Stupid Movies, Dumb Moves

Image: Artstruck on deviantart.com
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Today there is a big conference [ar] starting, organised by Mauritania’s Tewassoul party, with high-level delegates in attendance from many Arab states, including Tunisia, Kuwait, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Algeria. I’d expect increased security in and around Nouakchott, but have not seen the usual reports of any. Last night, the political opposition coalition held a licensed event which tens of thousands attended, but they were denied permission for a similar event a couple of weeks ago, with the authorities claiming the need to avoid large gatherings because of the security risks. Yet a few days ago, the American Embassy in Mauritania issued an oddly paranoid statement to nationals, warning them to be cautious in case of unrest or protests on or near December 14 and 19. These events are likely, they claim, because of the anticipated release of another film which is deliberately insulting to Muslims,  as well as a new video about Osama bin Laden.

The Embassy in Mauritania has a quiet little Facebook page that mainly posts friendly invitations to attend the regular sessions they host for throngs of hopeful student visa applicants at the “American Corner” of Nouakchott University. The statement is not posted on Facebook, and I would never have known about it, except for a tweet from the US State Dept’s travel advisory account:

To be honest, I had ignored an earlier “exclusive” report on a local website with little to commend it in the way of credibility, which claimed the embassy had sent all residents a warning note.

People in Mauritania were baffled by the embassy’s official warning. “When did we ever see a protest in Mauritania about bin Laden?” one asked. Another said “bin Laden is no prophet, people can make any film they want about him, and no one will care.” One replied to @TravelGov:

Bearing in mind that less than 5% of the population has internet access, and even then most of the time it’s like dial-up that has been heavily sedated,  there’s precious little chance either film will reach a sizeable audience even in Nouakchott. To be super helpful in case any random terrorists really do fancy their chances, Ould Abdel Aziz listed a few potential targets during his recent speech at a UNESCO event in Paris, his default location since the 13 October incident. Taking all this into account, and  in light of recent events in Egypt and the Maghreb region, it  makes sense to stay tuned.

Stupid Movie 2

Stupid Movie 2

The sequel to the highly successful (in terms of provoking riots, and making a few people in the State Department look foolish) but very stupid “Innocence of Muslims” movie is called “The Innocent Prophet” and was delayed by the Spanish authorities threatening to revoke the Pakistani film maker Imran Firasat’s refugee status if he released it on 14 December as planned. But it’s out now, and the news cycle has calmed down enough to make space for a bigger splash than it would have gotten on December 14, given the terrible tragedy that occurred in Connecticut that day. Like it’s fore-runner, The Innocent Prophet has a staggeringly small number of views so far. I suppose intelligence agency cyber trolls will have to post the link liberally on “jihadist” forums if they want to see more riots, arson attacks and deaths in time for Christmas.

Randy Wilson was arrested by FBI officers, just as he and his family were boarding a plane in Atlanta

Randy (Rasheed)Wilson was arrested by FBI officers, just as he and his family were boarding a plane in Atlanta

(Updated 21 Dec) While I am thinking about false flags, do be on the lookout for more news about the two Alabama men arrested separately in Georgia, allegedly planning to make their way to Mauritania to “wage violent jihad”. It’s possible* Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair** and Randy (Rasheed) Wilson***, like so many others before them, got the idea after speaking to an undercover FBI agent. Including the agent, that is three people I would not want to have near any weapons or explosives. In any case, you could probably staff an entire katiba of terrorists and the necessary weapons for the price of their air fare from Alabama, by recruiting within the region. It just does not make sense for people to travel half way across the world to do it, unless they were incredibly dumb, or were just playing along, intending to renege on their end of the deal and get a free desert safari in the process. Now that international aid and development agencies are more interested in hiring locally, would it be too much to expect the FBI to follow suit?

Still on jihad, something that is jarring my instincts: these pastebin posts allegedly from a new(ish) cyber army of angry “Qassam Cyber Fighters” who hate American banks so much they decided to give advance notice of their intention to take down their websites, and even apologised for the delay in staging their onslaught, codenamed “Operation Ababil”. Nice and polite, if not exactly stealthy, but thanks for giving all your targets time to tighten security, change passwords, etc. Anyone would think they were not a real cyber army at all. If you are a linguaphile, have fun analysing and comparing their use of Arabic and English. If not, have fun wondering why an Iranian regime cyber operation (as claimed) would use Arabic, when they apparently have a proud, Farsi-speaking, cyber army.

A late, but convenient addition to end with: a random tweet was posted yesterday about an alleged hacking ten months ago of  Bank of Israel by a group calling themselves “Mauritania Hacker Team”

https://twitter.com/SaudiAnonymous1/status/281117976319643648

Here’s their Facebook page, where the old news reports were reposted yesterday, which I assume explains the tweet.

Back in February, they posted this video claiming to show evidence of  an intrusion that netted “all” Bank of Israel customer accounts:

http://www.youtube.com/watch&v=ik9X1rSmRHo

Ignoring the fact that it looks decidedly fake, note the speed with which typing errors of English words are corrected, and use of words like “bingo” and the phrase “don’t try this at home”. Add to that the use of classroom French, typed more slowly with far higher accuracy in their next video. It gives the impression whoever created at least the first and probably the second would feel more at home in Oxshott than Nouakchott. No offence to Oxshottonians, it could be any cosy corner of over-privileged middle-class and perhaps even middle-aged (bingo? really?) England.

Additional information added 21 December 2012:

American terror suspect Omar Hammami, aka Abu Mansour al-Amriki

American terror suspect Omar Hammami, aka Abu Mansour al-Amriki

* In the criminal complaint that led to his arrest, Randy Wilson was said to be a former room mate of another Mobile, Alabama man, Omar Shafik Hammami (aka Abu Mansour al-Amriki), who was just reportedly kicked out of Somalian al-Qaeda franchise Al-Shabaab for spreading the wrong message in videos he posted online.  Although they did know one another about 10 years ago, the  information about Wilson and Hammami’s living arrangements turned out to be false (see below). There was a rather long delay between news about his first video - in which he said he feared his life was in danger – appearing in March 2012, and the 17 December reports of the announcement of Hammami’s expulsion. March was also when the coup in Mali was claimed to have accelerated the spread of rebel groups in the north, as the vast region was abandoned by both civil and military authorities along with most NGOs and aid agencies. This heightened activity was accompanied by reports that fighters from other al Qaeda groups were moving into Mali. Wherever Hammami – who incidentally is married to a Somali woman, and they have at least one child, a daughter – shows up next, it is unlikely to be America.

** According to this post, a Syracuse, NY native by the name of Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair was arrested in Egypt in 2010 on charges of suspected terrorist activity. In 2011, he was deported back to the U.S., taking residency in both Ohio and Alabama.

*** Randy Wilson appeared in court and was refused bail after the judge heard testimony from FBI Special Agent Tim Green, who had established an online relationship with the defendant and his co-accused over a period of two years, by pretending to have a shared interest in Islam. Green also confessed in court that the story about Wilson being a former room mate of Omar Hammami was a lie and claimed he” didn’t know where it came from”. Wilson’s case will be heard on December 27, local press reported. There are no similar reports for Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair as yet. Given the fact that the two New Jersey men arrested in the almost identical “Operation Arabian Knight” case in 2010 have still not been sentenced, despite accepting a plea bargain, we should not expect any swift justice.

Related Posts

Mauritania Opposition Reaffirm Rejection of Mali Military Intervention

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Musicians entertained people with traditional songs as they gathered for another massive rally in Nouakchott on the evening of Tuesday,18 December 2012.

Demonstrators chanted slogans demanding the departure of Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, and that the military quit its involvement in politics.

Opposition leaders addressed tens of thousands in the yard of Ibn Abbas mosque, at the Festival entitled “Promise of Victory”.

Ahmed Ould Daddah, arguably the most eminent statesman in the opposition coalition line-up, gave a stirring speech invoking hope for the future, and ambition to restore the pride and dignity of the country. Ould Daddah also gave a stern warning against any military intervention in Mali, including providing logistical support, highlighting concern that any involvement would reflect negatively on security and stability for Mauritania. Being committed to fight terrorism, he argued, does not mean engaging in activities that are against the interests of the nation. The real enemies, he added, are ignorance, poverty, hunger and internal strife.
In conclusion, he wished Ould Abdel Aziz a speedy recovery, stressing that he bears him no personal malice, despite his unsuitability for leadership.

In other news, Mauritania’s second president, Mustafa Ould Salek, died in a Paris hospital on Tuesday 18 December, aged 86. Ould Salek was the pioneer of Mauritania’s enduring tradition of coups d’etat: he seized power from  President Mokhtar Ould Daddah in February 1978. Given that the Election Commission – despite a recent statement promising to set a date – admitted that they are still not in a position to stage the much-delayed elections, it seems there is little chance of Mauritania outgrowing Ould Salek’s legacy in the foreseeable future.

Photos: Latest News Network.

20 Dec Update: Another video from @jnsRFD  shows the true extent of the attendance at the festival, being reported rather grudgingly by some media as “hundreds of supporters”.

In a further, related move, authorities have withdrawn approval for the youth section of the opposition to hold a meeting in the Old Youth House. The youth say they are determined to go ahead with their plans regardless.

Afghan Landmine Blast Kills 10 Young Girls

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Ten young girls have been killed by a landmine explosion in eastern Afghanistan.

The children were collecting firewood when one of them accidentally struck the mine with an axe, according to Chapahar district governor Mohammad Seddiq Dawlatzai.

The victims were aged nine to 13. Two other girls were critically injured and are being treated in hospital.

“An old mine left over from the time of the jihad (against Soviet troops in the 1980s) exploded, killing 10 girls and wounding two others,” Mr Dawlatzai said.

Afghan villagers pray over the graves of the victims
However police chief General Abdullah Stanikzai said Taliban insurgents were to blame.

Since 1989, when the Soviets withdrew after a 10-year military occupation, nearly 700,000 mines and more than 15m other explosives left over from decades of war have been destroyed, according to UN figures.

But despite international clearance efforts, more than three decades of war have left Afghanistan one of the most heavily-mined countries in the world.

The explosives were laid during three recent conflicts: the 1980s war against the Russians, the 1990s civil war, and during fighting between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban before they were ousted from power in 2001.

Afghanistan is one of the most heavily-mined countries in the world
The Taliban also plant bombs, or improvised explosive devices, to target Afghan and Nato troops but these regularly kill civilians.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly appealed to the insurgents as well as the Nato-led forces in Afghanistan to avoid civilian casualties.

In the first six months of 2012, 1,145 Afghan civilians were killed and around 2,000 wounded, mostly by roadside bombs.

A car bomb explosion injured several people in Kabul
Women and children account for about 30% of this year’s casualties.

Meanwhile one person has been killed and at least 30 injured in a blast in the capital Kabul.

It happened outside the compound of US military contractor Contrack. Afghan police say the attacker drove a car packed with explosives into the compound’s wall.
Sky News.