(CBS News) LONDON - Eighteen months after anti-Assad street protests spiraled into all-out civil war, sources inside Aleppo tell CBS News that many of the business leaders, scholars and other prominent figures in Syria's largest city, who have backed President Bashar Assad and his family for decades, no longer see a future under his rule.
CBS News has learned that at least 48 of Aleppo's elite, calling themselves the "Front of Aleppo Islamic Scholars" (FAIS) - which has a Facebook page established just last year - have hand-picked a provisional city council to take over Aleppo when Assad loses his grip on the country - and they are gambling on one of the many rebel groups fighting in the city to become its eventual protectors.Continue »
(CBS News) Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass is the highest-profile military officer to defect from Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, but he's not the first member of his wealthy and powerful family to distance himself from the dictator.
Two of Tlass' cousins, themselves former officers in the Syrian military, joined the opposition Syrian Free Army months ago. They have since become folk heroes as commanders of SFA fighters in Rastan, near Homs.
The Tlass family is Sunni and has been influential for decades in maintaining support among the Sunni elite for the Assads, who are Alawites.
Tlass was a childhood friend of President Assad, and their fathers were also friends and political allies. Haafez al Assad appointed Mustafa Tlass to the post of Defense Minister -- a position he held from 1972 to 2004. Earlier this year, Mustafa left Syria after what was reported to be an argument with a senior member of the regime, and now lives in Paris.Continue »
Al Qaeda's newly appointed chief Ayman al-Zawahri hailed what he described "the defeat of America in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Afghanistan" in yet another speech dedicated to the Arab spring. Al-Zawahri devoted a major portion of his speech to Libya, congratulating Libyan people on the fall of the Gaddafi regime and warning against NATO's hidden colonial intentions.
"O' our people in Libya ... O' Mujahideen ... sons of the Mujahideen .. O' supporters of Islam in Libya ... beware of the plots of the West and its allies as you build your new country. Don't let them fool you and steal your sacrifices and your sufferance," Al-Zawahri said, as he urged Libyans to choose a "pure and pious Jihadi leadership" that would adopt Shariah law as the country's new constitution.
The remarks aren't the first time al-Zawahri has sought to capitalize on the string of government-toppling protests known as the Arab Spring. In an audio recording last month, he claimed that the Sept. 11 terror attacks paved the way for the "Arab volcano" that has swept over the region.Continue »
Al Qaeda in Yemen has released an edition of its English-language magazine, "Inspire," celebrating the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
In the magazine, the group decries Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent remarks at the United Nations suggesting that the U.S. and Israeli spy agency Mossad may have orchestrated the attacks, saying that Ahmadinejad sought to discredit al Qaeda because "it succeeded where the Iranians had failed."
"Iran and the Shi'a in general do not want to give al Qaeda credit for the greatest and biggest operation ever committed against America because this would expose their lip-service jihad against the Great Satan," author Abu-Suhail wrote.
One article included a quote from slain al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in which he advised fellow mujahedeen not to be too discouraged by America's superpower status, which he described as false propaganda.
Thousands of Palestinians Friday gathered in the streets of West Bank cities to watch President Mahmoud Abbas address the U.N. General Assembly on giant screens in a festive atmosphere. On hearing Abbas' confirmation of the region's request to become a U.N. member state, the crowd roared.
"With our souls, with our blood, we will defend Palestine," some people said.
The same crowd earlier set fire to U.S. flags in protest to President Obama's remarks about vetoing the Palestinian bid in the Security Council.
But 10 years on, it appears the "glory days" of e-jihad are long gone.
In the past couple of years there were visible signs that al Qaeda was struggling to maintain its dominance in the 21st century media war. Many jihadi forums have been hacked into and taken down. Propaganda videos have declined (both in quantity and quality), and the overall activity on blogs has dropped considerably.
Ayman Nour, leader of the Al-Ghad party, told CBS News that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's announcement that he would remain in power but not seek re-election was a "maneuver" rather than a reaction to the revolution that swept the country.
(Watch at left a CBS News special report on Mubarak's announcement)
Nour described the speech as "extremely disappointing" and said the opposition has already set their demands and the president's speech did not satisfy any of them.
Nour said all opposition groups would be holding a meeting Wednesday at the headquarters of Al-Ghad at noon local time (5 a.m. Eastern time) to discuss the speech.
Here's a sampling of what might be said at the meeting:Continue »
Embattled Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak dispatched his newly appointed vice president to announce on state television that talks will begin with all political powers.
Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman appeared on the government-controlled television station to say that Mubarak tapped him to initiate the talks, CBS News' Khaled Wassef reports.
Suleiman, a close Mubarak confident who the embattled leader appointed Saturday as his first vice president in his 30-year rule, also announced that several political reforms will be announced within days.
Among those reforms, fighting unemployment and abolishing corruption will be a priority, Suleiman said.
Suleiman also announced that some elections will be held where an appeals court had ordered a re-vote but the government had disregarded.
Sept. 4, 2010: Yemen announces the arrest of a top AQAP leader, ex-Gitmo detainee Jaber al-Fayfi.
Sept. 21, 2010: AQAP kidnap senior Yemeni security officer in Saada, and request the release of Fayfi in exchange for the Yemeni officer.
(On Oct. 15, Saudi authorities announced that Fayfi has turned himself in to Saudi authorities, was repatriated to Riyadh from Yemen.)
Sept. 2010: U.S. intelligence officials are warned by the Saudis that terrorists were planning to mail chemical and biological materials, as part of an attack on America and other Western countries using the mail.
Sept 23, 2010: The alert was published in a bulletin from the Homeland Security Department
Oct. 28, 2010: Leicestershire police called to East Midlands airport at 3:28 a.m. BST to check out a suspicious package that was shipped aboard UPS plane.
The parcel was a printer containing an ink cartridge with protruding wires, a circuit board and partly covered in a white powder. The parcel turned out to contain explosives.
U.K. inform counter-terrorism officials in the U.S. At 10:35 p.m. EST time, President Obama was informed of the find.
Oct. 29, 2010: News emerges about four UPS planes quarantined and searched for suspicious packages in the U.S., and other suspicious packages being checked out in the U.K. and France.
NYPD seize a UPS truck known to have a package from Yemen on board. Truck was later cleared.
Report says anti-terror authorities in the U.S. and the U.K. examining suspected explosive packages addressed to Chicago-area synagogues and packed aboard cargo jets.
Pictures released of the suspect package intercepted in the U.K., show a printer's ink cartridge containing white powder and a mobile phone circuit board. The white substance is confirmed to be PETN.
Second suspect package sent from the same source in Yemen via FedEx, discovered at FedEx warehouse at Dubai airport. Turned out to be identical to that intercepted in the U.K.
President Obama makes a TV address, says that both packages did contain explosives -- that they were essentially bombs -- and that they represented a "credible terrorist threat against our country".
John Brennan, the President's assistant for homeland security and counter-terrorism says the U.S. was acting on specific intelligence that had identified a parcel shipped on a UPS flight via the East Midlands
Oct. 30, 2010: Dubai police issues a statement confirming suspect parcel was a bomb that contained PETN and lead azide PbN6, an explosive generally used in detonators.
"The investigation into the suspicious packages that came from Yemen has shown that (one of them included) a computer printer whose ink contained explosive material. The device was prepared in a professional manner and equipped with an electrical circuit linked to a mobile telephone (SIM) card concealed in the printer. The manner in which this device was prepared bears the hallmarks of those used by terrorist organizations like al Qaeda."
Dubai Police release pictures showing an HP printer, an electric circuit board fitted to printer. (Dubai Police pictures downloaded from the Emirates News Agency Website)
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says parcel bombs sent from Yemen bear the hallmarks of AQAP.
Yemeni authorities say that are inspecting a number of suspicious packages, made some arrests in relation to the plot.
U.S. President Barack Obama discusses failed bomb plot in phone calls with Saudi King Abdullah and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
British Home Secretary Theresa May says U.S.-bound package from Yemen was a "viable" bomb that could've brought down an aircraft if it had been triggered.
U.K. forensic experts say one of the two bombs was linked to a mobile phone, the other was attached to a timer, and were designed to explode in mid-air.
More on Terror Packages:
Yemen Arrests Woman for Sending Mail Bombs
U.K. Official: Device Could Have Exploded
U.K. Official: Device Could Have Exploded
Investigators Searching for More Mail Bombs
Security Gaps Plague Cargo Shipping
Explosives Found on Planes Amid U.S. Terror Probe
PETN Explosive a Favorite of Terrorists
Obama Won't Change Travel Plans in Light of Threat
More on Yemen and AQAP:
Yemen: The Next Front Line Against al Qaeda
Yemen Eyed as Source of Suspicious Packages
Yemen Officials Downplay Report that Radical Cleric Cornered
C.I.A. Drones May Target Yemen TerroristsConcern Over Yemen Terror
CIA: Al Qaeda in Yemen Now Biggest Threat
Ten years after the deadly attack on the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole in the Gulf of Aden, al Qaeda once again struck at sea with a suicide attack on a Japanese oil tanker.
A UAE Coast Guard source confirmed Friday that the tanker, M. Star, was the target of a terrorist attack while passing through international waters near the Strait of Hormouz on July 28.
''UAE explosives experts who collected and examined samples found a dent on the starboard side above the water line and remains of homemade explosives on the hull," the source said. "Probably the tanker had encountered a terrorist attack from a boat loaded with explosives."
On Wednesday, an al Qaeda-linked group called "Abdullah Azzam Brigades" issued an online statement claiming that M. Star was the target of a kamikaze attack orchestrated by the group. It identified the suicide bomber as Ayyub al-Taishan. The group said that he blew himself up into the tanker in the Straight of Hormouz, between the U.A.E and Oman, causing major damage to the giant ship, which was carrying two million barrels of crude oil.
The attack only caused minor damage to the tanker's starboard side, but it raises serious concerns over al Qaeda's capacity to reach targets at sea, and its renewed interest in maritime Jihad.
Threats of attacks at sea have been monitored on several Jihadi blogs in recent months, as well as messages calling for the revival of this often forgotten Jihadi tradition. In April last year, jihadis published a religious study entitled: "Maritime Jihad: Its Importance, Rewards, and Advantages." The study called for a revival of maritime terrorism, and incited the Mujahideen to include it in their agenda.
"When a Mujahid at sea sets foot on a boat, he leaves all his sins behind his back, and when he steps off the boat, he is cleansed of sins like the day he was born, and god smiles at him," the publication says.
Another study - "Maritime Terrorism: A Strategic Necessity" - was published in April 2008, courtesy of an al Qaeda online publication called "Jihad Press." The study stressed the importance of including maritime operations as part of al Qaeda's strategy, especially around the Yemeni and Saudi shores.
"It has become necessary to develop the battle to include sea operations, and as the mujahideen have managed to form martyr brigades on the ground, the sea remains the next strategic step toward ruling the world and restoring the Islamic Caliphate," the study says.
Al Qaeda has previously claimed an attack on another oil tanker, the Limburg. On October 6, 2002, the French tanker was attacked by an explosives-laden boat while carrying 397,000 barrels of crude oil. The vessel caught on fire and approximately 90,000 barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf of Aden. One crew member was killed, and the damage to the tanker was estimated at $45 million.
Abdullah Azzam Brigades is an al Qaeda-linked group based in Lebanon. It is thought to be led by Saleh al-Qarawy, a wanted Saudi terrorist who's on the kingdom's list of most wanted terrorists. He fought in Iraq under the commandership of slain al Qaeda chief, Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi.
The group has claimed several attacks in Egypt, Jordan and Israel since 2005, and took credit for a failed rocket attack that targeted two U.S. warships in al-Aqaba port, in Jordan, back in August 2005. The rockets missed their target and hit a warehouse and a hospital instead, killing one Jordanian soldier.
Al-Arabiya just aired excerpts from a 40-minute videotape recorded in Pakistan and featuring failed Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad.
Shahzad appeared dressed in traditional Pakistani dress and dress turban, and his video image was cropped off and against a blue background.
The video bears the logo of Umar Studios, a well known media organization that produces Pakistani Taliban propaganda.
"This attack on the United States will also be a revenge attack for all the Mujahideen, the migrants, the weak, and the oppressed Muslims, such as martyr Baitullah and Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi and all the Arab and Muslims who were martyred. I shall carry out this attack on their behalf, and I hope that the hearts of Muslims shall be pleased with this attack, inshallah."
"Eight years have passed since the Afghanistan war and you shall see how the Muslim war has just begun and how Islam will spread across the world," the television quoted the man as saying.
"One of the most prominent thing in Islam when I came to it was Jihad," he continues. "People do their prayers, pay Zakat, fast, and perform Hajj. They follow one part of the religion, and drop another, which is the fight for the sake of Allah. Jihad means holy war for the sake of god .. it is one of the holiest deeds in Islam, and one of its pillars. With Jihad the word of Allah is raised higher, and his religion prevails. By abandoning it (Jihad), religion is destroyed, and Muslim are put in a humiliating position; their lands are stolen, and their authority is stripped from them. Eight years now have gone since the war on Afghanistan, and you shall see that the Muslims' war is only just beginning. We shall tell you how Islam is going to spread all throughout the world."Continue »
(Updated at 2:38 p.m. ET)
The North African terror group al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has threatened to attack this summer's World Cup games in South Africa.
"How amazing could the match United States vs. Britain be when broadcasted live on air at a stadium packed with spectators when the sound of an explosion rumbles through the stands, the whole stadium is turned upside down and the number of dead bodies are in their dozens and hundreds, Allah willing," reads a statement the group published in a recent issue of the Jihadi online magazine Mushtaqun Lel Jannah (Longing to Paradise).
The statement also highlights recent actions by the terrorism group such as the December suicide bombing that killed seven CIA employees and a Jordanian agent at a base in Eastern Afghanistan last December and the Christmas Day bombing attempt that resulted in the arrest of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who has been cooperating with the FBI and providing information about his contacts in Yemen and the al Qaeda affiliate that operates there.
"Al Qaeda, who managed to deliver 50 grams of explosives to the Detroit plane, after infiltrating dozens of U.S. security barriers, al Qaeda, who enabled brother martyr Abul Kheir (Abdullah Asiri) to get into the palace of Mohammed bin Nayef, al Qaeda, who humiliated the world's greatest intelligence apparatus through the operation of Mujahid Abu Dujana al-Khorassani (Humam al-Balawi), who shattered the pride of the CIA and the Jordanian intelligence combined," the statement says. "Al Qaeda will have a presence in the games, Allah willing."Continue »
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) describes in a new statement how it conducted extensive research and trials into thwarting airport screening in both the U.S. and Europe ahead of the Christmas Day bomb plot against a Detroit-bound jet.
The group boasts of the planning that went into developing the "anti-detectable device" carried in the undergarments of Nigerian suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the latest issue of its online magazine, Sada al-Malahem, which was dedicated entirely to the attack.
The article claims the group carefully surveyed security checks at various international airports and concluded that they needed a device that could beat airport X-Ray scanners, metal detection systems, and sniffer dogs.
The statement from Umaima Hassan Ahmad Muhammad Hassan was titled: "A Letter to the Muslim Sisters." In it, Mrs. Zawahri appealed to Muslim women around the world to support the Mujahideen, calling it "an obligation on all Muslims, men and women."
This is the first time the wife of a jihadi as prominent as Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, has been seen getting directly involved in recruitment efforts or the public call for holy war. Hassan was clearly targeting women, urging them to take part in Jihad, and suggesting to them various ways that they could do so.
"The role of Muslim women is very important for Islamic work; Women complement men — they must work alongside men to defend their religion, their land, and themselves," she said. "If you cannot do it physically, do it with your money. If you cannot do it with your money, do it by preaching to Muslim sisters in mosques and schools and institutes and homes. If you cannot, then do it through the Internet. Just never give up the support to our faith in whichever way you can."
Zawahiri's wife advised women, especially those who are not physically fighting alongside their men on the battlefront, that if they can't join the jihad for want of the requisite male guardian to escort them in their travels, there are other ways to serve the cause, by providing support to the Mujahideen.
"Fighting may not be easy for women, because they need a male guardian at their side," she said, "but you can do that in many other ways; we should put ourselves at the service of the Mujahideen, and do whatever they may require from us. We ought to support them with money, information, opinion, taking part in the fight, or even carrying out martyrdom operations," Umaima said, referring to suicide attacks.
Female bombers have carried out suicide attacks in Israel, Iraq and Chechnya.
"The influence of the network, damaged by U.S. efforts to choke funding, is waning," Cohen said.
In recent months, al Qaeda and its supporters have made repeated donation pleas and openly discussed ways to bypass efforts by international governments to bloc their financial flow. In August, an al Qaeda supporter going by the name Gharib Al-Ha'eli proposed measures on the al-Fallojah blog to bolster fundraising.
Al-Ha'eli suggested that al Qaeda operatives who act as intermediaries with donors — the money collectors — avoid any participation in other aspects of jihad, to help them avoid apprehension via connection with other suspects. He also said al Qaeda's senior leadership should provide the intermediaries with inside information on upcoming statements and operations, which they could pass on to the donors to boost confidence and reassure them that their money was going to be spent on the cause.
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