How jihadists schedule terrorist attacks

On Friday, the Boston Police Department announced plans to beef up security during the city's Fourth of July festivities in the wake of new remarks from Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that he and his brother originally scheduled a bombing attack for Independence Day. The reference has renewed interest in the symbolic scheduling of terrorist strikes against the West.

Unfortunately for counterterrorism officials, the history of attacks against Western targets is a scattered mix of dates ranging from obvious national holidays to obscure events with only the most tangential relationship to the United States. Let's review some of the known rationales for the scheduling of terror.

Dec. 25

Some dates make sense. When Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian with concealed plastic explosives in his underwear, attempted to blow up a passenger flight to Detroit on Christmas day, Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemen-based al Qaeda cleric accused of orchestrating the plot, issued a statement to the American people describing the rationale of the strike on "the holiest and most sacred days to you, Christmas Day." Given that between 73 and 76 percent of Americans identify as Christian, the date is logical (if there can be a logic to killing innocent civilians). But other dates have less of a tie-in to the United States.

Sept. 11

Despite the widely circulated myth that al Qaeda selected the date 9/11 for its similarity to the emergency call number 9-1-1, the date was important to the terrorist network because of its relationship with Islam. As Lawrence Wright wrote in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Looming Tower, on Sept. 11, 1683, the King of Poland launched the battle that turned back the advance of Muslim armies. "For the next three hundred years, Islam would be overshadowed by the growth of Western Christian societies," Wright explained. Osama bin Laden saw the attack on the World Trade Center as Islam's big comeback. The date has since been used by other terrorists, including the jihadists who struck the U.S. compound in Benghazi, killing U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans last year.

Feb. 26

Other dates of terrorist attacks reveal how arbitrary the timing of these strikes can be. For instance, the first bombing of the World Trade Center occurred on Feb. 26, 1993, a date that had no significance to any of the parties involved. The attack was originally plotted for Feb. 23, the day the U.S. ground offensive began in Iraq in 1991. Another reason not to place too much importance on specific dates: Who's to say terrorists will be punctual?

March 11

Date doesn't ring a bell? It does to Spaniards, who suffered the 2004 Madrid train bombings attributed to an al Qaeda-inspired terrorist cell. Reports suggest the date was significat because it occurred exactly two and a half years after Sept. 11.

Dec. 31

New Year's Eve has repeatedly been an aspirational date for terrorist attacks, according to U.S. officials. In 2000, for example, U.S. authorities apprehended Ahmed Ressam at a border crossing in Washington state for carrying bomb-making equipment and plotting to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Eve.

As for the Boston bombing, it's worth noting that while signs indicate Tamerlan Tsarnaev was influenced by radical Islam, a clear explanation for the motive behind the marathon bombings has not been revealed. 


Turkey and E! have two very different interpretations of Justin Bieber's concert last night

When Justin Bieber performed in Istanbul on Thursday night, did he halt his concert out of respect for Muslim fans -- or because he was getting pelted with toys?

This is the stark question before us today amid reports from U.S. entertainment outlets that the teen pop sensation observed the Muslim tradition of silence during the call to prayer by interrupting his performance. E! Online reports:

Fans were shocked and delighted... when the "Boyfriend" singer paused his show for the first time thanking the singer for being "respectful" and a "great man."

As E! reported, fans rushed to Twitter to praise the artist's cultural sensitivity:

Some were even more enthusiastic:

And even those indifferent to the Biebs were swayed by the gesture:

But Beliebers and newly converted Beliebers might want to hold their enthusiasm in check. Hurriyet, a leading Turkish daily, is reporting that toys -- not the call to prayer -- were behind the show's suspension:

Fans were throwing toys and scarves at the beloved singer as a show of appreciation, but the teen magnet decided he wanted no more of it, and abandoned the stage.

He stayed backstage and refused to come out until an announcement was made in Turkish, informing fans that the show would not go on until the toys stopped coming in.

Bieber then continued on with his show.

The news comes after Bieber caused a stir at an airport in Istanbul by refusing to go through passport control.

So, which is it? A hotheaded diva moment or a gracious act of cultural sensitivity? We may never know what really happened Thursday night -- unless, that is, any Turkish Beliebers out there care to step forward as eyewitnesses.