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Ohio man apologizes, is sentenced to 22 years for U.S. terrorism plot

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AP — COLUMBUS: An Ohio man who admitted he plotted to kill U.S. military members after receiving training in Syria apologized to his family and adopted country Monday before a federal judge sentenced him to 22 years in prison.

After returning to the U.S., Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud planned to fly to Texas and attack the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth in an attempt to free Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist convicted of shooting at two U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, Judge Michael Watson said as he outlined the allegations against Mohamud.

Mohamud, 26, told Watson he knew what he’d done was wrong and that he’d fallen into the trap of radicalization while abroad.

“Do you have any idea how misguided that was?” Watson asked Mohamud before he sentenced him.

“Absolutely,” replied Mohamud, who appeared in jail clothes and had shackles around his ankles and his hands chained to his waist. “I wish I could take it back, your honor.”

Watson said he based the sentence on the “deadly serious” nature of the crime and the need to deter others from considering similar actions.

Watson drew attention to the fact that Mohamud applied for a passport to travel abroad only a week after he became a U.S. citizen in 2014.

Mohamud was born in Somalia and came to the U.S. as a 2-year-old child. He was arrested in 2015 and pleaded guilty a few months later. The attacks were never carried out.

Mohamud bought a ticket to Greece with a stop in Turkey, where he disembarked before going to Syria, prosecutors said in court documents. They said he never intended to go to Greece.

Mohamud trained with al-Nusrah Front, a terrorist organization affiliated with al-Qaeda, according to the government.

Defense attorney Sam Shamansky asked for leniency, saying Mohamud didn’t have his father around when he was growing up, was brainwashed while abroad “by professional head twisters” but later realized his error and abandoned his plot.

“This is a scared, confused, 23-year-old kid, an American kid, who gets his head twisted,” Shamansky said. He called Mohamud’s plan “nonsensical.”

Prosecutors noted Mohamud contacted others from jail after his arrest and told them not to say anything.

“Before Sept. 11, 2001, a plot to take down the twin towers would have been considered nonsensical,” said assistant U.S. attorney Doug Squires. “Because of the FBI, this plot was taken down, and we’re all safer for it.”

Several members of Mohamud’s family were in court but did not speak. Watson said, referring to a letter Mohamud’s sister had written, “Your actions have shaken the whole family.”

An investigation continues. Watson made reference to a plot involving at least five people. Shamansky referred to a group he called “the basketball five,” but wouldn’t elaborate.

The judge also sentenced Mohamud to 10 years of supervision after his release from prison and ordered him to earn his GED while behind bars.

Briefing Room

Diplomatic leaks: UAE dissatisfied with Saudi policies

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AL JAZEERA — Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) is working on breaking up Saudi Arabia, leaked documents obtained by Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar revealed.

Al Akhbar said that the leaked documents contained secret diplomatic briefings sent by UAE and Jordanian ambassadors in Beirut to their respective governments.

One of the documents, issued on September 20, 2017, disclosed the outcome of a meeting between Jordan’s ambassador to Lebanon Nabil Masarwa and his Kuwaiti counterpart Abdel-Al al-Qenaie.

“The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is working on breaking up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Jordanian envoy quoted the Kuwait ambassador as saying.

A second document, issued on September 28, 2017, reveals meeting minutes between the Jordanian ambassador and his UAE counterpart Hamad bin Saeed al-Shamsi.

The document said the Jordanian ambassador informed his government that UAE believes that “Saudi policies are failing both domestically and abroad, especially in Lebanon”.

“The UAE is dissatisfied with Saudi policies,” the Jordanian envoy said.

The Qatar vote
According to the leaks, UAE ambassador claims that Lebanon voted for Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari in his bid to become head of UNESCO in October 2017.

“[Lebanese Prime Minister Saad] Hariri knew Lebanon was voting for Qatar,” the UAE ambassador said in a cable sent to his government on October 18, 2017.

In November last year, Hariri announced his shock resignation from the Saudi capital Riyadh.

He later deferred his decision, blaming Iran and its Lebanese ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, for his initial resignation. He also said he feared an assassination attempt.

Officials in Lebanon alleged that Hariri was held hostage by Saudi authorities, an allegation Hariri denied in his first public statement following his resignation speech.

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Somalia’s Puntland region asks UAE to stay as Gulf split deepens

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BOSASO, Somalia (Reuters) – Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region urged the United Arab Emirates not to close its security operations in the country after a dispute with the central government, saying the Gulf power was a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants.

The dispute goes to the heart of an increasingly troubled relationship between Gulf states – divided by their own disputes – and fractured Somalia, whose coastline sits close to key shipping routes and across the water from Yemen.

Analysts have said the complex standoff risks exacerbating an already explosive security situation on both sides of the Gulf of Aden, where militant groups launch regular attacks.

The central Somali government said on Wednesday it was taking over a military training program run by the UAE.

Days later the UAE announced it was pulling out, accusing Mogadishu of seizing millions of dollars from a plane, money it said was meant to pay soldiers.

“We ask our UAE friends, not only to stay, but to redouble their efforts in helping Somalia stand on its feet,” said the office of the president of Puntland, a territory that sits on the tip of the Horn of Africa looking out over the Gulf of Aden.

Ending UAE support, “will only help our enemy, particularly Al Shabaab and ISIS (Islamic State),” it added late on Monday.

SUSPICION, RESENTMENT

The UAE is one of a number of Gulf powers that have opened bases along the coast of the Horn of Africa and promised investment and donations as they compete for influence in the insecure but strategically important region.

That competition has been exacerbated by a diplomatic rift between Qatar and a bloc including the UAE. In turn, those splits have worsened divisions in Somalia.

Puntland, which has said it wants independence, has sought to woo the UAE which runs an anti-piracy training center there and is developing the main port. The central government in Mogadishu last year criticized Puntland for taking sides in the Gulf dispute. Qatar’s ally Turkey is one of Somalia’s biggest investors.

One Somali government official said last week Mogadishu had decided to take over the UAE operation because the Gulf state’s contract to run it had expired. Another official said the government was investigating the money taken from the plane.

The competition among Gulf states in Somalia has fueled accusations of foreign interference and resentment in many corners of Somali society.

The loss of the UAE program could have a destabilizing effect, said one security analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The value of the UAE trained forces was two-fold – they were relatively well trained but, most importantly, they were paid on time,” unlike other parts of the security forces, the analyst told Reuters.

Somalia has been mired in conflict since 1991.

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Puntland President calls UAE continue its mission in Somalia

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