Saturday, August 1, 2009

Brussels' Black Bride: Al Qaeda's soft targets

CNN: "Al Qaeda priority: Western targets"

Editor's note: This story is based on interrogation reports that form part of the prosecution case in the forthcoming trial of six Belgian citizens charged with participation in a terrorist group. Versions of those documents were obtained by CNN from the defense attorney of one of those suspects. The statement by Bryant Vinas was compiled from an interview he gave Belgian prosecutors in March in New York and was confirmed by U.S. prosecutors as authentic. The statement by Walid Othmani was given to French investigators and was authenticated by Belgian prosecutors. (...) >>>

Aug. 1, 2009

The Belgian newspaper De Tijd is confirming that a large group of Muslim fundamentalists, arrested last December in Brussels, is indeed the Belgium wing of terror network Al Qaeda. This was testified by an American crown witness who trained with them in Afghanistan. New York Muslim convert Bryant Neal Vinas, alias "Bashir el Ameriki" (26) confirmed the Belgians followed intensive combat courses and had contacts with the top brass. He also testified against the infamous Muslim activist Malika el Aroud who is tied to the assassination of Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, just days before 9/11 (see the preceding CNN special dated May 15, 2009).

UPI: "N.Y. man says he would die for al-Qaida"

A New York man who pleaded guilty to charges of aiding al-Qaida said he was ready to take on a suicide mission but was told he needed more religious training. Bryant Neal Vinas, who pleaded guilty to the charges in January, said he was prepared to be a suicide bomber during interviews with Belgian prosecutors building a terrorism case against a cell to which Vinas had ties, CNN reported Friday based on a prosecution summary of the interviews it obtained.

The French-language document details how Vinas traveled from New York to Pakistan and what he did while he was there, from becoming a member of al-Qaida to military training he received. He said he was asked to become a suicide bomber, but told he needed more religious training, which he said he received in Pakistan. (...) >>>

July 24, 2009

CNN: "Italy arrests linked to Brussels 'al Qaeda' recruiting network"

Editor's Note: Paul Cruickshank is a fellow at the NYU Center on Law & Security and the producer of "One Woman's War," a CNN "World's Untold Stories" documentary on the alleged Belgian terrorist cell reported by CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson. The program was recently nominated "best documentary" in the 2009 Monte Carlo Global Television Awards.

European intelligence agencies are on alert for new al Qaeda terrorist plots following the arrest of two men at an Italian port and investigations into the activities of an alleged al Qaeda network based in Brussels. The two are closely tied to a Brussels-based al Qaeda recruiting network, Belgian counter-terrorism officials have told CNN. They are Bassam Ayachi, 62, and Raphael Gendron, 33 -- and they were detained in the port of Bari on November 11 last year after allegedly trying to smuggle three Palestinians and two Syrians into Italy in the false bottom of a camper van they were driving. Now they face much more serious allegations following a counter-terrorism investigation by Italian, French and Belgian police. Italian authorities have officially charged them with being leaders of a logistical support team for al Qaeda. A bug planted by Italian police in the suspects' detention facility picked up snatches of conversation about an alleged scheme to attack Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. A partial transcript of one of their alleged conversations has now been released. (...) 

Ayachi and Gendron were detained after Italian authorities allegedly found Jihadist propaganda in their possession when they arrived on a ferry from Greece. Belgian police say they alerted Italian authorities that the pair were known extremists. Ayachi is a naturalized French cleric of Syrian descent, and in the early 1990s had founded the Centre Islamique Belge (CIB), an organization Belgian authorities say espoused hard-line Salafist and pro al Qaeda views. Gendron, described by Italian police as a computer expert, was the main administrator of the CIB's Web site in Belgium. In 2006 Gendron and Ayachi's son Abdel Rahman Ayachi were convicted in Belgium for posting threatening anti-Semitic messages on the site. Their prison sentences were later reduced to a fine by an Appeals court.

A Belgian counter-terrorism source tells CNN that the CIB has clandestinely continued its operations in Belgium. When CNN reporters visited its headquarters on the Rue Memling in Brussels in February, Islamists appeared to still occupy the premises. In previous interviews with Belgian journalists, Avachi said his organization concentrated on pastoral care for Muslims in Brussels and did not promote pro-al Qaeda views.

In April 1999 Ayachi officiated at the wedding of two protégés at CIB, Abdessattar Dahmane and Malika el Aroud. The couple would later become "icons" of the al Qaeda movement, according to Belgian counter-terrorism officials. Two days before 9/11, Dahmane assassinated Ahmed Shah Massoud, the head of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, in a suicide bombing operation in Afghanistan. After his death Malika el Aroud, a Belgian citizen of Moroccan descent who had accompanied him to Afghanistan, returned to Europe and founded Minbar.SOS -- a Web site promoting Bin Laden's Jihad. She also remarried. In a CNN interview in 2006 el Aroud demonstrated how she and her new husband Moez Garsallaoui ran the site, which contained postings of attacks on coalition troops in Iraq and translations of the speeches of al Qaeda leaders. (...) >>>

May 15, 2009

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