2005: Another Deadly Year in Islamic Terrorism
Notable Arrests & Convictions
Posted: March 7, 2006
Law enforcement agencies around the world made a number of significant arrests in 2005, many of which disrupted terrorist cells on the verge of executing major attacks. Notably, many of these arrests occurred in Western Europe, where Islamic terrorist activity has proliferated in recent years. Additionally, many of those arrested were members of, or closely connected with, major terrorist groups based in the Middle East and North Africa. As the Muslim population in Europe grows, it is likely that foreign terrorist groups will take advantage of this demographic shift to increase the scope of their activities.
Some of the major terrorist arrests and convictions around the world include:
· Kamel Bourgass, an Algerian citizen, was convicted in a conspiracy to launch attacks in Britain with ricin, a deadly poison.
· Following the failed July 21 London mass transit attacks, Scotland Yard agents were able to apprehend and charge five men accused of plotting them. Osman Hussein, who was arrested in Rome, Muktar Said-Ibrahim, Yassin Hassan Omar, Ramzi Mohamed, and Manfo Kwaku Asiedu are scheduled to go on trial in September 2006.
· In extensive simultaneous raids carried out by more than 500 Spanish police officers, 16 suspected Islamic extremists were arrested, including five with alleged links to the March 11, 2004, Madrid train bombings. The Spanish Interior Ministry said that the 11 other arrested suspects were "part of an Islamic network implanted in Spain and linked to the Ansar al-Islam/Zarqawi network." According to the Ministry, the network focused on the recruitment of Muslims in Spain for suicide missions against Coalition forces in Iraq.
· In September, a Spanish court convicted Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, alias Abu Dahdah, a 41-year-old Syrian man, of conspiring to commit the September 11 terrorist attacks and leading an Al Qaeda terrorist cell in Madrid. Yarkas was sentenced to 27 years in prison for coordinating a July 2001 meeting in Tarragona, Spain, between members of his cell and some of the September 11 hijackers, including ringleader Mohammed Atta. During the meeting, final preparations for the attacks on New York and Washington were reportedly discussed. In addition to Yarkas, 17 other men, mostly of Syrian and Moroccan descent, were found guilty of belonging to or aiding his Al Qaeda cell.
· Belgian authorities arrested 13 accused Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group operatives in November on charges of belonging to and providing logistical support to a terrorist organization. Some of those arrested are accused of hosting a meeting for the leaders of the GICM's European cells. Many of these leaders were allegedly involved in the planning and execution of the deadly March 11, 2004, train bombings in Madrid, Spain.
· Youssef Belhadj, a Moroccan suspected of helping mastermind the 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people, was arrested in Brussels. Spanish investigators believe that Belhadj could be Abu Dujanah, the man who appeared on a video tape a few days after the Madrid attack claiming he was Al Qaeda's spokesperson in Europe.
· In September, French intelligence, acting on a tip from an incarcerated member of the GSPC, foiled major terrorist attacks on the Paris Metro, Orly Airport and the headquarters of the intelligence service as they arrested nine members of a major GSPC cell allegedly headed by Safe Bourada.
· A Swedish court convicted two men of collecting and transferring large sums of money to help fund an immense suicide bombing campaign in Iraq. Ali Berzengi and Ferman Abdulla, both Iraqis, were convicted on May 12 of providing the terrorist group Ansar al-Islam with more than $148,000. The court ruled that the two were guilty of "receiving and transferring large sums to the terrorist organization Ansar al-Islam with the aim that the money be used for terror crimes." The prosecution also alleged that the terrorist organization then used almost half of that money to carry out a devastating suicide attack in Erbil, which killed over 109 Iraqis.
· Muhammad Rafik, a Moroccan cleric, was sentenced to nearly five years in prison for a plot to attack a Milan subway station and a church in Cremona. Rafik is also wanted in Morocco in connection with a bombing in Casablanca, but Italian authorities have refused a request to extradite him. A second man, Kamel Hamroui, who was also accused of involvement in the Milan plot, was sentenced to three years and four months. The sentences are the first handed down by Italian courts under a new Italian law aimed at fighting international terrorism.
· In August, Mounir el Motassadeq, a Moroccan man accused of helping the September 11 hijackers, was sentenced to seven years in prison in Hamburg for membership in the Al Qaeda cell that included Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah.
· In November, Australian authorities arrested 18 operatives of the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). Australia's largest-ever counter-terrorism operation resulted in the break up of a terrorist cell operating in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne. The cell, reportedly under the direction of local cleric Abdul Nacer Benbrika, had been stockpiling explosives for a major attack on Australia's sole nuclear reactor, according to Australian prosecutors. These arrests came after JI leader Noordin Mohammed Top threatened to launch a terrorist campaign against Australia for its military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.
· Pakistani forces captured a reputed top Al Qaeda leader accused of planning attacks inside the United States. Abu Faraj al-Libbi, whom the White House has described as the organization's head of operations in Pakistan, is also accused of orchestrating two failed assassination attempts on Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf. Al-Libbi is considered to be Al Qaeda's third most senior leader, reportedly succeeding September 11th planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed following the latter's capture in Pakistan in 2003. Counterterrorism officials say they consider al-Libbi's capture to be the most significant blow to the Islamic terrorist group in two years.
· Jordanian intelligence claimed to have foiled a planned terror attack on a number of bars in the cities of Amman and Aqaba. Six men, thought to be members of the Saraya Khattab organization, were charged in November, but two remain fugitives. They allegedly planned to poison bartenders with cyanide and blow up a nightclub.
· In May, Russian security forces claimed to have foiled a major terrorist attack in Grozny, as they uncovered a truck loaded with explosives. The security forces said it belonged to Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in Chechnya.
· In October, Filipino intelligence uncovered a plot by Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) to detonate a massive bomb at the U.S. Embassy in Manila and to attack other U.S. interests in the country. It is alleged that JI suicide bombers from Indonesia, who would have carried out the attacks, were assisted by two local terrorist groups: the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Rajah Solaiman Movement.
· In April, Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person to be tried in the U.S. for the September 11 terrorist attacks, pleaded guilty in Alexandria, Virginia, to six terrorism-related conspiracy charges, including conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries.
· In July, more than five years after being caught smuggling explosives into the United States in a plot to blow up the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Algerian national Ahmed Ressam was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Ressam was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Seattle for conspiracy to commit an international terrorist act, smuggling explosives and other criminal counts.
· Also in July, Ali al-Timimi, an American-born Muslim cleric, was sentenced in Alexandria, Virginia, to life in prison for providing his followers instructions on how to reach a terrorist training camp run by the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan.
· On November 22, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali was convicted by a federal jury in Alexandria of conspiring to assassinate President George W. Bush and providing material support to Al Qaeda.
· On November 22, Jose Padilla was indicted by a federal grand jury in Miami after being held in Defense Department custody for over three years as an "enemy combatant." The indictment charged Padilla with conspiracy to "murder, kidnap and maim" people overseas. Four other defendants named in the indictment - Adham Amin Hassoun, Mohammed Hesham Youssef, Kifah Wael Jayyousi, and Kassem Daher - have previously been charged with terrorism-related crimes.
Additional arrests and convictions can be found here: http://www.adl.org/terrorism/terrorism_db/default.asp?valuedb=ArrestsConvictions