Archive for July 7th, 2010

Pakistani Student Britain Couldn’t Deport was ‘Involved in Planning Attack in US’

By Duncan Gardham for The Daily Telegraph

A suspected terrorist who Britain is unable to deport has been arrested on suspicion of plotting to bomb New York’s underground system. A US warrant was issued for Abid Naseer, who is accused of helping an al-Qaeda cell planning suicide bomb attacks in the city. Naseer was arrested on Wednesday in Middlesbrough, sources said, and the US authorities have requested he is extradited for trial.

He was among a group of 12 men arrested in Manchester last year accused of plotting to blow up shopping centres, but was never charged. Naseer, 24, was subsequently released and is thought to have been put under a control order and electronically tagged. In May the Special Immigration and Appeals Commission ruled that he was connected to al-Qaeda but could not be deported back to Pakistan on human rights grounds.

However, US authorities believe he stockpiled July 7-style bomb making materials for the planned attack in Manchester. The same type of material was to be used in the thwarted bomb attacks on the New York Metro.

He is also believed to have been in touch with the same senior al-Qaeda commanders.

The US Department of Justice (USDoJ) said the American plot was “directly related to a scheme by al-Qaeda plotters in Pakistan to use Western operatives to attack a target in the United Kingdom.”

Naseer is accused of providing material support to al-Qaeda and conspiracy to use a firearm in New York and elsewhere. According to a US statement, “large quantities of flour and oil were found” when Naseer’s address in Cheetham Hill, Manchester was raided by police.

The operation, codenamed Pathway, had to be brought forward 24 hours after Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick was photographed entering Downing Street to brief the Prime Minister with details of the raids visible.

Two members of the US cell, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay have pleaded guilty to planning to conduct suicide bombings in New York using improvised explosive devices made from supplies such as hydrogen peroxide, acetone, flour and oil – ingredients similar to those used in the July 7 attacks five years ago.

In other addresses, Greater Manchester Police allegedly found surveillance photographs of public areas in Manchester – thought to be the Arndale shopping centre – and maps of Manchester’s city centre posted on the wall with one of the locations from the surveillance photographs highlighted.

Another student called Tariq ur-Rehman who returned to Pakistan after he was released from British custody, was allegedly recruited at the same time. The US Department of Justice said ur-Rehman was not in custody.

A US indictment says Naseer and ur-Rehman were members of a terrorist cell coordinated by Rashid Rauf – a British al-Qaeda commander who was also involved in the July 7 attacks of 2005.

Rauf is thought to have been killed in Pakistan by a missile from a US drone in November 2008 but according to the indictment the plot was also allegedly directed by Adnan el-Shukrijumah, known as “Hamad”, a 34-year-old Saudi citizen with a $5m price on his head from the FBI, and Saleh al-Somali, another al-Qaeda commander.

All three were said by the US to be leaders of al-Qaeda’s “external operations programme”.

The students were allegedly recruited in Peshawar, Pakistan in November 2008 along with the leader of the US plot, Najibullah Zazi.

After returning to Britain, Naseer allegedly sent emails to the same account that a man calling himself Sohaib, but also known as Ahmad and Zahid, was using to communicate with the US cell on behalf of al-Somali.

The Daily Telegraph previously reported that MI5 tipped off the FBI about the US plot and published the emails that used the names of girls as code words for bomb-making ingredients and a wedding to refer to the planned attack between April 15 and 20 last year.

Zazi had agreed a similar code, the Americans say, and emailed Sohaib that the “marriage is ready” just before he left Colorado for New York City in early September last year.

Son Pleads for Help as Mother Awaits Stoning in Iran

By Gena Somra for CNN

Sajjad Mohammedie Ashtiani travels to a Tabriz jail in Iran every Monday to see his mother. And for 15 minutes each week, he speaks to his mother, Sakine Mohammedie Ashtiani, through the prison glass that divides them. Neither mother nor son ever know if the visit will be their last

Convicted of adultery in 2006, Ashtiani has been sentenced to be stoned to death for her alleged crime. Originally sentenced to 99 lashes for her alleged “illicit relationship outside of marriage,” Ashtiani endured that punishment in front of her then 17-year-old son. “The authorities asked if I wanted to wait outside. I said no. I could not leave my mother alone.”

Sajjad says it is a day he will never forget. But, he says, that day he thought the worst was over. “I was thinking, OK, they hit her, now it’s finished. They told me this process was finished. She’s done. She’s free to go. “But then a judges’ panel in Tabriz suspected Ashtiani of being involved in her husband’s murder and re-opened her case. She was cleared of the murder charges, but the panel re-examined Ashtiani’s adultery sentence, and based on unspecified “judges’ knowledge,” decided she should be put to death for the alleged affair.

“At that time it should have been finished. They should have punished her only once,” says her son. “Her documents say she is innocent. She paid for the crime five years ago.” Human rights activist Mina Ahadi, herself forced to flee a death sentence in Iran almost 30 years ago, has also taken up Ashtiani’s cause, working with Sajjad and his sister Farideh to get their message out. She says pressure from outside Iran can make a difference.

“Legally, it’s all over, and we have no chance. It’s a done deal. Sakine can be stoned at any minute. But we have experienced again and again that when we organize events world-wide, when we protest world-wide, and in particular when we contact European governments and these governments put pressure on the Islamic regime in Iran, sometimes we have a chance.” So far, there has been no response from Iranian officials about the Ashtiani case.

And with all legal appeals virtually exhausted, Sajjad says the Tabriz court has told him there is only one thing that can stop his mother’s imminent execution. “They told me if supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei … or Judiciary Chairman Sadegh Larijani grant my mother a letter of pardon, she will go free.”

Sajjad says he traveled to Tehran six times to obtain that letter, but has been unable to gain an audience with either man.  But he refuses to give up. He is turning to the international community in hopes the Iranian government will hear his voice. “It is crucial I tell these men what I have to say. “Dear Mr. Khamenei, Mister Ahmadinejad, and Mister Larijani:

“All I ask for is a letter. I want a letter for my dear mother. Please write this letter of pardon because she is innocent, 100 percent innocent. If you do not have respect for what I am saying, just take look at her file. You will see she is innocent.

“To the people of the world, I want to say, for this situation we are in: Help us. Whoever can tell the government to stop this, please do. If you can pressure Ayatollah Khamenei or Sadegh Larijani to give my family a letter, please get them to send it to us.” Sajjad knows he is taking a risk by speaking out so publicly, but says he is not afraid for his own safety.  “I am just fighting for what is right,” he says. “My mother is a housewife, a good person, a caring mother,” Sajjad says. And she has grown weary of what seems to be a punishment without end. On his last visit with her she told him, “I can’t stay in this prison any longer.”

And so Sajjad and his sister Farideh are reaching out in any way they can to try and save their mother’s life. In their open letter to the international community circulated on websites, Facebook pages and through human rights organizations late last week their anguish is clear. “Today we stretch out our hands to the people of the whole world,” the letter reads. “It is now five years that we have lived in fear and in horror, deprived of motherly love. Is the world so cruel that it can watch this catastrophe and do nothing about it? “We resort to the people of the world, no matter who you are and where in the world you live. Help to prevent this nightmare from becoming reality. Save our mother.”We are unable to explain the anguish of every moment, every second of our lives. Words are unable to articulate our fear.”

Full-Body Security Scanners Scrapped at Dubai Airports, Officials Say the Device “Contradicts Islam”

By Aliyah Shahid for The NY Daily News

Forget about London and France — in Dubai, airport screeners won’t be able to see your underpants.

Dubai police said full-body security scanners will not be used at the airports because the devices do not correspond with national customs and ethics, according to local press reports on Tuesday.

The scanners “contradict Islam,” said Ahmad Mohammad Bin Thani, head of airport security. He said the idea was scrapped”out of respect for the privacy of individuals and their personal freedom.”

The scanners will be replaced with other inspection systems that protect passengers’ privacy, Thani said. He told the Gulf News that police are considering the use of face-recognition cameras.

Recently, American officials have been encouraging use of the full-body scanners.

Authorities say the scanners could have stopped a Nigerian man who planted explosives in his underwear in an attempt to bring down a plane bound for the U.S. last Christmas.

Several European countries have tested the technology, including the Netherlands, Britain and France. South Korea and Japan have begun test programs.

But the machines have remained controversial. Critics have argued the scanners violate passenger privacy by producing”naked” pictures and liken the procedure to”virtual strip searches.”

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