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Sunday, August 07, 2005

Timing Is Everything 

The good news (via our eminent colleague John Aravosis of AmericaBlog):
A suspected Islamic militant deported to Britain was arrested Sunday on a U.S. warrant accusing him of taking steps to organize a training camp in Oregon to prepare jihad fighters in Afghanistan, police said . . . .

The U.S. warrant accuses [Haroon Rashid] Aswat of conspiring with others between October 1999 and April 2000 to set up a camp in Bly, Ore., aimed at training and equipping individuals to "fight jihad in Afghanistan," police said in a statement . . . .

Aswat is one of two associates of the Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri who are referred to but not named or charged in a 2002 indictment issued by a federal grand jury in Seattle against a Muslim convert from the area, officials have said. The other is Oussama Kassir, a Lebanese-born Swede, who was convicted of weapons violations in Sweden in 2003.
The bad news:
The Justice Department blocked efforts by its prosecutors in Seattle in 2002 to bring criminal charges against Haroon Aswat, according to federal law-enforcement officials who were involved in the case.

As law-enforcement officials in Seattle prepared to take that case to a federal grand jury here, they had hoped to indict Aswat, [James] Ujaama, Abu Hamza and another associate, according to former and current law-enforcement officials with knowledge of the case.

But that plan was rejected by higher-level officials at Justice Department headquarters, who wanted most of the case to be handled by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York City, according to sources involved with the case . . . .

At the time, however, federal prosecutors chose not to indict Aswat for reasons that are not clear. Asked why Aswat wasn't indicted, a federal official in Seattle replied, "That's a great question."
The worse news, inexplicably omitted from the AP wire story linked above:
British authorities suspect Aswat of taking part in the July 7 London bombings, which killed 56 and prompted an intense worldwide manhunt for him . . . .

British intelligence officials now think that in the days and hours before the July 7 bombings, Aswat was in cellphone contact with at least two of the four suicide bombers, according to The Times of London.

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