Tag Archives: militants

Anti-government militants acquitted on conspiracy charges

A federal court jury delivered a surprise verdict on Oct. 27, acquitting anti-government militant leader Ammon Bundy and six followers of conspiracy charges stemming from their role in the armed takeover of a wildlife center in Oregon earlier this year.

The outcome marked a stinging defeat for federal prosecutors and law enforcement in a trial the defendants sought to turn into a pulpit for airing their opposition to government control over millions of acres of public lands in the West.

Bundy and others, including his brother and co-defendant Ryan Bundy, cast the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as a patriotic act of civil disobedience. Prosecutors called it a lawless scheme to seize federal property by force.

Jubilant supporters of the Bundys thronged the courthouse after the verdict, hailing the trial’s outcome as vindication of a political ideology that is profoundly distrustful of federal authority and challenges its legitimacy.

“We’re so grateful to the jurors who weren’t swayed by the nonsense that was going on,” defendant Shawna Cox told reporters. “God said we weren’t guilty. We weren’t guilty of anything.”

As the seven-week-long trial in the U.S. District Court in Portland climaxed, U.S. marshals wrestled to the floor Ammon Bundy’s lawyer, Marcus Mumford, as he argued heatedly with the judge over the terms of his client’s continued detention.

The Bundys still face assault, conspiracy and other charges from a separate armed standoff in 2014 at the Nevada ranch of their father, Cliven Bundy, triggered when federal agents seized his cattle for his failure to pay grazing fees for his use of public land.

The outcome of the Oregon trial clearly shocked many in the packed courtroom. Attorneys exchanged looks of astonishment with the defendants, then hugged their clients as the not-guilty verdicts were read amid gasps from spectators.

Outside the courthouse, supporters celebrated by shouting “Hallelujah” and reading passages from the U.S. Constitution. One man rode his horse, named Lady Liberty, in front of the courthouse carrying an American flag.

The verdict came after four days of deliberations. One juror, a former federal employee, was dismissed over questions of bias on Wednesday and replaced by a substitute.

The 12-member panel found all seven defendants — six men and a woman — not guilty of the most serious charge, conspiracy to impede federal officers through intimidation, threats or force. That charge alone carried a maximum penalty of six years in prison.

The defendants also were acquitted of illegal possession of firearms in a federal facility and theft of government property, except in the case of Ryan Bundy, for whom jurors were deadlocked on the charge of theft.

The takeover of the wildlife refuge was initially sparked by outrage over the plight of two imprisoned Oregon ranchers the occupiers believed had been unfairly treated in an arson case. But the militants said they were also protesting larger grievances at what they saw as government tyranny.

The standoff led to the shooting death of one protester, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, by police shortly after the Bundy brothers were arrested, and left parts of the refuge badly damaged.

More than two dozen people, in all, have been criminally charged in the occupation, and a second group of defendants is due to stand trial in February.

 

Report: Kidnapped Nigerian girls forced into ‘marrying’ abductors

Scores of girls and young women kidnapped from a school in Nigeria are being forced to “marry” their Islamic extremist abductors, a civic organization reported Wednesday.

At the same time, the Boko Haram terrorist network is negotiating over the students’ fate and is demanding an unspecified ransom for their release, a Borno state community leader told The Associated Press.

He said the Wednesday night message from the abductors also claimed that two of the girls have died from snake bites.

The message was sent to a member of a presidential committee mandated last year to mediate a ceasefire with the Islamic extremists, said the civic leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak about the talks.

The news of negotiations comes as parents say the girls are being sold into “marriage” to Boko Haram militants. The students are being paid 2,000 naira ($12) to marry the fighters, Halite Aliyu of the Borno-Yobe People’s Forum told The Associated Press. She said the parents’ information about mass weddings is coming from villagers in the Sambisa Forest, on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, where Boko Haram is known to have hideouts.

“The latest reports are that they have been taken across the borders, some to Cameroon and Chad,” Aliyu said. It was not possible to verify the reports about more than 200 missing girls kidnapped in the northeast by the Boko Haram terrorist network two weeks ago.

“Some of them have been married off to insurgents. A medieval kind of slavery. You go and capture women and then sell them off,” community elder Pogu Bitrus of Chibok, the town where the girls were abducted, told the BBC Hausa Service.

Outrage over the failure to rescue the girls is growing and hundreds of women braved heavy rain to march Wednesday to Nigeria’s National Assembly to protest lack of action over the students. Hundreds more also marched in Kano, Nigeria’s second city in the north.

“The leaders of both houses said they will do all in their power but we are saying two weeks already have past, we want action now,” said activist Mercy Asu Abang.

“We want our girls to come home alive – not in body bags,” she said.

Nigerians have harnessed social media to protest, trending under the hashtag (hash)BringBackOurGirls.

There also has been no news of 25 girls kidnapped from Konduga town in Borno state earlier this month.

A federal senator from the region said the military is aware of the movements of the kidnappers and the girls because he has been feeding them details that he has gathered on a near-daily basis.

“What bothered me the most is that whenever I informed the military where these girls were, after two to three days they were moved from that place to another. Still, I would go back and inform them on new developments,” Sen. Ahmad Zanna is quoted as saying at the Nigerian online news site Persecond News.

Zanna said some of the girls are in Kolofata in Cameroon, about 15 kilometers (nine miles) from the border with Nigeria. He said one of the insurgents had called a friend in Borno state to say that he had just got married and was settling in Kolofata. Zanna also said three or four days ago Nigerian herdsmen reported seeing the girls taken in boats onto an island in Lake Chad.

Another senator from the region said the government needs to get international help to rescue the girls. The government must do “whatever it takes, even seeking external support to make sure these girls are released,” Sen. Ali Ndume said. “The longer it takes the dimmer the chances of finding them, the longer it takes the more traumatized the family and the abducted girls are.”

About 50 of the kidnapped girls managed to escape from their captors in the first days after their abduction, but some 220 remain missing, according to the principal of the Chibok Girls Secondary School, Asabe Kwambura. They are between 16 and 18 years old and had been recalled to the school to write a physics exam.

The failure to rescue the girls is a massive embarrassment to Nigeria’s government and the military, already confronted by mounting criticism over its apparent inability to curb the 5-year-old Islamic uprising despite having draconian powers through an 11-month state of emergency in three northeastern states covering one-sixth of the country.

The military trumpets a success in its “onslaught on terrorists” but then the extremists step up the tempo and deadliness of their attacks. More than 1,500 people have been killed in the insurgency so far this year, compared to an estimated 3,600 between 2010 and 2013.

President Goodluck Jonathan, who is from the predominantly Christian south of Nigeria, has been accused of insensitivity to the plight of people in the north, who are mainly Muslims.

People from Nigeria’s northeast feel that they are being punished because they did not vote for Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party – the entire region is held by opposition politicians, said Aliyu, of the Borno-Yobe People’s Forum. “The northeast zone is in flames and nothing is being done because we didn’t vote PDP,” she said. “Women are raped daily, our children are being carted away like animals and sold like chickens, they (extremists) burn schools, they burn mosques, they raze entire villages.”

She said it would take decades to rebuild from the destruction that has forced an estimated 750,000 people from their homes, some into neighboring countries, fleeing the terror of the zealots as well as abuses by the soldiers.

The military’s lack of progress in rescuing the girls indicates that large parts of northeastern Nigeria remain beyond the control of the government. Until the kidnappings, the air force had been mounting near-daily bombing raids since mid-January on the Sambisa Forest and mountain caves bordering Chad.

Aliyu said that in northeastern Nigeria “life has become nasty, short and brutish. We are living in a state of anarchy.”

Yemeni militants kill man suspected of being gay

Yemeni security official say militants have shot dead a 20-year-old man suspected of being gay in the latest attack targeting homosexuals in the conservative Muslim country.

Security officials say at least 33 people have been killed in similar attacks in the past two years.

Most of the extrajudicial killings took place in the southern province of Abyan in 2011 when al-Qaida was in control of large swaths of territory.

Security officials say the man killed on July 16 was shot in the street by unidentified gunmen in Lahj province. Officials spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak to media.

Rising threat | Explosive growth of ‘patriot groups’ in Wisconsin and nation

With the wave of enthusiasm for Barack Obama’s promise of hope and change came a second wave of conspiracy-minded, right-wing “patriot groups” that are growing in number and militancy.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, headquartered in Montgomery, Ala., recently reported surging numbers of anti-government patriot groups that remind those at the civil rights organization of the mid-1990s, when Democrat Bill Clinton was president. That was the era of the Brady Bill, the assault weapon ban, and the religious cult showdown in Waco, Texas.

SPLC documented 149 active patriot or militia groups in 2008, the year Barack Obama was elected president. In 2011, SPLC identified 1,274 patriot groups. In 2012, the number climbed 7 percent to 1,360, including 321 militias. The number of patriot groups today exceeds by more than 500 the high-water number in the 1990s.

SPLC publishes annual counts and analyses of U.S. extremist groups. The counts include active, established groups – not lone “keyboard commandos,” said Heidi L. Beirich, director of the SPLC Intelligence Project.

Patriot groups are defined by the SPLC as opposing a “New World Order” and promoting anti-government doctrine and conspiracy theories. 

Experts theorize that the revival of far-right, anti-government radicalism has been spurred by the economic recession, a Democratic administration, the first black president and intensifying debate about immigration, the environment and gun control. Accompanying the rise in militia groups are increasing calls for secession, nullification and civil war.

“The year that Obama was elected, we started to see these groups rise and rise and rise,” said Beirich, whose department consists of 15 staffers who read far-right publications, monitor websites, track events and activities and collect police reports.

There were 30 active anti-government groups in Wisconsin in 2012 – that’s a slight increase from the 26 identified in 2011. Several, including groups in Appleton and Milwaukee, are affiliates of the John Birch Society, an anti-communism, limited-government organization founded in 1958 by, among others, Fred Koch. The SPLC list also includes the Constitution Party in Milwaukee, the Northwoods Patriots in Eagle River, We the People, Southeast Wisconsin Volunteers, Northeast Wisconsin Militia, Badger State Volunteers and the Tenth Amendment Center.

Some of these groups self-describe as patriot groups or militias while others dispute the SPLC classification.

Several Wisconsin militia websites, for example, contain lists of weapons, ammunition and survival gear that members should have and urge visitors “to protect our property and families by any means necessary.”

But a post for the Badger State Volunteers states, “We are Constitutionalists, survivalists, self-sustainers, and educators plain and simple. We are NOT a religious group! …We are NOT a racially motivated group! We do not care about your color. We only care that you believe in the preservation of The Constitution of the United States of America.”

Far-right universe

The anti-government crusade is one of three basic ideological movements in the far-right universe. The others are the fundamentalist movement that consists of Christian identity groups that fuse religious fundamentalism with white supremacy ideas and the racist or white supremacy movement, according Arie Perlinger, director of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and author of the recent study “Challengers From the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far Right.”

The number of fundamentalist and white supremacist groups also remains at a near-record high. An expansion of hate group numbers began in 2000, a response to the country’s changing demographics.

“What is interesting about the hate group numbers is they were climbing at a rapid rate. …They’ve darn near doubled over the last decade,” said Beirich.

SPLC maintains a “hate map” on its website, a page where browsers can click on a state and see its number of extremist groups, as well as a list: 82 in California, 53 in Georgia, 62 in Texas, a handful in Maine and Vermont and 11 in Wisconsin, up from eight last year. The organizations are described as neo-Nazi, Christian identity, black separatist, racist skinhead, anti-gay and KKK. In Wisconsin, they can be found – perhaps not easily – in Mountain, Eau Claire, Milwaukee, New Berlin, Monroe and Shawano.

Beirich stressed that patriot groups are “entirely different” from hate groups, but “we often see people move between these groups.”

None of the groups on the far right advocate equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people. Some advocate death sentences for gays, or internment or deportation.

“In general,” Beirich said, “all the groups we monitor are anti-LGBT. Unfortunately that is the dominant mode of thinking” on the far right.

She added that not all of the far right extremist organizations advocate violence, but some do.

And, said Perlinger, “since 2007, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of attacks and violent plots originating on the far right of American politics.” Perlinger said that right-wing violence from 2000-2011 surpassed right-wing violence in the 1990s by a factor of four.

His research shows that militia group attacks result in higher numbers of injuries and fatalities than attacks by other right-wing extremist groups, and militia groups are more likely than other extremist groups to use explosives and fire arms.

Domestic terror

In another report, the Congressional Research Service identified more than two dozen domestic terrorist incidents since September 2001.

The surge in patriot groups prompted SPLC president and CEO J. Richard Cohen to write to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano with a warning.

Cohen began with a reminder that six months before the October 1994 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, the SPLC wrote to Attorney General Janet Reno about the growing threat of domestic terrorism.

“Today,” Cohen wrote, “we write to express similar concerns. In the last four years, we have seen a tremendous increase in the number of conspiracy-minded anti-government groups as well as in the number of domestic terrorist plots. As in the period before the Oklahoma City bombing, we now also are seeing ominous threats from those who believe that the government is poised to take their guns.”

The SPLC asked the federal officials to establish an interagency task force to assess “the adequacy of resources devoted to responding to the growing threat of non-Islamic domestic terrorism.”

Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the SPLC and the author of the organization’s recent analysis on extremist groups, said, “We are seeing a real and rising threat of domestic terrorism as the number of far-right anti-government groups continues to grow at an astounding pace. It is critically important that the country take this threat seriously. The potential for deadly violence is real and clearly rising.”

NOM blames ‘militant’ gay rights advocates for hacking

The National Organization for Marriage says “militant” gay rights advocates are responsible for the hacking of the anti-gay group’s social media tools on April 11.

Early that day, NOM found that its Facebook and Twitter feeds had been hacked and hijacked to contain apologies for the organization’s campaign against marriage equality, racially divisive strategies and to promote a new focus on gay rights.

The hacking occurred the same day that NOM endorsed Mitt Romney for president, with praise for the presumptive GOP nominee’s support of NOM’s anti-gay agenda.

Fake statements from NOM included Tweets such as “NOM apologizes for its evil race-baiting past and pledges to work towards FULL equality for all LGBT Americans!” and “Volunteer and donate to restore full civil marriage equality in Maine!”

Later on April 11, NOM sent a letter to its supporters confirming that its “online properties were maliciously hacked by militant same-sex marriage activists. They were able to temporarily hijack several of our online properties, including Facebook, Twitter and our blog. Thankfully, our team responded quickly and we have now taken back control of each of these online properties with the exception of the name of our main twitter account, which was stolen and illegally reassigned to a fraudulent Twitter account.”

NOM had to change its Twitter account ID and told its supporters that it would be pursuing criminal charges against the hackers, once they are identified.

The organization also used the news of the social media disruption to solicit donations to match a $200,000 challenge grant from an unidentified source.

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