American sentenced to 45 years prison for role in Al-Qaeda bomb attack

Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, an American citizen, faces life in prison after being convicted for his role in an Al-Qaeda attack on a US army base in Afghanistan in 2009. (REUTERS)
Updated 13 March 2018
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American sentenced to 45 years prison for role in Al-Qaeda bomb attack

NEW YORK: A US citizen was sentenced to 45 years in prison on Tuesday for supporting the militant group Al-Qaeda and helping to prepare a 2009 car bomb attack on a US military base in Afghanistan, less than the life sentence sought by prosecutors.
Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, 32, was sentenced by US District Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn federal court. Al Farekh’s lawyer, David Ruhnke, said at the court hearing that Al Farekh would be appealing his conviction.
Before Cogan imposed the sentence, Ruhnke read a letter written by Al Farekh, who did not speak himself. Al Farekh did not directly address the crimes of which he was found guilty, but asked the judge to consider that young men could be misled into violence. Al Farekh said in the letter that he was now opposed to violence.
Assistant US Attorney Richard Tucker urged the judge not to believe the letter, saying Al Farekh remained “unshakably committed to violent jihad” and was “willing to say anything.”
Cogan said the letter was “not an enthusiastic acceptance of responsibility.”
“I just can’t draw anything from that,” he said.
Still, the judge said he was giving Al Farekh some hope of life after prison because he did not believe him to be “totally devoid of humanity,” citing the support of his family.
Cogan said that, with 15 percent off his sentence for good behavior and three years time served, Al Farekh could get out when he is 67.
Al Farekh was found guilty by a jury in September of the charges of conspiring to murder Americans, using a weapon of mass destruction and supporting a foreign terrorist organization.
US prosecutors in 2015 accused Al Farekh, who was born in Texas, of conspiring to support Al-Qaeda by traveling with two fellow students from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, to Pakistan with the intention of fighting US forces.
Al Farekh had helped prepare an explosive device used in a Jan. 19, 2009 attack on a US Forward Operating Base Chapman in Afghanistan, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said an accomplice detonated one device, injuring multiple people including a pregnant woman, while Al Farekh’s fingerprints were found on packing tape for the second device, which another accomplice carried but failed to detonate.
One of the other university students with whom Al Farekh traveled in 2007, Ferid Imam, has also been indicted, though his whereabouts are unknown.


Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

Updated 24 June 2018
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Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

  • The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but a government spokesman said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.
  • After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue.

KABUL: The Afghan government is confident of holding peace talks with Taliban militants despite a recent surge of attacks by insurgents, a palace spokesman said.

Shah Hussain Murtazawi said the announcement last week of a brief truce by the Taliban over Eid, the increasing movement of extremists and some field commanders to government-held areas, and a call for peace by the Imam of Makkah and the Saudi monarch were the basis of the government’s optimism.

The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but Murtazawi said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.

“A new chapter has been opened and the broad support for a cease-fire and an end to the war are the causes for our optimism,” he told Arab News.

“The fact that Taliban announced a truce and their commanders came into towns and celebrated Eid with government officials are positive signs that the extremists will be ready for talks with the government.”

However, no contact has been established with leaders of the group since the militants called off their truce, Murtazawi said.

After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue. Scores of Afghan troops have been killed in a spate of attacks, including assaults on military bases where the insurgents joined government forces to celebrate Eid.

Some tribal chiefs and local officials are calling for “safe zones” where extremists can hold initial talks with the government, according to a local official who refused to be named.