The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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MONDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2017
AT LEAST 50 DEAD IN SHOOTING ON LAS VEGAS STRIP

A gunman rained down fire on concertgoers at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip Sunday night, killing at least 200 people and injuring “in excess of 100” others before dying during a standoff with police, authorities said. The death toll makes it one of the deadliest mass shootings ever in the U.S. Police identified the gunman as Stephen Paddock, 64. The gunman was previously known to local police for past run-ins with law enforcement, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Gunshots were reportedly fired from the upper floors of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino around 10 p.m. local time. Police said they confronted Paddock shortly after on the hotel’s 32nd floor. Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said police believe Paddock, a local resident, was a “lone wolf” who acted on his own. Police also said they seeking “a companion” of the shooter named Marilou Danley, a woman described as Asian and 4-foot-11.

The shooting occurred at the end of the Route 91 Harvest Festival, a three-day country music concert held over the weekend that reportedly drew 30,000 attendees. The concert grounds are adjacent to Mandalay Bay. The shots began as Jason Aldean, one of the final performers, was playing.

Video of the shooting captured nine seconds of rapid-fire, continuous bursts, followed by 37 seconds of silence from the weapon amid panicked screaming. The barrage of gunfire then erupted again in at least two more rounds, both shorter than the first. Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal

SUSPECTED TERROR ATTACK INJURES FIVE IN CANADA
Canadian police say a man driving a white car struck a police officer and stabbed him multiple times outside a football stadium Saturday in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta in Canada.

Hours later, police say, the same man — this time driving a U-Haul truck — was pulled over a few miles away, drove off and struck four pedestrians.

Police have said evidence from the scenes, including an Islamic State flag found inside the suspect's vehicle, has led them to believe it was a terrorist act.

Canadian officials have identified the suspect as a 30-year-old Somali refugee who was known to police. They had received a tip about him in 2015 as someone who was “espousing extremist ideology.” After opening an investigation in 2015 that included interviews with the man and others, the inquiry was ultimately closed without further action. Globe and Mail, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal
Related:
Edmonton Journal: The Unfolding Aftermath of Edmonton’s Terror Attack

TWO WOMEN KILLED IN SUSPECTED TERROR ATTACK AT MARSEILLE TRAIN STATION
A man with a knife stabbed two women, aged 17 and 20, to death Sunday at the main train station in the southern French city of Marseille as he reportedly shouted "Allahu akbar!" — an attack the Islamic State group claimed was the work of one its "soldiers.

The assailant was fatally shot by a military patrol after killing the women in front of the Saint-Charles train station. The attack interrupted train service and unnerved the country as it debated the government’s new security bill, which would give security forces additional powers, some similar to those in the state of emergency, to monitor suspects, conduct raids and search bags or vehicles.

Police said the incident was “likely a terrorist act” and the Paris prosecutor’s office that oversees all of the country’s terrorism-related cases opened a counterterrorism investigation. Associated Press, New York Times, Wall Street Journal
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ACCUSED BENGHAZI LEADER GOES ON TRIAL
The accused Libyan ringleader of the 2012 Benghazi attacks goes on trial in a federal court in Washington, D.C., Monday, providing another test for the government’s ability to prosecute high-profile terrorism cases in civilian courts even as the White House supports using military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay.

U.S. special forces captured Ahmed Abu Khatallah in Libya in 2014. Intelligence operatives grilled Khatallah on a U.S. warship for nearly two weeks before he was formally charged and given access to a lawyer. He was accused of leading the armed militia that overran a U.S. diplomatic compound and nearby CIA post in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, killing the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
Khatallah is charged with 18 counts, including murder and providing support for terrorists. The U.S. is not seeking the death penalty.

The federal trial also will shine a light on the U.S. detention of terrorism suspects in secret — the latest being a still-unidentified American citizen who was captured in Syria by local militias on Sept. 12 and handed over to the U.S. military, which said he had fought for Islamic State. The Trump administration has yet to publicly identify the American or say where he is being held. It’s not clear if he has been formally charged, given a lawyer or brought back to the United States. A Pentagon spokesman, Maj. Benjamin E. Sakrisson, said Thursday that the International Committee of the Red Cross has been notified about the detention and is expected to meet with the suspect “in the near future.” Los Angeles Times
Related:
USA Today: 5 Things to Know as Abu Khatallah Heads to Court
New York Times: At Trial, a Focus on the Facts, Not the Politics, of Benghazi

AMERICAN FOUND GUILTY OF SUPPORTING AL QAEDA
An American citizen was found guilty Friday of conspiring to aid al Qaeda and to bomb a US military base in Afghanistan.

Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, 31, could face life in prison after a federal jury in Brooklyn, New York, convicted him on nine counts, including conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals and to use a weapon of mass destruction. His sentencing is set for January 11.

Federal prosecutors claimed Al Farekh was a member of the terror organization from 2007 to 2014. Court papers detailed his alleged participation in the January 2009 attack on a US military installation in Khost, Afghanistan, where a truck armed with explosives blew up at the gate of the base and a second truck was prepared to do more harm. CNN, Reuters, Associated Press, New York Times

NEW YORK’S ALLEGED CHELSEA BOMBER GOES ON TRIAL
On Monday, 29-year-old Ahmad Khan Rahimi will be tried on federal charges in connection with a homemade bomb that shook Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood just days after the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. No one was killed in the bombings, and Rahimi, a 29-year-old Afghan-born United States citizen, has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors said 31 people were injured, with some expected to testify at the trial and to tell of glass and metal fragments piercing there limbs and faces. The defendant faces charges including using a weapon of mass destruction and bombing a public place. If convicted, he could face life in prison. CNN, New York Times

FBI WON’T HAVE TO REVEAL DETAILS ON IPHONE HACKING TOOL IN SAN BERNARDINO CASE
A federal judge has ruled that the FBI does not have to make public how much it paid last year to unlock an iPhone used by one of the apparent perpetrators of the San Bernardino terrorist attack, which killed 14 people.

Three news organizations — USA Today, The Associated Press and Vice Media — sued under the Freedom of Information Act to try to force the FBI to reveal the amount of the payment and the identity of the company that received it, but U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled Saturday that that information is exempt from mandatory disclosure under the landmark transparency statute. Politico, The Verge, Ars Technica


TRUMP SAYS NORTH KOREA TALKS ARE ‘A WASTE OF TIME’
President Trump dismissed the prospect of talks with Pyongyang as pointless less than a day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. was using new channels of communication to weigh the possibility of negotiations with North Korea about its nuclear program.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Mr Trump tweeted on Sunday morning. “Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!” In a second tweet later in the day, he added: “Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail.”

Richard Haass, president of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, slammed Trump for undercutting his secretary of state. “Potus truly misguided here-& SecState should resign,” he tweeted on Sunday. Ian Bremmer, head of Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy, said the president’s comments were the “stupidest tweet on national security I’ve ever seen from a sitting head of state.” Financial Times, Washington Post
Related:
New Yorker: Why Trump’s Words on North Korea Matter

MONITORING GROUP: SYRIA’S WAR HAS DEADLIEST MONTH SO FAR THIS YEAR
September was the deadliest month in Syria's civil war so far this year, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). The monitoring group said more than 3,300 people had died in September, including 995 civilians. Of those civilian deaths, it said about 70 percent were caused by Russian, Syrian government, or coalition air strikes. BBC News

NORTH KOREAN SHIP SEIZED WITH MUNITIONS: BOUND FOR EGYPTIAN BUYERS
Last August, a secret message was passed from Washington to Cairo warning about a mysterious vessel steaming toward the Suez Canal, reports the Washington Post. Egyptian customs agents swarmed the vessel and discovered, concealed under bins of iron ore, a cache of more than 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades. It was, as a United Nations report later concluded, the “largest seizure of ammunition in the history of sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

But who were the rockets for? The Jie Shun’s final secret would take months to resolve and would yield perhaps the biggest surprise of all: The buyers were the Egyptians themselves.

A U.N. investigation uncovered a complex arrangement in which Egyptian business executives ordered millions of dollars worth of North Korean rockets for the country’s military while also taking pains to keep the transaction hidden, according to U.S. officials and Western diplomats familiar with the findings. The incident, many details of which were never publicly revealed, prompted the latest in a series of intense, if private, U.S. complaints over Egyptian efforts to obtain banned military hardware from Pyongyang, the officials said. Washington Post


Terror support trial opens in France: The older brother of a French extremist who killed seven people in a series of attacks on a Jewish school and soldiers goes on trial Monday for complicity in the 2012 shooting spree that in retrospect marked the start of an era of homegrown jihadi violence in France. The criminal trial of Abdelkader Merah, 35, will be the first time a French court considers charges in the attacks that took the lives of three Jewish children, a teacher and three paratroopers, over nine days in the Toulouse region. Associated Press
TOP OP-EDS
One very big reason not to scrap the Iran nuclear deal: “Did Pakistani proliferator A. Q. Khan sell a key design for nuclear bomb to Iran?” writes Jeremy Bernstein in the New York Times. “The likelihood is that he did. And that is a powerful reason why President Trump must not back out of the nuclear deal with Iran when he is required to recertify the deal in October, as he has strongly hinted that he intends. If the deal is scrapped, Iran, nuclear design in hand, will be able to produce its first nuclear weapon in just months.”

Don’t let the CIA run wars: “Espionage is sometimes called the cloak-and-dagger business. That term no longer applies to the Central Intelligence Agency,” writes Stephen Kinzer in the Boston Globe. “It was established to collect and analyze information, and — at times — quietly subvert enemies. Now its main job is killing. Instead of running agents, it launches drone attacks. The CIA is becoming a war-fighting machine: no cloak, all dagger.”

Should Rex Tillerson resign? “In our combined 50-plus years at the State Department, neither of us ever witnessed as profound a humiliation as a sitting president handed his secretary of state Sunday morning,” write Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky in Politico. “But in all fairness, the former ExxonMobil chief has never been empowered by his president. He’s been undercut repeatedly by this White House—see Kushner, Jared—and by Trump personally, even (especially) when he’s making the right diplomatic moves. And there’s no sign that any one of the vultures circling around Tillerson would be able to change or transcend this dynamic. So for those of you calling for Tillerson to resign after Trump’s latest humiliation, we suggest you lie down and wait quietly until the feeling passes. Sunday’s tweets—and the past nine months, frankly—are exhibits A-Z that in Trump land, it might not matter whether Tillerson resigns or who replaces him.”

The unintended consequences of amending Indonesia’s anti-terrorism law: “Earlier this year, the Indonesian parliament began considering amendments to the 2003 anti-terrorism law. Several of the proposed amendments, if passed, would represent a gross overreach that could have serious consequences for Indonesian democracy, stability, and standing as a nation that respects human rights,” writes Julie Chernov Hwang in Lawfare. “They could also be counterproductive. The plans might exacerbate a pre-existing problem in Indonesia—the radicalization of prisoners—by providing a steady stream of curious youths arrested for possession of literature or speeches by radical figures into prisons ill equipped to handle them.”
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