Abdulmutallab’s time in Yemen: was Arabic course a cover?

Abdulmutallab is said to have spend six months in Yemen, but officials at the San’a Institute for the Arabic Language claim he was only enrolled during the month of Ramadan which began in late August. One of his teachers said Abdulmutallab spent the last 10 days of Ramadan in a mosque, attending the 20-hour course for about 4 hours.

The question of exactly what he did during the rest of his time remains unanswered, although he has told authorities he received training and instructions from al-Qaida in Yemen.

Abdulmutallab is also said to have already had Arabic skills upon enrollment. School director Muhammed al-Anisi believes he may have used the school as a formal pretext to legally enter Yemen after being recruited by al-Qaida. He believes al-Qaida may have organized his time at the school in order to train him.

After the course was finished, an exit visa was arranged for Abdulmutallab as well as a cab to the airport. But he never left Yemen. Experts think he may have gone straight to Yemen’s al-Qaida training grounds, emerging on an aircraft Christmas Day with a bomb.

The incident raises concerns about Yemen, largely lawless and rapidly become an al-Qaida haven.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Penninsula, the Yemei branch of the group who claims responsibility for the attack, formed in January when Saudi and Yemeni members joined forces.

The US and Yemen are researching possible retaliation targets in Yemen, should President Obama order them.

Islam overshadows integration in Norwegian debate

In a contribution to a debate in Norwegian Aftenposten, Editor and Media Researcher Knut Olav Åmås writes that ethnic and religious minorities in Norway are being categorized – and tend to categorize themselves – in terms of their religious or ethnic belonging.

Columnists of Muslim background feel forced to discuss religious issues and claim to be manouvered in to a defense position. Åmås also reports that many Muslims feel reluctant to parttake in debates in fear of threats.

Knut Olav Åmås notice two voices amongst Muslim-Pakistani immigrants. One that claims the debate in Norway is conflict-oriented and promotes strong views and posts. But there are also warnings of an victim mentality amongst Norwegian Muslims.

By Norwegian standards, the large Pakistani immigrant minority is generally successful and economically well integrated. But maybe, Åmås says, they play an unproportionally big role in media. This leads to a debate where the issue of integration is overshadowed by discussions about Islam. Åmås calls for voices of other religious and ethnic minorities in Norway.

Mosque shooting in Malmoe, Sweden

The mosque at Islamic Center in Malmoe, Sweden was subject to a shooting on New Years Eve. Someone shot through a window into a room with a handful of people. No one was hit, but one imam was injured by shattered glass from the window.

Bejzat Becirov, founder and vice president of Islamic Center, believes the attack was aimed at the mosque as such and not towards any specific person. Swedish police are regarding the shooting as attempted murder.

Dutch to use body scanners for US-bound flights

The Schiphol airport in Amsterdam is requiring all US-bound travelers to undergo full body scans as part of the security screening process. They will be employing the scanners within three weeks.

Interior minister Guusje ter Horst says the US disapproved of Dutch use of scanners due to privacy issues. Washington and ter Horst now agree that “all possible measures will be used on flights to the US.”

US Homeland Security Department deny that they ever discouraged the use of scanners.

The EU has not approved routine use of the machines. The new rule will require permission from the European parliament, and a change in legislation is required. The European Commission is meeting with member states next week to discuss the matter.

Kidnapped Tarragona woman still missing

The whereabouts of a woman alleged to have been kidnapped and condemned to death for adultery in a shari’a court in Tarragona are unknown. She didn’t make an appearance at court, and now the judge has advised the Morocco government that she is missing and her presence is required by the Spanish justice system.

The lawyer for the 10 accused of her kidnapping argues that this disappearance is a sign of their innocence.

US authorities failed to connect Abdulmutallab with al-Qaida’s attack plans, Obama criticizes

Authorities say the National Security Agency (NSA) knew in August 2009 that a branch of al-Qaida in Yemen might try to use a Nigerian for a terrorist attack on Christmas Day. Had the information been examined together with information the State Department, the CIA, and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) put together in October 2009 based on conversations with Abdulmutallab’s father, it may have provided what was needed to uncover the pending attack.

The terrorist’s father gave the US Embassy in Nigeria, including the CIA and the State Department, text messages from his son that indicated his radicalization. “Look at the texts he’s sending. He’s a security threat,” his cousin quoted him as saying. He never directly accused his son of planning to bomb a plane.

In November 2009 upon the warnings, the CIA alerted NCTC, who put his name on the half-million large terrorism watch list. The CIA also compiled biographical data on Abdulmutallab but did not share it with other security agencies. They also decided there was not enough information about him to pursue moving him to smaller, more refined lists of people who require extra scrutiny at airports.

Routine procedure also had an e-notice of Abdulmutallab’s purchase of a plane ticket sent to homeland security officials on December 16.

“The right information did not get to the right people—there’s no question about that,” a senior intelligence official said. “If all known information had been provided, we would have been down a different path.”

Some blame the NCTC for the failure, which was created in 2004 collate information from across the US’s national security system. Others blame the CIA.

Some officials feel information is being shared, and that isn’t the problem. It’s the volume of information collected. Setting thresholds of what’s pointing to impending violence amidst huge amounts of data can be tricky.

Obama calls it a systematic failure that is totally unacceptable.

Republicans are using the failure as ammunition against democrats, positioning Obama as a president who won’t take security seriously enough. Democrats are accusing Republicans of blocking needed resource increases while exploiting public fear.

Abdulmutallab had passport, contrary to eyewitness report

Abdulmutallab is said to have presented a passport in the Amsterdam airport, contrary to Kurt Haskell’s report. Haskell claims to have seen Abdulmutallab with a well-dressed Indian man who told ticket agents Abdulmutallab “doesn’t have a passport…he’s from Sudan. We do this all the time.”

The passport was valid and from Nigeria, and had a valid US visa.

Abdulmutallab’s radicalization began in Togo, continued on in London, but solidified in Yemen

According to authorities, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s radicalization began during his days in private school in Togo, and continued on during his time in London.
But the crucial point in his radicalization process occurred on his trip to Yemen earlier this year to study Arabic for six months at the Institute for the Arabic Language. Students there say he was obsessed with piety and was lonely, with no close friends.

His radicalization process was gathering intensity in London. Security sources say they knew he was connected to extremists in London who were under M15 surveillance for criminal activities, although his name was on no watch list. He was categorized as one of several thousand who come into contact with those under surveillance.

Authorities say he was trying to “begin a journey”, but nothing suggested he wanted to pursue violence. “Many young people start on the same route, but very few complete it. Very very large numbers of people come across the radar, very very few of them engage in terrorism.”

He attended the East London mosque in Whitechapel three times, although a spokesperson for the mosque denies knowledge of his attendance. “We don’t recognize him at all. The mosque has a large, loyal community and they are stunned and upset that one person can affect the perceptions of the community. The mosque has been kicking out radical preachers since 1990.”

Abdulmutallab organized a “War on Terror Week” conference in 2007 and gave a presentation called “Jihad vs. Terrorism,” where he discussed “the Islamic position with respect to jihad.” He gave no indication that he supported violent jihad.

Terrorists aren’t always the economically downtrodden

Both Major Hasan and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab came from middle or upper class families, suggesting extremists tend more often to be intellectuals with a grievance, concept, and desire for power. This challenges the theory that the radicalized lack better options.

Interview with German MP Sebastian Edathy on Muslim and immigration issues

In an interview, conducted by Euro-Muslims Editorial Desk, Mr. Sebastian Edathy shares his views on immigrant and particularly Muslim participation in German politics. Edathy is a German MP of Indian origins and member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Asked about the withering support of Muslims for the Social Democratic Party, Edathy claims legislation changes in family reunification responsible, which requires family members to learn basic German before joining their partners in Germany. Regarding reasons for Islamophobia, Edathy thinks that much is owed to the linking of “Islamic” and “Islamist”, i.e. the equation of religion and fundamentalism.