Craig Benedict Baxam was surfing the Internet from his Army base in South Korea last summer when he came across an Islamic religious website.
The soldier from Laurel had never been particularly religious. But with his deployment and his time in the military coming to an end, prosecutors say, an online article about Judgment Day spoke to him. When he returned to Maryland, they say, he began to make plans to live out his life in a land governed by Sharia law. He would never make it.
Baxam, 24, was charged by federal authorities Monday with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. The 2005 Laurel High School graduate is accused of trying to join al-Shabaab, the State Department-designated terrorist group that opposes the embattled transitional government in war-torn Somalia.
Baxam was detained by police in Kenya as he neared the Somali border last month. He was interviewed by FBI agents in Nairobi and arrested on his return to Maryland last week.
Baxam sat mostly quietly through an initial appearance Monday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. Wearing a long white robe, a thick black beard and sandals, he spoke only to affirm that he understood the charge against him,
In an affidavit filed earlier Monday, FBI Special Agent John B. Phillips III said Baxam considered it his duty to undertake his hijra, or migration to a Muslim land. The way Baxam saw it, according to Phillips, this meant just a few options: the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan, a few islands in the Philippines or southern Somalia.
Phillips said Baxam was carrying between $600 and $700 when he was pulled off a bus and arrested outside Mombasa, Kenya. He said Baxam planned to offer the money to al-Shabaab, to join the group and to take up arms to defend it from the United States, if necessary.
illips said Baxam converted to Islam only days before his separation from the Army and had kept his new faith "secret." He was afraid to search for al-Shabaab from his home computer, Phillips said, "because he is aware of the capabilities of the United States government." . . . Baxam cashed out his retirement savings of about $3,500 and purchased a plane ticket to Nairobi, Kenya. . . arrived in Nairobi on Dec. 22nd. After attending morning prayers at a mosque, he set out on a series of bus and taxi rides in an effort to travel "as far north as possible."
Baxam attempted to maintain a low profile while traveling, Phillips said, speaking with others only as necessary. But when a man on a bus began asking questions — "Where are you going?" "Do you speak the local language?" "Do you have family here?" — Baxam opened up.
The man left the bus. It was soon stopped by Kenyan police, who took Baxam into custody. Baxam now believes the man was an informant,
The Kenyan Daily Nation reports thus: Seven foreigners including a former US soldier have been arrested in Kenya in the last two weeks over links to Al-Shabaab. Mr Craig Benedict Baxam, the ex-US soldier was charged in an American court on Monday. A British national, Mr Jermaine Grant was also charged at a Mombasa court for being in illegal possession of explosive materials. Other suspects were from other European countries, said police spokesman Eric Kiraithe.
Jermaine Grant is from Newham East London, a convert to Islam and convicted rapist.
Jermaine Grant, 29, is awaiting trial in Kenya for allegedly plotting to kill Western tourists over Christmas and the New Year on behalf of extremists linked to al Qaeda. Grant, who denies the charges of possessing explosives and conspiring to commit a crime, is believed to have joined the Somali al Shabaab group after being radicalised while at Feltham young offender institution.
On December 28 he was jailed for three years at Mombasa High Court for being in the country illegally and giving false information. Grant's mother and half-brothers still live in a terrace house, in Newham.
Meanwhile Kenyan police have issued a warrant for another British citizen, Natalie Faye Webb, who is believed to have entered Kenya with her children on a forged South African passport.
She is believed to have links to Somali Islamists who have vowed to launch fresh terror attacks since Kenya went to war to rout the radical group al-Shabaab.
"We have had some positive feedback from publishing her picture, and I can say the dragnet is closing," a senior police source in Nairobi said. "I can give no details, but suffice it to say that we believe she is not a small fish. She is among several Britons that our intelligence service is aware of in relation to terrorists' plans to attack us."
A man who shot dead two American soldiers in Germany last March should go to jail for life, prosecutors demanded on Monday as a court heard closing arguments in his trial. Arid Uka, 21, who was born in Kosovo but grew up in Frankfurt, "wanted to make his personal contribution to the holy war" but not knowing how to get to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban, opted to act closer to home, the federal prosecutor told the court. He should serve at least the usual maximum sentence in Germany of 15 years, argued prosecutor Jochen Weingarten, saying the case involving two charges of murder and three of attempted murder was a particularly severe one.
Defence lawyer Michaela Roth did not contest Uka's guilt but argued extenuating circumstances, describing the difficult background of the "shy, quiet and well meaning" young man who had never previously been aggressive and was "without future prospects." At the opening of the trial in August, Uka confessed to the killings and said he wanted to apologise to his victims and their families for what he has called "total idiocy" that contradicted his religious beliefs.He said he was influenced by "lies" and "propaganda" after seeing a video on the Internet purporting to show US soldiers in Afghanistan raping a local woman. Roth has argued that the video may have brought back a childhood trauma to Uka, who she said was molested at the age of six.
Prosecutors believe Uka acted alone and did not belong to a terrorist network. They say he picked out a group of American soldiers who had just flown in from Britain and who were about to travel by bus to the US airbase at Ramstein where troops often take military transport to Iraq or Afghanistan.
He fired into the back of the head of one soldier at point-blank range, killing him. Then, shouting "Allahu Akbar", he rushed on to the bus and shot dead the 21-year-old driver before opening fire on two more soldiers, aged 21 and 25, who were both seriously injured, prosecutors say.
(TEHRAN, Iran) — Two assailants on a motorcycle attached a magnetic bomb to the car of an Iranian university professor working at a key nuclear facility, killing him and another person Wednesday, state TV reported. The slayings suggest a widening covert effort to set back Iran's atomic program.
The bomb killed Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a chemistry expert and a director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran, state TV reported. Natanz is Iran's main enrichment site, but officials claimed earlier this week that they are expanding some operations to an underground site south of Tehran with more advanced equipment.
The U.S. and its allies are pressuring Iran to halt uranium enrichment, a key element of the nuclear program that the West suspects is aimed at producing atomic weapons. Uranium enriched to low levels can be used as nuclear fuel but at higher levels, it can be used as material for a nuclear warhead.
Iran denies it is trying to make nuclear weapons, saying its program is for peaceful purposes only and is geared toward generating electricity and producing medical radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.
Iran has claimed that Israel's Mossad, the CIA and Britain's spy agency are engaged in an underground "terrorism" campaign against nuclear-related targets, including at least three slayings since early 2010 and the release of a malicious computer virus known at Stuxnet in 2010 that Iran says disrupted controls of some centrifuges — a key component in nuclear fuel production. Both countries have denied the Iranian accusations.
On Tuesday, Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz was quoted as telling a parliamentary panel that 2012 would be a "critical year" for Iran — in part because of "things that happen to it unnaturally."
"Many bad things have been happening to Iran in the recent period," added Mickey Segal, a former director of the Israeli military's Iranian intelligence department. "Iran is in a situation where pressure on it is mounting, and the latest assassination joins the pressure that the Iranian regime is facing."
Safar Ali Baratloo, a senior security official, was quoted by Fars as saying the attack was the work of Israelis.
"The magnetic bomb is of the same types already used to assassinate our scientists," he said.
Roshan, 32, was inside the Iranian-assembled Peugeot 405 car together with two others when the bomb exploded near Gol Nabi Street in north Tehran, Fars reported. It said the person accompanying Roshan died later of injuries at a hospital.
The state news agency IRNA said an 85-year old passer-by was injured in the blast.
Fars described the explosion as a "terrorist attack" targeting Roshan, a graduate of the prestigious Sharif University of Technology in Tehran.
Roshan was a chemistry expert who was involved in building polymeric layers for gas separation, which is the use of various membranes to isolate gases. He was also deputy director of Natanz uranium enrichment plant, in central Iran, for commercial affairs. According to conservative news website mashreghnews.ir, Roshan was in charge of purchasing and supplying equipment for the facility.
Natanz is the centerpiece of Iran's efforts to make its own nuclear fuel. But Iran said earlier this week it was expanding some operations to a bunker-like site south of Tehran protected under 300 feet (90 meters) of rock. The existence of the Fordo facility has been known for more than two years, but some Western officials fear the opening of the labs could be another step toward developing nuclear arms.
Iran also had held or announced a series of war games since December that included threats to close the Gulf's vital Strait of Hormuz — the passageway for about one-sixth of the world's oil — in retaliation for stronger U.S.-led sanctions.
"Assassinations, military threats and political pressures ... The enemy insists on the tactic of creating fear to stop Iran's peaceful nuclear activities," Fars quoted lawmaker Javad Jahangirzadeh as saying in reaction to the blast.
A similar bomb explosion exactly two years ago — Jan. 12, 2010 — killed Tehran University professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a senior physics professor. He was killed when a bomb-rigged motorcycle exploded near his car as he was about to leave for work.
The semiofficial Mehr news agency said that Roshan had planned to attend a memorial ceremony later Wednesday for the slain professor.
In November 2010, a pair of back-to-back bomb attacks in different parts of the capital killed another nuclear scientist and wounded one more.
The slain scientist, Majid Shahriari, was a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran and cooperated with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. The wounded scientist, Fereidoun Abbasi, was almost immediately appointed head of Iran's atomic agency.
And in July 2011, motorcycle-riding gunmen killed Darioush Rezaeinejad, an electronics student. Other reports identified him as a scientist involved in suspected Iranian attempts to make nuclear weapons.
Rezaeinejad allegedly participated in developing high-voltage switches, a key component in setting off the explosions needed to trigger a nuclear warhead.
The United States and some allies say Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons technology. Iran denies the allegations, saying that its program is intended for energy and medical research.
The latest blast is certain to bring fresh charges by Iran that the U.S. and allies are waging a clandestine campaign of bloodshed and sabotage in attempts to set back Iran's nuclear efforts.
"Instead of actually fighting a conventional war, Western powers and their allies appear to be relying on covert war tactics to try to delay and degrade Iran's nuclear advancement," said Theodore Karasik, a security expert at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.
He said the use of magnetic bombs bears the hallmarks of covert operations.
"It's a very common way to eliminate someone," he added. "It's clean, easy and efficient."
Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born analyst based in Israel, said Iran's leadership is being pushed toward a decision on whether to "retaliate or compromise" as sanctions squeeze the economy and undercut the value of the Iranian rial.
"From the international consensus that we can see against Iran, even if (Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) does retaliate, it's not very likely that the pressure — sanctions and isolation — would ease," he said. "He's in a tight spot."
Hebrew University Professor Robert Wistrich, whom we inteviewed for the April, 2011 New English Review on Antisemitism, see here, has sent us his assessment of the lurking dangers behind the rise of Islamic fundamentalism espoused by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist prreachers in the wake of the Arab Spring, "Threatening Shadows Over Egypt." Given the recent round of parliamentary Egyptian elections with more than 3/5ths of the seats won by MB and Salafist parties who harbor virulent anti-Semitic and anti-Israel positions, It troubles many in the West and here in America, that the Obama Administation has reached out to these Islamic fundamentalists without pre-condtions, given their Jew hatred doctine.
In the piece, Prof. Wistrich explains that while the Muslim Brotherhood did not initiate the current upheavals in the Middle East, their influence is clear in the calls from the neo-Islamist movements and regimes to wipe out Israel and to radically reduce American influence in the region.
He clarifies that "the kind of incitement and the pressure from the Egyptian street does not mean that the fragile peace treaty with Israel will be cancelled overnight," but suggests that Israel begin to develop a new regional strategy that takes into account the seismic changes currently shaking the Middle East.
The Muslim Brotherhood did not initiate the current upheavals in the Middle East, but the Islamist parties in Egypt, as in Tunisia and Libya, have been the chief beneficiaries of the collapse of long-standing authoritarian repressive regimes across North Africa. In Egypt itself, the two largest Islamist groups (the Brotherhood and the Salafists) won about three quarters of the ballots in the second round of legislative elections held in December 2011, while the secular and the liberal forces took a battering. The Brotherhood(which garnered over 40% of the votes) is an organization founded by an Egyptian schoolteacher, Hassan el Banna, back in 1928. It has never deviated from its founder’s central axiom:
“Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Koran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”
It is this radical vision which animates all those in the region who seek a fully Islamic society and way of life.
The Muslim Brotherhood has always been deeply anti-Western, viscerally hostile to Israel and openly antisemitic – points usually downplayed in Western commentary on the “Arab Spring.” Indeed, the anti-Jewish conspiracy theories promoted by the Brotherhood and its affiliated preachers are in a class of their own. This is especially true of Egyptian-born Yusuf al-Qaradawi, undoubtedly the most celebrated Muslim Brotherhood cleric in the world. The still vigorous 84-year-old, often misleadingly depicted in the West as a “moderate,” flew in from Qatar to Cairo’s Tahrir Square on February 18, 2011 to lead a million-strong crowd in Friday prayers, thereby ending 50 years of exile from his native land. He called for pluralistic democracy in Egypt while at the same time offering the hope “that Almighty Allah will also please me with the conquest of the al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem].”
Two years earlier, in a notorious commentary on Al-Jazeera TV (January 28, 2009), the “moderate” Qaradawi had provided religious justification for both past and future Holocausts:
Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the Jews people who would punish them for their corruption…The last punishment was carried out by [Adolf] Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them…Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers.
In other words, the loathing of Jews, the Holocaust and the destruction of Israel by Muslims were linked by Qaradawi as things mandated by God himself.
Regarding Israel and the Jews, fundamentalist Muslim attitudes have never deviated since the 1940s. Islamist ideologues, despite their virulent anti-Westernism, have had no problem in drawing on Western sources for their radical anti- Semitism – whether these libels come fromProtocols of the Elders of Zion forgery, Henry Ford’s The International Jew, Hitler’sMein Kampf, fantasies about Judeo-Masonic plots, or have their origin in Christian anti-Talmudism, medieval blood-libels and the slanders of contemporary or Holocaust deniers in America and Europe.
The current swelling of Islamist ranks within Egypt and across the Arab world has hardly improved matters. At a vocal Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo’s most prominent mosque on November 25, 2011, Islamic activists ominously chanted “Tel Aviv, judgment day has come,” vowing to “one day kill all Jews.” The rally, which sought to promote the “battle against Jerusalem’s judaization,” was peppered with hate-filled speeches about the “treacherous Jews.” There were explicit calls for Jihad and liberating all of Palestine as well as references to a well-knownhadith concerning the future Muslim annihilation of the Jews. Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University (the most senior clerical authority in Sunni Islam) even claimed that Jews throughout the world were seeking to prevent Egyptian and Islamic unity, as well as trying to “Judaize al-Quds [Jerusalem].”
This kind of incitement and the pressure from the Egyptian street does not mean that the fragile peace treaty with Israel will be cancelled overnight. But calls for such a step have been repeatedly heard in recent months even from the “liberal” and more “progressive” sectors of the political spectrum as well as from the Islamist parties.
Dr. Rashad Bayoumi, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, bluntly told the Arabic dailyal-Hayat on the first day of 2012 that his organization will never “recognize Israel at all”, whatever the circumstances. Israel, he emphasized, was a “criminal enemy” with whom Egypt should never have signed a peace treaty in the first place. If this treaty is not to be abrogated, much will depend on the United States making clear to Egypt how dire the economic and political consequences for its well-being would be.
It is particularly chilling to note that the Islamic wave already dominates not only in Iran, which is on the verge of nuclear weapons, but also in Turkey, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, the Gaza strip under Hamas and the Lebanese state, currently in the iron grip of Hezbollah. Apart from seeking to impose Shariah law, and to further downgrade the status of women – while repressing Copts and other non Muslim minorities – the neo-Islamist movements and regimes remain as determined as ever to wipe out Israel and to radically reduce American influence in the region. Needless to say, like the Brotherhood itself, Islamists consider themselves to be the sole authentic interpreters of the Divine will.
In the face of this mounting fundamentalist danger, Israel has no choice but to consolidate its deterrent capacity, close ranks and treat with the upmost skepticism any siren voices calling on it to take unreasonable “risks for peace." At the same time it will have to develop a new regional strategy that takes into account the seismic changes currently shaking the Middle East.
Prof. Robert S. Wistrich is the director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (SICSA) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and author of A Lethal Obsession: Antisemitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad(Random House, 2010).
This newsmaker conference was held against the stunning news of a drive by sticky bomb attack on a busy street in Tehran this morning that took the life of 32-year-old Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, University of Tehran nuclear scientist supervising nuclear enrichment at the Natanz facility. Iran accused Israel and the US of involvement in this fourth targeted assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist within the past two years. Secretary Clinton promptly denied US any involvement.
Watch this AP new video on the latest Iranian nuclear scientist assassination:
The new US Central Bank sanctions have lots of maneuver room for the Obama Administration to manipulate and dilute the impacts via so-called waivers. Berman noted that Congress had launched sanctions against the Iran nuclear program as early as 1996, and that the Clinton, Bush and Obama Administrations had until recently been loath to implement them for fear of alienating strategic relationships with energy uses like China. He also observed that the fear that Israel might go it alone on a military attack on Iran’s enrichment facilities may have had the positive effect of forcing the EU and US hands on adoption of these tougher sanctions. Note Berman’s comments illustrating the Obama Administration’s ability to circumvent the latest sanctions enacted under an Amendment of the National Defense Appropriation Act:
Sanctions can be diluted by political considerations. South Korea, Turkey and Japan are already beginning to talk about a waiver to these sanctions that would create loopholes that would allow Iran’s energy sector to stay in business.
Berman said in response to a question from TIP moderator, Alan Eisner, if he was a gambling man on whether a military option might still be in the offing to deal a blow to Iran’s nuclear program.
I’m not a gambling man. If I was, I’d say it’s certainly heartening that you see an increasing amount of economic pressure against Iran – but there’s enough empty space in the world economy for Iran to operate in.
I think sanctions should be pursued. However, I think there’s at least a 50-50 chance that sanctions will fall short and there will be a need to resort to military action.
Berman noted in the TIP newsmaker interview one of the reasons for Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s trip to Latin America this week:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been on a four-country tour of Latin America, stopping in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Cuba. Part of the reason for increasing ties with this region lie in Iran’s pursuit of new sources of raw uranium for its nuclear weapons and Venezuela has the second largest naturally occurring deposits in the world.
In a separate Wall Street Journal (WSJ) opinion piece, published today, “Beijing and Tehran’s Coming Divorce”, Berman suggested that China may be rethinking its dependence on Iran’s oil supply, as well as nuclear program development assistance. The subtext is that “Western pressure turns China's alliance with Iran from asset into liability,” a reference to the recently enacted Central Bank sanctions signed into law on New Year’s eve by President Obama.
In the WSJ article Berman noted:
China has begun to curtail its energy trade with Tehran, responding to new economic sanctions levied against Iran's central bank by the Obama administration and the increasingly likely prospect of an embargo on Iranian oil by European countries. This month, China's crude imports from Iran have fallen by some 285,000 barrels daily, more than half the total volume China regularly imports from Iran on a day-to-day basis. Chinese officials, moreover, have signaled that this reduction will continue into February and possibly beyond.
This one-two punch to Tehran's economy and nuclear ambitions doubtless has the ayatollahs worried. Iran's economic fortunes are intimately tied to China's rise.
[. . .]
In exchange for oil, China has been a key enabler of Iran's nuclear ambitions. Beijing turns a blind eye to national firms involved in nuclear commerce with Iran and works diplomatically to dilute international pressure levied by the United Nations and other multilateral institutions. The effects have been dramatic. Knowledgeable nonproliferation experts estimate that a crackdown on those national firms by the Chinese government would effectively cripple Tehran's atomic endeavor, at least in the near term.
Berman is one of the few clear-eyed analysts of Iran’s chess game in which they endeavor to achieve hegemony on both the Middle East and world stage. He noted during the TIP telephone conference call that the nuclear program gives the Islamic Republic effective action space to pursue its agenda.