By Carol Cratty
A former top leader of a Somali terror group, who also had ties to al Qaeda, secretly pleaded guilty in 2011 to federal charges and has provided the U.S. government with valuable intelligence information, the Justice Department said on Monday.
Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame was a leader of al-Shabaab in Somalia and arranged a weapons deal at one time with Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to court documents.
The U.S. military captured him at sea in April 2011 while he was traveling from Yemen to Somalia. He pleaded guilty in New York the following December to nine terrorism charges.
Among other things, Warsame admitted to conspiring to provide material support to al-Shabaab and al Qaeda's operation in the Arabian Peninsula, conspiracy to teach others how to make bombs, and receiving miltary-type training from a terrorist organization.
By Elise Labott
The State Department has put a multimillion-dollar bounty on the heads of two Americans who the United States claims belong to an al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, CNN has learned.
Posters and matchbooks in Somali and English emblazoned with the names and pictures of Omar Shafik Hammami and Jehad Serwan Mostafa tout rewards up to $5 million each for information leading to their arrest or conviction. Both men are on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists List.
The rewards are being offered through the State Department's Rewards for Justice Program.
Hammami and Mostafa are members of Al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, and "have made significant contributions to this terrorist organization's media and military activities," according to a State Department statement on the rewards, obtained by CNN. They are both are believed to be in Somalia and speak English, Arabic and Somali.
A senior FBI official said the United States has information that both men "had a persistent interest in targeting U.S. interests" and are "believed to be involved in planning attacks on U.S. persons or property." But it is unclear what specific attacks against Americans, even ones that have been thwarted, these men have taken part in. Officials said that information is classified.
Hammami, a 29-year-old Alabama native, moved to Somalia in 2006. The State Department claims he joined Al-Shabaab there and received training from Islamic militants, rising through the organization's ranks to command a contingent of foreign fighters. Officials say he was also a "propagandist" for the group, helping to recruit English-speaking youth through writings, rap songs and video statements. FULL POST
By Tim Lister
Much of the focus of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s appearance on Capitol Hill Wednesday was on whether her department failed to appreciate and respond to the risks that led to the Benghazi attack - and whether it had the resources to confront such risks.
And, of course, on whether in the immediate aftermath, the administration characterized the attack candidly and accurately.
But the hearings also illustrated how the United States is scrambling to catch up with new realities in North Africa – and how it faces a long struggle in a new arena of instability.
Clinton acknowledged that “the Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region.”
Looking back to her confirmation as secretary of state four years ago, Clinton said, “I don’t think anybody thought [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak would be gone, [Libya’s Moammar] Gadhafi would be gone, [Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali would be gone.”
By Larry Shaughnessy
It turns out al Qaeda has the same problem as ordinary companies with employees who spout off on the Internet, making their bosses look bad.
Al-Shabaab, the Somali branch of al Qaeda, booted Abu Mansour al-Amriki out of the group after he posted video messages contrary to the terrorist organization's teachings.
Al-Amriki, who was born Omar Hammami in a suburb of Mobile, Alabama, had become a highly visible member of the group that once dominated central and southern Somalia.
For a time, al-Amriki was a key recruiter for the group, attracting Americans of Somali heritage to the country to fight for the terrorist group.
An American from Alabama wanted for aiding Somalia-based terrorists was added to the FBI's "most wanted terrorists" list Wednesday.
Omar Shafik Hammami, 28, was indicted in Alabama five years ago for traveling to Somalia to assist al-Shabaab, which the U.S. has designated a foreign terrorist organization.
Hammani, a U.S. citizen, is believed to be in Somalia now and should be considered armed and dangerous, the FBI said.
The FBI also added Raddulan Sahiron, a Filipino wanted for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of an American in the Philippines in 1993, to the "most wanted terrorists" list.
Sahiron allegedly worked with Al Harakat al Islamiyyah, also known as the Abu Sayyaf group, to kidnap an American from his home in the Philippines on November 14, 1993, the FBI said.
By Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister
(CNN) - The latest in a flurry of messages from al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri shows his growing interest in exploiting violence in Syria. In a 35-minute audio address posted on jihadist forums on Wednesday, Zawahiri claimed the United States was actually supporting the Assad regime to prevent an Islamist state from taking its place.
"Supporting jihad in Syria to establish a Muslim state is a basic step towards Jerusalem, and thus America is giving the secular Baathist regime one chance after another, for fear that a government is established in Syria that would threaten Israel," Zawahiri said, according to a translation provided by the SITE Monitoring Service.
It is not the first time Zawahiri has cast a covetous eye over events in Syria.
In February, he used most of an address to try to graft al Qaeda onto the growing insurgency.
By Carol Cratty
A Chicago man who planned to travel to Somalia to fight for a terrorist group pleaded guilty on Monday to terrorism-related charges.
Shaker Masri, a 28-year old U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support for Al-Shabaab, a group he knew the United States had designated as a foreign terrorist organization, according to prosecutors.
In his plea agreement, Masri said that on July 19, 2010, he told an associate he "wanted to travel to a conflict zone to engage in jihadist fighting" and that he had the choice of going to Afghanistan to help al Qaeda or travel to Somalia to aid Al-Shabaab. Masri told his associate he had decided to go to Somalia but he needed money.
By Jamie Crawford
President Barack Obama has targeted the export of charcoal from war-torn Somalia, the sales of which help finance an al Qaeda-affiliated group, the State Department said Friday.
Through an amendment to an already existing executive order, Obama signed on to a resolution passed by the U.N. Security Council earlier this year that banned Somali exports of charcoal.
"The charcoal ban applies significant pressure on Al-Shabaab, which derives much of its income from charcoal exports," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a written statement. "The production of charcoal in Somalia has also had a devastating environmental impact that has exacerbated the country's protracted humanitarian crisis."
Al-Shabaab, a radical Islamist group that operates in southern Somalia, announced its affiliation with al Qaeda earlier this year and pledged its loyalty to Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's leader.
By Wesley Bruer
An American man's efforts to become a suicide bomber for the Somali al Qaeda affiliate will end next week with an expected guilty plea.
Shaker Masri, 27, a U.S. citizen and Chicago resident, faced two counts of terror-related charges. He opted to plea in lieu of standing trial on September 13.
A close reading of the indictment and other court documents reveal how Masri's plot unfolded.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of opinion articles about national security by participants in the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event which is taking place from July 25-28 in Aspen, Colorado.
To end World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin demanded an unconditional surrender from the Nazis. But there will be no such surrender from al Qaeda. The group is not a state that is capable of entering into such an agreement, even if it wanted to do so, which seems highly unlikely.
So we are left with a choice: We can continue fighting al Qaeda indefinitely and remain in a permanent state of quasi-war, as has already been the case for more than a decade now.
Or we can declare victory against the group and move on to focus on the essential challenges now facing America, notably the country's sputtering economy, but also containing a rising China, managing the rogue regime in North Korea, continuing to delay Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons, and - to the extent feasible - helping to direct the maturation of the Arab Spring. FULL POST