Schiiiuuuu, não digam nada a Donald Trump…

Adel Kermiche e Abdel Malik Petitjean; Larossi Abballa; Ibrahim El Bakraoui, Najm al-‘Ashrāwī, Mohamed Abrini, Khālid al-Bakrāwī e Osama Krayem; Abdelhamid Abaaoud, Mohamed Abrini, Samy Amimour,  Salah Abdeslam, Brahim Abdeslam, Ismael Omar Mostefai, Samy Amimour,Foued Mohamed-Aggad; Amedy Coulibaly, Chérif Kouachi, Saïd Kouachi; Yassin Salhi; Mehdi Nemouche; Mohammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Germaine Lindsay e Hasib Hussain.

Estes são os nomes dos autores dos atentados terroristas na Europa entre 2005 e 2016. Entre eles estão os dois jovens que degolaram o padre da igreja de Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, na Normandia, em Julho de 2016; o homem que matou um casal de polícias na véspera do Euro 2016, nos arredores de Paris; os responsáveis pelo ataque ao Charlie Hebdo e ao Hiper Cashier, em Paris, em Janeiro de 2015; os autores dos atentados à sala de espectáculos Bataclan, ao Stade de France e a vários cafés de Paris, em Novembro de 2015;  os suicidas que levaram a cabo os atentados no aeroporto de Bruxelas e na estação de metro de Maalbeek, em Março de 2016; o homem que decapitou o patrão em  Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, perto de Lyon, em Junho de 2015; o autor do atentado no museu judaico de Bruxelas, em Maio de 2014; os responsáveis pelos atentados terroristas de Londres, em Julho de 2005.

As suas acções provocaram centenas de mortos no Reino Unido, na França e na Bélgica. Para além de agirem em nome de grupos terroristas como o auto-proclamado Estado Islâmico ou a Al Qaeda, unia-os um detalhe: eram (ou são) todos cidadãos europeus, nacionais do Reino Unido, Bélgica, França e Suécia.

É bom que ninguém diga nada disto a Donald Trump. Caso contrário, em breve, poderemos ser proibidos de entrar nos Estados Unidos.

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A ilustração é do Vasco Gargalo.

Tudo o que precisam de saber sobre o… Estado Islâmico

É vulgar dizermos que os extremistas islâmicos são loucos. Doidos. Varridos. Que vivem numa época medieval onde a razão não impera. Lunáticos. Fanáticos. Assassinos sem respeito pela vida humana. Radicais. Extremistas Irracionais. Mas serão mesmo? Ou será que – pelo menos os seus líderes – sabem exactamente aquilo que querem e qual a forma de alcançar esse objectivo. Assassinos, sim. Medievais e extremistas, também. Agora loucos? Talvez não. Desde o início que o grupo tem por objectivo a criação de um califado islâmico e, a partir de certa altura, seguiu uma estratégia clara e objectiva para o conseguir. Imediatamente. Ontem, na véspera de mais um aniversário dos antentados de 11 de Setembro, Barack Obama anunciou a estratégia para o tentar impedir: ataques aéreos às zonas controladas pelo EI no Iraque e na Síria. A longo prazo. Isto é tudo o que precisam de saber sobre o Estado Islâmico.

  • O grupo – ou a sua ideia – começou a formar-se na cabeça do jordano Abu Musab al-Zarqawi há mais de 20 anos. O islamita, nascido a 30 de Outubro de 1966, viajou para o Afeganistão no final da década de 1980 para lutar contra os soviéticos. No entanto, quando chegou, as tropas da então URSS já tinham deixado o país. De volta à Jordânia, criou o Jama’at al-Tawhid w’al-Jihad (JTJ) com o objectivo de derrubar o governo. Sem grande sucesso. Voltou então ao Afeganistão em 1999 para criar um campo de treino para terroristas. Foi aí que conheceu Osama Bin Laden.
  • Ao contrário de outros, al-Zarqawi preferiu não aderir à Al Qaeda. Continuou a tentar implantar o seu grupo. Mas a invasão norte-americana após o 11 de Setembro de 2001 obrigou-o a fugir para o Iraque. Aí, passou despercebido durante dois anos. Até que, a 5 de Fevereiro de 2003, o então secretário de Estado Colin Powell o indicou como um dos motivos que justificavam a invasão do Iraque. Segundo Powell, al-Zarqawi seria o elo de ligação entre Saddam Hussein e a Al Qaeda. Não era. Mas desde então que passou a ser uma figura a ter em conta.
  • Após a invasão norte-americana, al-Zarqawi tornou-se uma das principais figuras da resistência aos EUA. Mas não só. O seu objectivo passava também por derrubar o governo iraquiano e estabelecer um estado islâmico – tal como a Al Qaeda. As diferenças eram poucas. Prendiam-se sobretudo com a intenção de al-Zarqawi de atacar a população xiita, que via como herética. Foi ele que orquestrou o bombardeamento do templo de Najaf, um dos locais mais sagrados para os xiitas. Os objectivos eram também políticos: conseguir o apoio da população sunita, afastada do poder após a queda de Saddam.
  • Em 2004, al-Zarqawi tinha lançado uma campanha de ataques suicidas no Iraque. Bin Laden deu-lhe o seu apoio. E ele retribuiu, aderindo à Al Qaeda: o JTJ foi rebaptizado de Al Qaeda do Iraque (AQI). No entanto, a extrema violência dos ataques à população civil começaram a gerar anticorpos na hierarquia da Al Qaeda. Ele não ligou. Aqueles que lhe resistiam eram executados. Ao contrário de outros grupos ligados à Al Qaeda, a AQI não pedia resgates pelos presos estrangeiros. Os ocidentais eram capturados com um objectivo: serem executados. Al-Zarqawi tornou-se mesmo conhecido como o “sheikh dos matadores” por decapitar pessoalmente os detidos. O seu estilo era inconfundível: os presos eram obrigados a vestir um fato cor-de-laranja (como em Guantánamo). As execuções tornaram-se tão frequentes que o então número dois da Al Qaeda pediu-lhe para parar e matar apenas os prisioneiros.
  • Al-Zarqawi não chegou a cumprir o seu sonho. Em Junho de 2006, morreu durante um bombardeamento ao local onde estava escondido, na sequência de uma ofensiva preparada pelo General David Petraeus em colaboração com as tribos sunitas a quem foram prometidos perdões por crimes anteriores, contratos lucrativos no futuro e uma parte do poder político. A estratégia resultou – mas apenas em parte. Os ataques suicidas pararam e a AQI foi praticamente desmantelada. Mas as promessas aos sunitas não foram cumpridas: não receberam contratos e foram afastados dos cargos de poder pelo primeiro-ministro  Nouri al-Maliki.
  • Quando os Estados Unidos retiraram do Iraque, a AQI praticamente não tinha actividade. Mas continuava a existir. Era então liderada por Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, um natural de Samarra que se licenciou em Estudos Islâmicos pela Universidade de Bagdade e subiu na cadeia hierárquica do grupo ao longo de oito anos. A AQI tinha também mudado de nome para Estado Islâmico do Iraque (ISI, em inglês). Al-Baghdadi voltou à estratégia do fundador do grupo: ataques indiscriminados contra a população xiita, numa tentativa de voltar a conquistar o apoio sunita. Conseguiu. Muitos daqueles que tinham sido armados pelos Estados Unidos para combater a AQI voltavam-se agora para o grupo que se dispunha a atacar o seu opressor: o governo iraquiano.
  • Com o início da guerra na Síria, al-Baghdadi viu uma oportunidade: recrutar milhares de jihadistas ávidos de combater. Com soldados calejados por anos de combate no Iraque, o ISI destacou-se facilmente dos restantes grupos que lutavam contra Bashar al Assad. Rapidamente voltou a mudar de nome: tornou-se no Estado Islâmico do Iraque e do Levante (ISIL, em inglês). O objectivo era claro: o estabelecimento de um estado islâmico na região entre os dois países.
  • Nesta altura as relações entre o ISIL e a Al Qaeda já não eram as melhores.  Em 2011, após a morte de Osama Bin Laden, al-Baghdadi jurou obediência ao novo líder da Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri. Mas, apesar dos objectivos comuns – o estabelecimento de um califado islâmico – os dois divergiam sobre a forma de o alcançar. A Al Qaeda prefere uma estratégia de desgaste lento dos governos apoiados pelo ocidente, sem campanhas de terror para não alienar a população civil. Já o ISIL defende a estratégia do caos, com bombardeamentos e ataques indiscriminados, que deixe os governos sem capacidade para os impedir de estabelecer um emirado.

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Leitura para o fim-de-semana: os drones de Obama

Três dias depois de chegar à Casa Branca, em Janeiro de 2009, Barack Obama autorizou o primeiro ataque aéreo através de um drone. Nos últimos cinco anos, o presidente norte-americano lançou cerca de 400 operações secretas do género que provocaram quase 2500 mortos – muitos deles inocentes. Ao longo destes anos, o The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, tem tentado registar estas acções no Paquistão, Iémen e Somália e contabilizar as suas vítimas. O resultado não é bonito para o presidente Nobel da Paz.

Air Force, Army leaders discuss new UAS concept of operations

“More than 2,400 dead as Obama’s drone campaign marks five years

Five years ago, on January 23 2009, a CIA drone flattened a house in Pakistan’s tribal regions. It was the third day of Barack Obama’s presidency, and this was the new commander-in-chief’s first covert drone strike.

Initial reports said up to ten militants were killed, including foreign fighters and possibly a ‘high-value target’ – a successful first hit for the fledgling administration.

But reports of civilian casualties began to emerge. As later reports revealed, the strike was far from a success. At least nine civilians died, most of them from one family. There was one survivor, 14-year-old Fahim Qureshi, but with horrific injuries including shrapnel wounds in his stomach, a fractured skull and a lost eye, he was as much a victim as his dead relatives.

Later that day, the CIA attacked again – and levelled another house. It proved another mistake, this time one that killed between five and ten people, all civilians.

Obama was briefed on the civilian casualties almost immediately and was ‘understandably disturbed’, Newsweek reporter Daniel Klaidman later wrote. Three days earlier, in his inauguration address, Obama had told the world ‘that America is a friend of each nation, and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity.’

The Pakistani government also knew civilians had been killed in the strikes. A record of the strikes made by the local political administration and published by the Bureau last year listed nine civilians among the dead. But the government said nothing about this loss of life.

Yet despite this disastrous start the Obama administration markedly stepped up the use of drones. Since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the CIA has launched 330 strikes on Pakistan – his predecessor, President George Bush, conducted 51 strikes in four years. And in Yemen, Obama has opened a new front in the secret drone war.

Lethal strikes
Across Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the Obama administration has launched more than 390 drone strikes in the five years since the first attack that injured Qureshi – eight times as many as were launched in the entire Bush presidency. These strikes have killed more than 2,400 people, at least 273 of them reportedly civilians.

Although drone strikes under Obama’s presidency have killed nearly six times as many people as were killed under Bush, the casualty rate – the number of people killed on average in each strike – has dropped from eight to six under Obama. The civilian casualty rate has fallen too. Strikes during the Bush years killed nearly more than three civilians in each strike on average. This has halved under Obama (1.43 civilians per strike on average). In fact reported civilian casualties in Pakistan have fallen sharply since 2010, with no confirmed reports of civilian casualties in 2013.

The decline in civilian casualties could be because of reported improvements in drone and missile technology, rising tensions between Pakistan and the US over the drone campaign, and greater scrutiny of the covert drone campaign both at home and abroad.”

O artigo completo está aqui.

Espionagem informática: a versão da NSA

Entre a comunidade de informações dos Estados Unidos a National Security Agency (NSA) é também conhecida por outro nome: Never Say Anything (nunca dizer nada). No entanto, perante as sucessivas revelações feitas pela imprensa a partir dos documentos cedidos por Edward Snowden, a agência decidiu mudar a sua política de silêncio e deu ao programa 60 Minutes acesso às suas instalações. O jornalista John Miller – que começa por dizer que já trabalhou num gabonete governamental na área das informações – pôde falar com funcionários e analistas que explicam até como os metadados dos telemóveis são usados para identificar potenciais terroristas. Na primeira parte deste programa os responsáveis da NSA defendem os seus programas de espionagem, garantem que cumprem escrupulosamente a lei e revelam que Edward Snowden tem em mãos um milhão e meio de documentos confidenciais – incluíndo 31 mil sobre o Irão e a China que lhes permitiria proteger-se da espionagem norte-americana.

As instalações mais secretas de Guantánamo – onde terroristas eram convertidos em espiões

Após o 11 de Setembro, e à medida que centenas de prisioneiros começaram a chegar à prisão de Guantánamo, a CIA decidiu usar alguns dos detidos para um objectivo muito específico: infiltrar agentes na Al Qaeda. Para isso criou um programa secreto dedicado a converter alegados terroristas em espiões decididos a matar os inimigos dos Estados Unidos. A poucas centenas de metros dos edifícios administrativos da prisão de Guantánamo, a CIA construíu um complexo – baptizado de Penny Lane – com oito pequenos bungalows onde os candidatos a espiões eram instalados e analisados. Muitos voltaram aos seus países com muito dinheiro no bolso e um objectivo claro. Alguns cumpriram-no. Outros não. A alguns a CIA perdeu-lhes o rasto. E apesar de ter terminado em 2006, o programa manteve-se secreto até hoje: dia em que a Associated Press divulgou a história. Aqui.

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Por dentro de Guantánamo

Em menos de um ano, Guantánamo vai receber o maior julgamento de crimes de guerra desde Nuremberga. Alguns prisioneiros estão detidos sem acusação há 12 anos. Outros foram levados para locais secretos e interrogados sem regras. Por outras palavras, foram torturados – mas nem os seus advogados o podem dizer, sob o risco de poderem ser acusados. Agora o programa 60 minutes obteve um acesso inédito à prisão norte-americana de Cuba e ao homem responsável pelo julgamento.

O inimigo interno

No Paquistão, o principal inimigo não é uma potência estrangeira. Não é sequer o histórico conflito fronteiriço com a Índia. Está nas ruas de Islamabad. Nas aldeias remotas. Nas montanhas. E está, sobretudo, na fronteira leste – uma área remota para onde terroristas das mais diversas nacionalidades fugiram, vindos do Afeganistão, para lutar ao lado dos taliban paquistaneses. A Al Jazeera conseguiu acesso a essa zona, que até há pouco tempo esteve sob controlo do grupo, que é ainda mais radical do que os taliban afegãos: o Waziristão. A reportagem chama-se Pakistan: The Enemy Within

Al Qaeda: 25 anos de terror

Há exactamente 25 anos, Osama Bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri e Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif (conhecido por Dr. Fadl), reuniram-se em Peshawar, no Paquistão. Os três reuniam a riqueza de um saudita, a experiência de um islamista egípcio e os fundamentos filosóficos de um intelectual nascido no Cairo. Nessa reunião os três criaram aquilo que ficou conhecido como a Al Qaeda.

Teriam de passar quatro anos para o grupo realizar o seu primeiro ataque. Aos poucos, as ambições foram crescendo. Até atingirem o auge a 11 de Setembro de 2001. A partir de então a organização passou a ser considerada a maior ameaça à segurança mundial. Hoje é uma entidade difusa. Com a morte de Bin Laden, ficou sem uma liderança bem definida reconhecida por todas as células espalhadas pelo planeta que agem individualmente em nome de uma jihad global.

Há alguns anos, o The Guardian elaborou uma infografia que apresenta as cinco fases da Al Qaeda. Apesar de tudo, continua actual. Para ver, aqui.

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Leitura para o fim-de-semana: o terrorista que leu Harry Potter e redesenhou um aspirador

Depois de ser capturado pelas forças norte-americanas, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, o cérebro dos atentados do 11 de Setembro, foi levado para prisões secretas na Europa de Leste. Aí, depois de submetido a intensos interrogatórios, a CIA decidiu que era importante mantê-lo mentalmente são para o caso de um dia ser levado a tribunal. Para além de ler os livros do Harry Potter, Mohammed pediu para redesenhar um aspirador – pedido que foi aceite. Em 2006, quando foi transferido para Guantánamo, não o terá levado com ele. Esta é uma história incrível, contada em exclusivo pela Associated Press. Chama-se The CIA and a secret vacuum cleaner e é assinada por Adam Goldman.

AP Photo, File

AP Photo, File

WASHINGTON (AP) — Confined to the basement of a CIA secret prison in Romania about a decade ago, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, asked his jailers whether he could embark on an unusual project: Would the spy agency allow Mohammed, who had earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, to design a vacuum cleaner?

The agency officer in charge of the prison called CIA headquarters and a manager approved the request, a former senior CIA official told The Associated Press.

Mohammed had endured the most brutal of the CIA’s harsh interrogation methods and had confessed to a career of atrocities. But the agency had no long-term plan for him. Someday, he might prove useful. Perhaps, he’d even stand trial one day.

And for that, he’d need to be sane.

“We didn’t want them to go nuts,” the former senior CIA official said, one of several who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the now-shuttered CIA prisons or Mohammed’s interest in vacuums.

So, using schematics from the Internet as his guide, Mohammed began re-engineering one of the most mundane of household appliances.

That the CIA may be in possession of the world’s most highly classified vacuum cleaner blueprints is but one peculiar, lasting byproduct of the controversial U.S. detention and interrogation program.

By the CIA’s own account, the program’s methods were “designed to psychologically ‘dislocate'” people. But once interrogations stopped, the agency had to try to undo the psychological damage inflicted on the detainees.

The CIA apparently succeeded in keeping Mohammed sane. He appears to be in good health, according to military records.

Others haven’t fared as well. Accused al-Qaida terrorists Ramzi Binalshibh and Abd al-Nashiri, who were also locked up in Poland and Romania with Mohammed, have had mental issues. Al-Nashiri suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Binalshibh is being treated for schizophrenia with a slew of anti-psychotic medications.

“Any type of prolonged isolation in custody — much less the settings described in the press — have been known to have a severe impact on the mental condition of the detainee,” said Thomas Durkin, Binalshibh’s former civilian lawyer. Durkin declined to discuss Binalshibh’s case.

Mohammed was subjected to harsh interrogations in Poland. Agency officers and contractors forced him to stay awake for 180 hours, according to a CIA inspector general’s report. He also underwent 183 instances of waterboarding, or simulated drowning.

After the CIA prison in Poland was closed in September 2003, Mohammed was moved to Bucharest, to a black site code-named “Britelite.” Soon the CIA was trying to find ways to entertain Mohammed as his intelligence value diminished.

The prison had a debriefing room, where Mohammed, who saw himself as something of a professor, held “office hours,” as he told CIA officers. While chained to the floor, Mohammed would lecture the CIA officers on his path to jihad, his childhood and family. Tea and cookies were served.

Along with the other five detainees at the prison in Bucharest, Mohammed was given assignments about his knowledge of al-Qaida, or “homework,” as CIA officers called it. He was given Snickers candy bars as rewards for his studiousness.

In Romania, the prison provided books for detainees to read. Mohammed, former officials said, enjoyed the Harry Potter series. For the CIA officers at the prison, not so much. For security reasons, after a prisoner finished a book, they tediously checked every page to ensure detainees weren’t passing messages. They once caught Mohammed trying to hide a message in a book warning his prison mates not to talk about Osama bin Laden’s courier.

Mohammed graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1986. It’s not clear whether Mohammed was interested in designing a better vacuum or had ulterior motives. He might have intended to use the plans to conceal secret information or trick his jailers.

In Graham Greene’s spy thriller “Our Man in Havana,” a vacuum salesman in Cuba agrees to work for MI6, the British spy service. He dupes the British into believing his vacuum designs are military installations. The AP was unable to determine whether Mohammed ever read the famous novel.

It remains a mystery how far Mohammed got with his designs or whether the plans still exist. The secret CIA prison in Romania was shuttered in early 2006 and Mohammed was transferred later that year to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base prison, where he remains. It’s unlikely he was able to take his appliance plans to Cuba.

Mohammed’s military lawyer, Jason Wright, said he was prohibited from discussing his client’s interest in vacuums.

“It sounds ridiculous, but answering this question, or confirming or denying the very existence of a vacuum cleaner design, a Swiffer design, or even a design for a better hand towel would apparently expose the U.S. government and its citizens to exceptionally grave danger,” Wright said.

But Wright added that he often discussed “modern technological innovations” and the “scientific wonders” of the Quran with Mohammed. He called Mohammed “exceptionally intelligent.”

“If he had access to educational programs in Guantanamo Bay, such as distance learning programs, I am confident that in addition to furthering his Islamic studies, he could obtain a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, and very likely patent inventions,” Wright said.

The CIA won’t discuss the Mohammed’s vacuum plans, either. The AP asked the CIA for copies of the vacuum designs or any government records about them under the Freedom of Information Act.

The CIA responded in a letter to the AP that the records, “should they exist,” would be considered operational files of the CIA — among its most highly classified category of government files — and therefore exempt from ever being released to the public.”

Quem sabia da presença de Bin Laden no Paquistão?

A Comissão Abbottabad levanta várias dúvidas.

A captura de Osama Bin Laden, vista pela sua família

As conclusões da Comissão Abbottabad, divulgadas pela Al Jazeera, trazem à luz novas revelações sobre a noite da morte de Osama Bin Laden. Até agora, os relatos dessa operação baseiam-se nos depoimentos de SEAL’s, analistas, e fontes norte-americanas. Agora, as autoridades paquistanesas recolheram os testemunhos de responsáveis locais, polícia e da família do próprio líder da Al Qaeda. Elas incluem relatos de árvores cortadas para facilitar a aproximação dos aviões, suspeitas da presença de agentes da CIA no local e a resignação de Bin Laden ao ouvir os helicópteros dos Estados Unidos. 

O dia em que Bin Laden foi parado por excesso de velocidade

É uma das revelações mais surpreendentes da Comissão Abbottabad, o grupo encarregue pelo governo do Paquistão de investigar como Osama Bin Laden conseguiu viver incógnito no país durante quase 10 anos: em 2002 ou 2003, o carro onde o líder da Al Qaeda seguia com um dos seus guarda costas, foi mandado parar pela polícia, por excesso de velocidade, numa das visitas regulares ao bazar de Swat Valley. De acordo com o testemunho da mulher de Ibrahim al-Kuwaiti, o guarda-costas “tratou do assunto” – mas não explicou como.

As conclusões da Comissão Abbottabad foram obtida pela Al Jazeera e citada pelo britânico The Telegraph. As autoridades são acusadas de inúmeros fracassos que, em condições normais, teriam tornado possível a infiltração na rede de Bin Laden e levado à sua captura. Através de entrevistas a centenas de pessoas, mostram ainda como o líder da Al Qaeda se movimentou pelo país, construiu uma casa e teve filhos. Parte das conclusões estão aqui.

Foto: AP

Foto: AP

Grupo com ligações à Al Qaeda decapitou um padre fransciscano na Síria

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François Murad era um padre franciscano que fazia trabalho religioso na Síria. Com o início da guerra, o templo que estava a construir foi destruído e o clérigo obrigado a refugiar-se no convento da Custódia da Terra Santa – até que, no passado dia 23 de Junho, foi capturado e assassinado por elementos do Jabhat al-Nusra, um grupo de rebeldes sírios com ligações à Al Qaeda. A notícia foi dada pelo site Catholic Online, que obteve a confirmação do Vaticano e é acompanhado por um link para um vídeo que mostra o que se julga ser a decapitação do padre e de outras duas pessoas. Nas imagens é possível ver um grupo de combatentes a filmar e a tirar fotografias enquanto um homem corta a cabeça dos prisioneiros com uma faca de cozinha. Não o partilho por ser demasiado chocante. 

Recordo apenas que no final de Maio a União Europeia aprovou o fim do embargo de venda de armas aos rebeldes sírios a partir de 1 de Agosto. Oficialmente, o material militar deveria servir para apenas para as milícias “defenderem as populações”. Mas a ideia de que existem combatentes moderados mostra apenas o estado de hipocrisia a que a realpolitik do Ocidente chegou. Esta notícia é a penas a prova disso.

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O primeiro grande ataque de “A Base”

Há 15 anos, o mundo ouvia falar pela primeira vez na Al Qaeda. Eram 10h45m de 7 de Agosto de 1998 quando uma explosão destruiu a embaixada dos Estados Unidos em Nairobi. A investigação do FBI levou as autoridades norte-americanas a colocarem Osama Bin Laden na lista dos 10 fugitivos mais procurados. A reportagem Al Qaeda’s First reconstitui os acontecimentos através das memórias daqueles que sobreviveram.

Mokhtar Belmokhtar: o terrorista que não prestava contas

Em Janeiro deste ano, o nome Mokhtar Belmokhtar tornou-se conhecido internacionalmente quando o grupo que lidera ocupou uma central de gás da BP na Argélia. A operação que fez dezenas de reféns, acabou com um ataque das forças argelinas. No entanto, desconheciam-se os motivos que o levaram a sair da Al-Qaeda do Magrebe Islâmico (AQMI) e a criar o seu próprio grupo, a Brigada Islamista al-Mulathameen. Até agora. Após a expulsão dos islamitas do Mali pelas tropas francesas, a The Associated Press encontrou uma série de documentos em árabe pertencentes à organização. Um deles é uma carta de 10 páginas, com data de 3 de Outubro do ano passado, assinada pelos 14 membros do conselho que dirige a AQMI. O documento conta a sua história e como se tornou um dos menos controláveis membros do grupo terrorista. Entre outras coisas, os líderes da AQMI queixam-se de que ele não lhes atendia os telefonemas, recusava-se a enviar relatórios financeiros da sua actividade, ignorou encontros e até ordenou aos seus homens que não se encontrassem com emissários da Al-Qaeda. A sua resposta foi simples: abandonou a AQMI e fundou a sua própria organização com o objectivo de reportar directamente à liderança da Al-Qaeda.

No entanto, os documentos revelam muito mais do que isso: mostram como a organização fundada por Osama Bin Laden é gerida e como os ataques terroristas podem ser feitos por iniciativa de comandantes carismáticos em nome da Al-Qaeda, estejam ou não a agir por ordem da organização. Por outro lado, revelam como a AQMI deixou de ser um dos ramos mais fracos da Al-Qaeda para se tornar um dos mais fortes. O segredo: obteve cerca de 89 milhões de dólares em resgates pagos pelos Estados ocidentais. Dinheiro esse que serviu para comprar armas e organizar ataques contra esses mesmos governos. O melhor é ler. Chama-se Rise of Al-Qaida Sahara Terrorist e foi publicado ontem pela AP. No final, estão links para a carta original em árabe e para a tradução para inglês.

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DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — After years of trying to discipline him, the leaders of al-Qaida’s North African branch sent one final letter to their most difficult employee. In page after scathing page, they described how he didn’t answer his phone when they called, failed to turn in his expense reports, ignored meetings and refused time and again to carry out orders.

Most of all, they claimed he had failed to carry out a single spectacular operation, despite the resources at his disposal.

The employee, international terrorist Moktar Belmoktar, responded the way talented employees with bruised egos have in corporations the world over: He quit and formed his own competing group. And within months, he carried out two lethal operations that killed 101 people in all: one of the largest hostage-takings in history at a BP-operated gas plant in Algeria in January, and simultaneous bombings at a military base and a French uranium mine in Niger just last week.

The al-Qaida letter, found by The Associated Press inside a building formerly occupied by their fighters in Mali, is an intimate window into the ascent of an extremely ambitious terrorist leader, who split off from regional command because he wanted to be directly in touch with al-Qaida central. It’s a glimpse into both the inner workings of a highly structured terrorist organization that requires its commanders to file monthly expense reports, and the internal dissent that led to his rise. And it foreshadows a terrorism landscape where charismatic jihadists can carry out attacks directly in al-Qaida’s name, regardless of whether they are under its command.

Rudolph Atallah, the former head of counterterrorism for Africa at the Pentagon and one of three experts who authenticated the 10-page letter dated Oct. 3, said it helps explain what happened in Algeria and Niger, both attacks that Belmoktar claimed credit for on jihadist forums.

“He’s sending a message directly north to his former bosses in Algeria saying, ‘I’m a jihadi. I deserve to be separate from you.’ And he’s also sending a message to al-Qaida, saying, ‘See, those bozos in the north are incompetent. You can talk to me directly.’ And in these attacks, he drew a lot of attention to himself,” says Atallah, who recently testified before Congress on Belmoktar’s tactics.

Born in northern Algeria, the 40-something Belmoktar, who is known in Pentagon circles by his initials MBM, traveled to Afghanistan at the age of 19, according to his online biography. He claims he lost an eye in battle and trained in al-Qaida’s camps, forging ties that would allow him two decades later to split off from its regional chapter.

Over the years, there have been numerous reports of Belmoktar being sidelined or expelled by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. The letter recovered in Timbuktu, one of thousands of pages of internal documents in Arabic found by the AP earlier this year, shows he stayed loyal to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, until last year, and traces the history of their difficult relationship.

The letter, signed by the group’s 14-member Shura Council, or governing body, describes its relationship with Belmoktar as “a bleeding wound,” and criticizes his proposal to resign and start his own group.

“Your letter … contained some amount of backbiting, name-calling and sneering,” they write. “We refrained from wading into this battle in the past out of a hope that the crooked could be straightened by the easiest and softest means. … But the wound continued to bleed, and in fact increasingly bled, until your last letter arrived, ending any hope of stanching the wound and healing it.”

They go on to compare their group to a towering mountain before raging storms and pounding waves, and say Belmoktar’s plan “threatens to fragment the being of the organization and tear it apart limb by limb.”

They then begin enumerating their complaints against Belmoktar in 30 successive bullet points.

“Abu Abbas is not willing to follow anyone,” they add, referring to him by his nom de guerre, Khaled Abu Abbas. “He is only willing to be followed and obeyed.”

First and foremost, they quibble over the amount of money raised by the 2008 kidnapping of Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler, the highest-ranking United Nations official in Niger, and his colleague. Belmoktar’s men held both for four months, and in a book he later published, Fowler said he did not know if a ransom was paid.

The letter says they referred the case to al-Qaida central to force concessions in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, a plan stymied when Belmoktar struck his own deal for 700,000 euros (about $900,000) for both men. That’s far below the $3 million per hostage that European governments were normally paying, according to global intelligence unit Stratfor.

“Rather than walking alongside us in the plan we outlined, he managed the case as he liked,” they write indignantly. “Here we must ask, who handled this important abduction poorly? … Does it come from the unilateral behavior along the lines of our brother Abu Abbas, which produced a blatant inadequacy: Trading the weightiest case (Canadian diplomats!!) for the most meager price (700,000 euros)!!”

The complaint reflects how al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, initially considered one of the group’s weaker wings, rose to prominence by bankrolling its operation with an estimated $89 million raised by kidnapping-for-ransom foreign aid workers and tourists. No less than Osama bin Laden endorsed their business model, according to documents retrieved in the terror leader’s hideout in Pakistan.

The letter also confirms for the first time that payments from European governments went directly toward buying arms to carry out attacks against Western targets, as long speculated by experts. The council chides Belmoktar for not following this practice.

“(The chapter) gave Abu Abbas a considerable amount of money to buy military material, despite its own great need for money at the time. … Abu Abbas didn’t participate in stepping up to buy weapons,” the letter says. “So whose performance deserves to be called poor in this case, I wonder?”

The list of slights is long: He would not take their phone calls. He refused to send administrative and financial reports. He ignored a meeting in Timbuktu, calling it “useless.” He even ordered his men to refuse to meet with al-Qaida emissaries. And he aired the organization’s dirty laundry in online jihadist forums, even while refusing to communicate with the chapter via the Internet, claiming it was insecure.

Sounding like managers in any company, the Shura leaders accuse Belmoktar of not being able to get along with his peers. They charge that he recently went to Libya without permission from the chapter, which had assigned the “Libya dossier” to a rival commander called Abou Zeid. And they complain that the last unit they sent Belmoktar for backup in the Sahara spent a full three years trying to contact him before giving up.

“Why do the successive emirs of the region only have difficulties with you? You in particular every time? Or are all of them wrong and brother Khaled is right?” they charge.

The letter reveals the rifts not only between Belmoktar and his superiors, but also the distance between the local chapter and al-Qaida central. The local leaders were infuriated that Belmoktar was essentially going over their heads, saying that even AQIM has had few interactions with the mother brand in Pakistan and Afghanistan, a region they refer to by the ancient name of Khorasan.

“The great obstacles between us and the central leadership are not unknown to you. … For example, since we vowed our allegiance, up until this very day, we have only gotten from our emirs in Khorasan just a few messages, from the two sheiks, bin Laden (God rest his soul) and Ayman (al-Zawahri),” they write. “All this, despite our multiple letters to them.”

Belmoktar’s ambition comes through clearly not only in the bitter responses of his bosses, but also in his own words: “Despite great financial resources … our works were limited to the routine of abductions, which the mujahedeen got bored with.”

In another quote, he calls bin Laden and al-Zawahri “the leaders of the Islamic nation, not the leaders of an organization alone. We love them and we were convinced by their program. … So it’s even more now that we are swords in their hands.”

To which AQIM replies with more than a hint of sarcasm: “Very lovely words. … Do you consider it loyalty to them to revolt against their emirs and threaten to tear apart the organization?”

Belmoktar’s defection was a long time in the making, and dates back to his time as a commander of Algeria’s Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, or GSPC. When the Iraq war started in 2003, his ambition created friction between younger Algerian fighters like himself, who wanted to join the global jihad, and an older generation whose only goal was to create an Islamic state in Algeria, according to Islamic scholar Mathieu Guidere, a professor at the University of Toulouse.

The younger faction won, but Belmoktar felt slighted because his contemporary, Abdelmalek Droukdel, was named emir of the GSPC, instead of him.

Soon after, the group petitioned to join al-Qaida. The terror network announced a “blessed union” on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2006.

Both Belmoktar and Droukdel wrote “candidacy letters” to bin Laden asking to be emir, according to Guidere’s book on the subject. Again, Droukdel won.

Frustrated, Belmoktar drifted farther south. He set up in the ungoverned dunes of neighboring Mali, took a Malian wife and tapped into the smuggling routes that crisscrossed the Sahara, amassing arms and fiercely loyal fighters who called themselves, “The Masked Brigade.”

His fighters killed more than a dozen soldiers at a military garrison in Mauritania in 2005 and gunned down four French tourists there in 2007. On multiple occasions Belmoktar was declared dead, including most recently in March, and each time, he re-emerged to strike again.

The sharpest blow in the council’s letter may have been the accusation that, despite this history of terrorism, Belmoktar and his unit had not pulled off any attack worthy of mention in the Sahara.

“Any observer of the armed actions (carried out) in the Sahara will clearly notice the failure of The Masked Brigade to carry out spectacular operations, despite the region’s vast possibilities — there are plenty of mujahedeen, funding is available, weapons are widespread and strategic targets are within reach,” the letter says. “Your brigade did not achieve a single spectacular operation targeting the crusader alliance.”

In December, just weeks after receiving the letter, Belmoktar declared in a recorded message that he was leaving the al-Qaida chapter to form his own group. He baptized it, “Those Who Sign in Blood.”

With that name, he announced his global ambition. “Those Who Sign in Blood” was also the name of an Algerian extremist unit that hijacked an Air France flight leaving Algiers in 1994. Though their goal to fly the plane into the Eiffel Tower in Paris was thwarted, the unit foreshadowed the terrorist vision that led to the fall of the Twin Towers in New York.

On Jan. 11, French warplanes began bombarding northern Mali, the start of a now 5-month-old offensive to flush out the jihadists, including Belmoktar’s brigade. Five days later, suicide bombers took more than 600 hostages in Ain Amenas in far eastern Algeria and killed 37, all but one foreigners, including American, French and British nationals. Belmoktar claimed responsibility in a triumphant recording.

It was no accident that he chose Ain Amenas, Guidere said. The area is in the home province of Abou Zeid, Belmoktar’s longtime rival who commanded a different Saharan brigade and was always in step with the Algeria-based emirate.

“It’s a punch in the gut,” Guidere said. “It’s saying, ‘You’ve never been able to do anything even in your native region. Watch me. I’ll carry out the biggest hostage operation ever in that very region. … Ain Amenas is the illustration of his ability to do a quality operation, when he is under no authority other than his own, when he doesn’t have to turn in expense reports or answer to anybody.”

As if to turn the knife even further, last week Belmoktar also claimed responsibility for a May 23 attack at a French-owned uranium mine in Arlit, Niger. It was in Arlit in 2010 that Abou Zeid carried out his boldest operation and seized seven foreign hostages, including four French nationals who are still in the hands of AQIM.

In an apparent attempt to raise the stakes, Belmoktar’s men slipped past a truck entering the mine and detonated explosives inside. More than 100 miles to the south, a different unit of fighters under his command killed 24 soldiers at a military camp, with help from another local al-Qaida off-shoot, called the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa.

Jean-Paul Rouiller, the director of the Geneva Center for Training and Analysis of Terrorism, compared the escalation in attacks to a quarrel between a man and a woman in which each tries to have the last word. “They accused him of not doing something,” Rouiller said. “His response is, ‘I’ll show you what I can do.'”

Belmoktar might have seen a certain justice in the coverage of the last week’s attack in Niger in the leading French daily, Le Monde. Among the adjectives used to describe the event: “Spectacular.”

___

Rukmini Callimachi, AP’s West Africa bureau chief, reported this article in Dakar, Senegal and Timbuktu, Mali. Lee Keath, AP’s Mideast enterprise editor in Cairo, translated the Arabic letter into English. The letter can be found in Arabic and English at:

http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/_international/_pdfs/al-qaida…

http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/_international/_pdfs/al-qaida…

Enquanto isso, a Al Qaeda mesmo aqui ao lado

A polícia espanhola deteve, em Saragoça e Múrcia, dois suspeitos de pertencerem a uma célula da Al Qaeda do Magreb Islâmico. O argelino Nou Mediouni e o marroquino Hassan el Jaaouani estariam a ser vigiados há mais de um ano e foram presos depois de terem sido detectados comentários na internet, em plataformas radicais, comentários a favor dos atentados na maratona de Boston. De acordo com o ministério espanhol do Interior, os dois têm um perfil semelhante ao dos irmãos Tsarnaev.

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“Eu conheci Osama Bin Laden”

Mesmo morto, Osama Bin Laden continua a gerar interesse. Como vivia? Com quem falava? O que fazia? Como ocupava o tempo? A Al Jazeera tentou dar resposta a algumas destas questões através do documentário I knew bin Laden, que conta a história do líder da Al Qaeda através daqueles que o conheceram e que com ele lidaram.

Os últimos dias de Bin Laden

Peter Bergen foi dos poucos jornalistas ocidentais a estar com líder da Al-Qaeda. Agora, num documentário do National Geographic Channel, o jornalista percorre as ruas de Abottabbad, no Paquistão, para reconstituir os últimos dias de vida do terrorista mais procurado do mundo.

O homem que matou Bin Laden está lixado

Este é o título da edição de Março da Esquire. Pela primeira vez, o Seal que eliminou o líder da Al Qaeda conta a sua história, explica ao detalhe o raide dos militares norte-americanos ao complexo de Abbottabad, no Paquistão e como se viu sem emprego, pensão ou protecção social quando regressou a casa. É uma história incrível, que resulta da colaboração da revista com o Center for Investigative Reporting, já disponível online.

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Começa assim: 

“The man who shot and killed Osama bin Laden sat in a wicker chair in my backyard, wondering how he was going to feed his wife and kids or pay for their medical care.

It was a mild spring day, April 2012, and our small group, including a few of his friends and family, was shielded from the sun by the patchwork shadows of maple trees. But the Shooter was sweating as he talked about his uncertain future, his plans to leave the Navy and SEAL Team 6.

He stood up several times with an apologetic gripe about the heat, leaving a perspiration stain on the seat-back cushion. He paced. I didn’t know him well enough then to tell whether a glass of his favorite single malt, Lagavulin, was making him less or more edgy.

We would end up intimately familiar with each other’s lives. We’d have dinners, lots of Scotch. He’s played with my kids and my dogs and been a hilarious, engaging gentleman around my wife.

In my yard, the Shooter told his story about joining the Navy at nineteen, after a girl broke his heart. To escape, he almost by accident found himself in a Navy recruiter’s office. “He asked me what I was going to do with my life. I told him I wanted to be a sniper.

“He said, ‘Hey, we have snipers.’

“I said, ‘Seriously, dude. You do not have snipers in the Navy.’ But he brought me into his office and it was a pretty sweet deal. I signed up on a whim.”

“That’s the reason Al Qaeda has been decimated,” he joked, “because she broke my fucking heart.”

I would come to know about the Shooter’s hundreds of combat missions, his twelve long-term SEAL-team deployments, his thirty-plus kills of enemy combatants, often eyeball to eyeball. And we would talk for hours about the mission to get bin Laden and about how, over the celebrated corpse in front of them on a tarp in a hangar in Jalalabad, he had given the magazine from his rifle with all but three lethally spent bullets left in it to the female CIA analyst whose dogged intel work and intuition led the fighters into that night.

When I was first around him, as he talked I would always try to imagine the Shooter geared up and a foot away from bin Laden, whose life ended in the next moment with three shots to the center of his forehead. But my mind insisted on rendering the picture like a bad Photoshop job — Mao’s head superimposed on the Yangtze, or tourists taking photos with cardboard presidents outside the White House.

Bin Laden was, after all, the man CIA director Leon Panetta called “the most infamous terrorist in our time,” who devoured inordinate amounts of our collective cultural imagery for more than a decade. The number-one celebrity of evil. And the man in my backyard blew his lights out.

ST6 in particular is an enterprise requiring extraordinary teamwork, combined with more kinds of support in the field than any other unit in the history of the U.S. military.

Similarly, NASA marshaled thousands of people to put a man on the moon, and history records that Neil Armstrong first set his foot there, not the equally talented Buzz Aldrin.

Enough people connected to the SEALs and the bin Laden mission have confirmed for me that the Shooter was the “number two” behind the raid’s point man going up the stairs to bin Laden’s third-floor residence, and that he is the one who rolled through the bedroom door solo and confronted the surprisingly tall terrorist pushing his youngest wife, Amal, in front of him through the pitch-black room. The Shooter had to raise his gun higher than he expected.

The point man is the only one besides the Shooter who could verify the kill shots firsthand, and he did just that to another SEAL I spoke with. But even the point man was not in the room then, having tackled two women into the hallway, a crucial and heroic decision given that everyone living in the house was presumed to be wearing a suicide vest.

But a series of confidential conversations, detailed descriptions of mission debriefs, and other evidence make it clear: The Shooter’s is the most definitive account of those crucial few seconds, and his account, corroborated by multiple sources, establishes him as the last man to see Osama bin Laden alive. Not in dispute is the fact that others have claimed that they shot bin Laden when he was already dead, and a number of team members apparently did just that.”

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Querem saber como as mulheres vivem debaixo da asa da Al-Qaeda?

É assim