Saturday, January 02, 2010

Yemen or London? Terror and the 'experts'

THE hounds are loose, after 23-year old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was seized in a botched attempt to detonate explosives on a North West Airlines airbus A330 carrying 278 passengers as it made its final descent into Detroit.

Abdulmutallab, son of a wealthy businessman, studied in London, was chair of the Islamic Society at UCL, and also attended a Saudi-funded institute, though it appears his links with terror began when he went to Yemen, where he is said to have received both training and his explosives.

President Obama said the foiled bomber was connected to an organisation in Yemen with links to al Qaeda. But some newspapers focussed on the UK background, and reported a police raid on a luxury flat in London.

"POLICE SEARCH PROPERTY IN HUNT FOR DETROIT BOMBER'S BRITISH NETWORK", said the right-wing Daily Telegraph (December 31) "Police were last night searching the London home of an associate of the Detroit bomber as part of the hunt for possible accomplices in Britain.

"The search comes after MI5 discovered that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who lived in Marylebone, central London for three years, had been in contact with someone who was under surveillance".

Abdulmutullub was refused a visa to re-enter Britain last year because of doubts about a college he claimed to be attending, and he was reportedly on the security services' watchlist, but now his having been in touch with someone else under watch becomes evidence of a British "network". At least, for the Telegraph headline writer.

The Murdoch-owned News of the World, not best-known for serious international coverage, despite its title (News of the Screws as its more often called) interrupted its usual Sunday gossip and entertainment on December 27 for a two-page spread on the bungling bomber and his supposed British background, with comment from Fraser Nelson, editor of the high Tory Spectator, headed:

Britain has become the number once source of terror in West

It comes as no surprise to learn that the Nigerian accused of blowing up the US airliner is said to have been living here. We have become the number one source of terrorism in the Western world. We shelter foreign jihadis, and even grow our own.

For years now, Islamic extremists wanted on terror charges in their own country have taken sanctuary in Britain. Our judges (not our politicians) say it would be cruel to send them back to their own countries, in case they're tortured.

Result? People actually CONVICTED for terror attacks in countries like Libya can live freely here.

Years ago, the CIA had a name for it: "Londonistan." And Umar Abdul Mutallab may have been a part of it.

I dare say Mr.Nelson knows what the CIA were saying years ago. And he is right about people carrying out terror attacks in Libya. But the Islamicist bombers there were hired by British intelligence to either kill or bring down Colonel Muammar Gaddaffi, and since the US air force also carried out bombing raids on Libya, I would not have thought the CIA disapproved of that London initiative.

"Londonistan" , on the other hand, is the title of a book by neo-con, Daily Mail columnist and born-again Zionist Melanie Phillips, 'Mad Mel' as she is less than affectionately known by my friends. It purveys similar views to those of Mr.Nelson but to appreciate the book's value as a source on Britain's Muslims and "extremism" , we see that the British National Party sells and recommends it.

"Little is known" about the Detroit bomber, the Spectator editor admits, he may have been an al Qaeda operative or "just a wannabe",
"But it is typical of al Qaeda to strike on Christmas day, aiming to kill as many Christians as they can".

We get the message

Continuing to go intellectually upmarket, the Screws informed readers that Britain's universities were a "hotbed" of terror:

"SECURITY experts believe at least 31 British colleges have been bases for known extremists. Professor Anthony Glees and Chris Pope of Buckingham University's Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies reported their findings back in 2005. And last night Prof Glees told the News of the World: "The tutors of these students have to look out for signs of radicalisation.

Notice how easily we slip from "extremists" - people whose views we intensely dislike - to people who are about to become, or already are, bombers and "terrorists".

Buckingham University, unlike wherever it was that Mutallab put down and aroused suspicion, is real, though not listed among the world's top academic institutions. It is a private university, its first chancellor was Margaret Thatcher, and judging from the remarks of one of its professors, David Marsland, at the Springbok Club, it should know a thing or too about extremism. The club, not to be confused with South Africa's now non-racial rugby side, wants the restoration of "civilised European rule" in southern Africa.

Professor Marsland doesn't like the Welfare State, and suggested that the way to avoid ill-treatment of prisoners in occupied Iraq was to not take prisoners. Failing that, he suggested locking up any journalists or soldiers who reported such ill-treatment.

Still, we must not tar all University of Buckingham staff with the same brush, even if that is what the "experts'" remarks to the News of the World are doing to students at the rest of the country's universities.
I would have thought the Murdoch press would have grown more wary, considering what has happened to another of its "terrorism experts".

But the piece does turn from the unis to add: "Meanwhile Yemen - the country where Abdul Mutallab is believed to have been supplied with explosives - is considered to be one of the most fertile breeding grounds for al Qaeda in the Middle East.
The poor Muslim country hosts many fanatics plus businesses that fund the global terror network".

Hang on again! A poor Muslim country that hosts businesses funding a global terror network? Could the writer not be confusing poor Yemen with its wealthy neighbour, Saudi Arabia, home to Osama Bin Laden, and most of the 9/11 hijackers, as well as source of funding for the Taliban, and base for groups entering Iraq to carry out sectarian terror and suicide bombings? Or am I being irresponsible, forgetting America's interest in Saudi oil, and the country's importance as a market for British Aerospace?

Yemen has had to contend with pressure and incursions from the Saudis, it is troubled by armed insurgents and terrorist groups, and now it is being damned as a "failed state" and scapegoated. It has also had to confront terror directed from London, that's to say, been at the receiving end. In case we have forgotten:

"THE KIDNAPPING of 16 western tourists in Abyan on 28 December 1998 and an alleged bomb plot in Aden have both been linked to an extreme Islamist organisation called Supporters of Shariah (SOS) which is run by Abu Hamza al-Masri, an imam at Finsbury Park mosque in north London.

It aims "to remove the oppression created by man-made laws, so that the whole of mankind can enjoy the freedom, purity and justice of living under Allah's laws - the Shari'ah."

Abu Hamza, the leader of SOS, is said to have fought in the Afghan war and to have spent some time in Yemen afterwards as a refugee. He lost both hands and an eye in an accident. Little is known about his activities since he arrived in Britain. One press report claimed that he worked for a time as a night-club "bouncer".

Over Christmas 1998, from December 24 to 26, SOS held its fourth Islamic Camp at Finsbury Park Mosque in north London. The list of activities included "military training for brothers". A picture of a hand grenade appeared on the publicity material. Admission was £20, with reduced prices for children and families."

According to the Yemenis, Abu Hamza called a meeting in London in September 1998. A man called Amin, who had come from Yemen, gave a talk and produced some recruiting leaflets for the Islamic Army of Aden-Abyan.

On January 20, 1999 Abu Hamza held a press conference in London where he issued another communique (in English) warning all westerners to leave Yemen and calling for the overthrow of the Yemeni government.
On January 25, President Ali Abdullah Salih wrote a letter to Tony Blair, the British prime minister, seeking Abu Hamza's extradition to Yemen, "to be tried on charges of carrying out terrorist activities in Yemen and in several other Arab states".

Ali Abdullah Salih said Abu Hamza's organisation was already involved in "planning and financing sabotage and bombings in Yemen." In this context, Salih specifically mentioned an incident on October 13 in al-Dali' when a military officer and a soldier accompanying him were injured by a bomb. The explosives were hidden under the donkey's saddle and the animal was blown to pieces. Abu Hamza's publication found this very amusing.

Yemen had been under pressure since 1990, when it failed to side with the US and Saudis in the war on Iraq. Since then it tried to move closer to the West both to counter Saudi bullying and to qualify for economic aid, but it may not have satisfied.

Abu Hamza had been allowed into Britain and provided with British citizenship by the Tories. And in fact, quite a lot was known about his activities, because he reported directly to British intelligence officers. Could his involvement in Yemen, supposedly to counter the government's retreats, have been seen as a useful way of undermining it so the West might later intervene?

Whatever was really going on, Britain refused to extradite him to Yemen, and sought to help his followers accused of the bomb plot. According to Brian Wittaker:
"Stung in the early stages by accusations that it failed to look after the interests of the defendants as much as it would if they had been white and middle-class, the British Foreign Office has been bending over backwards to placate their supporters ever since. Even after the verdict was announced, it continued to refer to the defendants as "detainees" - a term usually applied to those held without trial. But the FO's Stiff Upper Lip Award should go to David Pearce, British consul general in Aden. After being informed that his own consulate had been one of the defendants' bombing targets, he then had to represent the defendants on behalf of Her Majesty's government - a job he did with total professionalism'.

The October 2000 successful attack on an American destroyer, the USS Cole, in Aden harbour, claimed by al Qaeda, determined the US government and military to intervene, although at first they were not sure whom to blame, attributing responsibility first to the Sudanese government, then later to a Yemeni prisoner held in Guantanamo and since released.

US forces are now involved in war against rebels in Yemen, both assisting the Yemeni government and more directly. According to one report: " The US has been conducting a covert assault with drone attacks on al-Qaida bases for about a year, while CIA agents inside the country help direct ground operations. American special forces have been training the Yemeni military and may have been involved in raids.
General David Petraeus, the American regional commander, and John Brennan, the president's counterterrorism adviser, both visited Yemen this year.

Some 93 people were reportedly killed in two US raids last month, in both the south and the north of the country. Yemenis say those hit were civilians not Al Qaeda members. In fact, there is some doubt as to whether Al Qaeda is really involved, since the Houthi rebels are fighting for the Shi'ite people in Yemen, whereas Al Qaeda is a Sunni force not previously known for overcoming sectarian divides even to fight the imperialists.

While the dust has still not settled from the US air raids and the evidence about Abdulmutarram's Yemeni connection has not yet been brought to light, some US politicians are already demanding another all-out war.
Senator Joseph Lieberman, the “independent Democrat” who heads the Senate Homeland Security Committee, called Sunday for a “preemptive” military intervention in Yemen.

“Somebody in our government said to me in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, Iraq was yesterday’s war,” Lieberman said in an interview with Fox News -owned like the News of the World, Sun and Times by Rupert Murdoch. “Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act pre-emptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war. That’s the danger we face.” Appearing on the same program, Senator Arlen Specter, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, agreed, saying that a military attack on Yemen is “something we should consider.”

Meanwhile in England...

To enter the New Year on a happier note, almost one year after Rupert Murdoch's Sun front-paged an alleged plot by Islamic extremists to target prominent British Jews, supposedly in retaliation for Israel's onslaught on Gaza, we learn police have been to a house in Salisbury, and made an arrest.

The newspaper's story, also taken up by other media, rested on postings to a Muslim web site, particularly by someone calling himself "abu islam". The report also quoted an "expert" on terrorism, a person called Glen Jenvey, who warned that the threat could be serious.

The owners of the website had been curious about the true identity of "abu islam", and whether he was a genuine Muslim. What they and other people found out suggested that "abu islam" and Glen Jenvey were close friends, if not one and the same person. During the past year, Sir Alan Sugar, one of the people supposedly targeted by the plot, was reported taking legal action against the Sun, which subsequently dropped its story. Mr.Jenvey seemed to undergo an identity crisis, claiming at one point that he had converted to Islam.

And now we learn that the police who went to his house in October and took away his computer, DVDs and mobile phone have charged him with inciting "religious hatred". Like I say, a happier tale, except for Mr.Jenvey, but no sign yet that the newspapers are going to be more careful accepting such stories or listening to what the "experts" have to say.

Thanks also for Richard Bartholomew whose Notes on Religion have followed this closely, as they did Professor Marsland before.

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