Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American cleric who is a top propagandist for Al Qaeda, broke his silence on the uprisings in the Arab world on Wednesday, claiming that Islamist extremists had gleefully watched the success of protest movements against governments they had long despised.
“The mujahedeen around the world are going through a moment of elation,” Mr. Awlaki wrote in a new issue of the English-language Qaeda magazine Inspire, “and I wonder whether the West is aware of the upsurge of mujahedeen activity in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Arabia, Algeria and Morocco?”
Mr. Awlaki’s four-page essay, titled “The Tsunami of Change,” is among a handful of statements by Al Qaeda’s leaders countering the common view among Western analysts that the terrorist network looks irrelevant at a time of change unprecedented in the modern Middle East. In ousting the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt and threatening other Arab leaders, a core of secular-leaning demonstrators have called for democracy and generally avoided violence — all at odds with Al Qaeda’s creed as it tries to instill rigid Islamist rule across the world.
Mr. Awlaki asks, “Doesn’t the West realize how the jihadi work would just take off as soon as the regimes of the Gulf start crumbling?”
Six children and one wife of Osama Bin Laden have reportedly been living in Iran since fleeing Afghanistan shortly before 9/11. His 17-year-old daughter recently escaped to the embassy of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s traditional rival.
By Scott Peterson
Seven members of Osama bin Laden’s immediate family have been under house arrest in Iran and living in a high security compound outside Tehran since 2001, news outlets reported on Wednesday.
The group includes six children of the Al Qaeda leader and one of his wives, all of whom reportedly fled Afghanistan and walked to the Iran border just prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington, according to The Times in London.
One 17-year-old daughter, Iman, escaped from from the Tehran compound and has been holed up in the Saudi Arabia Embassy for 25 days, according to the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.
The asylum request – and public revelations about the continuing Bin Laden family presence in Iran – are sure to complicate relations between the two traditional rivals for power in the Middle East: Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.
During his first term, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad went on a charm offensive to woo Saudi and other Arab leaders. But Iran’s rising influence and that of its “Axis of Resistance” – with Hezbullah, Hamas, and Syria – raised concern in Riyadh and other Arab capitals.
The disputed June election was final proof for many in the Arab world that Iran’s regional power was on the wane again. For Saudi Arabia, evidence of that came just last week when it was able to precipitate an unlikely meeting between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an Iran ally, and Lebanon’s pro-West Prime Minister Saad Hariri – who for five years has accused Syria of killing his father.
US turned down Iranian offer for Al Qaeda operatives
One of Bin Laden’s oldest sons, Saad, was known for years to be among some 35 Al Qaeda operatives that fled to Iran after the US toppling of the Taliban government and expulsion of Al Qaeda from Afghanistan in late 2001.
The government of President Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) eventually offered to indirectly exchange those Al Qaeda figures with the US, if Washington would rein in, or hand over, leaders of the anti-Iran Mujahideen-e Khalq. Known as the MEK or MKO, the anti-Iran group considered a terrorist group by the US State Department was based in Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s wing. But the members there fell under the jurisdiction of American forces after a US-led coalition toppled the Hussein regime in 2003.
Iran’s offer was rejected, according to reports at the time, because the Pentagon wanted to keep hold of the MEK as a possible force to be used against Iran in any Washington-orchestrated bid for regime change.
Bin Ladens’ presence off the radar
Still, it was never made public that so many Bin Laden family members were in Iran. The Washington Post reported in October 2003 that Saad bin Laden had “emerged in recent months as part of the upper echelon of the Al Qaeda network … that is managing the terrorist organization from Iran,” quoting US, European and Arab officials.
The story held that Saad bin Laden was “protected by an elite, radical Iranian security force loyal to the nation’s clerics and beyond the control of the central government” – the Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guard.
Reports emerged earlier this year that Iran had quietly released Saad bin Laden in late 2008, and let him go to Afghanistan.Then it was reported in July that he had been killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan.
But the presence of so many Bin Laden relatives in Iran was a surprise. The Times of London has reported that 11 Bin Laden grandchildren also lived on the compound.
“Until a month ago, we did not know where the siblings were,” Omar bin Laden, the fourth son who lives in Qatar, told Asharq al-Awsat. “The Iranian government did not know what to do with this large group of people whom nobody else wanted, so they just kept them safe…. For that we owe them much gratitude.”
The influence of the network – damaged by US efforts to choke funding – is waning, the official said.
The Taliban, meanwhile, are in better financial shape, bolstered by Afghanistan‘s booming trade in drugs.
According to Mr Cohen, the al-Qaeda leadership has already warned that a lack of funds was hurting the group’s recruitment and training efforts.
“We assess that al-Qaeda is in its weakest financial condition in several years and that, as a result, its influence is waning,” Mr Cohen said from Washington.
But he added that as the organisation had multiple donors who were “ready, willing and able to contribute” the situation could be rapidly reversed.
However, the assistant secretary for terrorist financing said that the Taliban were in a better financial position, despite efforts to control the movement’s cash supply.
The many sources of funding for the Taliban make it more difficult to intercept and interrupt money flows, Mr Cohen said.
He also noted a trend in militant organisations turning to criminal activities to finance themselves.
Hezbollah, he alleged, is involved in making and selling illegal copies of music and computer software, as well as cigarette smuggling.
By Joel C. Rosenberg
(Washington, D.C., September 9, 2008) — You have probably never heard of Father Zakaria Botros.
But you need to know his story. He is far and away the most-watched and most-effective Arab-American evangelist focused on reaching the Muslim world, and by far the most controversial. The Rush Limbaugh of the Revivalists, he is funny, feisty, brilliant, opinionated, and provocative. But rather than preaching the gospel of conservatism, he is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. And his enemies do not simply want to silence him. They want to assassinate him.
Last week, I had the honor of interviewing Botros by phone from a secure, undisclosed location in the United States, where he now resides. He told me that he had just learned that an al Qaeda website had posted his photograph and named him one of the “most wanted” infidels in the world. The Radicals have even put a bounty on his head. The Christian Broadcasting Network reported the figure was as high as $60 million. Botros does not know for certain. But just to put that in context, the U.S. bounty on Osama bin Laden’s head is “only” $25 million.
Why are the Radicals so enraged by an elderly Coptic priest from Egypt who is in his 70s? Because Botros is waging an air war against them, and he is winning.
Using state-of-the art satellite technology to bypass the efforts of Islamic governments to keep the gospel out of their countries, Botros is directly challenging the claims of Muhammad to be a prophet, and the claims of the Qu’ran to be God’s word. He systematically deconstructs Muhammad’s life, story by story, pointing out character flaws and sinful behavior. He carefully deconstructs the Qu’ran, verse by verse, citing contradictions and inconsistencies. And not only does he explain without apology what he believes is wrong with Islam, he goes on to teach Muslims from the Bible why Jesus loves them and why is so ready to forgive them and adopt them into His family, no matter who they are or what they have done.
If Botros was doing this in a corner, or on some cable access channel where no one saw him or cared, that would be one thing. But his ninety-minute program – a combination of preaching, teaching and answering questions from (often irate) callers all over the world – has become “must see TV” throughout the Muslim world. It is replayed four times a week in Arabic, his native language, on a satellite television network called Al Hayat (“Life TV.”) It can be seen in every country in North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, as well as all throughout North America,Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. And not only can it be seen in so many places, it is seen – by an estimated fifty million Muslims a day.
At the same time, Botros is getting millions of hits on his multiple web sites in multiple languages. There, Muslims can read his sermons and study through an archive of answers to frequently asked questions. They can also enter a live chat room called “Pal Chat” where they are not only permitted but encouraged to ask their toughest questions to trained on-line counselors, many of whom are Muslim converts to Christianity who understand exactly where the questioners are coming from and the struggles they are having.
As a result, Botros – on the air only since 2003 – has practically become a household word in the Muslim world. An Arabic newspaper has named him Islam’s “Public Enemy #1.” Millions hate him, to be sure, but they are watching. They are listening. They are processing what he is saying and they are talking about him with their friends and family. When Botros challenges Radical clerics to answer his many refutations of Islam and defend the Qu’ran, millions wait to see what how the fundamentalists will respond. But they rarely do. They prefer to attack Botros than answer him. Yet, the more the Radicals attack him, the more well-known he becomes. The more well-known he becomes, the more Muslims feel compelled to tune in. And as more Muslims tune in, more are coming to the conclusion that Botros is right and in turn are choosing to become followers of Jesus Christ. Botros estimates at least 1,000 Muslims a month pray to receive Christ with his telephone counselors. Some of them pray to receive Christ live on their air with Botros. And this surely is only the tip of the iceberg, as it represents only those who are able to get through on the jammed phone lines. There simply are not currently enough trained counselors to handle each call.
Many leading Arab evangelists I have interviewed for Inside The Revolution say God is using Botros to help bring in the greatest harvest of Muslim converts to Christianity in the history of Christendom. Botros refuses to take any credit, saying is just one voice in a movement of millions. But he is certainly excited by the trend lines. He does see more Muslims turning to Christ than ever before, and he told me he has cited my book Epicenter at least three times as evidence of the enormous numbers of conversions taking place. What’s more, he vows to keep preaching the gospel so long as the Lord Jesus gives him breath. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” That verse – John 3:16 – is the verse that drives Botros. He believes passionately God loves the whole world, including each and every Muslim. He believes that “whosoever” believes in the Lordship of Jesus Christ – Jew or Muslim – will, in fact, receive eternal life. He does not believe all Muslims are Radicals, but he does believe all Muslims are spiritually lost, and he wants desperately to help them find their way to forgiveness and reconciliation with the God who made them and loves them.
“I believe this is the hand of God,” Botros told me. “He is directing me. He shows me what to say. He shows me what to write on…the web sites. He is showing me more and more how to use the technology to reach people with his message of redemption.”
Suspected of handing Tehran means of ‘mass destruction’
Editor’s Note: The following report is excerpted from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, the premium online newsletter published by the founder of WND. Subscriptions are $99 a year or, for monthly trials, just $9.95 per month for credit card users, and provide instant access for the complete reports.
LONDON — On the day the British government increased the terror threat level from “severe” to the “upper end of severe,” Britain’s MI5 and MI6 intelligence services intensified a worldwide investigation to track the associates of three Englishmen alleged to be part of an international arms smuggling gang transporting vital military equipment to Iran, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Millions of dollars worth of sensitive items — many still on the UK’s Secret List — have been sent to the Tehran regime. Part of the investigation is to discover how the gang avoided supposedly stringent export regulations.
The material includes batteries for surface-to-air missiles and vital parts for military aircraft.
One of the alleged gang members is Farshi Gillardian, a Pakistan-born salesman based in London who was arrested earlier this week — on evidence provided by the FBI — for “attempting to supply weapons components illegally to Iran and of helping Tehran to acquire weapons of mass destruction.”
He faces extradition to the U.S. in the near future.
E-mails intercepted by MI5 indicate that the arms network is worldwide. It specializes in producing sophisticated electronic parts for roadside devices, which have killed hundreds of coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Two members of the gang have vanished from the UK in the past month. One is Brian Woodford, a 77-year-old who runs a freight company from his 100-acre estate, Chalmington Manor, near Dorchester.
His wife, Laura, 63, was arrested by FBI agents last March in San Francisco coming off a flight from Hong Kong. She is now in custody awaiting trial in New York.
MI6 agents believe the two arms catalogues she was carrying were given to her by an arms salesman for the Chinese government. The documents are described as “containing weapons of mass destruction.”
Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin is the premium, online intelligence news source edited and published by the founder of WND.
Packs power like a nuke, but easier to build, blow up
Massive destruction from Islamabad terrorist attack
Investigators now believe the bombing on Sep. 21 that killed dozens and left massive damage at the Islamabad Marriott, including a gaping hole in the ground in front of the building, was a crude form of a device that intensifies and enhances an explosive – a thermobaric bomb, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
The bomb was delivered in a truck that contained what investigators believe was aluminum powder in addition to grenades and artillery shells. The aluminum power is believed to have been responsible for the acceleration and expansion of the impact of the bomb.
While barriers around the hotel kept the truck bomb at some distance from the structure, the devastation indicated that there had to be something capable of raising the devastation level considerably.
The blast was thought to be targeting Americans, since the hotel is a central location for U.S. personnel including intelligence agents to meet outside the U.S. embassy. The hotel also is a temporary residence for U.S. personnel staying in the country.
Some five dozen people, including U.S. government employees, were killed by the truck bomb which was said to include more than a ton of explosives.
If this analysis of the presence of aluminum powder is confirmed, it means that terrorists with the capability can make such bombs without detection, since all ingredients are off-the-shelf.
Al-Qaida and related terrorist groups such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban of Pakistan are thought to have made the attack on the Islamabad Marriott hotel. If that is accurate, then by extension al-Qaida has developed an ability to fashion thermobaric bombs of huge potential.
“Thermobaric bombs … may be emerging as a weapon of choice for terrorists,” declared Tom Burky, an explosives expert at the Ohio-based Battelle defense research institute.
Burky pointed out that thermobaric bombs are meant to take out big buildings and cave complexes where metal fragmentations from traditional bombs don’t work well. He added that thermobaric blasts can push around corners and down corridors or deep inside caves.
When an explosion occurs in a bomb using aluminum powder as in the Islamabad Marriott hotel blast, metal powder creates a fireball as it contacts the air.
Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin is the premium, online intelligence news source edited and published by the founder of WND.