US charges Gitmo detainee with supporting terrorism

The US  Department of Defense announced Aug. 29 that the Chief Prosecutor for Military Commissions has filed terrorism charges against a Saudi Guantánamo Bay prisoner accused of plotting with al-Qaeda to blow up oil tankers near Yemen. The detainee, Ahmed al Darbi, has been accused of six offenses under the Military Commissions Act of 2009, including conspiracy, aiding and abetting attacks on civilians, and aiding and abetting terrorism based on his former work as a weapons instructor, contact with Osama bin Laden, and support of bombing civilian oil tankers. According to the statement released by the Pentagon:

US appeals court upholds life sentence of convicted al-Qaeda operative

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Aug. 24 upheld the life sentence imposed on a former Osama bin Laden aide after he stabbed a prison guard in the eye in 2000. Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, 54, is a Sudanese-born Iraqi who at the time of the stabbing was awaiting trial in a conspiracy case that included the 1998 attack on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In 2002 Salim pleaded guilty to attempted murder of and conspiracy to murder a federal official after he stabbed Louis Pepe, a guard at the federal jail in lower Manhattan, with a plastic comb in November 2000. Salim appealed his sentence primarily on the ground that his right to be physically present at the sentencing hearing was violated when he attended by videoconference. The court ruled that the US District Court for the Southern District of New York erred in finding that the government had met its burden of proving that Salim had waived his right to be present at the hearing, but under plain error review found that Salim was not prejudiced by the error. The court also rejected Salim's arguments that the life sentence was unreasonable.

Algeria claims blow against AQIM

Three armed Islamists, including a senior member of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) thought to be close to its leader Abdelmalek Droukdel, were arrested in central Algeria's Ghardaia province on Aug. 15. Necib Tayeb AKA Abderrahmane Abou Ishak Essoufi, the head of AQIM's so-called "judicial committee," had been wanted since 1995. The three were apprehended in a four-wheel-drive vehicle loaded with weapons at a checkpoint at the entrance to Berriane while apparently en route to the Sahel. Authorities hailed the arrests as a "fatal blow" to AQIM, which is said to be badly divided by internal factionalism. (Magharebia, Aug. 23; AFP, Aug. 20)

Yemen: AQAP blows up gas pipeline

Presumed militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) early Aug. 21 blew up a pipeline pumping liquefied gas to Yemen's southern Balhaf export terminal, causing a complete halt in operations, security officials said. The gunmen blew up the pipeline "at Station 5, in the village of Zahira, in the Shabwa province," according to the provincial security chief. Witnesses reported that dozens of villagers fled their houses due to a raging fire caused by the explosion. (Critical Threats, Aug. 22; Middle East Online, Aug. 21) On Aug. 18, presumed AQAP militants killed at least 14 soldiers and security guards in a car bomb and grenade attack on the intelligence service headquarters in the southern port city of Aden. (Reuters, Aug. 18)

Mali: intervention, power-sharing —or 'national liberation'?

Mali's military said Aug. 14 that troops from the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) could assist in a campaign to take back the country's north from Islamist rebels, but would not be allowed in the capital, Bamako. "There is no question of soldiers from ECOWAS bloc in Bamako but [they could send] some to the North. We could have 600-800 ECOWAS troops in support of ours," said chief of staff Col. Ibrahima Dahirou Dembele. (Reuters, Aug. 14) One week earlier, Iyad Ag Ghali—leader of Ansar Dine, one of the Islamist groups in control of the north—met with Burkina Faso's foreign minister, Djibril Bassole, in the northern town of Kidal, and said he is open to mediation efforts to reunite the country. "We are going to work together to find peace,’" Ag Ghali told reporters at Kidal airport.

Rafah attack: Muslim Brotherhood blames Mossad; IDF blames 'global jihad'

Reacting to the Aug. 5 armed attack on an Egyptian military post near the Rafah crossing on the border with the Gaza Strip, the Muslim Brotherhood website that the attack "can be attributed to Mossad," Israel's foreign intelligence service. Read the statement: "Evidently, this crime may well be the work of Israel's Mossad, which has sought to abort the revolution ever since its launch, and which issued instructions to Israeli citizens in Sinai to leave immediately, just days ago. It is clearly noticeable that every time a warning like this is issued, a terrorist incident takes place in the Sinai." More than 15 Egyptian soldiers and border guards were killed in the night attack, and the assailants reportedly seized two armored personnel carriers. The militants briefly penetrated Israeli territory, before their vehicle was shelled by an Israeli air force helicopter. A statement on the Israeli Defense Forces website said the attack was carried out by "global jihadists"—a term the IDF uses to describe members of Salafist groups linked to al-Qaeda's network in the region. 

Ramadan drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan

US drones killed 10 supposed al-Qaeda militants in separate strikes targeting moving vehicles in Yemen Aug. 7—in the midst of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The official SABA news agency said one of the dead was Abdullah Awad al-Masri AKA Abou Osama al-Maribi, described him as one of the "most dangerous elements" of al-Qaeda in the militant stronghold of Bayda province and the man in charge of a bomb-making lab. Another US drone targeted a second vehicle carrying three supposed al-Qaeda militants in the Zoukaika region of Hadramout province. (AP, Aug. 7) A US drone attack on Aug. 5 killed at least seven in Pakistan, striking a compound in Khushhali Turikhel village of North Waziristan tribal district. (NY Daily News, July 29)

Yemen between two poles of terrorism

A suicide bomber struck at a funeral in Yemen's southern city of Jaar Aug. 4, killing at least 35 and wounding dozens more, including the leader of a local group that was fighting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Authorities also said they had intercepted a would-be suicide martyr who intended to attack  the British embassy in the capital Sana'a. (The Guardian, Aug. 5; Yemen Observer, Aug. 4) A US drone strike meanwhile killed five supposed AQAP militants at al-Qotn in Hadramout province. The last confirmed US drone strike in Yemen took place on July 3 in Shabwa province, reportedly killing two AQAP operatives. (Long War Journal, Aug. 4)

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