Fifteen detained in Serbia after US embassy attack

BELGRADE, Serbia—Police say 15 people suspected of belonging to an extremist Islamic sect have been detained in southern Serbia.

The arrests in Sandzak early Saturday were made after a man from the Muslim-dominated region of Serbia fire with an automatic weapon outside the U.S. Embassy in neighboring Bosnia Friday in what authorities called a terrorist attack.

A policeman and the gunman were wounded. The embassy said none of its employees was hurt.

The shooter was identified as Mevlid Jasarevic from Novi Pazar, the administrative capital of Sandzak. Serbian officials say he is the follower of the Wahhabis, a conservative Islamic sect that is rooted in Saudi Arabia and linked to religious militants in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Serbian police say the raid in Sandzak was carried out by an anti-terrorist unit.

Britain cooks up confusion for terrorists

WOULD-BE terrorists searching the internet for tips on how to build bombs were instead taught how to bake the perfect cupcake after an intervention by British intelligence.

Intelligence agency MI6 launched the cyber operation against jihadi magazine, Inspire, in an attempt to hamper attempts by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP) to attract “lone wolf” terrorists, The Daily Telegraph in London said.

Surfers trying to download the English-language magazine’s Make a bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom feature were instead redirected to a site boasting recipes for The Best Cupcakes in America.

The baking site, which is published by The Ellen DeGeneres Show, promises treats for “today’s sweet-toothed hipsters” including the mojito cupcake, made using white rum and vanilla buttercream.

The 67-page Inspire contains instructions on how to make rudimentary pipe bombs using sugar, match heads and a miniature lightbulb.

The jihadi magazine is produced by Anwar al Awlaki, one of the leaders of AQAP, who has lived in Britain and the United States, and his US colleague Samir Khan.

Britain and the US both planned separately to disrupt the magazine on learning of its publication, but the US decided against action as they believed it was cutting off a source of intelligence, the British newspaper reported.

UK probation officers warn over terrorist releases

LONDON—British probation officers say authorities may struggle to cope as up to 70 convicted terrorists are released from jail over the next 12 months.

The National Association of Probation Officers said Thursday that many of the high-risk convicts will require intensive supervision, putting huge pressure on resources.

Among those scheduled for release are Saajid Badat, a 32-year-old jailed in 2005 for his role in a 2001 plot to down an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden inside shoes, and Moinul Abdein, convicted in 2002 of Britain’s first al-Qaida inspired bomb plot.

Jonathan Evans, head of domestic spy agency MI5, warned last year that some of those due for release in the coming months are “likely to return to their terrorist activities.”

Al-Qaeda says killing bin Laden a ‘serious sin’

Al-Qaeda is warning that the US has committed a “big mistake” and a “serious sin” in killing Osama bin Laden and is calling on Muslims to avenge his death.

In a statement posted on the internet, al-Qaeda’s official online media organization, al-Fajr, says the American people “will pay the price” for the May 2 raid that killed bin Laden at a compound in Pakistan.

It acknowledges that President Barack Obama “is protected by armies,” but asks Americans, “who will protect you from our assault?”

It also urges Muslims to use bin Laden’s death as motivation to carry out attacks, according to a transcript provided Tuesday by the SITE Intel group, which monitors militant messages.

The statement was posted Monday on Islamic extremist websites.

Bashir escapes possible death penalty

INDONESIAN prosecutors today dropped the most serious terror charges against radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir for lack of evidence, leaving him facing a possible life sentence instead of death.

Prosecutors at Bashir’s trial in Jakarta said the charge of providing firearms and explosives for terrorist acts, for which the 72-year-old preacher could have faced the death penalty, “could not be proven convincingly”.

The charge of inciting acts of terrorism was also dropped, leaving only the accusation of providing funding to a terrorist group, for which the prosecutors sought a maximum life sentence.

As he was led away Bashir said he rejected the charges and condemned the prosecutors as “friends of the devil”.

“Friends of the devil are always like that, always at war with people who try to defend Islam,” he said.

“Such insolence. These people should be called terrorists, may Allah immediately send them a disaster.”

He said the charges were bogus. “I should have been freed,” he added.

Hundreds of Bashir’s radical followers erupted into chants of support for the man who is widely regarded as a spiritual leader of south-east Asian jihadists.

Some 2500 heavily armed police were on hand to prevent violence, but Islamist hardliners at the court instead welcomed the stiffest charges being dropped as a victory.

Bashir now stands accused only of providing funds to the so-called al-Qa’ida in Aceh group that was planning Mumbai-style attacks in Indonesia, according to police.

Its operations leader, Indonesian bomb maker Dulmatin, was killed by police in March last year. Scores of other members of the group have been killed or captured.

Al-Qaeda magazine mixes beauty, bomb tips

AL-Qaeda’s has launched a women’s magazine which mixes tips on skin care with articles on marrying suicide bombers and waging electronic jihad.

Al Shamikha magazine – its title means The Majestic Woman – features beauty and fashion tips alongside articles on “marrying a mujahedeen” and carrying out suicide attacks.

The first issue of the glossy 30-page publication, which must be ordered online, was released in recent days by the al Qaeda-affiliated Al Fajr Media Centre.

Its cover features the barrel of a sub-machine gun next to the image of a woman in a veil.

Inside, there are exclusive interviews with martyrs’ wives who praise their husbands’ decisions to die in suicide bombings. Many other articles have female authors.

The aim of the magazine, according to editor Saleh Youssef, is to educate women and involve them in the war against the enemies of Islam.

“Because women constitute half of the population – and [one might even say] that they are the population, since they give birth to the next generation – the enemies [of Islam] are bent on preventing [the Muslim] woman from knowing the truth about her religion and her role, since they know all too well what would happen if women entered the field [of jihad],” he wrote.

James Brandon, a spokesman for the UK anti-extremism think tank Quilliam, described the magazine – the second issue of which promises tips on exfoliation and electronic jihad – as a “jihadist’s version of Cosmopolitan magazine,” telling British newspaper The Sunday Times that al Qaeda leaders “see how effective magazines are at pushing the ideals of Western culture and want to try the same thing.”

Police chopper captured horror of 9/11

VIDEO footage from the September 11, 2001 attacks shot from a police helicopter has been released for the first time.

The New York Police Department helicopter was hovering near the burning World Trade Centre towers in the hope of rescuing survivors from the rooftops, only to find no one there as the buildings topple and smoulder.

“The whole tower, it’s gone,” one officer is heard yelling. “Holy crap, they knocked the whole fricking thing down.”

An officer wonders, “How could it go down?”

The video is part of a cache of information from the attack handed over by city agencies to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the federal agency that investigated the collapse. The video surfaced on several websites overnight, but NIST did not know who posted it initially.

The 17 minutes of footage shot from a NYPD air and sea rescue chopper shows much of what has already been seen but still shocks and disturbs: a chilling aerial view of the burning twin towers and the apocalyptic shroud of smoke and dust that settled over the city.

Only police helicopters were allowed in the airspace near the skyscrapers, and the officers were the only ones shooting images from above. The helicopter flies over the roof as huge grey clouds billow, and away as the video pans out to lower Manhattan. A sea of people can be seen fleeing the area on a clear, sunny day clouded with billowing smoke from the towers.

The chopper lands eventually across the harbour from the towers and the camera pans into the helicopter, showing ropes that would have been used to rescue people from the roof. The sparse dialogue portrays shock.

“We got out of there at the right time,” one officer can be heard saying.

“I know,” another officer replies.

The chopper crew watches in the distance as the North Tower falls, the video zooming to capture the image of the building going down and a huge plume of smoke puffing up.

“Holy s…,” another officer can be heard saying.

Still images from police helicopters were released to the public last year under a similar request.

The video was released by NIST on March 3 under a Freedom of Information Act request, but it wasn’t clear who published the footage online.

NIST investigated the collapse of the twin towers and another building that was part of the World Trade Center complex after the 2001 terror attacks.

Libya compensates Lockerbie bomber for jail stint

THE only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing spent 10 years in prison in the Netherlands and Glasgow, but it appears he is being amply compensated for that lost decade.

The Times on Monday tracked down an imposing new house that is being built by, or for, Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, in Ben Ashur, a desirable area of central Tripoli containing many of the capital’s embassies.

Construction began six months ago and the house is still only a breeze-block shell but its size and location are impressive.

It is three storeys high, with spacious rooms and balconies. It is near the Azerbaijani Embassy, backs on to the Turkish consulate and has a fine view of the towering minarets and golden dome of the half-finished Mora mosque.

Al-Megrahi has kept a low profile since he was released from a Scottish prison in August 2009, but sources say he inspects this site every week or two.

They say he arrives in different cars, one a red Lamborghini, another a Hummer. His vehicle is escorted by two unmarked Toyota Land Cruisers with a security detail inside.

He does not get out, preferring to examine the builders’ progress from the car.

Stricken with terminal prostate cancer, he is said to have looked hunched, frail and ill on his site visits.

Why al-Megrahi, 58, needs or wants a new house is unclear. He already has a palatial home in the nearby district of Hey Damascus where The Times interviewed him the day after his release, and where he enjoys total privacy.  It has high walls and is in a cul-de-sac, whereas the new house is on a wide boulevard named Shari al-Jarabah.

It could be that he wanted to exploit what was, before the uprising, a buoyant rental market, and to leave a solid, revenue-generating legacy to his four sons, one daughter and assorted grandchildren.

He is also believed to own another house in Ben Ashur, opposite the Maltese Embassy, and either he or the Libyan Government bought one in Glasgow for his family while he was imprisoned there.

It is an impressive property portfolio for a man portrayed at his trial as a mid-ranking employee of Libyan Arab Airlines. It is clear that the regime has looked after him well and few Libyans would object to that.

While the majority of Britons and Americans regard al-Megrahi as the man responsible for the deaths of 270 people in the deadliest terrorist attack in British history, most Libyans see him as an innocent man who sacrificed his freedom to secure the lifting of crippling international sanctions imposed on his country.

Al-Megrahi has always protested his innocence, and insists he only abandoned his appeal so he could go home to die.  One measure of his status is that everyone The Times asked in Hey Damascus and Ben Ashur knew where his houses were.

Another is that the road from Shari al-Jarabah to the Turkish consulate has been blocked off to allow for the construction of the new house. It might be closed for a long time. All building work in Tripoli has ceased.

Apart from occasional sightings outside his new house al-Megrahi has barely been seen since his return. Last week The Times returned to his home in Hey Damascus, hoping to speak either to him or to a relative.

We were intercepted by four plain-clothes agents who emerged from two unmarked cars and detained us for the next two hours without a word of explanation.

Al-Qaida operative gets 34 months in Gitmo trial

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—A Guantanamo Bay prisoner who helped run an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan will serve less than three years in prison under a plea deal that requires him to testify against other suspected terrorists, the U.S. military said Friday.

A war crimes court at the U.S. base in Cuba formally sentenced Noor Uthman Muhammed to 14 years in confinement but the Pentagon will suspend all but 34 months of the sentence under the pretrial agreement, said Army Lt. Col. Tanya Bradsher, a military spokeswoman.

Noor, as the prisoner is known, pleaded guilty Tuesday to providing material support to al-Qaida and conspiracy as part of a plea deal that spared him the possibility of a life sentence if convicted at trial.

He has already been held nearly nine years at Guantanamo and does not get credit for time already served in custody.

The Sudanese prisoner admitted working at the Khaldan terrorist training camp in Afghanistan beginning in 1994 and providing weapons instruction there and helping to run it. The terrorists who have trained there included Ahmed Ressam, who was convicted in a plot to bomb buildings in the U.S. during millennium celebrations, and convicted Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, according to a stipulation that Noor signed as part of his plea deal.

He also admitted that he helped arrange terrorism training for others with Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian and alleged facilitator for al-Qaida who was subjected to harsh interrogation in a special anti-terror program authorized by former U.S. President George W. Bush. Zubaydah is held at Guantamamo and has not yet been tried for any alleged crimes.

Noor is the sixth prisoner convicted at the war crimes tribunals at Guantanamo. Four of those convictions have been plea bargains.

The U.S. holds about 170 men at Guantanamo and military prosecutors have said several dozen could be charged in the war crimes tribunals.

Taliban’s schoolboy tactics

Pakistan’s army suffered a damaging blow after a suicide bomber believed to be in his teens and dressed in a school uniform slipped into a military base yesterday and set off an explosion, killing at least 31 soldiers and cadets.

In an incident that triggered fears of a renewed wave of attacks and highlighted the nation’s continued vulnerability to militants, the device was detonated inside a military recruitment camp as cadets were exercising on the parade ground. More than 40 people were also wounded.

As the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack at the Punjab Regiment Centre in the city of Mardan in northwest Pakistan, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the killings. “Such cowardly attacks cannot affect the morale of the security agencies and the resolve of the nation to eradicate terrorism,” he said.

Last night there was confusion about the precise age of the bomber. Army officials and intelligence sources said he was a young teenager, with some reports suggesting he was as young as 12. The Government issued a statement saying he was 19 or 20, while the Taliban said he was a serving soldier they had recruited.

What seems clear is that his outfit – the navy blue uniform of the nearby Aziz Bhatti College for the children of serving army personnel – helped him slip past six separate security check-points.

The attack has sparked fresh concerns about a possible new flood of attacks, as vowed by the Taliban.

Analysts said that despite a series of military operations against them – the most recent taking place in the nearby Mohmand Agency – the bombing underscores the persistence of militants.

The Mardan attack was the deadliest strike in the country since December 25, 2010, when a woman with a bomb strapped under her burqa killed 43 people at a United Nations food distribution point in the tribal district of Bajaur.

The latest strike came on the day Pakistan and India announced they would renew formal talks suspended in the aftermath of the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai. One key concern will be the threat of tackling radical Islamic militants, such as those who targeted India’s financial capital with the loss of 165 lives.

The two countries said new talks would focus on counterterrorism, humanitarian issues, peace and security, the disputed Kashmir region and other border issues.