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Official policy targeting weddings?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — as if in brutal proof that “the bed waiting inside belongs to death” — that bridal and burial veils are one ]

Does the Coalition have an official policy targeting weddings?

Sorry to be so blunt about this, but I get déjà vu these days when I read about Coalition attacks on wedding parties.


Today, for instance, WaPo has this headline:


I believe that headline is only in white on a black background because that’s the “style” for WaPo’s “video channel” pages — but it’s suitable, really, eh? Funereal?

Lest we forget, let’s see, now, Wikipedia has entries for:

  • Deh Bala wedding party airstrike of July 6, 2008
  • Wech Baghtu wedding party airstrike of November 3, 2008
  • **

    Then there’s December 12, 2013, reported by the admirable Greg Johnsen:

    Greg Johnsen

    If I’m not mistaken, that was also the occasion of these two headlines from Conor Friedsdorf:

    Friedsdorf 02

    Friedsdorf 01

    Stunning, those headlines. Of course there may have been other funereal weddings that I’ve missed.


    Oh, and there’s always the money to consider:

    more than $1 million


    Headline sources:

  • Air strike on Yemen wedding kills
  • Sorry our drones hit your wedding party
  • If a drone strike hit an American wedding
  • The Wedding That a U.S. Drone Strike Turned Into a Funeral
  • Yemeni victims of U.S. military drone strike
  • Gregory Johnsen’s piece is beautifully written as always. Conor Friedsdorf’s title alone — The Wedding That a U.S. Drone Strike Turned Into a Funeral — deserves high praise.


    Déjà vu? If these things keep on happening, I’ll have to call them flashbacks.

    Religious aspects of the conflict in Yemen – no easy answers

    Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — an attempt to make it clear how complex the various religious affiliations in the Yemeni conflict are ]

    My latest piece for LapidoMedia, briefing journalists on religious aspects of contemporary news, is now posted there under a slightly modified title:

    BRIEFING: The roots of conflict in Yemen – no easy answers

    by Charles Cameron – 22nd April 2015

    Credit: screencap from PBS Frontline, The Fight for Yemen

    Credit: screencap from PBS Frontline, The Fight for Yemen

    THE prophet Muhammad is recorded as saying: ‘When disaster threatens, seek refuge in Yemen.’

    He spoke those words after he and his small band of followers had been driven out of Mecca, and before it was clear that their emigration – the Hijra – to Medina would prove the success that turned the tide in favor of the new religion. Not surprisingly, then, religion means much to the Yemeni people and Yemen much to pious Muslims.

    Indeed, less than a minute into the April 2015 PBS Frontline special on Yemen, reporter Safa Al Ahmad is told by a Houthi informant ‘Our borders are the Holy Quran and the Islamic and Arab world’.

    In an article titled The Middle East’s Franz Ferdinand Moment: Why the Islamic State’s claimed attack in Yemen could spark an Arab World War, JM Berger of Brookings gives us context:

    ‘The crisis in Yemen is one of the more complicated stories to emerge from a complicated region. It involves a cyclone of explosive elements: religious extremism, proxy war, sectarian tension, tribal rivalries, terrorist rivalries and US counterterrorism policies. There is little consensus on which element matters most, although each has its fierce partisans.’

    Berger offers the bombing of two Sanaa mosques on March 20 as his candidate for the spark that ignited the current situation in Yemen – just as the bombing of the Shiite al-Askari Mosque in Samarra was a turning point leading to all-out sectarian civil war in Iraq.


    Since Lapido commissioned this piece, they deserve your clicks: please read the rest of the article on the Lapido site.

    The Middle East in two War Games — and a tribute to Ibrahim Mothana

    Friday, September 6th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — with regard to Mothana: the voice of sanity is not easily heard in the asylum ]

    Here’s most everything you need to know about the complexities of the Middle East, spelled out in two simple war games:


  • McCain plays poker during Syria war hearing
  • Detail from Yemeni Politics — The Board Game
  • **

    The Yemen politics game was the work of 24 year old Ibrahim Mothana, who died this week. His moving NYT op-ed about his beloved Yemen in June last year told us:

    Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair. Robert Grenier, the former head of the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, has warned that the American drone program in Yemen risks turning the country into a safe haven for Al Qaeda like the tribal areas of Pakistan — “the Arabian equivalent of Waziristan.”

    Anti-Americanism is far less prevalent in Yemen than in Pakistan. But rather than winning the hearts and minds of Yemeni civilians, America is alienating them by killing their relatives and friends. Indeed, the drone program is leading to the Talibanization of vast tribal areas and the radicalization of people who could otherwise be America’s allies in the fight against terrorism in Yemen.

    His written testimony for the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights can be found in this Guardian post from Glenn Greenwald in May of this year.

    Mothana had many admirers across the spectrum, as this tweet from Gregory Johnsen attests:

    We mourn his loss, and ask for peace.

    Jottings 2: Dr Fadl book announcement

    Friday, May 3rd, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — I got the announcement via Cole Bunzel, and Kévin Jackson kindly informed me that Dr Fadl is currently free ]


    Dr Fadl‘s announcement, in Arabic, is here — I had to use Google Translate, which wouldn’t pass a Turing test. However…


    A while back, I made a post here titled Will Dr Fadl retract his Retractions? in which I wrote:

    Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, popularly known as Dr Fadl, wrote two of the key works of jihadist ideology, The Essential Guide for Preparation and the thousand-page Compendium of the Pursuit of Divine Knowledge, in the late 1980s — thereby providing his friend from student days, Ayman al-Zawahiri, with powerful scholarly backing for the doctrines of militant jihad and takfirism. Lawrence Wright refers to Fadl as an “Al-Qaeda mastermind” in a detailed 2008 New Yorker analysis.

    Dr Fadl was imprisoned without trial in the Yemen shortly after 9/11, but it was after he had been transferred to an Egyptian prison in 2004 that he wrote Rationalizing Jihad, the first volume of his “retractions” — a work so powerful in its attack on his own earlier jihadist doctrine that al-Zawahiri felt obliged to respond with a two-hundred page letter of rebuttal. A second volume from Dr. Fadl followed more recently.

    If Dr Fadl regains his liberty, the question arises whether he will claim his critiques of jihadist dictrine were obtained by force, and effectively retract his retractions – or whether he will stand by them, as I somehow expect he might — still declaring, this time as a free man, that “There is nothing that invokes the anger of God and His wrath like the unwarranted spilling of blood and wrecking of property,” and “There is nothing in the Sharia about killing Jews and the Nazarenes, referred to by some as the Crusaders. They are the neighbors of the Muslims … and being kind to one’s neighbors is a religious duty.”


    As late as October 2012, I was noting an Atlantic piece by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Aaron Zelin on How the Arab Spring’s Prisoner Releases Have Helped the Jihadi Cause, and asking whether Dr Fadl had been released in my post Quick update / pointer: GR & AZ on prisoner release — but now we know.

    In response to an inquiry I tweeted after seeing Bunzel‘s tweet above — asking whether Dr Fadl was still imprisoned, albeit more comfortably than most — Kévin Jackson replied:

    I’m no Arabist, but I’d guess we can take it that Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif aka Dr Fadl is talking freely in this book, which he says will cover both his experience of the history of AQ “from the womb (the Afghan jihad against communism) … to the end” in detail, with dates and names, and “all this with the background of the study of Islamic jurisprudence that distinguish between right and wrong, and this is a jurisprudential historical book.”


    Tricky that, the need to rely on Google Translate. Once again I regret my lack of umpteen languages.

    Thomas Hegghammer on Morten Storm

    Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — in case you missed TH’s tweets on Storm today ]


    Here’s a quick overview of Morton Storm, the complex figure who is reported to have brought Anwar al-Awlaqi a bride from Europe — and thus betrayed Awlaqi’s whereabouts to the Agency:

    After converting to Islam, a former member of a Danish motorcycle gang travels to Yemen to study the Quran and soon comes in contact with radical preachers waging holy war against the West.

    On the verge of becoming a jihadist, he abruptly abandons his faith and embarks on a dangerous undercover mission to help Western intelligence agencies capture or kill terrorists.

    Morten Storm, 37, claims he worked for six years as an informant for the CIA, Britain’s MI5 and MI6 and Denmark’s security service, PET. All declined to comment for this article.

    “Could they just say `he never worked for us’? Sometimes silence is also information,” Storm told AP in Copenhagen. “I know this is true, I know what I have done.”

    Storm’s unlikely story, told in a new book and an interview with The Associated Press, has the drama and intrigue of a “Homeland” episode. But the burly, red-bearded Dane insists his tale isn’t fiction.

    Storm said he decided to reveal his secret-agent life to the media – he first spoke to a Danish newspaper in October – because he felt betrayed by his agent runners.

    In particular, he was upset that he wasn’t given credit for the airstrike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a senior al-Qaida figure, in Yemen in 2011.


    Thomas Hegghammer, author of the two books depicted above, and a highly respected academic specialist in terrorism and poliical violence, tweeted:

    Enjoying new book on Danish ex-jihadi Morten Storm. Some highlights:

    1) Regents pk mosque da’i sends Storm to Muqbil in Yemen in 97

    2) Storm travels from Sanaa to Dammaj with “Rashid”, aging Afro-American Korea vet. They join 3000 Salafists in “gigantic boy scout camp”

    3) in 98, after 8 months wMuqbil, Storm goes to Sana’a to find wife. Connects with jihad vets from Bosnia, Afgh. Weds, divorces Djbouti girl

    4) Back to UK, Denmark; marries in Morocco; to Yemen again in 2001; almost goes to pre 9/11 Afgh; preaches jihad in Ta’iz (2001-2) instead.

    5) Returns to DK in 2002 with wife and son Osama. Joins radicals in Vollsmose. “Jihad training” (obstacle course and paintball) in Odense

    6) Moves to Luton in 2003; meets Omar Bakri, Taymour Abdelwahhab; demonstrates and jihad trains (in Barton Hills) with al-Muhajiroun

    7) Thought 7/7 bombings were “cool”; found Bakri and Choudhry too soft; went to Yemen again in Jan 2006 but found no jihadis to join

    8) Prepared to fight in Somalia in late 2006, but trip called off. Annoyed, he starts to doubt; turns completely after 2 weeks of googling

    9) becomes PET informant in Jan 2007; sent to Tripoli, Lebanon in April to report on Raed Hlayhel, Omar Bakri, Fath al-Islam.

    10) Meets w/MI6 and CIA (Jennifer Matthews) in spring of 2007; sent to UK for spy training; then travels between DK, UK, Kenya and Yemen.

    11) Storm had taken classes with Awlaqi in 2006; Awlaqi helped Storm find a wife. Storm back in Sana in Aug 2008, they reconnect.

    12) Aug: 2008: Awlaqi visits Storm’s flat; Awlaqi impressed by Dane’s Shabaab contacts. Awlaqi and Warsame speak on Storm’s mobile

    13) next meeting in Sep 2009 in al-Hawta (Shabwa); Awlaqi mentions plots in West; wants fridge to store explosives, and help finding wife

    14) Late 2009: Storm helps US-led operation against Saleh Nabhan in Somalia. Storm stays in touch w Awlaqi by email in 2009-2010

    15) late Nov 2009: random female Awlaqi fan from Croatia contacts Storm via FB fanpage. Storm vets her and puts her in touch wAA.

    16) Storm meets “Aminah” in Vienna in March 2010; shows her video from AA and records one of her for AA; gives her CIA-bugged suitcase.

    17) On 2 June 2010 Aminah flies to Yemen. On arrival, cautious AA aides discard her suitcase. Storm still gets $250k cash from CIA.

    18) New plan in spring 2011: go to Yemen, send AA a tracked USB. In Sanaa, Storm connects wAA, shops ladies items for Aminah on his request.

    19) early Sep 2011: AA courier picks up tracked USB from Storm. AA killed on 30 Sep. Storm, back in DK, expects recognition as key agent

    20) Storm, outraged at lack of recognition and reward, plots revenge. He secretly records next CIA meeting, then contacts press. THE END


    PS: E-book version of the Morten Storm biography (Danish only) available here: http://tiny.cc/2wfxqw Sorry for overposting – I’ll shut up now


    I’d asked Hegghammer’s impression of the book’s (and Storm’s) credibility, while Aaron Zelin had commented on TH’s #7 above:

    Right before the jailbreak in Feb ’06.

    To which Hegghammer responded:

    Exactly. It’s details like this (plus pics, receipts, recording etc) that makes it very credible

    Will McCants has the last word…

    also, his last name gives him superhero status


    The brief account of Morton Storm at the top of this post is from Huffington Post. Name links are to twitter feeds, all are recommended. Hegghammer’s books are available on Amazon.

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