FARC Ends Reign of Terror Opts for Peace for Colombia

“Hope is essential for peace and stability. Men and women everywhere need incomes to support their families and they need the satisfaction of doing something worthwhile and   meaningful in their lives.”

                                                                                              Senator George Mitchell
                                                                                              Oversaw the Good Friday Accord

After 52 years of fighting, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government signed a deal to bring peace to the country. Yesterday history was made in the Julio Cesar Turbay Ayala Convention Center in the city of Cartagena. The city that Pedro de Heredia founded in 1533 became the city of peace when Colombian President Juan Manual Santos and FARC Commander Rodrigo Londono, use a bullet pen to end the fighting. Both men were dressed in white shirts

                                                “The horrible night has ceased.”

                                                                                                President Juan Santos

In May 1964, Manuel Marulanda a member of the Colombian Communist Party and Jacobo Arenas formed what would later be known as the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). After the period in Colombia referred to as “the Violence,” the Colombian government cracked down on a communist peasant collective in the mountain region of Marquetalia. On May 27, 1964, forty-eight communist guerillas led by Manuel “Sure Shot” Marulanda fought the Colombian Army forces in Marquetalia. Guerrilla fighters gathered in the First Guerrilla Conference after this battle and declared they would defend the people from the government and would now be called the Southern Bloc.

With the Second Guerrilla Conference in May 1966, the group took the name the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Evolving out of the communist leftist movement in Colombia, the FARC took much of its early identity and ideology from the works of Lenin, Marx, Simon Bolivar, and Che Guevara. Jacobo Arenas sought to structure the FARC more as an army and improve the weapons the FARC would use on the battlefield. But the FARC would evolve and undertake kidnappings, assassinations, bombings, extortions, and become a major player in the cocaine trade. The FARC grew with its proceeds from kidnappings, drug, mining, and taxing operations. Over the years, the terror increased in Colombia as the FARC conducted attacks on soldiers, police, politicians, citizens and foreigners. Foreigners including missionaries, petroleum engineers, businessmen, and non-governmental organizations working in rural areas were often targeted for kidnappings.

On January 16, 1994, members of the FARC’s Fifty-Third Front kidnapped two American missionaries from the New Tribes Mission School in Villavicencio, Colombia. The FARC had demanded $2 million dollars for their release. The two Americans, Steve Welsh and Timothy Van Dyke were shot at point-blank range in 1995. Welsh had arrived in Colombia in 1981 and Van Dyke, his wife and four children arrived in 1989. From 1996 to 2005 a person was kidnapped every eight hours on average. Kidnappings were one of the major undertakings of the FARC. On February 20, 2002, members of the FARC hijacked a domestic flight carrying Senator Jorge Eduardo Gechem Turbay. Three days later they kidnapped Senator and Presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt. The FARC held three Americans contractors, Marc Gonsalves, Tom Howes and Keith Stansell hostage for 1,967 days when their aircraft crashed in a FARC held area. Starved, marched through the jungles of Colombia, the three were finally rescued in a daring piece of deception and boldness along with a dozen others including Ingrid Betancourt.

Over the years, the government and the FARC have undertaken numerous attempts at peace. On May 2, 1999 President Pastrana and Manuel Marulanda agreed to talk peace. The government agreed to a demilitarized zone for the FARC that consisted of 16,000 square miles. President Alvaro Uribe Velez campaigned to take the fight to the FARC and that is what he did cancelling the demilitarized zone after the FARC hijacked an airplane and kidnapped a Senator from it.

From 1997 through 2001, the IRA sent a number of mobile training teams to Colombia to train the FARC on explosives, mortars, missiles and urban warfare. In exchange for millions of dollars the Provisional IRA sent training teams to Colombia. On August 11, 2001, three IRA individuals, James “Mortar” Monaghan, Niall Connolly, and Martin McCauley were arrested in Bogota, after they returned from training FARC cadre for five weeks. Monaghan was skilled in the design and manufacturing of homemade mortars. The FARC used mortars in the May 2001 attack on the Presidential Palace in Bogota during the inauguration of President Uribe. In 2002, homemade mortars were also used in the FARC’s attack on the town of Bellavista which killed 119 people. The mortar was identical to the IRA’s Mark 15 developed by James Monaghan.

On March 1, 2008, Colombian troops attacked a camp one mile over the Ecuadoran border and killed senior FARC commander Raul Reyes. His death was a significant blow to the FARC leadership. Then on March 25, 2008, Manuel “Sure Shot” Marulanda, the founder and leader of the FARC died of a heart attack. The FARC’s seven-person leadership council “the Secretariat” appointed Alfonso Cano as the new leader in May 2008. Three years later, Cano was killed by the Colombian military. In November 2011, Rodrigo Londono Echeverri became the Commander of the FARC. Better known as Timoleon, he had risen through the ranks of the FARC since joining in 1993. The United States has a $5 million-dollar reward on Rodrigo Londono Echeverri for the distribution of hundreds of tons of cocaine to the United States. For the last fours the FARC and the Colombian government have been negotiating the end of this fifty-four years of conflict that has killed over 220,000 individuals.

                      “Let no one doubt that we will now pursue politics without weapons.”

                                                                                                 Rodrigo Londono Echeverri                                                                                                                                                            FARC Commander

Whether Rodrigo Londono becomes the Gerry Adams of Colombia remains to be seen. However, the first steps to a long lasting peace begins one step at a time. The signing of the Peace Agreement is an impressive step in the right direction. The next six months will determine whether this peace agreement has any chance to take hold in a country that has known only war and conflict for the last fifty-two years.

On October 2, 2016, the people will have the opportunity to vote on the peace agreement. As one Colombian citizen stated “we are tired of war.” The FARC will have to turn in their weapons within the next five months and begin their reintegration into society. Then the countryside will have to be cleared of the thousands of mines that have been set out during this conflict. Governance, economic opportunities, a pivot away from illicit drug trade and hope for the Colombian people all must be addressed in the short term. But what the Colombian people now have is hope for the future. And hopefully the rest of the world sees that terrorism and war sooner or later burns out and that the true genius of men is for compromise. Now if only a few other people in conflict can learn this lesson without spending so many years killing.

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Ahmad Rahami: Targeting a Race in the Footsteps of the Tsarnaev Brothers

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On the morning of Saturday, September 17, 2016, as runners gathered for the Seaside Semper Five Marine Corps Charity 5K race, a terrorist had another idea-to kill runners at a road race. The race provides resources for the Marine Corps and Marine Special Operation Command (MARSOC) Foundation to help those who have sacrificed the most. The terrorist placed three pipe bombs in a trash can along the race course. The One Mile Fun Run race was to start at 9 a.m. followed by the 5K Race but due to heavy onsite registrations the race’s start was delayed. Because of the delay no runners where by the trash can that contained the explosive device. One of the three pipe bombs detonated causing the race to be cancelled.

The One Mile Fun Run is usually run by kids. Clearly the terrorist had no problem targeting not only the charity run but also seemed to want to target the fun run. Ahmad Khan Rahami wrote in his journal “in the streets they plan to run a mile.” I think back to Martin Richard, an eight-year old spectator who was out to watch the Boston Marathon with his family. Richards, was killed, his sister lost a leg and his mom had severe brain injuries when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev left a backpack with a pressure cooker bomb among the spectators watching the finish of the race.

Ahmad Khan Rahami sought to follow in the footsteps of the Tsarnaev brothers. Just as the Tsarnaev brothers had no qualms about killing and injuring kids, families, runners, and spectators, Rahami wanted to start his killing spree by attacking a road race. In 2014, over 8 million individuals finished 5K races across America. We have now had two instances, the Boston Marathon and the Seaside Semper Five race where terrorists have attacked a road race in America. Ahmad Khan Rahami was manipulated and motivated by the words of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Anwar Al-Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen and Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani, the deceased Islamic State’s spokesman. Rahami wrote in his journal “You (USA Government) continue your (unintelligible) slaughter against the mujahidean be it Afghanistan, Iraq, Sham (Syria), Palestine . . . .”

The Tsarnaev brothers used pressure cooker explosive devices to attack the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, killing 3 and injuring 264 individuals. The two terrorist brothers learned to build their pressure cooker bombs after going online to Inspire Magazine. Inspire, a colorful propaganda effort was the work of Anwar Al-Awlaki and Samir Khan of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen. Rahami also used pressure cooker bombs at the West 23rd Street attack and at West 27th Street. The Tsarnaev brothers killed an MIT Police Officer Sean Collier and engaged police in a gun battle. Ahmad Rahami shot two Linden police officers who suffered non-life threatening wounds before he was shot and apprehended. Rahami mindset is clear with his own statement in his journal stating “I beg (unintelligible) for shahadat (martyrdom) & Inshallah (God willing) this call will be answered.”

Rahami’s handwritten journal gives some insight into the mindset of a radicalized terrorist in our backyard and the dangers these individuals pose even at an athletic event such as a road race. Rahami closes his journal entries with “Inshallah (God willing) the sounds of the bombs will be heard in the streets. Gun shots to your police. Death to Your OPPRESSION.”

Rahami clearly has never been a runner. He doesn’t know that obstacles for runners are just part of the course. Hills, rain, cross winds, weather, pain are just part of the race. He doesn’t know that running is addictive. The Seaside Semper Five Race was a charity fundraiser to raise funds for the Marine Corps and the Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) Foundation. Rahami clearly doesn’t know anything about the Marine Corps. The motto of MARSOC is unconquerable spirit. This race has an unconquerable spirit and this Sunday, September 25th, the race will go on. For as Roger Bannister stated “the human spirit is indomitable.”

This Sunday the sound of a starting gun will be heard in Seaside, New Jersey followed by the sounds of runner’s feet making their way along the race course. Spectators will cheer even more loudly for the runners. Police officers will ensure the course is safe for all. And I suspect, next year record numbers of runners will sign up to run this great race just as record numbers signed up to run the Boston Marathon in 2014. The American Spirit truly is indomitable. For more information about the race see the link below or make a donation to the MARSOC Foundation and support those who are “Always Faithful.”

http://www.seasidesemperfive.org/index.html

September 11th: Thank God That They Lived

WTC Memorial.png

For the last fifteen years we have honored those who lost their lives on this day because of horrific acts of terrorism. Today, take a moment and remember all those victims, heroes and people who fifteen years ago did not seek out heroism. Some of them were heroes in how they lived their lives and touched others. Remember those brave individuals, the first responders who rushed in to give aid and assistance. Our thoughts and prayers for you and your families. September 11th, 2001 was a long day that will never be forgotten. General George Patton once said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” Today, we should take Gen. Patton’s words to heart and thank God for the heroes and victims of September 11th. For they have touched us all with their lives and how they lived.

Deja Vu: Releasing Terrorists from Guantanamo Bay

Abu Zubaydah's Safe House on Canal Road

Déjà vu is the French word for already seen. Last week seemed like déjà vu again. Terrorists at Guantanamo Bay seem to be reading off the same script. Not long ago, Abu Zubadah, the master of deception to some and the poster boy for torture to others appeared before the Periodic Review Board. Abu Zubaydah in a statement read for him stated that he has no desire or intent to harm the United States. Abu Zubaydah wants to be reunited with his family and begin the process of recovering from injuries he sustained during his capture. Abu Zubaydah has some seed money that could be used to start a business after he is reintegrated into society and is living a peaceful life. Where have I heard that before. A couple weeks earlier one of Abu Zubaydah’s bomb makers had a similar story he was peddling.

After 14 years of captivity in Guantanamo, Sufyian Barhoumi, a senior Al- Qaeda bomb maker and explosives trainer now has a plan. He wants to open up a pizzeria in Algeria. Barhoumi’s family has purchased a place so that he can open up a pizzeria in Algiers. For years in Afghanistan neither terrorist spent any time with their family. Now they both want to go into business and be reunited with their families. The Obama Administration seeking to close Guantanamo Bay has cleared Barhoumi for release and may even be fooled by the master of deception.

Sufyian Barhoumi grew up in Algiers, Algeria and came from a large-middle class family. After completing high school he left Algeria and traveled throughout Europe ending up in London. He became part of Abu Qatada’s sphere of influence at the Baker Street Mosque in London. In 1999 he was recruited by Abd Al-Rahman and left for Afghanistan with a false French passport in the name of Khalid Stouf to receive training to wage jihad against the Russians in Chechnya.

Barhoumi during his training in the camps completed firearms training, learned tactical movement, navigation, artillery and mortars, and learned small unit tactics. Barhoumi was also instructed on the use of landmines and explosives. During a training accident, Barhoumi lost four fingers on his left hand after an explosion. After recovering from his injury he trained at Ibn Sheikh Al Libi’s Khalden camp from late 1999 to May 2000. Barhoumi then attempted to get to Chechnya but was unable to navigate the heavy security. Instead he moved between guesthouses in Jalalabad, Kabul and Kandahar providing instruction in bomb making and particularly remote controlled improvised explosive devices. One of the individuals he trained on improvised explosive devices was Jose Padilla. Padilla was sent by Abu Zubaydah to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who approved Padilla to undertake a “Dirty Bomb” plot in Chicago.

With the invasion of Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, Barhoumi along with numerous other Arabs fled Afghanistan crossing the mountains into Pakistan. But Barhoumi wasn’t fleeing blindly into Pakistan. For he was associated with Abu Zubaydah who had connections. Once in Pakistan “people from the military helped us on the road,” according to Barhoumi. Initially he stayed at a guesthouse in Waziristan and then traveled to Peshawar and then Lahore. Barhoumi then arrived at Hameedullah Khan Niazi’s house on Canal Road in Faisalabad. He was there for ten days before the house was raided. Niazi, a local Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) leader operated two safe houses in Faisalabad that sheltered Abu Zubaydah’s fighters. Pakistan police didn’t arrest the LeT leader for operating two terrorist safe houses. Niazi’s huge concrete house on Canal Road was guarded by high concrete walls topped with barbed wire and had a blue steel gate leading to a carport. Barhoumi was there at the behest of Abu Zubaydah to conduct a mobile training class on remote control initiated bombs.

Common sense should dictate that neither of these two deadly terrorists ever obtain their freedom. But common sense is the last thing dictating the transfers of those being detained at Guantanamo Bay. As the Obama Administration nears the end of its time the rush to empty GTMO picks up more urgency. Recently, the Obama administration transferred 15 detainees to the United Arab Emirates. Abu Zubaydah had gathered nearly thirty fighters at the Martyrs and Issa safe houses in Faisalabad and had brought in his master bomb maker to train them for an IED campaign against US military forces in Afghanistan.

In June 2004, it was recommended that Barhoumi be retained under DOD Control since it was assessed that he was a member of the Al-Qaeda network. The assessment of Barhoumi showed that he refused to participate in any interrogations in over a year and was deemed to be withholding intelligence. Barhoumi had been deceptive during numerous interrogations. Numerous detainees being held in Guantanamo including Abu Zubaydah provided details that clearly showed Barhoumi to be a senior Al-Qaeda explosives expert and trainer. In January 2010, the Guantánamo Review Task Force had recommended him for prosecution. The only thing that has changed since that is the political expediency of this administration in closing the one place holding the world’s most dangerous terrorists.

Some individuals have stated that Abu Zubaydah is unstable and crazy. Abu Zubaydah may be crazy as a fox, or crazy as New York mob boss Vincent “the Chin” Gigante.” Gigante, for almost three decades convinced individuals that he was crazy by walking around the neighborhood in his pajamas and a robe mumbling to himself. Not really known by his real name Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Hussain, but by his kunya, Abu Zubaydah is a master terrorist. He was not a sworn member of Al-Qaeda but was so closely associated with them. Just like some mobsters in New Jersey are not sworn members of the Mafia they are still dangerous criminals.

Abu Zubaydah for years kept a diary which was seized when he was captured. One of his diary entries from January 15, 1995, shreds light on who he really is and how he thinks.

Today is 1/15/95 ..
The place .. The Martyr’s house .. Peshawar .. Pakistan of course
I am [crossed out] sitting on the revolving chair.. Behind the office desk.. In the administration room..
Being the prince of the house; the Martyr’s house .. The center of terrorism, as it’s called ..
I think And praise be to God..
I think .. Tomorrow .. Or maybe after tomorrow .. God willing.
I will receive an official U.N card, as being a refugee in Pakistan.. Under the protection of the United Nations..
And I say to myself .. If these people knew that they are now helping the prince of the Martyr’s house, they would have drop dead from anger
Thank God .. I was able to deceive them ..

On November 30, 2001, with the fighting in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda going full bore, Abu Zubaydah wrote in his diary that:

Yesterday, I and Sayf Al-Adl, the military official of Al-Qa’ida, and other brothers, were in a meeting with Al-Tayyib Agha, Mulla ‘Umar’s secretary, so that we can meet Mulla ‘Umar, in order to understand the situation..

Abu Zubaydah has always stated that he was not a part of Al-Qaeda. No matter if that is true, he surely engaged with multiple high ranking terrorists at the highest levels of Al-Qaeda. Abu Zubaydah interacted with such noted terrorists as Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abu Hafs al-Masri, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Mohammad Rashid Du’ad al-Owhali, Djamel Beghal, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Khallad Bin Attash, and Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi among others. Among the items seized at the Faisalabad safe house was a videotape in which Abu Zubaydah tells his followers to get behind Osama Bin Laden as the leader of the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Abu Zubaydah states “We and the Sheikh are one. We have been working together for almost ten years, but we were hoping to keep this work secret.”
Abu Zubaydah wasted no time gathering a cadre of explosives instructors to train other brothers once he had escaped the fighting in Afghanistan. Abu Zubaydah planned to use them to launch a campaign of attacks against American military forces in Afghanistan using remote controlled improvised explosive devices.

January 18, 2002
With me are some brothers, some of them were instructors at Khaldun Camp, and I chose some of them myself, and some were moved by their circumstances to follow me..

Abu Zubaydah assembled those who would be the foundation of his Martyrs Brigade at two safe houses in Faisalabad. With Abu Zubaydah in the Canal Road safe house was Sufiyan Ibn Muhammed. Muhammed would be one of the primary trainers to provide explosives and electronic detonator training along with two engineers Jabran Sa’ ad Wazar and Ghassan Abdallah Ghazi al-Sharbi.

Today, 2/10/2002 AD
We moved to another house, or more precisely, two houses, divided ourselves in it, also (temporary..
And in order to arrange our matters and split from our Pakistani brothers, rather the Arabs, too, in another house, completely independent and isolated.. And even at that time, we will stay this way, unsettled, we cannot start any program..
I do not know whether I informed you, or maybe with the hectic work, I did not inform you..
I have chosen some brothers, cadres, for the military matters, especially explosives (making it), and detonation from a distance (remote control)..
I took them with me, away from the flood, one or two individuals from each military science, just like Noah, peace be upon him, did, two pairs from each being.. An instructor or two from each military subject, they are the nucleus of my future work, and I am starting from zero, I would not say another time, maybe it is the tenth..

Abu Zubaydah and his Martyrs Brigade would never get the opportunity to attack American forces in Afghanistan. In the early morning hours of March 28, 2002, a combined team of American and Pakistani forces would simultaneously raid Abu Zubaydah’s two safe houses. Zubaydah didn’t pick up an AK-47 to fight. Instead he would quickly head for the rooftop seeking to escape. Zubaydah’s Syrian and Egyptian bodyguards slowed the entry with gunfire giving their boss time to make it to the rooftop where he jumped to a neighbor’s roof. His bodyguards quickly followed and during an ensuing gun battle all three were shot. Abu al-Hasnat was killed in the gun battle on the roof. Zubaydah and his other bodyguard were seriously wounded. Abu Zubaydah and his bodyguard would both survive after receiving medical treatment. The United States brought in one of the best trauma surgeons from John Hopkins Hospital. Black sites, waterboarding, interrogations, and then sent to Guantanamo.

Déjà vu again. Another terrorist thinks they might be released from Guantanamo Bay. Abu Zubaydah’s personal representatives feel that Abu Zubaydah no longer needs to be detained. Initially Abu Zubaydah believed that he didn’t have a chance to be released. Probably because initially there wasn’t a chance he would ever be released. Why would we take the chance today that these terrorists might be a security risk to the United States and other global citizens? So that President Obama can say that he closed GTMO. Let’s not be deceived anymore. Abu Zubaydah’s own words in his diary shed light on how this terrorist thinks.

If these people knew that they are now helping the prince of the Martyr’s house, they would have drop dead from anger
Thank God .. I was able to deceive them

Déjà vu again.