Thursday, February 20, 2014

The IPT Update

General security, policy
1.  US warns airlines about new security threat involving shoes
2.  Senior al-Qaeda figure leaves Iran amid a series of departures by terrorist suspects; Iran's infiltration of Navy computer network more extensive than previously thought
3.  Yemeni 'global terrorist' says he has counterterrorism advice for Washington
4.  Deal reached to allow Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to testify at NYC terror trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, bin Laden's son-in-law
5.  New York City terror suspect, Jose Pimentel, reaches plea deal with Manhattan DA's office

Air, rail, port, health, energy & communication security
6.  Reporting from the Web's underbelly 
7.  DHS abruptly cancels plan to collect license plate data
8.  Nevada man charged with aiming laser pointer at police helicopter 
9.  Amid Lac-Mégantic fallout, Irving Oil pledges rail-safety upgrade

Financing, money laundering, fraud, identity theft, civil litigation
10. French bank is suspected of violating blacklistings 
11. Treasury expands sanctions vs the Los Zetas Drug Cartel and designates Columbian narcotics trafficker
12. Canada Budget 2014: Charities that accept donations from states that sponsor terrorism will have registrations revoked

Border security, immigration & customs
13. Leaked details of Mossad assassin's fake Canadian passport under RCMP scrutiny

14. Al Qaeda-linked group claims Beirut bombings
15. Split within Al Qaeda over Syrian rebels grows; Saudi Arabia replaces key official in effort to arm rebels
16. Egypt detains local US embassy employee
17. Seychelles police identify 2 Americans, ex-Seals, found dead on 'Captain Phillips' ship
18. White House wants to press for release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl; The secret battles between US forces and Chechen terrorists
19. Afghan ethnic tensions rise in media and politics
20. Ukraine puts 'extremists' on notice after deadly clashes
21. Germany arrests man suspected of busting Iran sanctions
22. Norwegian charged with Syrian terror offenses
23. The British female terror groupies queuing up to marry jihad fighters in Syria; Police search home of Manchester man believed to have been killed in Syria; British jihadist warns life is hard in Syria and hundreds return to UK
24. Killers of Lee Rigby set to be handed full-life sentences after Appeal Court judges rule life CAN mean life for Britain's most notorious murderers

Comment / analysis
25. Khaled Abu Toameh:  Al-Qaeda-linked New Terrorists, DAESH, in Gaza Strip
26. IPT Video Report: NYC Pro-Morsi Rally Blasts Saudis as "Dirtier Than Jews"

The Investigative Project on Terrorism Update is designed for law enforcement, the intelligence community and policy makers for non-profit research and educational use only.   Quoted material is subject to the copyright protections of the original sources, which should be cited for attribution, rather than the Update.



1.  Sources: Airlines warned to beware of possible shoe bombs
By Evan Perez and Jim Sciutto, CNN, updated 9:54 PM EST, Wed February 19, 2014
(CNN) -- The U.S. government has warned airlines to pay particular attention to the possibility of terrorists attempting to hide explosives in shoes, a result of new intelligence, according to two people familiar with the situation.  The officials stressed there is no specific threat or known plot.  Intelligence collected by the United States and other countries has indicated terror groups have been working on new shoe-bomb designs, the sources said Wednesday.  That knowledge prompted the Department of Homeland Security to warn airlines to be on the lookout for explosives hidden in shoes on flights from overseas to the United States, they said.  A separate intelligence official underscored the warning was issued out of a sense of heightened caution…

2.  Senior al-Qaeda figure leaves Iran amid a series of departures by terrorist suspects February 16, 2014 Sunday 8:14 PM EST By: Adam Goldman
A senior al-Qaeda figure with close ties to the terrorist group's current leader has left Iran, where he had lived for years after fleeing American forces in Afghanistan in 2001, according to former and current U.S. intelligence officials. Thirwat Shihata is the latest terrorist suspect to leave Iran, raising questions about the country's motives for allowing or forcing the departure of a string of al-Qaeda members that it had sheltered over the past decade.  U.S. officials said that Shihata, a 53-year-old Egyptian, was the deputy of Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's current leader, when he ran Egyptian Islamic Jihad before it formally joined forces with Osama bin Laden in 1998…

Iranian Hacking to Test NSA Nominee Michael Rogers
Infiltration of Navy Computer Network More Extensive Than Previously Thought
By SIOBHAN GORMAN & JULIAN E. BARNES Wall Street Journal Updated Feb. 18, 2014 11:16 am ET
WASHINGTON—Iran's infiltration of a Navy computer network was far more extensive than previously thought, according to officials, and the officer who led the response will likely face questions about it from senators weighing his nomination as the next head of the embattled National Security Agency.  It took the Navy about four months to finally purge the hackers from its biggest unclassified computer network, according to current and former officials.  Some lawmakers are concerned about how long it took. When Vice Adm. Michael Rogers, President Barack Obama's choice for the new NSA director, faces his confirmation hearing, some senators are expected to ask whether there is a long-term plan to address security gaps exposed by the attack, congressional aides said. The hearing hasn't been scheduled yet, but could be next month…

3.  Yemeni 'global terrorist' says he has counterterrorism advice for Washington
By Abigail Hauslohner, Washington Post Published: February 16, 2014 
SANAA, Yemen — Abd al-Wahhab al-Humayqani has some advice for Washington.  The United States is doing more to stoke terrorism, here in the heartland of al-Qaeda's most active franchise, than to defeat it, he says. What the United States ought to do, he argues, is strengthen Yemen's state institutions — rather than create enemies by carrying out drone strikes.  "The U.S. can protect itself by cooperating directly with local authorities," he said in an interview in Yemen's capital.  Take it from a man who might know.  In December, the U.S. Treasury Department branded Humayqani, 42, a specially designated global terrorist, freezing his assets and sanctioning anyone who does business with him.  The Treasury accused Humayqani of using his network of ­Yemen-based charities to funnel money to al-Qaeda, placing him "at the center of global support networks that fund and facilitate terrorism." The Treasury said that as of 2012, Humayqani was "an important figure" within one of the terrorist group's most dangerous wings, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and that he had helped to orchestrate violent attacks on government targets and to recruit fighters.  Humayqani denies all of it. He said his charities benefit "orphans, mosques and poor families," not al-Qaeda. "My personal stance is against al-Qaeda operations, because they kill outside the law," he said…

4.  NYC terror trial of bin Laden son-in-law delayed
(AFP) – Feb 19, 2014 
New York — A US judge on Wednesday delayed by one week until March 3 the New York terror trial of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law and former Al-Qaeda spokesman, Suleiman Abu Ghaith.  The delay is to allow the defense time to collect testimony from the self-declared mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is held at Guantanamo Bay.  Abu Ghaith's lawyer Stanley Cohen requested a 45-day delay but federal judge Lewis Kaplan sided with government prosecutors who argued that an extra week would be enough… Mohammed is to receive written questions on Friday and needs at least four days to respond, though it is unclear how long any security clearance would take, Cohen said.  Abu Ghaith's trial had been due to start on Monday.  The 48-year-old Kuwaiti is charged with conspiracy to kill Americans, conspiracy to provide support to terrorists and providing support to terrorists…

In Terrorism Case, New Path to Testimony From 9/11 Suspect
By BENJAMIN WEISER New York Times FEB. 14, 2014
Lawyers for a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden moved closer on Thursday to being able to use Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described architect of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, as a defense witness to rebut the government's terrorism case against their client, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith.  At the same time, a government request to allow a cooperating witness to testify under a pseudonym was rejected by the trial judge, Lewis A. Kaplan, at a hearing in Federal District Court in Manhattan.  The bid to obtain Mr. Mohammed's testimony would originally have required one of Mr. Abu Ghaith's lawyers to travel to the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where Mr. Mohammed is being held and is to be tried before a military commission.  Mr. Abu Ghaith's lead lawyer, Stanley L. Cohen, had indicated that Mr. Mohammed had given his consent to be interviewed, but on the condition that no government lawyer be present during the questioning, a demand the government apparently refused.  A prosecutor, John P. Cronan, said in court that the government had "gone to great lengths" to give a defense lawyer access to Mr. Mohammed under conditions that it believed were "absolutely necessary."…

Deal reached to allow Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to testify
Lawyers for the government and an Al Qaeda suspect facing trial in New York agree to allow written questions to be submitted to Mohammed with the government allowed to screen out classified material.
Los Angeles Times February 14, 2014 Friday By Richard A. Serrano
… If government national security officials clear those replies, that could lead to highly dramatic testimony from Mohammed during the New York trial of Sulaiman abu Ghaith, possibly through a closed-circuit feed or videotape from Guantanamo Bay.  The complex turn of events came after Mohammed agreed to help the legal defense of Abu Ghaith, who is charged with criminal conspiracy in connection with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Mohammed faces a U.S. military trial at the prison compound in Cuba, charged with capital murder on suspicion of plotting the attacks…

5.  New York Terror Suspect Reaches Plea Deal
Jose Pimentel, Accused of Targeting Soldiers and Police Stations, Will Plead Guilty
By SEAN GARDINER Updated Feb. 19, 2014 3:53 p.m. ET Wall Street Journal
A Manhattan man will serve 16 years in prison as part of a plea agreement reached Wednesday in a rare terrorism case brought by state prosecutors.  The case against Jose Pimentel, 29 years old, was criticized by his defense attorneys as being so problematic that federal authorities chose to pass on it.  Mr. Pimentel faced a potential life sentence if convicted at trial, set to start next week. He pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon as a crime of terrorism.  The Manhattan District Attorney's Office deal calls for 16 years in prison followed by 5 years of supervised release. Mr. Pinentel will be formally sentenced to the term by Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Thomas Farber on March 25. He has already served two years.  Prosecutor Deborah Hickey said that if he went to trial, she would have proven Mr. Pimentel built a pipe bomb and was making others. The targets, Ms. Hickey said, were soldiers returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, recruiting stations, the New York Police Department, Jews and "in general a civilian population whom he described often as collateral damage."…

Defendant Constructed Pipe Bombs, Targeted Civilians, United States Marines, and Soldiers Returning from Combat
Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., District Attorney, New York County, Press Release February 19, 2014


IPT NOTE: For more items, see DHS Daily Open Source Infrastructure Reports ; DHS Blog ;  TSA Releases ; TSA Blog

6.  Reporting From the Web's Underbelly 
The New York Times February 17, 2014 Monday By NICOLE PERLROTH
SAN FRANCISCO — In the last year, Eastern European cybercriminals have stolen Brian Krebs's identity a half dozen times, brought down his website, included his name and some unpleasant epithets in their malware code, sent fecal matter and heroin to his doorstep, and called a SWAT team to his home just as his mother was arriving for dinner.  "I can't imagine what my neighbors think of me," he said dryly.nnMr. Krebs, 41, tries to write pieces that cannot be found elsewhere. His widely read cybersecurity blog, Krebs on Security, covers a particularly dark corner of the Internet: profit-seeking cybercriminals, many based in Eastern Europe, who make billions off pharmaceutical sales, malware, spam, frauds and heists like the recent ones that Mr. Krebs was first to uncover at Adobe, Target and Neiman Marcus… Mr. Krebs — a former reporter at The Washington Post who taught himself to read Russian while jogging on his treadmill and who blogs with a 12-gauge shotgun by his side — is so entrenched in the digital underground that he is on a first-name basis with some of Russia's major cybercriminals. Many call him regularly, leak him documents about their rivals, and try to bribe and threaten him to keep their names and dealings off his blog…

7.  DHS cancels national license plate tracking plan
By Ellen Nakashima and Josh Hicks, Wednesday, February 19, 5:33 PM Washington Post
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Wednesday ordered the cancellation of a plan by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to seek a national license plate tracking system.  The order came in the wake of a story by The Washington Post reporting that ICE last week solicited proposals from companies to compile a database of license plate information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers.  The idea behind the national license-plate recognition database, which would have drawn data from readers that scan the tags of every vehicle crossing their paths, was to help catch fugitive illegal immigrants, according to a DHS solicitation. But the plan raised concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens who are under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized…

Homeland Security is seeking a national license plate tracking system
By Ellen Nakashima and Josh Hicks, Published: February 18, 2014 
The Department of Homeland Security wants a private company to provide a national license-plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers, according to a government proposal that does not specify what privacy safeguards would be put in place…

8.  Henderson Man Charged with Aiming Laser Pointer at Police Helicopter 
U.S. Attorney's Office District of Nevada (703) 388-6336 February 19, 2014        
LAS VEGAS—A Henderson, Nevada man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for aiming a laser pointer at a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) helicopter on six occasions during January and February 2014, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada… 

9.  Amid Lac-Mégantic fallout, Irving Oil pledges rail-safety upgrade
Published Monday, Feb. 17 2014, 3:59 PM EST Last updated Monday, Feb. 17 2014, 10:12 PM EST
OTTAWA and TORONTO - Irving Oil has become the first Canadian refiner to phase out the older crude-oil rail cars that have been involved in several fiery derailments, including last summer's deadly accident in Lac-Mégantic, Que.  The company said Monday it will complete the upgrade of its fleet of rail cars to new, tougher standards by April 30 and will require that all of its suppliers do the same by the end of the year.  Safety experts and regulators have long acknowledged that the ubiquitous tank cars, known as DOT-111s, are prone to rupture and spills during accidents. But the cars remain the workhorse of the industry, making up roughly 85 per cent of the 92,000 fuel tankers in use across North America…


10.  French Bank is Suspected of Violating Blacklistings 
New York Times February 14, 2014 By BEN PROTESS and DAVID JOLLY
Updated, 8:42 p.m. | Consider it the Wall Street equivalent of a no-fly list. Banks are barred from doing business with countries that the United States government has blacklisted, like Cuba and Iran.  Yet BNP Paribas, the largest French bank, is the latest global financial giant to face suspicions of violating that rule. When it announced its annual earnings results on Thursday, the bank disclosed that it had set aside $1.1 billion to settle investigations into potential sanctions violations, fines that would stem from a federal investigation that has swept into Europe and ensnared some of the Continent's biggest banks, including HSBC and Barclays.  For BNP Paribas, the investigations are playing out on several fronts. According to people briefed on the investigation, the Justice Department in Washington is working alongside the United States attorney's office in Manhattan, the Federal Reserve and an arm of the Treasury Department. The bank is also being scrutinized by New York authorities, including Benjamin M. Lawsky, the state's financial regulator, and Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney… 

11.  Treasury Expands Sanctions Against the Los Zetas Drug Cartel
Action Targets Spouse of Captured Drug Lord Miguel Trevino Morales
US Department of the Treasury Feb 14, 2014
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today designated Juanita del Carmen Rios Hernandez and her medical supply company Distribuidora e Importadora de Productos Medicos del Norte as specially designated narcotics traffickers pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act).  Juanita del Carmen Rios Hernandez is the spouse of Mexican drug lord Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, a leader of Los Zetas drug cartel, who is jailed in Mexico and faces multiple federal indictments in the United States for narcotics and money laundering violations.  Prior to his arrest, Miguel Trevino Morales, along with his brother, Omar Trevino Morales, directed the vast drug trafficking activities of Los Zetas, one of Mexico's most violent and powerful drug trafficking organizations… For chart relating to today's actions see …

Treasury Designates Colombian Narcotics Trafficker
​Action Targets Individuals and Entities Tied to the FARC and Mexican Cartels
US Department of the Treasury Feb 19, 2014
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today designated Colombian national Fernain Rodriguez Vasquez as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act).  OFAC also designated seven other individuals and five entities in Colombia who acted for or on behalf of Rodriguez Vasquez and provided support to his narcotics trafficking activities, often in collaboration with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Mexico's Los Zetas and Sinaloa drug cartels... For a chart relating to today's actions see …

12.  Canada Budget 2014: Charities that accept donations from states that sponsor terrorism will have registrations revoked
Stewart Bell National Post February 11, 2014
Charities that accept donations from states that sponsor terrorism such as Iran and Syria will have their registration revoked under new rules introduced in Tuesday's federal budget.n The measure appears to be an attempt to stop Iran and other foreign governments from interfering in Canada's domestic affairs by bankrolling charities that promote their agendas.  Under the new system, Ottawa could refuse charity status to groups funded by a government that supports terrorism "or from an agency of such a state," according to the budget document.  It would apply to donations from countries designated by Canada as sponsors of terror under the State Immunity Act. So far Iran and Syria are the only two nations on the list, which was created in 2012.  Ray Boisvert, a former senior Canadian counter-terrorism official, said the impact of the policy would likely be narrow but that it could help constrain some activities, particularly by cultural and religious groups linked to Iran.  Iran is a major state sponsor of terrorist groups, notably Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group that has long raised money in Canada through organized crime and front organizations…


IPT NOTE:  US Customs & Border Protection,  &  

13.  Leaked details of Mossad assassin's fake Canadian passport under RCMP scrutiny
OTTAWA — The RCMP is investigating a local Passport Canada intelligence officer who allegedly told her Iranian-Canadian lover that an Israeli assassin is living in Canada under a new identity secretly provided by the government, a senior government source said Tuesday.  In a fast-moving investigation with ties to Dubai, Venezuela, Israel, Montreal and now Ottawa, the Mounties are trying to determine whether national security was breached in a case that rivals a Hollywood script.  Passport Canada national security officer Trina Kennedy had been assigned to an RCMP-led Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) looking into the activities of Montreal businessman Arian Azarbar, said the source.  Instead, Kennedy began an affair in 2012 with Azarbar, 33, which lasted for about a year and a half, Azarbar said in an interview Tuesday with the Citizen.  During their romance, Kennedy is said to have confided to him that the federal government created a Canadian passport and new life here for a former member of Israel's Mossad security intelligence service involved in the January 2010 assassination in Dubai of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a high-ranking member of the terrorist group Hamas.  "She was working on those cases when this whole Mossad thing was happening," Azarbar said. "People talk."  Mabhouh was a founder and senior commander of Hamas's paramilitary wing and believed to be the liaison between the Palestinian group and Iran for weapons-smuggling operations into Gaza. Israel has never admitted involvement in the killing.  Kennedy has been placed on leave while police investigate, with no access to government offices or computers, said the source…


14.  Al Qaeda-linked group claims Beirut bombings
BY ERIKA SOLOMON Reuters Wed Feb 19, 2014 9:42am EST
BEIRUT (Reuters) - The al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed a twin bomb attack in Beirut on Wednesday, saying such attacks would continue until Hezbollah forces withdrew from the fighting in Syria and its own fighters were released from Lebanese jails.  The radical Lebanese group, which claimed the attack on its Twitter account, also said it was responsible for a November 19 attack on the Iranian embassy that killed 23 people, using the same tactic of twin suicide bombs. In both cases, most of the victims were civilians.  Hezbollah is a powerful Shi'ite Muslim political and militant group in Lebanon that is funded by Iran. The group has sent hundreds of fighters to neighboring Syria, giving a boost to its ally President Bashar al-Assad against mainly Sunni rebels seeking to topple him…

15.  Saudi Arabia Replaces Key Official in Effort to Arm Syria Rebels
Frustrated Kingdom Sets Out to Assuage U.S. Worries on Extremists in Three-Year Conflict
By ELLEN KNICKMEYER and ADAM ENTOUS Wall Street Journal Feb. 19, 2014 12:17 p.m. ET
Saudi Arabia has sidelined its veteran intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, as leader of the kingdom's efforts to arm and fund Syrian rebels, replacing him with another prince well-regarded by U.S. officials for his successes fighting al-Qaeda, Saudi royal advisers said this week.  The change holds promise for a return to smoother relations with the U.S., and may augur a stronger Saudi effort against militants aligned with al Qaeda who have flocked to opposition-held Syrian territory during that country's three-year war, current and former U.S. officials said.  Prince Bandar, an experienced but at times mercurial ex-diplomat and intelligence chief, presided over Saudi Arabia's Syria operations for the past two years with little success, as a rift opened up with the U.S. over how much to back rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who has won praise in Washington for his counterterror work against al Qaeda in Yemen and elsewhere, is now a main figure in carrying out Syria policy, a royal adviser and a security analyst briefed by Saudi officials said Tuesday.  Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, Saudi King Abdullah's son and head of the Saudi National Guard, has also assumed a bigger share of responsibility for the kingdom's policy towards Syria, the advisers said.  A Saudi analyst who serves as adviser to top royals said the changes signaled the kingdom would also now emphasize diplomatic means, including outreach to and pressure on Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, the main backers of Mr. Assad's regime…

Split within Al Qaeda Over Syrian Rebels Grows
Ultra-hardline splinter group gains jihadist backing
BY: Bill Gertz Follow @BillGertz Washington Free Beacon February 19, 2014 5:00 am
Sharp divisions among al Qaeda terrorists in the Middle East are continuing despite a recent appeal by the group's top leader to heal the rift between two warring factions.  While the split within the terrorist group behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington is real, so far it has not diminished the threat of attack against Americans, according to officials and counterterrorism analysts.  The divisions pit the remnants of al Qaeda's central organization and its supporters in the Middle East and North Africa against a splinter group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The internal conflict has resulted in fierce online debates, killings, and bombings on the ground in Syria, where ISIL has attacked both fighters and facilities belonging to the al Nusra Front, the official al Qaeda rebel group in the Syrian conflict.  ISIL continues to gain widespread jihadist support both in the region for insurgents in Syria and Iraq as well as from supporters worldwide.  That support came despite a speech last month by al Qaeda central leader Ayman al Zawahiri, successor to Osama bin Laden, and a statement earlier this month by the group's "general command" that declared the ultra-hardline ISIL was not part of the global al Qaeda network…

16.  Egypt Detains Local U.S. Embassy Employee
Move Raises Fears Cairo Widens Crackdown to Those in Past Contact With Muslim Brotherhood
By TAMER EL-GHOBASHY Wall Street Journal Feb. 12, 2014 2:27 p.m. ET
CAIRO—An Egyptian employee of the U.S. Embassy here has been detained by authorities for more than two weeks without charges, an embassy spokesman said on Wednesday.  The arrest has raised concern among journalists, academics and rights groups that the government's crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood has extended to those who had contact with the Islamist group even before it was outlawed and declared a terrorist organization after the ouster of one of its leaders from the country's presidency last year.  The arrest was first reported in the local Egyptian media on Tuesday.  Mofid Deak, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, said the employee— Ahmed Aleiba —is an Egyptian citizen who was hired locally. But Mr. Deak declined to provide specifics on Mr. Aleiba's role.  "As far as we understand, he has been held without charges since [Jan. 25]," Mr. Deak said in an email. "We have been in touch with the Government of Egypt and have requested additional information about his case." Mr. Deak noted that Mr. Aleiba wasn't on duty at the time of his arrest…

17. Police identify 2 Americans found dead on Maersk Alabama -- 'Captain Phillips' ship
By Michael Martinez, CNN updated 5:43 AM EST, Thu February 20, 2014
(CNN) -- Two American security officers have been found dead on the Maersk Alabama container ship, police in the Seychelles said Wednesday.  Seychelles police identified them on Thursday as Jeffrey Reynolds and Mark Kennedy.  The vessel was moored at Port Victoria in the Indian Ocean archipelago. The men, both 44, were found dead on Tuesday. CNN first learned about the incident on Twitter.  "A postmortem will be carried out this week in order to establish the cause of their sudden deaths," police said, adding that the police investigation is ongoing.  The Maersk Alabama was targeted by Somali pirates in an attempted hijacking off the east coast of Africa in 2009. The 2013 film "Captain Phillips" is based on the incident.  The two men worked for Trident Group, a Virginia-based maritime security services firm. The company's president, Tom Rothrauff, said the men were former Navy SEALs…


18.  U.S. Open to Talking to Taliban About Captive
White House Wants to Press for Release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
Wall Street Journal By JULIAN E. BARNES Feb. 18, 2014 6:15 p.m. ET [subscription]
WASHINGTON—Obama administration officials said they would press for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only current American prisoner of war, should negotiations with the Taliban resume.  Sgt. Bergdahl was captured nearly five years ago near his base in Afghanistan, and the U.S. has conducted on-again, off-again talks with the Taliban in hopes of securing his release. However, no talks have been held since last year.  A video released last month that showed Sgt. Bergdahl alive was seen by U.S. officials as a sign that the Taliban were interested in resuming negotiations. "Clearly, if negotiations do resume at some point, then we will want to talk with the Taliban about the safe return of Sgt. Bergdahl," White House press secretary Jay Carney said, declining to discuss details.  The U.S. has previously considered a trade that would exchange detainees held at Guantanamo Bay for Sgt. Bergdahl. U.S. officials said Tuesday they remain open to negotiations with the Taliban and to a possible exchange.…

The Secret Battles Between US Forces and Chechen Terrorists
By James Gordon Meek ABC News Feb. 19, 2014
For the last 12 years, U.S. Special Operations forces have repeatedly engaged in fierce combat in Afghanistan against ruthless Taliban allies from Chechnya, who have the same pedigree as their terrorist brethren threatening to disrupt the Winter Olympics in Russia, current and former commandos tell ABC News.  "I'd say Chechens were a fair percentage of the overall enemy population early in Operation Enduring Freedom," recalled an active-duty senior Special Operations officer, referring to the Pentagon's name for the Afghan war, in which he was among the first ground operatives.  Since the U.S. war in Afghanistan began after September 11, elite U.S. troops' border battles with Chechen jihadis based in Pakistan's tribal safe havens have mostly stayed hidden in the shadows of a clandestine conflict. Special Operations missions are classified secret by default and rarely publicized.  Chechens joining the Taliban and al Qaeda-aligned militias stood out for their ferocity and refusal to surrender, operators with considerable experience in eastern Afghanistan revealed in recent interviews.  "Chechens are a different breed," a Special Forces soldier who has fought them told ABC News…

19.  Afghan Ethnic Tensions Rise in Media and Politics
By AZAM AHMED and HABIB ZAHORI New York Times FEB. 19, 2014
KABUL, Afghanistan — It started with a heat-of-the-moment comment on a partisan television talk show, drawing an ethnic line that was bold even by Afghan standards.  "Pashtuns are the rulers and owners of Afghanistan; they are the real inhabitants of Afghanistan," said Gen. Abdul Wahid Taqat, a former intelligence official. "Afghanistan means 'where Pashtuns live.' "  The words ignited protests in Kabul in December. Social media erupted. To contain the uproar, President Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun, had General Taqat arrested and chastised the news media for trying to whip up hatred, something he said many outlets were increasingly doing.  The president warned his fellow Afghans, with their bitter memories of ethnic conflict, of what they stood to lose: "If it were not for the national unity of the people, you wouldn't be able to live in Kabul for a second."  More than 100,000 people died during the civil war that followed the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989, a conflict that broke largely along ethnic lines, among the Pashtuns and the smaller Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek populations.  Although there has been little ethnic violence across the country lately, in political and news media circles, nerves are raw and tempers have been flaring…


20.  Ukraine Puts 'Extremists' on Notice After Deadly Clashes
By ANDREW HIGGINS and ANDREW E. KRAMER New York Times FEB. 20, 2014
KIEV, Ukraine — The security authorities in Ukraine offered the first indication on Wednesday that the deadly political violence afflicting Kiev had spread far beyond the city limits, announcing a crackdown on what the Interior Ministry called "extremist groups" that had torched buildings and seized weapons nationwide.    The Interior Ministry announcement of an "anti-terrorist operation" across the country came a day after Kiev was gripped with the most lethal mayhem since protests erupted in November, leaving at least 25 dead including nine police officers. The Health Ministry said that 241 people had been wounded.  The violence turned a protest encampment in Kiev's central Independence Square into a flaming war zone that sharply escalated the political crisis that has convulsed the former Soviet republic of 46 million for the past three months. The crisis raised East-West tensions over Ukraine's future, with Russia denouncing the protesters as Nazi-like coup plotters and the European Union threatening severe sanctions against Ukrainian government leaders…

21.  Germany arrests man suspected of busting Iran sanctions
Wed Feb 19, 2014 7:18am EST Reuters
BERLIN Feb 19 (Reuters) - German prosecutors said on Wednesday they had arrested a German-Iranian man suspected of exporting to the Islamic Republic goods that could be used in a weapons programme.   The products include vacuum pumps, valves and other industrial products that can be used for civil or military purposes, Federal Prosecutors said in a statement.  The 62-year old man, arrested in the Bonn area of western Germany on Tuesday, is suspected of acquiring almost 230,000 euros worth of goods made in Germany or in other states for Iran between 2011 and 2013… The goods were sent to an organisation in Iran that is responsible for a military residual propellant weapons programme and which has since 2007 been subject to an embargo, said prosecutors…

22.  Norwegian charged with Syrian terror offenses
AP / February 13, 2014
STAVANGER, Norway (AP) — Police in Norway say they have charged a man with terror offenses allegedly committed in Syria — the first such case in the Scandinavian country.  Security Police spokesman Martin Bernsen said Thursday that the 22-year-old man of Pakistani background was arrested Friday on his return to Oslo from Syria.  The suspect, who was not named, has been charged under laws forbidding Norwegian citizens from supporting or joining terror groups. Local media widely report he is being investigated in connection with terror groups linked to al-Qaida…

23.  The British female terror groupies queuing up to marry jihad fighters in Syria
Dozens of British women are thought to have travelled to Syria to marry
Some believe English-speaking jihadists are leading the 'perfect life'
By TED THORNHILL and REBECCA CAMBER The Daily Mail (UK) 08:13 EST, 17 Feb 2014
An increasing number of British women are travelling to war-torn Syria to marry jihadists from the UK, with some seeing them as leading a 'perfect life'.  Many are thought to be marrying jihadists on the internet, as strict Islamic code forbids unmarried women to travel alone, according to researchers at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King's College, London.  Exact numbers are difficult to pinpoint, but the research centre believes that dozens of British women have married English-speaking jihadists – or are trying to - according to chatter that it monitors on forums.  It knows of two women from Portsmouth, one from London and one from Surrey who definitely have married English-speaking men fighting for opposition forces.  It said that one is a convert and that two were married prior to departure, with the other two marrying on arrival in Syria.  Women from other countries have also gone to Syria to be with jihadists - two from France, who both married jihadists before they left for the war, one from Sweden, one from Serbia, one from the Philippines and one from Germany.  What gives away the women's intentions are the questions they pose to the fighters...

Police search home of Manchester man believed to have been killed in Syria
Man named locally as 20-year-old student Anil Khalil Raoufi, whose family had moved to Britain from Afghanistan in 2004
Helen Nugent The Guardian (UK) Thursday 13 February 2014 16.28 EST
The home of a 20-year-old man in Manchester believed to have been killed fighting in Syria was being searched by counter-terrorism police on Thursday.  Neighbours said the man, named locally as Anil Khalil Raoufi, was an amateur boxer and had been studying mechanical engineering at a university in the north-west. The family had moved to Britain from Afghanistan 10 years ago and would usually make annual trips back there, they said. It is thought that the father runs two restaurants in Rusholme, dubbed Manchester's "Curry Mile"…

British jihadist warns life is hard in Syria and hundreds return to UK
The fanatic says "fighting for real" is more difficult than people think and being a jihadist is not just getting a gun and beard
By Tom Whitehead, Richard Spencer & David Blair Daily Telegraph (London) 6:04PM GMT 17 Feb 2014
A British fanatic in Syria has warned would-be jihadists that fighting in the war-torn country is "more difficult than people think".  The unidentified man said being a Muslim warrior was more than just putting on a "tactical vest and grab a Kalashnikov and get a big beard".  He also attacked the image that Syria was a "five star jihad" following reports by other fanatics that boasted of staying in villas and mansions.  The warning raises the prospect that hundreds of Britons who are believed to have returned to the UK may have found it too hard in Syria and now plan to carry out attacks here instead.  It is feared as many as 250 British jihadists are now back in the UK having fought in Syria…

24.  Killers of Lee Rigby set to be handed full-life sentences after Appeal Court judges rule life CAN mean life for Britain's most notorious murderers
Ruling is Government victory against European Court of Human Rights
By MARTIN ROBINSON 04:48 EST, 18 Feb 2014 | UPDATED: 12:02 EST, 18 Feb 2014 The Daily Mail (UK)
The Muslim converts who murdered Lee Rigby are set to be handed whole-life tariffs after 
senior judges agreed today that Britain's most notorious killers can be given indefinite sentences.  Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, were found guilty of executing the 25-year-old soldier, but their sentencing was delayed until after a crucial Court of Appeal ruling this morning.  Today, in a victory against the European Court of Human Rights, the country's leading judges agreed that whole-life sentences were legal in 'heinous' cases.  In December Mr Justice Sweeney said he would delay the decision to jail Drummer Rigby's killers until after the ruling, so he could have the option of jailing the pair for life without parole.   They will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on Wednesday February 26 at 2pm, a Judicial Office spokeswoman confirmed today.  Today's decision came on the back of legal appeals, funded by the taxpayer, by a small group of sadistic killers whose crimes were deemed so appalling they were told they must spend the rest of their lives behind bars…


25.  Al-Qaeda-linked New Terrorists, DAESH, in Gaza Strip
by Khaled Abu Toameh Gatestone Institute February 14, 2014 at 5:00 am
Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim, is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades.  He studied at Hebrew University and began his career as a reporter by working for a PLO-affiliated newspaper in Jerusalem.  Abu Toameh currently works for the international media, serving as the 'eyes and ears' of foreign journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

26.  IPT Video Report: NYC Pro-Morsi Rally Blasts Saudis as "Dirtier Than Jews"

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