U.S. Soldier Charged For Planned Attack

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 (UPI) — A U.S. soldier who allegedly planned a bombing and shooting attack on troops from Fort Hood, Texas, has been charged in U.S. District Court.

U.S. Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, an infantryman with the 101st Airborne, has initially been charged with possession of an unregistered destructive device.

Abdo, 21, of Garland, Texas, was arrested in Killeen, Texas, July 27 after an employee of a gun store called police to report that Abdo, who had acted suspiciously, purchased ammunition and smokeless gunpowder.

A search of his motel room near Fort Hood turned up enough bomb making materials for two explosive devices, officials said.

“He was all ready to go,” an unidentified law enforcement source was quoted as saying.

Abdo, of Jordanian descent, is the third Muslim soldier since the Sept. 11, 2011, terror attack on the United States to be charged with terror-related offenses.

In March 2003, Sgt. Hasan Karim Akbar, born Mark Fidel Kools, killed two officers and wounded 14 other soldiers of the 101st Airborne in a grenade and shooting attack in Kuwait at the start of the Iraq war.

Thirteen people were killed and 32 wounded at a Fort Hood medical facility in 2009 in a shooting. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a psychiatrist, has been charged with the shootings. He was about to be deployed to Afghanistan.

“Frankly, I’m … concerned that this increased speculation could cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers,” Army Gen. George Casey, then Army chief of staff said of a possible distrust of Muslim troops by non-Muslim soldiers.

“As great a tragedy as this was, it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well.”

In all three instances, no connection to a larger plot has been uncovered. All three seem to be “Lone Wolves.” Akbar, who is awaiting execution, apparently acted out of personal grudges; Hasan, who is awaiting court-martial proceedings, is said have shown mental instability prior to the shooting spree but was also allegedly influenced by the writings of Anwar Awlaki, a U.S.-born leader in al-Qaida.

Abdo, who faces additional charges, purportedly received bomb-making instructions from a jihadist Web site but no real connection to a terrorist cell has been found.

Like Hasan, Abdo faced deployment to Afghanistan but was being processed out of the Army after obtaining Conscientious Objector status. Discharge, however, was put on hold and Abdo was absent without leave from Fort Campbell, Ky., July 4 when child pornography was allegedly found on his government-issued computer and he faced trial because of it.

“The homegrown violent extremist threat is one of the serious terrorism threats we face inside the homeland outside of al Qaeda and its affiliates,” said Mark F. Giuliano, assistant director of the FBI’s counter-terrorism division. “It is a rapidly evolving threat with characteristics that are constantly changing due to external experiences and motivational factors.

“We … have seen individuals inside the United States become radicalized and motivated to conduct attacks against the homeland. These individuals can be as diverse as U.S.-born citizens, naturalized U.S. citizens, foreign students, green card holders or illegal immigrants but the commonality is their desire to strike inside the United States.

“Second, we have seen U.S. citizens become radicalized in the United States and travel or attempt to travel overseas to obtain training and return to the United States or to join and fight with groups overseas.

“Lastly, we have seen U.S. citizens become radicalized and use the Internet to further their radicalization, contribute to the radicalization of others, or provide services to facilitate Internet radicalization. Whereas the Internet was previously used to spread propaganda, it is now used in recruiting, radicalizing, training and inciting terrorism. Thousands of extremist Web sites promote violence to a worldwide audience predisposed to the extremist message and more of these Web sites and U.S. citizens are involved in Internet radicalization,” he said last April.

Abdo and Hasan appear to fall into the third category.

Although recent incidents involving Muslim extremists in the United States is a vexing security issue, so is domestic extremism for other causes, real or imagined.

Former soldiers Timothy McVeigh and accomplice Terry Nichols killed 168 people in a 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski killed three people and wounded many others during a 20-year mail-bomb campaign against industrial society, for example.

And neither is violent, domestic extremism in Western societies a peculiarly American phenomenon and danger.

The bombing and shooting spree in Norway this month by Anders Breivik allegedly to spark an uprising against Muslim immigration is a case in point.

July Heat Set Record Highs Across U.S

CINCINNATI, Aug. 1 (UPI) — July wrapped up pretty much as it began for much of United States — blistering hot with more than 2,600 daily record highs broken, meteorologists say.

The record-breaking heat ushered in August Monday, with AccuWeather.com forecasters saying a dome of high pressure that cooked the nation during July will remain in place through at least the first week of the new month.

The National Weather Service said 2,676 daily record high temperatures were broken or tied in July across the United States, topping the total from last year’s hot July by more than 1,200.

The hot, dry weather will extend the drought ravaging Texas and the southern Plains, AccuWeather.com meteorologist Brian Edwards said.

AccuWeather.com, based in Cincinnati, said the “bubble of heat” could begin to diminish toward the middle of the month, offering a chance that temperatures will be closer to normal.

Medical Pot Measure Offered In Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Aug. 1 (UPI) — Medical marijuana may be headed for a referendum in Ohio as supporters file preliminary petition signatures.

Backers submitted 2,143 signatures for a summary of the proposed state constitutional amendment to Attorney General Mike DeWine last week, the Dayton Daily News reported.

Once 1,000 signatures have been verified, DeWine will determine if the proposal’s summary language is fair and truthful. It would then be reviewed by the Ohio Ballot Board and Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Supporters then would need at least 385,245 signatures to get the amendment on the November 2012 ballot, said Matt McClellan, Husted’s press secretary.

A dozen states have legalized medical marijuana, but it is still illegal under federal law.

The amendment’s summary says qualifying conditions would include glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, Parkinson’s disease or any condition that causes chronic pain, severe muscle spasms or wasting, the Daily News said. Patients could possess up to 3.5 ounces.

The amendment echoes a bill introduced in the Legislature in April.

Crude Oil Jumps On Debt-ceiling Deal

NEW YORK, Aug. 1 (UPI) — Crude oil prices rose sharply in New York, climbing above $97 per barrel after President Barack Obama announced a debt ceiling deal had been reached.

Republicans and Democrats have been sparring for weeks on a budget plan that was tied to the debt ceiling. The Treasury Department had warned lawmakers that without reaching a deal by Aug. 2, the government would have defaulted on many of its bills.

Oil prices had tracked lower on concerns that the political parties might not reach an agreement in time. With Obama’s announcement, West Texas Intermediate crude oil for September delivery shot back up, gaining $1.35 to reach $97.05 per barrel.

Home heating oil prices added 6.93 cents to $3.1687 per gallon. Reformulated blendstock gasoline prices added 5.41 cents to $3.112 per gallon. Henry Hub natural gas prices gained 4.5 cents to reach $4.19 per million British thermal units.

At the pump, the national average price of unleaded gasoline to $3.705 per gallon Monday from Sunday’s $3.707, AAA said.

Al-Shabaab To Launch Ramadan Offensive?

MOGADISHU, Somalia, Aug. 1 (UPI) — Somali militant group al-Shabaab has received a cache of weapons in preparation for an assault to coincide with the holy month of Ramadan, a source said.

Al-Shabaab has declared war on the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia. The transitional government in Mogadishu is struggling to exert control over a country dominated by the terrorist group, an affiliate of al-Qaida.

Sources in the African Union told CNN that al-Shabaab had hundreds of fighters staged outside the Somali capital in preparation for a Ramadan assault.

Monday marks the start of the Muslim holy month.

Sources to CNN said al-Shabaab may have received a shipment of weapons from its Yemeni allies in preparation of the Ramadan assault.

A report last week from the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security concluded there was a “looming danger” of U.S. nationals who have pledged loyalty to al-Shabaab returning to the United States to strike or help al-Qaida and its affiliates attack the United States.

U.S. lawmakers in the report expressed concern about links between al-Shabaab and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen’s al-Qaida offshoot.

Somalia, meanwhile, is in the grips of lingering drought that prompted relief agencies to declare a humanitarian emergency.

Lawyers Decry Treatment Of Asylum-seekers

CANBERRA, Australia, Aug. 1 (UPI) — The Australian Lawyers Alliance has slammed government officials for giving police the authority to use stun guns on Malaysian asylum-seekers.

The alliance said the Australian Federal Police shouldn’t have the “carte blanche” authority to user stun guns to force asylum-seekers to board planes back to detention centers in Malaysia, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Monday.

The group criticized Prime Minister Julia Gillard for her role in sending Malaysian refugees home.

Under an agreement with Malaysia, Australia can put asylum-seekers on a plane back home within 72 hours of their arrival on Christmas Island.

“It is a recipe for disaster,” said Greg Barns, president of the 2,000-member lawyer group. “[Julia Gillard] is playing politics with human life.”

Police said they were given the same “options” on lawbreakers on Christmas Island as they have on the mainland, including use of stun guns, batons, tear gas, pepper spray, handcuffs and bean-bag bullets.

“These weapons are really dangerous, Barns said. “Serious injury and death have resulted from the use of Tasers.”

Barns accused Gillard of giving police officers permission to use “fatal weaponry on people who are traumatized.”

“These are vulnerable people who, in many cases, have been brutalized by police in their own country,” Barns said. “This is heavy-handed, jackbooted and unnecessary. She is playing politics with human life.”

Gillard said she is merely doing her job.

“The Australian Federal Police can speak on operational matters, but we will do what is necessary to ensure that people who are taken to Malaysia under the agreement are taken,” Gillard said.

Gillard said she warned the police against “getting carried away” in using force on the asylum-seekers.

Ex-teacher Charged In Child Porn Case

MIAMI, Aug. 1 (UPI) — Defense attorneys say a former teacher can’t be prosecuted for viewing child pornography because he did so before a law banning it was enacted.

Prosecutors disagree and are pursuing charges against a Harvard-educated attorney who later earned a master’s degree in elementary education, The Miami Herald reported Monday.

Prosecutors allege ex-elementary schoolteacher Robert DeNapoli, 50, broke state law when he viewed child pornography in a University of Miami computer lab in 2006.

DeNapoli is charged with eight counts of possessing child pornography; the case against the former teacher will be heard Aug. 10 by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Leon Firtel.

Defense attorneys want Firtel to throw out the case, saying DeNapoli never downloaded any images, and his alleged activities took place before a law making it illegal to do so was enacted. A subsequent search of DeNapoli’s home and home computer found no child pornography.

“What he allegedly did was not illegal, and for those reasons the case should be dismissed,” said Mark Seiden, DeNapoli’s defense attorney.

Prosecutor Brenda Mezick said Florida law has long outlawed DeNapoli’s alleged behavior.

DeNapoli “exerted his control over the images by maneuvering the Web site, navigating through the galleries of the Web site. He then accessed other child pornography Web sites and associated links,” Mezick said in court documents. “He exercised dominion over the images.”

Kurds Weigh In On PJAK Border Conflict

TEHRAN, Aug. 1 (UPI) — Authorities in Iraq need to take a stronger stance against militants threatening regional security, a Kurdish official said.

Iraqi officials have expressed concern to Iran over cross-border raids in pursuit of militants with the Party for Free Life of Kurdistan, or PJAK. Iranian officials have acknowledged sending troops to the border region and moving across the Iraqi border allegedly in pursuit of PJAK gunmen.

Ahmad Ibrahim, identified as a member of the Kurdish Parliament, told the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcaster that Kurdish militancy presents a serious security concern in the region.

“Iraqi authorities should not allow the members of the group to use the border areas of Iraq’s Kurdistan region to attack Iran,” he was quoted as saying.

PJAK is considered a close affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which was blamed for killing Turkish soldiers near the border with Iraq in July.

Drone Attack Kills 6 Suspected Militants

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug. 1 (UPI) — Six suspected militants were killed in a drone attack on a vehicle in Pakistan’s tribal region of South Waziristan Monday, intelligence officials said.

The Pakistani officials told CNN a drone fired two missiles at the vehicle.

South Waziristan is on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan and the majority of drone strikes have been in areas in North and South Waziristan, the officials said.

Intelligence experts say the areas are havens for militants.

The United States normally doesn’t comment on drone strikes but is the only country in the region known to have the ability to launch missiles from remote-controlled drones.

U.S. Welcomes STL Release Of Names

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 (UPI) — The release of the names of members of Hezbollah allegedly tied to the killing of Rafik Hariri is a key development for the country, a U.S. official said.

The U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon last week released the names of the four individuals wanted for the killing of Hariri, a former prime minister of Lebanon. They are: Salim Jamil Ayyash, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hussein Hassan Ainessi and Assad Hassan Sabra.

Hariri and 21 others were killed in a bomb attack Feb. 14, 2005.

Mark Toner, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said the indictments were an important development for Lebanon.

“This indictment is an important milestone and we call on the government of Lebanon to continue to meet its obligations under international law to support the special tribunal,” he said.

Hezbollah said its members are off-limits to the tribunal. The Shiite movement helped bring down the government of Saad Hariri, Rafik Hariri’s son, in January while he was visiting the United States.

Hezbollah said it was frustrated with Hariri’s support for the tribunal, which it accuses of being part of an Israeli ploy.

Toner noted, however, that Washington hasn’t seen the full indictment, which was handed in June to authorities in Beirut.