Archive for January, 2015

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Taliban arms dealer released from Guantanamo

January 19, 2015

Mohammed Zahir

Taliban weapons trafficker and drug smuggler Mohammed Zahir has been released from his Guantanamo jail cell back to freedom in Afghanistan by the Obama administration. Described by the Telegraph as “a leading Taliban weapons supplier,” Zahir reportedly had Stinger missiles and uranium on his property in Afghanistan prior to his arrest years ago. Zahir intended to use the uranium to produce an “atom bomb,” earning him a designation by Daniel Greenfield as a “nuclear terrorist.” In any case, the release of this major arms trafficker who can now revive his old gunrunning network would not, to put it politely, enhance security in Afghanistan; nor would it align with Pres. Obama’s professed support for gun control.

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The 13 sitting senators who used to support disclosure of Saudi funding of 9/11 hijackers

January 18, 2015

Saudi Arabia provided some financial and logistical support to the 9/11 hijackers through interlocutors in San Diego and Sarasota prior to the attacks of 2001. Congress released a report in 2002 about intelligence failures and investigative shortcomings before and after the attacks. A 28 page classified portion of that report dealt with the Saudi role. In 2003, 46 senators signed a letter urging Bush to declassify that section. Thirteen of those senators are still in office, but they have been virtually silent on the subject of declassification since Obama’s inauguration. They are:

  • Harry Reid (D-NV), minority leader
  • Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
  • Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
  • Tom Carper (D-DE)
  • Richard Durbin (D-IL)
  • Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
  • Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
  • Patty Murray (D-WA)
  • Bill Nelson (D-FL)
  • Jack Reed (D-RI)
  • Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
  • Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
  • Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Other signatories of the letter included Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and John Kerry. They should all publicly reaffirm their support for transparency on this subject. A bipartisan bill in the House currently has more than 20 co-sponsors for declassification of the 28 pages.

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Boko Haram targets India for drug dealing income

January 16, 2015

The jihadist group Boko Haram killed up to 2,000 people in northeastern Nigeria last week. The operation would have cost Boko Haram a great deal of money in terms of arming and paying wages to their fighters. Boko Haram is known previously to have sustained itself through jizya, robberies, military depot raids, zakat from supporters, arms trafficking, and drug smuggling through West Africa.

But a new vector for Boko Haram’s drug racket may be emerging in India. Fugitive terrorist and underworld kingpin Dawood Ibrahim, who is currently being given safe haven in Pakistan, is facilitating Boko Haram’s entry into the illegal drug racket in South Asia according to news outlets there. Times Now reported last fall that the Pakistani spy agency ISI arranged for a meeting between Dawood’s brother, Anees Ibrahim, and Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, which has already started yielding profits for Dawood’s “D-Gang” and Boko Haram. Roll tape:

Nigerian drug dealers are especially active in Goa and Mumbai.

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More Kouachi funding news: suggested reading

January 15, 2015
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula “chose the target, laid the plan and financed the operation” against Charlie Hebdo, according to AQAP chief Nasr al-Ansi… more>>
  • Azerbaijan Press Agency reports that the total value of weapons and ammo seized from the Kouachi brothers’ and Amedy Coulibaly was 27,000 euros… more>>
  • A weapons dealer in Belgium comes clean about selling $5,000 of arms to Coulibaly, which were later used by the Kouachi brothers in the Paris attacks… more>>
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The $20,000 behind the Paris attacks came “from abroad”

January 14, 2015

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) gave $20,000 to future Charlie Hebdo attacker Said Kouachi before he and his brother left Yemen in August 2011 according to CBS News yesterday (h/t El Grillo), which supports Money Jihad analysis of the Kouachis’ funding earlier this week. The report also adds credibility to claims by AQAP and Cherif Kouachi himself that the Charlie Hebdo attacks were planned, ordered, and financed by AQAP itself. The physical transfer of funds to Kouachi suggests that bulk cash smuggling (or the smuggling of other financial instruments) back to Europe was the method used rather than a wire, hawala transaction, or trade-based money laundering operation.

Relatedly, the Associated Press reported weapons for the Paris terrorist attacks came from abroad:

Several people are being sought in relation to the “substantial” financing of the three gunmen behind the terror campaign, said Christophe Crepin, a French police union official. The gunmen’s weapons stockpile came from abroad, and the size of it plus the military sophistication of the attacks indicated an organized terror network, he added.

“This cell did not include just those three, we think with all seriousness that they had accomplices, because of the weaponry, the logistics and the costs of it,” Crepin said. “These are heavy weapons. When I talk about things like a rocket launcher – it’s not like buying a baguette on the corner, it’s for targeted acts.”

The Belgian daily La Dernière Heure corroborates that several of the weapons acquired by the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly were bought in Brussels.

The $20,000 figure reported by CBS is also consistent with an estimate over the weekend from counterterror expert Jean-Paul Rouiller. Bloomberg Businessweek reported:

…The Kalashnikov rifles and other weapons used by the attackers, Chérif and Saïd Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, likely cost less than €10,000 ($11,800), according to Jean-Paul Rouiller, director of the Geneva Centre for Training and Analysis of Terrorism, a Swiss research group. Including the cost of Saïd Kouachi’s 2011 trip to Yemen, where he may have received training from al-Qaeda, the total price tag for the deadly attacks by the three men might have reached about $20,000…

Bloomberg went on to report that, “for what Rouiller describes as ‘such a low-cost operation,’ financing from abroad would be unlikely”—a theory that now seems to have been disproved by the evidence.

Regardless of where it is finally determined that the funds for the weapons originated, it should be kept in mind that the direct expenses of the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly aren’t the only expenditures that matter. The weapons training camp in Yemen that both Kouachi brothers attended in 2011 wasn’t “self-financed” by individual AQAP recruits. The militants at the AQAP camp that trained the Kouachi brothers didn’t self-finance their own wages. The human smuggling network that helped sneak the Kouachi brothers across the border from Oman into Yemen isn’t self-financed. Anwar al-Awlaki, the terrorist imam with whom the Kouachi brothers met while in Yemen and possibly assigned them their marching orders, was not self-financed either. Not to mention that the Kouachi brothers’ basic cost of living in Paris probably wasn’t met by part-time work delivering pizzas and gutting fish at the market.

We will also discover over time that the websites, texts, and videos that the Kouachis and Coulibaly consumed, like most Islamic radical materials, are generally produced by entities backed by Wahhabi patrons. It is important to think of the bigger picture not just of the money it took to carry out the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher operations, but the amount of money it takes to sustain a terrorist infrastructure in Yemen (and beyond) that these sleeper cells count on for arms, training and guidance.

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2011: France may have paid AQAP $12m ransom

January 13, 2015

In March 2011, three French citizens working for the Lyon-based charity Triangle Génération Humanitaire traveled to Hadramawt, Yemen. Agricultural engineer Pierre Perrault, age 29 at the time; fellow engineer and wife Leah Romary, age 25; and water treatment specialist Amelie Morgaut, age 32, intended to assist local authorities with infrastructure improvement projects, which they did until late May of that year until they were abducted by terrorist-affiliated tribesmen.

Perrault, Romary and Morgaut remained in captivity for six months in the typical fashion of kidnappers in that region of the world, which involves transferring hostages among different groups and locations.  But the strings were ultimately being pulled by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In July, AQAP demanded $12 million from France for the aid workers’ release. French officials didn’t immediately comply, but began third party negotiations with AQAP through interlocutors of the sultan of Oman.

In November, the negotiations concluded. A “senior Yemeni tribal mediator” confirmed to the Associated Press that a ransom had been paid for the hostages’ release. The formal payment was made jointly by a Yemeni businessman living in Oman, Ahmed Ben Férid al-Souraimeh, and by the government of Oman, but Oman was most likely reimbursed by French intelligence behind the scenes.

Officially, France says it does not pay ransoms and did not pay a ransom in this case.  But diplomats, security experts, and terrorist groups themselves know that France does in fact pay ransoms quietly through third parties. France has paid $58 million to terrorist groups for the release of French hostages worldwide since 2008 according to the New York Times.

The Triangle Génération Humanitaire aid workers’ captivity overlapped the July to August 2011 time period in which French-Algerian brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi traveled to Yemen (via Oman) for weapons training and to meet with terrorist imam Anwar al-Awlaki.

The payment of a ransom in Yemen within a few months of the Kouachi brothers’ Yemen tour would have been useful to AQAP to fund the continued purchase of weapons for use in Yemen, to maintain training camps in Yemen, to pay wages of militants and marksmanship trainers Yemen, to cover the air travel and border crossing expenses for prospective recruits, to fund the possible remote purchase of AK-47s and RPGs on the black market in France, and to fund planning and communications for future attacks.

After slaying 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris last Wednesday but shortly before his death on Friday, Cherif Kouachi said that he had been financed by AQAP.

In order to have an honest discussion about whether it is proper to pay ransoms to terrorist groups, we must—as grateful as we are all for the release of the Triangle Génération Humanitaire aid workers—acknowledge the distinct probability that the ransom paid in that case may have been more detrimental than helpful to the long-term security interests of France.

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Kouachi brothers’ weapons trail leads to AQAP

January 12, 2015

Yemini intelligence has confirmed that both Said and Cherif Kouachi travelled to Yemen by way of Oman and received marksmanship training after meeting with deceased terrorist imam Anwar al-Awlaki between July and August of 2011. (French authorities have said earlier that one of the brothers also traveled to Yemen in 2005.) From Reuters:

…”These two brothers arrived in Oman on July 25, 2011, and from Oman they were smuggled into Yemen where they stayed for two weeks,” a senior Yemeni security official, who declined to be named, said.

“They met (al Qaeda preacher) Anwar al-Awlaki and then they were trained for three days in the deserts of Marib on how to fire a gun. They returned to Oman and they left Oman on Aug. 15, 2011 to go back to France.”

A senior Yemeni intelligence source confirmed the brothers had entered Yemen via Oman in 2011, citing the ease with which they entered while the security forces were focused on the Arab Spring protests that were convulsing the country at the time.

The source also confirmed the brothers had met Awlaki “and trained in Wadi Abida,” – which is between Marib and Shabwa provinces where Awlaki was known to move freely…

But the tale of the weapons trail doesn’t end there. During their attacks in Paris last week, the Kouachi brothers had AK-47s, a rocket propelled grenade launcher, and 10 smoke grenades among other military-grade weapons. One expert has theorized that the Kouachi sleeper cell was simply waiting for these weapons until they could activate for the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Many of the firearms on the black market in France are sold by the Italian mafia and originate from the Balkans (and perhaps Libya), but illegal online weapons purchases in France are on the rise, too. Keeping in mind that neither of the Kouachi brothers had full-time jobs, and that even just their two Kalashnikovs would have cost about $3,000, it is unlikely they were able to fund these purchases on their own without external help. Cherif Kouachi said before his death that he had been financed by AQAP.

One wonders when France will begin air strikes against AQAP targets in Yemen.