Hamburg Recruiter of 9/11 Hijackers Freed in Syria Prisoner Exchange

Posted by John Rosenthal

The Al-Qaeda recruiter who is reputed to have assembled the Hamburg Cell, which planned and largely carried out the 9/11 attacks, has been released in a prisoner exchange in Syria. His “liberators” are the rebels of Ahrar al-Sham, a major component of the so-called Islamic Front. The rebel coalition in northern Syria has sometimes been touted as a more “moderate” Islamist force worthy of Western support.

On Mohammed Haydar Zammar’s career and the circumstances of his release, see my new report on Al-Monitor here.

Reported “Moderate” Syrian Arms Recipient Has Collaborated with Qaida-Affiliate

Posted by John Rosenthal

According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal, Saudi Arabia, apparently with US backing, has agreed to provide advanced weaponry, including shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, to a newly formed “Southern Front” of the Syrian rebellion. The choice to arm the Southern Front was reportedly made so as to minimize the chances of weaponry being acquired by “al-Qaeda-inspired groups.” But if this is indeed the calculation of Washington and its regional allies, the problem is that the leader of the Southern Front has been known to collaborate with none other than Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate.

For the details, see my new article on Al-Monitor here.

The Return of Abu-Talha Al-Almani (a.k.a. “Deso Dogg”)

Posted by John Rosenthal

As if resurrected, Abu Talha al-Almani, a.k.a. “Deso Dogg,” has returned to the jihad in Syria. Just a few months ago, the German rapper-turned-jihadist was widely believed to have been killed in an airstrike by the Syrian air force. But now he is back and in new videos, he holds forth on his injuries, the “obligation” of jihad, Jabhat al-Nusra, and Muslims in Germany.

For the details, see my new article on Al-Monitor here.

What is Al-Qaeda Today? — An Interview

Posted by John Rosenthal

What is Al-Qaeda today? This is the main question that I discussed with host Mark Anderson in a 45-minute-long interview on the iSpy radio show last week. We also discussed the role of AQ in the Benghazi attacks, the place of AQ and AQ-inspired groups in the Muslim world more generally, and the responsibility of Western policies in helping to transform AQ into a heavily-armed mass movement that is far more powerful than the “core” conspiratorial AQ of Osama bin Laden’s day — among other things. Click here to reach the show page and then on the “Download the Show” icon to listen…

Benghazi: Yes, the Video — and Al-Qaeda

Posted by John Rosenthal

The famous “anti-Islam video” really did play an important role in the run-up to the 9/11/2012 Benghazi attack. The evidence recently provided by the NYTimes is weak. But (pace Fox News) the record of local social media provides clear proof. The alternative “the video or al-Qaeda” is, however, a false one. The record of local social media also shows that al-Qaeda played a role — not in planning, but in inciting the attack. This is hardly surprising, since virtually all the local militias are ideologically affiliated with al-Qaeda. Before they had gotten into an uproar about the video, the local jihadists were already in an uproar about a new statement from none other than al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. For the details, see my new article on Al-Monitor here.

The Jihadist Plot — at a Bargain Price

Posted by John Rosenthal

If you have a Kindle or Kindle-compatible device and have not yet purchased my book The Jihadist Plot, you might want to do so now. Amazon.com is presently selling the e-book version for the bargain price of just 99 cents! Keep in mind that you can also read the Kindle version on your PC with “Kindle for PC” software or on an iPad with the “Kindle for iPad” app. Click on the below image to buy…

When Refugees are Combatants: On the Zaatari Camp in Jordan

Posted by John Rosenthal

Apart from the over 100,000 people that are estimated to have been killed, the most dramatic statistic illustrating the humanitarian crisis entailed by the ongoing war in Syria is surely the over 2 million Syrians who are estimated to have become refugees in neighboring countries. Many of these refugees are being housed in camps set up under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Details in a recent French report, however, show that one of the largest such camps, the Zaatari camp in Jordan, is, in effect, being used as a safe haven for rebel forces fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The revelations are particularly significant in light of the presence in the camp of a French military hospital. Established as an ostensibly humanitarian initiative, it is clear from the details of the report that at least some of the patients being treated at the French hospital are not civilians, but rather wounded rebel fighters…

See my new article at Asia Times Online here.

Abu Anas’s “Al-Qaeda Manual”: A Blueprint for the “Arab Spring”?

Posted by John Rosenthal

In May 2000, British police raided the Manchester home of reputed al-Qaeda operative Nazih Abdul Hamed al-Raghie, better known by his nom de guerre Abu Anas al-Libi. Last Tuesday, some 10 days after having been plucked from the streets of Tripoli by US special forces, al-Libi was arraigned in a New York courthouse on charges relating to the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Among the possessions seized from al-Libi’s home in the May 2000 raid, investigators discovered a 180-page handwritten document that has been widely cited in the intervening years as a supposed al-Qaeda training manual: the famous “Manchester Manual.”

While it may help prosecutors to convict al-Libi, however, on closer inspection the manual shows that the jihadist “cause” to which al-Libi rallied nearly a quarter of a century ago is essentially the same cause that the United States and its Western allies have been supporting in places such as Libya and Syria today…

For the details, see my new article on Al-Monitor here.

Abu Anas al-Libi and the Contradictions of US Libya Policy

Posted by John Rosenthal

The seizure and rendition of key al-Qaeda operative Abu Anas al-Libi in Tripoli on Oct. 5 is being hailed as a victory for American counterterrorism efforts. Given that Libi has been a wanted man in the United States for more than a decade, a victory undoubtedly it is. On closer inspection, however, the rendition operation also exposes the contradictions of American Libya policy and, in particular, the boon for al-Qaeda-linked and al-Qaeda-inspired groups that the US-backed Feb. 17 revolution against Moammar Gadhafi has represented. Indeed, the very fact that Libi could have been living openly in Tripoli is a direct result of the triumph of the anti-Gadhafi revolution…

For the details, see my new article at Al-Monitor here.

Meet Abu Omar, the “Victim” of Robert Seldon Lady

Posted by John Rosenthal

On Thursday, former CIA Milan station chief, Robert Seldon Lady, was detained in Panama and he now faces potential extradition to Italy. In 2009, Lady and 22 other Americans were convicted in absentia by an Italian court for their alleged roles in the kidnapping of one Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr, better known as “Abu Omar.” The operation is supposed to have taken place as part of the American program of “extraordinary rendition” of terror suspects. Abu Omar has been widely depicted in the American press as an innocent “victim” of the program.

But how many Americans will know that the “victim,” Abu Omar, is also a wanted man in Italy? A member, according to Italian investigators, of the Gama’a Al-Islamiya of the “Blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdel-Rahman, he is wanted, namely, as a facilitator of international terror. For the details — drawn directly from the Italian arrest warrant against him and supported by extensive translated excerpts from Italian police surveillance tapes — see my 2008 article in World Politics Review, “Who is Abu Omar? Extracts from the Italian Police Surveillance Tapes.” And for a study of the Abu Omar case and its deformed presentation in the Western media, see too my 2010 article in the Weekly Standard Online, “Selective WikiLeaks: The Untold Story of Abu Omar.”