ADEN, Yemen, May 18 -- Yemen's security forces managed to capture one of the most prominent al-Qaida leaders during an anti-terrorism operation launched on Saturday in the country's southwestern province of Taiz.
"An elite anti-terrorism security operation managed to capture one of the most dangerous al-Qaida leaders named Bilal Ali Wafi who is wanted as a global terrorist," officer Abdul-Basit Baher said. He added that the anti-terrorism security troops raided an old house in the western countryside of Taiz province and succeeded in capturing Wafi who refused to surrender himself and attempted to use children and women as human shields. A security member was injured during the shooting that erupted while attempting to capture Wafi in his hometown village, he added. Yemeni security authorities previously accused Wafi of masterminding a series of attacks and assassinations against the country's security and government officials. Wafi was operating as a prominent member of the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and participated in a terrorist attack in 2012 against a military parade in capital Sanaa, killing more than 100 soldiers and injuring nearly 300 others, Yemeni authorities said.
In October 2017, the United States and other Gulf countries designated 11 Yemenis including Wafi as terrorists who were wanted by security authorities. The Yemen-based al-Qaida branch AQAP, which mostly operates in eastern and southern provinces, has been responsible for many attacks against security forces in the country. The provinces of Abyan and Shabwa, former main strongholds of AQAP, have also been the scene of sporadic attacks or heavy clashes between the United Arab Emirates-backed security forces and al-Qaida militants from time to time. The AQAP, seen by the U.S. as the global terror network's most dangerous branch, has exploited years of deadly conflicts between Yemen's government and Houthi rebels to expand its presence, especially in the southern and southeastern provinces. Enditem
LONDON, December 23 -- Al Qaeda has been revitalised and is planning to commit new and spectacular attacks on the West, according to a senior British minister.
The group, which committed the 9/11 hijackings in 2001 that killed almost 3,000 people in New York City, is now trying to plot attacks on airports and develop technology that can bring down airliners. British Security Minister Ben Wallace, in an interview with The Sunday Times, said Al Qaeda posed such a threat that it was keeping top ministers “awake at night”. Such technology may include drones with explosives attached or miniaturised bombs capable of being smuggled on to airliners. The group’s most powerful wing is in Yemen and is known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but it also has a presence in Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan and the Maghreb.
His comments come only days after US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw US troops from Syria. Experts and diplomats have given warnings that the withdrawal may embolden militant groups such as Al Qaeda, which has used the chaos of the civil war to plot attacks on the West. The militant group, which has had a reduced profile in recent years after the growth of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, has long targeted aviation for spectacular attacks. In 2006, British police discovered a transatlantic Al Qaeda plot to bring down airliners using liquid explosives disguised as soft drinks. The result was increased security measures on flights regarding the carrying of liquids. Three years later, Al Qaeda’s top bomb maker Anwar Al Awlaki discussed a plot with a young Nigerian volunteer in Yemen, sending him on a mission to bring down an airliner with explosives in his underwear. His explosives failed to detonate when his underwear caught fire as the plane approached Detroit on Christmas Day. Awlaki would later become the first American citizen deliberately killed on the orders of a US President without charge because of the threat he posed to national security.
NAIROBI, December 22 -- An explosives-packed vehicle detonated at a military checkpoint near Somalia's presidential palace, killing at least 16 people and wounding more than 20 others.
The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab extremist group, which often targets Mogadishu, claimed responsibility for the attack. Those killed include three staffers from the London-based Universal TV station, including prominent journalist Awil Dahir Salad, said police Capt Mohamed Hussein, who gave the toll of dead and wounded. The bomber targeted the checkpoint near the rear entrance of the heavily fortified palace, Hussein said. A lawmaker and a deputy mayor of Mogadishu were among those wounded, he said. Soldiers also were among the dead, Col Ahmed Mohamud said.
The blast and a second, smaller one nearby appeared to target those heading to work on what was a business day in the Horn of Africa nation. A plume of smoke rose over the capital as ambulances rushed to the scene. "At first I saw a vehicle driving to and fro, then we tried to stop people walking here and there, and then in the blink of an eye the vehicle exploded, causing havoc,'' traffic police officer Mohamed Harun told The Associated Press. Al-Shabab, the most active Islamic extremist group in sub-Saharan Africa, was pushed out of Mogadishu years ago but continues to control large parts of rural southern and central Somalia. The US military, which partners with Somali forces and a 20,000-strong African Union peacekeeping mission, has greatly increased airstrikes against al-Shabab under the Trump administration. At least 47 US strikes have been carried out this year.
WASHINGTON, December 15 -- Most consumers don't know about it, but Cloudflare is a tech giant that helps keep a huge portion of the internet running.
According to a report from the Huffington Post, at least seven of its customers are under sanctions by the US Treasury Department, and six are on the US Department of State's list of foreign terrorist groups. One of the groups named in the report is the Taliban, which isn't on the State Department's foreign terrorism group list. Also named in the report are several Palestinian groups, al-Shabaab and the Kurdistan Workers' Party, all of which are on the list. The designation is meant to make things like international commerce and travel harder for the groups on the list.
"Designations of foreign terrorist groups expose and isolate these organizations, deny them access to the US financial system, and create significant criminal and immigration consequences for their members and supporters," the State Department says on its website. What's more, the Treasury Department's sanctions, which apply to all seven groups, are meant in part to prevent US businesses from providing services to foreign terrorist groups. A Treasury Department spokeswoman said the department doesn't comment on individual matters that involve US companies doing business with sanctioned groups or any potential enforcement actions. The State Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Cloudflare's general counsel, Doug Kramer, told CNET the company has a process for checking whether a potential customer is sanctioned by the Treasury Department. What's more, if it finds any current customers are already on the sanctions list, it'll end services to them. Kramer declined to confirm whether the groups were clients, saying it's company policy not to name customers. The Huffington Post reported that it learned the groups were Cloudflare customers after asking independent experts to evaluate the groups' websites.
"It's a very difficult task and one that a lot of tech companies have struggled with," Kramer said, "because there's not always a one-to-one correlation between a domain name and a specific group."
Cloudflare manages requests by web users to visit its clients' websites, among other services. It doesn't host websites. If hackers want to take down a website by overwhelming it with requests, something called a DDoS attack, Cloudflare can stop them. The list of customers is one example of how major tech companies, as they take over more and more of the internet's infrastructure, can end up providing services for groups that promote violence and extremist ideas. It's an issue the company has faced in the past. Cloudflare faced scrutiny in August 2017 for providing -- and then ending -- services to the neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer. The controversy started after other web service companies, like GoDaddy and Google, removed their support for the website a few days earlier, in the aftermath of the Charlottesville demonstration and death of counter-protester Heather Heyer. The Daily Stormer published an offensive article about Heyer, and tech companies began to stop providing the website with internet services.
At the time, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince said in a statement the company doesn't pick and choose its customers based on their ideological beliefs. However, the Daily Stormer had gone too far by spreading rumors that Cloudflare supported its neo-Nazi ideology, he said. "Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion," Prince said. At the same time, Prince called his own company's decision "dangerous," saying it could open the door to a less free internet governed by large companies. "Without a clear framework as a guide for content regulation, a small number of companies will largely determine what can and cannot be online," he said. Kramer said Cloudflare still takes the same approach it did in the case of the Daily Stormer. The company won't pick and choose its customers based on content alone. "We've continued to take the position that we think there's much more harm than good to be done if we start to decide what content should be up and what shouldn't," Kramer said.
The company will comply with sanctions from the Treasury Department, he said, adding, "We don't want to go beyond the determinations of what government officials and regulators think."
Infowars and Silicon Valley: Everything you need to know about the tech industry's free speech debate.
PARIS, January 18 -- France quietly buried on Saturday the two brothers involved in the country’s worst terror attacks in decades and banned an anti-Islamist demonstration in Paris to head off possible civil unrest.
Said Kouachi, the elder of the two brothers who together gunned down 12 people Jan. 7 in their attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, was buried in the eastern city of Reims, 144 kilometers (89 miles) east of Paris.
He was buried overnight despite Reims city officials’ objections and concerns that the grave could become a shrine for extremists.
Antoine Flasaquier, a lawyer for the elder brother’s widow, said the burial took place overnight “in the greatest discretion and dignity.” Flasaquier said the widow did not attend the burial for fear she’d be followed by reporters and give away the location of the grave.
Said lived in Reims before police killed him and his brother Jan. 9. “I don’t want a grave that serves to attract fanatics. I don’t want a place that promotes hate,” Reims Mayor Arnaud Robinet said in an interview on France Info radio Thursday.
City officials say they wanted to avoid “all useless and indecent polemic” over the burial and said Kouachi would be buried in an anonymous grave “to avoid all risk of disturbance to the peace and to preserve the town’s tranquility.”
Meanwhile, a local mayor told AFP on Sunday that Cherif has been buried amid tight security outside of Paris. He was buried just before midnight Saturday at a cemetery in Gennevilliers, where he used to live, officials said. No relatives attended the funeral and the grave is unmarked.
Earlier in the week Robinet said he’d “categorically refuse” a request by Kouachi’s family to bury Said and Cherif.
Two other terrorists killed in shootouts with police following last week’s attacks await burial.
There has been no word of plans for burying Amedy Coulibaly, who killed five people including four hostages at a kosher market in Paris before he was killed by police Jan. 9.
The debate over the burials echoed the one nearly three years ago over Mohamed Merah, who killed three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers in Toulouse in 2012. Then-President Nicolas Sarkozy intervened to allow the burial over the objections of Toulouse's mayor.
France bans anti-Islamist protest
Also Saturday, the Paris administrative tribunal ruled that Paris police were authorized to ban an “Islamists out of France” rally planned Sunday by two groups that promote secular and republican values.
One organizing group, “Secular Riposte,” said on its Web site that it would instead hold a news conference on Sunday. Resistance Republicaine, another organizer, said it would still hold similar rallies in the southern cities of Bordeaux and Montpellier on Sunday.
PARIS, January 11 -- US President Barack Obama will not be attending an anti-terrorism unity rally in Paris to commemorate victims of the recent terrorist attacks in the French capital, Agence France-Presse reported, but did not specify why the American leader would miss the event.
Speaking on Friday in Knoxville, Tennessee, Obama expressed his solidarity with people of France and said that the United States was ready to provide any possible assistance to France to help the country overcome the consequences of terrorist attacks in Paris.
A day earlier, the US president paid a visit to the French Embassy in Washington, where he signed a book of condolences and spoke with French diplomats.
A number of European leaders expressed their readiness to join the rally in protest against Islamist terrorists’ actions. Heads of state and government from Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy and Poland were among the politicians saying they would join the rally for the national unity on French President Francois Hollande’s invitation.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will lead his country’s delegation at the march on Sunday, according to Saturday’s statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, European Parliament President Martin Schulz, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also announced their plans to come to the French capital. Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko pledged to attend as well.
Hollande called the rally on Friday, three days after the terrorist attacks, which saw killed in Paris seventeen people, including 10 staff members of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, four hostages taken at a kosher supermarket, and three policemen. Several dozen people were injured.
On Wednesday morning, masked gunmen targeted an office of the Paris-based satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine, which had earlier published caricature images of the Prophet Muhammed. As a result of the shooting, 12 people were killed, including 10 staff members and two policemen. Another 11 people were wounded. This was the deadliest attack in France in half a century.
On Friday, a gunman took hostages at a kosher supermarket near the Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris killing four of them. The gunman, later identified as Amedy Coulibaly, was killed by security forces.
HAMBURG, January 11 -- A German newspaper in the northern port city of Hamburg that reprinted caricatures of Prophet Muhammad from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was the target of an arson attack, according to police.
The regional tabloid daily, the Hamburger Morgenpost, was attacked on Sunday after it had splashed threeCharlie Hebdo cartoons on its front page after the massacre at the Paris publication, running the headline "This much freedom must be possible!" "Rocks and then a burning object were thrown through the window," a police spokesman told AFP news agency. "Two rooms on lower floors were damaged but the fire was put out quickly".
No one was hurt in the attack, which police said occurred at about 01:20 GMT. Two people were detained, while state security has opened an investigation, police said. German news agency DPA reported that the attack had occurred from a courtyard of the building and hit the newspaper's archive room where some records were destroyed. It quoted a police spokeswoman as saying that the editorial team should be able to continue work in the building as the damage was relatively minor.
Connection to Paris attacks
Whether there was a connection between the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and the attack was the "key question", the police spokesman said, adding that it was "too soon" to know for certain. Police declined to provide further information about the suspects.
No one at the Hamburger Morgenpost, known locally as the MOPO and which has a circulation of around 91,000, could immediately be reached for comment.
"Thick smoke is still hanging in the air, the police are looking for clues," the newspaper said in its online edition.
Two gunmen stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, killing a total of 12 people including the paper's editor, Stéphane Charbonnier. Both men were killed Friday in a standoff with police.
Several German newspapers had published the Charlie Hebdo Muhammad cartoons on their front pages on Thursday in a gesture of solidarity with the French cartoonists and in defence of free speech.