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

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The Courage of our Youth Was Witnessed in Aden (Part III)

(FILES) This US Navy file photo shows US
USS COLE, YEMEN: (FILES) This US Navy file photo shows US Navy and Marine Corps security personnel patrolling past the damaged US Navy destroyer USS Cole 18 October 2000 following the 12 October 2000 terrorist bombing attack on the ship in Aden, Yemen. Abdel Rahim al-Nashiri and Jamal Mohammed al-Bedawi, the two Al-Qaeda suspects convicted for the bombing, were sentenced to death September 29, 2004 by a Yemeni court. Four other suspects were given ten years in prison. AFP PHOTO/US NAVY PHOTO/Lyle G. BECKER (Photo credit should read LYLE G. BECKER/AFP/Getty Images)

Part III: The Revolving Door and the Legal Aftermath

The Revolving Door

By the spring of 2003 all of the major players in the conspiracy, so far as we know them from open source material, had been caught except for Khallad.  He would be captured at the end of April.  Khallad and al-Nashiri were in the hands of the Americans and would disappear into the system of black sites being run by the CIA, a history which continues to frustrate the ultimate disposition of the two detainees.  The rest would remain in the hands of the Yemenis, which brought its own set of problems.  The detainment in Yemen’s penal system of individuals suspected of involvement in the Cole bombing has been nothing short of exasperating for the United States.  The years since have been an unending series of high-profile prison breaks, sentence reductions, and early releases or loose “house arrests” based on promises of future good behavior.  President Saleh deserves a great deal of the discredit for this.  His government often lurched between competing policies of cooperation and resistance with US law enforcement agencies depending upon the requirements of the domestic situation.  Furthermore, his security services were riddled with individuals sympathetic to al-Qaeda, if not outright supportive.  In certain cases, such as Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman al-Hilal, these turned out to be actual members of the group. Continue reading

The Courage of our Youth Was Witnessed in Aden (Part I)

(FILES) This US Navy file photo shows US
USS COLE, YEMEN: (FILES) This US Navy file photo shows US Navy and Marine Corps security personnel patrolling past the damaged US Navy destroyer USS Cole 18 October 2000 following the 12 October 2000 terrorist bombing attack on the ship in Aden, Yemen. Abdel Rahim al-Nashiri and Jamal Mohammed al-Bedawi, the two Al-Qaeda suspects convicted for the bombing, were sentenced to death September 29, 2004 by a Yemeni court. Four other suspects were given ten years in prison. AFP PHOTO/US NAVY PHOTO/Lyle G. BECKER (Photo credit should read LYLE G. BECKER/AFP/Getty Images)

Part I: The Setup

Introduction

The bombing of the USS Cole is a seminal event in the development of the war between al-Qaeda and the West and its allies, but it is an accident of history.  The explosion that ripped a hole in the side of one of America’s Arleigh Burke class destroyers at 11:17am on October 12, 2000, was supposed to happen many months earlier.  A strike on a US warship in the port of Aden had been planned for January 3, 2000, but, like other plots centered about the millennium, it failed.  An embarrassing miscalculation on the part of the plotters left their vessel and its deadly cargo stuck in the sand during low tide.  Continue reading