According to Spanish newspaper Cadena Ser, Spanish police have discovered an internet handbook for a European al-Qaeda cell, detailing the use of remote-controlled bombs against international troops in Afghanistan and Lebanon. The 8-page handbook containing instructions on non-suicide bombs, was the first time that Spanish police discovered such detailed instructions, including tips on how to avoid being detected. However, initial findings suggest that instructions found in the manual had not actually been used.
One of the hijackers of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro has been released, after serving more than two decades in an Italian jail. Ibrahim Fatayer Abdelatif was one of a group of Palestinian militants who hijacked the ship in 1985. Authorities have ordered Ibrahim to leave Italy, though his lawyer says that he has nowhere to go. Although Ibrahim has officially been expelled from Italy, he cannot leave until he finds another country that will accept him. Ibrahim was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, though is not a citizen of Lebanon. Of the three other involved in the ship’s hijacking, one disappeared in 1994 while on parole, one died in 2004, and the third – Youssef Al-molqi is still serving part of his 30-year sentence.
Pope Benedict XVI conducted a seminar with Italian and Arab politicians and senior officials attending an international seminar in Rome, aimed at strengthening political institutions and participation in the Middle East. Tolerance, understanding and mutual cooperation were further underlined by the meeting with the Pontiff who made himself a world ambassador for these values,” said IPALMO. During the seminar, IPALMO and UNDP are aiming to give the politicians from Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon – considered three key states in the volatile Middle East – experience in parliamentary practices in Italy, where democracy has deep roots. The seminar is also intended to give Italian parliamentarians the opportunity to learn more about Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon’s democratic institutions and civil society organizations.
A Lebanese man on trial for a failed train bombing in Germany last year testified Thursday that he and another suspect planted crude bombs to protest cartoons that ridiculed Islam’s prophet Muhammad, but he denied any links to al-Qaida.
They bill themselves as the “three ex-terrorists” and speak at campuses around the country. They like to be provocative and seem to invite controversy by characterizing the radical Islamic movement as a new form of Nazism. Their efforts to attract attention got a boost this week when Stanford University called their scheduled appearance Monday controversial and said members of the press and the public would be prohibited from attending. “This is a Stanford event and we have chosen to make sure this is a Stanford event where students can have an exchange of ideas in a constructive way,” said Elaine Ray, director of the Stanford News Service. “It’s not unusual to have an event that is not open to the public.” After students and the speakers’ representatives criticized the decision, the university said selected journalists would be allowed to attend. The three “ex-terrorists” are Middle Eastern men who say they engaged in violent activities as young Muslims before converting to Christianity. Walid Shoebat, an Israeli-born Palestinian, has been on the lecture circuit since 1993 and recently teamed up with the other two, Kamal Saleem, a Palestinian, and Zachariah Anani, who is Lebanese. Shoebat, 46, said in a telephone interview Friday that he calls himself an ex-terrorist because as a teenager he belonged to the Palestinian Liberation Organization and planted a bomb on the roof of an Israeli bank in the late 1970s. The bomb exploded but did not harm anyone. He was never charged. He was later arrested in Israel for allegedly inciting violence but says he spent only a few weeks in custody because his mother was a U.S. citizen and he had a U.S. passport. He moved to the United States in 1978 at the age of 18. Calling himself a fundamentalist Christian, he devotes his speeches to warning about the danger of a radical Islamic movement that he believes is bent on ruling the world. He has written several books, including “Why I Left Jihad” and his most recent, “Why We Want to Kill You.” “These are patriotic American topics we are talking about — how to protect America from radical Islam,” says Shoebat, who openly supports Israel. “We saw the error of our ways. We want to waken America to the threat of radical Islam.” Saleem was also a member of the PLO, and ferried explosives from Lebanon into Israel before he was shot by Israeli security forces, Shoebat said. He later moved to the United States and converted to Christianity after Christian doctors saved his life from injuries suffered in a car accident. Anani was born in Lebanon, where he joined a militia at age 13 and killed 223 people during the fighting of the 1970s, according to the speakers’ website, 3xterrorists.com. He says he met a Christian missionary and abandoned Islam before moving to Canada. Critics have questioned his body count and said that even if true, that would mean he was a militia fighter or insurgent, not a terrorist. Shoebat said he has spoken at 50 universities over the years, as well as synagogues and churches, mostly without incident. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, his message became increasingly popular and the number of public appearances soared. Together, the speakers charge less than $10,000 for appearances, said a spokesman, Keith Davies. The views of Shoebat and his colleagues draw fire from some Muslims who say theirs is a peaceful religion and should not be blamed for extremist violence. Last year, Columbia University limited attendance to Shoebat’s lecture at the last minute, and Princeton canceled his appearance. At Stanford, where the appearance is sponsored in part by the Stanford College Republicans, spokeswoman Ray noted that the university, as a private institution, was not required to serve the broader public. “We have a lot of events that are not open to the community,” she said. *
By Jeffrey Fleishman COPENHAGEN – This diminutive nation with an offbeat sense of humor and a strong self-image of cultural tolerance is not accustomed to having its flag burned, embassies stormed and coat of arms pelted with eggs. But Denmark has become a target for the Muslim world’s outrage at cartoons lampooning the prophet Muhammad. The scope and intensity of the violence ignited by the caricatures, first printed in September by the country’s right-leaning Jyllands-Posten newspaper and reprinted more recently in other Western publications, have left this country bewildered. “A lot of Danes have problems understanding what is going on and why people in those countries reacted this way,” said Morton Rixen, a philosophy student, looking out his window at a city awhirl in angst and snow. “We’re used to seeing American flags and pictures of George Bush being burned, but we’ve always seen ourselves as a more tolerant nation. We’re in shock to now be in the center of this.” On Wednesday, four people were killed and at least 20 wounded in a fresh round of protests in southern Afghanistan, and demonstrators in the West Bank city of Hebron attacked the offices of international observers, forcing their evacuation. President Bush spoke out about the protest for the first time, saying, “We reject violence as a way to express discontent with what may be printed in a free press.” Danes suspect that the furor over the cartoons has been co-opted by the wider anti-Western agenda of Middle East extremism. Yet they believe the media images of fury over the drawings have cracked the veneer of their nation and exacerbated a debate about immigration, freedom of expression, religious tolerance and a vaunted perception of racial harmony often disputed by immigrants. Denmark is a small portrait of Europe’s struggle to integrate a Muslim population that has doubled since the late-1980s and dotted the continent with head scarves and back-alley mosques. The cartoons were sketched in an atmosphere of rising Muslim discontent, a surge in strength for the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, a commitment to keeping Danish troops in Iraq and the arrests here of suspected militants with reported ties to Al Qaeda. Some worry that anti-immigrant political parties are exploiting the burning of Danish embassies in Lebanon, Syria and Iran to promote a xenophobic agenda. “Racism is suddenly popping up in this country,” said Merete Ronnow, a nurse who worked in Danish relief efforts in Lebanon and Afghanistan. “I’m stunned by this. It’s like now Danes can express exactly what they feel. My colleagues are saying, ‘Look, this is how a Muslim acts. This is what a Muslim does.’ ” Recent polls reveal a country of torn emotions and doubt. The Danish People’s Party has gained 3 percentage points, but so has its nemesis, the Radical Left Party. A newspaper headline this week blamed President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for not supporting Denmark through the ordeal. And nearly 80% of Danes believe a terrorist attack looms. “I don’t know what to do. It’s amazing to see the Danish flag being burned,” said Michael Hansen, an engineer. “It’s not fear, it’s more anxiety. There have been terror attacks in the U.S., Spain and in Britain. We are the logical fourth. If they forgot about us, they’ve remembered now.” Hansen’s roommate, Martin Yhlen, said: “The whole cartoon thing was a ridiculous provocation. The newspaper knew before they published it that people would be extremely upset. You do have freedom of speech, but with that comes a moral obligation. It doesn’t benefit integration in Europe. It widens the divide.” Even Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen seems baffled. “We’re seeing ourselves characterized as intolerant people or as enemies of Islam as a religion. That picture is false,” he said Tuesday during a news conference. “We’re facing a growing global crisis that has the potential to escalate beyond the control of governments and other authorities,” he said. “Extremists and radicals who seek a clash of cultures are spreading it.” […]
BEIRUT, Lebanon – Lebanon apologized today to Denmark after rampaging Muslim demonstrators set fire to its diplomatic mission in Beirut, while violent protests escalated throughout the Muslim world against the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in Western newspapers.