(CNN) — On May 16 last year, a 22-year-old Austrian named Maqsood Lodin was being questioned by police in Berlin. He had recently returned from Pakistan via Budapest, Hungary, and then traveled overland to Germany. His interrogators were surprised to find that hidden in his underpants were a digital storage device and memory cards.
Buried inside them was a pornographic video called “Kick Ass” — and a file marked “Sexy Tanja.”
Several weeks later, after laborious efforts to crack a password and software to make the file almost invisible, German investigators discovered encoded inside the actual video a treasure trove of intelligence — more than 100 al Qaeda documents that included an inside track on some of the terror group’s most audacious plots and a road map for future operations.
Future plots include the idea of seizing cruise ships and carrying out attacks in Europe similar to the gun attacks by Pakistani militants that paralyzed the Indian city of Mumbai in November 2008. Ten gunmen killed 164 people in that three-day rampage.
Terrorist training manuals in PDF format in German, English and Arabic were among the documents, too, according to intelligence sources.
U.S. intelligence sources tell CNN that the documents uncovered are “pure gold;” one source says that they are the most important haul of al Qaeda materials in the last year, besides those found when U.S. Navy SEALs raided Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a year ago and killed the al Qaeda leader.
One document was called “Future Works.” Its authorship is unclear, but intelligence officials believe it came from al Qaeda’s inner core. It may have been the work of Younis al Mauretani, a senior al Qaeda operative until his capture by Pakistani police in 2011.
The document appears to have been the product of discussions to find new targets and methods of attack. German investigators believe it was written in 2009 — and that it remains the template for al Qaeda’s plans.
Investigative journalist Yassin Musharbash, a reporter with the German newspaper Die Zeit, was the first to report on the documents. One plan: to seize passenger ships. According to Musharbash, the writer “says that we could hijack a passenger ship and use it to pressurize the public.”
Musharbash takes that to mean that the terrorists “would then start executing passengers on those ships and demand the release of particular prisoners.”
The plan would include dressing passengers in orange jump suits, as if they were al Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and then videotaping their execution.
Lodin and a man called Yusuf Ocak, who allegedly traveled back to Europe with him, are now on trial in Berlin where they are pleading not guilty. Ocak was detained in Vienna two weeks after Lodin’s arrest.
According to a senior Western counterterrorism official, their names were on a watch list, and when they handed over documents at a European border crossing, their names registered with counterterrorism agencies.
Both men have pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges. Ocak is also charged with helping to form a group called the German Taliban Mujahedeen, and is alleged to have made a video for the group threatening attacks in Germany.
Prosecutors believe the pair met at a terrorist training camp in Pakistan’s tribal territories and were sent back to Europe to recruit a network of suicide bombers.
“We do not know what those men were up to but there are certain files of information that would make it plausible that they were probably thinking of a Mumbai-style attack,” says Musharbash.
In the fall of 2010, a year after the document was written, European intelligence agencies were scrambling to investigate a Mumbai-style plot involving German and other European militants — which sparked an unprecedented U.S. State Department travel warning for Americans in Europe.
“I think it is plausible to think that the ‘Future Works’ document is part of that particular project,” says Musharbash.
“Future Works” suggests al Qaeda was an organization under great pressure, without a major attack to its name in several years, harried by Western intelligence. If anything, its predicament is even more dire today.
“The document delivers very clearly the notion that al Qaeda knows it is being followed very closely,” Musharbash tells CNN. “It specifically says that Western intelligence agencies have become very good at spoiling attacks, that they have to come up with new ways and better plotting.”
Part of the response, according to the document, should be to train European jihadists quickly and send them home — rather than use them as fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan — with instructions on how to keep in secret contact with their handlers.
What emerges from the document is a twin-track strategy — with the author apparently convinced that al Qaeda needs low-cost, low-tech attacks (perhaps such as the recent gun attacks in France carried out by Mohammed Merah) to keep security services preoccupied while it plans large-scale attacks on a scale similar to 9/11.
Those already under suspicion in Europe and elsewhere would be used as decoys, while others would prepare major attacks.
That is yet to materialize, but Musharbash believes a complex gun attack in Europe is still on al Qaeda’s radar.
“I believe that the general idea is still alive and I believe that as soon as al Qaeda has the capacities to go after that scenario, they will immediately do it,” he says.
While “Future Works” does not include dates or places, nor specific plans, it appears to be a brainstorming exercise to seize the initiative — and reinstate al Qaeda on front pages around the world.
By Al Arabiya With Agencies
Satellite images showed that the Syrian army has not withdrawn all heavy weapons from cities, Kofi Annan’s spokesman said on Tuesday, as violence killed scores of people nationwide despite the existence of U.N. monitors.
The spokesman said Annan has reports that Syrian security forces “perhaps killed” people who had met with U.N. monitors.
Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, has pledged not to negotiate with South Sudan amid reports of fresh air attacks on his country’s southern neighbour.
The renewed tensions come as South Sudan’s 10-day occupation of the oil town of Heglig has left parts of the town blood-soaked and in ruins.
“We will not negotiate with the South’s government, because they don’t understand anything but the language of the gun and ammunition,” Bashir told Sudanese troops at a barracks near an oilfield along the two neighbours’ contested border on Monday.
“Our talks with them were with guns and bullets.”
General Kamal Abdul Maarouf, a Sudanese army commander who led the battles in Heglig, said the army had killed 1,200 South Sudanese troops in fighting in the area, an account South Sudan denied.
An AFP news agency correspondent who accompanied Maarouf said he saw piles of corpses bearing South Sudanese military uniforms scattered beneath trees in the border region.
South Sudan’s army said 19 of its soldiers were killed and that 240 Sudanese troops lost their lives.
‘So many bodies’
Early in the occupation, one South Sudanese soldier in Bentiu, capital of the South’s Unity state, said “there are so many bodies at the front line, so many dead”, that it is impossible to bury them or bring them back.
Despite the end of the occupation, Major General Mac Paul, the deputy director of military intelligence for South Sudan, said on Monday that two MiG 29 fighter planes dropped three bombs, two of which landed near a bridge that connected Bentiu and Rubkona.
“This is a serious escalation and violation of the territory of South Sudan. It’s a clear provocation,” he said.
(CNN) — Sanford, Florida, Police Chief Bill Lee is expected to resign Monday, 57 days after his department declined to arrest neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, according to a city official familiar with the matter.
Lee announced that he was temporarily stepping aside on March 22, a day after Sanford’s city commission expressed a lack of confidence in his handling of the incident.
At the time, Sanford police were under intense pressure to arrest Zimmerman, 28, for shooting the unarmed teen-ager. Zimmerman was later charged with second-degree murder after a special prosecutor investigated the case.
WASHINGTON — The college class of 2012 is in for a rude welcome to the world of work.
A weak labor market already has left half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their skills and knowledge.
Young adults with bachelor’s degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs — waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example — and that’s confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans.
An analysis of government data conducted for The Associated Press lays bare the highly uneven prospects for holders of bachelor’s degrees.
Opportunities for college graduates vary widely.
While there’s strong demand in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities flounder. Median wages for those with bachelor’s degrees are down from 2000, hit by technological changes that are eliminating midlevel jobs such as bank tellers. Most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides, who can provide personalized attention as the U.S. population ages.
Taking underemployment into consideration, the job prospects for bachelor’s degree holders fell last year to the lowest level in more than a decade.
“I don’t even know what I’m looking for,” says Michael Bledsoe, who described months of fruitless job searches as he served customers at a Seattle coffeehouse. The 23-year-old graduated in 2010 with a creative writing degree.
Initially hopeful that his college education would create opportunities, Bledsoe languished for three months before finally taking a job as a barista, a position he has held for the last two years. In the beginning he sent three or four resumes day. But, Bledsoe said, employers questioned his lack of experience or the practical worth of his major. Now he sends a resume once every two weeks or so.
Bledsoe, currently making just above minimum wage, says he got financial help from his parents to help pay off student loans. He is now mulling whether to go to graduate school, seeing few other options to advance his career. “There is not much out there, it seems,” he said.
His situation highlights a widening but little-discussed labor problem. Perhaps more than ever, the choices that young adults make earlier in life — level of schooling, academic field and training, where to attend college, how to pay for it — are having long-lasting financial impact.
By Al Arabiya With Agencies
Egypt has terminated a controversial long-term gas supply deal with Istael, Ampal-American Israel Corporation, which owns a stake in a company that exports natural gas from Egypt to Israel, said on Sunday.
Ampal said in a statement that its partner company, East Mediterreanean Gas Company (ENG), “considers the termination attempt unlawful and in bad faith, and consequently demanded its withdrawal,” and that EMG, Ampal, and EMG’s other international shareholders were “considering their options and legal remedies as well as approaching the various governments.”
The accord was “annulled on Thursday with the East Mediterranean Gas Co (EMG) which exports gas to Israel because the company failed to respect conditions stipulated in the contract,” EMG chairman Mohamed Shoeib told AFP.
The sale of gas to Israel, which signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, has always been controversial in the Arab world’s most populous country.
A Bhoja Air Boeing (BA) Co. 737-200 with 127 people on board crashed in Islamabad, GEO TV reported, citing aviation ministry officials it didn’t identify.
The aircraft was on its way from Karachi when it crashed in poor weather conditions, the television channel said. Air traffic control lost contact with the plane at 6:40 p.m. local time in Pakistan, it reported without saying how many passengers were hurt.
Rescue teams are reaching the site, GEO TV said.
In July 2010, an Airbus SAS jetliner crashed into a rain- soaked hillside at Islamabad, killing all 152 people on board in the deadliest air disaster in the nation.
Wikipedia: Geo TV or Geo Television is a Pakistani television network, founded by Mr. Mir Shakil ur Rehman in May 2002 and owned by Independent Media Corporation. →
After George Zimmerman took the stand during his bond hearing and told Trayvon Martin’s parents that he was sorry for the loss of their son, a Florida judge Friday set Zimmerman’s bond at $150,000.
The judge set a number of conditions, including GPS monitoring. The judge said Zimmerman wouldn’t have the opportunity to be released Friday, because his attorney and state authorities needed to hammer out the monitoring and other logistics.
Friday’s bond hearing also included testimony from one of the state’s main investigators in the case, with Zimmerman attorney Mark O’Mara challenging the state’s assertions. Under questioning, the attorney said the state didn’t have evidence to contradict Zimmerman’s account that Martin started the fight that led to the shooting, but he did say evidence did call into question other parts of Zimmerman’s account.
Zimmerman, 28, was charged on April 11 in the February death of Trayvon Martin, after the case sparked a heated, national debate over racial profiling and saw thousands of protesters demand Zimmerman’s arrest. Martin’s family contends Zimmerman racially profiled their son, who was walking back from a convenience store in Sanford, Florida.
A woman at the centre of the US prostitution scandal in Colombia asked for $800 (£500) to spend the night with a US agent, the New York Times reports.
The woman – who describes herself as an escort, not a prostitute – told the paper the agent reneged on their deal, instead offering only $30.
That sparked a row that blew the lid off a night that saw 20 women taken back to the US hotel in Cartagena.
Three Secret Service staff are leaving the agency in the wake of the incident.
One supervisor was sacked, one retired and a more junior employee resigned, the agency’s assistant director said on Tuesday.
The wild night in Cartagena’s Hotel Caribe saw as a group of 11 Secret Service agents sent home from Colombia ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit to the city for last weekend’s Summit of the Americas.
As many as 12 military personnel are also said to have been involved and are also under investigation.
The woman’s account of the night at the Pley Club, described as a high-end strip club in an industrial part of Cartagena, sheds more light on the events that led to the public outing of the military and Secret Service personnel.
According to the prostitute’s account, the Americans bought bottles of vodka to share with a group of women they approached in the club.
“They never told me they were with Obama,” she told the newspaper, adding: “They were very discreet.”
In an interview with the New York Times, the unnamed woman said the US agent had agreed a price of $800 for her to spend the night with her.
But he changed his mind in the morning, she said, sparking a furious row when he offered just $30 that ended with police being asked to intervene.
She told the Times she did not describe herself as a prostitute, suggesting that her price indicated she was a high-end escort.
“It’s the same, but it’s different. It’s like when you buy a fine rum or a BlackBerry or an iPhone. They have a different price.”
The woman said she was now scared of the implications of what had happened and planned to leave the city in the coming days.
“This is something really big. This is the government of the United States.”
Senator Susan Collins, who has been briefed regularly on the official investigation into the incident, told the New York Times that the woman’s account seemed to tally with her understanding of what happened in Cartagena.
Representative Peter King, who sits on the House Homeland Security Committee, added that some of the men may not have known the women were prostitutes.
“I understand there was quite a bit of drinking going on,” he told the newspaper.
Early stageSenior US officials say 20 women were found at the hotel in Cartagena, Colombia, before President Obama went to the Summit of Americas last weekend.
Lie detector tests are being used on the accused as investigations into the scandal continue.
“We demand that all of our employees adhere to the highest professional and ethical standards and are committed to a full review of this matter,” Secret Service Assistant Director Paul Morrissey said in a statement.
He said inquiries were at an early stage, and another eight officers were still being investigated.
The three agents stepping down have been placed on administrative leave and their security clearance had been revoked. They were not directly involved with presidential security.
The two supervisors leaving the Secret Service are both said to have more than 20 years experience.
Senator Susan Collins said after a briefing by the head of the Secret Service Mark Sullivan that he was “rightly appalled by the agents’ actions”.
She has raised concerns over potential breaches of security, including whether the women could have placed bugs on the men.
A Marine Corps spokesman said on Tuesday that among the military service members being investigated were two Marine dog handlers assigned to support the Secret Service.
The White House meanwhile said it had confidence in the director of the Secret Service to investigate the incident.
The United Nations has reached a deal with Syria outlining the rules for the deployment of observers to monitor the country’s ceasefire, both sides said.
A spokesman for UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said the agreement covered the functions of the mission and the Syrian government’s responsibilities.
A fragile truce is in place in Syria, but reports of violence have continued.
Earlier, the UN’s chief Ban Ki-moon said he wanted to increase the number of monitors to 300.
In a letter to the UN, the secretary-general said Syria had not complied with the terms of the peace deal, but that there remained an “opportunity for progress”.
Members of the Security Council are meeting in New York to discuss the report.