The United States is in a state of shock after being rocked by attacks (the worst such foreign attack since Pearl Harbor & the largest ever on American soil) which have left thousands dead & New York's World Trade Center destroyed. The Pentagon was also severely damaged by 1 of the 3 commercial airliners which hijackers turned into flying suicide bombs. A 4th plane crashed in a field near Pittsburgh. A state of emergency has been declared in Washington D.C. and the US has closed its airspace & borders with Mexico and Canada. American forces are on one of their highest states of alert with a naval battle group having been deployed off the country's east coast to bolster air defences. American Airlines Flight 11 was hijacked at 8:25AM and 18 minutes later crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. United Airlines Flight 175 - which had been hijacked within minutes of the 1st plane - was flown into the south tower at 9:03AM causing another devastating explosion. The 2nd crash was captured live on news cameras trained on the burning north tower, horrifying already stunned viewers. At 9:40AM, a 3rd hijacked airliner - American Airlines Flight 77 - was flown into the side of the Pentagon in Washington. An hour after the Boeing 767 slammed into the south tower of the WTC, the 110-storey building collapsed. The north tower followed minutes later, compounding the destruction & loss of life. Witnesses reported seeing people jumping from the towers just before they both crashed down in a shower of raining glass, steel, concrete & choking dust. President George W. Bush was reading to children at a Florida school when his Chief of staff, Andrew Card, whispered news of the terror to him. He was flown to the US Strategic Command Centre at Nebraska - a heavily fortified bunker where the country's nuclear weapons are controlled - and then made his way back to Washington with the expectation of addressing the nation later this evening. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said the final number of dead "may be more than any of us can bear".
10yrs ago today, 9/11 occured. Nothing again would be the same & the world changed forever (not the least of which beginning with travel & security). The final death was nearly 3000 people & it took almost 9 months to clear the millions of tons of rubble at 'Ground Zero' where the World Trade Center had stood. The image of the twin towers - from being hit by the 2 planes, burning & then crashing down has been called the most televised day in history. It's impossible to forget those pictures burned permanently into our memories. The biggest criminal investigation in history quickly identified the terrorist hijackers & linked them to Al-Qaeda - the Islamic militant group set up by Osama Bin Laden based in Afghanistan ---
Aug 1988 - late 1989
The Soviet Union's "Vietnam". With the Russian-Afghanistan war winding down, a new breeding ground for terrororism is taking shape... The Russians had invaded in Dec 1979 with 75,000 troops after they backed 2 coups to install a Communist government. Despite early gains, the Soviet army was ground down by the unanticipated resistance from Muslim guerillas (armed by the US, Britain & other Muslim nations) launching jihad. After heavy casualties and failure to suppress the guerillas, the high cost of war on Russian lives & resources caused significant discord in Moscow (both within the Party & society) and after years of demoralizing stalemate with no victory in sight (further helping to lead to the eventual political dissolving of the USSR), Gorbachev signed a peace accord in Geneva in Apr 1988 after successful talks between Afghan foreign ministers & Pakistani diplomats, to begin withdrawing Soviet troops one month later in May (which commenced as promised). The last Russian soldier left Afghanistan in Feb 1989 & remnants of the resistance (now the Taliban) split into warring factions vying for control of Kabul. Saudi-born and mujahideen resistance organizer & financier - Osama Bin Laden - would soon found Al-Qaeda. The son of a billionaire, he had commanded an amalgam of Arab fighters and along with weapons & funneled money provided by the West, he established training camps for volunteers (heavily dosed with Islamic fundamentalist indoctrination) that would figurely prominently in later years. Controversially, he is long-believed to have had CIA affiliations.
Feb 26, 1993
A huge truck bomb is detonated in the parking basement below the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The explosion fails to bring down the structure but the blast kills 6 people & injures over 1000 more. The plan for the North Tower to collapse, thus falling into the South Tower so both would come crumbling to the ground & killing hundreds, only failed because a van in the underground garage which delivered the bomb was parked in the wrong place. The perpetrators have links to Al-Qaeda. The media reported the destruction as the first attack on American soil and a letter sent to the New York Times demanded that the USA stop meddling in Middle East affairs & pull US troops from the region. During the investigation, authorities traced vehicle fragments to a Ryder truck outlet in New Jersey. The van carrying the bomb was driven and rented by co-conspirator, Mohammad Salameh, and when he reported the van stolen & returned to the outlet to get his deposit back on Mar 4, he was promptly arrested. In Mar 2004, 4 of the conspirators are convicted of the bombing & all are sentenced to life in prison without parole including the accused ringleader, Egyptian Muslim leader, the blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman. In Nov 1997, 2 more men including the mastermind, Ramzi Yousef are both convicted with Youself given 2 life sentences.
Jun 25, 1996
The Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia which is home to foreign military personnel and located near the national Saudi Aramco oil company headquarters of Dhahran is bombed in a terrorist attack with Al-Qaeda described by some sources as the likely culprit (with Bin Laden believed to have co-operated with the terrorsits) but an official American statement later identified members of Hezbollah Al-Hejaz (Party of God in the Hijaz) as the responsible party -- after still, Iran originally being blamed (to which a decade would pass until they would be absolved of involvement). A rigged gas-tanker truck (believed to have contained 3000-5000lbs. of explosives) was exploded causing devastation to the 8-story building which injured 19 US airmen, 1 Saudi & another 372 of various nationalities. In Jun 2001, 14 people (9 alone were Saudis) were charged with murder & conspiracy with another 5 named for charges related to the bombing.
Aug 7, 1998
On the 8th anniversary of US troops entering Saudi Arabia in the 1st Gulf War, at 10:30AM, 2 American embassies in the African capital of Kenya (Nairobi) & the largest city of Tanzania (Dar es Salaam) - both within minutes of each other - are simultaneously bombed. 224 people (mostly locals with over 200 alone in Kenya including a dozen Americans) are killed in the carnage & over 4000 total were injured, trapped under rubble after 2 parked trucks packed with explosives (each massive device weighing 2000lbs.) were detonated. The bombers had begun buying their supplies earlier that year in May. It took an Israeli search n' rescue team to retrieve the last bodies and Bin Laden's connection in Africa (with his & his organization's name and funding having been brought to international attention for the first time), heightened fears that he was dealing with Sudan to obtain weapons-grade uranium or plutonium. In retaliation for the powerful blasts, President Clinton ordered cruise missile strikes on targets in Sudan & Afghanistan on Aug 20. The FBI investigation eventually indicted 21 people (bleonging to Egyptian Islamic Jihad, active in Africa since the 1970's) for their role in the attacks - with some held at Guantanamo Bay naval base detention/interrogation facility in southeast Cuba & others yet to be captured. One theory proposed that the embassies were targeted out of revenge for the CIA's alleged torture of previous apprehended EIJ members, while another suggested the direct strike at the 2 American diplomatic stations with the scale of destruction, would provoke the USA into invading Afghanistan. In May 2001, 4 men were convicted of the double bombings & later that Oct, they were each sentenced to life without parole. Bin Laden was immediately placed as public enemy # 1 on the FBI's '10 Most Wanted' list. Surviving victims of the embassy bombings tried & failed to sue the US Government for compensation. In Jun 2011, the mastermind of the Embassy bombings (Al Qaeda’s leader in East Africa) was killed in a late-night shootout at a security checkpoint in Mogadishu.
Dec 14, 1999
Algerian immigrant, Ahmed Ressam aka the 'Millenium Bomber' is arrested in Washington state by the US Border Patrol. trained by Al Qaeda & living in Montreal, he plotted to bomb Los Angeles' LAX International Airport on New Year's Eve 1999 (as part of a series of other foiled attacks for 2000 including 4 targets in Jordan & American naval destroyer USS The Sullivans in Yemen). he was the leader of a sleeper cell and hid his identity from his new wife & child, who believed he was the head of an international charity. Customs officials found an enormous cache of explosives hidden in the trunk of his rental car. Ressam & 3 other Algerians stood trial on terrorist conspiracy charges and although he began co-operating with investigators in 2001, his sentencing was delayed for 4yrs (because counter-intelligence sources wanted to use him as a source for classified information) but in Jul 2005, he received 22yrs in prison. In Jan 2007, a Seattle Court of Appeals reversed the conviction which in turn was overturned by the US Supreme Court in May 2008 who restored the original sentence. In Feb 2010 however, the same Appellate Court ruled the 22-year sentence was too lenient & didn't fit the then-mandatory sentencing guidelines stating that time served should fall between atleast 65-130 years behind bars. In Oct 2012, an extension was imposed & Ressam was re-sentenced to 37yrs imprisonment.
Oct 12, 2000
Suicide bombers attack the USS Cole navy destroyer in a Yemen port (docked for re-fuelling)killing 17 American sailors. The massive blast badly gashing the left side of the warship, left a gaping hole & injured atleast 40. The ship was on its way to the Gulf to help support UN operations impose sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. A small inflatable raft packed with high explosives rammed the USS Cole as it was apparently being moored to a buoy. The 2 Yemeni men responsible were deemed able to carry out their action without arousing suspicion probably because it was assumed they were helping to attach ropes to a platform. The force of the detonation charge was so strong that buildings around the harbour shook. Both culprits were given death sentences (as was another, a Saudi tried in absentia, who was Al-Qaeda's chief of operations in the Gulf) but the other conviction was later commuted on appeal to serve 15yrs instead. Another 4 defendants were given jail sentences of 5-10yrs. The Saudi had previously been handed over to the USA where he remains in Gunatanamo Bay. The warship was saved & towed out 2 weeks later. It has since been repaired & is back in service. In the aftermath, there was a widely held view that Sudan's government had helped the terrorists resulting in a civil lawsuit launched by the relatives of the victims. In Mar 2007, a US Federal COurt ruled that Sudan was liable for the bombing attack, culminating in around #13.4 million of Sudanese assets frozen in the USA & awarded to the families in compensation.
Sept 12: Vowing to avenge the WTC catastrophe & hunt down Bin Laden, Bush declared a worldwide 'war on terror' on those bent on destroying democracy & freedom. 9/11 brought some unexpected sympathy from countries well-known to be hostile to the USA as the leaders of Libya & Palestine both strongly (and uncharacterictically) condemned the attacks. The Iraqi leadership however endorsed the atrocity when they issued an inflammatory statement saying it was "a lesson for all tyrants & oppressors and the fruit of American crimes." Even in the face of overwhelmingly superior American military might & then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell saying the struggle would be a long-term conflict, Bin Laden proved stubbornly elusive & remained at large for a decade...
Sept 17: Workers (many draped in American flags & wearing face masks) returned to Wall Street as a symbolic gesture to show life can go on. The devastated business district in the heart of Manhattan still looked like a warzone but people were determined to prove their defiance as one lawyer likened Americans to imitating the British way of dealing with years of attacks by the IRA. The search fro survivors in the wreckage continued as Red Cross workers mingled with the crowds to offer counselling - many still reeling from trauma. The stock markets eventually returned to their pre-attack levels in about 1 month but the recession which financial analysts had been predicting long before 9/11, took hold at the end of Nov 2001 with many experts stirring up some controversy by saying companies whose profits were already declining, had infact decided to just "blame it on Bin Laden" thus using him as a scapegoat for all losses.
Sept 22: BBC World Affairs editor, John Simpson became the only Western reporter to broadcast from Taliban-held Afghanistan as the country prepared for American attack. Heavily disguised by armed smugglers, Simpson & a cameraman were snuck into a province bordering with Pakistan. He reported a heavy Taliban presence along large stretches of the frontier but spoke of eerie emptiness in the region he visited due to people having fled & Taliban popularity declining because of corruption by power. Simpson went on to report from northern Iraq when the US & Britain invaded in Mar 2003. In April 2003, he was injured in a 'friendly fire' attack by a US Navy jet which killed his Iraqi translator.
Oct 7: In the 1st retaliatory response to 9/11, the USA launches air strikes against the Taliban & Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan where Bin Laden was believed to be hiding. Particularly targeted are the airports of Kandahar & the capital Kabul and terrorist training camps near Jalalabad. President Bush (later to call Bin Laden a "parasite") promised a "sustained & relentless" campaign and warned that any govts who sponsor terrorism do so at their own peril. British PM Tony Blair unequivocally contributes an aircraft carrier & a small number of submarines further pledging his country's commitment to fight on 3 fronts being military, diplomatic & humanitarian. Iran & Iraq condemn the attacks and Al-Jazeera tv delivers a Bin Laden message denouncing the bombing as a war against faith by infidels.
Oct 8: The USA & Britain with further bombardments against air fields (as well as dropping leaflets), commit their ground troops. Soon after collateral damage occurs when a Red Cross warehouse is bombed by mistake & the deaths of innocent civilians mount. For the rest of the month, an anthrax scare occurs in Washington,DC when letters containing spores were mailed to news media offices & atleast 2 Democratic Senators. Capitol Hill and the House of Representatives were hit and in all, 5 die & 17 are infected. 10,000 Postal workers were believed to have been exposed and the prime suspect focused on one-time government biodefense lab scientist, Bruce Edwards Ivins who kills himself on Jul 27, 2008 with an overdose of acetaminophen. Later that Aug - despite having no direct evidence of his involvement - federal prosecutors declare Ivins to be the sole culprit (after Al-Qaeda & Iraq had been blamed) and in Feb 10, the FBI formally closes the investigation.
Dec 7: The Taliban surrender Kandahar. Beginning in Nov 2001, American Special Forces troops entered Afghanistan to help the shaky Northern Alliance (a tribal army of fragile rebel factions) capture vital Taliban-held cities. By Nov 12, the Taliban Forces had withdrawn from Kabul with uprisings in Kandahar & Jalalabad resulting in the last enemy remnants fleeing. Former captured foreign workers were rescued & the holdout city of Kunduz was laid seige on Nov 15 with US propaganda urging the city to surrender & hand over Bin Laden. On Nov 26, Kunduz fell to the Northern Alliance & with American Marines having taken up positions near stronghold Kandahar, that city was heavily bombed. In as little as 3 months, the Taliban were effectively ousted. With help from the shaky Northern Alliance (a tribal army of fragile rebel Afghan factions), coalition forces & the Pakistani military (who had their own hands full having to quell national riots) had been hunting down Al-Qaeda militants. Bin Laden remained on the run as opposition forces focused almost all of their objective resources on the hunt for him in the Tora Bora mountains south of Jalalabad where a cave complex/fortress hq-center was believed to exist with Bin Laden's 2nd-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, also suggested to be in hiding but the important reiteration was made that the harboring enemy regime was toppled. After weeks of carpet-bombing Tora Bora to no avail, a deal brokered by Hamid Karzai, the head of Afghanistan's new interim administration (endorsed by the UN Security Council), helped secure the surrender of the hardline Taliban's spiritual home and eventually vowed to crack down on warlords & their private militias after winning the country's landmark election in Oct 2004.
Dec 21: Acting on information from Scotland Yard, British police in a joint security operation with the Royal Navy & Customs, storm a cargo ship - linked to Al-Qaeda - in the English Channel off the Sussex coast after an intelligence tip-off it may contain terrorist material. It had sailed from Mauritius with reports of a Djibouti stop (next to Somalia) & was bound for a sugar refinery in east London. An initial search (lasting 5 days & looking for possible anthrax) found nothing & determined the Djibouti stopover was to unload American grain as part of a food aid shipment.
Dec 22: British-born Richard Reid aka 'The Shoe Bomber' was arrested after trying to blow up an American Airlines trans-atlantic flight from Paris to Miami through the use of explosives stuffed in his shoes. He was overpowered by flight attendants & passengers who prevented him from igniting a protruding fuse and tied up with belts & headphone cords as the plane made an emergency landing in Boston under escort from fighter jets. Authorities later said that his shoes contained enough powerful plastic explosives which could have blown a hole in the fuselage & killed all 197 people aboard. On Jan 30, 2003 he was sentenced to life in prison on 3 of 8 charges including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. In addition, he also racked up 20yrs each for another 4 offences including attempted murder and 30yrs for using a device in relation to a violent crime totaling 110yrs. Before his fate, a defiant Reid (declaring his love of Islam & loyalty to Bin Laden) made a brief statement lashing out at the US government he blamed for sponsoring the capitalist torture of Muslims in the Arab world. Several other suspects were arrested over the attempterd bombing conspiracy, but only 1 - a 24yr old Gloucester UK man - was sentenced after police & MI5 surveillance, receiving 13yrs in prison in Mar 2005.
NATO begins peacekeeping duties & maintaining a heavy presence in Afghanistan. Infighting between local commanders over power & territory became a feature of the post-Taliban period as authorities in Kabul prove to be incapable of exerting control beyond the capital resulting militant violence to continue. A US-friendly Afghan administration stays in place until 2004. NATO helps to keep order in Kabul but warlords maintain powerbases in the regions with human rights abuses rising higher along with heroin production. Estimates of civilian deaths vary between several hundred & several thousand.
Jan 10, 2002
The US flies suspected Al-Qaeda & Taliban fighters captured in Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay. 10 days later on Jan 20, photos of prisoners being held in one of the military detainment compounds (Camp X-Ray) sparked outrage leading to concerns of human rights abuse. The publication of the pictures showed shackled detainees kneeling & subjected to sensory deprivation on their arrival. They were handcuffed and wearing goggles, ear muffs, surgical masks & heavy gloves. Kept in temporary 8x8 feet cells made of wire mesh & corrugated metal roofs (left subject to adverse weather), Amnesty International objected to the conditions saying they were degrading to the men, comparable to the old Soviet gulags & fell below US standards for ordinary prisoners. Anti-torture proponents said the measures could be responsible for panic attacks, mood changes & terrible nightmares but Washington quickly responded saying the pictures were not representative of daily life there and that arriving prisoners (extremely dangerous 'high value targets') were treated humanely & given adequate provisions. Hundreds of detainees remaining in custody in Afghanistan awaited transfer to the camp and a team from the Red Cross eventually visited to evaluate conditions & interview prisoners to later conclude with a report whether their treatment was in accordance with the Geneva Convention's rules on prisoners of war. The US insisted the men were not POWs but illegal combatants meaning they could be interrogated (like 'waterboarding' - simulated drowning) without legal representation. Critics charged that under the Geneva Convention, prisoners could be tried for war crimes through court martials or civilian courts but not by secretive military tribunals (which many said Guantanamo Bay was an extension to begin with) which could impose the death penalty. In Apr 2003, Camp Delta replaced Camp X-Ray & at its peak, Guantanamo held 680 prisoners from around 40 countries (under the equally troubling practice of 'rendition') with more than 100 who would be released (the majority being held without charge). In 2004, hearings began so detainees could challenge the rules of their imprisonment to determine if their jailing was legal.
Al-Qaeda forges ties to the violent Islamist group, Jemaah Islamiyah - headed by a radical cleric. On Oct 12, 2002, 2 nightclubs in a densely packed popular tourist district on the island of Bali catering to Western clientele (especially Australians), and the US Consular office are car bombed. The 3 explosions (one a parked white Mitsubishi van) are all detonated by backpack mounted devices triggered by cellphone. (The bomb ouside the Consulate was filled with human excrement). 202 people are killed & 240 injured. One overwhelmed local hospital was so ill-equipped & unable to cope with the scale of some patients with particularly bad burns, that they had to be flown to Australia for treatment. A week after the blasts Arab satellite channel 'Al-Jazeera' aired an audio-cassette purportedly carrying a recorded voice message from Bin Laden saying that the Bali bombings were in direct retaliation for support of the United States' war on terror & Australia's Sept 1999 role in the liberation of East Timor. He warned that more distressing attacks would be forthcoming. The police investigation led to the arrest of Amrozi Nurhasyim who named 6 accomplices. In Apr 2003, authorities charged the group's spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Ashir (who denied his organization's involvement even though they had already claimed responsibility) with treason & Amrozi with murder. That Sept, Bashir was acquitted of conspiracy but convicted of other charges & jailed for 4yrs. In Dec 2006, Indonesia's Supreme Court overturned his conviction & he was freed. (However, in Dec 2010, Bakar was arrested & charged with inciting others to commit terrorism which he denied at the start of his trial in Feb 2011. Later that Jun, he was convicted of supporting a jihadi training camp & sentenced to 15yrs which the Jakarta High Court then reduced to 9yrs. Finally, the Supreme Court rejected Bakar's appeal & reinstated the original 15yrs). All through his own trial, Amrozi grinned incessantly & in Aug 2003, he was found guilty. He then smiled & gave a thumbs-up as his death sentence was passed. Amrozi & 2 others were executed by firing squad just after midnight on Nov 9, 2008. Their deaths resulted in rioting in East Java & a number of suspects remain at large. On Aug 5, 2003, a suicide bomber detonates a car bomb outside a Marriott Hotel lobby in South Jakarta on the island of Java. 12 people are killed & 150 injured. Police arrest atleast 11 mean involved & 2 are sent to Guantanomo Bay. Al-Jazeera again praises the attacks. On Sept 9, 2004, a small 1-ton car bomb packed into a delivery van explodes outside the Australian embassy, killing 9 & injuring over 150. Damage to the nearby Greek & Chinese embassies are also reported. On Jul 17, 2009, Jakarta is yet again the site of hotel suicide-bombings when the JW Marriot & Ritz-Carlton are hit 5 minutes apart. 7 are killed & 50 injured. On Oct 1, 2005, a series of suicide & car bomb attacks occured at a food court near a main square and 2 sites in a beach resort village 19 miles away. The detonations were again by backpack devices set off by cellphone in which all 3 bombers died in the blasts. 20 people were killed & over 100 injured. Police found another 3 unexploded bombs (intended for Australians as an estimated 7500 were believed to have been visiting) which failed to go off after security forces shut down the island's telephone network following the first blasts. Noordin Mohammad Top was accused of being a mastermind in all 4 of the 2002-05 incidents. He was killed in a police raid on Sept 17, 2009.
Mar 20, 2003
Operation Iraqi Freedom. President Bush extends his global campaign against terror to Iraq (predicated on false intelligence of that country's supposed Al-Qaeda link & weapons of mass destruction) when a coalition, again dominated by US and UK forces, invaded. Amidst deep controversy & massive aerial assaults, by Apr 15, the first meeting to talk about a new democratic regime was held & the coalition succeeded in overthrowing dictator Saddam Hussein by May. In Nov, just 6 months after the victory, Bush travelled to Britain under heavy security for a 4-day visit with Prime Minister Tony Blair which was marred by mass protests everywhere the President went. Some gatherings were said to have numbered as high as 200,000 demonstrators but the trip overall went without incident & would be overshadowed by 2 truck bomb attacks in Turkey carried out by Al-Qaeda ringleaders (the 1st wave of 2 explosions having taken place 5 days earlier) that killed 27 & wounded some 450. Inspite of the rising Muslim insurgency, Sunni vs. Shiite violence & ever-increasing ambushes from IED's (improvised explosive devices), the US formally handed over power to the Iraqis on Jun 28, 2004. Saddam Hussein was captured on Dec 13, 2003. On Nov 5, 2006, his trial by an Iraqi court found him guilty of crimes against humanity & sentenced him to death. He was hanged on Dec 30, 2006.
Dec 28, 2003
The British govt gives the go-ahead to place armed undercover 'sky marshals' on some of its passenger planes in the US (to be deployed where appropriate) in response to the American heightened state of alert. The UK move would follow the Americans, Israelis & Germans who also employ the officials. Although the plan was meant to be part of a general tightening of airport & airline security in the wake of 9/11, it was opposed by the British Airline Pilots Association who commented that guns on planes would be dangerous & the protection measures should be taken at ground level. The UK announcement followed a similar move by the Austrailian govt just 2 days before to place sky marshals on Qantas flights to Singapore & came following a number of recent threats to attack Air France flights. The following day on Dec 29, the Bush administration ordered all foreign airlines to deploy armed sky marshals on flights to the USA deemed by Washington to be a risk, or face having their flights banned from American air space. Some EU countries - in particular Italy, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden & Finland - strongly opposed the use of sky marshals, preferring to cancel flights that the US felt were a threat & to concentrate on tightening security through preventitive anti-terror measures also at ground level. In Jan 2004, after talks in Brussels with EU officials, the US softened its stance insisting there was no 'blanket policy' to stop airlines without marshals entering America. In Dec 2005, a US sky marshal shot dead a man claiming to have a bomb on board an American Airlines plane. It was the first time since 9/11 that a passenger had been shot by an armed security official on a flight.
Mar 11, 2004
Al-Qaeda hits Europe. In Madrid,Spain between 7:37-7:40AM during morning rush hour (and 3 days before the country's general elections), 10 explosions (from 13 loaded bag bombs) occured aboard 4 commuter trains all travelling on the same line killing 191 people & injuring over 1800. Triggered by cellphones, 3 of the trains were at stations (with one blast captured on CCTV) while the 4th was just outside. Eyewitnesses reported debris thrown into the air & bodies being trapped in twisted iron. Corpses lay on the tracks and the walking wounded of dazed n' bloodied commuters, had to step over them on their way to receive medical attention. The Basque separatist 'ETA' were initially blamed (with some of its members arrested) as just 12 days earlier, police had intercepted a van bound for the capital which was packed with explosives. The culprits were infact an inspired terrorist cell (a loose collective of Algerian, Syrian & Moroccan Muslims with vague relationship to ideology) who had taken their cue from Bin Laden & purchased the explosives from retired miners who still had access to dynamite blasting equipment. Days after the train bombings, 3 more unexploded bombs were found & safely detonated. Voters turned out in record droves spurning the Conservative People's Party govt (accused of misleading the public) & brought in the Socialists who quickly pulled Spanish troops out of Iraq. On Apr 4, 2004, a security raid closed in on atleast 7 suspected militants in a Madrid apartment (amongst whom was a Tunisian thought to be the main perpetrator). Surrounded by police, they committed suicide by setting off bombs, killing themselves and 1 policeman & injuring another 11. Media & witnesses reported that 5-8 more suspects escaped. On Mar 25, 2005, a prosecutor asserted the train attacks happened exactly 911 days (precisely 2 and a half years) after the WTC collapse. (Back in Oct 2003, a message purporting to be from Bin Laden, threatened reprisals against Spain for providing the 6th largest contingent of allied forces during the early stages of the second Iraq War). A trial of 29 men began on Feb 15, 2007 (14 of whom went on a hunger strike but quickly ended their fast when the court refused to suspend proceedings) & ended on Oct 31, 2007 (with 21 found guilty & 3 of whom were sentenced to 40,000yrs in prison - with the law limiting time served to 40yrs).
Apr 22, 2004
WHO KILLED PAT TILLMAN?
(by Michael I. Niman / ArtVoice)
The American mass media are like tired old dogs, dutifully fetching official lies on command, dropping them like bones at the feet of an unsuspecting public. We in turn reward them by buying both the products & the myths that they sell to us. Eventually however, the products fail & the myths unravel. When despite the support of a compliant press, the government’s popularity wanes sufficiently & even old dogs can come up with new tricks, reviving the lost art of investigative reporting. Take the Pat Tillman case. Remember him? He was the star NFL Defensive Back who, after the 9/11 attacks, walked away from his $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist as an elite Army Ranger & go off to Afghanistan to whip some terrorist ass. No matter what your opinion on the U.S. Invasion of Afghanistan, or your theory on who was ultimately responsible for the 9/11 attacks, Tillman was clearly acting as a selfless hero in the traditional sense of the word. The media sang only one song at the time – dirtbags in Afghanistan did this to us & “deterrence” through violent retribution was the only discussable response. Both Tillman & his brother Kevin, like most every American, took the bait – only unlike most supporters of George W. Bush’s wars, they actually volunteered to fight. After signing up however, they were shipped off not to Afghanistan, where they believed terrorists were holed up but to Iraq – to fight in a newly minted war that didn’t exist when they signed away control of their lives. Here’s where the recruiting poster image deviated from the script. There was a lot more depth to Tillman (who was pursuing a Master’s degree in history) than one would normally expect of an NFL gladiator. Afghanistan was an easier sell. Tillman never bought into the official line on Iraq and at one point, according to a San Francisco Chronicle article published nearly a year & half after his death, told fellow Rangers fighting in Iraq that the war was “so fucking illegal”. A close friend told The Chronicle, “That’s who he was – he totally was against Bush.” Tillman’s mother, Mary, clarified, explaining that her son believed the Afghanistan war was justified by 9/11, but added, “Pat was very critical of the whole Iraq War.” He was also critical of the deceptive Bush agenda. A close friend told The Chronicle, “That’s who he was – he totally was against Bush.” Another friend, who served with him, recalled how Tillman admonished fellow Rangers to vote Bush out of office in the upcoming Nov 2004 Presidential election.
The Chomsky Factor
Tillman as we now know was also in contact with one of his favorite authors – America’s leading intellectual dissident, Noam Chomsky. According to The Chronicle, Tillman had set up a meeting with Chomsky to take place when he returned from Afghanistan, where he eventually finally wound up after serving his tour in Iraq. This image of an anti-Bush, anti-Iraq war (at a time when most of the U.S. population supported the war), Chomsky-loving hero flew in the face of the official Bush administration portrait of Tillman, painted by dutiful media whores such as Ann Coulter, an ultra-conservative political commentator who once described him in near-racialist terms as “An American original – virtuous, pure & masculine, like only an American can be” (Max Blumenthal, blogging for the online Huffington Post, cited Coulter’s line, asking if we could have it in the original German). As both wars droned on, Tillman, the picture perfect recruiting poster boy, evolved into somewhat of a wild card. With a Chomsky meeting on the horizon, there existed a very real possibility that Tillman might go public with his anti-war anti-Bush stance in the weeks leading up to the Presidential election, dealing a fatal blow to the very foundation of the Bush administration’s propaganda pyramid. That day however, never came. On Apr 22, 2004, Tillman was killed on patrol in Afghanistan by 3 American bullets to the head.
Jessica Lynch Redux
When Tillman died, the Bush administration’s professional liars spun one of their tallest tales with their cohorts in the Pentagon explaining how the hero Tillman was killed in an enemy engagement. Bush chimed in and announced that Tillman was “an inspiration on & off the football field, as with all who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror.” As they did with the Jessica Lynch story, the Pentagon spewed forth so many lies as to bury themselves under an obvious pile of bullshit. In the Tillman case, the Army issued Tillman a postmortem Silver Star for bravery, explaining in the process, how, “through the firing, Tillman’s voice was heard issuing fire commands to take the fight to the enemy on the dominating hill ground.” And this is the story the media reported to the world. Files from 3 Army investigations into the killing obtained by Mary Tillman however, document a different set of last words. According to testimony issued by a fellow Ranger who was at Tillman’s side when he died, the last words he shouted before being shot in the head were, “Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat Fucking Tillman dammit!” Evidence surrounding the killing began to disappear. One day after his death, someone burned his body armor. 2 days later, someone burned his uniform. At some point, his journal which he wrote in religiously, went missing. With the journal, disappeared Tillman’s voice.
Reports of Fratricide
The day after his death, according to The Chronicle, Ranger commanders received a report stating that Tillman died in a suspected act of fratricide (or 'fragging'), the crime of killing members of your own group. The more they were confronted with the truth of what happened, the harder Army officials stuck to the official lies. One week after his death, they pulled the Silver Star move, successfully milking the hero dying in action myth in a compliant media environment. 2 weeks after his death, the Army’s official casualty report stated that he was killed by enemy forces. 6 weeks later however, with the mythic version of Tillman’s killing firmly embedded in the American conscious & with the Tillman story safely buried in the ashbin of 'old news', the Army finally told Tillman’s family that the official cause of death was “fratricide”. By all accounts, Tillman was popular & loved by the troops he served with – supporting the theory that his death was in fact a tragic accident by friendly fire. One of the Army investigations however, suggested leveling charges of criminal intent against the killer or killers, prompting Mary Tillman to ask, “I want to know what kind of criminal intent there was.” Instead, all she is able to glean from over 2000 pages of official reports are contradictions, continuously changing stories & countless blacked out lines.
Putting it all Together
What we have with the Pat Tillman case is a cover-up and a fabrication (with some more sinister theories suggesting a murder conspiracy). What was covered up was the embarrassing reality surrounding the futility of his death – the wasting of an iconic American hero. More importantly, what was buried was the complex story of Tillman’s opposition to the Iraq war & the Bush administration. What was fabricated was a fairy tale story of a heroic battle that would support the Bush cabal's manipulative stage-managing global war effort while not undermining its military recruiting. Silenced in this fabrication & cover-up was Pat Tillman’s voice. According to Tillman’s father, Pat Sr., “The administration clearly was using this case for its own political reasons. This cover-up started within minutes of Pat’s death & it started at high levels.” Only now as a tsunami of public opinion is forcing the media to report critically about the Bush regime (and its propaganda), will we possibly see a real investigation that unearths the truth into how Pat Tillman died. And if we are persistent enough, we might even see a proper investigation into why Pat Tillman, and thousands of other Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis & Afghanis died.
Apr 28, 2004
CBS Program '60 Minutes II' airs an episode showing appalling pictures of American military police personnel (aided by additional US govt agencies like the CIA & private subcontractors) abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in the Baghdad-area in Iraq. 2 days later another report in The New Yorker magazine by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh (posted online) came to public attention (followed by a publishing in the May 10 issue) which questioned n' criticized the systemic use of coercive methods & stress applications as so-called 'standard procedure' largely administered by American guards. The CBS news segment had infact been delayed by 2 weeks at the request of the Department of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The graphic & disturbing photos (often personal souvenir shots likened to porn) told a story of a liberation gone of the rails and deepened into an international scandal to expose routine human rights violations by physical violence, torture, psychological deprivation, sexual abuse including rape & sodomy and even murder (Manadel al-Jamadi). US media had initially showed little interest when the military first reported abuse & cruelty on Jan 16 and that an official investigation had begun involving further claims of prisoners being humiliated. US authorities quickly moved to distance themselves from the disgraced perpetrators & by Feb 24, it was reported that 17 soldiers had been suspended & announced again on Mar 21 that the 1st charges had been filed against 6 soldiers. 11 in all (no officers) would be charged & eventually convicted with dereliction of duty, maltreatment and aggravated assault n' battery in court martials - The 2 most notorious implicated being 21yr old SPC (Specialist) Lynndie England, seen prominently in photos of her grinning, giving the 'thumbs up' & pointing at naked prisoners - one of whom is being held attached to a leash and 36yr old SPC Charles Graner (England's fiancée - allegedly impregnated by him during their tour of duty) said to be the ringleader of the abuse and seen in photos posing behind a human pyramid of naked prisoners & over the corpse of a prisoner dead by homicide. On Jan 15, 2005, Graner was sentenced to 10yrs in prison & dishonorably discharged but released on Aug 6, 2011, having served 6 and a half yrs. On Sept 27, 2005, England was sentenced to 3yrs in prison & dishonorably discharged but paroled on Mar 1, 2007, having served approximately 1 yr & 5 months. When interviewed in Mar 2008 by German magazine Stern & again in Jan 2009 by UK newspaper The Guardian, she appeared unrepentant - either unwilling or incapable - to accept any wrongdoing and refused to take any oppurtunities to apologize for her role saying she was goaded into the photos (doing it for the man she loved) & that the media was responsible for damaging her image. She later wrote a biography in Jul 2009 & told of having PTSD. The most infamous image symbolizing the scandal became that of Satar Jabar, wearing a black hood & cape, standing atop a box, arms outstreched in a Jesus Christ-type pose. It was featured on the cover of newsmagazine The Economist with the worldwide condemnation having become so overwhelming, it resulted in critics charging that US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, authorized the controversial harsh techniques & therein called for his resignation. The Pentagon in turn was accused of an attempted cover-up & indifference when blame would fall merely to the inexperience of troops who were frequently described as "a few bad apples". Right-wing radio host, Rush Limbaugh and conservative talk show host, Michael Savage on the other hand, both staunchly defended & approved of the tactics. Their detractors likened them to morons & said they were just as sick as the perpetrators. President Bush's apology over the scandal as an isolated incident & expressing shame was received with mixed reviews and memos released later, revealed that authorization indeed came from the highest levels of the White House. The army feared that the photos were a serious blow to their image & objectives and along with attacks of hypocrisy, would only inflame Muslims & breathe new life into radicalism for terrorists to deliberately carry out more egregious atrocities in direct retaliation - as that of a video released by Islamic militants on May 11, 2004, of the beheading of an American civilian in Iraq, Nick Berg, in which the executioners said his death was in response to the Abu Ghraib abuse. On Mar 29, 2006, the US govt released a new set of photographs & again Rumsfeld was criticized for authorizing the interrogation techniques. In Nov 2006, the Australian SBS tv network aired previuosly unreleased pictures documenting the more sexually depraved of the offenses (a disturbing amount of sodomy) & again on May 28, 2009, aired still more shocking pics. On Feb 3, 2010, an allegation was made by a California elected official alleging that under the Bush Administration, prisoners detained at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay & undisclosed secret "black sites" were being used as involuntary research subjects for human biomedical experimentation, behavior modification research & drug-testosterone delivery in a manner similar to past CIA Project MK-ULTRA activities investigated in 1977. The claim supported information contained in a Red Cross report relative to the expanded role of CIA medical personnel in torture & interrogation. In 2010, the last of the prisons were turned over to the Iraqi government to run. Ironically, despite Abu Ghraib (or perhaps because of reforms in its wake) prisoners have more recently said they received far better treatment in American custody than in Iraqi jails & by Sept 2010, Amnesty International had warned in a report that up to 30,000 prisoners, including many veterans of the US detention system, remain detained without rights in Iraq and were frequently tortured or abused in a detention system described as having not evolved since Saddam Hussein's regime. On Oct 22, 2010, nearly 400,000 secret US army field reports and war logs detailing torture, rape, sleep deprivation, mock electrocutions, summary executions, murder by Iraqi police & failure to investigate war crimes, were passed on to the The Guardian & several other international media organizations through the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. On Jun 27, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of lawsuits from a group of 250 Iraqis who wanted to sue 2 private contractor companies over claims of abuse by interrogators & translators at the prison. The suits were dismissed by the lower courts on the grounds that the companies held derivative sovereign immunity based on their status of having government exception pursuant to a battlefield pre-emption doctrine. Despite powerful evidence leading to convictions of misconduct & formal reprimands for their deploarable actions, no one has been convicted for the murders of any detainees.
Jul 7, 2005
4 bombs are detonated in the centre of London (the deadliest act of bombing in the city since WWII) in the morning rush hour targeting civilians. 3 exploded simultaneously in packed underground subway stations across the city & the 4th an hour later on a double-decker bus. 56 people (including the 4 suicide bombers whom were the first such perpetrators in Western Europe) are killed & more than 700 injured. It was believed a 4th subway line was also an intended target but abandonned due to a defective train. The terrorist meant to set off that explosion was the bus-bomber who had been captured on CCTV earlier that day at King's Cross station. (From Mar-May 2007, some 7 arrests would be made in connection with the bombings on the 7th in a 2nd but failed copycat plot). Exactly 2 weeks later on Jul 21, 2005 there were 4 more attempted attacks on the city's public transport system but this time only the detonators of the bombs went off (again around underground stations) resulting in no fatalities. The very next day on Jul 22, jumpy police in a heightened atmosphere of paranoia, shot dead 27yr old Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian man - hoping to be an electrician - whom was misidentified as a terrorist fugitive & tragically gunned down without any warning as he sat on a train. 2 officers (neither of whom would be brought up on charges due to an independent Commission declaring "insufficient evidence" to prosecute) fired a total of 11 bullets with 7 landing in the victim's head. The undercover officer who first spotted De Menezes leaving his apartment failed to take a picture & transmit it back to a Police Command HQ for proper identification because he had to urinate -- an ill-timed call of nature which proved fatal. The Metropolitan Police then tried to justify the accidental killing when they lied by falsely claiming that a surrender warning had been shouted. When they finally admitted their mistake, the Met Police were only fined under Health & Safety legislation but scorned by many commentators for their over-reaction bordering on hysteria. The death sparked an intense public debate on shoot-to-kill policy and had induced a kind of panic in UK security agencies & a sobering but disturbing realization in Britain of how civil rights in a surveillance society are effectively removed with such ease. The De Menezes family refused to accept an apology from PM Tony Blair and reaction in Brazil was overwhelmingly negative with protests & demonstrations held. On Jul 29, police arrested 4 main suspects in the bombings on the 21st and on Jul 9, 2007 they were found guilty of conspiracy to murder, each sentenced to a minimunm of 40yrs imprisonment. Strangely enough, during London’s bid for the 2012 Olympics (which had been awarded on a few days before 7/7), one of the arguments in London’s favour was its multicultural & cosmopolitan character but in the immediate aftermath of the bombing attacks, this diversity became a target for some individuals who used the religious background of the Muslim terrorists as an excuse for racist attacks & abuses against members of minority communities.
Apr 30, 2007
A group of 5 Al-Qaeda-linked terror suspects in the UK (some of whom secretly trained in radical Pakistani military camps while others had met the Jul 7, 2005 London bombers) headed by 28yr old Omar Khyam are sentenced to life in prison and another 2 are acquitted after MI5 & more than 700 undercover police from 5 agencies uncover their multiple plot to co-ordinate explosions on Britain's gas-distribution network, poison London's water supply, target a shopping center, seize an airliner to crash it, attack the Prime Minister in Parliament & blow up 'loose women' in the nightclub districts. 25 homes & businesses were searched and 600kg of ammonium nitrate fertilizer had been confiscated from a storage locker. The jury deliberations in convicting the men took 27 minutes - a record in British criminal history.
May 23, 2007
7 insurance companies that had been refusing to pay out claims related to the WTC site, agreed to hand over $2 billion with the money split between owners and the Port Authorities of both New York & New Jersey. Developer Larry Silverstein who took over a 99yr lease on the buildings weeks before their destruction on 9/11, had been accused of profiteering to which he lambasted the insurers for ducking their duty. Ironically, Silverstein himself won a total of a cool $4.68 billion in lawsuits (around two-thirds of what he originally had sought) after abandonning his claim that he was owed more than $500 million in interest accrued from the squabble.
Jun 1, 2007
A group of 4 people (one a former cargo worker & another a former MP for the Caribbean nation of Guyana) are charged with plotting to blow up New York City's JFK airport - hoping to outo the 9/11 attacks. The plot involved blowing up the airport's fuel tanks & 40-mile pipeline and according to the FBI, luckily didn't get past the planning stages inspite of the cell's alleged persistence in consistently refinig their scheme and taking extensive measures to seek expert advice, finances & explosives. The suspects apparently conducted surveillance, videotaped targets & downloaded satellite images from the internet. They were exposed by an FBI informant whom they tried to recruit and U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf was derided by some media outlets for delivering bombastic hyberbole in describing the plan as catastrophic when critics said it was infact amateurishly inept. The arrests were the latest in a series of terror-plans targeting American facilities & landmarks - such as the Jun 2006 charging of 7 suspects who set out to destroy the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Jul 2006 arrest of 3 people (out of 8 & all Arab foreigners) for their attempt to suicide-bomb the tunnel under the Hudson River connecting Manhattan with New Jersey and the May 2007 arrest of 6 men conspiring to attack Fort Dix army base in New Jersey. In Aug 2010, 2 of the JFK-plotters were found guilty of conspiracy charges.
Jun 30, 2007
Just 3 days after the appointment of Glasgow-born Scottish MP Gordon Brown as Prime Minister of the UK, 2 Muslim men (Bilal Abdullah & Kafeel Ahmed) set themselves ablaze and drive a dark green Jeep Cherokee loaded with propane canisters into the glass doors of the main entrance terminal of Scotland's Glasgow International Airport at 3:15PM. The vehicle's driver was severly burnt in the ensuing fiery inferno & 5 people were minorly injured. Both the failed suicide-attackers were apprehended at the scene by police (who were assisted by members of the public) when both tried to put up a fight but were overpowered. They were also believed to have been the same men who parked 2 Mercedes car bombs (filled with fuel containers, gas cylinders & nails) in London - one outside a West End nightclub, the other less than 5 blocks away - the day before on Jun 29 which didn't detonate. Security pillars stopped the men from driving fully into the airport building but the doors were damaged. Within 3 days, Scotland Yard confirmed another 8 men (all with links to the medical profession) had been taken into custody in connection with this incident and Britain raised its security-alert level to critical (the highest on its scale). The attack was the first in Scotland since the Lockerbie Pan Am flight 103 bombing in Dec 1988 & the first ever to target the country. On Aug 2, 2007, Ahmed died of his injuries. On Dec 17, 2009, Bilal was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder & sentenced to 32yrs in prison.
Nov 26, 2008
Islamist terrorists from Pakistan (Lashkar-e-Taiba) co-ordinate more than 10 shooting & bombing attacks in Mumbai, India's largest port city, over a 3-day span methodically killing atleast 166-173 people (many of the bodies showing signs of beatings & torture) and injuring over 300. Included among the targets in their rampage through the commercial hub were 2 hotels (one of which - the prestigious luxury Taj Mahal - was set ablaze), a railway station, a Cafe, College, Cinema, a Women n' Children's hospital & a Jewish community center. The 10 terrorists had planned the attack several months ahead and had made their way ashore in inflatable speedboats, armed to the teeth & reportedly telling suspicious fishermen asking who they were to mind their own business. The 10 split up and the fishermen's report to police was ignored (even though with state elections approaching, security services were well aware of a possible display of violence connected to Muslim fanatacism intent on the liberation of Kashmir from India's governance). During their deadly mission of raining bullets from AK-47's, hurling grenades & holding hostages, the 10 had been in continuous contact with their controllers in Karachi by cellphones. They knew of the authorities actions from tv broadcasts & radio reports and it was some time until the feeds were blocked. Commandos eventually seized the venues, freeing many hostages & killing 9 of the terrorists. The only one captured alive - 21yr old Ajmal Kasab - apparently was a poor village boy & first became a petty criminal because his parents couldn't afford to send him to school. He joined Lashkar not out of any religious convictions but because he thought it would be exciting to learn how to use a gun. He later claimed his group had been helped by the Pakistani ISI (intelligence service) & once in custody, he shocked his interrogators by his willingness to switch sides saying: "If you give me regular meals & money, I will do the same [for you] that I did for them." On May 6, 2010 Kasab was sentenced to death (and secretly executed by hanging in Nov 2012). The incident only served to heighten ethnic enmity & border tensions between the 2 countries and highlighted a long violent background of explosions in Mumbai (Mar 1993 - 13 co-ordinated explosions [believed to have been a retaliation for a Mosque demolition] that killed 257 people & injured 700; Dec 2002 - bus station blast; Jan 2003 - bicycle bomb one day before a visit from the Indian PM; Mar 2003 - train compartment bomb one day after the 10th anniversary of the 1993 attacks; Jul 2003 - bus blast; Aug 2003 - 2 bombs in the South killing 44 & injuring 150; Jul 2006 - 7 bombs exploded within 11 minutes on a railway in Mumbai killing 209 & injuring over 700). One of the chief operators of the Nov 2008 attack was an American - David Coleman Headley (born Daood Saleem Gilani in Pakistan). For 2yrs he had been undercover casing Mumbai developing a blueprint for his 2 handlers and alleged masterminds of the 'gun n' grenade' seige (Sajid Mir & a Major Iqbal). After moving to the USA, Gilani was a small-time drug smuggler & bigamist who lived in Philadelphia then New York. After some drug arrests, he spent time as a DEA informant to give information on his Pakistani sources. At the same time, he immersed himself in radical Islam & joined Lashkar later attending training camps. After 9/11 he gathered intelligence on extremists to which he has been controversially accused of being a double agent himself. The FBI has been criticized for dropping the ball on failing to look into his life with an investigation after Gilani's Canadian-born 2nd wife accused him of domestic abuse & revealed his background to them. His 3rd wife warned the US embassy in Islamabad also about his activities just as the Mumbai plot was gathering momentum but again, American officials did nothing. Although India was warned about a possible hotel attack, immediate security alerts produced nothing. Having slipped through the cracks, Gilani changed his name to 'Headley' for more covert travel and over a 20-month period, had visited India 5 times staying weeks or months at a stretch conducting reconnaissance & insinuating himself amongst many locals - each time advancing the impending deadly assault. His final instructions were to map the GPS routes for the co-ordinated targets. After the deaths of the civilians, Indians & Westerners, Headley was sent to Denmark twice to figure out a retaliation/destruction plan of the Jyllands Posten newspaper building in Copenhagen for its controversial publishing of the Mohammad cartoons which had caused outrage across the Muslim world. By this time however, he had changed allegiances & when his Pakistani sponsors grew suspicious, they called off the plan. His new backing came from Al Qaeda with notoriously fearsome terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri (who would be killed in a US drone strike) saying the postal attack should include the beheading of hostages. Shadowed by Danish intelligence & under FBI surveillance, Headley was finally arrested at Chicago's O'Hare airport in Oct 2009. Facing the death penalty for his role in Mumbai & the Denmark plot (which was thwarted in Dec 2010 resulting in 4 men each sentenced to 12yrs in prison in Jan 2012), he co-operated and gave unprecedented evidence about the ISI, Lashkar & Al Qaeda. He tried luring Mir out of Pakistan but to no avail & after 2 weeks of interrogation, turned on an old high school friend (Tahawuur Rana) whom he accused of being an accomplice having provided a business cover. Headley agreed to a plea bargain to escape the death penalty by pleading guilty to multiple terror charges. He's still in Federal custody at an undisclosed location where he awaits sentencing. Theories abound as to what kind of spying/espionage (if at all) he was engaged in. Mir & Iqbal have never been arrested and are believed to be living in Pakistan.
Oct 28, 2009
Even by heinous terrorist standards, the massive car bomb explosion in a shopping bazaar - predominantly the preserve of women & children - in Pakistan's Northwest frontier province of Peshawar was an unconscionable act. The cultural melting-pot border city (only a few miles from Taliban-held mountains near Afghanistan) is full of smugglers, spies, traders, refugees, tribal factions & naturally, political intrigue boiling with turmoil. Since 2007, a wave of terror bombings had become so commonplace engulfing the country, that they scarcely registered in the Western media (18 in 2007; 25 in 2008; over 40 in 2009; and 9 alone in Jan 2010). the Peshawar blast (the deadliest in its history) was heard throughout the region & ripped through alleys of the congested district, killing some 137 and injuring over 200 - mostly housewives & infants. The ensuing fire was fed by highly inflammable artificial fabrics in the garment stalls, a number of buildings collapsed or were badly damaged and the dead & injured were strewn about in the rubble; an apocalyptic scene rife with the stench of burning flesh thick in the air. The immediate aftermath was defined by horrendous desperation: Emergency services failed to respond; the wounded had to be transported to hospitals in taxis & rickshaws as there were no ambulances in sight; and when police finally arrived, they started firing into the already panicked innocent crowd to 'restore order'. The attack was blamed on the Taliban & Al-Qaeda who both denied involvement and in turn, countered with accusations that it was the handiwork of American or undercover government agencies (with links to the West) designed to generate disgust with Islamists. One belief held that the bombing could even have been a personal vendetta that went dreadfully awry.
Nov 5, 2009
39yr old US Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan stationed at Fort Hood near Killeen,TX armed himself with 2 semi-automatic handguns, plenty of ammunition, reportedly shouted "Allahu Akbar!" (God is great) and opened fire on his base at fellow American personnel, killing 13 & wounding 30. After exchanging shots with civilian officers, he fell to the ground unconscious from 4 bullets & was quickly handcuffed. When he regained consciousness in hospital (paralyzed from the waist down), he was charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder & 32 counts of attempted murder leaving investigators (whom he refused to talk to) stumped over his motivation. -- (Killeen has been no stranger to tragic shooting sprees: In Oct 1991, 35yr old George Hennard rammed his pickup truck straight through a plate-glass window of a Luby's restaurant & with pistols in either hand, methodically killed 23 patrons. Another 20 were injured in the massacre. After 15 minutes - wounded & cornered by police - Hennard committed suicide by putting a bullet in his head. Luby's was the deadliest mass shooting in American history until Virginia Tech in Apr 2007). -- A practicing Muslim of Palestinian origin, Hasan had apparently expressed interest in suicide bombings, kept close email contact with his Imam (Anwar al-Awlaki) from a Virginia mosque (which was attended by 2 of the 9/11 hijackers), attempted to contact Al-Qaeda & radical clerics and while his actions were closely monitored, a fateful decision was taken by intelligence to watch rather than reel him in, hoping to land bigger fish. Various theories have suggested the gun rampage was the result of Hasan's reluctance to accept an imminent Afghanistan posting (an upcoming deployment set for Nov 28) to fury that his superiors refused to prosecute soldiers who in the course of psychiatric sessions, had admitted to committing atrocities against Muslims. In Apr 2010, Army prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty through proceedings (called an Article 32) akin to a grand jury & setting the stage for trial appeared at times to be a ridiculous rollercoaster: That Sept, Hasan's appointed civilian attorney (John P. Galligan) stated he intended to seek a closed court hearing during those proceedings... That Nov, the hearing ended with a recommendation that Hasan be court-martialed & face capital punishment... In Jul 2011, the Fort Hood post commander referred the case to a general court-martial & later that month, Fort Hood Chief Circuit Judge, Colonel Gregory Gross, set a March 2012 trial date... Hasan declined to enter any plea, dismissed his attorney & then chose to be represented by 3 military lawyers... That Nov, a lawsuit was filed by Hasan's victims & family members alleging the government's failure to act against him before his attack, amounted to willful negligence by political correctness. The 83 claimants seek $750 million in compensation from the Army... In Feb 2012 the trial was delayed until that Jun for more pre-trial preparation... That Apr, defense lawyers reuested another continuance to move the Jun date to Oct. The motion was granted & the trial was rescheduled for Aug 2012... That Apr, Hasan was formally arraigned & instructed to shave his beard thus adhering to military dress code which the Army said he was violating. Hasan refused on the grounds of religious reasons further protected by freedom of expression. The Army contended the beard was grown to delay the court-martial, mock the US military & deliberately make it more difficult for witnesses to identify him. Judge Gross warned that Hasan can be forcibly shaved... By Aug 2012, proceedings were halted due to Hasan's objections to being shaved against his will & his subsequent appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces regarding the matter. The Appeals Court announced the trial could continue, did not rule on the forcible shaving & rejected attempts by Hasan to receive "religious accommodation" from Army Regulation to wear his beard... That Sept, Judge Gross again ruled that Hasan can be forcibly shaved after detrmination that the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act did not apply to this case. However the finding will not be enforced until all of Hasan's appeals are exhausted - potentailly further delaying the trail by many more months or even years. Twice, Hasan offered to plead guilty by US Army rules prohibit the Judge of accepting a guilty plea in a death penalty case... By Nov, the Department of Defense continued to classify the Fort Hood attack as an act of workplace violence, despite the suspect's ties to Al-Qaeda. 148 plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed a wrongful death claim against the US Government, Hasan, and the estate of Anwar al-Awlaki; the lawsuit includes allegations including due process violations; intentional misrepresentation; assault & battery; gross negligence; and civil conspiracy. A group of 160 victims & family members asked that the attack be officially declared an act of terrorism, which would mean that injuries would be treated as if they were in a combat zone... By Dec, Judge Gross was removed from the case by the Appeals Court (due in part to what it called a "duel of wills" between Judge and Defendant) on the basis his order for Hasan to shave wasn't justified & amounted to bias as military command and not a military judge has responsibility for grooming standards. Gross' previous shaving order along with 6 prior counts of contempt of court he issued to Hasan were wiped out by the ruling... To date, Hasan remains incarcerated, uses a wheelchair, continues to receive paychecks & has his medical expenses paid for by the military.
Dec 25, 2009
24yr old Nigerian-born Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab aka 'The Underwear Bomber' is arrested after his unsuccessful attempt to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear while on board an airliner en route from Amsterdam to Detroit. He had spent about 20 minutes in the bathroom as the destination neared & then covered himself with a blanket after returning to his seat. Other passengers then heard popping noises, smelled a foul odor and saw his pant leg & the wall of the plane on fire. The flames were doused with fire extinguishers. Once apprehended, he explained he had an explosive device and in custody, told authorities he had been directed by an Al-Qaeda affiliation from Yemen. With 2nd degree burns to his hands, legs, right inner thigh & genitalia, he was subsequently charged on criminal counts including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction & attempted murder of 289 people. On Oct 12, 2011 he plead guilty to 8 charges including inspiring to commit terrorism. In Feb 2012, he was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
The Park51 project (originally named Cordoba House & first announced in Dec 2009) - a planned $100 million 13-story Muslim community center/prayer space to be located 2 blocks from the WTC site (controversially referred to as 'The Ground Zero Mosque') and meant to promote interfaith tolerance & understanding through dialogue and to counterbalance radicalism, stirs a firestorm. Enraged criticism from Lower Manhattan residents & 9/11 victims' families, charge they were not properly consulted about the proposed development and that the building itself - replacing a former Burlington Coat Factory that was damaged by debris in the twin tower attacks (and designed to contain a theater, auditorium, art school, gym, swimming pool, basketball court, bookstore, food court & commemorative 9/11 memorial for the victims) near sacred ground, is in extreme bad taste & insultingly dishonors the dead. Since 9/11 more people live with their families in the centralized area of the site than ever before in the previous history of the neighbourhood but inspite of the development's support of a downtown community board & being unanimously endorsed (Mayor Michael Bloomberg being in favor), loud n' booing protesters (from public debates frequently breaking out into shouting matches) and harsh right-wing media remain incensed over what they deem the shameful insensitivity of the intentional mosque standing as a despicable slap in the face tarnishing the area & calling Islam a "religion of hate". By late Sept 2011, the project developer opened a 4000 sq.ft. Islamic center in the renovated location space with hopes to build the larger planned project within several years.
First appearing on Facebook, Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida declared he would burn 200 Korans on the 2010 anniversary of 9/11 & the ensuing media-frenzy coverage quickly resulted in international outrage sparking pleas from the leaders of several countries including Canada, France, Germany, Pakistan, Iran, Cuba, Indonesia and world bodies such as The Vatican City, NATO & the UN. President Barack Obama condemned the ceremonial stunt as an act not only of religious intolerance & bigotry but warned it could put American soldiers overseas at risk with Al-Qaeda & terrorist sympathizers retaliating for the defilement of their holy book. For his announced act of desecration, Jones received numerous death threats and spawned riots in the Middle East & parts of Asia all the while igniting deep debates about freedom of speech, expression & censorship. After Gainsville refused to grant his church a burning permit, a bank holding a $140,000 mortgage loan on the property demanded immediate repayment of the balance then cancelled the insurance. A web hosting service for his church disconnected the site & the city said it would charge $200,000 for the cost of providing him security. All of these disuading factors led to Jones cancelling the burning on Sept 9, 2010. On Mar 20, 2011, Jones held a mock-trial of the Koran finding it guilty of crimes of humanity & sentencing it to execution. The book was burned in the church sanctuary. Upon hearing this news on Apr 1, 2011, angered protesters in Afghanistan attacked a UN Mission killing atleast 30 people (7 of whom were UN workers) & injuring 150. Jones denied any responsibility.
May 2, 2011
9yrs, 7 months & 20 days after 9/11, Osama Bin Laden at long last is finally killed after a gunbattle with US Navy SEAL & CIA paramilitary forces at a compound in Abbottabad,Pakistan. The elite commandos were launched from Afghanistan & dropped by 4 helicopters in a secret raid (one of the choppers crashed & was destroyed by the US team as the mission went forward). The men were on the ground for 40-45 minutes as the entire operation was watched in real-time by members of the Obama administration, intelligence n' national security officials. Bin Laden guards opened fire as the SEAL team blasted their way floor-to-floor in the assault finally cornering him on a 3rd floor room to which 2 of his sons, 2 of his most trusted couriers & a bewildered Bin Laden himself were shot dead. Also killed was an unidentified woman (said to be a wife) apparently used as a human shield. 2 more wives & another 4 of his children were captured. The troubling discovery that he was living in an expensive 2-storey house 100-yards (less than a mile) from a military academy (described as an equivalent to West Point) housing soldiers & police units (less than 100km drive from the capital Islamabad) raised serious questions as to how he managed to evade capture and if his whereabouts where known all along as well as a having protection, a support system & the shelter provided for him. It was suggested that he had been in the residence for 5yrs. Pakistan's government categorically denied all the allegations, promising a full inquiry while having to explain how their own intelligence servies failed to find Bin Laden. After the raid, the American forces took Bin Laden's body to Afghanistan for identification, then buried it at sea within 24hrs (to the consternation of many Muslims around the world who felt that inspite of their religion, he was unworthy of the strict ritual). Understandably with Bin Laden's death was an emotion of justice delivered, there was great elation & revelling in the bloodlust and just as quickly (because of the initial unconfirmed news n' rumors spreading like wildfire), conspiracy theories began flying as to whether the world's most wanted terrorist was infact really dead -- especially stemming from the White House refusal to issue video or photos of the corpse (thus fuel for the paranoid skeptics & lunatic fringe spewing denials n' denouncements for years to come citing disbelief without authentic proof of a lifeless body).
Jul 13, 2011
3 co-ordinated bomb explosions in Mumbai which caused the jamming of phone lines and put metro cities like Dehli, Bangalore & Hyderabad on high alert, kill 26 people & injure 130. Victim compensation from 50,000-500,000 rupees was announced for the kin & families of the dead and survivors who were seriously wounded. Speculation of responsiblity for the blasts ranged from the Indian Mujahideen, Mumbai gangsters connected to the murder of a journalist & the possibility of Kashmiri groups plotting to derail the Indo-Pakistani peace process. Along with accusations of lax security concerns, the police were heavily criticized when they detained several men (one of whom died in custody sparking allegations of brutality when the deceased man's family members charged he was subjected to torture) and the investigation provided no real viable suspects. Several countries offered their sympathies & expressed outrage over the terrorist acts.
Was the WTC an act of controlled demolition? Was the Pentagon really hit by an airliner or was it a missile? Was the American govt in cahoots with the terrorists on 9/11? I like conspiracy theories as much as the next person: notions of clandestine corporations, shadowy operatives, secret oraganizations, corrupt collusions & cover-ups… all acting against our better interests with a sinister agenda. However far-fetched, my curiosity is captured in this 'all bets are off' arena but the real friction/schism between believers & skeptics is credibility. In the assertion of bold, shocking claims there has to be more than just a modicum of proof & strong suspicions but a solid foundation with a basis of supported evidence to outweigh being outright dismissed. Without absolute certainty, how will/can we ever know/trust what is supplied as definitive when we are filled with doubt? I’m all for hearing 2 sides of the story (and granted, all viewpoints have a slant) but if real backing has no documentation or fact & is instead replaced by bias, then all that is produced is wild unfounded speculation in which thin argument ironically allows for a mass to run with the ball. To knowingly go this angle is too easily asking for trouble so maybe stirring the pot, hornet’s nest or opening cans of worms is to deliberately spark spotlight for the sake of investigation. Either way, in the search for answers, blind acceptance instead of proper examination appears to be evermore an accessory against the quest for truth.