Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Retired cop says Yemeni man had plan

May 11, 2011

By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff

Retired San Mateo police officer Larry Wright helped subdue a Yemeni man on a San Francisco-bound flight from Chicago who was trying to access the plane’s cockpit.

Larry Wright was busy watching television on his iPhone Sunday night as a commotion erupted on the San Francisco-bound American Airlines flight from Chicago he was traveling on.

He heard a scream from behind, although faint through the earphones he was wearing, when a moment later a man brushed by him in a rush toward the front of the plane.

Wright watched the man’s speed toward the cockpit turn to a trot, then a run when he heard the man scream “Allahu Akbar.”

Immediately, the former San Mateo police officer’s instincts kicked into gear.

The phrase Allahu Akbar or “God is great” is the same phrase an al-Qaida terrorist who participated in the hijacking of Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, was heard saying on a voice recorder as the plane plummeted to a field in Pennsylvania.

Wright quickly unbuckled his seat belt after he heard the phrase and headed toward the man as it quickly became clear the agitated passenger was not headed toward the bathroom but rather the plane’s cockpit.

Some passengers and flight attendants briefly struggled with the irate man before Wright reached him and subdued him.

Yesterday, a federal prosecutor called the passenger, 28-year-old Rageh al-Murisi of Yemen, a “significant threat.”

Al-Murisi, who has family in Vallejo, is currently being held in custody without bail while awaiting trial.

Wright, who retired from the SMPD in 2007, recounted Sunday night’s events yesterday at San Francisco International Airport.

Al-Murisi was being taken to the ground by four or five others on the plane when Wright finally took a hold of him.

While Wright’s adrenaline was pumping, so too was al-Murisi’s as the former officer’s hands slipped off the struggling passenger.

“His skin was clammy, almost moist,” Wright said yesterday.

Wright wrapped the man up again in a “control hold” while others tried to cuff him. Wright too then attempted to put some “flex cuffs” on al-Murisi without success. He tried again, this time successful, as he told others to take the man’s shoes and socks off.

Wright then took his belt off and strapped al-Murisi’s wrists to his ankles. He was under control but Wright’s attention immediately went to the “what-ifs.”

Wright asked himself, was the man carrying a contaminant or improvised explosive device? Was there an accomplice?

Not wanting to risk the safety of other passengers, Wright determined the man should not be transported to the back of the plane as first suggested by one of the flight attendants.

Instead, Wright laid the man face down on the floor near the front of the plane and sat on him for about 20 minutes until the plane and all of its passengers landed safely in San Francisco.

“I knew what could have happened and it didn’t happen,” Wright said yesterday. “He had a plan. I thought he was trying to crash the plane.”

Al-Murisi never said a word directly to Wright.

“He just kept saying Allahu Akbar over and over again, maybe 30 times,” Wright said.

The phrase has become synonymous with the events of Sept. 11 and Wright knew through his training when al-Murisi first yelled the phrase on the plane that nothing good could come from it.

Nearly 10 years ago, on the day of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Wright was at a High-tech Crime Investigation Association meeting in Long Beach when the Twin Towers fell.

He saved the green T-shirt from that weekend’s event as a reminder and brought it to the airport yesterday.

“I swore to myself after that day that I would never be a victim,” Wright, 54, said while holding up the T-shirt.

He does not consider himself to be a hero, however.

In fact, he was reluctant to come forward and tell his story because he prefers to live a private life.

“I’m no hero. Under the circumstances, I did what I think everyone should do,” he said.

Wright worked with the San Mateo Police Department from 1981 until his retirement in 2007.

He quoted a phrase from 18th century Irish statesman Edmund Burke at the airport yesterday.

“Evil prevails when good men do nothing.”

Al-Murisi had no luggage and was carrying two checks totaling $13,000 on the flight. Al-Murisi, who holds a Yemeni passport, had identification showing addresses in New York City and Vallejo, federal prosecutors said yesterday.

A detention hearing for al-Murisi is scheduled for Friday, federal prosecutors said. The crime of interfering with flight crew members and attendants carries a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison upon conviction.

“We don’t need to be flustered by this, but we must be prepared,” Wright said yesterday.

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

Yemeni security forces open fire on protesters

SANAA, Yemen May 11, 2011 (AP) — Witnesses say Yemeni security forces and snipers have opened fire on thousands of anti-government protesters marching to the Cabinet building.

The protesters calling for the ouster of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh were marching from a main square toward the Cabinet when they came under fire from snipers on rooftops, plainclothes security forces, and soldiers with anti-aircraft guns mounted on pickup trucks.

"The snipers were shooting at the people," Talal al-Hamadi, a protester, said. "People rushed and some fell over each other. There was a stampede."

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Security forces fired on anti-government protesters Wednesday in southern Yemen, killing three people, and demonstrators took over an Oil Ministry building, activists said.

Nouh al-Wafi said two protesters were killed and four wounded in the volatile city of Taiz, and another protester was killed in the city of Damar after demonstrators calling for the ouster of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh clashed with police.

After the second protester was killed in Taiz, demonstrators stormed the police station where the gunfire came from, seized a policeman whom they accused of shooting, and handed him over to the prosecutor's office, said another activist, Ghazi al-Samai.

He also said protesters were setting fire to tires in several streets in Taiz and took control of three government buildings, including the Oil Ministry.

In Sanaa, the capital, protesters started a second sit-in on one of the city's main streets, adding to the already large permanent sit-in on Change Square near Sanaa University, al-Wafi said.

Tawakul Karman, a senior member of the main opposition party, Islah, said plans were developing for protest marches on the presidential palace in Sanaa, and other government buildings elsewhere, to press Saleh to step down.

In Aden, another southern city, demonstrators also set fire to tires in the streets as the city was paralyzed by a civil disobedience called by the opposition. Similar demonstrations took place in Hadramawt and Hodeida.

Yemen has been reeling from nearly three months of protests demanding Saleh's ouster. In office for over three decades, Saleh has intensified his crackdown on the protests and refused a regional mediation offer.

More than 140 people have reportedly been killed in the government crackdown on the escalating protests.

Yemen protests paralyze 2 cities, police kill two

By Mohammed Ghobari and Mohamed Sudam

May 11, 2011

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni security forces killed two protesters and wounded dozens on Wednesday as mass rallies demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh paralyzed two major cities on Wednesday, residents and medics said.

Snipers shot dead two demonstrators in Taiz as unrest running into a third day shut down Yemen's main industrial city. Dozens were wounded by gunfire, tear gas, and beatings by plainclothes agents wielding bats, medics in Taiz said.

Protesters retaliated by torching a police building, residents said.

Neighboring oil giant Saudi Arabia and the United States fear escalating violence could push impoverished Yemen, already riven by tribal and separatist conflict, into chaos that could be used by al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing to operate more freely.

Security forces in Taiz had been trying to break up a protest blockade of the education ministry in the region, some 200 km (130 miles) south of the capital Sanaa.

But protesters instead extended their blockade to seal off Taiz's public services and branch of the oil ministry. Residents said the city of 540,000 people was effectively paralyzed.

"Stores are closed and the streets are completely empty of pedestrians, only protesters are around in the areas they are confronting (security forces)," resident Wajdi Abdullah said.

Protesters also brought life in the city of Ibb to a virtual halt. "Almost all the stores are shut in Ibb except a few selling basic food items. No one is going to work -- this is unprecedented in this city," said resident Ali Noaman.

The Arabian Peninsula country has been buffeted by three months of daily protests and demonstrators frustrated by Saleh's reluctance to relinquish nearly 33 years in power have been seeking new ways of loosening his grip.

Many have called for extending a sporadic general strike to a daily event.

Yemen is facing a growing fuel crisis as tribesmen continue a weeks-long blockade of Maarib province, the main source of its oil and gas. A shipping source told Reuters the government was losing around $3 million a day as exports were blocked.

But that blow may prove just as crushing for residents themselves as it is for Saleh's government.

Yemen's fragile economy is struggling to stay afloat as the currency tumbles below 240 against the dollar, and prices of basic necessities skyrocket. All this will increase hardship for the 40 percent of Yemen's 23 million people who live on less than $2 a day and a third of whom suffer chronic hunger.

Residents in more remote areas are also suffering severe water shortages because trucks have stopped bringing water shipments due to fuel rationing.

Anwar Al-Awlaki is just a big mouth, says his father

By: Fares Anam

Sana'a, May 11, 2011- Nasser al-Awlaki is the father Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda leader in Yemen, who has U.S. citizenship and stands accused of targeting the west with terror attacks. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper on Sunday, Nasser al-Awlaki said that rumors that his son would replace Osama bin Laden as the leadership of al-Qaeda was no-nonsense. In this interview he said that U.S. media was behind these claims.

He is just a man with strong views and a big mouth,” said al-Awlaki about his son. He said that there were three drones which hover above his village 24 hours a day. “It’s the Americans, I’m sure of it.

They’ve killed bin Laden and now they’re after my son,” he added. The Guardian explains that Anwar al-Awlaki, although not a senior al-Qaeda leader, is seen in the west as one of the network’s top leaders and the frontrunner to replace bin Laden. This was apparently all because of his charisma and savvy when he delivers sermons against the west and the U.S.

He was also popular through his use of the Internet and had supports on social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube. He has urged Muslims worldwide to target Americans.

Nasser al-Awlaki feared for the life of his eldest son, Anwar, and after the death of bin Laden, some officials believe that Anwar and the Yemen-based al-Qaeda is the most serious threat to the U.S., noted the Guardian. U.S. President Barack Obama has given the green light for the killing of Anar al-Awlaki who is believed to be hiding in Shabwa province in south-east Yemen. U.S. officials have said that the missile strike, launched from an unmanned drone in Shabwa province last Thursday and which led to the killing of two citizens, was aimed at Anwar al-Awlaki. He had escaped the missiles though.

The Wall Street Journal newspaper and CBS television in the U.S. quoted the attack as targeted at Anwar al-Awlaki. The U.S. suspects him of being linked to an attempted attack U.S. on a passenger plane on December 25 2009. The U.S. media said that they obtained this information from U.S. officials who asked not to be named.

U.S. attorney-general Eric Holder said about Anwar al-Awlaki that “he is in the same list with bin Laden”. The Yemeni Ministry of Defense meanwhile announced that “two leaders of al-Qaeda were killed” without giving any other details.

Anwar Al-Awlaki is married and is a father for five sons. He has been accused of having met with Nigerian Umar Farooq Abdul Muttalib who was wounded and detained when he tried to blow up a passenger plane on a flight between Amsterdam and Detroit.

He also corresponded with the American officer Nedhal Hassan who was in charge of shooting dead 13 persons at Fort Hood base in Texas in November 2009. The U.S. deployed drones several months ago in Yemen to hunt down al-Qaeda activists that are increasingly in Yemen.

Diplomatic documents leaked by the Wikileaks website in January confirmed the involvement of the U.S. in an air raid targeting al-Qaeda. This had caused dozens of deaths in southern Yemen in December 2009.

A leader of the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) vowed last Wednesday to avenge the May 2 killing of bin Laden by U.S. special forces in Pakistan.

Source: Yemen Observer

Osama bin Laden said: 'Find me a wife'

Matchmaker reveals how he found the right girl for al-Qaida leader – Yemeni woman who is now in Pakistan's custody

* Tom Finn in Sana'a

* The Guardian, Wednesday 11 May 2011

* Article history

It was early in September 1999 when Rashad Mohammed Saeed Ismael, a Yemeni sheikh in his early 20s working as a preacher and a leading member of al-Qaida in Kabul, received the most important phone call of his life. Osama bin Laden had decided to marry for the fifth time and had charged Rashad, one of his closest aides, with the important task of finding him the right woman.

The aide listened carefully as Bin Laden described to him his desired spouse: "She must be pious, dutiful, young [preferably aged 16-18], well mannered, from a decent family, but above all patient. She will have to endure my exceptional circumstances."

Luckily he knew just the right girl: Amal Ahmed al-Sadah, a 17-year-old daughter of a civil servant and a former student of his, was, according to Rashad, "the perfect match" for the al-Qaida leader, then 44.

Now, just over 10 years later, Sheikh Rashad, who describes himself as a staunch supporter of al-Qaida in Yemen, is fighting for Amal and her daughter, who are currently being detained by Pakistani authorities, to be brought back home in the wake of Bin Laden's death.

"We have a strong practice in Islam called ardth [family honour]," he says. "When a woman like Amal is widowed, it is a duty upon all Muslims to look after her and ensure her safety. All the Yemeni people want her to come home."

Others fear that if Amal is brought back to Yemen she may be handed over by President Ali Abdullah Saleh to the Americans for further questioning.

Any attempts by the US to hurt Amal or any of Bin Laden's family, Rashad says, "will cause an explosion between the west and the Islamic world. Women are not warriors. America knew that Bin Laden never used women to participate in his battles."

In 2000, Rashad returned to his home town of Ibb, a verdant city in Yemen's south-west, to make the necessary arrangements. He went to the woman first, explaining to her who Bin Laden was, what he was like, and how he moved from one place to another pursued by the Americans. After she "dutifully accepted" Bin Laden's offer, a dowry of $5,000 was wired to Amal's family, triggering a bout of pre-marriage celebrations in preparation for the young woman's departure to Afghanistan.

Bin Laden's matchmaker, Amal and her elder brother left Yemen for Pakistan, first to Karachi, and then to Quetta, where they stayed for a few days until Bin Laden sent some guards to pick her up and bring her into Afghanistan. The wedding ceremony, which took place in Kandahar, then the heart of the Taliban's operations, was an all-male affair carried out in traditional Yemeni fashion. The men sang and danced and a lamb was slaughtered at Bin Laden's feet as distinguished guests recited poetry and sung him songs written for the occasion.

Today Rashad believes the fate of Bin Laden's family, especially his wives, is as, if not more, important to al-Qaida than Bin Laden's death.

"We [al-Qaida in Yemen] received the news of Bin Laden's death with happiness because we knew it was his aim to die as a martyr at the hands of the Americans. But the question of his relatives is one of women's honour, something we consider untouchable."

With Bin Laden's death, some officials believe the Yemen-based affiliate, which is autonomous and more internationally active than the old core of al-Qaida in Pakistan, may now represent the gravest threat to the US.

Yemen's weak central governance, rugged terrain, and widespread poverty has gifted militants significant elbow room over the past few months in tracts of the south-east where they have been able to thrive despite a barrage of airstrikes and raids by Saleh's US-trained counter-terrorism forces.

But despite the group's own near daily assaults on Yemeni security forces, local experts insist that al-Qaida remains a marginal group with a few hundred hardcore fighters hiding out in the mountainous provinces of Marib and Shabwa.

Last Thursday the US launched a missile strike from a drone on a village close to Rashad's village, incinerating a car along with two alleged al-Qaida militants. US and Yemeni officials later claimed that Anwar al-Awlaki, the spiritual guru of Al-Qaida in Yemen, had been the intended target but that he evaded the missile.

Rashad says he anticipates further US strikes on Yemeni soil in the near future.

"The policy of the Arab world rulers has lost them the sovereignty of their countries. All constitutions and laws have been sacrificed," he says.

"The Americans will continue to bomb us because Saleh's regime no longer controls anything and will use anything to gain support and stay in power."

When asked about the size of the organisation in Yemen and its support base, Rashad replied: "Al-Qaida is a complicated web that has no end or beginning.

"This is not an organisation with application letters and a database. Those who want to join al-Qaida receive standard religious lessons and basic military training, after that they're considered members."