TIME Syria

Suicide Bomber in Syria Was American Citizen

The man went by the name Abu Hurayra al-Amriki

A man who detonated a suicide truck bomb in Syria on Sunday was an American citizen, the Obama Administration confirmed Friday.

“I can confirm that this individual was a U.S. citizen involved in a suicide bombing in Syria,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

Syrian rebels released a video earlier this week after an attack on a Syrian military checkpoint. In the video, they claimed one of the bombers involved was an American who fought under the nom-du-guerre Abu Huraya al-Amriki. (al-Amriki translates to “the American.”)

Rebel groups said the attack was carried out in coordination with the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist group affiliated with al-Qaeda.

CNN, citing unnamed U.S. officials, reports the man grew up in Florida. U.S. officials have expressed concern about the stream of foreign fighters flowing into Syria’s war, worried they will return to the U.S. both radicalized and dangerous.

TIME White House

White House Proposes $5 Billion Global Anti-Terrorism Fund

U.S. soldiers walks along a ridgeline during a patrol up a mountainside near Forward Operating Base Shank on March 31, 2014 near Pul-e Alam, Afghanistan.
U.S. soldier walks along a ridgeline during a patrol up a mountainside near Forward Operating Base Shank on March 31, 2014 near Pul-e Alam, Afghanistan. Scott Olson—Getty Images

President Obama announced plans for a Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF) during a speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Wednesday

Updated 11:35am E.T.

President Barack Obama unveiled a proposed $5-billion “terrorism partnership fund” Wednesday to aid other countries in fighting extremists and other radical groups.

The President said he would ask Congress to support the establishment of a Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF) during a speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

“These resources will give us flexibility to fulfill different missions,” Obama said, “including training security forces in Yemen who have gone on the offensive against al Qaeda; supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia; working with European allies to train a functioning security force and border patrol in Libya; and facilitating French operations in Mali.”

The fund would add vital resources to help tackle fallout from the ongoing conflict in Syria, he said, where fighting between the regime of President Bashar Assad and opposition forces has attracted extremist Islamist groups seeking to take advantage of a power vacuum. “With the additional resources I’m announcing today, we will step up our efforts to support Syria’s neighbors—Jordan and Lebanon; Turkey and Iraq—as they host refugees, and confront terrorists working across Syrian borders,” Obama said.

The fund would allow the Department of Defense to improve and expand counterterrorism training, assist other countries’ efforts, and collaborate with the State Department to support stable governments around the world in their “efforts to counter violent extremism and terrorist ideology,” the White House said.

During television appearances on Wednesday morning, Secretary of State John Kerry defended Obama’s plans to reduce U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan by the end of the year.

“This is not an abandonment of Afghanistan,” Kerry said on NBC’s Today show. “This is an emboldenment. This is an empowerment of Afghanistan.”

While appearing on CBS This Morning, Kerry said that withdrawing from Afghanistan will allow the U.S. to devote more resources to fighting terrorism around the word. The nation’s foreign policy, he said, should be updated to reflect the “rapidly changing, more complex world where terrorism is the principal challenge.”

Kerry also told Good Morning America on ABC that the U.S. has “people on the ground” and is “working hand in hand with Nigerians” to recover the nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria by Islamic radicals.

TIME Libya

Top Libyan Journalist and Critic of Islamic Extremism Gunned Down

Journalists and others take part in a rally at Tripoli's Martyrs' Square on May 26, 2014 Mahmud Turkia—AFP / Getty

Meftah Bouzid's slaying is the latest in a series of deadly attacks carried out by jihadists in the Islamist stronghold of Benghazi

Meftah Bouzid, a prominent Libyan journalist and vocal critic of the country’s jihadists, was shot dead on Monday in the Islamist stronghold of Benghazi, generating a wave of condemnation from domestic and international rights organizations.

Bouzid had previously been the subject of death threats for his frequent condemnation of Islamic extremists, who since the 2011 revolution have carried out dozens of deadly attacks on prominent figures, officials, foreigners and the armed forces in Benghazi, AFP reports.

Hundreds of people attended the funeral of the slain editor of the weekly newspaper Burniq, as French-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the U.N. mission in Libya called for a prompt investigation into the shooting.

RSF urged “all civilian, military and political actors … to immediately end all attacks on civilians, including all journalists.”


TIME Crime

Prosecutors: Suspected Boston Bombers Used Christmas Lights, Model Car Parts in Explosives

Prosecutors say the sophistry of the explosives gave investigators reason to believe that the suspects may have had accomplices, prompting them to question Dzhokhar Tsarnaev while he was being treated in the hospital.

The suspected Boston Marathon bombers used parts from Christmas lights and model cars to construct the sophisticated explosives used in the attack, federal prosecutors said in a Wednesday court filing.

Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two suspects in the April 16, 2013 bombings that killed three people and injured 264 others. His brother and alleged accomplice, Tamerlan, died during a police shootout following the search for suspects.

Prosecutors said in the filing the sophisticated nature of the explosives gave reason to believe that the brothers received assistance, the Boston Globe reports.

“In short, the facts and circumstances known to law enforcement at the time they interviewed Tsarnaev provided ample reason to believe that the Tsarnaevs did not act alone,” the prosecutors said in the filing, according to the Globe.

Prosecutors also said the brothers appeared to have crushed and emptied fireworks containing black powder for the bombs, but investigators did not find significant traces of the powder at the brothers’ residences or cars.

The filing also argues the court should not suppress statements Dzhokhar Tsarnaev made to FBI agents while being treated in a hospital after his arrest because investigators had to determine if the suspect had accomplices who could have posed a threat. Tsarnaev’s defense has argued that the interrogations are inadmissible because he was interrogated without access to a lawyer.

[Boston Globe]


The Capital of China’s Xinjiang Region Is in Lockdown After a Deadly Blast

Chinese police say an explosion has killed at least 31 people in Urumqi, the capital of China's restive northwest Xinjiang region. This comes just weeks after a bomb and knife attack at the city's rail station was blamed on extremists from the region's mostly Muslim Uighur community


Urumqi does not want for cops. The capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, in China’s far northwest, is well-guarded. Riot trucks cruise city streets. Armed police stand vigil over Friday prayers. And following a deadly attack last month, the city’s railway station feels like a fortress. But none of this, it seems, has stopped the violence.

At around 7:50 a.m. Thursday two “cross-country” vehicles collided on a street near Renmin Park, about 4km from the city’s main square, sending fire and smoke shooting into the sky, according to state media reports. Witnesses told local press they heard a series of explosions and saw blazing plumes stretching one-story high. Photographs from the scene show shattered market stalls, toppled piles of produce, and bodies lining the road. Police say at least 31 people were killed.

The explosion hit the city at what is usually a quiet, restful time. China officially has one time zone, a fact that is at odds with longitudinal realities. To account for this, people in Xinjiang use both “Beijing time” and “Xinjiang time,” which is two hours behind. Ten to eight in the morning, Beijing time, is effectively 5:50 a.m. to the locals. At this hour, it’s usually only shopkeepers and the elderly who are milling about.

The early-morning chaos comes just weeks after a brutal and bloody attack at an Urumqi railway station. On April 30, a bomb and knife attack at the city’s southern train terminal left three dead — two of them attackers — and 79 injured. Several people have since been arrested in connection with that attack. Although few details have been released, authorities say they were motivated by extremism.

It will probably be days or weeks before we know what exactly happened. The authorities keep a tight lid on information about potentially sensitive subjects, and few subjects are more sensitive right now than the specter of unrest, or terrorism, in Xinjiang.

The vast homeland of the Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim Uighur people has seen a rise in violence in recent years attributed, depending on who you ask, to religious extremism, separatism, or as a reaction to forceful religious and social oppression by the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Many Uighurs feel overwhelmed by the pace of immigration to Xinjiang of China’s ethnic Han majority, with Urumqi now a majority Han city.

For decades, a small minority has waged a campaign against the Chinese government, usually targeting symbols of state power in Xinjiang, including government buildings and police stations.

The violence seems to be spreading. Last fall, a truck plowed through crowds of tourists in Beijing’s Tiananmen square, killing two and injuring dozens. Chinese authorities said the vehicle was driven by Uighur separatists, although few details have been released about the assailants — a man, his wife and his mother. In March, a group of knife-wielding attackers slashed and stabbed their way through a train station in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, killing 29. Chinese authorities identified the group as separatists from Xinjiang.

All this has prompted the ruling Chinese Communist Party to tighten its already firm hold on the territory. In a visit to Xinjiang last month, President Xi Jinping promised a “strike first” policy and called police officers, who are disproportionately Han Chinese, the “fists and daggers” in the country’s fight against terrorism and separatism. “Sweat more in peacetime to bleed less in wartime,” he reportedly advised.

By last weekend, the police were omnipresent. In Hotan, a dusty city in Xinjiang’s southwest, there were police trucks on each block of the city’s center. Roads to outlying towns and villages were blocked by checkpoints. In the otherwise laid-back and leafy capital, life continues apace, albeit in the presence of armed men. At Urumqi’s southern railway station — which is itself flanked by police stations — men with automatic weapons meet passengers at the ticket gate.

The show of force is mighty, but on this awful morning, you have to wonder if anyone feels safe.

TIME Nigeria

Boko Haram Survivor Tells Story on Capitol Hill

Deborah Peter, 15, recounted how the Nigerian Islamist group had butchered her father and brother as Congress mulls how to counter the group that has abducted over 200 schoolgirls


Deborah Peter, a 15 year-old Nigerian, has a horrible story.

On the evening of Dec. 22, 2011, she saw her father, a Christian pastor, shot three times in the chest by three members of the Islamist radical group Boko Haram. While her father lay on the floor of his home, the men debated whether or not they should kill her brother Caleb. As her father breathed his last, they killed Caleb too. The men made the young girl lie between the corpses and she stayed there until the next morning, when a local pastor paid for her to get out of the region. That pastor was killed in 2013 — again, by Boko Haram.

Peter recounted her story before the media on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, as Congress debates how to counter the radical Islamist group behind last month’s kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Peter’s home town. She held up a paper sign reading “#BringBackMySisters” for video cameras and photographers. She then attended a House panel committee to discuss the growing threat of Boko Haram, along with Department of Defense and Secretary of State officials summoned as witnesses.

“I decided to tell the world my story when the Chibok girls were taken because everyone needs to know how horrible Boko Haram is,” said Peter in her statement. “They kill innocent people who never hurt them. I want the world to understand what happened to me. I hope the kidnapped Chibok girls will take courage from my story, and know more of what God says, and know what it means to stand strong in the face of bad people.”

After giving her opening statement, Peter was asked to describe how she felt about Boko Haram after all she had been through. “It’s a hard question; I think they’re bad,” she said, before adding “I can’t judge them.”

Later, TIME asked her why. “The Bible said do not judge,” she replied.

TIME Nigeria

Search For Victims Continues After Nigeria Bomb Toll Tops 118

No one has yet claimed responsibility, but the twin explosions bear the hallmarks of militant Islamist group Boko Haram. President Goodluck Jonathan meanwhile faces increased pressure as terror attacks escalate


Rescuers are still digging for victims of the two car bombs that killed at least 118 in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Tuesday.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the gruesome attack, but President Goodluck Jonathan indicated he blamed the militant Islamists Boko Haram, which has killed more than 1,000 people this year, and which kidnapped more than 250 schoolgirls last month.

Tuesday’s blasts ripped through a crowded business district about half an hour apart, suggesting that they were coordinated to cause as much carnage as possible. Witnesses describe a chaotic scene suffused with the sickening smell of human flesh, with dozens of bodies strewn about, many of them emergency workers who had just arrived in response of the first explosion.

Jos sits on a fault line between Muslims and Christians, nomads and farmers, and has previously erupted in violence, most notably when several churches were bombed on Christmas Day in 2011.

Some Nigerians are blaming the government for not doing enough to prevent the latest attacks from happening.

Mark Lipdo of the Christian charity Stefanos Foundation told the Associated Press that several people had reported their suspicions about the white van that contained the first bomb, since it was parked for hours in the market place. However, authorities apparently took no action. Lipdo also says they ignored a warning issued by a man arrested with explosives strapped to his body on Saturday.

President Jonathan, who is facing increased pressure over the recent escalation of terrorist attacks, called the perpetrators “cruel and evil” and said that “this administration will not be cowed by the atrocities of enemies of human progress and civilization.”

The Jos bombings, and a separate car bomb in northern Kano that killed 24 people on Monday, took place after regional and Western leaders pledged a “total war” on the Boko Haram at a weekend summit in Paris. The latest attacks also coincide with parliament’s approval of an extension of emergency laws in three of the country’s restive north-eastern states for another six months.

TIME Nigeria

Double Car Blasts Kill More than 100 in Central Nigeria

Nigeria Explosions
Smoke rises after a bomb blast at a bus terminal in Jos, Nigeria, Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Stefanos Foundation—AP

Two massive explosions tore through a crowded marketplace and bus station in the central Nigerian city of Jos, killing at least 118 people and raising fears of mounting chaos in the region

Updated 5:30 p.m. ET

Two car bombs exploded near a crowded market and a bus terminal in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Tuesday, killing at least 118 people according to officials, the Associated Press reports.

No group has claimed responsibility, the BBC reports, though suspicions quickly turned on the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which has previously targeted the city in an extended campaign of bombings, shootings and abductions, including the April kidnapping of more than 250 schoolgirls.

The bomb blasts could be heard from miles away, AP reports, and images uploaded to Twitter showed plumes of black smoke rising above the city. Witnesses told the BBC that they saw bodies outside of the city hospital that were charred beyond recognition.

Jos, a city of half a million people some 300 miles northeast of the nation’s capital, sits on a sectarian fault line that has previously erupted into violent land disputes between Muslims and Christians, nomads and farmers.

The attack coincides with a parliamentary vote on Tuesday to extend a declared state of emergency in three north-eastern states, Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, the BBC reports. The states comprise strongholds of Boko Haram, in which the government has attempted to find the abducted schoolgirls.

TIME General al-Sisi

Egypt’s Al-Sisi Asks Obama For Help in ‘War on Terrorism’

The man who is set to become Egypt's next head of state asked Barack Obama for help to fight terrorism in his country

Egyptian General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi needs U.S. help in fighting “a war on terrorism,” he said in an interview published Thursday.

“We need American support to fight terrorism, we need American equipment to use to combat terrorism,” Sisi told Reuters in his first interview with foreign media before Egypt’s upcoming presidential election. The general is set to win those elections, which take place at the end of the month.

Sisi last year led the ouster of elected Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi. Sisi has since declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

The 59-year-old Sisi also said there was no question that Egypt was still committed to its peace treaty with Israel and that the relations between the two countries had been stable for 30 years despite many challenges.


TIME Foreign Policy

U.S. Deploys Drones in Search for Kidnapped Nigerian Girls

Kidnapped schoolgirls are seen at an unknown location in this still image taken from an undated video released by Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram.
Kidnapped schoolgirls are seen at an unknown location in this still image taken from an undated video released by Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram. Reuters

White House officials have confirmed that unmanned and unarmed reconnaissance drones are now patrolling an area of Nigeria the size of West Virginia in search of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in April by the militant group Boko Haram

The United States has deployed drones to Nigeria to help search for more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by militant group Boko Haram, officials confirmed Wednesday.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said “unmanned, unarmed” aircraft had joined reconnaissance flights over a swath of Nigeria where Boko Haram is believed to be holding the girls hostage. Carney cautioned during a news conference that the area of greatest suspicion still covering an expanse of land “along the size of West Virginia.”

The announcement comes as some U.S. lawmakers are urging the use of force to rescue the Nigerian girls. Senators in both parties recently floated the idea of using special forces to aid in the search, and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain went further on Tuesday. “I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them,” McCain told to the Daily Beast.

Carney, however, said U.S. counterterrorism experts dispatched to Nigeria would limit their activity to an “advisory capacity,” focused on finding the girls.

Recent international attention and internal protests have ratcheted up pressure on Nigeria’s government to rescue the girls and crack down on Boko Haram. Over the last five years, the extremist group has waged a campaign of bombings, massacres and kidnappings in northern Nigeria that has claimed an estimated 1,000 lives.

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