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The young Duke of Brabant, who will be crowned King Leopold II of Belgium in 1865 (see 1865), dreams of making Belgium wealthy through the acquisition of a colony. At the age of 27, he travels to Seville to study Spain’s history as a colonizer. In a letter to a friend, he writes: “I am very busy here going through the Indies archives and calculating the profit which Spain made then and makes now out of her colonies.” Two years later, he tours the British possessions of Ceylon, India, and Burma and explores investment potential in South America and even the American Pacific. There is little support among Belgians at this time for establishing colonies. But the duke is undeterred. “Belgium doesn’t exploit the world,” he complains to one of his advisors. “It’s a taste we have got to make her learn.” The duke’s father, King Leopold I, had at one time considered acquiring a colony, but was discouraged after his investment at St. Thomas de Guatemala ended with the imprisonment, bankruptcy, and death of the settlers and main promoter. A few years later, the family suffers from another ill-fated venture, this time in Mexico. In 1964, Leopold’s youngest sister, Charlotte, and her husband Archduke Maximilian are installed by Napoleon III of France as the country’s figurehead Emperor and Empress. But Mexican rebels quickly put an end to Maximilian’s rule. In June 1967, two years after the duke is crowned King Leopold II, the emperor is killed by a firing squad. [Pakenham, 1992, pp. 12-13; Hochschild, 1999, pp. 37-38, 40-42]
King Leopold II of Belgium hosts the Geographical Conference on West Africa at the Royal Palace in Brussels to discuss his plan to establish a Belgian colony in Central Africa. Attending the affair are a number of notable explorers and geographers. Leopold explains that his plans are “in no way motivated by selfish designs.” He speaks only of science, philanthropy, and ending the slave trade. Though the major European powers officially ended their trade in slaves from West Africa almost a half century before, it is still being practiced by the Arab and Swahili people in East Africa. By the end of the conference, a new international body named the International African Association is established to publicize and seek funds for the project. [Pakenham, 1992, pp. 20-23; Hochschild, 1999, pp. 37-8, 42-44]
King Leopold II of Belgium writes in a letter to his ambassador in London, “I do not want to miss a good chance of getting us a slice of this magnificent African cake.” [Pakenham, 1992, pp. 22]
Henry Morton Stanley has his first meeting with King Leopold II of Belgium. The king has been paying close attention to Stanley’s exploits in the African Congo and is hoping that Stanley will help him establish a colony there. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 61, 63]
King Leopold II of Belgium instructs Colonel Maximilien Strauch to send a telegram to Henry Morton Stanley that he has instructed Messrs. Rothschild & Sons to set aside 2000 pounds for Stanley, to be used at his disposal. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 64]
Campaigning to win recognition of the “Congo Free State,” King Leopold II of Belgium assures the United States there will be “complete freedom from duties on all American goods exported to the Congo.” [Pakenham, 1992, pp. 224]
George Washington Williams writes an open letter to King Leopold II of Belgium charging his government with a lengthy list of human rights violations. Williams, a black American, came to the Congo early that year interested in establishing a program through which African-Americans could come to Africa to work. He had hoped that working in Africa would offer them a better chance for advancement than in the US. His hopes were quickly diminished shortly after arriving in the Congo. His letter to Leopold makes the following charges:
Henry Morton Stanley and his men have been tricking African chiefs into signing over their land to the king. He explains: “A number of electric batteries had been purchased in London, and when attached to the arm under the coat, communicated with a band of ribbon which passed over the palm of the white brother’s hand, and when he gave the black brother a cordial grasp of the hand, the black brother was greatly surprised to find his white brother so strong, that he nearly knocked him off his feet.… When the native inquired about the disparity of strength between himself and his white brother, he was told that the white man could pull trees and perform the most prodigious feats of strength.” Another ploy commonly utilized by Stanley’s men, according to Washington, was to claim that white men have “an intimate relationship to the sun,” so intimate in fact that if a white man were to request that the sun “burn up his black brother’s village, it would be done.” According to Williams, through the use of these tactics “and a few boxes of gin, whole villages have been signed away to your Majesty.” [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 109-110] Stanley is widely feared in the Congo as a tyrant. His name “produces a shudder among simple folk. When mentioned; they remember his broken promises, his copious profanity, his hot temper, his heavy blows, his severe and rigorous measures, by which they were mulcted of their lands.” [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 110]
Leopold’s officers force the natives to provide Belgium’s military bases in the Congo with provisions. When the natives resist, “white officers come with an expeditionary force and burn away the homes of the natives.” [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 110] The king’s men treat their prisoner’s inhumanely and subject them to harsh punishments for the slightest infractions. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 110]
Despite Leopold’s claims to the contrary, his subjects in the Congo Free State are not being provided with government services. The only schools and hospitals that have been built, Williams argues, are “not fit to be occupied by a horse.” [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 110-111]
Leopold’s men have been kidnapping local women and using them as concubines. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 111]
Belgium officers have shot villagers for sport, in order to steal their wives, or in order to intimidate others into forced labor. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 111]
Despite Leopold’s alleged abhorrence of slavery, his government in the Congo “is engaged in the slave-trade, wholesale and retail,” according to Williams. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 111]
Williams’s open letter causes a stir in both the US and Europe. Leopold denies the charges. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 112] Ironically, Williams was the first American to propose official recognition of the Congo Free State by the United States. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 106]
Thirty-nine people die at the European Cup final between Juventus and Liverpool, played at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium. [Independent, 4/5/2005] The deaths occur as a group of Liverpool supporters break through a thin line of police at the aging stadium and advance towards the Juventus section. As the Italians try to escape, a retaining wall in one of their sectors collapses and many fans are crushed or trampled to death. [BBC, 5/29/2000] The game is won by Juventus, after playmaker Michel Platini scores from a wrongly awarded penalty. Platini will later say that when he discovered the number of Juventus fans who had lost their lives, “Something inside me died,” but add that despite the deaths, the game, which gave Juventus its first European Cup triumph, “was not meaningless.” He will also say that the referee’s mistake in awarding the penalty was understandable: “If I’d been the referee I’d have given it too. [Juventus striker Zbigniew] Boniek was 60 meters away and he was going too quickly.” [Independent, 4/5/2005]
The United Nations passes Resolution 678. The resolution gives Iraq until January 15, 1991 to withdraw entirely from Kuwait (see July 25, 1990) and restore its national sovereignty. The US uses UN authority to build a “coalition” of nations to support its upcoming “Desert Storm” operation designed to repel Iraqi forces from Kuwait (see January 16, 1991 and After). 34 countries contribute personnel: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Spain, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. West Germany and Japan do not contribute forces, but they do contribute $6.6 billion and $10 billion, respectively, to the cause. While some countries join out of a sincere belief that Iraq must not be allowed to dominate the region and control Middle Eastern oil reserves (see August 7, 1990), others are more reluctant, believing that the affair is an internal matter best resolved by other Arab countries, and some fear increased US influence in Kuwait and the region. Some of these nations are persuaded by Iraq’s belligerence towards other Arab nations as well as by US offers of economic aid and/or debt forgiveness. [NationMaster, 12/23/2007] As with all such UN resolutions, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein rejects this resolution. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996]
Omar Nasiri (a pseudonym), a member of a cell of the al-Qaeda-linked Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) Algerian militant group in Brussels, Belgium, steals money from a more senior member of the cell. Not knowing what to do and being unhappy about the way the cell uses his mother’s house, he contacts French intelligence, which gives him money to repay what he stole and makes him an informer. Nasiri, whose task for the cell is to purchase weapons and ammunition, also smuggles explosives into North Africa before a bombing there (see January 30, 1995 and Before). He provides information about the cell’s members, associates passing through, weapons smuggling, and the GIA’s main publication, Al Ansar, which is put together in his bedroom for a time. The cell and other parts of the network are raided in March 1995 by the Belgian authorities and some members are jailed. [Nasiri, 2006, pp. 3-100] Nasiri subsequently penetrates al-Qaeda’s camps in Afghanistan, meets some of its top commanders and reports on them to French and British intelligence (see Mid 1995-Spring 1996 and Summer 1996-August 1998).
Omar Nasiri, an operative of the Algerian Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) and informer for French intelligence, smuggles explosives into North Africa before a massacre by the GIA in Algeria. Nasiri takes the explosives hidden in a car for a GIA cell in Belgium, for which he works as an ammunition and weapons purchaser (see Mid 1994-March 2, 1995). Nasiri tells his contact at the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) about the trip beforehand, but refuses to provide the French with updates about his progress while on route to Tangiers, Morocco, where he passes the car and explosives on to another operative. A short while after this, there is a car bombing in Algiers, in neighboring Algeria, killing over 40 people. Nasiri later comments: “I don’t know if the explosives I carried were used in that blast. I will never know. The GIA had lots of suppliers, of course. And yet I kept thinking about the urgency of the trip. The way [an operative] yelled at me, and the frustration in [another operative]‘s voice when I threatened to keep the car. The speed with which the mechanic replaced the engine in Brussels. Was everything timed for this attack? I will never know the truth, but the question still haunts me.” [Nasiri, 2006, pp. 63-81]
Belgian investigators find a CD-ROM of a recently published al-Qaeda training manual and begin translating it a few months later. Versions of the manual will later circulate widely amongst radical militants. [New York Times, 1/14/2001] The Arabic manual is called the Encyclopedia of the Afghan Jihad and it is over 7,000 pages long. It explains in simple terms how to build bombs, shoot down aircraft, conduct surveillance, and so on. Much of the material is culled from US and British military manuals. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 93-94] A former CIA official will later claim the CIA did not obtain a copy of the manual until the end of 1999. “The truth is, they missed for years the largest terrorist guide ever written.” He blames CIA reluctance to scrutinize its support for the anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s. [New York Times, 1/14/2001] ABC News, which was first to report on the manual, also claims the CIA did not get a copy until December 1999 from a suspect in Jordan (see 1998-December 11, 1999 and December 11, 1999). [ABC News, 9/18/2000] The CIA, however, claims that the manual is not that important, and that in any case it had copies for years. [New York Times, 1/14/2001] According to another account, the CIA first received a copy from Jordan in 1997. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 94]
Abdelkader Belliraj, a dual Belgian and Moroccan citizen, begins working for the Belgian government as an informant in this year, if not earlier (see February 29, 2008). It appears that the Belgian government has good reason to believe he is a murderer. When he is arrested in Morocco in 2008 (see February 18, 2008), he will confess to a series of unsolved murders in Belgium and Luxembourg between 1986 and 1989. Belgian detectives suspected that three of the murders, that of a Saudi imam in Brussels, his Tunisian librarian, and a driver at the Saudi embassy in Brussels, were connected. The same gun was used in each murder, and all three victims witnessed extensive fraud by Saudi embassy personnel. Belliraj was interrogated but let go. Abu Nidal’s terrorist group took credit for some of these murders, raising the possibility that Belliraj was a hit man for Nidal. Beginning in 1992, Belliraj formed a criminal network that committed a series of hold-ups in Belgium through 2001. [Het Laatste News, 3/2/2008; Terrorism Focus, 3/4/2008] In 2000, the same year Belliraj begins working for the Belgian internal security service, State Security, his close associate Abdellatif Bekhti is arrested shortly after robbing a warehouse owned by the Brinks security firm. $24 million is stolen in the robbery. It is believed Belliraj’s group gets $5 million of that, while the rest of the money goes to Mafia figures who also took part in the robbery. Bekhti is sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2003. But several months later, Belliraj breaks him out of prison, as a car crashes the prison wall where Bekhti is being held. Bekhti will be arrested in 2008 in Morrocco with Belliraj and confess to his role in the robbery and other crimes. [Los Angeles Times, 2/27/2008; Terrorism Focus, 3/4/2008; BBC, 3/16/2008] Also in 2000, Belliraj’s group begins working with Hezbollah, and then links with al-Qaeda one year later (see 2001). He also allegedly has links to the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is not known why Belgian State Security worked with such a criminal or how much they knew about his exploits. One article notes: “Belliraj was well-known in Belgium. He was monitored and even interrogated but always released.” [Terrorism Focus, 3/4/2008]
Sami Ben Khemais. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Telephone wiretaps and listening devices used against a Milan-based Tunisian operative named Sami Ben Khemais provide investigators with “a trove of fresh information” and help them uncover a European network of Islamist radicals. Ben Khemais fell under surveillance some time after arriving in Italy from Afghan training camps in 1998 and has dealings with other radicals in Germany, Spain, Britain, France, Belgium, and Switzerland. Shortly after 9/11, a German official will say the network of interlocking cells uncovered changes counterterrorist thinking in Europe: “In the past, we had seen some links to Afghanistan, but we saw them as more or less acting here without close connections to al-Qaeda. Now we are seeing more and more links between cells and to al-Qaeda. We are rethinking everything.” The European cells are organized under two umbrellas, Takfir wal Hijra and the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), and its three leaders are Abu Doha, who will be arrested in London (see February 2001); Mohamed Bensakhria, based in Frankfurt, but arrested in Spain; and Tarek Maaroufi, who is arrested in Belgium. The Milan cell of which Ben Khemais is part and which he finances by drug-trafficking, counterfeiting money and documents, and money laundering, is connected to the “Hamburg cell” that provides three 9/11 hijackers in various ways (see December 1997-November 1998, October 2, 1998, and 2000). [Boston Globe, 10/23/2001]
US, Italian, and Belgian authorities learn more about extremist networks in Europe by monitoring operatives connected to a cell of radicals centered on the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy, some members of which appear to have foreknowledge of 9/11 (see August 12, 2000 and March 2001). A man named Tarek Maaroufi, who is under surveillance in Belgium, arrives in Milan and calls another extremist known as Sami Ben Khemais, whose phone is being monitored by Italian authorities and who collects Maaroufi from the airport. Around the same time US intelligence notifies the Italians that Ben Khemais is to be joining three bin Laden-related individuals in Italy and that there are vague plans to attack US targets there. The warning signs of an attack mount, and the US embassy in Rome is even closed for a day. Ben Khemais travels to Spain, where he is monitored by the local authorities and links up with other Islamic extremists, but is arrested along with four others when he returns to Italy. Maaroufi is also arrested. According to the Italians, they had plotted an attack in Strasbourg around Christmas 2000, together with a German cell that is also arrested (see December 25-26, 2000). [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001]
In 2008, Abdelkader Belliraj, a Belgian government informant heading an Islamist militant group in Morocco, will be arrested in Morocco (see February 18, 2008 and February 29, 2008). Moroccan Interior Minister Chakib Benmoussa will claim that in 2001 Belliraj and several of his followers travel to Afghanistan to meet al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Zawahiri gives Belliraj specific instructions to carry out. Belliraj’s followers then train in al-Qaeda camps alongside militants belonging to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, another al-Qaeda linked Moroccan militant group. That group will later carry out a series of attacks in Casablanca in 2003 (see May 16, 2003) and play a role in the Madrid train bombings in 2004 (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). It is not known if Belliraj meets al-Zawahiri before or after the 9/11 attacks. [Los Angeles Times, 2/27/2008; Het Laatste News, 3/4/2008] Belliraj’s group maintains al-Qaeda links after this. For instance, in 2005 Belliraj visits training camps run by the Algerian militant group the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat. One year later, that group will change its name to be Al-Qaeda in the Magreb. [Maghreb Arabe Presse, 3/2/2008]
Ahmed Shah Massoud speaking before European Parliament. [Source: Robert Sanchez/ Black Star]Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, has been trying to get aid from the US but his people are only allowed to meet with low level US officials. In an attempt to get his message across, he addresses the European Parliament: “If President Bush doesn’t help us, these terrorists will damage the US and Europe very soon.” [Dawn (Karachi), 4/7/2001; Time, 8/12/2002] A classified US intelligence document states, “Massoud’s intelligence staff is aware that the attack against the US will be on a scale larger than the 1998 embassy bombings, which killed over two hundred people and injured thousands (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998).” [Defense Intelligence Agency, 11/21/2001 ] Massoud also meets privately with some CIA officials while in Europe (see Early April 2001). He tells them that his guerrilla war against the Taliban is faltering and unless the US gives a significant amount of aid, the Taliban will conquer all of Afghanistan. No more aid is forthcoming. [Washington Post, 2/23/2004]
At President Bush’s first meeting with NATO heads of state in Brussels, Belgium, Bush outlines his five top defense issues. Missile defense is at the top of the list. Terrorism is not mentioned at all. This is consistent with his other statements before 9/11. Almost the only time he ever publicly mentions al-Qaeda or bin Laden before 9/11 is later in the month, in a letter that renews Clinton administration sanctions on the Taliban. [CNN, 6/13/2001; Washington Post, 4/1/2004] He only speaks publicly about the dangers of terrorism once before 9/11, in May, except for several mentions in the context of promoting a missile defense shield. [Washington Post, 1/20/2002]
Nizar Trabelsi. [Source: Daily Telegraph]Nizar Trabelsi, an al-Qaeda operative involved in numerous plots, is arrested in Brussels, Belgium. Police find machine pistols, chemical formulas for making bombs, detailed maps of the US embassy in Paris, and a business suit—it appears Trabelsi intended to walk into the embassy with the suit covering a suicide bomb vest and then detonate the explosives. The arrest is apparently due to information gleaned from Djamel Begham, a top al-Qaeda operative arrested in July (see July 24 or 28, 2001). Two of the plots Trabelsi is said to be involved in, an attack on a NATO base in Belgium and the attack on the US embassy in Paris, are thwarted. Trabelsi will later be found guilty in Belgium of planning the attack on the base (see September 30, 2003). [CNN, 10/3/2001] However, a third plot in which Trabelsi is involved—a plot to blow up two transatlantic airliners—is not thwarted. The plot is to be carried out by two al-Qaeda operatives who are in contact with Trabelsi around this time, Saajid Badat and Richard Reid. Reid returned to Europe from Asia in July or August (see July 2001), after which he stayed in Belgium with Trabelsi, who also found him work in hotel kitchens. Badat is also in contact with Trabelsi using phone cards, and analysis of them will help lead to his arrest some time later. The plot will fail when Badat backs out (see (December 14, 2001)) and Reid is unable to detonate the explosives before he is overpowered by fellow passengers and crew (see December 22, 2001). It is unclear why this third plot is not stopped as well after Trabelsi’s arrest. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 229-231] However, his arrest does lead to more arrests in Spain 13 days later (see September 26, 2001).
The arrest of al-Qaeda operative Nizar Trabelsi is revealed in the international press by this date, if not earlier. An article published by UPI on this day names Trabelsi as having been arrested (see September 13, 2001) in connection with the capture of one of his associates, Djamel Beghal, in Dubai (see July 24 or 28, 2001). [United Press International, 9/21/2001] Trabelsi is linked to two shoe bombing plotters, Richard C. Reid and Saajit Badat. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 231] The arrest is also mentioned in subsequent days on CNN and in the Washington Post, for example. [Washington Post, 9/28/2001; CNN, 9/29/2001] Al-Qaeda may well already be aware that Trabelsi has been arrested, as he must have been out of contact for over a week at this point. However, the shoe bombing plot is not canceled and goes ahead, despite the bombers’ link to Trabelsi. One of the bombers backs out later for an unrelated reason (see (December 14, 2001)) and the other is thwarted when he attempts to blow up an aircraft in December (see December 22, 2001).
Six radical Algerians are arrested in Spain based on evidence uncovered in a Belgian investigation. The men are Mohamed Boualem Khnouni, who is identified as the cell leader, Hakim Zezour, Hocine Khouni, Yasin Seddiki, Madjid Sahouane, and Mohamed Belaziz. The Belgian investigation included the arrest of al-Qaeda operative Nizar Trabelsi (see September 13, 2001), said to be involved in several terrorist plots. Spanish Interior Minister Mariano Rajoy says that Trabelsi’s detention is “directly related” to the arrest of the six Algerians, said to be members of Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). The six have been under police surveillance for some time. The Spanish say that the cell sent optical, communications, computer, and electronic equipment to GSPC members in Algeria as well as making shipments to Chechnya. It also forged official documents and credit cards. In addition, the police seize false papers from several countries, as well as computer equipment used to forge airline tickets between Spain, France, and Algeria. [New York Times, 9/27/2001; Washington Post, 9/28/2001]
FBI translator Melek Can Dickerson and her husband Douglas Dickerson leave the country. Douglas, a US Air Force major who procures weapons from the US for various Central Asian and Middle Eastern countries, has been reassigned to Belgium to work on a NATO-related assignment. [Anti-War (.com), 7/1/2004; Vanity Fair, 9/2005] The Dickersons had been recently subpoenaed in Sibel Edmonds’ lawsuit against the FBI (see June 2002) and are the subject of three separate investigations: one by the Air Force Office of Special Investigation, one by the Justice Department, and the third by the Senate Judiciary Committee. [Anti-War (.com), 8/22/2005] The FBI, under court order not to allow the couple to leave the country, requires that Douglas Dickerson swear under oath that he will return if requested by the court. [Anti-War (.com), 7/1/2004; Vanity Fair, 9/2005]
Al-Qaeda operative Nizar Trabelsi is sentenced to ten years in jail in Belgium for his part in a plot to attack the NATO base in Kleine Brogel in the country’s north-east. A couple of hundred US troops were stationed at the base, which was also home to nuclear weapons. The plan was for Trabelsi to pack a van with as much explosive as it could carry, and drive it into the base canteen at lunchtime. Trabelsi admits his participation in the attack and boasts he was to be the first suicide bomber in Europe, but he refuses to give any details about other plots he is alleged to have been involved in, such as a planned bombing of the US embassy in Paris, France. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 227]
NATO adopts an official policy document mandating “zero-tolerance” for the trafficking in human beings by NATO forces and staff. The document is a result of discussions that began at NATO in the fall of 2003. The document says that NATO will increase cooperation among countries in order to combat the problem of human trafficking. Specific strategies outlined in the document include reviewing current legislation of member countries, encouraging member countries to approve the UN Convention Against Organized Crime, providing support to local authorities in their efforts to combat trafficking in human beings, imposing penalties on contractors who engage in human trafficking, and evaluating the implementation of the efforts of those involved. [NATO, 6/29/2004]
Passengers associated with the pro-monarchist group Azarakhsh (Lightning) stage a long-planned sit-in on a Lufthansa plane at the Brussels Airport in Belgium. Several passengers demanded to be heard, one saying that “We want the European Union to remove the Islamic leaders from Iran.” Several claim to be members of Anjomane Padeshahi, another pro-monarchist group that wants to restore the country’s royal Pahlavi family. The German magazine Der Spiegel says it had received a letter from the group denouncing torture in Iran. The group promises more activity, possibly within Iran, in the near future. [Deutsche Welle (Bonn), 3/11/2005; BBC, 3/11/2005; Reuters, 3/12/2005; Reza Pahlavi II website, 6/10/2005]
Abdelkader Belliraj, a Belgian government informant leading a Moroccan militant group, allegedly helps foil an attack in Britain. Shortly after the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), Belgian intelligence gives the British government “very precise” information from Belliraj about a planned follow-up attack. Arrests are made and material is seized in Liverpool, but the incident is not reported in the media at the time. (Apparently this is a different plot to a largely unsuccessful copycat bomb plot two weeks after the 7/7 bombings (see July 21, 2005)). A Belgian newspaper will say the attacks could have killed dozens of people. Belliraj had developed links to al-Qaeda in 2001 while being paid by Belgian’s internal security service (see 2001). He will be arrested in Morocco in 2008 (see February 18, 2008). [Agence France-Presse, 3/15/2008]
Moroccan police arrest 35 people for involvement in a radical militant group led by an informant for the Belgian government. Over the next several weeks, it will gradually be leaked to the media that the arrested leader of the group, Abdelkader Belliraj, has worked for Belgian intelligence and possibly the CIA since at least 2000 (see February 29, 2008). Belliraj holds both Belgian and Moroccan citizenship and is a Shiite. His unnamed group has both Shiite and Sunni Muslim links, and is linked to Islamist militant groups like al-Qaeda as well as to traditional organized crime. Others arrested in Morocco with Belliraj include local politicians, businessmen, a police commander and Hezbollah television station correspondent. A large stockpile of weapons is found in police raids, including assault rifles, machine guns, and detonators. Two days after the raids, the small Islamist party al-Badil al-Hadari is officially dissolved after several of those arrested are found to have links to the party, including the party’s secretary general. The Moroccan government claims Belliraj’s group was planning a series of political assassinations in Morocco. [Los Angeles Times, 2/27/2008; Terrorism Focus, 3/4/2008]
Abdelkader Belliraj. [Source: Agence France-Presse]The Belgian media reports that Abdelkader Belliraj, a dual Belgian-Moroccan citizen arrested in Morocco earlier in the month, is actually a long-time informant for Belgium’s internal security service, State Security. [Agence France-Presse, 2/29/2008; Los Angeles Times, 8/24/2008] The Belgian government initially denies the charges but soon tacitly admits them when the head of State Security, Alain Winants, complains about the leak of the “highly classified” status of Belliraj several days later. Agence France-Presse reports that although the “accusations were at first met with scepticism in Belgium, authorities now consider them credible.” Belliraj has been personally involved in armed robberies and murders dating back to the 1980s, and has links to al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other Islamist militant groups. It remains unclear if Belliraj was committing all his crimes with the approval of Belgian officials or if he may have been duping them to some degree. One anonymous Belgian police official speculates: “How could he travel freely since the 1980s from Belgium to various terrorist hot-beds around the world? There are two possibilities: either he worked for a secret service or else the State Security is full of idiots.” [Agence France-Presse, 3/11/2008] On Belgian newspaper claims that at the same time he was a paid Belgian informant since 2000, “It’s almost certain that at the same time he worked for another foreign secret service, possibly the French DGSE or American CIA.” [Het Laatste News, 3/4/2008] Another major Belgian newspaper, De Morgen, claims that Belliraj had both French and US intelligence links while working with Belgium too. [Maghreb Arabe Presse, 3/4/2008]
UN Human Rights Council logo. [Source: China Human Rights Net]The Obama administration announces that the US will seek a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. The Bush administration had chosen not to participate in the council, saying that it would not countenance the influence of nations who repress their populations. “Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy,” says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “With others, we will engage in the work of improving the UN human rights system.… We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies.” Elections for three seats on the 47-member council will take place in May. The other countries on the ballot are Belgium and Norway. New Zealand agreed to withdraw from the ballot in favor of the US candidacy; New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, explained, “Frankly, by any objective measure, membership of the council by the US is more likely to create positive changes more quickly than we could have hoped to achieve them.” A human rights advocate tells the Washington Post: “This is a welcome step that gives the United States and other defenders of human rights a fighting chance to make the institution more effective. I think everybody is just desperate to have the United States and Barack Obama run for the human rights council, and countries are willing to bend over backward to make that happen.” Human rights activists have pressured the US to join the council since its inception in March 2006. The council took the place of the UN’s Human Rights Commission, which lost credibility when it allowed nations such as Sudan and Zimbabwe to join and thus thwart criticism of their treatment of their citizens. Bush officials had refused to join the new body, saying that they did not believe the new organization represented any improvement over its predecessor. Then-US ambassador to the UN John Bolton explained that the US would have more “leverage in terms of the performance of the new council” by not participating in it and thus signaling a rejection of “business as usual.” Bolton says of the Obama administration’s decision: “This is like getting on board the Titanic after it’s hit the iceberg. This is the theology of engagement at work. There is no concrete American interest served by this, and it legitimizes something that doesn’t deserve legitimacy.” Obama officials concede that the council has failed to do its job adequately, and focused too much on abuse allegations by Israel to the exclusion of allegations against nations such as Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Sri Lanka. US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice says: “Those who suffer from abuse and oppression around the world, as well as those who dedicate their lives to advancing human rights, need the council to be balanced and credible.” The US intends to join the council “because we believe that working from within, we can make the council a more effective forum to promote and protect human rights.” [Washington Post, 3/31/2009]
According to unemployment statistics compiled by Eurostat, the European Union unemployment rate has risen to 9.2 percent, its highest since September 1999, with 3.1 million jobs lost in April 2009, an increase of 556,000 from March. In the Eurozone, 396,000 jobs were shed and almost 15 million became unemployed. The lowest unemployment figures were in the Netherlands at 3.0 percent and Austria at 4.2 percent. The highest figures were in Spain at 18.1 percent, Latvia, 17.4 percent, and Lithuania, 16.8 percent. Eurostat is the Statistical Office of the European Communities located in Luxumbourg and is charged with providing statistics for comparisons between European countries and regions. The Eurozone is comprised of the 15 EU states that have adopted the euro and created a currency union. [MercoPress, 6/3/2009; Eurostat.com, 6/3/2009; Ezine Articles, 6/3/2009]
In his first speech to the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters, President Obama says all nations bear responsibility for addressing the global problems of nuclear proliferation, war, climate change, and economic crises. “We must build new coalitions that bridge old divides,” Obama says. “All nations have rights and responsibilities—that’s the bargain that makes [the UN] work.” Obama acknowledges that high expectations accompanying his presidency are “not about me,” adding that when he took office at the beginning of the year: “Many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and mistrust. No world order which elevates one nation above others can succeed in tackling the world’s problems. Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone.” Obama devotes a considerable portion of his speech to discussing the challenges inherent in finding a peaceful solution to settlements in the Middle East. He calls for the resumption of Israel-Palestine negotiations “without preconditions,” and also uses his speech to indicate that the US has returned to the global arena as a team player.
Warm but Restrained Reception - Although warmly received, applause appears slightly restrained, perhaps an indication that expectations for the Obama presidency are becoming more realistic, given the global problems with which most nations now struggle. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opens the 64th Session’s proceedings by saying, “Now is the time to put ‘united’ back into the United Nations.”
Followed by Libyan Leader - Libya’s President Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi follows Obama and speaks for over an hour, vehemently criticizing the UN’s power structure as uneven, archaic, and unjust. From a copy of the preamble to the UN Charter, al-Qadhafi reads: “It says nations are equal whether they are small or big—are we equal in the permanent seats? No, we are not equal. Do we have the rights of the veto? All nations should have an equal footing. For those who have a permanent seat, this is political feudalism. It shouldn’t be called the Security Council; it should be called the Terror Council.” Despite reigning in Libya for over 40 years, this is al-Qadhafi’s first UN General Assembly speech. [BBC, 9/23/2009]
England are eliminated in the first round of voting for the 2018 World Cup, after receiving only two votes. The full results of the first round and the FIFA executive committee members who voted for the various potential hosts are:
England: two votes. Geoff Thompson (England) and Issa Hayatou (Cameroon). [BBC, 12/2/2010]
Holland/Belgium: four votes. Michel D’Hooghe (Belgium) and Michel Platini (France, see December 4, 2010). [BBC, 12/2/2010]
Spain/Portugal: seven votes. Angel Maria Villar Llona (Spain), Julio Grondona (Argentina), Ricardo Teixeira (Brazil), Nicolas Leoz (Paraguay, see November 24, 2010), Mohamed bin Hammam (Qatar, see May 1, 2011), Worawi Makudi (Thailand), and Hany Abo Rida (Egypt). [Daily Telegraph, 11/25/2010]
Russia: nine votes. Vitaly Mutko (Russia) and Chuck Blazer (USA, see December 10, 2010).
The other members of the executive committee who voted (two for Holland/Belgium, the rest for Russia) are Sepp Blatter (Switzerland), Mong Joon Chung (South Korea), Jack Warner (Trinidad and Tobago), Senes Erzik (Turkey), Junji Ogura (Japan), Marios Lefkaritis (Cyprus), Jacques Anouma (Ivory Coast), Franz Beckenbauer (Germany), and Rafael Salguero (Guatemala). [BBC, 12/2/2010] As there is no absolute majority in the first round, the vote will go to a second round. [BBC, 12/2/2010]
Entity Tags: Jack Warner, Worawi Makudi, Vitaly Mutko, Issa Hayatou, Hany Abo Rida, Geoff Thompson, Franz Beckenbauer, Senes Erzik, Angel Maria Villar Llona, Chuck Blazer, International Federation of Association Football, Ricardo Terra Teixeira, Nicolas Leoz, Rafael Salguero, Julio Grondona, Michel D’Hooghe, Marios Lefkaritis, Jacques Anouma, Joseph S. Blatter, Junji Ogura, Mong Joon Chung, Michel Platini, Mohamed bin Hammam
Timeline Tags: Football Business and Politics
FIFA’s executive committee votes to award the 2018 World Cup finals to Russia, which receives an absolute majority in the second round of the ballot. England was eliminated in the first round (see Around 2:00 p.m. December 2, 2010). The full results of the second round and the FIFA executive committee members who voted for the various potential hosts are:
Holland/Belgium: two votes. Michel D’Hooghe (Belgium). [BBC, 12/2/2010]
Spain/Portugal: seven votes. Angel Maria Villar Llona, Julio Grondona (Argentina), Ricardo Teixeira (Brazil), Nicolas Leoz (Paraguay, see November 24, 2010), Mohamed bin Hammam (Qatar, see May 1, 2011), Worawi Makudi (Thailand), and Hany Abo Rida (Egypt). [Daily Telegraph, 11/25/2010]
Russia: 13 votes. Vitaly Mutko (Russia) and Chuck Blazer (USA, see December 10, 2010).
The other members of the executive committee who voted (one for Holland/Belgium, the rest for Russia) are Sepp Blatter (Switzerland), Michel Platini (France), Mong Joon Chung (South Korea), Jack Warner (Trinidad and Tobago), Senes Erzik (Turkey), Geoff Thompson (England), Issa Hayatou (Cameroon), Junji Ogura (Japan), Marios Lefkaritis (Cyprus), Jacques Anouma (Ivory Coast), Franz Beckenbauer (Germany), and Rafael Salguero (Guatemala). [BBC, 12/2/2010]
Entity Tags: International Federation of Association Football, Ricardo Terra Teixeira, Hany Abo Rida, Vitaly Mutko, Worawi Makudi, Franz Beckenbauer, Rafael Salguero, Angel Maria Villar Llona, Chuck Blazer, Nicolas Leoz, Senes Erzik, Mohamed bin Hammam, Jacques Anouma, Jack Warner, Issa Hayatou, Joseph S. Blatter, Geoff Thompson, Mong Joon Chung, Michel D’Hooghe, Marios Lefkaritis, Julio Grondona, Junji Ogura, Michel Platini
Timeline Tags: Football Business and Politics
Instead of releasing €12 billion ($17.2 billion) to help the Greek government’s worsening economic and political crises, EU leaders assembling in Luxembourg for seven hours, from Sunday night into Monday morning, place more pressure on the Greek government after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) required Europe to guarantee Greece’s finances for the next 12 months. Rather than act with a sense of urgency, EU finance ministers expect the Greek Parliament and President George Papandreou to pass an austerity bill. Greece’s crises threaten to topple the euro and EU financial markets. [New York Times, 6/20/2011]
Eurozone policymakers fail to reach an agreement over the weekend on financial aid to bail out Greece, resulting in a sharp market drop on Monday morning as disappointed traders react to the leaders’ failure to guarantee the next €12 billion installment of Greece’s original bailout. Widespread speculation is that a disorganized Greek default will send Eurozone single-currency nations, as well as nations around the globe, into another panic. [Guardian, 6/20/2011]
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