Friday, September 30, 2011

Al-Awlaki's diatribes came in an American accent

As a student at Colorado State, Anwar Al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda leader who was killed in Yemen today, hardly dabbled in politics, according to fellow students, didn't express extremist views and confined political activism to wearing a T-shirt proclaiming support for the plight of Muslims in Eritrea.

But the 40-year-old Al-Awlaki, who was a U.S. citizen, was either keeping his extremism under wraps, or quickly became radicalized. He changed in only a few years from spouting mild criticism of the United States to becoming a charismatic terrorist leader targeted for assassination by U.S. forces or CIA drones.

After leaving the United States in 2002, he eventually made his way to Yemen and rose to such a level within the ranks of anti-Western Islamic extremism that terrorism experts put him a par with the infamous Osama bin Laden.

USA TODAY's Aamer Madhani recently delved into the background of Al-Awlaki, a fluent English speaker who understood the American mind as well as the American idiom and who was linked to some of al-Qaeda's most notorious terrorist attacks.

In many ways, al-Awlaki had eclipsed bin Laden even before that al-Qaeda leader was killed by U.S. forces in in Pakistan. Some dubbed al-Awlaki "bin Laden of the the Internet" because of his use of the Web to inspire and recruit followers.

While bin Laden kept a low profile, Al-Awlaki has hundreds of sermons on the Internet. Bin Laden's past statements issue threats and orders to Muslims to kill; al-Awlaki's sermons explain to potential followers why the West is evil and are pocked with references to pop culture given in disarming American English.

In one sermon that has been viewed more than 40,000 times on YouTube, al-Awlaki uses an anecdote about the late pop star Michael Jackson to make a point about the inevitability of death and to suggest jihadists should not fear dying for their faith.

In another lecture, he makes the case that the U.S. military's efforts in Bosnia and Kuwait in the 1990s were made under the false pretext of human rights, and the only just war is one fought for Islam. And how to justify the killing of American civilians?

"The American people in their entirety take part in the war, because they've elected this administration and finance this war," al-Awlaki said, alluding to Afghanistan and Iraq wars, in an al-Qaeda video posted recently online.

Al-Awlaki's life began not in a Muslim enclave but in Las Cruces, N.M., a desert town not far from the Mexico border and the White Sands Missile Range. His father had gone there in 1971 from Yemen with his wife to earn a master's degree in agricultural economics at New Mexico State University.

The family lived and worked in the United States until returning to Yemen in 1978, when al-Awlaki was 7. Al-Awlaki lived in Yemen for the next 11 years, during which time his father served as agriculture minister and as president of Sana University, and returned to the United States in 1991.

Terrorism experts say al-Awlaki's fluency in English, credentials as a cleric and his intimate familiarity with American culture allowed him to successfully recruit followers in the USA — something bin Laden has had little success doing.

The FBI had been keeping an eye on al-Awlaki for years, but he didn't become a priority until authorities connected him to Nidal Hassan, the Muslim U.S. Army officer charged with killing 13 people in November at Fort Hood in Texas. Hassan e-mailed al-Awlaki for advice several times before the attack, and al-Awlaki has praised him and called on other Muslim soldiers in the military to carry out similar attacks.

The FBI has since alleged that al-Awlaki is connected to several terrorist plots:

•Al-Awlaki met with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab prior to the Nigerian's alleged attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day 2009. Al-Awlaki said the attempt shows the vulnerability of the American aviation system despite billions of dollars spent to firm up security after the 9/11 attacks.

•Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, admitted to trying to set off a car bomb in New York City's Times Square in May and said he was inspired by al-Awlaki's online lectures.

•Zachary Adam Chesser, a 20-year-old Fairfax, Va., man, was arrested last month on charges of trying to join the Somali Islamic terrorist group al-Shabab. He said he was in touch with al-Awlaki.

•Al-Awlaki also preached to two 9/11 hijackers while serving as the chief cleric of a San Diego mosque in the 1990s, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, which said he helped some of the hijackers get money and apartments.

The Obama administration has not said whether something happened recently to prompt it in April to name al-Awlaki a specially designated global terrorist. Leon Panetta, then director of the CIA, said it was a culmination of things that led the U.S. to view him as a "terrorist who's declared war on the United States." Panetta said in a television interview in June that al-Awlaki was "trying to encourage others to attack this country."

When he returned to the U.S. in 1991, al-Awlaki studied first at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and then spent the next 10 years in Denver, San Diego and the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington before leaving in 2002 for London, where he preached at mosques known for radical ideologies.

Al-Awlaki returned to Yemen in 2004 and was arrested there on kidnapping charges. He was released in 2007 after 18 months in jail. Yemen's Foreign Ministry believes he has been hiding out in his father's ancestral region with a wife and children.

Al-Awlaki's father, Nasser, has pleaded with the government not to target his son. He has allowed the American Civil Liberties Union to file a lawsuit alleging that as a U.S. citizen, al-Awlaki has the right to a trial and killing him would be illegal.

"The power that the administration is claiming is essentially the power to effectively invoke the death penalty without charge, without trial," ACLU Deputy Director Jameel Jaffer said at the time.

Robert Grenier, former director the CIA's counterterrorism center, argued that al-Awlaki should get no special shield while waging war against America abroad. In the U.S., his actions would have warranted trial with constitutional protections, but overseas he was a military enemy like any other, subject to attack.

Although terrorism analysts say that al-Awlaki may not have had the capability to carry out a major attack on U.S. soil as bin Laden orchestrated with the 9/11 attacks, he might have been a greater danger.

"Osama bin Laden thought big and acted big," said Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism expert at Georgetown University, referring to the bombings of U.S. embassies in east Africa, the attack on the USS Cole and 9/11.

Instead, Hoffman says, Al-Awlaki seemed to purse a deliberate strategy of "death by a thousand cuts."

Grenier said al-Awlaki played the role of al-Qaeda's recruiter and motivator whose primary value to the organization was inspiring others to take up jihad and providing them with the religious justifications that many of them seek before engaging in terrorist activity.

The FBI investigated al-Awlaki in 1999 and 2000 after learning that he may have been contacted by a possible procurement agent for bin Laden, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. During that investigation, the FBI learned that al-Awlaki knew individuals from a charitable organization called the Holy Land Foundation that a Dallas jury ruled in 2008 was fundraising for Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist organization that controls Gaza.

The FBI later learned that he preached to two of the 9/11 hijackers —Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar — at the Rabat Mosque in San Diego, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. One witness who was not identified in the report recalled seeing al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar stay in a guest room on the second floor of al-Awlaki's San Diego mosque, the report said.

The hijackers expressed respect for al-Awlaki as a religious figure and may have been close to him, the report said. Al-Hazmi later appeared at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center mosque in Falls Church, Va., where al-Awlaki served as the chief cleric in 2001, according to the 9/11 panel report.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

AFP: Photos reveal party life of Kadhafi son

Photos reveal party life of Kadhafi son

TRIPOLI — Photographs obtained by AFP in Libya reveal how Moamer Kadhafi's son Hannibal and his lingerie model wife lived a high-flying party lifestyle during his father's brutal rule.

In the dozens of photographs, found on a laptop belonging to Kadhafi's son and made available by former Libyan rebels to AFP, Hannibal, 36, and his Lebanese wife Aline Skaff are shown partying in European capitals, on a private jet and on a yacht off the Egyptian coast.

The couple is famed for having provoked diplomatic tensions with Switzerland when they were arrested in 2008 in a luxury hotel in Geneva for allegedly assaulting two former servants.

After the fall of Tripoli last month, an Ethiopian nanny also said she had been beaten and severely burnt while working for the couple.

The undated photographs show the couple on luxurious trips to Paris, Rome and the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. They are shown flying on a private jet, lounging in bathing suits on a luxury yacht and shopping in expensive boutiques.

Other photos show them staying in luxury hotel rooms, para gliding, scuba diving and visiting the Tripoli zoo.

Skaff, 31, is often shown in suggestive poses on beds or at the beach and the couple is shown in some of the photos surrounded with alcohol, which is banned in Libya. Some of the photographs were of a pornographic nature.

The lavish lifestyles of Kadhafi's family and entourage helped fuel the anger in Libya that sparked the protests that led eventually to the former strongman's ouster.

Hannibal was among a group of family members -- including Kadhafi's wife Safiya, son Mohammed and daughter Aisha -- who escaped to neighbouring Algeria after the fall of Tripoli.

Following Hannibal Kadhafi's 2008 arrest in Switzerland, his father's regime demanded that no charges be brought and an "apology" over the allegations that he had assaulted two former servants, a Tunisian and a Moroccan. In September 2008, the court dropped the case.

Hannibal also previously received a four-month suspended sentence and a 500-euro fine for assaulting his pregnant girlfriend in France.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Is Africa a new breeding place for terrorism? | AHN

By ‘Laolu Afolabi


Is Africa becoming a new breeding place for terrorism? How fast is the spread of these terrorist groups in Africa? Who are their sponsors? These questions are relevant as the United States marked earlier this month the 10th anniversary of the destruction of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center.

Terrorism, as being spread by al-Qaeda, has many fraternal groups in Africa, including Al-Shabaab and the Union of Islamic Courts, which are predominantly in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Somalia and Sudan are also a good breeding place for these terrorist groups. Another group, Boko Haram, is on the rampage in Nigeria.

All these terrorist groups have one thing in common. Their leaderships claim to be seeking to create states governed strictly by their conception of Islamic law and to remove infidels, either of their countries or other Western powers. They attack whatever institution they consider to be betraying Islamic beliefs. They are responsible for bombing of embassies of Western countries in foreign lands, especially the U.S., as happened in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

After the attack on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, the country established a group to curtail terrorism in Africa. PSI, as it was called, was established in 2002. It was the first step by the U.S. to address terrorism in Africa, with the belief that the continent was a breeding place. The outfit began training in Mali, Mauritania and Chad. It later extended to Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Nigeria and Tunisia. It was, however, discovered that some of these countries had, in one way or another, sponsored the activities of terrorist groups and allowed them to operate unhindered, before it boomeranged on 9/11.

The trend has crept in surreptitiously and is affecting the hitherto peaceful atmosphere in Africa, nay some of its countries. There is the fear of bombing by terrorists all over the continent, as nowhere seems to be safe. The recent onslaught by the rebel forces on the government of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi has been said to be one of the reasons terrorism has spread in the continent, especially to countries with strong affiliation to the Western powers, including the United States.

Bombing, much less terrorism, was alien to the Nigerian state before the 1990s. With militancy dying down in the Niger Delta, another uprising has begun in Jos, Plateau State. It was first thought to be religious rioting, but it has since been discovered that it is more ethnic. However, Jos town, as it is now, is not a safe haven. It is has been the scene of repeated bombing and killings. Recently, some of the members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), fresh graduates from Nigerian universities and polytechnics who were to undergo a mandatory one-year national service, were killed during the mayhem in Jos. They died in active service, unable to fulfill their dreams of many years. Just a few days ago, another bombing took place in the town, leaving so many people dead. Bomb blasts in Jos are no longer news as the numbers of casualties from the crisis swell every day. No particular group has yet claimed responsibility for the crisis in Jos.

Now, to the north of Plateau, Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, has also become a bombing ground. Islamic religious sect Boko Haram is terrorizing the state almost on a daily basis. It has been reported that the state was infiltrated by agents of al-Qaeda, as the use of suicide bombers was rampant, a new dimension to bombing in Nigeria. The sect, which has as part of its conditions for cessation of attacks the withdrawal of Western education and services from the country by the federal government, had made a mess of the security apparatus in the country. To send a signal to the federal government about their operations, members of the sect were reported to have burnt a police station and killed policemen on duty at a police headquarters in the state. Not satisfied with this, they went on to burn churches and killed members of the NYSC serving in the state. As if this was not enough, bombs were thrown into churches during services, killing several people and leaving many others wounded.

As part of their expansionist agenda, members of the sect launched an attack on the headquarters of the Nigerian police in Abuja. It was reported that a suicide bomber drove into the premises of the police headquarters and detonated a bomb. The building went up in flame, while the security man who was accosting the suicide bomber was torn into thread. The next day, the Islamic sect claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that they even targeted the Inspector General of Police, the police head in the country, in the attack. His sin, according to members of the sect, was that he came to Borno State and declared war on Boko Haram, saying that their days are numbered in the state.

Another bizarre incident for which the group claimed responsibility is the recent bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Abuja. It was a diplomatic mission house, with many members of staff from various countries working for the organization in Nigeria. The attack painted the country black, making it look as if Nigeria is a terrorist state. The number of casualties and those wounded during the attack rose by the day.

‘Laolu Afolabi is a Nigerian journalist. He can be reached at

Read more:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ethiopia Bombs Itself, Blames Eritrea » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Wikileaks' Ethiopia Files

Ethiopia Bombs Itself, Blames Eritrea


Recently released Wikileaks Ethiopia files expose how Ethiopian security forces planted 3 bombs that went off in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on September 16, 2006 and then blamed Eritrea and the Oromo resistance for the blasts in a case that raises serious questions about the claims made about the bombing attempt against the African Union summit earlier this year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In a report from 2006 marked “Secret ; Subject: Ethiopia: Recent Bombings Blamed on Oromos Possibly the Work of GOE [Government of Ethiopia]…by: Charge [d’Affairs] Vicki Huddleston”, “An embassy source, as well as clandestine reporting, suggests that the bombing may have in fact been the work of the GoE security forces.” Cable reference id: #06ADDISABABA2708

At the time the western media reported the Ethiopian National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) claims that the bombs were “part of a coordinated terror attack by the OLF [Oromo Liberation Front, the oldest national liberation movement in Ethiopia] and Sha’abiya (Eritrea) aimed at disrupting democratic development”.

The Wikileaks report goes on, “a typically reliable information source), contacted Post to report that” the bodies of three men found at the bomb sites were “men [who] had been picked up by police a week prior, kept in detention and tortured. He said police then left the men in a house and detonated explosives nearby, killing 3 of them.”

This exposes the history of how the Ethiopian regime has planted bombs and then blamed Eritrea and the Ethiopian resistance. The lies that make up the official version of this alleged terrorist attack raises serious questions about the credibility of the recently released report by the UN via its US State Department affiliate, the Monitoring Group for Eritrea and Somalia which blames the Eritreans and the OLF for the January bombing attempt at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Identical lies about a nearly identical “terrorist attack”, all accepted as fact by the western media. This should also deliver another body blow to the Obama White House and its claims that Eritrea supports terrorism in the Horn of Africa.

So once again the bellowing against Eritrea by the USA and it lackeys at the UN going back to 2006 is exposed as complete bunkum and an identical frame up of Eritrean and the Oromo resistance in Ethiopia that has been regurgitated by the UN and its truth challenged Monitoring Group on Eritrea and Somalia must be subject to a more critical scrutiny. Based on this expose’ it can only be hoped that the UN inSecurity Council, which has yet to decide whether to pass severe sanctions against Eritrea, will refrain from doing so.

Thomas C. Mountain is the only independent western journalist in the Horn of Africa, living and reporting from Eritrea since 2006. He can be reached at thomascmountain at yahoo dot com.

Somalia ,Anchor David Muir Returns to Africa ABC News to Report on the Worsening Humanitarian Crisis - ABC News

abc david muir somalia dm 110914 wblog ABC News Anchor David Muir Returns to Africa to Report on the Worsening Humanitarian Crisis

David Muir returns to Somalia to report on the famine and worsening humanitarian crisis there.

ABC News Continues its Reporting “A Cry For Help: Disaster in the Desert” Across Broadcasts and Platforms

ABC News weekend anchor David Muir is back in Somalia this week to report on the worsening humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa. The famine there has worsened significantly over the past several weeks and now one more nightmare faces the population and aid workers – a growing measles epidemic among children. The U.N. has said that the famine is killing more than a hundred children each day in Somalia. Muir traveled to Kenya and Somalia earlier this summer. He was the first American correspondent to report on the famine from inside Somalia.

During this trip, Muir will be visiting a hospital and a pair of UNHCR camps treating those who’ve fled the famine zones. In addition, he will travel with the African troops charged with ensuring the safety of food and aid deliveries and spend time with UNICEF on the front lines of this crisis in both Somalia and Kenya. Reports will air on “World News with Diane Sawyer,” “Good Morning America,” and “Nightline.”

Viewers can find out how they can help the refugees in Somalia by or

Muir filed the following report on Tuesday, September 13 from Somalia for “ABC World News” — see video below.

A shipping container kind of faith | Eternity

Kaley Payne

As we sit in an African restaurant I can’t help but think it a slightly incongruous setting. Sitting opposite is a woman who just three years ago fled severe persecution in Eritrea.

While we eat our injera she talks about her experience through an interpreter. Before answering my first question, she asks to pray. And so, our heads bowed in the midst of meal orders, deliveries and menu queries, I get a taste of the extraordinary character and uncompromising faith of Helen Berhane.

Helen Berhane spent some time in Australia in August, travelling with Open Doors Australia, an organisation helping to raise awareness of the persecuted church around the world. She visited churches across the country, speaking to other Christians about her experience in Eritrea. She has also written

her autobiography, a powerful account of the persecution she faced as a vocal Christian in a country that ranks eleventh on Open Doors’ World Watch List for the most dangerous places for Christians.

Helen can only be called a serial evangeliser. A member of the banned Rhema Church – a minority evangelical church in Eritrea -

Helen was well known to Eritrean authorities and frequently imprisoned for preaching the gospel in the country’s capital, Asmara.

“The police would capture me and ask ‘when are you going to stop this?’” said Helen.

“They all knew me and I would come in and out of prison. When I would arrive, the other inmates would say ‘Helen’s back! Welcome!’” But after releasing a recording of her gospel music, Helen faced her toughest trial.

Separated from her young daughter and taken to the notorious Mai Serwa military camp, she was imprisoned for almost two years, spending much of that time in a shipping container masquerading as a prison cell.

In her book, Helen describes the cell: “The container was no more than twenty feet long, so we were packed closely together. There were eighteen of us inside. We were given a bucket as a toilet and allowed out once a day to empty it,” she said. Yet even in the rancid conditions of her imprisonment, Helen sang. She speaks of her desire to praise God despite her circumstances.

“Even though we were in a dark situation, we could not suppress the word of God. We praised God in spite of the fleas, the lice and the heat. We could not be prevented from singing – even in captivity.”

But singing praises to God meant severe punishment for Helen and the other women who joined her in worship. Helen is reluctant to describe in detail the torture that came as a result of her stubbornness in Christ.

“They would handcuff me and fasten my ankles together too tight so the pain was excruciating. They left us there the whole night – I was in too much pain to sleep. I concentrated on the stars, because if I let myself think of my legs the pain became unbearable.”

Helen and the other prisoners were frequently promised release if they signed a document declaring they would no longer preach. But Helen refused, instead looking for ways to continue to share her faith in captivity.

It was Helen’s Christian witness that forced the guards to separate her from the other prisoners. She spent four months in solitary confinement. After a severe beating for being discovered writing Bible studies for another prisoner, Helen was taken to hospital with fears she would never walk again. From there, Helen’s family helped her flee to Sudan. “It was a miracle – I felt the hand of God on my situation. By his grace, I was free.”

Evan Peet, National Development Manager at Open Doors Australia, said Australian Christians could learn from people like Helen.

“For Western society, it’s so easy to view faith as something that ‘works for us’, and that is constantly changing,” he said. “But for Helen, faith is steadfast, the foundation she is

built on. People like Helen do anything to live out their faith. Yet here, too many of us don’t go to church when it rains.”

Mr Peet says bringing Helen Berhane, and others like her, to Australia, is mutually beneficial.

“We want people to pray, support, give – to be aware of what’s happening to Christians overseas and advocate for them through government. That’s what we can do for them. But they have so much to offer us too.”

Now living in Denmark after being granted asylum, Helen is humble about her experience.

“As I see it, what I’ve gone through isn’t that much at all. You might think that because of all the things I’ve faced, that I am strong. But there are so many others that have walked where I have walked, and there is so much I still have to learn,” she said.

‘Song of the Nightingale’ by Helen Berhane with Emma Newrick is published by Authentic.