Port Authority explosion suspect: What we know about Akayed Ullah

By Kaitlyn Schallhorn

An attempted suicide bomber who set off a rush-hour explosion at the nation’s busiest bus terminal is a Bangladeshi national living in Brooklyn who was inspired by ISIS, law enforcement officials said.

The suspect in Monday morning’s blast at Port Authority in midtown Manhattan was identified as Akayed Ullah, 27. Ullah strapped a pipe bomb to his body with Velcro and zip ties, and it detonated in a subway corridor, police said.

What do we know about the suspect?

Ullah lived in Brooklyn, but he immigrated from Bangladesh nearly seven years ago, federal law enforcement sources confirmed to Fox News. A person briefed on the probe said Ullah came to the U.S. on an F-4 visa, a preferential visa available for those with family in the U.S. who are citizens.

Law enforcement officials said Ullah was inspired by ISIS but didn’t appear to have direct contact with the group and likely acted alone.

Ullah was a licensed cab driver from March 2012 to March 2015, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission confirmed to Fox News. His TLC For-Hire Vehicle Driver’s License was not renewed after 2015.

The TLC spokesperson did not confirm “whether he drove for any particular base, or whether he simply got the license but didn’t drive at all.” He did say Ullah was not licensed to drive a yellow taxi.

An Uber spokeswoman confirmed to Fox News that the ride-sharing company has no record of Ullah being “connected to the Uber platform.” Lyft also does not “have any records” that Ullah worked for it, a spokesperson told Fox News.

What else do we know about the attack?

The suspect allegedly packed a 5-inch metal pipe bomb and battery pack into the right side of his jacket, according to The New York Post. Ullah told police he made the bomb at his work, law enforcement sources told Fox News.

The Post reported that he worked for an electrical company.

The device was an “effectively low-tech device,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. Officials said they are investigating whether the suspect detonated the bomb intentionally or if it went off prematurely.

The explosion occurred just before 7:30 a.m. near 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues, law enforcement officials said. The explosion triggered a massive emergency response by police and fire both above and below ground, tangling subway and bus service at Port Authority.

The device was an “effectively low-tech device,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. Officials said they are investigating whether the suspect detonated the bomb intentionally or if it went off prematurely.

The explosion occurred just before 7:30 a.m. near 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues, law enforcement officials said. The explosion triggered a massive emergency response by police and fire both above and below ground, tangling subway and bus service at Port Authority.

Fox News’ Jake Gibson, Rick Leventhal and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/12/11/port-authority-explosion-suspect-what-know-about-akayed-ullah.html

Turkish gold trader details money laundering scheme for Iran

Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A Turkish-Iranian gold trader described in a U.S. court on Wednesday how he ran a sprawling international money laundering scheme aimed at helping Iran get around U.S. sanctions and spend its oil and gas revenues abroad.

Reza Zarrab, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with U.S. prosecutors in the criminal trial of a Turkish bank executive, told jurors in federal court in Manhattan that he helped Iran use funds deposited in Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank to buy gold, which was smuggled to Dubai and sold for cash.

The testimony, given through Turkish interpreters, came on the second day of the trial of Halkbank executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who has pleaded not guilty.

U.S. prosecutors have charged nine people in the case, although only Zarrab, 34, and Atilla, 47, have been arrested by U.S. authorities. Prosecutors have said the defendants took part in a scheme that involved gold trades and fake purchases of food to give Iran access to international markets, violating U.S. sanctions.

The case has fueled tensions between the United States and Turkey, which are NATO allies. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s government has said the case was fabricated for political reasons.

Standing before the jury in tan prison garb on Wednesday, Zarrab drew a multicolored diagram to illustrate the complex series of transactions he said he used to avoid scrutiny of U.S. banks and regulators. He explained how he falsified customs documents to make it appear that gold was bound for Iran, rather than Dubai.

Zarrab said Atilla was “the most knowledgeable person about the sanction rules” at Halkbank, and that he helped develop the scheme. He said Atilla and Halkbank’s then-general manager, Suleyman Aslan, instructed him how to carry it out.

“He made sure that the system and method worked,” Zarrab said of Atilla.

Zarrab said he began working with Halkbank on the scheme in 2012, after bribing Zafer Caglayan, then Turkey’s economy minister, to broker a deal with Aslan. He said Aslan had initially refused to work with Zarrab because he was too well known.

Zarrab said he paid Caglayan bribes amounting to more than $50 million.

Caglayan and Suleyman have also both been charged in the case. Turkey’s government has previously said that Caglayan acted within Turkish and international law. Halkbank has said that all of its transactions fully complied with national and international regulations.

Zarrab testified that before working with Halkbank, he handled Iranian transactions through Turkey’s Aktif Bank. He said the bank initially refused to let him open an account, but relented after Zarrab asked Egemen Bagis, then Turkey’s minister of European Union affairs, for help.

 Zarrab said Bagis set up a meeting between him and Aktif Bank’s general manager and that he was then allowed to open an account. However, Aktif Bank later shut down the account after receiving a warning from the United States, Zarrab said.

Reuters was not immediately able to reach anyone at Aktif Bank for comment after working hours on Wednesday.

Zarrab is expected to continue testifying on Thursday.

Saudi Crown Prince Says Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition Will Eradicate Terrorism

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (shown) said at the November 26 meeting of defense ministers in the Saudi capital of Riyadh that the Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) would “pursue terrorism until it is eradicated completely,” reported the Saudi-owned television news channel, Al Arabiya.

Al Arabiya reported a statement released by the IMCTC that quoted the crown prince as follows:

I express today our condolences to our brothers in Egypt, as a leadership and people, for what happened in the past days.

We will not allow them [terrorists] to distort our peaceful religion. Today we are sending a strong message that we are working together to fight terrorism. Today we affirm that we will pursue terrorism until it is eradicated completely.

The prince’s expression of condolences pertained to a November 24 terrorist attack inside a crowded mosque in the Sinai Peninsula that killed at least 305 people, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt’s modern history.

Arab News reported that Saudi Arabia announced the IMCTC alliance in December 2015. It consists of 41 countries and identifies as a “pan-Islamic unified front” against violent extremism.

The IMCTC, observed Arab News, employs an integrated approach to coordinate and unite its members on the four key domain areas of ideology, communications, counter-terrorism financing, and military strategy, “in order to fight all forms of terrorism and extremism and to effectively join other international security and peacekeeping efforts.”

During the meeting, IMCTC Acting Secretary General, Lt. Gen. Abdulelah Al-Saleh, outlined the coalition’s strategy, governance, activities and future plans.

Arab News, reported that the keynote speakers presented their perspectives on counter terrorism efforts in each of the IMCTC’s four key domains:

• “Dr. Mohammad Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League, introduced the ideology domain, and the necessity of promoting a message that counters the narrative of violent extremist ideology and reaffirms Islamic principles of tolerance and compassion.”

• “Dr. Mohammad Al-Momani, Minister of State for Media Affairs of Jordan discussed the communications domain, and the importance of producing and disseminating factual, scholarly, and engaging content to undermine and counter the appeal of violent extremism.”

• “Dr. Ahmed Abdulkarim Alkholifey, Chairman and Governor of Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, discussed Counter Terrorist Financing and the need to promote best practices and advance legal, regulatory, and operational frameworks in prevention, detection, and seizure operations.”

• “Pakistani General Raheel Sharif (Commander-in-Chief of the IMCTC) presented the military domain, which aimed to assist in the coordination of resourcing and planning of member country military CT operations; facilitate the secure sharing of military information; and encourage military CT capacity and capability building to ultimately deter aggression and violence.”

There are currently 41 nations that are members of IMCTC, all of which have Sunni-dominated governments. The alliance does not include any countries with Shia-dominated governments, such as Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Because of this makeup, Hakeem Azameli, a member of the Security and Defense Commission in the Iraqi parliament, called IMCTC “a sectarian coalition.”

A Reuters report noted that Qatar, which is a member of the coalition, was not present at the meeting. Qatar was not invited to the meeting after Saudi Arabia led a group of states seeking to isolate its small Arab neighbor on the Arabian Peninsula, charging that it supported terrorism. Qatar denies this assertion.

The report cited Abdulelah al-Saleh’s explanation that Qatar was excluded to help build a consensus among member countries.

We observed in a report on November 7 that Crown Prince bin Salman has assumed a more important role in Saudi Arabia since his father, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, issued a royal decree on November 4 that named his son as the head of a newly established anti-corruption committee. The committee headed by the crown prince has the authority to investigate, arrest, issue travel bans, and freeze the assets of those it deems corrupt.

Muhammad bin Salman had been a key figure in Saudi Arabia for months before he was placed at the head of the anti-corruption committee and has been described as the power behind the throne of King Salman.

Las Vegas Shooting Near Mandalay Bay Casino Kills 50

Las Vegas Shooting Near Mandalay Bay Casino Kills 50

LAS VEGAS — A gunman on a high floor of a Las Vegas hotel rained a rapid-fire barrage on a huge outdoor concert festival on Sunday night, killing more than 50 people, injuring hundreds of others, and sending thousands of terrified survivors fleeing for cover, in one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history.

Online video of the attack near the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino showed the singer Jason Aldean performing outside at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, a three-day country music event, interrupted by the sound of automatic gunfire. The music stopped, and as victims fell, bleeding, concertgoers screamed, ducked for cover, or ran.

“Get down,” one shouted. “Stay down,” screamed another.

“Currently the Clark County Fire Department is estimating the injuries to be well over 400” Sheriff Joseph Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said on Monday morning. One of those killed was an off-duty Las Vegas police officer, the department said.

He said there were about 22,000 people at the concert.

SWAT units swarmed the upper floors of the Mandalay Bay, closing in on the source of the shooting, a 32nd-floor room where they found the gunman, with “in excess of 10 rifles,” the sheriff said. “We believe the individual killed himself prior to our entry.”

The first reports of the shooting came at 10:08 p.m. local time, and officers overheard on police radio reported being pinned down by gunfire. Shortly before midnight the Las Vegas police reported that “one suspect is down,” and soon after the police said they did not believe there were any more active gunmen.

The sheriff identified the gunman as Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nev., who had no significant prior criminal history.

Before dawn on Monday, Mr. Lombardo said the police were executing a search warrant on Mr. Paddock’s home, adding, “We’re going to clear the residence first for any possible explosives, so that will be slow and methodical.”

Eric Paddock, a brother of Stephen Paddock who lives in Orlando, Fla., told The Orlando Sentinel that he had made a statement to the police. “We are completely dumbfounded,” he said. “We can’t understand what happened.”

Laith Alkhouri, a senior analyst at Flashpoint Global Partners, a security consulting firm in New York that tracks militant websites, said that he had seen no information yet on whether the suspect acted out of political motivation or grievance, or something else.

Video of the shooting captured nine seconds of rapid-fire, continuous bursts, followed by 37 seconds of silence from the weapon amid panicked screaming. The barrage of gunfire then erupted again in at least two more rounds, both shorter than the first.

In the confusion after the shooting, the police also descended on the Ali Baba Restaurant, about a 10-minute drive from the Mandalay Bay, and they also investigated reports of a shooting at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino, not far from the concert ground.

The police reported clearing out the Mandalay Bay’s 29th floor and working their way up to the 32nd floor. A police Twitter post described reports of an “active shooter” near or around the Mandalay Bay casino.

Video from the shooting showed Mr. Aldean, the final performer of the night, running off the stage as the gunfire erupted.

Jake Owen, a country singer who was on stage with Mr. Aldean when the shooting began, told CNN on Monday that it was like “shooting fish in a barrel from where he was.”

“This is not an exaggeration: This shooting was going on for at least 10 minutes,” he added. “It was nonstop.”

Concertgoers described hearing round after round of gunfire. “Everyone was running, you could see people getting shot,” Gail Davis, one of the witnesses, said. “I’ve never been that scared in my life,” she added. “To have this happen, I can’t wrap my mind around it.”

“It just kept coming,” one of the witnesses, Robyn Webb, told The Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It was relentless.”

They said they saw about 20 people bleeding in the street.

“That’s when we knew for sure it was real,” said her companion, Matt Webb.

A photo posted by a Review-Journal photographer showed emergency responders transporting one injured person in a wheelbarrow.

As survivors poured into surrounding streets and buildings, and the police and paramedics streamed into the scene, unsure how many gunmen there were, the massacre shut down roads and highways; the police reported closing off about a mile of Las Vegas Boulevard and asked the public to steer clear of the area. Hours later, much of the city remained at shut down.

McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas said that some flights destined for the airport were diverted because of police activity. The airport is just east of the Mandalay hotel, and after the shooting there were reports of people fleeing the concert by running onto an airport runway.

The hotel itself was placed on virtual lockdown after the shooting, guests said.

“We went into the hotel and they started shutting down casinos,” Todd Price, a guest of Mandalay Bay, told CNN. “We tried to get into our rooms, and they shut down the elevators and started to get everybody out.”

The Route 91 Harvest Festival bills itself as “three days of country music on the Vegas Strip,” and Sunday night’s performance was the last of the festival. The site of the concert, the Las Vegas Village and Festival Grounds, run by MGM Resorts, sprawls over 15 acres and has a capacity of 40,000 people. The festival’s website said this year’s three-day concert was sold out.

In the first hours after the shooting, the police searched for a woman described as “a companion” of the gunman, Marilou Danley. Later, the sheriff said she had been located out of the country, and apparently was not with Mr. Paddock when he checked into the hotel, but that “he was utilizing some of her identification.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/02/us/las-vegas-shooting.html?mcubz=0

A True Tale of Drug Cartels, Money Laundering and Horse Racing

A True Tale of Drug Cartels, Money Laundering and Horse Racing

By 

In September 2010, bettors at the All American Futurity race in New Mexico watched the long-shot Mr. Piloto gallop to the million-dollar first prize by less than a nose, the second-closest win in the race’s history. Meanwhile, over the border in Mexico, a gang of drug traffickers from the Zetas cartel cheered the victory with whiskey, from a safe house. Mr. Piloto was registered to the company of a Dallas bricklayer named José Treviño Morales, but the money to buy him had come from his brother Miguel Treviño, alias “El Cuarenta,” a Zeta boss blamed for some of the worst massacres in Mexico’s drug war. Bloodstained dollars had gone from American drug users over the Rio Grande to cartel killers, and then back north into the American racing industry.

The true-life tale of the Zetas’ foray into quarter horses is masterfully recounted by the journalist Joe Tone in his debut book, “Bones.” He shines a light on an often overlooked corner of the blood bath ravaging Mexico: how cartel money is laundered in the United States. In this case, federal agents finally busted the operation, seizing more than 400 “narco horses,” which they auctioned off for $12 million. But with Americans estimated to spend $100 billion a year on illegal drugs, this is probably just the tip of an iceberg.

Photo

Miguel Treviño MoralesCreditU.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

In addition to following the drug money, Tone has found a great yarn. His finely-painted cast of characters includes a rookie F.B.I. agent hungry to make his name, a Texas cowboy fighting to keep his family business afloat and a talented Mexican horseman picking winners for a very dangerous boss. Tone weaves the threads together with skillful pacing and sharp prose, marking him as an important new talent in narrative nonfiction.

He is helped along by ample documentation of the case. While much of the narco world remains in the shadows, Treviño and his cronies were brought to trial in Austin, in 2013, in one of the most extensive lawsuits against a Mexican cartel to be heard in an American courtroom. (Major Mexican traffickers often don’t go to trial, because they cut deals.) Even though he builds on the reporting of Ginger Thompson, who broke the story in The New York Times, Tone adds some vivid details, recounting wiretapped phone calls and drawing the full back story from Lawson, the rookie F.B.I. agent who pursued the case. “Lawson could hear the horses if he listened closely,” Tone writes. “He was standing outside the black-iron gate with the horse silhouettes, at the bottom of a long driveway that led up to José’s brick homestead. It was a little after six in the morning, the earliest moment the court would allow them to raid without a judge’s permission.”

Photo

Tone digs deep into the colorful world of quarter-horse racing, a variant of the sport developed by white cowboys, Mexican ranchers and Native Americans. He also shows how some players in the horse industry reaped the drug money and went on to enjoy their profits; how those arrested were all Hispanic while some white horsemen doing similar things remained free; how José Treviño’s daughter, a college student who married a Marine, was caught up in the sweep.

Like many journalists of the drug war, Tone sheds doubt on the whole strategy of fighting the trade. “Better answers might lie in the halls of American power and influence — in the way drugs are regulated, drug users treated, drug traffickers sentenced.” He is right to push for more debate on how to stop the billions of drug dollars from funding the crime armies tearing Mexico apart. But law enforcement agents still need to keep hacking at the tentacles of cartel finances that stretch through the United States, where the blood wealth of narcos could be right before your eyes.

Russian government targets money laundering, terrorism sponsorship with new proposals

The Russian government has drafted a bill that, if passed, would oblige auditors to report any operations conducted by their clients that raise suspicion of money laundering or sponsorship of terrorism.

The draft was signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev last week, but the text of the document was published on the government’s web-site this Tuesday. It orders that the Federal Law on Countering Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorist Organizations be amended, as well as the Law on Auditing Activities.

The proposed amendments make it obligatory for auditing companies and individual auditors to report all financial operations that could be part of suspicious deals to the authorities. Suspicious deals are defined as those that could be used for laundering criminal income or financing terrorism.

 Explanations attached to the document note that it had been developed based on recommendations from the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering, of which Russia is a member.

Russia’s current anti-terrorist law, which was introduced in mid-2016, stipulates a sentence of up to 15 years behind bars for anyone found guilty of financing terrorist groups. Money laundering carries prison sentences of up to seven years, as well as large fines and bans on taking certain public posts.

https://www.rt.com/politics/382551-russian-pm-orders-lawmakers-to/

Photo: Maksim Bogodvid / Sputnik

Three, including girl, 16, charged with planning ‘imminent terror attack’ in France

A TEENAGE girl, 16, is among three people charged over plans to carry out an “imminent terror attack” in France after police reportedly found explosives in a flat.

According to reports, the group was arrested in Montpelier, on Friday on suspicion of planning an “explosive belt” attack in an area popular with tourists.

Judicial sources have told local media that three of the four arrested have been charged. The three were identified as Thomas Sauret, 20; his partner, a 16-year-old minor named only as Sarah; and Malik Hammami, 33. They were indicted on Tuesday for “criminal association in connection with a criminal terrorist enterprise”, sources said.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2867018/three-including-girl-16-charged-with-planning-imminent-terror-attack-in-france/