(AP) PROVIDENCE, R.I.–Federal authorities are close to identifying one or more suspects who have called at least 15 large stores in the last week and threatened to blow up workers with a bomb unless they wire money to an account overseas, an FBI spokesman said Thursday.
“We certainly have some good leads,” FBI spokesman Rich Kolko said from Washington. “We’re close to identifying somebody who may be responsible.”
He said the investigation was focused overseas, but declined to elaborate or say whether an arrest was imminent.
Large grocery stores, discount stores and banks — including one in Milford, Conn. — in roughly a dozen states have received calls from an unidentified man. He is able to provide such specific details that employees believe he is inside or somehow watching them.
In reality, authorities say, he may be calling from thousands of miles away, possibly Portugal, where the caller has asked the money to be wired.
On Thursday evening, the FBI provided an updated list of stores and banks believed to be traceable to the same suspect or group of suspects. The bureau is also investigating whether other reported threats are connected.
The FBI list includes: a credit union in Albuquerque, N.M.; a Safeway store in Sandy, Ore.; a grocery store in Buchanan, Mich.; Wal-Marts in Newport, R.I., and Rio Grande City, Texas; bank branches at Wal-Marts in Salem, Va., and Fairlawn, Va.; a Macey’s grocery store in Orem, Utah; a Dillons grocery store in Hutchinson, Kan., a bank branch in Milford, Conn.; a Von’s in Vista, Calif., near San Diego; a bank in Savannah, Mo.; a bank in Ithaca, N.Y.; and banks in Tampa and Wesley Chapel, Fla.
In the Hutchinson case, in addition to ordering workers to wire him money, the caller ordered customers and employees to take off their clothes and threatened to force them to cut off a manager’s fingers.
Similar calls made to stores in Hutchinson Wednesday were copycat crimes, police said. They took five people into custody.
The FBI has not said how much money was wired to the caller. But police in Newport said workers at a Wal-Mart were so frightened by a bomb threat on Tuesday that they wired $10,000 to the caller.
Authorities in Buchanan, Mich., had earlier said workers at a Harding’s Market sent $3,000 to an account in Portugal. But on Thursday, Police Chief William Marx said flustered store employees made a mistake and the money was sent to Paraguay rather than Portugal, as the caller had demanded.
“They got their p’s messed up,” Marx said.
(The Times London) Exploding vehicles and gunmen kidnapping someone from a car were among scenes on a CD found hidden under a carpet in the home of a student accused of terrorism offences, a court was told yesterday.
Images from the CD were shown to jurors at the High Court in Glasgow where Mohammed Atif Siddique, 21, of Alva, Clackmannanshire, denies five charges including distributing terrorist materials through websites and claiming to be a member of the al-Qaida terror network.
One clip, entitled Capture of a Pig, Working for Karzai, showed two gunmen running towards an estate car, which stopped. They dragged out the driver, tied him up, then bundled him into their own car and drove off.
The next picture showed the figure sitting cross-legged and bound on the ground. A shot was heard and the word “executed” flashed up.
A separate video clip showed men standing around what appeared to be dead and injured soldiers. The camera zoomed in to show close-ups of their injuries and showed an onlooker taking a watch from one of the dead men and holding up what appeared to be a US Navy identification card.
It then cut to a view of a laptop and scrolled down an English document mentioning “Operation Enduring Freedom” and illustrated with maps.
The footage then showed a vehicle being driven along a road and suddenly exploding.
A separate clip showed a masked man with a weapon talking in English and saying: “The honourable sons and daughters of Islam will not let you kill our families in Palestine and Afghanistan. It is time for us to be equals.
“As you kill us, you will be killed.”
The court was told that images of masked men carrying guns and pictures labelled Jihadi were found on a home computer at the house in Alva.
Siddique is accused of possessing items which gave a reasonable suspicion that they were connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.
Among the items described are imitation firearms and instructions on making bombs.
It is also alleged that he collected information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism. He is also charged with setting up websites that demonstrate how to make explosives, distributing terrorist publications via websites and breaching the peace at Glasgow Metropolitan College by claiming to be a member of al-Qaeda.
The trial continues.
(AP) WASHINGTON – A military cargo plane carrying three senators and a House member was forced to take evasive maneuvers and dispatch flares to avoid ground fire after taking off from Baghdad on Thursday night.
The lawmakers said their plane, a C-130, was under fire from three rocket-propelled grenades over the course of several minutes as they left for Amman, Jordan.
“It was a scary moment,” said Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., who said he had just taken off his body armor when he saw a bright flash outside the window. “Our pilots were terrific. … They banked in one direction and then banked the other direction, and they set off the flares.”
Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., as well as Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Ala., were also on the plane.
Cramer and Martinez said they had just begun to relax about five or 10 minutes after the plane took off under darkness.
Crew members apparently communicated to the pilots as they saw the initial RPG fired from the ground, Cramer said. After the first burst, the pilots maneuvered aggressively and set off flares used for drawing incoming fire away from aircraft.
Once the flares lit up the sky, lawmakers said, two more RPGs were fired as the pilots continued maneuvering.
Martinez said he quickly put back on his body armor.
“We were jostled around pretty good,” said Cramer, who estimated the plane had ascended to about 6,000 feet. “There were a few minutes there where I wondered: ‘Have we been hit? Are we OK?'”
Capt. Angel Wallace, a spokeswoman for U.S. Central Command, said she was not aware of the incident, and military public affairs officials in Baghdad could not be reached immediately.
Lawmakers travel to Iraq regularly to get a closer look at military and political progress there, usually staying inside Baghdad’s secured Green Zone and traveling under heavy security.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and other lawmakers who walked around a Baghdad market this spring were criticized for offering a rosy assessment of security there.
Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., for example, later said he chose his words poorly when he compared the market to a “normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime.”
Despite the scare, Shelby, Martinez and Cramer said they believed the recent increase in troop levels has helped stabilize parts of the country.
“It was kind of dicey,” Shelby said. “But it just shows you what our troops go through every day.”
(AP) WASHINGTON – The FBI disclosed new details about its secretive technology for tracing telephone calls and recording conversations during criminal, terrorism and espionage investigations, custom-made tools it has developed quietly for a decade.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the government has come a long way since the days of alligator clips and reel-to-reel tape recorders when it comes to its surveillance techniques.
In hundreds of heavily censored pages, the FBI described in unprecedented detail a sophisticated surveillance system known as the Digital Collection System Network. It includes programs to record information about telephone calls — such as the number called and the duration of the call — made by surveillance targets and another program called Digital Storm to record conversations.
Many of the documents were marked “for official use only.”
Some of the FBI files describe the security risks that outsiders might gain access to the bureau’s eavesdropping tools. The FBI said part of its surveillance system is tightly guarded, physically against intruders and electronically against hackers.
Steve Bellovin, a security expert and computer science professor at Columbia University, describes the system as “basically a control terminal” for the agency’s various surveillance taps.
He said the biggest threat would be not from hackers but from inside. “Can it be abused by rogue agents?” he asked.
In files describing the operation of the call-tracing system, known as the DCS-3000, the FBI acknowledged that rogue agents or spies represent the gravest threat.
“As with most information systems, the greatest threat to the DCS 3000 would come from the inside,” the FBI said. “Since they have access to the system at various levels, users could damage, alter or erase data and destroy system hardware and software. They could also use the information gathered by it for profit by passing on the collected information or by alerting those being monitored.”
“We go to great lengths to make sure the system is secure,” said Anthony DiClemente, section chief of the data acquisition and intercept section at the FBI. Access is limited, and the system itself is kept “in a locked room,” he said.
The FBI was forced by a federal judge to give the files to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group, which requested them under the Freedom of Information Act more than one year ago.
(CBC News) Toronto police cordoned off an area in the city’s east end Friday after small, “unstable” bombs were discovered in a car.
The emergency task force has sealed off the area around Overlea Boulevard, Millwood Drive and Don Mills Road as well as the entire Thorncliffe Park Drive loop.
Traffic on the Don Valley Parkway has also been diverted in the area.
Bomb disposal units were using remote-controlled robots to search the vehicle and disable the small explosive devices police described as “unstable” and “live,” the CBC’s Jamie Strashin said.
Investigators are also searching a residence on Ashdale Avenue.
The discovery came after the arrest late Thursday of a 37-year-old man in connection with three letter bombs recently sent to southern Ontario homes.
Two of the letters were sent to homes in Toronto, while another was sent to a residence in Guelph.
Investigators said they believed the three incidents are linked and “were not random events,” but added there appeared to be “no political or other ideological motivation” for the incidents.
On the evening of Aug. 11, a man in the Victoria Park Avenue-Lawrence Avenue East area sustained injuries to his hands after he opened an envelope he received at his home and it exploded.
Eight days later, a real estate lawyer found an envelope at his home in the Yonge Street-Sheppard Avenue West area that afternoon. The package smelled like petroleum, so he notified police and it was safely detonated. Police said it was rigged to explode if opened.
On Aug. 22, a self-employed home renovator found a Canada Post Xpresspost envelope at the rear of his Guelph home, but didn’t open it and called police. Media reports said the letter was detonated at the scene and contained enough explosive to take the man’s head off had it exploded.
Police said the suspect, identified as Adel Arnaout, will face several charges when he appears in a Toronto court later Friday.
(Sydney Morning Herald) DAVID PETRAEUS, the US military commander in Iraq, has given a preview of his forthcoming report to Congress, citing a dramatic reduction in violence in Baghdad and foreshadowing a “gradual” reduction in the number of troops in Iraq.
The Herald interviewed General Petraeus in Baghdad on Wednesday, after he had a 90-minute meeting with the Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, and Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston.
General Petraeus revealed the thinking behind his report, due on September 10, on President George Bush’s “surge” strategy of increasing the number of US troops in Iraq, and divulged several measures of progress.
“We say we have achieved progress and will do all we can to build on that progress, [and] that al-Qaeda is off balance and we are certainly pressuring them,” General Petraeus said.
“Our objective, with all the Coalition forces is … to gradually bring the surge down. Obviously we have some more months with the surge forces [still in place].”
His optimistic view contradicts a report prepared for Congress, which was leaked on Wednesday. The report, by the US Government Accountability Office, says progress in Iraq has stalled, and only three of 18 benchmarks for political and military progress have been met.
General Petraeus said his challenge in gradually cutting US troop numbers was to decide what the battlefield “footprint” in Iraq should eventually look like. The 30,000 additional troops sent to Iraq have brought US troop numbers to 160,000. Australia has 1575 troops in Iraq.
Dr Nelson described his meetings with General Petraeus and the US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Croker, as “extremely useful”. Dr Nelson meets the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, in Washington today.
Dr Nelson flagged Australia’s continued strong commitment to Iraq, saying “we are not looking for any premature withdrawal”.
“General Petraeus was very frank, very open in his assessment … we have quite a clear picture now of his thinking on the state of the Baghdad security plan, the surge … [and on] the security environment in Baghdad and in the south and the work being done by us and the British. We now have a much clearer picture of what General Petraeus is going to present to Congress … The message is that this is achievable.”
General Petraeus, 54, who commanded the 101st Airborne Division during the Iraq invasion in 2003, was appointed as commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq in February.
In the interview with the Herald in his office in the US headquarters in a former Saddam Hussein presidential palace, he used as a benchmark of progress . the number of “ethno-sectarian deaths”, which have fallen steadily since December in Baghdad and in the rest of Iraq and have “come down for eight of the last 11 weeks to a level lower than for a year.”
In Baghdad, the monthly death toll has fallen by more than two-thirds. In the rest of Iraq, such deaths have dropped by more than 50 per cent, but General Petraeus said they were “still too high”.
“This is very much a work in progress,” he said. “We are a little over two months into the so-called surge.”
Having an extra combat infantry brigade, aviators and a marine expeditionary unit has been “very important”, he said. “It has enabled us to start offensives [and] go after the al-Qaeda sanctuaries. We see them as public enemy number one … That is not to say that militant extremists supported by Iran are not a … growing concern.”
He also cited success in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province. “It was like Stalingrad,” he said, an al-Qaeda stronghold and the most violent place in Iraq at the beginning of the year, but which was now peaceful after Coalition and Iraqi forces mounted an offensive in March and local Sunnis turned against the terrorists. He said al-Qaeda was also being forced out of strongholds in Baghdad and Diyala.
General Petraeus attributed much success to the “phenomenon of locals saying would it be OK if we pointed our weapons at al-Qaeda and not at you”.
Another measure of progress was the increasing number of al-Qaeda members captured and killed – more than 1500 a month, as well as a significant reduction in the number of homemade bombs, “the biggest killer on our battlefield”.
But there had been an increase in the number of more sophisticated bombs, which can blast armoured vehicles, and which the US Government says Iran has been supplying to insurgents.
General Petraeus spoke of the “malign involvement” of Iranian agents who had “trained, equipped and funded and in some cases directed” attacks on Coalition forces.
“This is not a pretty picture,” he said, pointing to fighting between Shiites and to the fact al-Qaeda was still unleashing suicide bombers.
He paid tribute to Australia and its troops, who are “the epitome of professionalism … extraordinarily capable. Australians ‘get it’,” he said. “That is the highest praise.”
He singled out for praise Australian Army Lieutenant Colonel David Kilcullen, his chief adviser on counterinsurgency operations, who rewrote General Petraeus’s counter-insurgency handbook this year.
Dr Nelson also visited Australia’s 1000 troops in Afghanistan this week and met President Hamid Karzai.
He had planned to deliver a letter from the Prime Minister, John Howard, to the embattled Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, but Mr Maliki had to fly to Kerbala after an eruption of violence in the city, and was unable to attend a meeting with Dr Nelson to receive it.
The letter also wanted to reiterate to Mr Maliki “that it’s very important in this difficult environment … that the Government govern … The patience of openhearted Australians should not be excessively tested.”
After meeting General Petraeus, Dr Nelson said: “We will continue to do what we believe is right. While we understand support for our continuing involvement in Iraq is a minority position … we have a moral responsibility not just to Iraqis and the nations of the Middle East but also to people suffering under terrorism, and … to our allies US and Britain.”
(SignonSanDiego.Com) A conflict between passengers at Lindbergh Field Tuesday night caused the overnight delay of an American Airlines flight headed to Chicago.
Flight 590 was scheduled to depart at 11 p.m. for Chicago O’Hare International Airport but was rescheduled for Wednesday at 10:15 a.m. after some kind of dispute among customers started at the gate and continued onto the plane, said American Airlines spokesman Tim Wagner.
While Wagner said it is the airlines policy not to disclose any information about their passengers, televised reports claimed that the incident involved a group of six to seven Iraqi Americans and another passenger who was apparently uncomfortable that the men were speaking in Arabic.
The jet left the gate at 11:14 p.m. but did not take off and instead returned at 11:26 p.m. after a traveler with a child elected to get off the plane, Wagner said.
The airport’s 11:30 p.m. curfew then prevented the plane from taking off, Wagner said.
He said 126 passengers had booked the flight, although he didn’t know the exact number that boarded.
Christine Zugay of Chicago was on board flight 590. She said that after the plane’s doors closed and everyone was seated, the plane left the gate and began to taxi toward the runway.
The pilot then came on the intercom and said there was a problem onboard the jet that needed to be taken care of, and that they were returning to the gate, Zugay said.
A few minutes later, the pilot notified passengers that the flight would have to be rescheduled due to Lindbergh Field’s 11:30 p.m. curfew on departures.
Zugay said she did not see or hear any altercation on the plane, but that disembarking passengers were talking about a woman and a child who had left the flight.
Wagner said that no passengers were selectively taken off the plane.
He said that all of the flight’s passengers had to disembark and that all were welcome to re-board this morning’s flight.
“For us it was a customer dispute,” Wagner said. “We prefer to handle these issues on the ground.”
(AP) NEWPORT, R.I. – Large grocery and discount stores across the country have been targeted by a caller who threatens to blow up shoppers and workers with a bomb if employees fail to wire money to an account overseas, authorities said.
Frightened workers have wired thousands of dollars — and in one case took off their clothes — to placate a caller who said he was watching them but may have been thousands of miles away. The FBI and police said Wednesday they are investigating similar bomb threats at more than 15 stores in at least 11 states — all in the past week.
“At this point, there’s enough similarities that we think it’s potentially one person or one group,” FBI spokesman Rich Kolko said from Washington.
No one has been arrested, no bombs have been found, and no one has been hurt, though the calls have triggered store evacuations and prompted lengthy sweeps by police and bomb squads.
Law enforcement officials say the caller claims to have a bomb and orders the store to send money to an account through an in-store money transfer service such as Western Union. He often claims to be able to see inside the store, but officials believe he was making it up.
In Newport, employees at a Wal-Mart got three calls Tuesday morning and wired three payments totaling $10,000 to an account out of the country, Sgt. James Quinn said. A spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said the company was assisting in the investigation, but offered no further comment.
The first of the threats that federal investigators are aware of came last Thursday at a Safeway in Sandy, Ore. The caller initially said he had a gun and was watching the store, but after meeting resistance to his demands he claimed to have a bomb, Sandy police Chief Harold Skelton said.
In Buchanan, Mich., on Monday, the caller directed employees of a Harding’s market to lock the front doors, move to the front and told them not to call police, said Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey. The man claimed he could see some workers standing up, and ordered them to sit down.
“He’s just ad-libbing,” Bailey said. “He can’t see anything.”
Nonetheless, Bailey said, the employees were so afraid they wired the caller $3,000. The manager even hung up the phone when authorities called, saying a bomb would go off if he talked to them.
Bailey said that in a phone call with police, the man even offered to trade a “hostage” for a police officer to make his threat more believable.
The caller has not gotten every store he’s called to give up money, but the FBI on Wednesday did not provide the total amount taken.
Also targeted were Dillons grocery stores in Hutchinson, Kan. At one store Tuesday, the caller ordered customers and employees to disrobe. Employee Marilyn Case told The Hutchinson News that store manager Mike Piros argued with the caller, but they relented when he continued to make threats and instructed them to “do it now.”
He then demanded that one of Piros’ fingers be cut off for every hour his demands were not met, and another employee got a butcher knife on his orders, Case said. Jim Peterson, a customer, told the newspaper that people became distraught.
“People came undone and started saying, ‘No, no,'” he said.
Piros was not harmed. Police there initially said they were investigating whether the caller had hacked into the surveillance system, but later backed away from that possibility.
The calls continued Wednesday, with a threat at a Hannaford supermarket in Millinocket, Maine. An employee arrived to find the doors locked and employees and customers sitting inside in a circle, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
Store maintenance associate Ivan Garay told the Bangor Daily News that store manager Michael Bennett told everyone to sit on the floor. Later, they were told there had been a bomb threat.
At a Safeway supermarket in Prescott, Ariz., a caller with an accent demanded $2,850 on Tuesday, according to police and city spokesman Kim Kapin.
“The maximum that Western Union can send through its service is $3,000,” Kapin said. Wiring money also includes a $150 service charge, Kapin added. “This individual was obviously aware of that.”
Initially, the caller led employees to believe he was observing them.
“After a while, it sounded like he was just taking a shot in the dark at what they might be doing, or what they looked like or how they were reacting to his call,” Prescott police Lt. Ken Morley said.
Sherry Johnson, a spokeswoman for Englewood, Colo.-based Western Union, said the company was working with the FBI and U.S. Secret Service to trace the money sent through the service. It was also telling its agents to be on the lookout for the extortion plot. She declined to be more specific, saying “this is an ongoing law enforcement investigation.”
A message seeking comment from another money-transfer service used, St. Louis Park, Minn.-based, MoneyGram International Inc., was not immediately returned Wednesday.
Kapin said the FBI found the call was made from a cell phone registered to a Los Angeles phone number but was leased out from a European company. Investigators determined the call had come from somewhere in Portugal.
Callers also tried to extort money with calls to a US Bank in Boise, Idaho, Wednesday morning; a Wal-Mart in Hutchinson, Kan.; bank branches at Wal-Marts in Salem, Va., and Fairlawn, Va., on Tuesday; to a Vons store in Vista, Calif., near San Diego, on Friday; and to two Giant Eagle grocery stores in the Pittsburgh area, authorities said. The FBI said it was also investigating similar incidents at a grocery store in Orem, Utah, on Monday and a store in McAllen, Texas on Saturday.
Separately, the FBI is looking into bomb threats on college campuses, including two in Ohio — the University of Akron and Kenyon College. No explosive devices have been found. Law enforcement officials said there was no evidence at this time linking the college bomb threats with those at grocery and discount stores.
Kenyon, in Gambier in central Ohio, received six separate bomb threats in a general admissions e-mail account between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. Wednesday, college spokesman Shawn Presley said. Local and federal authorities determined the threats to be a hoax and the school was not evacuated as officials swept buildings searching for the bomb, he said.
The University of Akron closed classrooms, labs and offices in its Auburn Science and Engineering building on Wednesday, after a secretary in a dean’s office received an anonymous e-mail that included a bomb threat.
(The Jawa Report) “Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.” — Thomas Mann Fellow Jawa Tim from Opinion Bugbrings word that the case is definitely not closed on two University of South Florida Muslim students, Youssef & Ahmed Megahed.
The two were arrested near the Goose Creek Naval Weapons Station on charges that they were carrying explosive devices.
Tampa Tribune:A federal grand jury in Tampa is asking for DNA and hair samples from a University of South Florida student jailed four weeks ago in South Carolina on explosives charges, his attorney said.What the hell would they want DNA evidence for unless they were implicated in some other plot? I mean, we know they were in the car with the explosives. So, the Grand Jury must be trying to figure out if they were also somewhere else doing something else and the DNA would link them to that other place. But just what is that other place and what is it that they are suspected of doing in that other place?
Federal court records show that [Noor] Salhab leased the house in the early 1990s to World and Islam Studies Enterprise, a think tank run by Sami Al-Arian, the former USF professor accused of funding Palestinian terrorist organizations.
Michelle Malkin notes that that organization was convicted terror supporter Sami Al-Arian’s World and Islam Studies Enterprise.
The plot thickens. I am beginning to come up with a few crazy theories about just what these two were doing. And none of them involve trying to attack the Goose Creek Naval Weapons Station with a bunch of illegal fireworks. But all of them have something to do with the pair’s computers being seized by the the FBI.
And what would a terror investigation be without an appearance by CAIR?Also appearing before the grand jury Wednesday was Ahmed Bedier, who has been a spokesman for the Megahed family. Bedier is executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations and a frequent media spokesman for Muslims and Islamic causes.
Bedier declined to answer questions about his testimony, saying he wanted to check with the national headquarters of CAIR about what he was allowed to say.
Hmmmm, so does CAIR know something here or is this type of thing perfectly normal?
KABUL (Reuters) – A wanted Taliban insurgent leader in Afghanistan, Mullah Brother, was killed on Thursday in a U.S.-led raid in the southern province of Helmand, the Afghan Defence Ministry said, citing ground commanders.
But a Taliban member, Qari Mohammad Bashir, denied that Brother had been killed, saying the report was a government lie.
Brother served as a top military commander for the Taliban government until its removal from power in 2001 and was a member of the movement’s leadership council led by its fugitive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.
Mullah is a title for a Muslim cleric that many senior Taliban use. It was not clear if the name Brother, which other Taliban leaders have used to refer to him, was a nom de guerre.
The raid was launched after Taliban insurgents ambushed an Afghan army convoy between Sangin and Sarwan districts of Helmand, the ministry said in a statement.
Air support from U.S.-led troops was called in, said ministry spokesman, Zahir Azimi.
“He was killed, probably in ground fighting,” he said.
“Brother was on the black list,” Azimi said referring to a wanted U.S. list involving Taliban leaders and al Qaeda members.
Brother was a top military aide to Taliban leader Omar.
Taliban member Bashir, who has recently been involved in negotiations over the fate of a group of South Koreans kidnapped by the Taliban, dismissed the government report of the killing.
“This is a total lie,” Bashir told Reuters.
Taliban officials have in the past initially denied reports of the killing of senior members but later confirmed them as true.
On the other hand, the Afghan government has on several occasions erroneously reported the arrest or killing of top Taliban commanders.
ACCUSED OVER KILLING OF JOURNALISTS
An Afghan man convicted of killing four journalists in 2001, including two from Reuters, told his trial in 2004 that Brother had given the order that the four be killed.
Gunmen captured the journalists on the main road from Pakistan in the east of the country, while they trying to reach Kabul days after the defeated Taliban had withdrawn from the city. They were shot dead.
If confirmed, Brother’s killing would represent another big blow to the Taliban insurgency which has had several of its top leaders either killed or arrested in the past nine months.
Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban’s top operational commander in southern Afghanistan, was killed in May.
In December, U.S.-led forces killed another top Taliban official, Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Osmani, in an air attack in the south of the country after a tip-off by Pakistan.
In a separate incident, a British soldier and a civilian interpreter were killed in a blast on Thursday while on patrol in the southern province of Kandahar, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.
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