What’s really behind Trump’s laptop ban

Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia, detonated a laptop bomb on this Daallo Airlines aircraft in February 2016.

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, March 23, 2017:

More than 15 years after the September 11 hijackings, the U.S. government has issued yet another warning about airline security. On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced new restrictions on electronics brought on board certain U.S.-bound flights. Passengers on planes leaving from 10 airports throughout the Middle East and North Africa will no longer be able to carry laptops or similar electronics with them into the cabin of the plane. Cell phones and smaller electronics are unaffected by the new measures, but computers will have to be checked in luggage.

The move instantly generated controversy and questions. Namely, why now? Some dismissed the DHS announcement as a protectionist move aimed at boosting the futures of U.S. carriers, who have complained of unfair competition from Gulf airlines for years. Twitter wags called it a “Muslim laptop ban,” whose secret aim was to discourage travel from the Arab world. But by now it should be clear that the new restrictions are deadly serious, even if there are legitimate questions about how it is being implemented.

Initial press reports, including by the New York Times, cited anonymous officials as saying that the restrictions were not a response to new intelligence. But the DHS announcement implies otherwise. One question on the DHS web site reads, “Did new intelligence drive a decision to modify security procedures?” The answer: “Yes, intelligence is one aspect of every security-related decision.” The British government’s quick decision to follow suit also suggests that something new is afoot here.

Subsequent reports from CNN and The Daily Beast indicate that intelligence collected during a U.S. Special Forces raid in Yemen in January led to the restrictions. That is possible. The raid was highly controversial, but the Trump administration argues the costs were worth it because the U.S. learned key details about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) plotting. A Navy SEAL perished during the operation, as did a number of women and children. Within hours, jihadists began circulating a photo of an adorable little girl who died in the crossfire. The girl was the daughter of Anwar al Awlaki, a Yemeni-American al Qaeda ideologue killed in a September 2011 drone strike. Al Qaeda immediately called for revenge in her name.

Whether new intelligence led to the decision or not, we already know for certain that al Qaeda has continued to think up ways to terrorize the skies. For years, Al Qaeda operatives in Somalia, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere have been experimenting with sophisticated explosives that can be smuggled onto planes.

DHS points to the “attempted airliner downing in Somalia” in February 2016 as one reason for ongoing concerns. That bombing was carried out by al Shabaab, al Qaeda’s official branch in Somalia. Al Shabaab attempted to justify the failed attack by claiming “Western intelligence officials” were on board the flight, but that excuse may be a cover for something more sinister.

Some U.S. officials suspect that al Qaeda’s elite bomb makers wanted to test one of their newest inventions, a lightweight explosive disguised as a laptop that is difficult to detect with normal security procedures. At the very least, Shabaab’s attack demonstrated that al Qaeda has gotten closer to deploying a laptop-sized explosive that can blow a hole in jetliners. While no one other than the terrorist who detonated the bomb was killed, the plane was left with a gaping hole in its side.

Al Qaeda-linked terrorists have tested their contraptions before. In December 1994, a bomb was detonated on board a Philippine Airlines flight, killing one of the passengers and severely damaging the plane. The device was implanted by Ramzi Yousef, the nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Yousef planned to blow up several airliners at once as part of “Project Bojinka” and he wanted to try out his invention beforehand. Authorities ultimately scuttled his plot, but al Qaeda didn’t forget Yousef’s idea. Instead, the terrorist organization returned to it again in 2006, when a similar plan targeting jets leaving London’s Heathrow Airport was foiled.

Al Qaeda’s failure in 2006 didn’t dissuade the group from pressing forward with a version of Yousef’s original concept, either.

In September 2014, the U.S. began launching airstrikes against an al Qaeda cadre in Syria described by the Obama administration as the “Khorasan Group.” There was some initial confusion over what the Khorasan Group really is, with some opining that it was simply invented by American officials to justify bombings, or a separate terror entity altogether. In reality, it was simply a collection of al Qaeda veterans and specialists who were ordered by the group’s leader, Ayman al Zawahiri, to begin laying the groundwork in Syria for operations against the West.

As far as we know, the Khorasan Group never did attempt to strike the U.S. or Europe. Perhaps this is because a number of its leaders and members were killed in the drone campaign. But there is an additional wrinkle in the story: Zawahiri didn’t give his men the final green light for an operation. Instead, Zawahiri wanted the Khorasan cohort to be ready when called upon. In the meantime, al Qaeda didn’t want an attack inside the West to jeopardize its primary goal in Syria, which is toppling Bashar al Assad’s regime.

The Islamic State gets all the headlines, but Al Qaeda has quietly built its largest guerrilla army ever in Syria, with upwards of 10,000 or more men under its direct command. The group formerly known as Jabhat al Nusra merged with four other organizations to form Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (“Assembly for the Liberation of Syria”) in January. Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee months earlier, in June 2016, that Nusra was already al Qaeda’s “largest formal affiliate in history” with “direct ties” to Zawahiri. The merger gives al Qaeda control over an even larger force.

Al Qaeda could easily repurpose some of these jihadists for an assault in Europe, or possibly the U.S., but has chosen not to thus far. That is telling. Zawahiri and his lieutenants calculated that if Syria was turned into a launching pad for anti-Western terrorism, then their efforts would draw even more scrutiny. At a time when the U.S. and its allies were mainly focused on ISIS, al Qaeda’s potent rival, Zawahiri determined the West could wait.

But Zawahiri’s calculation with respect to Syria could change at any time. And the organization maintains cadres elsewhere that are still plotting against the U.S. and its interests.

The Khorasan Group included jihadists from around the globe, including men trained by AQAP’s most senior bomb maker, a Saudi known as Ibrahim al Asiri. U.S. officials have fingered al Asiri as the chief designer of especially devious explosive devices. Al Asiri has survived multiple attempts to kill him. But even if the U.S. did catch up with al Asiri tomorrow, his expertise would live on. Some of his deputies have trained still others in Syria.

Al Qaeda now has units deployed in several countries that are involved in anti-Western plotting. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2016, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that al Qaeda “nodes in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey” are “dedicating resources to planning attacks.”

The Pentagon regularly announces airstrikes targeting al Qaeda operatives, some of whom, identified as “external” plotters, have an eye on the West. Incredibly, more than a decade and a half after the 9/11 hijackings, al Qaeda members in Afghanistan are still involved in efforts to hit the U.S. In October 2016, for instance, the U.S. struck down Farouq al Qahtani in eastern Afghanistan. The Defense Department explained that Qahtani was “one of the terrorist group’s senior plotters of attacks against the United States.”

Meanwhile, ISIS has also proven it is capable of downing an airliner. Thus far, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s men have used low-tech means. In October 2015, the so-called caliphate’s Sinai province claimed the bombing of a Russian airliner. If the group’s propaganda is accurate, then a Schweppes Gold soft drink can filled with explosives and equipped with a detonator led to the deaths of all 224 people on board. This beverage bomb was a far cry from the sleek explosives al Qaeda’s bomb makers have been experimenting with, but it was effective nonetheless. All it required was proper placement next to a fuel line or some other sensitive point in the airliner’s infrastructure. ISIS could have more sophisticated bomb designs in the pipeline as well.

The truth is that the threat to airliners isn’t going away any time soon. However, this doesn’t mean that every counterterrorism measure intended to protect passengers is the right one. Some quickly questioned the Trump administration’s policy. Why does it impact only flight carriers in some countries? Were security measures found to be lax in some airports, but not others? Why is the threat of a laptop bomb mitigated if it is in checked luggage, as opposed to on board the plane? And what about the possibility of al Qaeda or ISIS slipping a bomb onto connecting flights, before the planes head for the U.S. homeland?

These are all good questions that should be asked. And the Trump administration should answer them.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

Also see:

Report: Intel for Carry-on Electronics Ban Came from Yemen Raid

Corruption, Terrorism, and Genocide: The 7 Nations Covered by Trump Executive Order

AP/Various

AP/Various

Breitbart, by John Hayward, January 31, 2017:

The media is misrepresenting President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugee admission as a “Muslim ban” – or, more cleverly, a ban on immigration from “Muslim-majority countries.”

In truth, the ban applies to everyone from seven specific countries. In fact, one of the first families caught at the airport when the executive order went into effect was a Christian family from Syria.

These seven nations were not chosen at random. They were all singled out as exceptional security risks in the Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015 and its 2016 extension. In fact, President Trump’s order does not even name the seven countries. It merely refers to the sections of U.S. Code that were changed by the Terrorist Prevention Act:

I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order.

A different section of the executive order does refer to Syria specifically, because it calls for the indefinite suspension of Syrian refugee admissions, until such time as the President believes security concerns have been adequately addressed.

The list of seven nations affected by Trump’s executive order was, therefore, compiled by President Barack Obama’s Department of Homeland Security, in a series of judgments that actually goes back to Obama’s first term, circa 2011. Barack Obama made this list, not Donald Trump, and there was very little resistance from congressional Democrats at any step in the process of arriving at the final list of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

Nor should there have been congressional resistance, because that list is eminently sensible. Several of these countries are disasters because of Obama foreign policy, while others were security nightmares long before he took office. Here is a review of current conditions in those nations:

Iraq: Of course, Iraq is currently fighting the Islamic State for control of Mosul and other captured territories. This is creating a flow of both retreating ISIS fighters and refugees from contested areas.

ABC News notes that while some Iraqi soldiers fighting in Mosul “feel a little bad” about Trump’s exec order, as one of them put it, others understand his reasoning. “We don’t want our doctors and professors to keep going to another country and make it greater than our own,” said one Iraqi soldier, who punctuated his comment by exclaiming, “Honestly, I love Trump!”

Many of the Iraqi refugees have been mistreated by local forces, which could easily make them targets for radicalization. The UK Guardian reported on Sunday that human rights groups are processing complaints about the outright torture of children suspected of connections to the Islamic State, which in turn has an extensive program for radicalizing children and turning them into brainwashed jihadi killers.

Shiite militia groups backed by Iran, some of which were murdering U.S. soldiers just a few years ago, are heavily involved in the fighting. There are concerns these emboldened, battle-tested, heavily armed militias will move into Syria and cause a new sectarian crisis. Many of these groups are units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, for all intents and purposes, and would become shock troops for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad as he finishes off the last elements of the rebellion against him.

The Iraqi government, it must be said, does not have the most sterling record for honesty and efficiency. Transparency International recently rated Iraq’s government as one of the most corrupt in the entire world. The Iraqi parliament reflexively responded to Trump’s executive order with an ill-considered “reciprocity ban” that will do significant damage to the Iraqi nation if enacted, at the very moment it is fighting a desperate battle to drive out ISIS. That is not the kind of government that can be readily trusted to provide the data needed for “enhanced vetting.”

Iran: Contrary to the fictions peddled by the Obama Administration, Iran is still very much an enemy of the United States. Its government is actively involved in subversive efforts across the Middle East, and around the world.

Even in the last months of the Obama administration, long after Obama’s huge economic concessions and cash payments to Tehran, the State Department continues to classify Iran as the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism. The State Department remains concerned about “a wide range of Iranian activities to destabilize the region.”

The Iranians are still taking hostages, including U.S. citizens. They put their hostages through sham “legal proceedings” involving secret courts and lawyers who are not always permitted to speak with their clients. They store their hostages in hideous prisons that would pass inspection in no civilized country.

On Sunday, Iran continued its defiance of Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with yet another secret test of a banned ballistic missile.

Syria: It is astonishing that anyone thinks “vetting” is possible for many refugees from war-torn Syria, whose sinister central government still does not control many parts of the country.

ISIS, of course, is headquartered in Syria, and al-Qaeda is one of the strongest military forces in the rebellion. Syrian resistance groups are so difficult to screen that the Obama administration could only find tiny handfuls of reliable “moderate” fighters to arm and train; they were promptly kidnapped, killed, or co-opted by terrorist groups after Obama deployed them. The “white hat rebel” program ended as a laughingstock across the Middle East.

Terrorist groups are still hunting down and destroying “moderate” rebel units to this very day, even during the “ceasefire” brokered by Russia, Turkey, and Iran. Worse, Syria has become a pressure-cooker for jihad, with groups once regarded as moderate becoming unmistakably radical over the past five years.

ISIS militants fleeing the battlefields of Iraq have been falling back into Syria, while Syrian ISIS fighters have been fleeing from their own battlefield reversals. The return of Islamic State militants, and other battle-hardened jihadis, from Syria to Western nations has long been seen as a major security concern.

The Syrian civil war is universally regarded as one of the worst humanitarian crises in history. Every party to the conflict has been blamed for causing civilian casualties, while some of them deliberately target civilians. The Assad regime has used indiscriminate conventional weapons, and weapons of mass destruction, against rebel-held districts. Civilians have been deprived of food, power, sanitation, and medicine in besieged areas for months, sometimes for years. This will create a huge population that is susceptible to radicalization by terrorists who blame Western powers for either inflicting horror upon civilians, or failing to prevent it.

Libya: Due to the U.S. media’s poor reporting on the continuing disaster of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya, most Americans probably do not realize Libya still lacks a functioning central government. The brief spate of coverage after the rise of Libyan ISIS ended with reports that a “Government of National Accord” had been installed, but in truth it only controls a portion of the country, and some observers believe it is on the verge of collapse. A Qaddafi-era general named Khalifa Haftar is working to seize power, and the Russians have been cozying up to him. The end result of Obama policy in Libya could very well be another Russian client state in the Middle East.

Haftar currently controls the government that used to be recognized by the international community as Libya’s legitimate administration. That government was chased out of the national capital, Tripoli, by a coalition of Islamist militias, widely known as Libya Dawn. They are still a force to be reckoned with, and constitute the third major Libyan government.

ISIS is still a serious problem in Libya, as demonstrated by U.S. air raids against Islamic State positions on President Obama’s very last day in office. “They have been largely marginalized but I am hesitant to say they’ve been completely eliminated in Libya,” a U.S. defense official said at the time.

Somalia: Somalia has been fighting a vicious insurgency from an Islamist terror organization called al-Shabaab, whose name means “The Youth.” It aggressively recruits young Muslims, including young Somalis living in the United States.

The group has links to both al-Qaeda and ISIS. The primary leadership decided not to swear fealty to the Islamic State, leading to something of a schism between different factions of al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab is not just a gang of furtive terrorists lurking in the shadows – it effectively controls large portions of rural Somalia, and has been waging war against neighboring Kenya. An attack launched just this weekend killed dozens of Kenyan troops, according to al-Shabaab claims disputed by the Kenyan government.

Al-Shabaab is one of the most savage Islamist terror organizations in the world, responsible for horrific massacres like the slaughter of 150 students at Garissa University College in April 2015, and 67 murdered at the Westgate shopping center in the Kenyan capital. An attack on the Dayah hotel in Mogadishu killed eight people just last week.

Al-Shabaab killers are notorious for asking potential victims to prove they are devout Muslims in order to spare their lives.

Somalia’s government was ranked the most corrupt in the world by Transparency International, in the same study that named Iraq one of the worst. That is not exactly news, because Somalia’s government has been listed as the most corrupt on Earth for ten years straight. For the sake of comparison, the Number Two and Three worst governments on Transparency International’s list are South Sudan and North Korea.

Somalia’s most recent elections were an absurd carnival of bribes and voter intimidation, even with U.N. oversight. The BBC declared the country “has not had a functional national government since the ousting of its former leader Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.”

Sudan: As mentioned above, the Sudanese government is a corrupt disaster. The country actually split in half in 2011. Over 1.5 million people have been killed in the Sudanese civil war, while 2 million refugees have been displaced from the Darfur region.

The president of the Republic of Sudan is an iron-fisted Islamist dictator named Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been in power for over 25 years, after seizing power in a 1989 coup that came after two decades of civil war.

Bashir is wanted for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. Those charges have been pending since 2009. There are actually three counts of genocide against him. He is supposedly under an international travel ban, but he travels anyway, occasionally cutting his trips short when he thinks he might be arrested.

The Sudanese government imposed sharia law on its provinces in the Nineties. Bashir has been linked to Janjaweed militias, which serve as his own personal storm troopers, noted for their scorched-earth tactics and indiscriminate use of mass-casualty weapons against civilians. Some observers fear the Janjaweed will eventually ship Bashir’s leash and overthrow the government in Khartoum.

Sudan is listed as a state sponsor of terrorism and, until recently, it was politically aligned with Iran. Sudan has proven to be friendly terrain for all sorts of gangsters and terrorists, although its political realignment over the past few years reportedly included more cooperation on counter-terrorism, in a bid to get off the American list of terrorist sponsors. Even after that realignment, Hamas terrorists seemed to have little trouble traveling through Sudan, or raising money there.

Yemen: Yemen is a horrifying bloodbath of civil war and terrorist insurrection, which ties many of the other nations on this list together. Sudan, for example, has been part of Saudi Arabia’s coalition in Yemen, ever since it turned away from Iranian patronage.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting a proxy war in Yemen, where there have been over 10,000 civilian casualties. The U.S. has been providing weapons to Saudi Arabia, whose coalition is blamed for many of the civilian deaths, so Yemeni resentment of the United States is a very real factor to consider when estimating the dangers of radicalization.

The U.S. blocked an arms sale to the Saudis in December 2016 after a Saudi coalition airstrike hit a funeral in the capital of Sana’a, leading to 140 deaths. The Saudi coalition has also been criticized for bombing Doctors Without Borders hospitals.

The internationally-recognized government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi was displaced by an Iran-backed Shiite insurgency from the Houthi minority, aided by forces loyal to the previous president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Describing the state of Yemeni government as “chaotic” would be a vast understatement. Major cities like Sana’a have been subjected to violent takeovers and sieges, while the Yemeni wilderness is largely controlled by al-Qaeda.

On Sunday, a U.S. Navy SEAL was killed, and three others wounded, in a firefight with al-Qaeda forces in central Yemen. Fourteen al-Qaeda fighters were reportedly killed, including the brother-in-law of the late al-Qaeda guru, Anwar al-Awlaki. It was the first counterterrorism operation authorized by President Trump.

In October, the U.S. Navy was obliged to strike ground targets in Yemen, after missiles were fired at American ships stationed off the coast.

Islamic State Expands to East Africa With New Allegiance Pledge

Illustrative picture. (Photo: ISIS propaganda)

Illustrative picture. (Photo: ISIS propaganda)

Clarion Project, April 10, 2016:

A new terrorist group in Somalia has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State styling itself “Jabha East Africa” (The East-African Front).

In a statement the group recognized the Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the “rightful Khalifa (leader) of all Muslims.”

“We in Jahba East Africa are advising all East Africans to leave al-Shabaab and their sponsor groups, like Al-Muhajiroun, Al-Hijra and Ansar Islam,” the statement said.

“Like Al-Shabaab the sponsor groups have not understood the binding obligation of the Khalifah (caliphate).

“We are telling the mujahideen in East Africa that al-Shabaab has now become a psychological and physical prison.

“To pledge bayah to Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is freedom for the mujahideen in East Africa and opportunity to wage jihad according to the Sunnah against the enemies of Allah.”

Despite rumors circulating that Somalia’s primary jihadist group Al-Shabaab was considering pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, the group has not yet done so. The Islamic State has accepted pledges of allegiance from terrorist groups around the world. The most notorious of the Islamic State’s vassals is Boko Haram, now styling itself the Islamic State in West Africa. Boko Haram reportedly has a higher body count than the Islamic State’s main army in Syria and Iraq.

Other important ISIS vassals include Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in the Egyptian Sinai.

On Saturday April 9 a car bomb killed three people at a restaurant in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.

From Poet to Jihadi: The Story of a Somali American in Minnesota

Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame

Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame

Clarion Project, by Meira Svirsky, April 10, 2016:

He had everything going for him – except the will to resist a powerful and angry narrative that eventually pulled him in.

Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame, now 21, was on the path to fulfilling the American dream.  And it wasn’t a just a materialist dream, the kind that leaves feelings of emptiness upon achievement.

By the time he was a teenager, he was expressing himself as a poet and actualizing talents in art and music. He was active at a local neighborhood center and part of a local arts group. He began talking to other young Somalis about following their dreams. In a video he made as a teenager in 2011, Warsame says, “You guys are tomorrow. And all you have to have, to get anywhere you want, is determination.”

Warsame, a Somali American, came to America when he was 10 months old. One of eight children, Warsane grew up in a neighborhood called “Little Mogadishu.” His mother and cousin were prominent voices in the movement to prevent the radicalization of the next generation of Somali Americans.

Warsame himself is described as a person who was successfully taking advantages of opportunities he was offered. Post high school, he held down jobs, attended a community college and had support from his family.

Still, Warsame gravitated to negative influences, problematic friends that concerned his mother. In 2014, she sent him away from Minneapolis to Chicago to live with his father. But it wasn’t enough. Warsame began watching videos of lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, an American Yemani imam described as the “Bin Laden of the internet.”  Awlaki, a high-level Al Qaeda operative, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, the first U.S. citizen to be so targeted.

From a young man who had spoken out against violence, Warsame became enthralled with beheading videos. He came to conclude that as a devout Muslim, he must join the fight against the infidels. In 2014, Warsame, with a group of friends plotted to go to Syria to join the Islamic State. According to his confession to authorities, Warsame was the ”emir,” the leader of a group recruiting and encouraging other young Somalis to join the terror group.

He was arrested in December of 2015 and now faces up to 15 years in prison.

Two months earlier, his mother had lectured a group of Somali parents at a town hall meeting, “I need you guys to wake up and to tell your child, ‘Who’s recruiting you?’ Ask what happened. …. We have to stop the denial thing that we have, and we have to talk to our kids and work with the FBI.”

Yet even she was unaware of her son’s activities.

At his hearing he offered a in his defense a seemingly incomprehensible explanation, “I was always listening to one side. I didn’t see the other side of it, that innocent people were being killed.”

The Minnesota Somali communities have been the leading location in the U.S. for terror recruiting. Over the last number of year, close to 40 young Somali men have left the U.S. to fight for Islamist terror groups in Somalia and Syria.

Programs have sprung up to stem the flow, most notably Ka Joog, a community group called whose name literally means “stay away.” Ka Jooj works to build Somali youths into the next generation of American leaders and steer them away from terror recruitment, drugs and gang violence. The group was recently awarded $850,000 to establish a number of new projects, including a new job center in the Somali community where unemployment is close 19 percent, three times worse than state average.

“He was one of those kids that could’ve gone either way,” said Bob Fletcher, a former county sheriff and founder of the Center for Somalia History Studies. “To the gangs, to the radicalization, or to succeed academically with the circle of Ka Joog kids who he is close to.”

While it may be hard to understand how Warsame, with his unique background, “could have gone either way,” it is important to put into the equation Islamist groups, including CAIR, that that have a history of working against some of the counter-radicalization programs active in the Somali community, giving these kids a different message.

Abdirizak Bihi, is a Somai American who works with Ka Joog and is the director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center. Bihi’s nephew was recruited by Al-Shabaab and died in Somalia, where the terror group is based.

In 2011, CAIR-MN attacked Bihi and a Muslim colleague of his, Omar Jamal, branding them as “anti-Muslim” when they participated in a seminar run by Fletcher’s center that included teaching about Al-Shabaab. CAIR-MN was upset that their session described Al-Shabaab as an “Islamic extremist terrorist organization,” saying they did not “distinguish between Islam and terrorism.”

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim human rights activist, writes,”Representatives of CAIR, like Dawud Walid from their Michigan chapter are on record repeatedly when discussing al-Shabaab to American Muslims telling American Muslim youth for example that “9 out of 10 times the person trying to influence you over the internet is not even real…it’s someone with the government trying to set you up.

“[Walid] even casts doubt on whether Al-Shabaab is a terrorist organization. Yet when courageous American Muslims do speak out about radicalization in some mosques and among American Muslim groups, CAIR calls them “anti-Muslim.”

Bihi says that CAIR-MN has impeded his efforts to inform the U.S. government about Islamist radicalization for years by saying that he’s bigoted and doesn’t represent the Somali community.

“They say that I am a bad person, that I am anti-Muslim, and that I don’t represent a hundred percent the Somali community. They lie about my life most of the time and try to destroy my character, my capability and my trust in the community,” says Bihi.

As early as 2009, local Somali Muslims were angered by a CAIR Minnesota campaign that urged Muslims only to talk to law enforcement with a lawyer present, sowing distrust in the Muslim community about law enforcement agencies.  Local Somali Muslims argued that CAIR’s campaign merely served to obstruct federal investigations. At the time, Bihi organized a demonstration outside a CAIR-MN event where protesters chanted, “CAIR out! Doublespeak out!”

Bihi expresses hope that Warsame can be deprogrammed and return to being an asset to the community. At his hearing, the presiding judge offered Warsame a spot in ta new program that assesses his prospects for deradicalization before sentencing.

“I can envision him going to schools, talking to young people in the community, going to mosques, working with imams. His message here could resonate in many communities,” said Bihi.

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

U.S. Air Strike Kills 150 al Shabaab Fighters in Somalia

SOMALIAWashington Free Beacon, by Morgan Chalfant, March 7, 2016:

The United States carried out an air strike in Somalia over the weekend that killed approximately 150 militants belonging to the terror group al Shabaab, the Pentagon said Monday.

The air strike was carried out Saturday at the al Qaeda-linked terror group’s “Raso” training facility, which is located about 120 miles north of the Somali capital Mogadishu, Reuters reported. U.S. officials said that the fighters were training for a large-scale attack against American Special Operations forces and their allies in the region.

“We know they were going to be departing the camp and that they posed an imminent threat to U.S. and to Amisom, African Union mission in Somalia forces, that are in Somalia,” Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said.

Davis described the strike as an “air operation” and said no U.S. forces participated on the ground.

The Defense Department had been monitoring the training camp for weeks leading up to the air strike and had evidence that the militants posed an imminent threat to American troops and their allies. Davis refused to provide specific information about who or what the group may have been intending to target.

“Their removal will degrade al Shabaab’s ability to meet the group’s objectives in Somalia, which include recruiting new members, establishing bases, and planning attacks on U.S. and Amisom forces there,” Davis stated.

The Pentagon spokesman added that up to 200 fighters were present at the training camp when the strike occurred. The Defense Department is confident that no civilians were killed.

It is believed that the al Shabaab operatives were struck during a graduation ceremony, the New York Times reported. One official said that the fighters were “standing outdoors in formation.”

Al Shabaab militants have claimed responsibility for a number of deadly attacks across the region, including the 2013 attack on the Westgate mall in Kenya and, more recently, the February attack on the SYL hotel in Mogadishu.

Also see:

IED attack at airport in Somalia; lessons to be learned

Terror Trends Bulletin, by Christopher Holton, March7, 2016:

An Improvised Explosive Device, sometimes known as a bomb, disguised as a laptop computer was detonated today at an airport security checkpoint in Somalia. Preliminary reports from the scene indicate 6 injuries and, thankfully, no deaths, from this incident.

But this is a nightmare scenario that we have discussed here on Terror Trends Bulletin before and it is worth reposting here:

Since the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, the federal government has gone to great lengths to keep weaponry of all sorts from finding its way on airliners.

The effectiveness of these measures is open to debate, but the idea has been to prevent items such as explosive devices fashioned in the form of contact lens saline solution bottles, shaving cream cans and the like from finding their way onto an airliner. The TSA is also supposed to be on the lookout for box cutters (and pocket knifes and fingernail files), as well as shoes loaded with explosives.

All of these measures have been reactive–in response to both successful and failed terrorist plots from the past. Such is the nature of our bureaucratic counter terror apparatus. The enemy watches what we do and dreams up more methods to exploit holes and vulnerabilities in the defensive security measures. And, of course, once the enemy tries a new method, successful or otherwise, the TSA modifies its policies to defend against the last attack.

Americans of all philosophies are frustrated by what they perceive as onerous inconveniences and gross invasions of personal privacy.

But that is not the issue that should be of greatest concern to Americans. What should truly concern us all is that the measures that have locked down airliners tighter than a drum have created bottlenecks and choke points in airport terminals, leaving even larger numbers of travelers vulnerable to violent terrorist attack.

airport-security-lines1

One attack on a single airliner has the potential to kill anywhere from dozens to a few hundred innocent passengers. But an attack on a busy airport terminal has the potential to kill several plane loads of innocent travelers before they get on the airplane.

Take a look at the accompanying photographs and the vulnerability is clear. A backpack bomb in a security line would be devastating and the security apparatus is exactly what caused the vulnerability.

Travelers queue up at the security checkpoint in Denver International Airport in Denver, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2006. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Travelers queue up at the security checkpoint in Denver International Airport in Denver, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2006. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

To be fair, security lines are not the only vulnerability. Long lines at ticket counters produce huge crowds and bottlenecks as well:

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What all this adds up to is an overall air travel industry that is still quite at risk.

Lest you think that I have pointed out a vulnerability that the Jihadists may not have thought of yet, rest assured that the Jihadists have already identified airports as targets for mass casualty attacks.

In fact, there have been two such attacks in recent years, one successful and one failed.

In January 2011, Islamikaze bombers attacked Domodedovo airport in Moscow, killing 35 and wounding 182. This incident is largely forgotten in the West. In fact, it received scant media attention beyond the day of the attack.

The fact that the attackers were believed to have been trained at an Al Qaeda camp in Pakistan should serve as a warning to America. If the Jihadis can train to attack Russian airports, they can train to attack American airports just as well.

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AQAP Continues Their Push Through Weak Opposition in Yemen

CSP, by Kevin Samolsky, February 23, 2016:

Another town in Southern Yemen has fallen under control of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) over the weekend. Ahwar, a Southern city located in the Abyan Province, was seized by AQAP fighters after ousting the group of Popular Resistance Force fighters in the area.

The Popular Resistance Force (PRF) is group of militias that has aided the government in their fight against the Houthi rebels and AQAP. The group is made up of Southern militias, and have been able to provide adequate support to the national army when fighting the Houthis. However, when fighting AQAP their effect has been minimal.

The PRF lost both Zinjibar and Jaar to AQAP late last year. A PRF leader mentioned the lack of support the PRF receives from the government has allowed AQAP to be so effective in the region.

AQAP has taken significant territory within Yemen as the government and Saudi-led coalition of Gulf States continues to fight the Houthi rebels. By taking Ahwar, AQAP further solidifies its control of the Abyan province. The group also have predominant control over the Shabwa and Hadramount provinces.

Along with taking Ahwar, AQAP assassinated Sheikh Mazen al-Aqrab, gunned down in a drive-by in the capital of Aden. Al-Aqrab was one the PRF’s most senior commanders.

Ahwar serves as a strategic point between the cities of Zinjibar and Mukallah. By taking Ahwar, AQAP is creating a region of influence along the coast line. The government forces and Gulf Coalition are primarily focused on the Northwest portion of the country, and this leaves the rest of Yemen virtually ungoverned. AQAP, and to some degree the Islamic State (IS), has taken full advantage of this situation, and has quickly seized important cities in Yemen.

Soon after AQAP reclaimed the city of Azzan, AQAP senior field commander Jalal Baleedi was killed in a U.S. drone strike. While Baleedi was a high ranking officer, his death has had little impact on AQAP’s progress. The U.S. drone strike program continues to achieve tactical successes eliminating local AQ commanders, while not altering the strategic outcome, similar to the situation currently playing out in Somaliawith Al-Shabaab, with whom AQAP has close ties.

AQAP’s push through the Southern coast of Yemen is drawing the group closer to the current capital, Aden. After the government forces were expelled from Sanaa, they soon moved to Aden where they are still in control. While the government has control over the majority of the city, AQAP has been able to seize several neighborhoods on the outskirts. By controlling the entire Southern coast, AQAP may be attempting to cut the government off from its allies in the South, primarily the PRF.

If AQAP successfully establishes control over the Southern coast of Yemen it gives the group the ability to threaten a sizeable shipping lane, along with access to support their fellow Al Qaeda ally in Somalia, Al Shabaab.

The situation in Yemen is unlikely to change and AQAP will continue to poses a threat to Aden as long as the Saudi-led coalition remains focused exclusively on the Iranian-backed Houthis and the PRF militias remain a relatively weak force.

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