member of a group of Minneapolis natives that allegedly sent recruits to fight with al-Shabaab in Somalia.

On November 23, federal prosecutors in the United States unsealed indictments against members of a group of Minneapolis natives accused of being at the heart of a cell sending men and boys to fight with al-Shabaab, a radical Islamist movement in Somalia with close ties to al-Qaeda. [1] The unsealing of the documents came in the wake of the arrest of one of the members of the group, Mahamud Said Omar in the Netherlands, and the possible discovery of a similar cell operating out of Toronto (AP, November 10; National Post [Toronto], November 21).

More for Jamestown Foundation on the case of Adelene Hicheur, the French-Algerian chap who worked on the infamous Large Hadyron Collider and was apparently in contact with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. A strange case in which all the details are not clear, and will unlikely be clear any time soon, though it remains unclear that this was really part of some kind of nuclear powered Al Qaeda plot.[tt_news]=35673

Al Qaeda’s Nuclear Scientist? The Case of Adlene Hicheur

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 32

October 30, 2009 09:02 AM Age: 1 days

Category: Terrorism Monitor, Global Terrorism Analysis, Home Page, Terrorism, Europe, Featured

By: Raffaello Pantucci

Amidst much furor, French anti-terrorism judge Christophe Tessier announced that year-old Algerian-French scientist Dr. Adlene Hicheur had been brought up on charges of “association with terrorists” on October 12. Allegedly in contact with al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Dr. Hicheur was arrested with his 25-year old brother (later released) in Vienne, France on October 8 after an 18-month investigation headed by France’s internal security service, the Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur (Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence – DCRI) (Le Monde, October 14).

My latest for Jamestown, this time looking once again at the German Jihad and particularly its new rising star Bekkay Harrach. While the elections seem to have passed without a hitch, his threat still holds and we shall see if he has something to push through.

Still having to access this through awkward means, so apologies for the fact that this one and the last are both printed as one long text. Hoping to be able to fix this in the next week or so.

Bekkay Harrach: The Face of German Terror
Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 30
October 1, 2009
By: Raffaello Pantucci

Germany’s federal elections passed without incident on September 27, though they took place against a backdrop of intense concern in the German security services about a growing number of increasingly pointed al-Qaeda videos threatening Germany over its military deployment in Afghanistan. These messages included a videotape from Osama bin Laden on September 25, entitled “To the Peoples of Europe.” The video had English and German subtitles along with footage of German cities and monuments (Al-Fajr Media Center, September 25). The message appeared only two days before the German elections. Germany has 4,200 troops in northern Afghanistan, where they have come under more frequent attack in the last year as the Taliban insurgency spreads.

While the message from bin Laden is alarming, it appeared to only incidentally target Germany, without the terrorist leader naming it specifically. A more direct threat came from a series of videos released by Bekkay Harrach (a.k.a. Abu Talha al-Alamani), a Moroccan-born German citizen who has joined al-Qaeda in the Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier region.


My latest for Jamestown, this time exploring the intricacies of what happened in Melbourne earlier this year in the alleged plot with links to Shabab. It seems as though some of the men may have been to train with the group, though it does not look like it was necessarily an externally directed plot. I suppose more clarity will come out in due course. Keep an eye on this space for a more detailed look at this and how it fits into other apparently Shabab linked groups around the world soon.

Did Somalia’s al-Shabaab Plan to Attack the Australian Military?
Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 27
September 10, 2009 06:04 PM Age: 3 days
Category: Terrorism Monitor, Global Terrorism Analysis, Home Page, Terrorism, Africa
By: Raffaello Pantucci

Operation Neath, one of the largest counterterrorism operations in Australian history, culminated in a series of early morning raids in Melbourne on August 4. The four men arrested were all Australian citizens of Lebanese or Somali descent and apparently part of a larger group of 18 individuals under observation by police (The Australian, August 4). In a press conference on the day of the arrests, police laid out their central charge that the men were “planning to carry out a suicide terrorist attack” on an Australian military base using “automatic weapons” in “a sustained attack on military personnel until they themselves were killed.” According to police, some individuals in the plot had been to and presumably trained in Somalia, and had sought a “fatwa” (religious ruling) that would authorize them to carry out attacks in Australia. [1]


Another piece looking in greater detail at the Isa Ibrahim case – am hoping to build this all into something bigger looking at lone wolf terrorism in the UK. Any thoughts or comments or pointers very welcome.

Britain Jails “Lone Wolf” Terrorist Isa Ibrahim

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 23
July 30, 2009
Category: Terrorism Monitor, Home Page, Terrorism, Europe
By: Raffaello Pantucci

A jury at Winchester Crown Court in the U.K. returned a guilty verdict on July 17 in the case against “lone wolf” terrorist Andrew “Isa” Ibrahim, a 20 year-old British citizen accused of plotting a suicide bombing at a mall in Bristol, a large city west of London. Accused of “making an explosive substance with intent,” “preparation of a terrorist act” and having already pled guilty to “making an explosive substance,” Ibrahim was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to 10 years of incarceration (Crown Prosecution Service News, July 17; Bristol Evening News, July 17).