Christian persecution intensifies in Iraq

Islamic militants in Iraq have turned their attention to their Christian neighbors, declaring that Christians are legitimate targets and bombing Christian neighborhoods.  This follows a recent assault on a church during the worship service that killed more than 40.  From the BBC:

A series of bomb and mortar attacks targeting Christian areas has killed at least five people in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

Six districts with strong Christian majorities were hit – more than 30 people have been injured.

The attacks come days after Islamist militants seized a Catholic cathedral and more than 40 were killed. . . .

“Two mortar shells and 10 home-made bombs targeted the homes of Christians in different neighbourhoods of Baghdad between 0600 and 0800 (0300 and 0500 GMT),” an unnamed official told AFP news agency.

An interior ministry source, quoted anonymously by Reuters, said the attacks were directly linked to the siege of the cathedral.

“These operations, which targeted Christians, came as a continuation of the attack that targeted the Salvation church,” the source said.

The BBC’s Jim Muir, in Baghdad, says it is unclear whether Christians were killed. However the intention is clear – to underline a threat from the so-called Islamic State for Iraq, an umbrella group linked to al-Qaeda, that all Christians in the country are now a legitimate target.

via BBC News – Christian areas targeted in deadly Baghdad attacks.

Stopping the letter bombs

The terrorists have another bright idea:  just make a bunch of bombs and put them in the mail!  It was a wonder the parcels were intercepted.  According to reports, we have to thank an ex-prisoner in Guantanamo who had been released and was living in Saudi Arabia.  He informed authorities and managed to even get them the tracking numbers of the packages.  The Saudis too did their part in stopping the mayhem before it happened.  They all deserve our thanks.

(I’m not linking to the story because the news reports go so far as to name the informer and print his picture.  The poor guy will doubtless get killed for his good deed unless he is given protection for life.)

HT:  Webmonk

Christians slaughtered in church

Details from the al-Qaeda attack on Christians as they were worshipping in a Baghdad church:

The worshipers heard the first shots and explosions about 20 minutes after the beginning of Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Salvation Church.

Heads turned, the sermon stopped abruptly and the Rev. Wassem Sabeeh quietly began ushering parishioners into a fortified room in the rear of the church.

“We realized these explosions were close,” said Bassam Sami, 21, one of the survivors of the attack on a Baghdad church carried out by heavily armed suicide bombers that left at least 58 people dead. “Father Wassem started pushing people inside the room.”

Once they penetrated the church building, the silent assailants began executing people. “They were well trained,” Sami said. “They didn’t say anything. It was like someone had cut out their tongues.”

The carnage that unfolded during the next few hours outraged many in a city that has seen more than its share of bloodshed. The siege suggested that al-Qaeda in Iraq, the weakened Sunni insurgent group that asserted responsibility for the attack, remains capable of carrying out mass-casualty operations.

The target, an Assyrian Christian church in the upscale Karrada neighborhood, was highly unusual. The extremist group has in the past year directed its dwindling resources toward crippling symbols of the Shiite-led Iraqi government.

An Iraqi official said Monday that investigators had found at the scene three Yemeni and two Egyptian passports thought to have belonged to the suicide bombers. If confirmed, the finding would be alarming to U.S. and Iraqi officials because they say al-Qaeda in Iraq has struggled to recruit foreign fighters in recent years.

In a statement posted on the Internet early Monday, the Islamic State of Iraq, a front group for al-Qaeda in Iraq, asserted responsibility for the attack.

via Survivors describe deadly attack on Baghdad church.

Some of the members were taken hostage, some of whom were killed as Iraqi forces stormed the church.

Diplomatic negotiations

The Washington Post is publishing excerpts from Bob Woodward’s new book <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1439172498?ie=UTF8&tag=cranach-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1439172498″>Obama’s Wars</a><img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=cranach-20&l=as2&o=1&a=1439172498″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />.  It includes a fascinating account of some hard-ball diplomacy played by national security director General James Jones and CIA director Leon Panetta with the president of Pakistan.

If, God forbid, the SUV had blown up in Times Square, Jones told Zardari, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Should a future attempt be successful, Obama would be forced to do things that Pakistan would not like. “No one will be able to stop the response and consequences,” the security adviser said. “This is not a threat, just a statement of political fact.”

Jones did not give specifics about what he meant. The Obama administration had a “retribution” plan, one of the most sensitive and secretive of all military contingencies. The plan called for bombing about 150 identified terrorist camps in a brutal, punishing attack inside Pakistan.

Wait a second, Zardari responded. If we have a strategic partnership, why in the face of a crisis like the one you’re describing would we not draw closer together rather than have this divide us?

Zardari believed that he had already done a great deal to accommodate his strategic partner, at some political risk. He had allowed CIA drones to strike al-Qaeda and other terrorist camps in parts of Pakistan, prompting a public outcry about violations of Pakistani sovereignty. He had told CIA officials privately in late 2008 that any innocent deaths from the strikes were the cost of doing business against senior al-Qaeda leaders. “Kill the seniors,” Zardari had said. “Collateral damage worries you Americans. It does not worry me.”

As part of the partnership, the Pakistani military was billing the United States more than $2 billion a year to combat extremists operating in the remote areas near the Afghan border. But that money had not prevented elements of the Pakistani intelligence service from backing the two leading Afghan Taliban groups responsible for killing American troops in Afghanistan.

“You can do something that costs you no money,” Jones said. “It may be politically difficult, but it’s the right thing to do if you really have the future of your country in mind. And that is to reject all forms of terrorism as a viable instrument of national policy inside your borders.”

“We rejected it,” Zardari responded.

Jones and Panetta had heard such declarations before. But whatever Pakistan was doing with the many terrorist groups operating inside its borders, it wasn’t good or effective enough. For the past year, that country’s main priority was taking on its homegrown branch of the Taliban, a network known as Tehrik-e-Taliban, or TTP.

Panetta pulled out a “link chart,” developed from FBI interviews and other intelligence, that showed how TTP had assisted the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad.

“Look, this is it,” Panetta told Zardari. “This is the network. Leads back here.” He traced it out with his finger. “And we’re continuing to pick up intelligence streams that indicate TTP is going to conduct other attacks in the United States.”

This was a matter of solid intelligence, Panetta said, not speculation.

Jones and Panetta then turned to the disturbing intelligence about Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group behind the horrific 2008 Mumbai attacks that had killed 175, including six Americans.

Pakistani authorities are holding the commander of the Mumbai attacks, Jones said, but he is not being adequately interrogated and “he continues to direct LeT operations from his detention center.” Intelligence shows that Lashkar-e-Taiba is threatening attacks in the United States and that the possibility “is rising each day.”

Zardari didn’t seem to get it.

“Mr. President,” said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who was also at the meeting, “This is what they are saying. . . . They’re saying that if, in fact, there is a successful attack in the United States, they will take steps to deal with that here, and that we have a responsibility to now cooperate with the United States.”

“If something like that happens,” Zardari said defensively, “it doesn’t mean that somehow we’re suddenly bad people or something. We’re still partners.”

No, both Jones and Panetta said. There might be no way to save the strategic partnership. Underscoring Jones’s point, Panetta said, “If that happens, all bets are off.”

via Obama: ‘We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan’.

The state’s right to assassinate its citizens

President Obama is out-Bushing Bush:

The Obama administration urged a federal judge early Saturday to dismiss a lawsuit over its targeting of a U.S. citizen for killing overseas, saying that the case would reveal state secrets.

The U.S.-born citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, is a cleric now believed to be in Yemen. Federal authorities allege that he is leading a branch of al-Qaeda there.

Government lawyers called the state-secrets argument a last resort to toss out the case, and it seems likely to revive a debate over the reach of a president’s powers in the global war against al-Qaeda.

Civil liberties groups sued the U.S. government on behalf of Aulaqi’s father, arguing that the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command’s placement of Aulaqi on a capture-or-kill list of suspected terrorists – outside a war zone and absent an imminent threat – amounted to an extrajudicial execution order against a U.S. citizen. They asked a U.S. district court in Washington to block the targeting.

via Obama invokes ‘state secrets’ claim to dismiss suit against targeting of U.S. citizen al-Aulaqi.

Comments Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, a liberal, who says that President Obama is going far beyond anything that the vilified George Bush ever did:

At this point, I didn’t believe it was possible, but the Obama administration has just reached an all-new low in its abysmal civil liberties record.  In response to the lawsuit filed by Anwar Awlaki’s father asking a court to enjoin the President from assassinating his son, a U.S. citizen, without any due process, the administration late last night,according to The Washington Post, filed a brief asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit without hearing the merits of the claims.  That’s not surprising:  both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly insisted that their secret conduct is legal but nonetheless urge courts not to even rule on its legality.  But what’s most notable here is that one of the arguments the Obama DOJ raises to demand dismissal of this lawsuit is “state secrets”:  in other words, not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are “state secrets,” and thus no court may adjudicate their legality.

Obama supporters who are dutifully insisting that the President not only has the right to order American citizens killed without due process, but to do so in total secrecy, on the ground that Awlaki is a Terrorist and Traitor, are embracing those accusations without having the slightest idea whether they’re actually true.  All they know is that Obama has issued these accusations, which is good enough for them.  That’s the authoritarian mind, by definition:  if the Leader accuses a fellow citizen of something, then it’s true — no trial or any due process at all is needed and there is no need even for judicial review before the decreed sentence is meted out, even when the sentence is death.

For those reciting the “Awlaki-is-a-traitor” mantra, there’s also the apparently irrelevant matter that Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution (the document which these same Obama supporters pretended to care about during the Bush years) provides that “No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.”  Treason is a crime that the Constitution specifically requires be proven with due process in court, not by unilateral presidential decree.  And that’s to say nothing of the fact that the same document — the Constitution – expressly forbids the deprivation of life “without due process of law.”

Some of you supported President Bush for his controversial measures in battling terrorists.  Will you give credit to President Obama for taking it even further?  Or does this go too far?

Some of you vilified President Bush for his controversial measures in battling terrorists.  Will you vilify President Obama for going beyond what Bush did?  Or is it all right if Obama does it?

HT:  Webmonk

Is a major terrorist attack imminent?

Something seems to be brewing among jihadist terrorists, with officials in Europe and the United States on high alert.

US and European officials said Tuesday they have detected a plot to carry out a major, coordinated series of new terror attacks in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and possibly the United States.

A senior US official said that while there is a “credible” threat, no specific time or place is known. President Obama has been briefed about the threat, say senior US officials.

Intelligence and law enforcement authorities in the US and Europe said the threat information is based on the interrogation of a suspected German terrorist allegedly captured on his way to Europe in late summer and now being held at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

US law enforcement officials say they have been told the terrorists were planning a series of “Mumbai-style” commando raids on what were termed “economic or soft” targets in the countries. . . .

The captured German reportedly said several teams of attackers, all with European passports, had been trained and dispatched from training camps in Waziristan and Pakistan. Officials say the German claimed the attack plan had been approved by Osama Bin Laden.

via ‘Credible But Not Specific’ Threat of New Terrorist Attack – ABC News.

But it may be that the plot has been disrupted to the point that the plans will not be carried out.  In the meantime, there are sure lots of nervous law enforcement officers, as we see in Georgia:  “A team of federal agents has been stopping tractor-trailers on Interstate 20 just west of Atlanta, inspecting each truck as it passed through a weigh station, and Channel 2 has learned its part of a counter-terrorism operation.”


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