TIME Department of Justice

California Man Linked to Al-Qaeda Arrested on Terrorism Charges

Nicholas Teausant was arrested at the Canadian border and charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. He was allegedly planning to join al-Qaeda in Syria.

A California man allegedly attempting to travel to Syria to join an al-Qaeda group was arrested at the Canadian border in Washington on Monday. Nicholas Teausant, 20, was charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, according to a Department of Justice news release.

The 20-year-old student at San Joaquin Delta Community College in Stockton, Calif., was planning to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Reuters reports he also planned to target an attack against the Los Angeles subway system in early January, but stopped after authorities uncovered his plans. According to NBC Los Angeles, Teausant is also a California National Guardsman, though he never attended basic training.

The case is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Modesto Police Department and the San Joaquin Sheriff’s Office, according to the press release. If convicted, Teausant faces a minimum of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is expected to appear in court on Monday afternoon.

TIME Terrorism

British Man Says He Brought Shoe Bombs on Planes After 9/11

Shoe bomber Saajid Muhammad Badat
Metropolitan Police/AP

The revelation by the London resident, who was convicted in the U.K. on terrorism charges, came during his videotaped testimony in the trial of Osama Bin Laden’s son-in-law

Testifying for a second day at the trial of Osama Bin Laden’s son-in-law, a British man who plotted to detonate a “shoe-bomb” in an airplane in the United States said he was able to smuggle explosives onto flights undetected in the Middle East and Europe.

Saajid Badat said he wore a shoe bomb on at least one flight from Pakistan to Holland and another from Holland to Great Britain in December 2001, the Associated Press reports. He said he did not detonate the bombs on those flights because he was planning an attack on American soil.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, bin Laden’s son-in-law and al-Qaeda’s spokesman after the Sept. 11, 2001, is on trial for conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to al-Qaeda.

Badat says he ultimately backed out of the shoe-bomb plot, but fellow conspirator Richard C. Reid moved forward with it, attempting to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami in December 2001. Reid was arrested in 2001 in the United States, and Badat was later arrested and served prison time in Britain for the shoe-bomb plot.

Badat made his testimony by videotape because he was indicted in a U.S. court in 2004 for the shoe-bomb plot and refused come to the United States to testify. He is, however, cooperating with U.S. authorities in the trial of Abu Ghaith.

[AP]

TIME europe

Spain Mourn Victims of Madrid Train Bombings 10 Years Later

SPAIN-ATTACKS-CEREMONY-VICTIMS
Local Police wait to lays flowers during a commemoration ceremony in held in the Rememberance Garden of Madrid's Retiro Park on March 11, 2014 JAVIER SORIANO—AFP/Getty Images

Spaniards remember the 191 people killed and 2,000 injured in the terrorist attacks

Spaniards dressed in black and gathered in the Almudena Cathedral on Tuesday to mourn and mark the 10-year anniversary of the deadly 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid, when bombs ripped through four commuter trains and killed 191 people.

“The anniversaries affect you a great deal,” Antonio Gomez, who was on a train and broke his leg when a bomb detonated, told AFP. “It is a strange feeling, of pain, of sadness, of rage. It’s a mixture of many feelings at the same time. Rage because we were just workers riding a train. We were not important personalities, people with a lot of money, we were regular people. What do regular people have to do with politics? We were going to work to earn money to raise our families and live decently.”

King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy joined in the commemoration.

While many use the anniversary as a day of remembrance, Gomez was avoiding reminders of the “Dantesque” wreckage and mutilation: “On the 11th I will probably go to the cinema or watch the children’s station Disney Channel,” he said.

[AFP]

TIME Afghanistan

Taliban Order Fighters To Disrupt Afghan Elections

Presidential elections are scheduled to take place in April

The Afghan Taliban issued a warning on Monday against anyone taking part in the upcoming presidential elections on April 5, ordering their fighters to “use all force” to disrupt the polling.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said in a statement that the group is telling clerics across the country to inform locals that the election is “an American conspiracy,” the Associated Press reports.

“We have given orders to all our mujahadeen to use all forces at their disposal to disrupt these upcoming sham election to target all its workers, activists, callers, security apparatus and offices,” the statement said. It also advised Afghans to not put themselves in danger by going to the polls.

Several incidents of campaign-related violence have been reported in the last month, with the Taliban taking responsibility for some of the attacks. President Hamid Karzai, who became leader following the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, is barred from running for a third term.

[AP]

TIME

Al-Qaeda Unveils English-Language Terror Magazine

Ayman al-Zawahiri
;Reuters

The terrorist organization's first English-language Web magazine is introduced with an online video and will be called 'Resurgence'

Al-Qaeda’s media wing has announced the upcoming launch of Resurgence, a terror magazine for English-speakers.

NBC News reports the video announcement spliced snippets of Malcolm X’s 1965 speech on violent resistance with images of militants, U.S. soldiers and the Boston Marathon bombings.

It’s not the first such publication to hit the market. The Boston marathon bombers allegedly lifted bomb-making recipes from a similar magazine, ‘Inspire,’ by an al-Qaeda splinter group in the Arabian Peninsula. Analysts said the launch marks an attempt by the parent organization—decimated by drone strikes—to reestablish control over global messaging and recruitment.

[NBC News]

TIME China

Stolen Passports Used on Missing Malaysian Airliner

Risman Siregar, left, comforts his wife Erlina Panjaitan, center — both are parents of Firman Chandra Siregar, a 24-year-old Indonesian passenger of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 — on March 9, 2014, in Medan, Indonesia
Risman Siregar, left, comforts his wife Erlina Panjaitan, center — both are parents of Firman Chandra Siregar, a 24-year-old Indonesian passenger of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 — on March 9, 2014, in Medan, Indonesia Atar—AFP/Getty Images

At least two of the passengers listed on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370's manifest were not on board the now missing aircraft

It has been a week of lost innocence for China. On March 1, a brutal massacre by machete- and dagger-wielding assailants claimed 29 lives in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming, bringing the specter of terror to a nation unused to such horrifying episodes. The Chinese government has identified the attackers as separatists from the northwestern region of Xinjiang who were intent on joining a global jihadi movement. Then a week later, tragedy descended again. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 destined for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur disappeared without a trace in the early hours of March 8. Of the 227 passengers, 154 were listed as coming from mainland China or Taiwan, with 38 Malaysians making up the second largest national contingent. (The dozen members of the flight crew were also Malaysian.)

Malaysia is a popular holiday destination for Chinese, particularly during the wintry, smoggy season in China. Late last year, Malaysia’s tourist authority predicted 2 million Chinese would visit in 2014. Among the Chinese believed to have boarded the flight are many holiday seekers and 29 members of an artist delegation from Sichuan province who were taking part in an exhibit in Kuala Lumpur. Others on the plane manifest included a group of 20 Malaysian and Chinese employees of a Texas semiconductor firm. Several expatriates living in Beijing are believed to have been on the flight as well, including students at the French school and a Canadian couple. Four Americans including an infant were also thought to have been on board.

(MORE: Search Expanded for Missing Malaysian Airlines Flight)

With the plane still missing, the focus remains on search-and-rescue operations that are centered in waters off Vietnam. But flight experts, who are working with a frightening paucity of information, have concentrated on possible explanations of what went wrong: a catastrophic mechanical failure of the airplane or pilot error — like what happened to Air France Flight 447 in 2009 over the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 228 on the jetliner — or some kind of malign human intervention. “I would say right now that the probability of terrorism is low, but it should not be discounted,” says Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. “The investigation needs to be carried out with all possibilities considered: an act of sabotage, crime or terrorism, as well as mechanical failure.” Malaysian officials say they are not discounting any theory, including terrorism.

Despite this age of high-tech communications and surveillance, few details have emerged about what led MH370 to simply disappear from the sky. The aircraft was a Boeing 777, which has a workhorse reputation and a strong safety record. But some of the few pieces of information that have emerged are troubling. At least two of the passengers listed on the plane’s manifest, it turns out, were not actually on the flight. Local governments have confirmed that an Italian and Austrian, whose names were on the passenger list released by Malaysia Airlines, had their passports stolen in Thailand over the past two years. International law-enforcement agencies have been called in to help, including the FBI.

Whether or not the passports turn out to have had anything to do with the flight disaster, security expert Gunaratna says MH370’s fate highlights the need for governments to better coordinate in sharing information on stolen or lost passports. Interpol maintains a database on such passports, and the service is free. Around 40 million passports have been logged in the system. But registration with the service by local governments and usage of the database by immigration authorities are spotty. Only a “handful” of governments dutifully check in, according to Interpol, which estimates that last year more than a billion flights were taken by people whose passports were not screened against the database. Altered passports can be used for everything from drug running and illegal immigration to, potentially, terrorism. “This is a situation we had hoped never to see,” said Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble in a statement. “For years Interpol has asked why should countries wait for a tragedy to put prudent security measures in place at borders and boarding gates.”

In its statement, Interpol confirmed that both the Austrian and Italian passports had been entered into their registry, one in 2012 and the other in 2013. Yet Malaysian immigration authorities did not discover the deception because they never checked the database. In fact, Interpol reports that no country’s authorities had ever checked the registry for these two passports. “Aviation is the most sensitive security domain of all, and there’s clearly been a glaring flaw in the security system because no one should be able to board a flight on someone else’s passport,” says Gunaratna. “Everything must be done to ensure there is no security breach; everything must be done to prevent any incident.”

Regional security analysts credit the Malaysian government’s commitment to counterterrorism, with efforts redoubled as Malaysian nationals were previously implicated in a series of terrorist attacks in Southeast Asia. At the same time, Malaysia is a regional air hub that deals with a large number of transit passengers. Two bombmaking masterminds linked to the Bali bombings and a string of hotel and embassy attacks in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, were Malaysian. Both are deceased.

Two security experts, one American, say that they had heard no intelligence chatter about a possible terrorist attack involving airplanes in East Asia. That, of course, does not mean that such an incident could not occur. But there has been no sustained, consistent pattern of Asian terrorist groups targeting regional airlines.

None of this speculation can ease the sorrow of the families of the 239 passengers and crew of MH370. Chinese who just a week ago took to social media to pour out their grief for the Kunming attack, found themselves mourning anew. A week of horror continues.

TIME

‘Don’t Freak, I’m a Sikh,’ Video Seeks to Combat Bias

Sikh fashion blog Singh Street Style' video implores people not to "freak" when they see a man in a turban.

+ READ ARTICLE

For some in the west, a man wearing a turban can become a target of suspicion, fear and even violence.

In 2013, a Gap add featuring Sikh actor Waris Ahluwalia was famously defaced, changing the slogan “make love” to “make bombs.” The attack implied a connection between Sikhs and terrorists that does not exist in reality. It made apparent something most Sikhs themselves know al too well: that their religion, and the turbans they wear to symbolize it, are greatly misunderstood.

The Singh Street Style blog, an English Sikh fashion site, produced this “Don’t Freak, I’m Sikh” video in an effort to correct misperceptions and explain their culture. Calling their turbans “a crown, a uniform and a symbol against oppression,” it asks viewers to see the turban as a sign of friendship and integrity.

TIME

Muslim Families Won’t Get a ‘Fun Day’ at Legoland Because of Right-Wing Threats

Prince George Of Cambridge Takes His Place In Legoland
A model of Buckingham Palace at the Legoland resort in Windsor, England. Muslim families have been prevented from enjoying the park Matthew Lloyd / Getty Images

For some reason, British ultra-nationalists have a problem with Muslims enjoying Lego

A Legoland theme park in Windsor, England said it had to cancel an Islamic group’s “fun day” and temporarily close for business following a torrent of abusive threats from right wing extremists.

The BBC reports that the theme park was slated to hold a private event for the Muslim Research and Development Foundation (MRDF) this Sunday, when threats flooded into the company’s Facebook page, email accounts and voicemails. The park cancelled the event, citing security concerns.

Legoland said in a public statement that it was”extremely sorry” and promised a full refund for affected families. The MRDF said the event was open to all faiths and called the threats “an outright attack on Islam and Muslims in the UK.”

[BBC]

TIME Syria

Al Qaeda’s Top Envoy Killed in Syria by Rival Rebel Group

An undated handout picture provided by SITE Intelligence Group on Feb. 23, 2014 allegedly shows Syrian Islamist leader Abu Khalid al-Suri at an undisclosed location in Syria.
An undated handout picture provided by SITE Intelligence Group on Feb. 23, 2014 allegedly shows Syrian Islamist leader Abu Khalid al-Suri at an undisclosed location in Syria. AFP/Getty Images

Top al-Qaeda leader Abu Khalid al-Suri was reportedly killed by a rival extremist group

Running an international terrorist organization from a hiding place somewhere in Pakistan isn’t easy. Even though war, be it in Somalia, Yemen or Libya, presents great opportunities for expansion, growth brings unique challenges, as any CEO can attest. Nowhere has that been made clearer for al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri than Syria. For the past year, al-Qaeda’s star franchises in Syria and Iraq — the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria [ISIS], respectively — have battled over turf, recruits and the right to claim the mantle of al-Qaeda’s true representative in Syria.

Strongly worded letters written by Zawahiri didn’t work. An audio recording posted to jihadist websites didn’t defuse tensions either. Finally, Zawahiri decided to send an envoy to sort out the problem. Not only was Abu Khalid al-Suri a trusted confidant who had fought with Zawahiri in Afghanistan, he once worked for al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden as a courier in Spain, according to Thomas Joscelyn, a counter-terror analyst and editor at the Long War Journal. Al-Suri’s mission was to resolve the crisis, stop the infighting and steer both organizations back towards defeating the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, so al-Qaeda could achieve the overarching goal of establishing its first foothold in the heart of the Middle East.

On Sunday, al-Suri was killed, victim of an apparent ISIS suicide bomb attack that is likely to reverberate among rebel groups for months to come. While the death of one of al-Qaeda’s top operatives may be cause for celebration in most quarters, it could be a harbinger of even more death and destruction, as rival rebel groups square off against each-other in a new cycle of revenge killings that will do little to bring an end to a conflict that has already lasted three years and taken more than 130,000 lives.

Al-Suri never did accomplish his mission, says Joscelyn, who has covered Suri’s role in Syria extensively. “Those reconciliation efforts failed and al-Qaeda sided with Suri and al-Nusra, disowning ISIS in the process.” Which may explain why ISIS was so determined to go after one of Zawahiri’s top lieutenants. What happens next, however, is unclear. The Syrian-born al-Suri had another role in helping lead one of the most effective fighting groups in Syria today, the Ahrar al-Sham brigade. Officially, Ahrar al-Sham has no affiliation with al-Qaeda, but Zawahiri was able to influence the rebel group’s actions through al-Suri. It was a savvy management move that gave al-Qaeda flexibility on the Syrian front. But not all is lost for Zawahiri, or his organization, says Joscelyn. “Al-Suri wasn’t the only one. Al-Qaeda has other loyal senior operatives in Syria. So al-Qaeda’s efforts are far from over.”

TIME Terrorism

Beirut vs. Benghazi: 4 Lessons

Contrasting the nation’s reactions to a pair of terror attacks over 30 years apart

Tuesday’s congressional probe into the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya—yes, another one, the second so far in this young year—is the latest volley fired at the Obama Administration.

The report contends the Administration’s neglect allowed the attack, which killed four Americans, including U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, to take place. “White House officials failed to comprehend or ignored the dramatically deteriorating security situation in Libya and the growing threat to U.S. interests in the region,” it concludes.

It’s not only the second report issued this year. It’s the second Benghazi report in a year whose lead author is Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, the California Republican who chairs the House Armed Services Committee.

It’s worth looking back 30 years to how another California Republican—Ronald Reagan—and a Congress of the opposing party handled a similar event, the 1983 attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. troops. There are many similarities, and one key difference.

Shadowy groups carried out both attacks, making retaliation difficult. A little-known group calling itself Islamic Jihad, which would eventually grow into Hezbollah, claimed responsibility for the Beirut blast. It would take 20 years before clear evidence linking Iran to those who carried out the attack surfaced. The insurgents who attacked Benghazi were also a murky group, although they do appear to have some links to al Qaeda.

Lesson #1: The world’s leading military power is routinely subject to attacks by irregular forces. Enough bad guys with peashooters can blind a giant every once in awhile. Defending against all such attacks is impossible; judgment is required to defend against those deemed most likely. Sometimes that judgment is wrong. Not evil or neglectful. Just, unfortunately, wrong.

There had been warnings that something bad was going to happen. In Beirut, the U.S. deployed troops as peacekeepers into the middle of a Lebanese civil war, and then was seen to be taking sides when U.S. warships fired their guns at Muslim targets a month before the bombing. There had been repeated attacks on Westerners in Libya prior to the strikes on the U.S. diplomatic outposts in Benghazi.

Lesson #2: See Lesson #1, above.

Retaliation in both cases was anemic. In 1983, the USS New Jersey only began firing mammoth 16-inch shells at Druze and Syrian positions nearly two months after the bombing. Weakening congressional support for the mission led Reagan to order a U.S. withdrawal from Lebanon less than four months afterward. The less-then-forceful response emboldened Hezbollah and its sponsors. No one has been punished for the Benghazi attack, which the Obama Administration has transformed into a legal case. That has left the military on the sidelines—even if the U.S. could pinpoint the perpetrators—according to Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Lesson #3: Retaliation against non-state actors is tough. Innocents will die and some of the guilty will escape. Better to go after their sponsors, assuming the evidence of their role is airtight.

A Pentagon investigation into the Beirut bombing blamed military officers for the vulnerabilities that led to the attack, although Reagan took responsibility, too. “’If there is to be blame, it properly rests here in this office and with this President,” he said.

Obama said much the same a month after Benghazi. “I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place there,” he said, “because these are my folks, and I’m the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home.”

While that earlier House report, released in April 2013, was labeled an “interim progress report,” Tuesday’s was labeled a “Majority Interim Report: Benghazi Investigation Update.” There is little new in the second report, but these titles suggest you may keep on reading reports like this for some time. In fact, last week House Speaker John Boehner unveiled a new page on the Republican Party’s website that includes reams of Benghazi documents.

“This site brings the facts straight to the American people by way of hundreds of pages of documents and transcripts the White House doesn’t want you to read,” Boehner’s office said in a statement (underlined in the original) unveiling the site. “The investigation is ongoing, and the search for truth continues, so new documents will be added as they are made available.”

Reagan’s White House was split over the deployment of U.S. troops to Lebanon; Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger opposed it. That was a political opening big enough to drive a 19-ton yellow Mercedes truck through, just like the one that destroyed the barracks. Yet the Beirut bombing never became the political cudgel that Benghazi has become for Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have been swinging it ever since the fires in Benghazi burned themselves out.

Lesson #4: That is the key difference between the two events. It speaks volumes about how partisan tragedy has become.

LIBYA-US-ATTACKS-POLITICS-FILES

STR / AFP / Getty Images

The U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Sept. 11, 2012.

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