Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Southern German Towns Become Hub of Jihadism

by Roland Ströbele from World Politics Review

The 28-year-old Fritz Gelowicz is supposed even to have been the ringleader of the group, which is accused of planning bomb attacks on the Frankfurt Airport and the U.S. military base in Ramstein ... Fritz had often met with the Egyptian Dr. Yehia Yousif in his townhouse in the Neu-Ulm neighborhood of Ludwigsfeld. During a raid on the house, the police discovered materials that could be used for making bombs. Shortly before the Multi-Kultur-Haus was shut down, Dr. Yousif went into hiding. The police suspect that he is currently in Saudi Arabia. His son, Omar, was found to be in possession of handwritten instructions on how to ambush a military convoy. He claimed to have copied them from the Internet. Investigators, however, believe Omar Yousif received combat training in a Palestinian camp ... Over the years, a large number of religious fanatics and other "key and conspicuous persons" in the Islamist scene have settled in the area of Ulm/Neu-Ulm, where, from the banks of the Danube, they have continued to play a leading role in the international terrorist network.

Africa's rebels take to tranquil Eritrea capital

by Jack Kimball from Reuters

From Sudan to Somalia, insurgents have descended on tranquil Asmara, some looking to overthrow governments, some looking for change, but all seeing Eritrea as a home-from-home. The Red Sea state seems to be saying it's rebel-friendly, willing to take on world powers like the United States for having policies which Eritrea says are anathema to the region. Eritrea's own rebels-turned-rulers have long, historic ties with many groups around Africa. Most Eritrean fighters travelled on Somali passports during their independence struggle, and many refugees took shelter in neighbouring Sudan. But some in the West, including Washington which is threatening to put Asmara on its terrorism list, accuse Eritrea of not just hosting but also arming groups and thus destabilising one of the world's most fragile regions. In more than a decade following independence, analysts say that Eritrea has tried to assert itself as a major regional power, getting involved in conflicts in such faraway places as eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Somalia: president Yusuf signs treaty with traditional elders

from the Shabelle Media Network Somalia

The top leaders of Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) signed treaty with some of the delegates of the recently wrap up national reconciliation conference in Mogadishu. The agreement took place in the palace of king Abdalla the son of Abdi Aziz ... President Yusuf requested for a combination of Arabs and African troops to be deployed in Somalia to replace the current foreign forces on the ground. The Saudi news agency said the UN will manage the requested forces by president Yusuf ... The Saudi king emphasized that his government is very ready to support the TFG if unity among the opposing parties is reached.

Afghanistan is a "litmus test" for NATO: Gates

from AFP

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates appeared to be alluding to the contradiction in US policy between a stated aim of promoting democracy in the Middle East and its support for monarchies and authoritarian regimes. Faced with what it sees as a looming threat from Iran, the United States has shifted in recent months to strengthening military and security ties with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf states. In Iraq, the US military is attempting to forge a separate peace with former Sunni insurgents over the resistance of a Shiite-dominated government that came to power in US-backed elections. "We must be realists and recognise that the institutions that underpin an enduring free society can only take root over time," Gates said.

Ericsson takes down flags in Iraq

from The Local, Sweden

Telecoms giant Ericsson has taken steps to reduce its visibility in the Middle East following Saturday's threat by al-Qaeda in Iraq to target major Swedish companies if Sweden does not apologize for the publication in several newspapers of a caricature of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. In a statement calling for the liquidation of cartoonist Lars Vilks and newspaper editor Ulf Johansson, the groups purported leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi also specified a number of Swedish firms as potential targets. "We know how to force you to apologize. If you do not, expect us to strike the businesses of your major firms like Ericsson, Scania, Volvo, IKEA and Electrolux."

Six Years after September 11: A 9-11 Commission Progress Report

by Michael Hurley and Chris Kojm from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Hurley: Since September 11, al-Qaeda has changed considerably. Control is now decentralized, but the group's core is resilient. It is able to recruit many new members every year, especially through the estimated 5,500 websites worldwide urging violent jihad. Al-Qaeda has transformed both its organization and its membership by recruiting more women and members of the educated elite (e.g., doctors). This means that the West no longer has a workable profile of an al-Qaeda operative. The United States is not adapting quickly enough to react to al-Qaeda's changing face. For example, the bulk of the U.S. defense budget goes to items such as aircraft carriers, which are not tactically useful in the war on terror. The United States should spend more on intelligence and programs that are aimed at reducing radicalization in the Middle East.

Saudi Religious Police Embrace Bluetooth Technology

by Turki Al-Saheil from Asharq Al-Awsat

Test launch of the "Awareness Messaging System via Bluetooth" at one of the Riyadh's large shopping centers aims to send a number of awareness messages to youths visiting the shopping center from both genders. Dr Abdullah al-Shithri, head of the Riyadh Branch, said, "We are not against Bluetooth technology. Rather, we are against the misuse of any kind of technology ... Since the introduction of Bluetooth enabled mobile phones in 2004, The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has made several attempts to curb what it considers "the negative and immoral utilization of Bluetooth technology in violation of the Islamic Shariaa." However, these attempts have failed in preventing the technology from finding its way into the hands of Saudi Arabia youths ... A study conducted in the Al-Qasim region (northeast of Riyadh) reveals that the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has intercepted 500 Bluetooth messages. The study adds that 90% of these messages were sexual in nature.

Teaching Terror

by Nina Shea from National Review

Saudi officials continue to aver that the educational curriculum has been reformed, just as they have ever since 9/11. In what has become an annual ritual, the State Department takes Saudi avowals on faith, giving assurances of Saudi educational reform, though (in spite of many requests to do so) it has not yet, independently and comprehensively, reviewed the educational texts. And, of course, this year is no different. On September 14, the State Department's religious-freedom ambassador stated: "[I]n the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah called for increased religious tolerance, and the government took steps to remove intolerant references toward other religious groups from educational materials." While the State Department's assessment is possibly technically accurate, the Saudi state curriculum continues to require a complete overhaul. It does not help Saudi reformers - or American security - to gloss over this fact.