Archive for February, 2014

Israeli army report reveals intelligence and security relations with several Arab and Muslim countries

Wednesday, 05 February 2014

The official website of the Israeli army released an unprecedented report on Tuesday claiming that Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency has been cooperating closely with a number of Arab and Muslim countries on issues of security, intelligence and military exports. The collaborating countries include: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan.

According to the report, Bahrain has been providing Israel with intelligence on Iran and Palestinian organizations. The report also highlights the growing secret cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, claiming that the Mossad has been in direct contact with Saudi intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program. Indeed the Mossad’s former chief, Meir Dagan, is reported to have visited Saudi Arabia to meet with Saudi officials to discuss this matter. The report notes that the Saudi authorities had agreed in 1982 to allow dozens of Israeli soldiers, upon the request of the US administration, to operate within its regional waters to search for the wreck of a rocket carrier, which had exploded after passing above a mine in the Red Sea.

The report emphasized that the Saudi government allowed the Israeli navy to search its regional waters at the same time when Israeli forces were invading Lebanon and waging a relentless war against the Palestinian resistance movement, before allowing armed groups to commit the Sabra and Shatila massacres against the Palestinian refugees in Beirut.

The New York Times reported in 2011 that Israel had approved an arms deal where Germany provided Saudi Arabia with 200 tanks, signaling the strengthening cooperation between the two states.

According to the Israeli army report, Israel has also sold the UAE various military supplies, including: developed pilot helmets, drone equipment, devices to refuel airplanes while airborne, ground radar, developed systems to improve fighter aircrafts and defensive devices to jam hostile missiles.

The report claims that Morocco bought Heron drones from Israel too; however, the aircrafts were shipped to the North African monarchy via France. The intelligence cooperation between the two countries reportedly reached its peak in 1973 at the same time Morocco was sending its troops to fight Israel. The report claims that the Mossad helped the Moroccan intelligence assassinate Mahdi Ben Baraka, an opposition leader to the regime of former King Hassan II, who had agreed to allow tens of thousands of Moroccan Jews to immigrate to Israel in exchange for Israel’s accepting to consult on developing Morocco’s security and intelligence devices.

Israel has also supplied Algeria, Morocco’s neighboring rival, with sophisticated air traffic control systems, pilot helmets, radars, communication systems and military air navigation systems.

Israel has sold weapons to several other Muslim majority countries, namely Azerbaijan and Afghanistan, which have been shipped through Pakistan. According to the report, through its military exports Israel aims to improve its economic status as well as to achieve its strategic security interests. For example, Israel is reported to have exploited its relations with Azerbaijan to spy on neighboring Iran.

Source: Middle East Monitor.



‘I want justice’: Islamist cleric threatens to boycott retrial in Jordan


AMMAN – Islamist cleric Abu Qatada threatened on Thursday to boycott his retrial in Jordan on terror charges, demanding that the court respect a deal that led to his deportation from Britain.

“I asked you at the last hearing (January 16) to publicly declare your commitment to the agreement signed by Jordan. If you do not do that, I will boycott the trial and I will not deal with the court,” Abu Qatada told judge Ahmad Tarawneh, who led a panel of three civilian judges at the military state security court.

Tarawneh said, without elaborating, that “the court is committed to the agreement” with Britain.

Palestinian-born preacher Abu Qatada was condemned to death in absentia in 1999 for conspiracy to carry out terror attacks, including on the American school in Amman.

However, the sentence was immediately commuted to life imprisonment with hard labor.

In 2000, he was sentenced in absentia to 15 years for plotting to attack tourists in Jordan during millennium celebrations, and videotapes of his sermons were allegedly found in the Hamburg flat of 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta.

Abu Qatada has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Britain expelled him last summer after Amman and London ratified a treaty guaranteeing that evidence obtained by torture would not be used in his retrial and that the proceedings would be transparent.

After his deportation, Abu Qatada was granted a retrial in line with Jordanian law, and military prosecutors charged him with conspiracy to carry out acts of terrorism.

If convicted, he could face a minimum of 15 years’ hard labor.

On Thursday, at a hearing also attended by representatives from the US and French embassies, Human Rights Watch and other activists, he complained of delays.

“Procedures are taking too long. You must declare your commitment. Otherwise, I will leave it to the lawyers. I want justice,” Abu Qatada said.

His lawyer Hussein Mobaidin said that “the period between each hearing should be shorter”, but was not more specific.

The case was adjourned until February 13.

Source: Middle East Online.


Syria becoming magnet for young French Muslims

February 01, 2014

PARIS (AP) — Two high school classmates, both French Muslims, headed off to Syria this month instead of going to school. They were located, brought home — one fetched by his father — and are now being investigated on terrorism-linked charges.

The unfolding drama of the teenagers, aged 15 and 16, highlights how Syria has become a magnet for a vulnerable fringe of young Muslims in the West. It is among a small wave of cases that are putting French authorities, and some families, on edge.

The bloody three-year-old conflict in Syria has drawn thousands of Muslims to join the ranks of battalions trying to topple the regime or other fighting groups looking to conquer the region in the name of Islam.

French authorities say that more than 600 French have gone to Syria, are plotting to go or have returned, and more than 20 French have been killed in fighting. As of mid-January, a dozen French adolescents were in Syria or in transit, according to authorities.

Many of the alleged would-be jihadis are clearly amateurs. “He’s a victim. He’s not a terrorist,” said the father of the 15-year-old before his son was handed a preliminary charge linked to terrorism on Friday — a rare event for a minor. “He never touched a weapon,” said the father, calling his son’s trip “an error of youth.”

As the boys from France’s southern Toulouse region were questioned Friday by a judge Friday, the trial of three French Muslims caught heading to Syria was concluding in another wing of the Palace of Justice in Paris.

The three, ages 21 to 26, had made a long list of purchases, from camouflage hoods and vests to gun holsters and night vision goggles. But their trip in 2012 ended before they boarded the plane, aborted by their arrest at a French airport.

French intelligence is in close contact with western nations, from European neighbors to the U.S. and Australia, to try to spot would-be jihadis and track those who return and present a potential danger. French Interior Minister Manuel Valls plans to present a series of measures to President Francois Hollande in coming weeks aimed at stemming the tide of French Muslims to Syria.

France feels especially vulnerable. It has the largest Muslim population in western Europe, estimated at 5 million, and Syria, once under French rule, is familiar to some citizens. For Alain Chouet, a former intelligence director at France’s DGSE spy agency, youth looking for a cause are attracted by Internet battle videos or recruitment forums, media attention and easy access from Turkey, a vacation destination for many French people. The western support for the Syrian National Coalition fighting Assad may have further legitimized Syria as a destination.

“It is considered a just cause (because of) the position of the French, Europeans and Americans,” Chouet said. Not all would-be jihadis follow the ins and outs of the war, but “what people understand is that this revolution is just.”

“There is a certain romanticism linked to armed warfare,” Chouet said. Combine conviction and romanticism and “you give yourself an image boost.” Two of the three young men on trial last week denied their goal was jihad, and all three said their intention was to film war widows and massacres of children. They bought much of their gear on sites for hiking and fishing.

Court testimony showed the three — two of whom live with their parents — were squabbling before their departure and their planning was erratic. One of the defendants, Fares Farsi, 21 but 19 at the time, refused to go by land because of possible car sickness.

“I don’t see how I’ve been radicalized …,” as the charges claim, said another, Salah Eddine Gourmat, 24, in a final statement to the court. “It’s like you’re talking to someone from al-Qaida.” The third defendant, Youssef Ettaoujar, 26, the only one held in prison, worked to convince the court that his numerous vacations in places like Mali and Syria were not aimed at making contacts with jihadis, and that the name of his 2 1/2-year-old daughter, “Jihad,” did not reflect his intentions.

The prosecution is seeking three-to-six-year sentences for the defendants. The verdict was set for March 7. The cases — including the death this month in Syria of a 30-year-old man from Toulouse — has raised alarm bells in French households. Two mothers, in Nice and Avignon in southern France, whose children went missing have voiced fears they have taken off for Syria.

The father of the 15-year-old charged on Friday told a Toulouse newspaper this month that his son left the house the morning of Jan. 6 presumably to catch his bus for school, then called home late that evening to say “don’t worry.” He had used his father’s bank card to buy two tickets to Turkey, for himself and his friend.

The father made two trips to the border area, and brought him home last Monday, a day after his friend returned. Christian Etelin, one of the lawyers for the 15-year-old, said the boy had crossed from Turkey to Syria on what was supposed to be a humanitarian mission, but “was placed in a camp of terrorists.” He then left, the lawyer said.

The two teenagers were charged with criminal association in connection with a terrorist organization. If the charge is finalized after a full investigation, they would face up to 10 years in prison. The risk of a conviction, said Chouet, the former intelligence chief, “is to turn them into martyrs.”

“I would not be very comfortable in the judge’s seat,” he said.