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Police arrested Kevin Edson, 25, who had left two unattended backpacks, one of which contained a rice cooker, found this evening near the Boston Marathon finish line, exactly a year after bomb attacks at the event killed three people and injured 264. This year's Marathon will be held on April 21.




UN Ambassador Samantha Power said that recent reports of a poison gas attack in Syria are "unsubstantiated" so far. In a Pentagon briefing on April 8, General David Rodriguez, head of US Africa Command, said: "The network of Al Qaeda and its affiliates ... that link Africa with North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia have taken advantage of regional instability [in Africa] to continue to expand their activities .... The expansion of the Al Qaeda [in Africa], its adherents and affiliates includes Ansar al Sharia, in both Benghazi and Derna. It also includes the ... MBM-led unit in northern Mali. And then, of course, Boko Haram and Ansaru, who's also added to the foreign terrorist organizations."




The Pentagon is asking for more funding for a secret program that tracks biological weapons, due to "recent classified DoD guidance." A former US State Department adviser on Syria said the Obama administration is focusing on issues it can handle without the help of international partners, and excluded the possibility that the US would spearhead a military intervention in Syria. The acting head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the agency is tightening up the handling of sensitive security information about the nation's power grid.




El Mehdi Semlali Fathi, 26, a Moroccan resident of Bridgeport, Conn., was arrested on immigration charges yesterday; the complaint filed in federal court alleged that he repeatedly expressed a desire to bomb a federal building in Connecticut and an unspecified university outside the state. Secretary of State Kerry claimed that the threatened US strike on Syria late last summer would not have been significant enough to change the course of the conflict. In a recent article summarily dismissed by the US, it was alleged that a very large intervention had been planned. Kerry warned that Iran has the capability to produce fissile material for a nuclear bomb in two months. An Israeli media report claimed the US is now providing Syrian rebels with heavy antitank BGM-71 TOW missiles; similar weapons were seen in a video featuring the Harakat Hazm group.




The State Department offered rewards of up to $3 million for information leading to the arrest of Musa Asoglu, Zerrin Sari, or Seher Demir Sen, three leaders of the left-wing Turkish terrorist organization Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (Devrimci Halk Kurtulus Partisi-Cephesi, or DHKP/C). Visiting Algiers, Secretary of State Kerry said the US wants to provide increased security assistance, including intelligence-sharing, to Algeria "in order to defeat al Qaeda and other terrorist groups" in the region.




A shooter identified as Spec. Ivan Lopez opened fire at Fort Hood, Tex., killing three people and wounding 16, and then killed himself; authorities said the incident did not appear to be terrorism-related but were not ruling anything out. The FBI yesterday confirmed it was looking for a recently discharged Army recruit named Booker, a.k.a. Muhammad Abdullah Hassan, who was said to be planning "Fort Hood-inspired jihad against US soldiers."




Russia's foreign minister said Secretary of State Kerry recently confirmed to him personally that the US is still opposed to providing antiaircraft weapons to rebels fighting the Assad regime in Syria. A Senate Intelligence Committee report disputed the CIA's contention that "enhanced interrogation techniques" provided key information in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.




President Obama said a limited US military intervention in Syria would not have prevented the humanitarian crisis in the country. With regard to the decision not to launch military strikes in Syria last year, he said that "after a decade of war ... the United States has limits."




US intelligence and counterterrorism officials expressed concern that al Qaeda's central command is trying to establish bases and recruit fighters in Syria for attacks against the West. US military officials said North Korea has the capacity to fire missiles on short notice and the US lacks assets to conduct amphibious operations in the Pacific. In the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea, President Obama called Russia "a regional power" and dismissed allegations that a perceived US retreat abroad had emboldened Russia. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a bin Laden son-in-law and al Qaeda propagandist, was convicted of supporting al Qaeda and conspiring to kill Americans.




The US closed the Syrian Embassy and its two US consulates. Mohammad Hamdan of Dearborn, Mich. was arrested for trying to join Hezbollah in Syria. Nicholas Teausant, 20, a California student and National Guard member, was arrested in Washington near the Canadian border and charged with attempting to support a terrorist organization; he sought to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham in Syria. The US yesterday announced sanctions against seven Russian and four Ukrainian officials for their alleged roles in the Crimean crisis; the White House today declined to respond to Russian President Vladimir Putin's decree recognizing Crimea as independent of Ukraine. Secretary of State Kerry said Daniel Rubinstein would replace Robert Ford, who retired in February, as the US envoy to the Syrian opposition.




The US has delivered 100 Hellfire missiles, as well as assault rifles and ammunition, to Iraq this month to support its fight against the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham; the US is promising to send more weapons in the coming weeks. The Pentagon denied reports that an American drone had been intercepted over Crimea. A US official said Iran has been "very actively" procuring banned items for its nuclear and missile programs through the use of front companies and other means.




The US military announced the repatriation of Ahmed Bin Saleh Bel Bacha, an Algerian detainee at Guantanamo who attended Abu Hamza's radical Finsbury Park mosque in the UK before fighting in Afghanistan for al Qaeda. A parole board review concluded that Yemeni detainee Abdel Malik al-Rahabi, a former bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and an associate of the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, should remain at Guantanamo indefinitely for security reasons. The Pentagon is calling for another round of base closures due to excess capacity in each of the three branches.




Maj. Gen. Joseph Dunford, the head of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told the Senate that al Qaeda is "in survival mode" in Afghanistan and argued for a residual NATO force of 8,000 to 12,000 troops in the country after 2014. He also warned that under the "zero option," the Taliban would retake Afghanistan, as Afghan security forces would quickly begin to deteriorate starting in 2015.




CIA Director John Brennan said al Qaeda has "metastasized over the years" and is found throughout Africa and Southeast Asia. He also said that concerns over the growing presence of al Qaeda-linked fighters in Syria have been the focus of many of his efforts with his foreign counterparts over the past year. The Air Force plans to eliminate nearly 500 planes due to budget cuts.




A US defense official said a small contingent of US special forces was recently sent to Jordan to train their Iraqi and Jordanian counterparts. US officials confirmed that the Navy had been told to be prepared to act to prevent a shipment of Iranian weapons from being smuggled into Gaza; the shipment was monitored by both US and Israeli officials and was intercepted by Israeli forces near Sudan on March 5.




The State Department issued an order restricting the movements of Syria's UN representative, Bashar Ja'afari, to a 25-mile radius of New York City; similar restrictions are in place for Iranian and North Korean envoys. US officials pushed for vigilance over Syria's compliance on the eradication of its chemical weapons. The US military warned Americans of an increased danger of bomb attacks in Bahrain.




US officials say al Qaeda's leader in Afghanistan, Farouq al-Qahtani al-Qatari, has several hundred fighters and could plan attacks on the US; officials are concerned that the "zero option" will remove US capability to launch strikes against al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan. The US Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, retired after three years in the post. Defense lawyers for Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, 48, a Kuwaiti son-in-law of Osama bin Laden and and suspected terrorist, asked for clarification that charges against him are not confused with those against Guantánamo detainee Abd al-Rahman Abdu Abu al-Ghayth Sulayman, a Yemeni in his 30s.




Defense Secretary Hagel urged Russia to respect Ukraine's sovereignty. Secretary of State Kerry said yesterday that the US has an obligation to pursue diplomatic and other options to force Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program. Following the Obama administration's announcement that it has ordered the Pentagon to begin planning for a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year in the absence of a bilateral security agreement, NATO said it is making similar plans. Former defense secretary Leon Panetta warned of the increasing danger of cyberattacks.




Secretary of State Kerry issued a statement yesterday denouncing Boko Haram's attacks in Nigeria and expressing US support for Nigerian authorities in their battle against the group; the US is providing counterterrorism assistance, he noted. Secretary of Defense Hagel is announcing proposed cuts to the Pentagon budget that will involve reducing the army to some 440,000 or 450,000 from a wartime high of 570,000, and scrapping Air Force A-10 attack jets, among other programs.




The Homeland Security Department has issued a warning, based on "very recent intelligence," about shoe bomb terror plots targeting US-bound passenger flights. Ahmed Muhammed Haza al Darbi, a Saudi detainee at Guantanamo, pled guilty to helping with an al Qaeda plot to attack oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz between 2000 and 2002. Jose Pimentel, a Muslim convert and US citizen accused of plotting pipe bomb attacks in New York City to avenge the killing of al Qaeda ideologue Anwar al Awlaki, pled guilty to a reduced charge, avoiding the possibility of life in prison.


 
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