Meshal, Beantown and the London Boys

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Amir Meshal

In my last article I said that the story of Amir Meshal deserved its own article, and I thought I might do that here.  But as Burns once wrote, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men, / Gang aft agley.”  Meshal’s ordeal in Africa will matter here, but in some senses it will serve as the backdrop of a much different facet of the jihad story, one fairly well known but surprising in its relationship.  With respect to Meshal, it may simply be a series of unfortunate coincidences, but if it isn’t then it may say a great deal about him and the danger he potentially represents.  To be clear, much of the detail surrounding his experience there is drawn from the court filing in the Higgenbotham case, so it represents Meshal’s point of view.  What the government contends with respect to Meshal’s activities can’t be probed directly.

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US v. Rahman, et al: Who Is Unindicted Co-Conspirator Khaled Ibrahim?

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Codefendants at their arraignment on Aug. 26, 1993 (Ruth Pollack/AFP/Getty Images)

Omar Ahmed Ali Abdel Rahman, the “Blind Sheikh”, passed away at the age of 78 in a North Carolina prison hospital on February 18, 2017.  For such an important character in the modern jihadist movement, the event passed with little fanfare—a few stories and no protests or celebrations to my knowledge.  Yet, his story here in the US deserves more attention because he and his associates were at the epicenter of the burgeoning confrontation between the United States and some of its erstwhile allies in Afghanistan.  Continue reading

Massacre in Orlando

I woke up this morning to the news of the massacre at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando.  By the time I am writing, there are already 50 confirmed dead and many injured, making it the most destructive mass shooting in US history.

The identity of the shooter, who was killed by law enforcement at the end of a three hour hostage standoff, has already been released: Omar Mateen or Omar Saddiqui Mateen.  No one has yet stated officially that this crime is linked to international terrorism, but there is a great deal of speculation and “leaning” towards this as a motive already by the pundits.  Numerous sites have already gone to work in unearthing what we can know about the shooter through open source information. Continue reading

What’s Past is Prologue: The Case of Mirsad Bektašević and the Bosnian Cell

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Bektasevic, Ikanovic, and Cesur during their trial

I’m a great believer in the value of “taking back-bearings,” a phrase I picked up reading the exploits of George Smiley.  Normally this means something like determining one’s current position by relating it to known points visible to the observer and easily identified on a map.  In my case, I mean looking back at previous events, incidents, and cases to help understand the present, and often, the mistakes made in past responses that helped contribute to it.

I’d like to do that in this article by taking a look back at one of the first high-profile (at least in terrorism circles) cases involving the online radicalization of young men leading to terrorist plots in their own countries.  On October 19, 2005, Bosnian police arrested two young men at an apartment in the Butmir district of Sarajevo following an 8-month operation involving the secret services of 9 different countries.  The two, a young Swede born in Novi Pazar, Serbia, named Mirsad Bektašević and a Dutch-Turk named Abdulkadir Cesur were caught red-handed with an arsenal of explosives and guns.  The police also discovered a video of the culprits expressing their intent to strike at those governments involved in the oppression of their Muslim brethren in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Iraq.  Their strike was probably going to be against the British Embassy in Sarajevo. Continue reading