Thursday, July 8, 2010

FP morning brief 7/8

Norway arrests three men linked to al Qaeda

Top story: Three alleged al Qaeda members were arrested Thursday morning in a joint U.S. and Norwegian counterterrorism effort. They are believed to have been plotting a terrorist attack using portable bombs similar to those an al Qaeda cell attempted to use in a thwarted attack on the New York City subway system last year. Prosecutors on Wednesday also revealed the existence of a related plot in Manchester, England.

Officials did not release the names of the men, but described the individuals as a 39-year-old Norwegian of Uighur origin, a 37-year-old Iraqi, and a 31-year-old citizen of Uzbekistan. Two of the suspects were arrested in Norway, while the third was arrested in Germany. They had been under surveillance for over a year.

Officials believe that former al Qaeda chief of external operations Salah al-Somali was behind the plot. Somali, who also helped organize the failed New York city attack, was killed by a drone strike in Pakistan's tribal areas in December 2009. Norway is thought to have been a target because it has contributed 500 soldiers to the internatioanl war effort in Afghanistan, and because of the furor sparked by a Danish newspaper's decision in 2006 to publish 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

Spy swap in the works: U.S. and Russian officials are discussing the terms of an agreement that would free Russian scientist Ivor Sutyagin, who the Russian government accuses of being a CIA spy, in return for the release of some or all of the 10 accused Russian spies apprehended in the United States last week. Sutyagin's lawyer said that she expected her lawyer to be freed by the end of the day.

Middle East
Turkey's Constitutional Court rejected parts of the government's planned constitutional overhaul.
Five Shia pilgrims were killed in bomb attacks in Baghdad.
CNN fired Octavia Nasr, its editor for Middle East affairs, after she posted a remark on Twitter mourning the death of a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese cleric.

East Timor said that it is open to a plan for hosting a refugee reprocessing center floated by the Australian government.
Maoist rebels killed seven people in India.
The conductor of the Russian National Orchestra was arrested on rape charges in Thailand.

The Cuban government vowed to release 52 political prisoners.
Venezuela extradited an alleged terrorist to Cuba.
A Guantanamo Bay detainee reached a plea agreement with prosecutors, marking the military commission's first conviction under the Obama administration.

Violence in Sudan's oil-rich border region could affect the planned referendum on the south's independence, scheduled for next year.
China will build an $8 billion oil refinery in Nigeria.
Libya will allow 400 Eritreans to stay in the country after warnings that they will face abuse if repatriated.

The European Union granted U.S. counterterrorism investigators access to Europeans' bank data.
Poland will extradite an alleged Mossad agent, accused of involvement in the assassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai, to Germany.
Germany agreed to take in two detainees from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
-David Kenner

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