Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Awlaki's Alaskan Disciple(s)

Islamic couple, who sought to wipe out those seen as acting against Islam. His wife Nadia a British born convert to Islam said in court, 'its absurd to associate the word terrorism with her'. Yet it was she who delivered the 'hit list' to a third person. Perhaps part of her mind still wants to believe she had joined 'the peaceful Islam' promoted in the west, even though her husband openly admits to being a 'militant jihadist'. Wonder which compartment of her mind she put this. I would say that they are both Awlaki's Alaskan disciples ~ hence the addition of the (s) above.

King Salmon lies in southwestern Alaska, near Naknek Lake and the Katmai Park and Wilderness. Yesterday, one inhabitant of this small isolated community was sentenced to eight years’ jail on terrorism charges. Paul Gene Rockwood Jr., a convert to Islam, had compiled a “hit-list” of 15 people that he thought had offended Islam, and deserved to be “punished.”

The news is carried by the Alaska Dispatch, the Anchorage Daily News, KTVA CBS11, the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press via the Seattle Times.

Rockwood had converted to Islam while living in Virginia, either in late 2001 or early 2002. He sometimes went under the name of “Bilal.” He had been charged with his wife Nadia, who had been a naturalized U.S. citizen for a year. The pair had pleaded guilty on charges of domestic terrorism, under the Patriot Act, in July this year. They had lived together in Virginia when Rockwood became a convert to Islam, and moved to Alaska in 2006. Since that time, Rockwood had worked at the National Weather Service station in King Salmon as a meteorological technician.

36-year old Nadia Rockwood already has one child by her husband, a four-year old son named Zaid. She is pregnant. She had originally come from Kent, in England. She will return to her mother’s home in Britain to give birth to her child in November and raise her son. Nadia Rockwood, who has dual nationality, is on probation for five years. This means that she will not return to the United States for five years without prior permission.

In May this year, the couple had prepared to leave King Salmon to move to England. A small crowd gathered by the airstrip to see them off. There were tears, and members of the choir to which Nadia had belonged sang “Wherever You Go.” The couple was intercepted at Anchorage by FBI members.

35-year old Rockwood had admitted in court that he lied to an FBI investigator. He had been an avid internet user and it is believed that while online, he had become influenced by the website teachings of Anwar al-Awlaki, the terror-supporting former imam of the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, northern Virginia. Awlaki, who used to solicit relations with prostitutes, had known two of the 9/11 hijackers, was the spiritual adviser to the Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Hasan. Awlaki and had also influenced Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian youth who apparently tried to detonate explosives in his underwear on a US-bound plane at Christmas, 2009. Now based in Yemen, Awlaki’s original website has been taken down, but his pro-jihadist pdf files and MP3 audio sermons can still be found online.

Exactly when Rockwood had first encountered the teachings of Awlaki, but considering Awlaki left America only in March 2002, it is possible that Rockwood may have heard some of Awlaki’s sermons while in Virginia.

The list of people that Rockwood had set up as targets has been kept anonymous, for fear that another Muslim fanatic should decide to finish what was started by the King Salmon resident. According to FBI evidence at the trial, Rockwood had intended to shoot his targets through the head. Rockwood’s intended victims listened via audio links to the trial proceedings and sentencing.

Only one of his targets has “gone public” about the stress and concern Rockwood’s threats had caused for him. Tom Bolinder is a Vietnam veteran, who vowed after that war never to take another human life. When he learned that he had become a target of a jihadist, he had been forced to review his oath. Bolinder, who is based in Massachusetts, runs a group that funds the defense of American military personnel who are charged with crimes of violence while on combat duty.

Tom Bolinder stated:

“I believe that the work the Military Combat Defense Fund is doing is very important. Our combat troops deserve the best defense possible. I was angry when I first learned of this. I had to gear up to do possibly something I had not done since Vietnam, something I swore I would never do again and that was take a human life. In the face of what our men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families go through, what I do for the MCDF, though emotionally draining, is a small sacrifice.”

In late April, Bolinder had been notified by the FBI’s Joint Task Force on Terrorism that he was a potential target. Warned that his potential assailant could travel East, he had been forced to keep a vigil. Speaking in court during Rockwood’s trial, Bolinder said: “I waited many nights in the darkness for you, Mr. Rockwood, as did many of my friends.”

Bolinder had also been warned to be on the lookout for suspicious packages. According to court documents, Rockwood had researched the manufacture of bomb components, and had managed to create a small bomb that could be sent via any mail carrier.

During the trial, Karen L. Loeffler, U.S. attorney for Alaska, had said: “Obviously we take it very seriously when somebody starts talking about building bombs and component parts and killing citizens because of a hatred that is fueled by violent Internet sites.”

Loeffler did not reveal how the FBI had first become aware of Paul and Nadia Rockwood, but when the couple had decided to leave King Salmon in May, the FBI were forced to move in. According to Stephen Skrocki, prosecuting the case: “The further Mr. Rockwood would have gotten from Alaska the closer he would have come to his victims.”

Nadia Rockwood was prosecuted after she had admitted carrying a letter when she had gone on a trip to Anchorage. Her husband had given her this letter (containing the list of targets) and, following his instructions, she passed it to another individual in the city. She claimed in court that she had felt “uncomfortable” delivering the letter. In court, she read from a statement, and claimed that she believed that her husband wished to harm other people, but did not think that he intended to kill anyone. She had said in court:

“To associate the word terrorist with me is absurd. I truly believe my husband never had any true intent to kill anyone."

U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline told her:

“You've lived with a man who, by his words, is a militant jihadist. That's not the kind of rights we gain by U.S. citizenship, those are the kinds of things we are protected from.”

This case was the first time that anyone has been prosecuted in Alaska under the Patriot Act. Paul Rockwood Jr., pleaded guilty to the charges against him and received the maximum possible sentence.

What this case has made plain is that no matter how isolated a person’s physical location, the internet can – at the clicking of a few keys, bring that person into direct contact with others. The good news is that – once identified as a potential threat – the FBI and other anti-terrorist agencies can gain access to a person’s online communications.

Family Security Matters

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