The UK is moving swiftly to implement its pledged expulsion of "preachers of hate," launching early-morning raids Aug. 11 to round up 10 Muslim militants. The 10 face deportation to their countries of origin under new anti-terrorism measures outlined by Prime Minister Tony Blair last week. Among those detained is Abu Qatada, a cleric often described as al-Qaeda's "spiritual ambassador" in Europe. Britain seeks to deport Abu Qatada to Jordan, where he has been tried in absentia and sentenced to life imprisonment in connection with various alleged terrorist plots. Britain assures that it has secured an agreement from Jordan's government guaranteeing that deportees will not be tortured or executed. Blair said his government is seeking similar agreements with other Middle East nations.
Kosovo's Albanian-led interim regime has issued a "Plan B" for administrative decentralization following the recent rejection of the original pilot project by local Serb leaders. Kosovo's minister for local self-government, Lutfi Haziri, said Serb objections had been taken into account, compromising on the boundaries of internal districts. The government gave Serb political leaders until Aug. 10 to say whether they will accept the revised plan. If they reject it, the government will revert to its original pilot project. But Oliver Ivanovic, a leader of the Serbian Lists for Kosovo and Metohija, said that Serb representatives do not recognize any deadline for reaching their decision. (RFE/RL Newsline, Aug. 10) Kosovo's government is under international pressure to do more for minority rights and democracy before a decision on whether "final status" talks can start this year. A major issue is decentralising power to Serbs, who live in enclaves guarded by NATO-led peacekeepers. (Reuters, Aug. 10)
Haroon Rashid Aswat, a suspect in the London bombings, is in a British prison after having been extradited from Zambia. Authorities assert that he met with Osama bin Laden at a training camp in Afghanistan. He may also face extradition to the US on charges of seeking to establish a terrorist camp in Oregon. (London Times, Aug. 9)
A top Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitive wanted by the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia for atrocities during the 1992-95 Bosnia war was arrested in Argentina Aug. 8. Milan Lukic, who went underground after the war ended, is being held in a Buenos Aires jail. Lukic was indicted on several counts of crimes against humanity by the tribunal at The Hague in 2000. A Belgrade court also convicted him for the 1992 slaying of 16 Muslims and later sentenced him in absentia to 20 years in prison.
In his Aug. 4 video-communique, al-Qaeda bigshot Ayman al-Zawahiri claimed that the 7-7 bombings were payback for British participation in the United States' "policy of aggression against Muslims." While not directly taking credit for the London bombings, he promised more attacks on Britain, the US and other allies, saying "tens of thousands" more American troops will be killed in Iraq if there isn't an immediate withdrawal. Bob Ayers, a counterterrorism expert at Chatham House, Britain's most prestigious think-tank, says: "By linking the bombings to Iraq, he basically sent the message that no matter what Blair says, Iraq is the reason. He's calling Blair a liar." (CSM, Aug. 5, via TruthOut)
More arrests in the London attacksthis time of Somali immigrants in Birmingham. From Saudi Arabia's English-language Arab News, July 28:
In a dramatic breakthrough yesterday, Scotland Yard confirmed they have arrested 24 -year-old Yasin Hassan Omar, one of the four failed bombers who tried to detonate a bomb in Warren Street tube station last Thursday.
A Muslim-owned store in a Leeds suburb was set ablaze the night of July 22 in what police called a racially motivated attack. No one was injured in the fire, which destroyed a convenience store in the suburb of Harehills. But the attack, which occurred across the street from the Bilal mosque in the working-class section of town, is being investigated as a "malicious incident." Iqbal Khan, the owner of the store, said the fire began when four white youths started setting merchandise ablaze, then ran out. He said he was able to escape before the store went up in flames.
Another attempted multiple simultaneous bombing on the London transit system, which fortunately seems to have failed--but not without sparking another death on the Underground, this time at the hands of the police. (Remember when London "bobbies" famously didn't carry guns?) And now police are conducting random searches on the New York subways. (NYT, July 22) A press release from the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) protests the policy as unconstitutional (thank goodness!), but doesn't say they will challenge it in court. From TruthOut: