Peter King: Must Be ‘More Vigilant Than Ever’ as 9/11 Anniversary Approaches

Peter King: Must Be ‘More Vigilant Than Ever’ as 9/11 Anniversary Approaches
By Greg Richter

Rep. Peter King of New York says he is aware of no specific threat against the homeland as the anniversary of 9/11 approaches, but as the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaida have been ramping up their rhetoric and actions, “We certainly have to be more vigilant that ever.

“We cannot let our guard down for a second, especially with the anniversary of 9/11 coming up,” King said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

With ISIS in the headlines lately, it’s easy to see al-Qaida “wanting to get back into the game … to show that they are top in the Islamic terrorist world,” King said.

ISIS has become a lead story after beheading two American journalists recently, in addition to atrocities against Iraqis. But King warned that other terrorist groups, such as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and core al-Qaida, should not be ignored.

That said, King wants to see a “sustained national effort” against ISIS, which controls large portions of Iraq and Syria and claims a caliphate from which it plans to rule the world.

President Barack Obama must make it clear this won’t be a short-term operation, King said, and should include full air attacks, Special Operations forces and getting as many allies on board as possible, especially Arab allies on the ground.

He also wants to see the Iraqi army involved as well as arms supplied to Kurdish forces in northern Iraq.

King thinks Obama has authority to take action without Congress, but should probably try to get it unless there is an imminent threat.

Rep. Adam Smith, a Washington state Democrat, agrees, but told “This Week” that the language might be hard to pin down. Some might fear it would give president too much authority, and some might fear it would hamstring him, Smith said.

“If the U.S. acts without Sunni support in the region it could strengthen ISIS,” Smith warned. “We will not be successful against ISIS unless Sunnis in the region are willing to rise up … and we work with them to be an effective partnership.”

For Jihad Recruits, a Pipeline From Minnesota to Militancy

For Jihad Recruits, a Pipeline From Minnesota to Militancy by

Riverside Plaza in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, which is home to the country’s largest Somali population. Credit Tim Gruber for The New York Times.

MINNEAPOLIS — It was a friendship that began in high school and ended in militant jihad.

As Minnesota teenagers growing up in the 1990s, Troy Kastigar and Douglas McAuthur McCain shared almost everything. They played pickup basketball on neighborhood courts, wrote freewheeling raps in each other’s bedrooms and posed together for snapshots, a skinny white young man with close-cropped hair locking his arm around his African-American friend with a shadow of a mustache.

They walked parallel paths to trouble, never graduating from high school and racking up arrests. They converted to Islam around the same time and exalted their new faith to family and friends, declaring that they had found truth and certainty. One after the other, both men abandoned their American lives for distant battlefields.

  • “This is the real Disneyland,” Mr. Kastigar said with a grin in a video shot after he joined Islamist militants in Somalia in late 2008. Mr. McCain wrote on Twitter this past June, after he left the United States to fight with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, “I’m with the brothers now.”
    Cedar Avenue in the Cedar-Riverside district. Leaders in the Somali community say they are losing a battle to keep new waves of young men and women from turning to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Credit Tim Gruber for The New York Times

    Today, both are dead. While their lives ended five years and over 2,000 miles apart, their intertwined journeys toward militancy offer a sharp example of how the allure of Islamist extremism has evolved, enticing similar pools of troubled, pliable young Americans to conflicts in different parts of the world. The tools of online propaganda and shadowy networks of facilitators that once beckoned Mr. Kastigar and Somali men to the Horn of Africa are now drawing hundreds of Europeans and about a dozen known Americans to fight with ISIS, according to American law enforcement and counterterrorism officials.

    “Troy and Doug fit together in some ways,” Mr. Kastigar’s mother, Julie Boada, said at her home here. “They’re both converted Muslims. They both have had struggles.” She added, “They’re connected through that.”

    Investigators are looking into what led a handful of other people from Minnesota to follow the same path, said Kyle Loven, an F.B.I. spokesman in Minneapolis. American intelligence and counterterrorism officials say Mr. McCain, 33, and a second American believed to have been killed while fighting for ISIS traveled in the same circles in Minneapolis and knew each other.

    Officials still have not publicly confirmed the identity of that man, but he has widely been reported to be a Somali immigrant in his late 20s who went by at least two names, calling himself Abdirahmaan Muhumed on his Facebook page. He spent much of his life around Minneapolis, worked at the airport over several years and ended up in Syria this year, declaring in a text message to a friend, “With out jihad there is no islam.”

    To law enforcement officials and community leaders here, the pathway for many recruits remains murky and difficult to uncover, but the latest wave of volunteers is a chilling replay of recent history. Beginning in 2007, over 20 men, mostly of Somali origin, left Minnesota to join the Shabab militants who seized territory across Somalia and besieged the capital, Mogadishu.

    Troy Kastigar Credit Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, via Associated Press
     The radicalization of the men prompted federal investigations and brought enormous scrutiny to the Somali population in Minneapolis, the largest in America. (Estimates put Minnesota’s Somali population around 30,000.) As Shabab forces withdrew from Mogadishu under pressure from African forces supported by the United States, people here held anti-Shabab rallies, and prosecutors eventually won convictions against eight local men on charges stemming from the flow of money and recruits to the militants.

    But now, leaders in the Somali community say they worry they are losing a battle to keep another round of young people from turning to another Internet-savvy and brutal group, ISIS. Community leaders say several families have reported that their children have vanished.

    “We need to open our eyes,” said Ahmed Hirsi, a banker who has led youth groups in the Twin Cities. “This is not going to stop.”

    Officials say ISIS is not specifically targeting Somalis but is instead using social media, chat rooms and jihadist forums to recruit men and women susceptible to its message — a target audience that includes Somalis in Minneapolis. Community activists and a friend said one Somali was Mr. Muhumed, whom they described as a mostly secular man in his late 20s or early 30s whose family had emigrated from Mogadishu. He always seemed more interested in working out and basketball than in religion, acquaintances said.

    “He would talk about LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, and then, the next thing you know — pfft! — he’s gone,” Mr. Hirsi said.

    Douglas McAuthur McCain Credit Hennepin County Sheriff, via Reuters

    Farhan Abdullahi Hussein said he had met Mr. Muhumed when they worked at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Patrick Hogan, an airport spokman, said a man named Abdifatah Ahmed, an alias Mr. Muhumed had used, had worked there on and off from November 2001 until May 2011, refueling planes and cleaning. (Shirwa Ahmed, an ethnic Somali who blew himself up in a suicide bombing in Somalia in October 2008, also had a job at the airport, pushing passengers in wheelchairs.)

    Mr. Hussein, who described Mr. Muhumed as “my best friend,” said Mr. Muhumed used to fume about violence in Libya and Gaza, asking, “Is this fair?” Mr. Muhumed dreamed of joining the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a rebel group trying to carve out an independent state in Ethiopia for ethnic Somalis. When he drank, Mr. Hussein said, Mr. Muhumed’s anger boiled up. Once, at a shopping center popular with Somalis, he even punched a community advocate named Abdi Abdulle who had spoken out against the group’s violent tactics.

    “He always wanted to be a freedom fighter,” Mr. Hussein said. “He always wanted to be a hero.”

    In April, Mr. Muhumed sent Mr. Hussein a text message saying jihad was his path now. “God gave us jihad,” he wrote. On July 8, he sent a short message celebrating the Islamic holy month. It was the last Mr. Hussein heard from him.

    Mr. McCain and Mr. Kastigar grew up in a different world from the towering apartment complexes and rows of Somali barbershops and restaurants that were a backdrop for Mr. Muhumed’s life. But they found a passion for Islam and, ultimately, a path to militancy.

    Abdirahmaan Muhumed is widely reported to be the second American killed while fighting for ISIS. He dreamed of joining the Ogaden National Liberation Front.
    Traces of the friendship between Mr. Kastigar and Mr. McCain are bound up in a few photo albums in Ms. Boada’s home. In one, they wear nearly identical plaid shirts. This is how relatives say they want to remember them: Mr. Kastigar as an energetic, open-minded boy who climbed up walls, and Mr. McCain as someone who made music and fiercely loved his younger sister, Lele.

    “They had a similar sense of humor,” Ms. Boada said of the men. In his teenage years, Mr. Kastigar began drinking, smoking marijuana and failing classes, and Ms. Boada said she had seen “a sadness and a darkness” settle over him. He dropped out of high school, got his equivalency diploma and worked at a mortgage office or cutting hair. But he was often unemployed. And a series of arrests compounded his troubles finding work, Ms. Boada said.

    Mr. McCain, whose family moved from Chicago when he was young, attended Robbinsdale Cooper High School with Mr. Kastigar until 1999, then switched to Robbinsdale Armstrong High for a year, the district said. He never graduated. Court records show he was arrested several times, for driving violations, theft and a marijuana charge.

    While both men converted to Islam around 2004, it is unclear whether one man’s religious decisions steered the other’s. Hatim Bilal, a high school friend who comes from a Muslim family, said Mr. Kastigar had told him that Mr. Bilal’s family and the cohesion among Mr. Bilal’s brothers inspired him to convert. A spark returned to Mr. Kastigar’s eyes after he discovered his new faith, his mother said.

    “They just wanted to be a part of something,” said Mr. Bilal, who knew both men but was close to Mr. Kastigar. “They were just trying to find something that just accepted them for who they were.”

    Abdi Abdulle, right, a community advocate who spoke out against the group’s violent tactics. Credit Tim Gruber for The New York Times

    But problems persisted. Mr. Kastigar was crestfallen when, after training to become an X-ray technician, he was told that his criminal history would make it difficult for him to get a job in the field.

    In 2008, Mr. Kastigar told his mother that he was going to Kenya to study the Quran. He bought a one-way ticket and left that November. He spoke with Ms. Boada five times, telling her that he was eating well and helping people. He was killed in September 2009 at age 28.

    Mr. Kastigar’s death may have shaken Mr. McCain, friends and relatives said. Around 2009, Mr. McCain moved to San Diego, where he had relatives and worked at a Somali restaurant, according to a cousin, Don Urbina. He enrolled at San Diego City College, a college spokesman said. Mr. Urbina said the family was shocked at his decision to join a jihadist group that has beheaded two American journalists and massacred thousands of Syrians and Iraqis.

    Alicia Adams, a high school friend of Mr. McCain’s who last spoke to him in 2013, said his faith was “such a small piece of who he was,” adding, “He was still Doug.” But Mr. Urbina described his cousin as “very serious about God.”

    “His mother doesn’t know how it got to this point,” he said. “None of us really want to know.”

    Ms. Boada said she still did not know exactly how her son had ended up in Somalia, hoisting an assault rifle and wearing a checkered head scarf. She said he had never been motivated by hate, but by a belief that somehow he could be a hero. Sometimes, she said, people will ask her about his death. But more often than not, she does not discuss it.

    “I just don’t tell people,” she said. “I just say that my son passed away in 2009. If someone asks why, I just say, ‘It was a tragedy.’ ”

    Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington, Christina Capecchi from Minneapolis, and Mario Koran from San Diego.

    A version of this article appears in print on September 7, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: For Jihad Recruits, a Pipeline From Minnesota to Militancy. Order Reprints|Today’s Paper|Subscribe


Watch: Unseen ISIS Video, Analysis by CIA Gary Berntsen

Watch: Unseen ISIS Video, Analysis by CIA Gary Berntsen

The first minute of the infamous ISIS has never been shown on any major news outlet … until now. Also, exclusive extended interview with former CIA Station Chief Gary Berntsen.

On three separate occasions, Berntsen led several of CIA’s most important counter-terrorism deployments including the United States’ response to the East Africa Embassy bombings and the 9/11 attacks and the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

Berntsen is one of the CIA’s most decorated agents receiving awarded the Distinguished Intelligence Medal in 2000 and in 2004 the prestigious Intelligence Star (only a few dozen CIA officers have received this award-most posthumously).

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11 jetliners ‘missing’ after Islamist takeover of airport


11 jetliners ‘missing’ after Islamist takeover of airport

‘We found out on Sept. 11 what can happen with hijacked planes’

Eleven commercial jets have reportedly been stolen in recent weeks in Libya, and Western intelligence agencies have begun warning they could be used in terror attacks on 9/11, the anniversary of the devastating Osama bin Laden-orchestrated attacks on New York and Washington that left nearly 3,000 dead.

According to a report in the Free Beacon, the jets were taken by Islamist militias in Libya, and reports distributed within the U.S. government “included a warning that one or more of the aircraft could be used in an attack … on the date marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks…”

One official in the report assembled by the highly respected Bill Gertz said, “There are a number of commercial airliners in Libya that are missing. We found out on September 11 what can happen with hijacked planes.”

Gertz now is senior editor of the Free Beacon, but built his career during 27 years as reporter, editor and columnist with the Washington Times. He’s also authored six books and his online biography reveals the state-run Xinhua news agency in 2006 identified him as the No. 1 “anti-China expert” in the world.

His report about the missing jetliners notes authorities have a high level of concern because of the convergence of the cases of missing airplanes and the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

It also is just two years after the 9/11 terror attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, a scandal that still is reverberating through the Obama administration and threatening to become a game-changer for the 2014 elections.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in that attack.

A State Department official declined comment, Gertz reported.

The officials quoted by Gertz said U.S. intelligence agencies now are trying to locate all the airplanes belonging to two Libyan airline companies, and they have not confirmed the aircraft theft, which reportedly happened after the takeover by terrorists of Tripoli International Airport in August.

“The state-owned Libyan Airlines fleet until this summer included 14 passenger and cargo jetliners, including seven Airbus 320s, one Airbus 330, two French ATR-42 turboprop aircraft, and four Bombardier CJR-900s,” the report said. “Libyan state-owned Afriqiyah Airways fleet is made up of 13 aircraft, including three Airbus 319s, seven Airbus 320s, two Airbus 330s, and one Airbus 340.”

The report blames Libyan Dawn, one of the terror organizations operating there, for the alleged thefts in late August.

Following the warnings from Western intelligence agencies, Tunisia halted flights from Tripoli, Sirte and Misrata because of the potential the jets would appear in suicide missions, the report said.

And Egypt halted flights to and from Libya.

Gertz said military components from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt were put on a higher level of alert.

Libya has been an uncontrolled disaster area since the Obama administration engineered the removal in 2011 of strongman Moammar Gadhafi from office. His departure left terror factions struggling for control as the nation plunged into chaos.

Both Libyan Dawn and another group called Ansar al-Shariah were declared by Libya’s parliament to be terror groups. The report said Ansar al-Shariah reportedly has surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft guns and rocket-propelled grenades, among other weapons.

Abderrahmane Mekkaoui, a Moroccan military expert, explained to Al Jazeera broadcasting that “credible intelligence” reports say the jets are intended for use by a group called Masked Men Brigade for attacks on the 9/11 date.

Gertz reported that a counterterrorism expert, Sebastian Gorka, explained the events that could develop with the stolen jets.

“The first would be how commercial airliners were used on Sept. 11, 2001, literally turning an innocent mode of mass transit into a super-high precision guided missile of immense potency,” he said.

“The second tactic could be to use the airframe with its civilian markings as a tool of deception to insert a full payload of armed terrorists into a locale that otherwise is always open to commercial carriers,” he said.

Gertz’ report noted the planes themselves become an agent of destruction.

“Who needs ballistic missiles when you have passenger planes?” asked Michael Rubin, of the American Enterprise Institute. “Even empty, but loaded up with fuel, they can be as devastating.”