Spanish police arrested two Islamic terror suspects wanted by Morocco. The two men were arrested in Melilla, a Spanish enclave located on Morocco’s northern coast. The suspects were identified as Ali Aarass, and Mohamed El Bay. Aarass was sought for his involvement in a string of suicide attacks that killed 45 people in Casablanca, in May 2003. El Bay is accused of being part of an Islamic terror ring, and establishing tied with traffickers in Central Europe to obtain weapons and explosives. The suspects face no charges in Spain, but extradition proceedings will son begin.
Six and a half months after their initial arrests, the Crown Attorney’s office decided to level charges against nine men detained in September for planning terror actions. Two of the men are charged with making and testing bombs, and a third man is expected to be charged with inciting extremism to kidnap Danes traveling abroad. The three men are of Afghan, Turkish, and Pakistani origin; two of which are believed to have direct links to leading Al-Qaeda members. According to the Crown Attorney, the six other suspects who were arrested and then released may still face charges if additional incriminating evidence is found in ongoing investigations.
Security forces arrested hundreds of would-be illegal migrants since the beginning of February, most attempting to reach Spain’s Canary Islands from Morocco and Algeria. Morocco’s government confirmed a total of 512 arrests of would be illegal migrants, largely from Algeria and sub-Saharan Africa, who sought to enter the country as a transitional stop in goals to reach Europe.
The recent arrests of 12 Pakistanis and two Indians in Barcelona have sparked a mixture of disbelief, indignation, and sadness among the city’s 25,000 Pakistanis. Since 2004, more than 70 people, including a number of Pakistanis, have been arrested in Catalonia on suspected Islamist militant links. The Pakistani community is worried that the message that this part of Spain is not a terrorist hotbed is not being heard. About 10,000 of Barcelona’s Pakistani community are concentrated in the barrio of El Raval, in the heart of the old city. The neighborhood has the highest levels of immigration and poverty in Barcelona.
Fourteen suspected Islamic militants were arrested in Spain on January 19th, and may have been planning a terrorist act in Barcelona, according to interior minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba. Rubalcaba said more arrests were expected, and the country was on high security alert. Searches of the suspects’ homes uncovered suspicious material, including four timers. Those arrested include 12 Pakistani nationals and two persons from India. Civil guard officers made the arrests as part of raids planned in connection to the National Intelligence Center.
The Belgian interior ministry tightened security around the country over the risk of a possible terror attack. The security alert in mid-December came after police arrested 14 suspected Islamists who allegedly planned to free a Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian al-Qaeda sympathizer from jail using weapons and explosives. According to reports, Trabelsi was arrested on September 13th, 2001, in an apartment in Brussels; Trabelsi had been in possession of a cache of chemicals which could have been used to make powerful explosives. The interior ministry said that security had been tightened at busy public places such as the capital’s underground and train stations, markets, shopping districts, as well as airports. The security measures remained in place until January 2nd, 2007.
Turkish authorities confirmed that they had arrested a suspected al-Qaida member wanted in Germany. Atilla Selek was detained in the central Anatolian city of Konya on charges of membership in a terrorist organization and preparing to carry out bomb attacks, with the aim of extraditing him to Germany, police said in a statement. Two German converts to Islam and a Turk were arrested in Germany in September, accused of planning massive bombings against U.S. and other facilities in Germany.
Berlin (AFP) – The threat of terrorist attacks has not diminished in Germany since three men were arrested on suspicion of plotting major bomb attacks, the interior minister said in a report to be published Sunday. “I am not calmer since the arrests,” Wolfgang Schauble told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. “The terrorist danger has not diminished… we are specifically in the sights of Islamic terrorists,” he added. The three arrested on September 5, who included two German converts to Islam, were suspected of planning “massive” attacks on facilities used by Americans, among them Frankfurt airport and the US military airbase at Ramstein.
Henry K. Lee, Demian Bulwa and Jim Herron Zamora, Chronicle Staff Writers Oakland police arrested two men on felony charges of vandalizing two West Oakland corner markets in attacks in which several men in suits and bow ties demanded that the outlets stop selling liquor to African Americans. Both suspects are affiliated with a local religious sect long suspected of using violence and intimidation in its business dealings, police said. The men were identified as Yusuf Bey IV, 19, the son of the late Black Muslim leader Yusuf Bey, founder of Your Black Muslim Bakery in North Oakland, and Donald Eugene Cunningham, 73, a bakery associate. Bey and Cunningham surrendered Tuesday at Oakland police headquarters after meeting with police and attorneys. The younger Bey was described by a law-enforcement source Tuesday as a rising leader in the independent Black Muslim group, which operates four bakeries, a Muslim school, a security business and an apartment building. He took over after his father’s death from colon cancer in 2003. The two men were arrested on suspicion of making terrorist threats, felony vandalism, conspiracy and robbery in the attacks Nov. 23 at San Pablo Liquor on San Pablo Avenue and New York Market on Market Street about 12 blocks away, authorities said. Yusuf Bey IV was being held in lieu of $200,000 bail at an Oakland jail. Cunningham was being interviewed by police late Tuesday, said Deputy Police Chief Howard Jordan. Four other men are being sought on arrest warrants in connection with the vandalism at the two stores, Jordan said. He said authorities had been in contact with the men through intermediaries and urged them to surrender. Their names have not been released. Jordan said police were still investigating whether the vandalism was connected to an arson fire that destroyed New York Market early Monday and the reported kidnapping of store owner Abdel “Tony” Hamdan around the time of the blaze. Police found Hamdan in the trunk of a car at 1:40 p.m. Monday in the parking lot of a Safeway store in El Cerrito. Reached by phone Tuesday, Hamdan said, “Please, right now I want nobody calling. Sir, I got nothing else to say.” The San Pablo store’s surveillance camera caught a group of about a dozen men in suits and bow ties trashing the store. The group took a shotgun belonging to a store clerk. Jordan said the suspects were not affiliated with the Nation of Islam, a national organization led by Louis Farrakhan. Police earlier indicated that the suspects were wearing suits and bow ties consistent with Nation of Islam dress. The surveillance video played a key role in the arrests, police said. “The video is very important,” said Sgt. Dom Arotzarena. When he turned himself in Tuesday afternoon, Yusuf Bey IV was accompanied by his mother, Daulet Bey, who said, “We don’t condone what happened. We want to resolve this as quickly as possible.” The suspect had denied any involvement, telling a local newspaper that he had learned of the vandalism through media reports. At the main bakery on San Pablo Avenue on Tuesday, the younger Bey’s sister, Jannah Bey, 25, proclaimed the suspects’ innocence. She also said she understood the anger toward stores selling liquor to African Americans. “The idea was good, but the way it was carried out could have been different,” she said, referring to the Nov. 23 vandalism. She said she didn’t recognize her brother or anyone else from the surveillance tape. She added, “Maybe this will be a wake-up call to the community” with residents realizing that liquor stores in Oakland were “not there to help them.” She said Bey’s group had nothing to do with the arson fire or kidnapping. “Anyone who knows our history … we don’t handle things like that,” she said. A relative of Cunningham’s who would not give her name declined comment when reached by phone Tuesday. The leader of a local grocer’s group reacted cautiously to the arrests. “We’re happy that they made these arrests,” said Mohamed Saleh Mohamed, president of the Yemenie American Grocers Association, which represents more than 250 liquor stores in Oakland. “It shows a little progress, but we still don’t know what’s next.” Mohamed said, “We feel pretty frustrated. We feel very vulnerable right now. The video shows 12 guys. ” The arrests come amid a power struggle within Yusuf Bey’s organization after he died. Three members of the group have been victims of violence since his death, including Bey’s 23-year-old-son, Antar, who was shot to death Oct. 25 in an attempted carjacking. Antar Bey had been serving as chief executive officer of the Oakland group.
By Arthur Neslen in London A controversial letter sent out by the Muslim Council of Britain to more than 1000 mosques has split the country’s Muslim community, with some communal leaders saying it will increase Islamophobia. The letter urges congregations to report any suspicions they might have about other worshippers to the police. “Islam categorically forbids violence and killing of innocents, let alone indulging in violence which can cause death and mayhem,” it says. “We therefore urge you to observe the utmost vigilance against any mischievous or criminal elements from infiltrating the community and provoking any unlawful activity.” The MCB’s appeal to the UK’s two million Muslims will be made through imams, chairmen and secretaries of mosques. Hundreds of thousands of booklets will also be sent out. But Masoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, told Aljazeera.net that the letter’s assumptions are false. “As Muslims, we need to challenge stereotyping and injustices, rather than becoming party to them,” he said. “I’m not questioning the MCB’s intentions but it seems that they are reacting without thinking. “I know that they have been put under a lot of pressure but this sort of action is pointless, reactionary and actually creates the very Islamophobia that we are trying to fight. I can’t put it more strongly than that.” Number of arrests Iqbal Sacranie, the director of the Muslim Council of Britain, dismissed the charge as “utterly nonsensical”. “The only response some elements have to a positive and constructive initiative is to try to undermine it,” he told Aljazeera.net. “How can this letter be Islamophobic? “It is facing the reality that there are a large number of arrests taking place in the community. Although, by the grace of God, most are released without charge, some are convicted. One Muslim conviction is one too many.” In fact there have been two Muslim convictions for terrorism offences since the September 11 attacks. But there have also been more than 500 arrests and a dramatic shift in police “stop and search” policies. Last year, police made 32,100 searches under the Terrorism Act, an increase of 30,000 on the figure for 2000. Community leaders say that the vast majority of those targeted have been young Muslims. Not unexpected For Abd al-Bari Atwan, the influential editor of the al-Quds newspaper, the MCB’s decision was not unexpected. “The Muslim community in Britain is facing a critical time because the media have launched a hate campaign against them since the Madrid bombings,” he told Aljazeera.net. “Every Muslim is now a suspect and everyone is being watched by the police and intelligence services in one way or another.” The controversy over the MCB letter closely followed the arrest of eight British Muslims on Monday, for their part in an alleged al-Qaida bomb plot. On Wednesday a judge granted police a further three days to question the men. Police said that half a ton of ammonium nitrate, a fertiliser?that can be used to make explosives, was recovered during the operation. Dr Sacranie denied that the MCB’s letter was a panic response to subsequent media headlines such as the Daily Telegraph’s “Islamic bomb attack foiled” which proved offensive to so many in the Muslim community. “This initiative is part of our long-term action plan,” he said. “We feel the pressure day in and day out to do something for the community and for the country.” “To talk about ‘Islamic terrorism’ is a contradiction in terms, as Islam is a religion of humanity that utterly and totally condemns acts of violence and terrorism. Yet we are the only community that is being linked with terrorists.” But he singled out extremist groups such as al-Muhajiroun, for targeting alienated Muslim youths. “Within our community, there are elements who try to create hatred against people of other faiths,” he said. “We are telling the youth we share their concerns about the atrocities being committed in Palestine but it is unacceptable to use violent means in the UK.” ‘No platform’ Shortly after the letter was released, the UK’s National Union of Students moved to “no platform” or ban al-Muhajiroun, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee and Hizb al-Tahrir from speaking at any campus in the country. The three groups have been associated with anti-Semitic propaganda. But Atwan said al-Muhajiroun were “a very small group and a tabloid creation,” while Usama Saeed of the Muslim Association of Britain described them as “an empty drum, they make a lot of noise, but in reality there is nothing much happening there.” Saeed told Aljazeera.net that he did not know whether the MCB letter would have a positive effect on the press hysteria. “There has to be vigilance in the community,” he said, “But we also have to have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else.” “I have never seen any terrorists recruiting or organising in mosques. If someone told me to weed these people out, I wouldn’t know where to start. What is needed is a debate about the root cause of terrorism, which is our country’s foreign policy.” The row over the letter, he added, was being taken out of context by the press. One story the British media did not report the week before the alleged al-Qaida bomb ring was smashed, was cited by many Muslim leaders as an example of the animus they are now facing. A 17-year-old Muslim girl was kidnapped in Ilford, East London by a Christian fundamentalist who slashed a crucifix into her upper arms and side and tried to force her to recite the holy trinity. When she refused, he repeatedly told her that “Christianity is the right religion” and slashed her every time he did so. However, the tabloids did at least turn their attention to Ilford the following week. It was the home town of one of the alleged al-Qaida bombers.