January 16, 2013 By 1 Comment
Edward Cody, Debbi Wilgoren and Craig Whitlock
PARIS — Islamist guerrillas seized a number of hostages, including Americans, in a brazen attack early Wednesday on a remote gas-production facility in Algeria, and the United States vowed to take all necessary steps to deal with what it called a “terrorist act.”
Algeria’s official news agency said two people were killed, including a British national, and six were wounded, two of them foreigners, in the attack by what authorities described as a homegrown Algerian terrorist group. There were conflicting accounts of the number of people taken hostage. The agency, Algerie Presse Service, said Algerian troops quickly surrounded the site.
In Rome, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said U.S. officials believe that Americans are among the hostages in Algeria but that they are still trying to determine how many.
“By all indications, this is a terrorist act,” he told reporters after meeting with Italian leaders Wednesday as part of a week-long European trip. “It is a very serious matter when Americans are taken hostage along with others…. I want to assure the American people that the United States will take all necessary and proper steps that are required to deal with this situation.”
Panetta said it remained unclear whether the hostage-takers are connected to al-Qaeda-affiliated groups that France is fighting in northern Mali.
“I do know that terrorists are terrorists, and terrorists take these kinds of actions,” he added. “We’ve witnessed their behavior in a number of occasions where they have total disregard for innocent men and women. This appears to be that kind of situation.”
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attack and said 41 hostages were seized, seven of them Americans.
However, Algerie Presse Service (APS) said “a little more than 20 foreign nationals” were captured. It said the hostages were from Norway, Britain, the United States, France and Japan. The captors released Algerian workers in small groups, the agency said.
The assailants arrived in three vehicles and first attacked a bus that was taking foreign workers from the gas-production facility to a local airport, APS said. One foreigner was killed in that attack, and the militants then took over part of the facility and seized hostages, it said. Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia said the attackers were Algerian “terrorists” and vowed that authorities would not negotiate with them.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said the attack was in retaliation for Algeria’s decision to allow France to use its airspace to send warplanes to neighboring Mali, where French forces have been conducting airstrikes and support operations since last week to aid Malian troops in their battle against Islamist insurgents. “
Algeria’s participation in the war on the side of France betrays the blood of the Algerian martyrs who fell in the fight against the French occupation,” a spokesman for the Masked Brigade, an arm of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, told Mauritania’s Nouakchott News Agency.
December 27, 2012 By 375 Comments
Jim Wolf Washington Post Dec 27, 2012 WASHINGTON — The Obama administration formally proposed a controversial sale of advanced spy drones to help South Korea bear more of its defense from any attack by the heavily armed North. Seoul has requested a possible $1.2 billion sale of four Northrop Grumman RQ-4 “Global Hawk” remotely piloted aircraft with enhanced surveillance capabilities, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement dated Monday and distributed Tuesday. South Korea needs such systems to assume top responsibility for intelligence-gathering from the U.S.-led Combined Forces Command as scheduled in 2015, the security agency said in releasing a notice to U.S. lawmakers. “The proposed sale of the RQ-4 will maintain adequate intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities and will ensure the alliance is able to monitor and deter regional threats in 2015 and beyond,” the notice said. The United States has agreed with Seoul to turn over the wartime command of Korean troops later this decade. Current arrangements grew from the U.S. role in the 1950-1953 Korean War that repelled a North Korean takeover of the South. Seoul has shown interest in the high-altitude, long-endurance Global Hawk platform for at least four years. The system, akin to Lockheed Martin’s U-2 spy plane, may be optimized to scan large areas for stationary and moving targets by day or night and despite cloud cover. It transmits imagery and other data from 60,000 feet at near real-time speed, using electro-optical, infrared and radar-imaging sensors built by Raytheon… Read more
December 10, 2012 By 260 Comments
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December 5, 2012 By 295 Comments
The United Nations General Assembly is pressing Israel to reveal its nuclear arsenal. Israel has lashed out against the overwhelming approval of the resolution, which calls for international inspectors to be allowed to examine its atomic programme. Its foreign minister said the vote was meaningless. The country also rejected a UN-backed conference on a nuke-free Middle East. Israel denies it has nuclear weapons – but refuses to provide proof that it doesn’t
December 4, 2012 By 335 Comments
In a bizzare suggestion to crack down on terrorism, a former British Labour defence minister has suggested to drop a neutron bomb on the Pak-Afghan border for creating an impassable barrier between the two countries. Speaking in the House of Lords, John Gilbert said Britain could use the radiation warheads “to create cordons sanitaire along various borders where people are causing trouble”. “Your Lordships may say that this is impractical, but nobody lives up in the mountains on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan except for a few goats and a handful of people herding them,” he said last week. “If you told them that some ERRB (Enhanced Radiation Reduced Blast) warheads were going to be dropped there and that it would be a very unpleasant place to go, they would not go there. “You would greatly reduce your problem of protecting those borders from infiltration from one side or another. “These things are not talked about, but they should be, because there are great possibilities for deterrence in using the weapons that we already have in that respect.” Neutron bombs are a type of thermonuclear weapon designed to kill people while leaving physical structures such as buildings in tact. Responding for the government Jim Wallace said the coalition did not share the “rumbustious views” of Gilbert. Deccan HeraldGilbert, who served Tony Blair in the late 1990s as a defence minister and was a member Intelligence and Security Committee while he was an MP, said he did not favour a nuclear-free world. “I am absolutely delighted that nuclear weapons were invented when they were and I am delighted that, with our help, it was the Americans who invented them,” he explained. “If we think of a world in which they had not been invented, it is very easy indeed to see world war three starting on many occasions after 1945.” Source:
December 1, 2012 By 311 Comments
By Craig Whitlock The U.S. Air Force drone, on a classified spy mission over the Indian Ocean, was destined for disaster from the start. An inexperienced military contractor in shorts and a T-shirt, flying by remote control from a trailer at Seychelles International Airport, committed blunder after blunder in six minutes on April 4. He sent the unarmed MQ-9 Reaper drone off without permission from the control tower. A minute later, he yanked the wrong lever at his console, killing the engine without realizing why. As he tried to make an emergency landing, he forgot to put down the wheels. The $8.9 million aircraft belly-flopped on the runway, bounced and plunged into the tropical waters at the airport’s edge, according to a previously undisclosed Air Force accident investigation report. The drone crashed at a civilian airport that serves a half-million passengers a year, most of them sun-seeking tourists. No one was hurt, but it was the second Reaper accident in five months — under eerily similar circumstances. “I will be blunt here. I said, ‘I can’t believe this is happening again,’ ” an Air Force official at the scene told investigators afterward. He added: “You go, ‘How stupid are you?’ ” The April wreck was the latest in a rash of U.S. military drone crashes at overseas civilian airports in the past two years. The accidents reinforce concerns about the risks of flying the robot aircraft outside war zones, including in the United States. A review of thousands of pages of unclassified Air Force investigation reports, obtained by The Washington Post under public-records requests, shows that drones flying from civilian airports have been plagued by setbacks. Among the problems repeatedly cited are pilot error, mechanical failure, software bugs in the “brains” of the aircraft and poor coordination with civilian air-traffic controllers. On Jan. 14, 2011, a Predator drone crashed off the Horn of Africa while trying to return to an international airport next to a U.S. military base in Djibouti. It was the first known accident involving a Predator or Reaper drone near a civilian airport. Predators and Reapers can carry satellite-guided missiles and have become the Obama administration’s primary weaponagainst al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Since then, at least six more Predators and Reapers have crashed in the vicinity of civilian airports overseas, including other instances in which contractors were at the controls. Read more at Washington Post
November 29, 2012 By 108 Comments
Washington Post Max Fisher It appears that the Syrian government may have just taken a drastic measure it has conspicuously avoided over the nearly two years of fighting: cutting itself off from the Internet. Renesys, a Web-monitoring service, reported Thursday morning that sweeping outages in Syria had shut down 92 percent of the country’s routed networks. Shortly after, it updated to report that the remaining IP address blocks had gone down, “effectively removing the country from the Internet.” The “Syrian Internet Is Off The Air,” it announced. Shutting down nationwide Internet service is a remarkable step, one with significant implications for Syria’s economy and security. Still, the country has already taken far more severe action, including reports of targeting children, so the government’s apparent decision not to switch off Web access until now was in some ways surprising. Egypt and Libya both shut down Internet service early in their own uprisings last year. Those were seen as major steps, as is Syria’s today, if the Renesys report is accurate. Still, maybe one question here is why Syria didn’t do this sooner. Its uprising long ago exceeded Egypt’s and Libya’s in severity by the time those countries had instituted their own blackouts. One possible explanation is that Syria has been far more assertive online, using it as a tool for tracking dissidents and rebels, and sometimes even tricking them into handing the government personal data using phishing scams. President Bashar al-Assad has a background in computers, unlike the much older Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gaddafi, and once even directly mentioned his “electronic army.” Assad’s regime may have seen opportunity as well as risk on the Web, where perhaps the Egyptian and Libyan authorities saw primarily a tool of the uprising. Or, perhaps the Syrian simply feared the economic consequences of an Internet blackout, or lacked the means to conduct it. Perhaps the most important question is whether this reported shutdown represents a setback for the rebels and activists who have used the Web to coordinate, a sign of the regime’s desperation that it would take this measure, or maybe even both. Update: The Associated Press says that a second web-monitoring company is also reporting a complete shutdown.
November 28, 2012 By 295 Comments
November 27, 2012 By 16 Comments