Osama bin Laden
Tripoli's airport has been severely damaged and several commercial planes destroyed in heavy fighting between armed groups, prompting the United Nations to pull its staff out of Libya. A coalition of Islamist militias under the banner of Operation Fajr, or Dawn, is apparently attempting to wrest control of the facility from the Zintani militias stationed there. At least 15 people have been killed in clashes in Tripoli and Benghazi in the past three dfays. (Reuters, July 15; Libya Herald, July 13) Meanwhile, Islamist militant Faraj al-Shibli, named by the US as a suspect in the 2012 attack in Benghazi, was found dead in the eastern town of Marj, where he had reportedly been detained by a local militia over the weekend. Al-Shibli, a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, had been detained by government forces last year, and was apparently interrogated by the FBI—before being released without explanation. He had been wanted by the Qaddafi regime in connection with the murder of a German intelligence agent in Sirte in 1994. Libyan authorities also issued an arrest warrant for Osama bin Laden in connection with the crime. (CNN, July 14)
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on July 14 overturned two out of three convictions of Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al-Bahlul (HRW profile), the media secretary of Osama Bin Laden. The court vacated Bahlul's convictions for providing material support for terrorism and solicitation of others to commit war crimes but did not overturn his conviction for conspiracy to commit terrorism, remanding that issue to the Court of Military Commission Review (CMCR). A three-judge panel of the appeals court had ruled last year that the military tribunal that convicted Bahlul of conspiracy in 2007 erred because a Guantánamo prisoner could not be convicted of conspiracy unless his crime took place after 2006. The court explained that the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006 codified conspiracy as a war crime, but did not apply to crimes committed before the MCA was passed. The en banc court disagreed, ruling "that the 2006 MCA is unambiguous in its intent to authorize retroactive prosecution for the crimes enumerated in the statute—regardless of their pre-existing law-of-war status." Nonetheless, the court vacated the other two convictions, concluding that trying Bahlul by military commission for providing material support was "a plain ex post facto violation," and that "solicitation of others to commit war crimes is plainly not an offense traditionally triable by military commission." The new ruling could result in a reduction of Bahlul's life sentence.
The Periodic Review Secretariat, a national security panel under the authority of the US Department of Defense (DoD), on April 24 recommended (PDF) the release of a Yemeni prisoner currently held at Guantánamo Bay. The prisoner, Ali Ahmad Mohamed al-Razihi, was suspected of acting as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and has been held at Guantánamo since 2002. The Periodic Review Secretariat determines whether certain individuals detained at Guantánamo represent a continuing significant threat to the security of the US such that their continued detention is warranted. In making the determination, the security review panel considered the detainee's plans for the future and the level of his involvement with al-Qaeda, including his behavior throughout detention. The journalist and Guantánamo expert Andy Worthington released a copy of al-Razihi's statement delivered before the review board of the Periodic Review Secretariat on March 20.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, was found guilty on March 26 of both conspiring to kill Americans and providing terrorists with material support, following a jury trial in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Abu Ghaith, who was convicted for his role as spokesman for al Qaeda, is the highest ranking al Qaeda figure to face trial on US soil. At trial, the jury heard recordings of Abu Ghaith's voice on propaganda videos and saw a video where he appeared next to bin Laden. Abu Ghaith also unexpectedly took the stand and described in detail his conversation with bin Laden hours after the 9-11 attacks. Abu Ghaith faces possible life in prison for conspiring to kill Americans and a maximum of 15 years for each additional count that he was convicted of.
An apparent US drone strike in Yemen's Marib province—the fourth reported in the last 10 days—killed four purported al-Qaeda militants Aug. 6. The strikes come as the Yemeni government is "deeply disappointed" in the US decision to evacuate embassy staff, an official said. "It plays into the hands of al-Qaeda," the official warned. (LAT, Aug. 6) On the same day as the new drone strike, tribesmen in Marib shot down an army helicopter, killing eight soldiers, during a clash as workers attempted to repair a main oil pipeline blown up by saboteurs. (AFP, Aug. 6) Fighting has also returned to the capital, with least one killed in clashes between soliders and troops of the ostensibly disbanded Republican Guard, who were holding a protest in central Sanaa. (BBC News, Aug. 2)
Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law and al-Qaeda's one-time media voice Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was seized by CIA agents and taken to the US after Turkey deported him to Jordan this month, it was revelaed March 7. AFP reports that Abu Ghaith was seized by Turkish authorities last month at a luxury hotel in Ankara after a tip-off from CIA, and was held there despite a US request for his extradition. Turkey apparently deported Abu Ghaith to Jordan on March 1 to be sent back to his native Kuwait, but he was seized by CIA agents in Jordan and taken to the United States. In a revelation that could be convenient for the slowly mounting war drive, it appears that before arriving in Turkey, Abu Ghaith had been in Iran...
Britain's The Telegraph on Feb. 13 reports on a document reportedly found by their reporter in the ruins of a Gendarmerie Nationale barracks outside Timbuktu that had been used by the jihadists and then destroyed in a French air-strike. The document, purportedly the notes from a March 18, 2012 leadership meeting of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), chaired by AQIM "prince" Abu Musab Abdul Wadoud, is said to lay bare AQIM's plan to consolidate control of northern Mali, stating: "We had to think of the necessity to draw a plan to command and control the jihad activities there at this critical moment and target all efforts to achieve the required goals." The supposed document is portrayed as especially expressing concerns over Ansar Dine, the faction that controlled Timbuktu, as too independent. An AP account claims their own reporter found the document, and identifies Wadoud as nom de guerre of Abdelmalek Droukdel, the AQIM top commander supposedly appointed by Osama bin Laden.
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Jan. 25 vacated the conspiracy conviction of Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al-Bahlul (HRW profile), former media secretary of Osama bin Laden. The DC Circuit ruled that the military tribunal that convicted al-Bahlul of conspiracy in 2007 erred because a Guantánamo prisoner could not be convicted of conspiracy unless his crime took place after 2006. The court explained that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 codified conspiracy as a war crime, but did not apply to crimes committed before the MCA was passed. Al-Bahlul was captured in 2001. The US has 90 days to appeal the DC Circuit's decision to the US Supreme Court.