Canadian connection: Iran, al Qaeda and terror

(By Deutsche Welle) Canadian authorities have alleged that two terrorism suspects were receiving support from al Qaeda elements in Iran. But Tehran and al Qaeda have historically had a hostile relationship.

Raed Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier have denied charges that they sought to derail a passenger train in Toronto, in what Canadian authorities described as the “first known” al Qaeda plot on the North American nation’s soil.

“The conclusions were made based on facts and words which are only appearances,” said 30-year-old Esseghaier in a Montreal court on Tuesday.

And in Toronto, lawyer John Norris said that 35-year-old Jaser rejected the allegations and would vigorously defend himself against them.

Canadian authorities had alleged that the two men were receiving support from an al Qaeda cell in Iran. Although Ottawa made clear there was no evidence that the aborted plot was state sponsored, Tehran was quick to deny any connection to the story at all.

“Iran’s position against this group [al Qaeda] is very clear and well known,” Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for the Iranian delegation to the United Nations, told the Associated Press in an email late Monday. “[Al Qaeda] has no possibility to do any activity inside Iran or conduct any operation abroad from Iran’s territory.”

“We categorically reject any connection to this story,” he wrote.

Although Shiite Iran and Sunni al Qaeda do have a history of interaction, their relationship has never been an alliance, but has instead been plagued by sectarian and ideological differences.

The foiled plot in Canada allegedly would have targeted passenger trains

“Objectively the two despise each other,” Barbara Slavin – author of “Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies” and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council – told DW. “Al Qaeda doesn’t even consider Iran a Muslim country in some ways. They reject Shiism as not even Islam. Certainly the most zealous members of al Qaeda and al Qaeda-type groups reject Shiites in that way.” Continue reading

US claims authority to kill American-born terrorists without trial

(By Deutsche Welle) After a two-year manhunt, the Obama administration ordered the targeted killing of Islamic extremist Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen. The case has ignited a debate over the reach of constitutional protections.

As part of its on-going global campaign to wipe out the leadership of the terrorist group al Qaeda, the United States has targeted and killed an American citizen via drone strike for the first time in the politically volatile Arab nation of Yemen.

The man targeted for death, Anwar al-Awlaki, was accused of both inciting and planning a series of attacks against the United States in recent years. As a Muslim cleric infamous for violent anti-American rhetoric, Awlaki allegedly inspired the Fort Hood massacre in 2009 as well as the failed attempt to detonate a truck bomb in New York’s Times Square in 2010. And he reportedly played a direct role in planning the aborted attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound passenger plane two Christmases ago.

A second American citizen, Samir Khan, was also killed in the drone strike. Khan, who grew up in Queens, New York and lived for a time in North Carolina, was the editor of al Qaeda’s English-language online magazine Inspire.

Although US President Barack Obama did not mention Awlaki’s citizenship during his public statement hailing last Friday’s drone strike as a victory, the president stated that the New Mexican native was the head of “external operations” for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), thereby making him a legitimate target for elimination.

“The death of Awlaki marks another significant milestone in the broader effort to defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates,” President Obama said during a farewell ceremony for outgoing Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen.

But civil libertarians and constitutional experts have sharply criticized the Obama administration for denying Awlaki due process rights guaranteed to citizens under the 5th amendment of the United States’ Constitution.

“Absent that kind of a hearing it is unprecedented and illegal to simply assassinate a human being in that way, a US citizen,” Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, told Deutsche Welle.

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