Iraq and Syria: al Qaeda on the march


**Posted by Phineas

The flag of al Qaeda

The flag of al Qaeda

Boy, it’s a good thing President Obama destroyed al Qaeda, isn’t it? Otherwise they’d have conquered the world, by now.

As it is, we can be grateful they only control more territory than they ever have:

From around Aleppo in western Syria to small areas of Falluja in central Iraq, al Qaeda now controls territory that stretches more than 400 miles across the heart of the Middle East, according to English and Arab language news accounts as well as accounts on jihadist websites.

Indeed, al Qaeda appears to control more territory in the Arab world than it has done at any time in its history.

The focus of al Qaeda’s leaders has always been regime change in the Arab world in order to install Taliban-style regimes. Al Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri acknowledged as much in his 2001 autobiography, “Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet,” when he explained that the most important strategic goal of al Qaeda was to seize control of a state, or part of a state, somewhere in the Muslim world, explaining that, “without achieving this goal our actions will mean nothing.”

Now al-Zawahiri is closer to his goal than he has ever been.


In September a CNN reporting team concluded, “Al Qaeda has swept to power with the aim of imposing a strict Islamist ideology on Syrians across large swathes of Syria’s rebel-held north.”

In sum, al Qaeda affiliates now control much of northern and northwestern Syria as well as some parts of eastern Syria, as well as much of Anbar province, which is around a third of Iraqi territory.

Thank goodness Obama and his Smart Power team came into office to fix George W. Bush’s mistakes, no?

Like I said before, this would likely not have happened had the Obama administration not bollixed the SOF negotiations with Maliki’s government. In both political and military matters, our proven ability to act as a trusted mediator between Iraqi factions probably would have prevented the political difficulties that gave al Qaeda this opening in Anbar, and provided the Iraqi Army with the support they need to deal rapidly and effectively with the threat. This was demonstrated time and again during the Surge operations.

But, under President Obama’s wise leadership, we left Iraq. We also dithered on Syria until jihadists became the dominant opposition force.

And now the black banner of jihad flies from Aleppo to Fallujah.

via Jim Geraghty, who writes:

Remember, “Bin Laden is dead and Detroit is alive”? Detroit is bankrupt and al-Qaeda now controls more territory than ever.

Heckuva job, Barry.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

#IranDeal: It wasn’t just the Israelis and the Saudis Obama backstabbed


**Posted by Phineas

"Left to rot."

“Left to rot.”

There’s been a lot of talk since the weekend about the deal brokered between Iran on the one hand, and the US and its European partners on the other, that supposedly somehow represented a breakthrough in the quest to prevent the Iranian mullahs from getting their hands on nuclear weapons. Discussions have centered around diplomacy and grand strategy, and the motives of the Iranian and US governments. Matter of “high politics,” as they might have said in the 19th century.

But the agreement touches people on a very personal level, too. Left unmentioned in any of the negotiations are Americans trapped in Iranian prisons, men such as Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American pastor from Idaho who was accused of the horrid crime (in Iran, under Islam) of preaching the Gospel and helping to establish home churches (1). Abedini was yanked off a bus, his passport taken from him, and he was consigned to Iran’s notorious Evin prison.

And, in the negotiations leading to this wonderful deal, the US never mentioned him once:

Two words are nowhere to be found in the pages of text that spell out a new interim nuclear deal with Iran: Saeed Abedini.

Now some supporters of the American pastor, who’s been detained in Iran for more than a year, are accusing U.S. officials of betraying Abedini by signing off on an agreement that doesn’t get him out of prison.

“We were across the table from the Iranians, and we did not bring home Americans. To me that’s a tragedy and that’s outrageous,” said Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Abedini’s family in the United States.

While analysts debated the nuclear agreement’s pros and cons, Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, said she was trying to comfort her two young children.

“It’s very painful,” she told CNN’s “The Lead” on Monday. “My kids were crying this morning, saying, ‘God, don’t let Daddy die. Bring him home.’ “

One would think an American government, leading a nation founded on principles of freedom of speech and freedom of religion, would have raised a stink about Abedini at these negotiations, something along the lines of “You want sanctions lifted and your sequestered cash released? Give us Abedini and we’ll talk.” (2)

But then one would remember Barack Obama is in charge. Defending Americans in danger abroad is a bit alien to him, as we learned in Libya.

Via Bryan Preston, who connects Abedini’s abandonment to his Christianity and draws a parallel to the Obama administrations attacks on religious liberty here. I disagree with Bryan on this: nations have often sacrificed individuals for “reasons of state” when a higher goal was at stake. In the Obama administration’s case, the nuclear deal with Iran was paramount, and if the government was willing to blindside Jewish Israel and Muslim Saudi Arabia with this, they weren’t going to let the fate of Saeed Abedini (or Robert Levinson) stand in the way. It’s shameful and cynical, to be sure, but not religiously motivated.

RELATED: There are several good articles explaining why this deal stinks. At The Weekly Standard, John Bolton calls this “abject surrender.” Writing at PJM, Michael Ledeen points out, among other excellent observations, that the Iranian treasury was almost empty, but we’ve now agreed to give them billions. Genius. Eli Lake at The Daily Beast quotes an expert who says this comes close to a “nuclear 1914 scenario.” How fitting, with the hundredth anniversary of World War I approaching. James Carafano calls this a deal based on a dangerous fantasy — Munich II. My own observation is this: Regardless of the restrictions placed on the Iranian public nuclear program by this deal, if you think there isn’t a secret program run in parallel by the military that is still going full-speed, you’re high.

This deal makes war more likely, not less.

PS: There’s a support page for Pastor Abedini at Facebook, and a web site for Robert Levinson.

(1) Abedini’s offense was compounded by being himself a convert to Christianity from Islam. Under Islamic law, that is the crime of apostasy and is punishable by death. I suppose the Iranians thought they were being merciful for just sticking him in jail for eight years.
(2) Not that I’m a religious person, but I believe very strongly in the natural right of all humans to freedom of speech and religion, and, within very broad bounds, government should stay the heck out. No law is legitimate that oppresses those rights, and an American government that won’t stand up for its citizens’ rights in the face of a tyranny that tramples both is craven.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Forest Jihad: Islamic terror group claims responsibility for Arizona fires


**Posted by Phineas

"...can prevent forest jihad."

“…can prevent forest jihad.”

A while back, when it seemed like all Colorado was afire, I wrote about the possibility of “forest jihad,” a form of war against the West advocated by al Qaeda as part of a death by a thousand cuts strategy — destroying resources, morale, etc. And while acts of forest jihad were suspected in Europe, Israel, and Australia, there were no claims of responsibility for wildfires in the Great Satan, that is, us.

Until now:

A Palestinian jihadist group known as Masada al-Mujahideen took credit for the [Arizona] fires in a statement that was obtained and translated by Search for International Terrorist Entities (SITE) Intelligence Group, according to the Clarion Project.

The terror group claims that the fires are a reprisal for Israel’s “occupation” of what they say are Palestinian lands.

Nineteen firefighters have been killed while fighting the blaze.

“We had previously announced an unconventional war against the occupation state of Israel, and then we escalated this war to reach its main supporter, America, so that it receives a major share of it, which will destroy their flora and fauna, with permission from Allah and then with our hands,” the group said, according to Clarion and SITE.

Masada al-Mujahideen is apparently a legitimate jihadist group, not a cut-out for another organization. The Long War Journal has this to say about them:

Masada al Mujahideen announced its formation in April 2008 and said its leader is Abu Omar al Ansari, according to SITE. The terror group has claimed numerous attacks against Israel, including rocket and mortar attacks. The group has also claimed credit for setting numerous fires inside Israel, and even an arson attack in Nevada.

Masada al Mujahideen also eulogized Osama bin Laden immediately after he was killed by US Navy SEALs in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011. “Although Sheikh Osama has been killed, his creed will not be killed, and the whole Ummah, Allah willing, is Osama bin Laden. We do not say that as hyperbole, for you see with your own eyes and acknowledge with your own mouths that most of the jihadi groups in the world have come to follow his example, method and creed,” the group said in statement that was translated by SITE.

Masada al Mujahideen also eulogized Atiyah Abd al Rahman, a top al Qaeda leader who was killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan, Pakistan, in August 2011. “He was truly one of the well-known people of jihad and a bright star in the sky of knowledge,” the group said in statement translated by SITE.

It’s possible, of course, that these holy warriors refugees from a medieval insane asylum are lying about Arizona and are just claiming credit to up their standing in the world of brave knights of Islam medieval psychos. America seems a long way to come for a small terrorist outfit, when Israel is right next door.

But when you read the United Nations report on the porous US-Mexican border, “A Global Pathway to the USA;” when you recall that Hizbullah, Hamas, and al Qaeda are all trying to set up operations in the Western hemisphere; and when you keep in mind geography

Well, the possibility that Masada al Mujahideen really did set the fires that killed 19 American firefighters and destroyed dozens of homes and businesses doesn’t seem so inconceivable after all, does it?

If we can establish to our satisfaction they did do this, then we should hunt them down and kill them all. This isn’t a criminal matter; by their own declaration, this is jihad fi sabil allah, “holy war.” And in that case, we should show them exactly how real war is fought.

Meanwhile, this news demonstrates again why border security is more than just an immigration issue — it’s a matter of national security.

UPDATE: Reader Crosspatch reports that the cause of the Arizona fire was described as lightning.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Forest fires as an act of jihad?


**Posted by Phineas

"...can prevent forest jihad."

“…can prevent forest jihad.”

Summertime is forest fire season in much of the western United States; here in California, it’s almost an annual ritual to watch some part or another (or several at once) of the state go up in smoke.  And the causes can be as mundane as they are frustrating: firebugs getting their thrills; careless campers or hikers; or idiots shooting off fireworks too near dry brush. And for someone else’s carelessness, hundreds and even thousands of people are put at risk of their homes and lives, not to mention the vast public expense needed to fight a blaze.

But what if they weren’t all the accidental products of carelessness, or even garden-variety arson? What if some were acts of holy war?

In the Washington Examiner, Mark Tapscott takes the recent Black Forest fire in Colorado as his jumping off point for a discussion of the dangers of “forest jihad:”

Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld (1) of the New York-based American Center for Democracy’s Economic Warfare Institute warns that last July “al-Qaeda’s English-language online magazine, Inspire, published an article called ‘It Is of Your Freedom to Ignite a Firebomb,’ which featured instructions on how to build an incendiary bomb to light forests on fire.

“A few months later, Russia’s security (FSB) chief, Aleksandr Bortnikov warned, ‘al-Qaeda was complicit in recent forest fires in Europe’ as part of the terrorists’ ‘strategy of a thousand cuts.’ Bortnikov spoke of ‘extremist sites [that] contained detailed instructions of waging the forest jihad and stressed that such a method had proved itself effective as it inflicted both physical and moral damage, needed little training or investment and it was extremely hard for police to find and apprehend the arsonists.’

“Since then, more fatwas advocating that ‘Fire is cheap, easy and effective tool for economic warfare’ have been issued. They’ve included detailed instructions for constructing remote-controlled ’ember bombs, and how to set fires without leaving a trace.'”

And it’s not just in the US, as Tapscott points out. Not only has Russia suspected Muslim terrorists of setting forest fires in their country, but Australia, too, has been declared a target, while deadly fires in Western Europe aroused suspicions.

There’s little proof that any of these fires were acts of jihad, but the fact that al Qaeda and other Islamic supremacist groups have shown great interest in setting them should make us wary. The West has done tremendous damage to al Qaeda and its affiliates since 9/11/01, largely blunting their efforts to conduct more catastrophic terror attacks against us. But, they are nothing if not adaptable, and it only makes sense that they would look for other means to strike at us, the “infidels.”

RELATED: The National Interagency Fire Center has good info on current large wildfires. At the ICT in Israel, Colonel Jonathan Fighel has an important article on al Qaeda’s interest in forest jihad, while The Gatestone Institute published Soeren Kern’s piece explaining AQ’s “thousand cuts” strategy.

(1) Rachel Ehrenfeld also wrote “Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed And How To Stop It,” a must-read work on the money networks behind international terrorism.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

With friends like these: Was Egypt involved in the #Benghazi massacre?


**Posted by Phineas

US Consulate, Benghazi

US Consulate, Benghazi

The idea seems insane — Egypt participating in the assault on our consulate, when they desperately need outside help to keep their economy (barely) functioning? Sounds like the stuff of conspiracy theories, and Egyptian society thrives on such, but journalist Cynthia Farahat presents enough interesting facts to make one go “hmmmm:”

The terrorist attack in Benghazi is far more disturbing than previously thought. Although it has not been reported in the U.S. media, the possibility exists that the Egyptian government may have played an operational role in the attack. YouTube videos of the terrorist strike raise a serious problem that only an Arabic speaker would detect: some of the terrorists are speaking in the Egyptian dialect of the Arabic language.

Indeed, one of the videos shot with a cell phone of one of the attackers emerged around the time four Americans were killed. It shows a mob approaching the American compound under siege, clearly telling the terrorists in the dialect of Upper Egypt: “Mahadesh, mahadesh yermi, Dr. Morsi ba’atna” —which translates to: “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot, Dr. Morsi sent us.”

The words “Mahadesh yermi” for “don’t shoot” are characteristically spoken in Egyptian Arabic, while Libyans from Benghazi would say, “Matermey” for “don’t shoot.”

“Dr. Morsi” refers, of course, to president Mohamed Morsi of Egypt. The name Morsi is Egyptian and does not exist in any other Arabic speaking country.

Farahat also draws an interesting connection to an event I had forgotten about: at a campaign rally a couple of days after the Benghazi massacre, Obama said Egypt is not an ally, an amazing statement of the deterioration in our relations, given the close cooperation between Egypt and the US over the prior 30 years.

Could it be that US intelligence had picked up on the same linguistic clues Farahat noticed and came to the same conclusion, and that Obama was sending a veiled message that “we know what you did?”

Later on, Farahat discusses a possible explanation for Egypt’s involvement (if they were) that makes the idea at least plausible for me: that Morsi needed to placate more radical Muslim Brotherhood factions and so sent some guys to Libya to establish his jihadi “street cred:”

According to the MB and Sunni doctrine, it’s only permissible for Islamist leaders to maintain a ten-year duration of hodna (Islamic truce) with an infidel nation. This raises the question of whether breaking the truce was the root of the Sep. 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi. That attack against America was, according to Islamist doctrine, the only way the MB would be allowed to renew a truce. The MB also might have possibly needed to legitimize their Islamic rule among their jihadist followers through exercising jihad.

So, you see, if true, Morsi had to participate in the massacre of our people in order to keep the hotheads on his side happy.

Nothing personal, you know?

Except it was very “personal” for Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyone Woods.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

[Jihad] Memorial Day weekend and the anniversary of a great defeat


**Posted by Phineas

(Note: this is a reposting of something I first wrote a couple of years ago. Though the Memorial Day weekend is now past, I still think it fitting.)

Memorial Day is a holiday set aside for Americans to honor our servicemen past and present and to remember, if even for a moment, those who gave what Lincoln called that “last full measure of devotion.” But this weekend also reminds us of another war, one far older than the United States, and yet hasn’t ended.

Some people call our current struggle with jihadist Islam “The Long War,” meaning that this fight is expected to go on for years, if not generations.

But it’s a long war in another sense, too, because we of the West been fighting it, through periods active and quiet, since Muhammad first declared as Allah’s command:

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

Today marks an anniversary in that nearly 1400-years long struggle, the Fall of Constantinople and the end of the last remnant of the Roman Empire:

"Siege of Constantinople," Jean Chartier c.1475

“Siege of Constantinople,” Jean Chartier c.1475

From Constantinople, the Turks, who had taken the Arabs’ place as leaders of the jihad, would march on into Central Europe, conquering the Balkans and twice besieging magnificent Vienna. This last great surge was stopped at the gates of the city in 1683; after that, Islam went into a long period of quiet that gradually ended in the final decades of the 20th century, until the jihad resumed amidst fire and terror on September 11th, 2001. Where once stood Franks and Greeks and Austrians and Spaniards and Italians, now there stands… us.

Is there a grand lesson in all this? I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that people who think this “long war” will end quickly and easily, even by simply declaring it over, are only fooling themselves. As long as there remains in Islam a compulsion to fight everyone else until they submit:

And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah. But if they cease, then lo! Allah is Seer of what they do.

…this war will go on.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

What’s going on with that Saudi “person of interest/no interest?”


**Posted by Phineas

I’m not the greatest fan of Glenn Beck (1), but I do think he’s asking some good questions about the Saudi national who, on the day of the Boston Marathon bombing, was held as a “person of interest,” but then declared a nobody but, hey, we’re going to deport him anyway:

Background points:

  • A Saudi national originally identified as a “person of interest” in the Boston Marathon bombing was set to be deported under section 212 3B — “Security and related grounds” — “Terrorist activities” after the bombing
  • As the story gained traction, TheBlaze’s Chief Content Officer Joel Cheatwood received word that the government may not deport the Saudi national, originally identified as Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi
  • Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano refused to answer questions on the subject when confronted by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) on Capitol Hill.
  • An ICE official said a different Saudi national is in custody, but is “in no way” connected to the bombings.
  • A congressional source, however, says that the file on Alharbi was created, that he was “linked” in some way to the Boston bombings (though it is unclear how), and that documents showing all this have been sent to Congress.
  • Key congressmen of the Committee on Homeland Security request a classified briefing with Napolitano
  • Fox News’ Todd Starnes reports that Alharbi was allegedly flagged on a terrorist watch list and granted a student visa without being properly vetted.  Sources close to the investigation also told him the Saudi is still set for deportation.
  • New information provided to TheBlaze reveals Alharbi’s file was altered early Wednesday evening to disassociate him from the initial charges
  • Sources say the Saudi’s student visa specifically allows him to go to school in Findlay, Ohio, though he appears to have an apartment in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Sources tell us this will most likely now be kicked from the DHS to the DOJ and labeled an ongoing investigation that can no longer be discussed.

Beck also notes that the FBI started changing their story about Alharbi after a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and the Saudi Foreign Minister on Tuesday, the day after the bombing. Coincidence? Perhaps, but it still rates a raised eyebrow and a “hmmm…”

Read the rest of the article, but here’s something that especially intrigues me:

Beck proceeded to highlight the background of the Saudi national first identified as a “person of interest” in the Boston bombings, Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi, noting that the the NTC issued an event file calling for his deportation using section 212, 3B which is proven terrorist activity.

“We are not sure who actually tagged him as a ’212 3B,’ but we know it is very difficult to charge someone with this — it has to be almost certain,” Beck explained.  “It is the equivalent in civil society of charging someone with premeditated murder and seeking the death penalty — it is not thrown around lightly.”


Then, on Wednesday, President Obama had a “chance” encounter with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud and Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir.

“Wednesday at 5:35 p.m. the file is altered,” Beck said.  “This is unheard of, this is impossible in the timeline due to the severity of the charge….You don’t one day put a 212 3B charge against somebody with deportation, and then the next day take it off.  It would require too much to do it.”

“There are only two people that could revoke the deportation order — the director of the NTC could do it after speaking with each department, the FBI, the ATC, etc. — which is impossible to do in such a short period of time, — or, somebody at the very highest levels of the State Department could do it.  We don’t have any evidence to tell you which one did it,” Beck said.

So we have reports of two high-level meetings, after which the FBI says they have no interest in the guy and they’re going to deport him, presumably back to Saudi, where the press will never find him.

I’d say yes, this does raise serious questions, and Republicans on the relevant committees are demanding answers. If the 3B charge is as serious as Beck indicates, then who put it on and on what grounds, and then who removed it and, again, on what grounds? And why is the guy being deported? Minor visa violation? Please.

There’s another reason why I take this Alharbi story more seriously than I might, normally. Saudi Arabia is well known as a source of funding for jihad-terror groups worldwide, including the Caucasus regions that Tamerlan Tsarnaev visited for over six months. Wealthy Saudis will fund jihad as a religious duty –as I recall, supporting it with money is second only to actually doing it– to further the spread of Islam. It’s one of the big problems in the relations between the Kingdom and the United States.

So here’s a speculation based on a hunch with no evidence to back it up, but which seems to fit with past behavior: What if Alharbi, whose background is unknown as of this writing, is a family member of some wealthy, connected Saudi? And what if Alharbi was funneling money to the Tsarnaev brothers? After all, they had no means of support that I know of, yet they were apparently well-trained for this operation and had all the hardware they needed. And just how did Tamerlan pay for that trip and six-month sojourn in Dagestan? Could it be then that an influential relative used his influence with the Saudi government to influence the US government to let their boy go, in the name of “good relations?”

Like I said, the Alharbi affair raises lots of good questions. There may be perfectly reasonable answers, but too much smells in this chain of events to just let it go. House Republicans should continue to press until they get the answers.

via Jihad Watch

(1) Beck’s done some good work in the past, but he too often runs off the emotional rails for my taste, making almost everything seem some sort of existential threat to the republic.  Still, in this case, he may be on to something.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Boston bombers: Lone wolves or part of a terrorist sleeper cell? UPDATE: “Sleeper cell” malarkey?


**Posted by Phineas

One of the questions outstanding in the wake of the terror-bombing of the Boston Marathon is whether the Tsarnaev brothers acted on their own, as “lone wolves,” or were they part of a terror cell that might well be planning other attacks. At the Daily Beast, authors Christopher Dickey, Eli Lake, and Daniel Klaidman lay out the problems posed by terrorists acting on their own:

These sorts of lone wolves—whether inspired by al Qaeda or a domestic agenda—are in many ways the toughest cases for law enforcement. “Mobile homegrown types are difficult to stop and to find,” says Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “There is not a conspiracy ring to penetrate. It’s very difficult to stop them and find them.”

“The toughest risk to address is the motivated individual with no known connection to groups, who takes it upon himself to do something,” says Roger Cressey, who worked on counterterrorism in both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. “The best example of that is Eric Rudolph.”

Compounding the problem is the ease with which the technical knowledge needed to carry out attacks is available online. As the article points out, al Qaeda even has an online magazine, “Inspire,” an article in which showed how to make a bomb similar to the pressure cooker bombs used in Boston. While published by jihadists , the information is there for anyone with a murderous grudge against the world to use.

The threat of the lone wolf jihadist, a Muslim inspired by religion (1) to wage holy war on his own, is one that has worried counterterrorism personnel for years, particularly since American and other nations’ efforts since 9/11 have severely hampered al Qaeda’s ability to carry off catastrophic attacks, such as the attack on New York. Instead, setting their sights lower, the fear is that al Qaeda and other jihad groups would simply educate and train prospective jihadis, and then send them out into the world to find their opportunities. Such is perhaps the case with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the marathon-bombing brothers, who traveled to Russia for six months a few years ago. Did he meet with jihad groups in the volatile Caucasus, his ancestral home?

But even that much “help” might not be necessary to the lone wolf: Major Nidal Hassan, the Army psychiatrist who turned on his comrades in an act of jihad and murdered over a dozen at Ft. Hood, was merely in email contact with an al Qaeda imam, Anwar al-Awlaki (2). The imam provided the ideology, Major Hassan provided the gun.

As the quote above points out, lone terrorists are hard to stop before they strike; warning signs that seem obvious in retrospect are hard to spot beforehand, and it become all to easy to make the wrong judgment call and say that someone isn’t likely a threat.

Until the bomb goes off.

But were the Tsarnaev brothers lone wolves? The UK Mirror reports that the FBI is looking for a “sleeper cell” of up to a dozen individuals:

The FBI was last night hunting a 12-strong terrorist “sleeper cell” linked to the Boston marathon bomb brothers.

Police believe Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were specially trained to carry out the devastating attack.

More than 1,000 FBI operatives were last night working to track down the cell and arrested a man and two women 60 miles from Boston in the hours before Dzhokhar’s dramatic capture after a bloody shootout on Friday.

A source close to the investigation said: “We have no doubt the brothers were not acting alone. The devices used to detonate the two bombs were highly sophisticated and not the kind of thing people learn from Google.

“They were too advanced. Someone gave the brothers the skills and it is now our job to find out just who they were. Agents think the sleeper cell has up to a dozen members and has been waiting several years for their day to come.”

So, which is it? A couple of lone wolves, a clandestine commando unit from an overseas jihad group, or even a mix of both, a “pack” of lone wolves, trained and set loose?

To the police and intelligence agencies charged with protecting us, the answers matter, larger groups being easier to spot and stop than the loner hiding murder in his heart.

But for us, the potential victims, it doesn’t matter all that much. In an age when “soft targets” –marathons, pizza parlors, and book fairs, for example– are the targets of choice, whether the attack comes from the plot of a group or the sociopathic mind of a single person, it’s the act itself that matters.

They’re still trying to kill us.

RELATED: Some articles of interest.

At PJM, Rick Moran wonders what the Russians knew and when they knew it. His colleague Richard Fernandez notes Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a familiar face to the FBI, but our stubborn, foolish concentration on things rather than people makes it easy for him and others to be overlooked. I’ve said the same thing, myself.

Winning today’s “No, really?” award for telling us what we already knew, the LA Times alerts us that the elder Tsarnaev followed radical Islam. Meanwhile, Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism looks at the evidence that the brothers held Islamist beliefs. One has to ask, “how did the FBI miss all this?”

Via Will Antonin comes an article by an academic after my own heart, one who says we are ignoring the roots of the problem.

(1) For example, Sura 9, verse 123 of the Qu’ran: “O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him).”
(2) Now a satisfying grease spot somewhere in the Yemeni desert.

UPDATE: Veteran reporters on both sides of the Atlantic are calling BS on the Mirror’s story. R.S. McCain questions the sourcing, while Telegraph journalist Toby Harnden agrees.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

#Israel: Anniversary of a jihad mass-murder


**Posted by Phineas

Two years ago this week, five members the Fogel family of the West Bank village of Itamar were murdered — stabbed and their throats slit by Muslims waging jihad fi sabil Allah: “war for the sake of Allah.”

Udi Fogel and his family: victims of jihad

Udi Fogel and his family: victims of jihad

Only three children survived; they’re now living with their grandparents:

…14-year-old Tamar, 10-year-old Roi and four-year-old Yishai and have been taken in by Rabbi Yehuda and Tali Ben-Yishai, the parents of Ruth Fogel. In an interview published Friday in Israel Hayom, Rabbi Ben-Yishai said of his daughter, son-in-law and three slain grandchildren, “They’re always with us.”

“What happened was so inhuman that we have gained superhuman strength,” grandmother Tali said. “We know these children will be great people. They will be all right. They will not be damaged. They’re not in trauma anymore. Some children are afraid of what happens around them, but they’re not like that. They’re not the sort who don’t want to go to school or don’t want to get out of bed and spend the day crying.”

For that, we can be glad.

Sadly, the murderers are also alive, serving their sentences in an Israeli jail. It’s a shame and a denial of justice for there to have been no death penalty for this case.

RELATED: Earlier posts on the massacre of the Fogel family.

via The Jawa Report

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Of Lenin and Muhammad, or, “Why totalitarians hate Jazz”


**Posted by Phineas

It turns out Robert Spencer (1), noted critic of Islam and the danger to human liberty posed by the spread of Sharia law, is also, like me, an avid jazz fan. In addition to his own blog and a column at PJ Media, he’s started a new column in PJM’s “Lifestyle” section on the intersection of jazz and Islam. His opening piece examines why totalitarians, whether atheists such as Vladimir Lenin, or religious believers, such as Muhammad, hate music, particularly that most American music, jazz.

I think he nails it in this passage:

It isn’t hard to see why the creators of martial polities and new, aggressively expansionistic political and societal systems such as Lenin and Muhammad would disdain music. For music is an expression of the human spirit – the very thing that these totalitarians were trying to master. And no music so fully expresses the anti-totalitarian impulse, and the dignity and value of every human person, than does jazz.

For jazz is not jazz if it doesn’t contain a considerable element of improvisation, and improvisation is an expression of the individual soul par excellence. A musician who is improvising has nothing to fall back on except his own inner reservoir, and that is why jazz at its best is so immediate, so personal, and so affecting. Miles Davis and John Coltrane improvising on the same piece couldn’t sound more different from one another, not just because one plays trumpet and the other tenor sax, but because they are so very different from one another as human beings, and in their improvisations, one can hear into their very hearts and souls. One may learn their solos note-for-note (as I did back in the pre-9/11 days when I played a bit of saxophone myself), but this is just a musical exercise; the music itself can be copied but never replicated, for their individual expression is inherent and essential to it.

Totalitarian collectivists hate that individual expression. They are only interested in the individual not for the expression of his own soul, but as a cog to fit into his great machine that is marching toward the worker’s paradise, or the Sharia state, or whatever the outcome of their reign of terror is called today. As such, jazz music, a unique product of the nation that has enabled a flowering of the individual spirit unparalleled in human history, is a rebuke to collectivism, and a defiant and joyful reassertion of the one thing that totalitarians fear most: the individual.

Emphases added. And it probably explains why Muhammad hated music’s literary equivalent, poetry. (2) Like jazz musicians, the best poets are individualists, and totalitarian control freaks just hate that.

I look forward to further installments.

(1) Robert’s a prolific author, and I highly recommend his books on Islam. I reviewed his (so far) most recent work, “Did Muhammad Exist”, a few months ago.
(2) Hated to the point that the founder of the Religion of Peace and Tolerance had several poets assassinated for daring to criticize him. If he couldn’t control them, he had to eliminate them.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)