Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1312, (22-28 September 2016)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1312, (22-28 September 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Clinton, Trump, spar on security

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump this week each claimed they could protect America better if elected president, following terrorist attacks in New York and New Jersey, reports Khaled Dawoud

Clinton, Trump, spar on security
Clinton, Trump, spar on security
Al-Ahram Weekly

The New York and New Jersey suspected terrorist attacks over the weekend dominated the US presidential campaign trail, with Democrat Hillary Clinton accusing Republican Donald Trump of aiding Islamic State recruitment, while Trump renewed his attacks on Muslim immigrants and said Clinton’s stands and those of US President Barack Obama weakened US national security.

Both candidates for the 8 November election tried to use the weekend attacks to flex their credentials to protect America as world leaders gathered in security-heightened New York for the annual UN General Assembly.
Clinton said Trump’s rhetoric against what he calls “radical Islamic terrorism” was helping Islamic State recruit more fighters.

“We know that a lot of the rhetoric we’ve heard from Donald Trump has been seized on by terrorists, in particular ISIS, because they are looking to make this into a war against Islam rather than a war against jihadists,” she told reporters in White Plains, New York on Monday.

Trump fired back by saying Clinton bore some responsibility for the violence by not persuading US President Obama to leave a residual force of US troops in Iraq when she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

Obama and the Iraqi government failed to reach agreement at the end of 2011 on extending a US-Iraqi status of forces agreement, and most American troops were withdrawn. Trump has sought to tie Clinton to the decisions of the Obama administration.

“Her attacks on me are all meant to deflect from her record of unleashing this monster,” Trump told a large crowd in Fort Myers, Florida.

The campaigns weighed in after the bomb incidents and a stabbing attack at a mall in central Minnesota.

In the most serious incident, a bomb went off in New York City’s Chelsea neighbourhood on Saturday, injuring 29 people. An unexploded pressure-cooker bomb was found nearby. Earlier that day, a pipe bomb went off in Seaside Park, New Jersey.

On Monday, an Afghanistan-born American suspected in some of the incidents was arrested in nearby Linden, New Jersey, after a gun battle with police. Authorities had said earlier they wanted to question Ahmed Khan Rahami, a 28-year-old naturalised US citizen, about the Chelsea and Seaside Park bombings.

The incidents, just days after the 15th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks, put the United States’ most populous city on edge.

Trump, who has in the past talked of the need for a resumption of harsh interrogation tactics like waterboarding for terrorism suspects, said authorities need to “get information” from the bombing suspect “before it becomes no longer timely,” but suggested instead he would probably be coddled.

“Now we will give him amazing hospitalisation. He will be taken care of by some of the best doctors in the world. He will be given a fully modern and updated hospital room. And he’ll probably even have room service, knowing the way our country is,” he said.

At a speech in Philadelphia on Monday, Clinton called for vigilance.

“This is a fast-moving situation and a sobering reminder that we need steady leadership in a dangerous world,” she said.

Trump seized on a government report that said 858 immigrants from countries with which the United States has national security concerns who were pegged for deportation were mistakenly granted citizenship. He said the report showed the need for tighter control over who gets into the United States.

“Immigration security is national security,” Trump said in Fort Myers.

Peter Feaver, a political science professor at Duke University who worked on the National Security Council under Republican President George W Bush, said Clinton was trying to argue Trump did not pass the commander-in-chief test.

“When bad news happens, she wants to be able to say, this is why you need a steady hand on the tiller,” Feaver told Reuters.

The renewed focus on terrorism came as Clinton and Trump prepared for their first debate next Monday at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, east of the city.

With world leaders gathered in New York for the UN conclave, Clinton met leaders of Japan, Egypt and Ukraine later Monday, while Trump met President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

A US-led coalition has been fighting Islamic State mainly through air strikes in Syria and Iraq.

Trump, who has based much of his campaign message on arguing that the United States is no longer safe and that he alone can protect the nation, told Fox News Monday morning that he expected more attacks.

“I think this is something that may be will... happen more and more all over the country,” he said.

The terrorist attacks came only two days after Clinton resumed her campaign activities after she was diagnosed with pneumonia, raising doubts over her ability to become president. According to a NBC poll released Tuesday, Clinton plugged her leaking lead against Trump, enjoying 50 per cent support among likely voters while Trump has 45 per cent support.

Meanwhile, investigators were searching Tuesday for clues to the motive behind the weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey, and to determine whether the Afghanistan-born suspect had accomplices or was radicalised overseas.

Rahami was arrested Monday in Linden, New Jersey following a dramatic gun battle with police after they were summoned by a neighbourhood bar owner who thought the bearded man sleeping against his closed tavern’s front door in the pouring rain resembled the bombing suspect.

Rahami and two police officers were wounded in the exchange of gunfire.

Authorities did not offer any immediate information on the possible motives of Rahami, who was charged by Union County prosecutors on five counts of attempted murder in the first degree and two second-degree weapons charges.

More charges were expected to be brought against Rahami in federal court. New York’s mayor called the bombing that injured 29 people in the bustling Chelsea district “an act of terror.”

Rahami, who lived with his family above the First American Fried Chicken restaurant in Elizabeth, New Jersey, is also suspected of planting a bomb that exploded on the New Jersey shore Saturday, a device found near the New York blast, and up to six more devices found near the Elizabeth train station Sunday night.

While officials did not give much information about Rahami, CNN, citing unnamed law enforcement sources, reported that Rahami travelled multiple times to Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent years, including a year-long stay in Pakistan until March 2014.

The New York Times reported that no evidence had yet been found that Rahami had received military training overseas, but said FBI agents were trying to determine if his actions had been guided by Islamic State militants or any other terrorist organisation.

US security sources have confirmed that the suspect underwent secondary screening after returning from foreign travel in recent years and passed on every occasion.

Sources, however, could not immediately confirm that Rahami travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, as other media have reported. Travellers coming from places such as those two countries are routinely required to undergo secondary screening.

The blasts, the manhunt and an apparently unrelated stabbing attack in Minnesota over the weekend created tensions similar to those that followed other recent attacks, such as the mass shootings in Orlando and San Bernardino, California.

The Minnesota attacker was described a “soldier of the Islamic State” by the militant group’s news outlet.

Rahami had not previously been identified as dangerous but his family was known to police as a result of a late-night disturbance at a family halal chicken restaurant in Elizabeth.

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