TIME europe

Ukraine Arrests 70 in ‘Anti-Terrorist’ Raid

Pro-Russian protesters are seen through barbed wires at a barricade outside a regional government building in Donetsk
Pro-Russian protesters are seen outside the regional government building they seized in the Donetsk region on April 7, 2014. © Stringer—Reuters

The Ukrainian government launches "anti-terrorist" operation against citizens who seized government buildings and called for Russian troops to invade, further raising tensions in the restive Eastern European state

About 70 people have been arrested in eastern Ukraine for taking over a regional administrative building in the Donetsk region city of Kharkiv.

The “anti-terrorist” operation was launched by the Ukrainian government in response to hundreds of pro-Kremlin protesters seizing government buildings in Donetsk on Monday, calling for Russia to send in troops. They even declared the region independent from Kiev, Reuters reports.

“An anti-terrorist operation has been launched. The city center is blocked along with metro stations. Do not worry. Once we finish, we will open them again,” the Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Tuesday on his Facebook profile.

The Ukrainian government established an “anti-crisis headquarters” on Monday and said that it would establish “anti-terrorist measures” to use against citizens who take up arms.

Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk lashed out at compatriots in the east of the country planning to “destabilize the situation” and “ensure that foreign troops could cross the border and capture the territory of the country,” United Press International reports.

[Reuters]

TIME Asia

Musharraf Survives Assassination Attempt in Pakistan

PAKISTAN-UNREST-MUSHARRAF
A Pakistani policeman rolls barricade tape at the site of a bomb explosion in Islamabad on April 3, 2014. Aamir Qureshi - AFP/Getty Images

Former President Pervez Musharraf was targeted in a botched assassination attempt on Thursday when a bomb exploded minutes before his convoy was due to pass the site in Islamabad. He faces a litany of legal troubles since his return to the country last year

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf narrowly dodged an assassination attempt on Thursday when a bomb exploded minutes before his convoy was due to pass by in Islamabad.

No one was injured in the explosion’s wake, according to officials.

“Four kilograms of explosive device planted in a pipeline under a bridge exploded around 20 minutes before the former president was supposed to cross the spot,” senior police official Liaqat Niazi told AFP.

The former military ruler, who headed the country with an iron fist from 1999 to 2008, has been facing myriad legal troubles, including charges of high treason, since he returned to Pakistan last year. Thursday’s botched assassination scheme was the fourth such attempt to kill Musharraf, AFP reports. The first three attempts occurred during his decade as Pakistan’s leader.

[AFP]

TIME Terrorism

Bin Laden Son-In-Law Convicted In Terror Trial

Still image taken from an undated video of Suleiman Abu Ghaith
A man identified as Sulaiman Abu Ghaith appears in this still image taken from an undated video address. Reuters

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, an al-Qaeda spokesman and the son-in-law of the 9/11 mastermind, was convicted of conspiring to kill Americans by helping to recruit terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks. The charges against him could carry up to life in prison

Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law was convicted by a New York jury for conspiring to kill Americans in his role as al-Qaeda’s spokesman, where he used inflammatory propaganda to create recruitment videos.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith is the highest-ranking al-Qaeda official to face trial on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Associated Press reports. Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti imam, admitted during his three-week trial in New York he followed bin Laden’s orders shortly after the attacks in helping recruit new followers to al-Qaeda.

“Going to that man was the very first thing Osama bin Laden did on Sept. 11 after the terror attacks,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cronan during closing arguments. “The defendant committed himself to al-Qaida’s conspiracy to kill Americans, and he worked to drive other people to that conspiracy.”

Abu Ghaith insisted throughout the trial that he had intended to encourage Muslims to rise up against their oppressors, and denied he was an al-Qaeda recruiter.

The charges against the al-Qaeda lieutenant could carry up to life in prison.

[AP]

TIME Crime

Man Who Pled Guilty to New York Pipe Bomb Plot Gets 16 Years

The suspected terrorist is known as the "lone wolf"

A Manhattan man was sentenced to 16 years in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to charges that he plotted to set off pipe bombs in New York City, New York 1 reports.

Jose Pimental was hoping to avenge the death of an American-born Muslim cleric killed by a U.S. drone, prosecutors said. Pimental, the so-called “lone wolf,” was arrested in November 2011 under suspicion of terrorism before he was able to actually make any bombs.

Pimental’s sentence was part of a plea bargain that includes five years of supervision after his eventual release. Pimental could have received 15 years to life if the case had gone to trial.

[NY1]

TIME Global Security

We’re Not Prepared for a Nuclear Heist

How did an 82-year-old nun come so close to getting her hands on highly enriched uranium?

In September 2009, a group of masked men armed with automatic weapons and explosives arrived on the roof of a cash depot in Vastberg, Sweden in a helicopter. The men blasted their way through a skylight and hoisted millions of dollars up to the hovering aircraft — the operation took less than 20 minutes. When police rushed to respond they discovered a bag with the word “bomb” at their heliport — a diversion planted by the thieves — and caltrops (road spikes) near the depot to slow down their response on the ground. While many of the thieves were caught after an investigation, most of the money was never recovered.

The Vastberg heist was not a nuclear event, but a new report from my colleagues at Harvard University makes the case that the incident should have deeply troubling implications for the leaders from over 50 countries convening in the Netherlands on March 24-25 for a summit on nuclear security. The stark truth is that many locations around the world that store highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium — the essential ingredients of nuclear weapons — would not be able to repel an attack from adversaries using tactics and weapons as sophisticated as those used by the Vastberg thieves. An amount of plutonium that would fit in a soda can would be enough for terrorists to construct a crude nuclear bomb capable of reducing the heart of a major city to rubble (it wouldn’t require much HEU, either). Today, there are approximately 1440 tons of HEU and 500 tons of separated plutonium in hundreds of buildings in dozens of countries around the world; the theft of only .001 percent of this stockpile could lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Categorizing nuclear terrorism as the gravest global security threat, President Obama convened the first biennial Nuclear Security Summit in 2010 as part of a four-year goal to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide. By elevating the issue of nuclear security to the level of presidents and prime ministers, the summit process resulted in indisputable successes. Four years later, the report by Harvard points out, many countries have strengthened their rules and procedures for securing nuclear materials, and 13 countries eliminated all the HEU or separate plutonium on their soil entirely, including, thank god, Ukraine (you really don’t want HEU hanging around in a country on the verge of war). For these and other reasons, the summits have made the world a safer place.

Nonetheless, every country that still has nuclear weapons, plutonium or HEU has more to do to ensure these items are effectively and lastingly secured — including the United States. Some facilities still require physical enhancements, such as more armed guards, physical barriers, and so on. Others have only minimal protections against insiders stealing nuclear material or sabotaging facilities. In most cases, the biggest obstacle remains security culture. All the bells, whistles and hair-trigger seismic detectors in the world won’t make a difference if security personnel are not vigilant. The Harvard report quotes Eugene Habiger, former security czar at the U.S. Department of Energy: “good security is 20% hardware and 80% culture.”

In the U.S. in 2012, an 82-year old nun and two other peace protestors broke into Y-12, a facility in Tennessee that contains the world’s largest repository of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in metal form and until the incident was colloquially known as “the Fort Knox of HEU” for its state-of-the-art security equipment. The nun bypassed multiple intrusion-detection systems because faulty cameras had not been replaced and guards at the central alarm station had grown weary of manually validating sensors that produced frequent false alarms. When the protestors started hammering on the side of a building that contains enough HEU for hundreds of weapons, the guards inside assumed the noise was coming from construction workers that they had not been told were coming. She and her fellow protestors were eventually challenged by a single guard.

An assembly of world leaders is an ideal venue for building a vigilant nuclear security regime — when it comes to culture, leadership matters. Russia and the United States — the countries with the largest stockpiles of weapons and material — bear a special responsibility for providing effective leadership at the summit. Current disagreements between the two countries in Ukraine should not prevent them from cooperating on programs that serve each country’s national interest — and nuclear security clearly fills that criterion. It is worth remembering that even at the height of the Cold War, tensions did not stop the USSR and the U.S. from cooperating to adopt the 1968 nuclear nonproliferation treaty, which remains a crucial if strained lynchpin of global security today.

Clear signals of cooperation from Russia and the United States in The Hague (or at the least, a tacit agreement not to use the summit for grandstanding or other political gain), can galvanize this crucial biennial gathering and help sustain its momentum. Leaders should take concrete steps at the summit including building and sharing a database of adversary tactics from thefts and other incidents, expanded intelligence cooperation, sharing best practices for reducing the risk of “insider” thefts, and establishing mechanisms for states to assure one another that they are providing effective security. But nothing will do more to improve global nuclear security culture than the recognition that no geopolitical dispute — not even Crimea — is more important than the goal of ensuring that the world’s most dangerous materials remain secure from even the most sophisticated attacks.

Eben Harrell (@ebenharrell) is an associate at the Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. For more information, visit http://nuclearsecuritymatters.belfercenter.org.

TIME Terrorism

Osama Bin Laden’s Son-in-Law Recalls Terror Leader’s 9/11 Boasts

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith testified during his trial that bin Laden proudly took responsibility for the attack during a conversation on Sept. 11, 2001. The terrorist leader's son-in-law and al-Qaeda spokesman is charged with conspiring to kill Americans

Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law testified Wednesday that he spoke with the al-Qaeda leader the night of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and that bin Laden boasted about being responsible.

“Did you learn what happened? We are the ones who did it,” Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a former al-Qaeda spokesman on trial for conspiring to kill Americans, recalled bin Laden saying. Abu Ghaith said that when he warned bin Laden the United States would not “settle until it kills you and topples the state of Taliban,” bin Laden brushed him off by saying, “you’re being too pessimistic.” Bin Laden was killed in an American operation in 2011.

Abu Ghaith’s comments came during surprise testimony, the Associated Press reports. He shared details of his encounters with bin Laden, who he met when he traveled to Afghanistan in June 2001. Abu Ghaith testified that he made videos threatening more attacks on Americans and attempting to rally more people to with al-Qaeda, using quotes and information from bin Laden. He said he did not intend to recruit more followers.

“My intention was to deliver a message, a message I believed in,” he said, according to the AP. “I was hoping the United States would say, ‘Let’s sit down and talk and solve these problems,’ but America was going on and doing what I expected them to do.”

[AP]

TIME Aviation

No One Made Phone Calls From the Missing Jet, and This Could Be the Reason

Here's one theory to explain why no one was using cell phones as the plane disappeared

There has been much discussion about the lack of cell-phone calls from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 as it went missing this month, which seems especially surprising following the flurry of such calls that came from passengers aboard the airplanes hijacked on 9/11.

One theory is that a deranged pilot depressurized the aircraft, causing oxygen deprivation that knocked the passengers out in a matter of minutes. Others cite the plane’s altitude for the dearth of calls, and note that some of the calls made on 9/11 came from radiotelephones no longer in use.

But as anyone whose dinner, movie or recital has been interrupted by cell-phone calls can attest, there must be a way to thwart such calls. All you have to do is visit PhoneJammer.com to see a variety of such portable devices on offer.

“A phone jammer transmits low-powered radio signals to cut off communications between cell phones and cell base stations,” PhoneJammer.com says. “It does not interfere with any communications other than cellular phones within the defined regulated zone. Upon activating a phone jammer, all idle phones will indicate ‘NO NETWORK.’”

The portable units available from PhoneJammer.com include the Palm Mini Jammer (a cell-phone-size unit for $149 with a 5-m range, available in black, silver, beige and green), the High Power Portable Jammer (a smaller device with a range of up to 20 m for $205) and the Portable Adjustable Power Jammer ($395 with a range of up to 30 m and five-hour battery life).

PhoneJammer.com doesn’t specify where it’s located, although it appears that most of these devices are manufactured in — where else? — China (check out JammerFromChina.com for evidence). True, they’d have to be sneaked through security, and it might take two or three to shut down cell-phone calls from the entire aircraft. But it would seem to be a far surer way of cutting off communication than cutting off oxygen.

Passengers flying in the U.S. and Europe can rest easy: they can’t be shipped there “due to FCC [Federal Communications Commission]/CE [Conformité Européenne] restrictions,” PhoneJammer.com says.

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]

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