IRAQ INTERIOR MINISTRY HAMMERED OVER USE OF 'DEATH SQAUDS' TO FIGHT SUNNI RESISTANCE
HOW AL QAEDA WAGES WAR THROUGH THE MEDIA
From smh.com.au :
Al-Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri has called US President George W Bush a "lying failure" for saying progress has been made in the war on terrorism, according to a video posted on the internet.
"Bush you are a lying failure and a charlatan. It has been three and a half years (since the arrests) ... What happened to us? We have gained more strength and we are more insistent on martyrdom," the Egyptian militant leader said.
Zawahri was referring to the arrest of al-Qaeda figures such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks on the United States.
"Bush, O failure and liar, why don't you be courageous for once and confront your people and tell them the truth about your losses in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.
He also called Pope Benedict a "charlatan" because of his remarks on Islam.
"This charlatan accused Islam of being incompatible with rationality while forgetting that his own Christianity is unacceptable to a sensible mind," Zawahri said.
In a speech to a university in his native Germany on September 12, Pope Benedict quoted criticism of Islam and the Prophet Mohammad by 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus, who wrote that everything Mohammad brought was evil and inhuman.
The Pope said there was no room for violence in a religion based on reason.
Zawahri also urged Muslims in the same video to launch a holy war against proposed UN peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region.
From the New York Times :
American officials have warned Iraqi leaders that they might have to curtail aid to the Interior Ministry police because of a United States law that prohibits the financing of foreign security forces that commit “gross violations of human rights” and are not brought to justice.
The Interior Ministry, dominated by Shiites, has long been accused by Sunni Arabs of complicity in torture and killings.
The American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said in an interview on Friday that “at this point” Iraq had not been formally notified that its national police were in violation of the legislation, known as the Leahy Law. He said he remained optimistic that Iraqi officials would “do the right thing” and resolve the matter. Nonetheless, he said American officials had begun reviewing programs that might have to be ended.
The issue centers on one of the most sensitive subjects within the Iraqi government: the joint Iraqi-American inspection in May and subsequent investigation of a prison in eastern Baghdad known as Site 4.
Within the prison there was clear evidence of systematic abuse and torture, including victims who had “lesions resulting from torture” as well as “equipment used for this purpose,” according to a human rights report later published by the United Nations mission in Iraq.
The prison, run by an Interior Ministry national police unit, had more than 1,400 prisoners crowded into a small area. An American officer said some had been beaten or bound and hung by their arms. At least 37 teenagers or children were in the prison.
In another sign of Iraq’s security problems, the Iraqi government late on Friday banned all vehicle and pedestrian traffic in Baghdad until Sunday. No reason was given, but the decision followed news that the United States military had arrested an Iraqi employee of a leading Sunni politician on suspicion that he was helping to plan an attack inside the Green Zone. [Page A6.]
The controversy over Site 4 has become emblematic of the problem of militia members infiltrating the Interior Ministry’s security forces and fears that Iraqi leaders are unwilling to take action against rogue groups.
A number of high-ranking officials have been implicated, including one division commander, an American official said. According to United Nations officials, as many as 52 arrest warrants have been issued, though none have been carried out. And shortly after the Site 4 inspection, the government stopped allowing joint Iraqi-American prison inspections.
American officials have long warned about the dangers of militia influence, and had hoped the new government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki would crack down on the groups.
Lately, though, senior American military officials have been voicing increasing concerns about the government’s reluctance to take action against militia members. One senior American military official acknowledged last week, “There’s a political piece to this to see if they deal with these guys.”In recent interviews, senior American military officials have said time is growing short for Iraqi leaders to take action against militias and corrupt officials, who they say are diverting money from the ministries to political parties.
In a statement on Friday, the commander of United States forces in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., distanced himself from such comments, which he said “do not reflect the close partnership” between the American military and Iraqi leaders. General Casey described Prime Minister Maliki as a “determined, courageous leader” who is “doing a good job in a tough environment.”
Also from the New York Times :
On the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Abu Omar received the call to jihad. Literally.
“There’s a present for you,” a voice on the other end of the phone said that morning, he recalled. It was a common code whenever his friends and colleagues wanted to share a new broadcast or communiqué from Al Qaeda over the Internet, he said.
Abu Omar, speaking on the condition that only his nickname be used, said he soon went to one of the Internet cafes he frequents in Amman and began distributing the latest video by Al Qaeda, alerting friends and occasionally adding commentary.
“We are the energy behind the path to jihad,” Abu Omar said proudly. “Just like the jihadis reached their target on Sept. 11, we will reach ours through the Internet.”
Abu Omar, 28, is part of an increasingly sophisticated network of contributors and discussion leaders helping to wage Al Qaeda’s battle for Muslim hearts and minds. A self-described Qaeda sympathizer who defends the Sept. 11 attacks and continues to find inspiration in Osama bin Laden’s call for jihad, Abu Omar is part of a growing army of young men who may not seek to take violent action, but who help spread jihadist philosophy, shape its message and hope to inspire others to their cause.
Though he does not appear to be directly connected to Al Qaeda, Abu Omar does seem to be on a direct e-mail list for groups sympathetic to Al Qaeda, making him a link in a chain that spreads the organization’s propaganda using code and special software to circumvent official scrutiny of their Internet activity.
As Al Qaeda gradually transforms itself from a terrorist organization carrying out its own attacks into an ideological umbrella that encourages local movements to take action, its increased reliance on various forms of media have made Web-savvy sympathizers like Abu Omar ever more important.
For example, this past Sept. 11, Abu Omar said, a link sent to a jihadist e-mail list took him to a general interest Islamic Web site, which led him to a password-protected Web site, then onto yet another site containing the latest release from Al Qaeda: a lecture by its No. 2 man, Ayman al-Zawahri, threatening attacks on Israel and the Persian Gulf. Abu Omar said he then passed the video to friends and confidants, acting as a local distributor to other sympathizers.
In recent years, Al Qaeda has formed a special media production division called Al Sahab to produce videos about leaders like Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri, terrorism experts say. The group largely once relied on Arab television channels like Al Jazeera to broadcast its videos and taped messages.
Al Sahab, whose name means the cloud, has continued to draw on a video library featuring everything from taped suicide messages by the Sept. 11 hijackers to images of gun battles and bombings spearheaded by Al Qaeda and others, said Marwan Shehadeh, an expert on Islamist movements with the Vision Research Institute in Amman who has close ties to jihadists in Jordan and Syria.
But this year Al Sahab has released many more recordings than in previous years, said Chris Heffelfinger, a specialist in jihadi ideology at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, in what many analysts see as a new offensive focusing on the Muslim mainstream. Jihadi Web sites, meanwhile, have continued sprouting on the Internet, serving as a conduit for Al Qaeda’s propaganda.
Mr. Shehadeh describes Al Sahab as an informal group with video camcorders and laptops. Some news reports have described it as an organization with a mobile production unit that navigates the Pakistani provinces. “The jihadis have successfully used American technology to show the U.S. as a loser,” Mr. Shehadeh said. “This is an open-ended war, and they use media as part of their jihad against Western and Arab regimes.”
Just days before the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Al Sahab released a barrage of videos, including images of Mr. bin Laden seated with some of the Sept. 11 suicide bombers; a documentary that some have described as a “making of Sept. 11” feature, with testaments by two of the bombers; and the lecture by Mr. Zawahri that Abu Omar said he received that morning.
What is most striking about the messages is their tone, terrorism analysts say. In the past, the group’s leaders were generally depicted as soldiers in battle, often filmed outdoors with weapons in the background. But the more recent communiqués show Al Qaeda’s leaders in the comfort of a living room or office, set against bookshelves with religious texts. The group has also taken to quoting Western authors and famous speeches, in what seems to be an effort to reach those with Western sensibilities.
“It’s a clear message: when there’s a gun in the background, they’re saying, ‘I’m a fighter like you’; when there are books in the background, it means, ‘I am a scholar and deserve authority,’ ” said Fares bin Hizam, a journalist who reports on militant groups for the Arab satellite news channel Al Arabiya. “It is a message that resonates well with an impressionable young man who is 17 or 18.”
One result, terrorism analysts say, is a militant group in transition, seeking to push ideology over direct action, franchising its name and principles to smaller groups acting more independently.
“Al Qaeda has been turning itself from an active organization into a propaganda organization,” said Mr. Heffelfinger. “They now appear to be focused on putting out disinformation and projecting the strength of the mujahedeen. They’re no longer the group that is organizing the mujahedeen. Instead, they are giving guidance to all the movements.”
Men like Abu Omar have become integral to that transformation. Mr. Shehadeh, who introduced Abu Omar to this reporter, says he has known Abu Omar ever since he was a teenager and has observed his gradual embrace of jihadist ideology. He says he has seen Abu Omar’s contributions on numerous chat boards and notes that while Abu Omar is probably not a Qaeda member, he regularly relays news and spreads the group’s message to friends and colleagues.
In Amman’s more conservative neighborhoods, Abu Omar and several analysts said, one or two jihadists tend to be the organizers, distributing messages and content to volunteers, and controlling membership in jihadist e-mail lists.
“We are typically observers, but when we see something on the Net, our job is to share it,” Abu Omar said. He no longer trusts news reports on television, he said. He even cast doubt on Al Jazeera, which typically broadcasts Al Qaeda’s videos but is, he said, still beholden to Arab governments. “We become like journalists ourselves.”
Abu Omar, who owns a computer store in one of Amman’s refugee camps, said he became involved in jihadi movements about six years ago, driven in part by his anger over the death of his father, who he said was a fighter with the Palestinian faction Fatah when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. “On the Net, you can see all the pictures of Palestine and the Muslim world being attacked, and then you see the planes crashing into one of the towers and you think, ‘I can understand it,’ ” he said.
He goes to an Internet cafe several times a week. In recent years, Jordan’s Internet cafes have begun taking increased security measures, like registering users’ identification cards, he said, but jihadists in Amman alternate among a network of sympathetic cafe owners who allow them to surf anonymously.
He never uses his own computer to search for jihadi content, and he limits his time online to about 30 minutes — not long enough for the authorities to locate him, he figures.
In 2005, Jordanian authorities arrested an 18-year-old man, Murad al-Assaydeh, accusing him of using the Internet to threaten attacks on intelligence officials. Abu Omar said several of his friends and comrades had been arrested by the General Information Department in Jordan in connection with Mr. Assaydeh’s case and in subsequent dragnets. Abu Omar said he was once called in for questioning but was released the same day.
He now changes his e-mail address frequently, he said, and he typically carries software that can delete details of his actions from a computer. “In the beginning, I thought maybe I would go for jihad in Iraq, but it was very difficult to get there,” he said. “Now I realize it’s better to work on the Net and get the message out.”
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