The teenager who landed in red Square — Manchester bomber Salman Abedi was radicalised by his links to Libya — MI5 probes bomber ‘warnings’ — CIA’s Secrets About JFK, Che, and Castro Revealed in New Book
This week 30 years ago, a teenager called Mathias Rust evaded fighter jets and the world’s most sophisticated air defence technology to land a light aircraft in the heart of Moscow.
Rust wants to make a statement. His idea is to build a metaphorical “bridge of peace” between the West and East using an aircraft from his flying club.
He can’t fly over into East Germany, however. It is one of the most heavily policed borders in the world, with a formidable air defence network of fighter planes and missile systems. Rust’s plane is likely to be shot down minutes after he crosses the border.
Rust, instead, hatches a more ambitious plan. He will fly a Cessna 172 – a small, reliable single-engined plane that has been rolling off production lines since the 1950s – from West Germany across the North Sea via the Shetland and then Faroe Islands, and then from there to Iceland. The flight will give him valuable experience in long-range navigation, which he is going to need. Then he will have to fly to Helsinki, and from there – somehow – across the Soviet border. Most of the USSR is off-limit to foreigners, and there will be no guidance from air-traffic control, who will consider him a possible threat. If Rust manages to make it over the Soviet border, he will be on his own.
The 22-year-old was influenced in part by the people who formed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a little-known al-Qaida affiliate outlawed in 2004.
There is little left of the Manchester premises of the Sanabel Relief Agency now. Shops and properties once rented by the charity, founded in 1999 with a mission to “relieve poverty, sickness and distress”, have long been vacated. Its board of trustees has been disbanded and its bank accounts closed down.
Indeed, if the agency exists anywhere at all these days, it’s in the files of the US treasury department which in 2006 sought to have Sanabel’s assets frozen on the grounds that it was a front set up to finance an al-Qaida affiliate.
That affiliate was the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), one of the more obscure terrorist organisations to have proclaimed allegiance to Osama bin Laden. Its influence and philosophy has been blamed for, at least partially, laying the foundations for Monday’s atrocity.Formed in the early 1990s to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the LIFG relocated to Libya where, in 1996, the US treasury department records that it attempted to assassinate Muammar Gaddafi“and replace his regime with a hardline Islamic state”.
When that plot – which some claim was backed by MI6 – failed, the LIFG was pursued by Gaddafi’s security forces. A large number fled to the UK, where they were granted asylum on the grounds that as opponents of Gaddafi “our enemy’s enemy is our friend”, and many went to Birmingham and Manchester – home to established Arab communities that had found work in the cities’ engineering industries.
“A lot who went to Manchester went to the Didsbury mosque – it was the only Arab mosque in that region and it was run by the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Haras Rafiq, chief executive of Quilliam, the anti-extremism thinktank.
MI5 is to hold an inquiry into the way it dealt with warnings from the public that the Manchester suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, was a potential threat.
Whitehall officials have acknowledged the security service will examine what assumptions had been made about the 22-year-old before last Monday’s attack.
It later emerged it was alerted to his extremist views at least three times.
Early on Monday a man, 23, was arrested in Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, on suspicion of terrorism offences.
Greater Manchester Police said they had also executed search warrants at addresses in the Whalley Range area of Manchester and in Chester overnight.Seven children were among the 22 people who died when Abedi detonated a bomb on 22 May at the end of a concert by US singer Ariana Grande at Manchester Arena.
In all, 14 men are now being questioned in connection with the investigation into the attack.
On Sunday, two men were arrested in Manchester – a 19-year-old man in Gorton and a 25-year-old man in the Old Trafford area.
In the early 1960s, Antonio Veciana was the CIA’s man in Havana. With a senior position in the Cuban government, he wreaked havoc on Fidel Castro’s Communist regime, firebombing the capital’s largest department store and plotting to kill Castro with a bazooka. When the Cuban strongman’s security forces forced him into exile, Veciana didn’t quit. From 1960 to the early 1970s, he funneled CIA funds to a network of Miami-based counter-revolutionaries who carried out an armed revolt against the Cuban government.
Veciana has long since retired from his covert war against Castro, who died peacefully in his own bed last year. Now, the ex-Cuban operative is telling his story in a memoir, Trained to Kill: The Inside Story of CIA Plots Against Castro, Kennedy, and Che, which weighs the cost of the anti-Castro crusade, both for himself and the United States. Veciana writes to justify and to apologize, to express pride and regret. He doesn’t regret fighting Castro, but he does regret that his fight led him to miss so many events with his family and children. (…)
“I don’t know who killed Kennedy,” he writes, “but I know who wanted to and he [Phillips] worked for the CIA.”
Trained to Kill does not prove that Phillips or anyone else at the CIA conspired to assassinate JFK. But it does add to the body of evidence that runs counter to the conclusions of the Warren Commission, which President Lyndon Johnson created to investigate JFK’s murder. That probe determined Kennedy was killed by Oswald, whom it described as a lone nut. In reality, Oswald was not a loner or a psychopath. He was a person who attracted close and constant attention from half a dozen top CIA officers, including Phillips, before November 22, 1963.
Today, decades since his death, Phillips’s work at the agency remains shrouded in secrecy. According to the National Archives database, the CIA has a set of operational files generated by him that runs to more than 600 pages. Unless President Donald Trump intervenes, the files will be declassified before October 2017.
INTEL TODAY DIARY — MAY 29 2017