By Carol Cratty
U.S. authorities had a former soldier they were investigating removed from a "no-fly" list and allowed him to travel from Turkey to the United States where he was promptly arrested on charges related to fighting alongside a terror group in Syria.
That unusual step, revealed on Monday by a federal prosecutor in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, allowed authorities to get Eric Harroun back in the United States without having to ask Turkish authorities to arrest him.
Harroun, 30, of Phoenix, was not in FBI custody during the flight, but agents were aboard and observed him, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Carter Burwell.
He did not say when Harroun had been placed on the "no-fly" list or whether he was aware of it.
The FBI interviewed Harroun three times in March in Istanbul about his alleged activities in Syria.
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 Paul Cruickshank, Tim Lister and Nic Robertson
A previously secret document found at Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan sets out a detailed al Qaeda strategy for attacking targets in Europe and the United States.
The document - a letter written to bin Laden in March 2010 by a senior operational figure in the terror group - reveals that tunnels, bridges, dams, undersea pipelines and internet cables were among the targets.
It was written by Younis al-Mauretani, a senior al Qaeda planner thought to have been behind an ambitious plan to hit "soft" targets in Europe in the fall of 2010.
The U.S. Department of Justice passed the letter to German prosecutors last year for use in an ongoing trial in Dusseldorf because it possibly refers to one of the defendants, according to the German newspaper Die Zeit.
The 17-page letter is in Arabic.
Al-Mauretani proposed that al Qaeda recruits take jobs with companies transporting gasoline and and other sensitive companies in the West, and await the right moment to strike.FULL STORY
By Mariano Castillo and Chelsea Carter
Cyberattacks pose more of an eminent threat to the United States than a land-based attack by a terrorist group, while North Korea's development of a nuclear weapons program poses a "serious threat," the director of national intelligence told Congress on Tuesday.
The warning by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper came in his annual report to Congress of the threats facing the United States. It was one of the rare times since the September 11, 2001, attacks that terrorism was not the leading threat facing the nation.
"Attacks, which might involve cyber and financial weapons, can be deniable and unattributable," Clapper said prepared remarks before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "Destruction can be invisible, latent and progressive."
The Internet is increasingly being used as a tool both by nations and terror groups to achieve their objectives, according to Clapper's report.
By Pam Benson
The arrest of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, who had been living in Iran for the past decade, has once again raised questions about whether the Iranian government is providing a haven or barrier to the terror group.
Al Qaeda and its members held under "house arrest" in Iran over the past decade have had a complicated relationship with the Tehran regime, one which allowed the detainees to often times continue supporting the terror group's operations in the region.
Current and former U.S. officials say al Qaeda in Iran managed to be fairly active in facilitating the movement of money and people into Pakistan where the core leadership has safe haven in tribal areas.
"They helped move people in and out of FATA through Iran for operational reasons," one former senior counter-terrorism official told CNN.
The growing strength of extremist groups across the Middle East and Africa has led the Obama Administration to begin a classified review of just who it can go after under its targeted killing program.
The current congressional authorization to use military force, allows the President to "use all necessary and appropriate force" against any persons or organizations involved in planning or carrying out the September 11th attacks–its been interpreted to include al Qaeda affiliates.
But emerging terrorist groups sympathetic to al Qaeda do not necessarily have a direct link to the core Al Qaeda network responsible for the September 11th attack, CNN's Barbara Starr reports.
Reporting from Barbara Starr and Susan Candiotti
Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, who has served as an al Qaeda spokesman, was captured and has been brought to the United States, two administration officials and a federal law enforcement official said Thursday.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith is being held in New York, and will appear in court Friday to face federal charges, the law enforcement official said.
A sealed indictment lays out charges against him, the administration officials said.
Abu Ghaith was captured within the past week in Jordan, according to a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York.
Congress was notified when Ghaith was taken into U.S. custody, the administration officials said.
The U.S. Treasury Department has described Abu Ghaith as "the official spokesman of al Qaeda since his appointment to that position after the attacks of September 11, 2001."
He appeared in videos as "the mouthpiece of bin Laden," the department said.
Bin Laden, leader of the terrorist al Qaeda network that staged the 9/11attacks on the United States, was killed in a U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan in 2011.
By Barbara Starr
The Obama administration is still searching through incoming intelligence reports to look for specific evidence to confirm that jihadist Moktar Belmoktar was killed in a raid by Chad military on a jihadist base in northeastern Mali, a senior U.S. official tells CNN.
"We don't have enough evidence to support the claim" made by Chad, the official said. But he emphasized the U.S. is taking it seriously and "not dismissing it out of hand."
"We want to have a level of certainty about it before we say it’s true, and we are not there yet," the official said.
He emphasized the U.S. will be looking at the broadest range of intelligence information it can to try to verify Belmoktar's death. "We'll be looking at things you can't even think of," he said. FULL POST
By Paul Cruickshank
AQAP, al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen, on Thursday released a tenth issue of its glossy online English language magazine Inspire.
Dated "Spring 2013" and compiled after French forces moved against jihadists in Mali in January, the magazine contains a familiar litany of propaganda articles railing against the West (with "crusader" France the latest target) mixed with how-to advice on launching terrorist attacks in the West, all illustrated with colorful graphics and catchy titles.
But the new issue also cleared up a mystery that has long puzzled counterterrorism analysts.
In late 2011, several weeks after a U.S. drone strike killed the magazine's original creative forces - American militants Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan - a new English speaker called Abu Yazeed began to appear in AQAP's videos. His face was partly in shadow, but one could make out glasses and a full beard. He spoke with an accent.
At the time, counterterrorism analysts had no idea who he was.
But the latest issue of Inspire lifted the veil in an obituary piece revealing that Abu Yazeed had been killed while fighting in southern Yemen.
It described Abu Yazeed al Qatari as a Yemeni in his early 20s from "a respectable family" who spent much of his life in Qatar.
It said that several years ago, Abu Yazeed had traveled to the UK to earn a degree in a subject he was "passionate" about - science - but he quickly grew disillusioned with the "hypocrisy of the West" and abandoned his studies to go back to Yemen to join up with jihadists. FULL POST