Saturday, June 30, 2012

Alleged Associate of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Charged in New York with Providing Material Support and Receiving Military Training in Yemen

NEW YORK, NY—Minh Quang Pham has been indicted in Manhattan federal court on charges of providing material support to, and receiving military training from, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a designated foreign terrorist organization, as well as possessing and using firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence, and other violations.

The indictment was announced by Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York; James W. McJunkin, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the Washington, D.C. Field Office of the FBI; Janice K. Fedarcyk, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the FBI; and Raymond W. Kelly, the Police Commissioner of the City of New York (NYPD).

U.S. Attorney Bharara said: “The international law enforcement cooperation that lead to today’s arrest of Minh Quang Pham, an alleged associate of a terrorist organization committed to killing Americans both here and abroad, underscores our joint commitment to identifying, prosecuting, and punishing those who would do harm to our country and our people.”

D.C. FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge McJunkin said: “Today, an indictment was unsealed charging Minh Quang Pham with providing material support to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and receiving military-style training while he was in Yemen. Together with our law enforcement partners, the FBI will continue to work both here and abroad to protect the United States and its citizens from terrorism.”

NY FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Fedarcyk said: “The defendant not only allegedly pledged an oath to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and received military training from AQAP, he also helped design and disseminate its propaganda. The investigation that led to this indictment is the result of the kind of cooperation and coordination, domestically and internationally, that is essential in the effort to prevent acts of terrorism.”

NYPD Commissioner Kelly said: “These charges point to the ongoing threat posed by al Qaeda affiliates like AQAP, and the importance of law enforcement collaboration internationally in thwarting them.”

According to the indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

In December 2010, Pham traveled from the United Kingdom to Yemen, the principal base of operations for AQAP. While in Yemen, Pham took an oath of allegiance to AQAP; carried an automatic assault rifle; obtained training from and on behalf of AQAP; helped AQAP to prepare online propaganda; and worked alongside two U.S. citizens.

Pham returned to the United Kingdom from Yemen in 2011. He was arrested today based on the indictment described above. Prior to his arrest, Pham was held by British authorities in immigration custody.

The indictment charges Pham, 29, with five counts. Counts one and two of the indictment charge Pham with conspiracy to provide and providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Count three charges Pham with conspiracy to receive military-type training from a foreign terrorist organization. Count four charges him with receipt of military-type training from a foreign terrorist organization and count five charges him with use, carrying and possession of firearms (machine guns) in furtherance of crimes of violence.

If convicted on all counts, Pham would face a maximum sentence of life in prison, with a mandatory minimum sentence of 40 years in prison.

Mr. Bharara praised the extraordinary investigative work of the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force—which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the New York City Police Department—for the critical role they played and continue to play in the investigation of Pham and his co-conspirators. In addition, Mr. Bharara thanked the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and its Office of International Affairs; various other U.S. government agencies; and British authorities, including the Metropolitan Police Service and the Crown Prosecution Service, all of whom provided extraordinary cooperation in the investigation.

This case is being handled by the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen B. Ritchin, Benjamin Naftalis, Anna M. Skotko, and Sean S. Buckley are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Defense Leaders Provide Middle East Update

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – Steady progress is being made in dealing with challenges in the Middle East, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters in a briefing here today.

Topics included the situation between U.S. ally Turkey and the internally embattled Syria, a rescheduled U.S.-Israeli military exercise, an upcoming DOD visit to Iraq, and continuing discussions with military leaders in Pakistan.

“We continue to be concerned about developments in Syria,” Panetta said, referring to ongoing violence between the brutal authoritarian regime of Bashar Assad and determined opposition groups, and the movement of Turkish military assets to the Syrian border after the June 22 shootdown by Syrian forces of a Turkish Phantom F-4 fighter and its two-member aircrew.

The secretary said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is engaged in discussions with U.S. allies in the region, including Turkey.

“Turkey is one of our allies in that region,” Panetta said. “We continue to be in close discussions with them with regard to how we best approach the situation in Syria.”

Dempsey said he had a recent conversation with his Turkish counterpart, Chief of the General Staff Gen. Necdet Ozel, adding, “He's taking a very measured approach to the incident. … He and I are staying in contact.”

Also in the region, the chairman said the United States and Israel have rescheduled a joint military exercise called Austere Challenge.

Dempsey said a final decision on the exercise date will be determined during a current visit to Israel by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James N. Miller.

In Iraq, where the level of violence increased this month, Panetta said discussions continue with the Iraqis on the threat from al-Qaida terrorists.

“We've seen increased violence [and] … we share the concern of the Iraqis with regard to that increased violence,” the secretary said, adding, “We're going to continue to work with them to … improve their ability to be able to deal with those kinds of threats.”

Before leaving Iraq, he added, U.S. forces worked in great cooperation on this problem.

“We've continued to work with their security forces but we think it's really important now that we try to bring that cooperation even closer together to make sure that these kinds of threats are dealt with directly,” Panetta said.

Dempsey said Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command, had high-level consultative talks with the Iraqis earlier this year and Panetta hosted a May 23 meeting at the Pentagon with Iraqi Acting Minister of Defense Saadoun al-Dulaymi.

“What we're doing is charting a way ahead, actually, on the potential for exercises, the things we talked about at the closing ceremony” in December 2011, the chairman said, adding that he plans a visit to Iraq later this year.

Discussions also continue between American and Pakistani officials over the reopening of Pakistan supply routes -- called ground lines of communication, or GLOCs -- into Afghanistan, and the breakup of Pakistan safe havens for militant groups like the Haqqani network, Panetta said.

“We continue to have a line of communication with the Pakistanis to try to see if we can take steps to reopen the GLOCs,” Panetta said, adding, “The good news is that there continue to be those discussions.”

Tough issues still need to be settled, the secretary said.

“I think the important thing right now is that both sides, in good faith, keep working to see if we can resolve this,” he said.

Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, met recently with Pakistani Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the secretary said.

“I think [Allen] made clear that both the United States and Pakistan have to work together to deal with the threat from the Haqqanis,” Panetta said, adding that Kayani seemed receptive to U.S. concerns.

“After all,” the secretary said, “they, too, have been victims of terrorism. They lost 17 Pakistanis on a patrol to the [Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan] … so we have a common enemy. It would make sense if we could work together to confront that common enemy.”

Friday, June 29, 2012

Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

They died June 27, in Maidan Shahr, Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device.

Killed were:

1st Lt. Stephen C. Prasnicki, 24, of Lexington, Va., assigned to 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Warner Barracks, Bamberg, Germany, and

Sgt. James L. Skalberg Jr., 25, of Cullman, Ala., assigned to 4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas.

For more information on Prasnicki, media may contact the U.S. Army Europe in Heidelberg, Germany, public affairs office at 011 49 6221-57-8628.

For more information on Skalberg, media may contact the 1st Armored Division public affairs office at 254-371-5704.

Hasan Trial Set for Aug. 20 as Judge Denies Continuance

From a Fort Hood News Release

FORT HOOD, Texas, June 29, 2012 – The trial of an Army psychiatrist accused of killing 12 soldiers and a civilian employee here in a Nov. 5, 2009, shooting rampage that left 30 others injured will start as scheduled Aug. 20, a military judge ruled today.

Army Col. Gregory Gross denied Maj. Nidal M. Hasan’s request for a further continuance until December.

Gross also submitted to questioning from Hasan’s defense counsel concerning whether he was biased against the accused and ruled that he was not and that no implied bias existed. After announcement of that ruling, defense counsel stated their intention to appeal the military judge's refusal to recuse himself to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

In another matter pertaining to the case, the judge ruled that the commanding general of 3rd Corps and Fort Hood and his staff judge advocate must make themselves available for a joint interview by defense counsel concerning the referral of the case for trial by court-martial.

Hasan was not present in court today and viewed the proceedings via a closed-circuit feed in a trailer next to the courthouse. The judge announced that Hasan still was not clean-shaven as required by Army regulations, that the Army had declined to grant him a religious accommodation for the beard, and that the Army Court of Criminal Appeals refused to hear his appeal of the judge's decision last week to remove him from the courtroom because of the beard.

The judge is expected to rule on other pending motions and take up any new motions at a hearing scheduled for July 6.

Combined Force Captures Haqqani Leader

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2012 – An Afghan and coalition security force apprehended a Haqqani leader in the Sabari district of Afghanistan’s Khost province today, military officials reported.

The detained leader built improvised explosive devices, purchased weapons, and coordinated attacks against Afghan and coalition forces throughout the region.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- A combined force detained several suspected insurgents during a search for a Taliban leader in the Kandahar district of Kandahar province. The sought-after Taliban leader conducts direct-fire and IED attacks throughout the district.

-- In the Khugyani district of Nangarhar province, a combined force detained numerous suspected insurgents and seized multiple AK-47 rifles, shotguns and illegal narcotics during an operation to detain a Taliban leader. The leader is responsible for the movement of weapons and personnel throughout the region, and coordinates attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

In June 28 operations:

-- A combined force-requested airstrike killed Maulawi Sadiq, a Taliban leader and explosives expert, in the Charkh district of Logar province. The deceased Taliban leader had provided explosive materials and training to insurgents, coordinated insurgent movements, and planned attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in the region. The airstrike didn’t harm any civilians and didn’t damage civilian property.

-- Afghan police and coalition forces detained three insurgents in Khowst province’s Sabari district.

-- Afghan police and coalition forces detained one insurgent in Khowst province’s Terezayi district.

-- Afghan police and coalition forces discovered a cache containing mortar rounds, mines and ammunition in the Yahya Khel district of Paktika province.

-- Afghan soldiers and coalition forces detained eight insurgents in Paktiya province’s Gardez district.