Yemen’s Saleh to seek release of Arab TV reporter jailed in Spain

Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh, will ask Madrid to release an Al-Jazeera journalist jailed for seven years for collaborating with Al-Qaeda. A Spanish court imprisoned al-Jazeera reporter Tayssir Alluni in 2005 after being found guilty of acting as a financial courier to Al-Qaeda while in Afghanistan. Alluni, who is a Spanish national of Syrian origin, is known for his interview with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan just weeks after the September 11th, 2001 attacks in the United States.

3 Convicted Who Led Charity Tied to Militants

By Neil MacFarquhar Three leaders of a defunct Islamic charity were convicted Friday of defrauding the federal government by winning tax-exempt status for their organization while concealing the fact that it supported militant fighters in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Part of the government’s case centered on the accusation that the charity was the offshoot of a Brooklyn organization, Alkifah Refugee Center, now defunct, which sent aid to a group helping fighters in Afghanistan that later helped give rise to Al Qaeda.

Process against Islamist Couple in Vienna begins in March

The lawsuit against a married couple for membership in a terrorist organisation will start in March. Mohamed M. (22) and his wife S. (20) are accused of being involved in the production and spread of a video threat against the “governments of Germany and Austria” in March 2007. In the video message, the military involvement of Austria in Afghanistan was – among other things – attacked. Mohamaed M. also run an Islamist webpage, reports say. In an internet chat, he allegedly spoke about targets in Austira, such as UNO-City, the Opec Headquaters or targets related to the football Euro cup. The couple was arrested last September. The trial will take place in Vienna. Manfred Seeh reports.

The U.N. Insignia Emerges as a Global Target for Al-Qaeda Attacks

By Colum Lynch UNITED NATIONS — The suicide bombings that ripped apart the U.N. headquarters building in Algiers on Dec. 11 and killed at least 37 people, including 17 U.N. employees, provided a bloody demonstration of the United Nations’ emergence as a key target in al-Qaeda’s global war against the West. This year, al-Qaeda and its affiliates have threatened or targeted U.N. officials and peacekeepers in conflict zones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and southern Lebanon, where six U.N. peacekeepers were killed in a bombing in June. Even before the Algiers attack, the United Nations was already investing millions of dollars in fortifying its facilities and convoys in response to threats in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Is It War? The presidential candidates on terrorism

FOR SIX years President Bush has told Americans they face a “long war” against a global Islamic terrorist movement that, like the Cold War, will challenge a generation. A crucial if so far understated issue of the presidential campaign is whether that sweeping vision of U.S. national security will survive past January 2009. For the most part, the Republican candidates agree with Mr. Bush about the dimensions and centrality of the Islamic extremist threat. Most of the Democrats do not. From that ideological difference flow contrasting practical approaches to Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, as well as differences in the weight the next president may give to other foreign policy challenges.

Cambridge mullah John Butt takes on radicals with radio

{John Butt, the Muslim chaplain at Cambridge University, has started a radio show broadcast to Afghanistan and Pakistan} From debating in the cloisters of Cambridge to defying fanatics across the wilds of Pakistan’s North West Frontier province – it could be one man’s journey out of the pages of Rudyard Kipling a century ago. Yet with his flowing robes, long white beard and skull cap, John Butt, 57, is at the centre of a very modern struggle in Peshawar, the capital of a province amply supplied with guns and religion. Butt has single-handedly started a groundbreaking radio programme called Across the Border, broadcast over a network of independent stations to listeners in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A public schoolboy and professional broadcaster, a convert to Islam and respected cleric, he has brought his combination of talents to the battle against militants who preach violence in the name of God. Tim Albone reports.

Jury sees ‘terror training’ video

Footage that allegedly shows a group of men practising military-style techniques in a New Forest terror training camp has been seen by a jury. A British Army officer told Woolwich Crown Court that the drills were similar to those of al-Qaeda insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Afghans again seek permission for center; Fliers labeled them terrorists

A local Afghan group will be back before a San Diego community planning committee tomorrow seeking approval for a religious and cultural center — and hoping this time not to be branded as terrorists. That’s what happened in June, when the Afghani Community Islamic Center first proposed moving into a former bank building in Serra Mesa. A near-record crowd of more than 100 turned out for an informational hearing, many alarmed by anonymous fliers they had found on lampposts and in their mailboxes exclaiming, “No Terrorists in Our Community!” Planning group leaders say the fliers were circulated by a small handful of opponents, at least one of whom apologized afterward. “We’re Americans. We’re not terrorists,” said Akbar Sadat, a board member for the center. “We live here. Our kids grow up here.” The county is home to about 10,000 Afghans, Sadat said. Many live in San Diego, but just as many are in outlying cities such as El Cajon and Vista. The majority have been in the United States at least 10 to 20 years and are U.S. citizens, he said. Sadat, 48, a microchip design engineer who has lived in San Diego for 26 years, said the Afghan center was chartered in 1994. It has operated out of a series of leased spaces in Kearny Mesa and Miramar, offering prayer services and cultural programs to its 400 to 500 members. The center bought the 7,300-square-foot bank building on Sandrock Road near Gramercy Drive for $1.5 million in January 2006 because of its central location. Members donated and raised the $500,000 down payment, abandoning their Miramar lease to pay the $10,000 mortgage in Serra Mesa, Sadat said. But the proposed relocation has been delayed months by building and code upgrades insisted upon by city officials. Serra Mesa Community Planning Group chairman Doug Wescott said projects like this go through two steps with his group — an informational presentation at one monthly meeting, then a vote of the 14-member board at another. Sadat said it has taken until now to be ready to ask the planning group for an up-or-down vote. It’s on the agenda for tomorrow’s 7 p.m. meeting at the Serra Mesa-Kearny Mesa Library, 9005 Aero Drive. Sadat said the center would be used mostly for Islamic prayer services on Friday afternoons and for small, informal gatherings on other days of the week. He said it would have a library and other resources to help researchers and the public learn about Afghan culture and Islam. Part of its goal will be to reassure neighbors that local Afghans do not support the Taliban, Sadat said. “Everybody in Afghanistan hates these people,” he said. “Al-Qaeda and (the) Taliban, they’re destroying Afghanistan. They’re destroying my relatives.”

Serbia: Muslim radicals strengthen in Serbia

The discovery of a mountain cave packed with plastic explosives, masks and machine guns – and the recent arrests of men devoted to radical Islam – have fueled fears that extremists are trying to carve out a stronghold in this remote corner of Europe. Police in southern Serbia’s Sandzak region last month arrested six local Muslims and accused them of belonging to a fundamentalist Wahhabi sect – an austere brand of Sunni Islam promoted by extremists, including the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida fighters. Recently leaked Western intelligence reports allege that the tense, impoverished area, along with Muslim-dominated regions in neighboring Bosnia, are rich ground for recruiting so-called “white al-Qaida” – Muslims with Western features who could easily blend into European or U.S. cities and carry out attacks. Al-Qaida and other radical Islamic groups, the reports warn, may be trying to increase their influence in the Muslim-populated regions in the southern Europe to penetrate deeper into the continent. The presence of radical Muslims in Sandzak, the poorest region of Serbia, is linked to the advent of mujahedeen foreign fighters who joined Bosnian Muslims in their battle against the Serbs in Bosnia’s 1992-95 independence war. Sandzak’s Muslims like to be called Bosniaks because they believe they ethnically belong to Bosnia, not Serbia. A March 16 police raid on what authorities said was a mountain terrorist camp just south of Novi Pazar unveiled a large cache of weapons, ammunition, hand grenades, plastic explosives and face masks. Authorities captured four of the suspected Wahhabi Muslims in the raid, and two others four days later. TV footage of the cave broadcast in Serbia also showed a black flag with a Quran inscription in Arabic, and propaganda material that investigators said praised bin Laden and al-Qaida. “The lethal mix of inter-Muslim and interethnic tensions, poverty and organized crime definitely has a potential for trouble,” a Western diplomat, who asked not to be named in order not to interfere with the police investigation, told The Associated Press. “The ‘white al-Qaida’ certainly can find fertile ground in the region,” he said. Police claimed that up to 30 radical Muslims trained at the mountain camp, and that militants they referred to as “Wahhabi terrorists” planned unspecified actions at home and abroad. Police in Kosovo said they were searching for one of the suspects, whom they identified as Ismail Prentic – a man they warned “should be considered armed and dangerous.” Local politicians said the group initially may have been plotting to attack moderate Muslims whom its members have denounced as infidels. “There are numerous indications that something nasty was being prepared in Sandzak,” said Dragan Simeunovic, an analyst. Last autumn, young men with long beards, white skull caps and ankle-short pants clashed with security in Novi Pazar’s downtown Arap mosque. At least two people were injured in an ensuing firefight. Muamer Zukorlic, Novi Pazar’s mufti, describes the attackers as Wahhabi “extremists who want to express their domination” over local moderate Muslims. “In some mosques, they collected prayer beads and hurled them into a nearby river,” Zukorlic said. “They often shout in the mosques, interrupt prayers and provoke believers.” As the ultraconservatives increasingly make their presence known in Novi Pazar, the scene is more Saudi than Serbian. Chants of muezzins echo from minarets across the town of 100,000, which is nearly 90 percent Muslim. Beggars crowd around yellow-brick buildings, and vendors at makeshift markets peddle everything from framed Quran verses to counterfeit designer blue jeans, watches and perfumes. Many women are clad head to toe in black. Among fundamentalists like Edin Bejtovic, an unofficial spokesman for the conservative Muslim community, the mood is staunchly anti-American and in support of the radical Islamic insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. “According to the Americans, every average Muslim is a potential terrorist,” said Bejtovic, who denied claims in Serbian media that his group is financed by Saudi Arabia-based radicals and that it was plotting attacks. But he warned: “It can all become true if the Americans don’t stop their destruction of Muslim nations and Islam.” There are fears that religious tensions in Sandzak, a center for organized drug trafficking and human smuggling, could further destabilize the already volatile southern Balkans. A recent report by the U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs identified Sandzak as “the center point” on a Balkan drug smuggling route that leads from Afghanistan via Turkey to Western Europe. “The ability of organized crime groups to exploit the porous borders and weak infrastructure threatens political stability and economic development” of Serbia, the report said.