At a Glance | December 31

Two Plead Guilty to Hate Crimes for Vandalism at Maryland High School

Two individuals who vandalized their high school in Maryland with hate-filled graffiti pleaded guilty to hate crimes. Seth Taylor and Joshua Shaffer (pictured from left), both 19, accepted plea agreements on December 27 for their involvement in the incident at Glenelg High School on May 23. Shaffer wrote a racial epithet targeting the school’s principal, while Taylor spray-painted “KKK” and swastikas on school property. As part of their plea deals, prosecutors recommended Shaffer receive 18 weekends in jail, supervised probation, and 150 hours of community service, while Taylor would get nine weekends in jail and other penalties similar to Shaffer. Trials are scheduled for two others accused in the incident, 18-year-olds Matthew Lipp and Tyler Curtiss. Surveillance video showed the four wearing masks and hoods while spray-painting on the night of the incident. Staff noticed the graffiti the following morning, and a school resource officer identified the individuals on the video.

French Authorities Charge Man Accused of Helping Organize Attack Against Satirical Magazine

A French extremist accused of helping organize an attack against a satirical magazine and joining an al-Qa’ida affiliate in Yemen faces new terrorism charges. Prosecutors in Paris said Peter Cherif, 36, who is also known as Abu Hamza, was arrested on December 16 in Djibouti before being expelled to France. Authorities charged him upon his arrival at an airport in Paris on December 23. French Defense Minister Florence Parly said Cherif had an important role in assisting close associates Cherif Kouachi and Said Kouachi to organize the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris in 2015. The Kouachi brothers killed 12 people and injured at least 11, and they were killed two days later in a shootout with police. Investigators who probed Peter Cherif’s activity in Yemen starting in 2017 discovered he had become a high-ranking member of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula. Cherif had been on the run since the final day of a trial in 2011, when he was sentenced to five years in prison on terrorism charges for fighting alongside al-Qa’ida in Iraq in 2004. Cherif will begin serving that sentence.

Al-Qa’ida Plotting Ways to Blow Up Passenger Planes in Europe, UK Security Minister Warns

United Kingdom Security Minister Ben Wallace warned that a “resurgent” al-Qa’ida is plotting new ways to take down passenger planes in Europe. Wallace noted in an interview with British newspaper The Sunday Times that the group still aspires to conduct aviation attacks and is developing technology to blow up airliners. “The aviation threat is real. [Al-Qa’ida] have reorganized. They are pushing more and more plots towards Europe and have become familiar with the new methods,” Wallace told the newspaper. Government officials noted these methods could include miniaturized bombs, and that Islamist extremists have plotted to use drones packed with explosives to blow up key targets. Wallace said while al-Qa’ida has been overshadowed by ISIS in recent years, the group remains a concern. “Al-Qa’ida sat quietly in the corner and tried to work out what the 21st century looked like while ISIS became the latest terrorist ‘boy band.’ But they have not gone away,” Wallace said. He stated that increased security at airports after the 9/11 attacks forced terrorists to become more creative. Wallace further noted that 13 Islamist terror plots have been thwarted in Britain since March 2017.

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