Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ Category

U.S. citizens among hostages seized in Algeria as France battles Islamists in neighboring Mali

January 16, 2013

Washington Post
 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.

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BREAKING: 7 foreigners kidnapped in Algeria

January 16, 2013

The Independant
LAMINE CHIKHI
Jan 16, 2013

Islamist militants attacked a gas production field in southern Algeria today, kidnapping at least seven foreigners and killing a French national, local and company officials said.

An al-Qa’ida-linked group operating in the Sahara said it had carried out the raid on the In Amenas facility, Mauritania’s ANI news agency reported.

The field, located close to the border with Libya, is operated by a joint venture including BP, Norwegian oil firm Statoil and Algerian state company Sonatrach.

Five Japanese nationals working for the Japanese engineering firm JCG Corp were kidnapped as well as a French national, local officials said. An Irishman was also seized, the Irish government said.

A French national was killed in the attack, a local source said, but it was unclear if the victim was the same person who had been kidnapped.

The foreigners were taken from In Amenas in the morning. Algerian troops had mounted an operation to rescue the hostages and had also surrounded the workers’ camp at Tiguentourine, a local source said.

Algeria has allowed France to use its air space during its military intervention against al-Qa’ida-linked Islamist rebels in Mali, although officials have yet to make a link between today’s attack and the conflict in Algeria’s southern neighbour.

ANI, which has regular direct contact with Islamists, said that fighters under the command of Mokhtar Belmokhtar were holding the foreigners seized from the gas field.

Belmokhtar for years commanded al-Qa’ida fighters in the Sahara before setting up his own armed Islamist group late last year after an apparent fallout with other militant leaders.

BP confirmed there had been a “security incident” at the In Amenas field but could give no more details.

Statoil, a minority shareholder in the venture, said it was notified of the incident this morning but could not say if any of its fewer than 20 employees were affected.

Statoil described the incident as serious and called it an emergency situation.

BP said the field was approximately 825 miles from the capital, Algiers.

The five Japanese work for the engineering firm JGC Corporation, Jiji news agency reported, quoting company officials. JGC has a deal with Sonatrach-BP-Statoil Association for work in gas production at In Amenas.

In Tokyo, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said it was gathering information on the situation but could not comment. French Foreign Ministry officials also said they had no immediate comment and were trying to verify the reports.

La Folie Solami: Black Hawk Down… Part Deux

January 14, 2013

Peter SterryPeter Sterry
21st Century Wire
Jan 15, 2013

When it comes to post-modern military embarrassments and gallant non-events, Somalia often comes to mind. Then again, so do the French.

So it’s a wonder why the newly hand-picked head of state in Paris thought it pertinent to tread down that dirty African road which almost always ends in tears.

Ridley Scott’s box-office hit, Blackhawk Down, did rather well despite it’s obvious post-Desert Storm propagandising, custom-designed to get Americans angry about being losers on the world military stage – a true turning point (and traumatic viewing I’m told by my American friends) in US attitudes which no doubt helped to stoke the imperial madness of King George II of Texas, as he led America’s shameless effort into his father’s New American Century. But even with Scott being fed the brief from the Pentagon’s official film producer-in-residence, Jerry Bruckenheimer, most people with intimate knowledge of the actual event will tell you that the film was still a romantic portrayal of a totally shambolic and horrific misadventure.

MIA: Fench spook has gone missing (notice the ‘intel center’ logo on the video – could be staged).

Indeed, the first Somali Follie marked the last time that Washington would ever bother all that much with collateral damage, or putting soldiers in the line of fire – let alone considering an actual Hollywood-style rescue. No, those are left exclusively to the likes of Bruckenheimer. It’s not that there are any brave soldiers left, it’s just become way too risky and even more messy. Any future ops would be stage-managed, and deploy scorched earth policies etc, so as to leave no witnesses in case the op went bad…

Forget about Seal Team 6 and the infamous Bin Laden Raid – that wasn’t  (Obama still can’t find the photos and video of the terror kingpin who according to multiple official admissions, died between 2001 and 2002), Washington will just send in the Drones to either level, or vaporise any moving animal within the blast zone. This technique has proved to work particularly well for weddings and funerals in Pakistan over the last half decade. The worst thing that can happen in this new unmanned military paradigm is that the US Army’s 22 year old play station expert in holed-up Nevada CENTCOM gets a head ache and accidentally crashes his drone into the side of a hill in Baluchistan. But I digress…

Hollande: Does he look like a hardcore military planner?

Busy attacking his country’s upper tier with a 70% tax bracket, the somewhat receding French President Francois Hollande hasn’t been in power more than a few months… and he’s already challenging Sarkozy for the most hated man in France award. In short, he’s gone and done what any unpopular French President would do, and that’s going into some godforsaken destabilised former colonial African hell-hole to steel a bit of globalist glory.

So the French played the African Double Dip Lottery – going for a shady Somalian rescue, and also attempting to throw their weight around in  Mali’s latest civil war, losing at least one commando, a helicopter and its pilot on the same day – and lost both times – for now, at least.

A Bad Day for Hollande

Hollande lost men in both operations – which in itself is tragic – particularly for the families of the men lost, but he also managed to lose the French secret agent hostage – or so the French papers say. 

Both operations ended as heroic failures. All in all, not a good day in military terms, and hard to believe the French public would back two epic failures like this. So what really happened on the day? Let’s break it down…

The French commando  operation in Somalia went horribly south following a fire fight with the latest Islamist Lenfant terrible, al-Shabab.

The secret agent-cum-hostage was identified by his cover name, ‘Denis Allex’, and is presumed to be dead – although the al-Shabab insist he is still alive and happily eating toasties and drinking his long-life milk from a box carton.

Sadly for Hollande and France, at least one French commando is reported to have gone missing during the operation.

Something smells very staged about this French agent – and I for one wouldn’t be surprised if the CIA were somehow involved at some stage in the hostage screen play – this, judging by the Intel Center logo embossed in the upper righthand corner in the hostage video. The CIA/Pentagon’s ‘media agency’, Intel Center is on record as manufacturing fake Osama bin Laden videos.

Meanwhile, deep in Mali, a French pilot was killed when rebels shot down his helicopter during a sortie.

Obama enjoying a fresh croissant after this past week’s joint failure with France in Somalia.

And what’s worse… we now find out that Hollande called Obama at the eleventh hour to ‘help out’.

According to today’s Washington Post, Obama was forced to admit his involvement with Hollande’s Blackhawk Down… Part Deux:

“In a letter to Congress, President Obama said U.S. combat aircraft “provided limited technical support” to French forces late Friday as they attempted to rescue a French spy who had been held captive for more than three years…

… Obama said the U.S. warplanes “briefly” entered Somali airspace but did not open fire and departed Somalia by 8 p.m. Friday, Washington time. He said he approved the mission but gave no other details.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the operation, said the combat aircraft were based at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, a small country on Somalia’s northwestern border.”

Mind you, with America’s dodgy track record in Somalia, why would the French ask them to help out rescuing their now not-so-secret agent (who is arguably still missing, so not officially dead yet)?

Vive Le AFRICOM!

Here’s a question which no one has asked yet: what on earth are French Secret Service agents doing running around in Somalia in the first place?

The US has AFRICOM so one would expect Washington to have ample spooks on the ground in all over Africa – in their manic drive to evict the Chinese from the Dark Continent. Pourquoi France? Non! French military excursions are normally confined to the Magreb. Somalia is traditionally a US and British patch.

At first glance this may look like a gallic cock-up, but look a bit closer to see how the Somali raid fits into a much bigger puzzle.

In Mali also, both the British and US militaries ran modules of this Operation in support of the French. Britain provided the use of its planes to transport troops, while the US supplied logistical support, including communications and transport.

It’s well known that the US have designs on countries like Mali, Uganda and others. So it appears that the US are now using the French (and the British) to fight their new proxy wars in Africa. What were Hollande or the French multi-nation corporations promised by Washington? Land? Mali’s utilities? A nuclear power plant contract?

This latest French hand-holding exercise in Africa simply reinforces the rolling trend currently among the allied NATO member states – a plethora of joint military pacts and exercises, where various countries are tasked perform certain compartmentalised tasks within a much larger strategic operation. This new method of neo-colonial intervention is effectively the initial steps towards the formation of a One World Combat Force, or Army, performing what is essentially a World Police function. In reality, what NATO allies are really doing is farming out the job of securing western transnational corporate interests in Africa.

Our advice to Hollande is simple: play to your strengths next time. French elites would be none the wiser to airlift two tons of halal fromage (Chevre and a few large wheels of Camembert should do) and a twelve cases of your most excellent Beaujolais nouveau – a gift to those Al Shababs to soften them up before you hit them with the Ricarde.

Sadly, however, Hollande was left to do the only thing he could – a ‘full American’, which is code for killing many Muslims overseas – including civilians and children. This, he will quickly discover, can score some cheap political points back at home, and just like a weak Roman Emperor, it will make him look ‘strong’… temporarily. Hence, today we hear that very thing has actually happened – French Rafale fighter jets are said to have “pounded insurgent training camps, arms and oil depots” yesterday in Mali, but with some collateral damage – at least 11 civilians including three children.

“Mali is now at the mercy of the French army,” said one official in Bamako.

The French are learning fast – kill, and kill often. It’s worked for the US for the last decade, and still no one seems to mind back at home.

That’s what you can expect – from your new One World Army.

….

Assad Still Confident That He Can Control Syria

January 14, 2013

Washington Post
Liz Sly

BEIRUT — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remains confident that he can ride out the maelstrom engulfing his country, casting into doubt prospects that intensified efforts to negotiate an end to the bloodshed can succeed, according to Syrians familiar with the thinking of the regime.

Although Assad isn’t winning the fight against the rebels, he isn’t losing, either — at least not yet, or by enough of a margin to make him feel he needs to abandon his efforts to crush the rebellion by force and embark on negotiations that would end his hold on power and expose his loyalists to the threat of revenge, the Syrians and analysts say.

It is hard to imagine Assad ever being in a position to restore his authority over the many parts of Syria that have slipped beyond his control. The rebels seeking to topple him have steadily been gaining ground, most recently seizing control of a strategically important airbase in the north of the country, and if the current trajectory continues, the eventual demise of the four-decade-old Assad family regime seems all but inevitable, analysts say.

But concerns are growing about how long that might take, and at what cost, prompting many Syrians to question whether Assad’s confidence might not be merited, given the realities of a conflict so brutally complex, so finely balanced and so entangled in global geopolitical rivalries that there is still no clearly identifiable endgame in sight nearly two years after the uprising began.

“From Day One, Bashar al-Assad was underestimated by the opposition and by the international community,” said Malik al Abdeh, a Syrian journalist based in London who is one of a number of opposition activists growing increasingly gloomy about the prospects that an end to the bloody conflict could be near. “He is playing a high-stakes game, he’s playing it pretty smart and he seems to be winning because of the simple fact that he is still in power.”

When Assad delivered a defiantly uncompromising speech to supporters last week, the State Department condemned him for being “out of touch with reality.” But many Syrians wonder whether it isn’t the United States and its allies who are out of touch for continuing to press for a negotiated settlement to a conflict Assad still has reason to believe he can win, Abdeh said.

Though the Syrian army has been degraded by thousands of rank-and-file defections and heavy casualties, it is still fighting. Key units comprising members of Assad’s own Alawite sect, an obscure and little-understood offshoot of Shiite Islam, remain fiercely loyal.

Defections from his government have been few and far between. The rebels have been systematically overrunning government positions in many locations, but they have not demonstrated the capacity to make headway against the tough defenses ringing Damascus, the capital, and the key prize for whoever claims to control the country.

His allies Russia and Iran have shown no sign that their support is wavering, and they have their own reasons not to cede ground in the struggle for influence over a country whose strategic location puts it at the crossroads of multiple regional conflicts. On Saturday, the Russian Foreign Ministry reiterated its view that Assad’s departure should not be part of any negotiated settlement.

Henningsen on RT: ‘Syria is a gangster’s paradise right now’

January 9, 2013

21st Century Wire and UK Column’s analyst Patrick Henningsen discusses with RT about how NATO’s recent deployment of missile defense batteries in neighboring Turkey is nothing more than a chess move to prepare for western/NATO airstrikes at some point further down the timeline, and also how Syria’s so-called ‘opposition’ are using the chaos in the country to steal land, businesses and profit from the new black market that has replaced the previous economy.

Saving Private Face: Manning ‘awarded’ 112 days off potential life sentence

January 9, 2013

Private Bradley Manning, accused of sharing classified US army files with the whistleblowing website Wikileaks, will get a 112 days cut from his eventual sentence. The victory for his defense team comes after a judge ruled that Manning’s 9 months in prison amounted to pre-trial punishment and was excessively harsh. Retired colonel Morris Davis told us the military is just trying to spare its blushes.

Assad: War in Syria between ‘nation and terrorists’

January 6, 2013

Syria’s president has outlined a plan to end the country’s conflict, starting with a halt to international support to “al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups.” The solution proposes a new constitution and government, as well as national reconciliation

Is Al – Jazeera Fair And Balanced ?

January 6, 2013

Washington Post
Micheal Peel

ABU DHABI — Qatar’s al-Jazeera television station provided a great ringside seat for the “day of rage” in Cairo almost two years ago that offered the first clear sign of the threat to the rule of then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

While many western media organizations were scrambling to ramp up coverage of Egypt’s nascent revolution, al-Jazeera had gripping reports of an extraordinary protest that ended with the ruling party headquarters ablaze and the army on the streets.

Yet, mirroring the progress of the Arab uprising itself, the 16-year-old Doha-based broadcaster’s Cairo triumph has since given way to a more complicated life, as it seeks to extend its international influence by buying into the U.S. television market.

Long recognized in the Middle East for its daring and sometimes groundbreaking reporting in a politically repressive region, al-Jazeera described its purchase this week of former vice president Al Gore’s Current TV network as a “historic development” in a market where it has long coveted expansion. The station, which has a respected English language arm and is already seen in more than 260 million homes in 130 countries, plans to start a U.S.-based news channel available to 40 million American households.

While al-Jazeera is celebrating its U.S. plans, it faces tough questions about its coverage and whether it is as independent of Qatar’s autocratic ruling monarchy as it claims to be. The broadcaster is partly funded by the government of Qatar, and the country’s increasingly prominent political role in the region’s turmoils has intensified scrutiny of al-Jazeera’s coverage.

“With the Arab Spring, al-Jazeera’s reach and credibility have grown in the West,” said Jane Kinninmont, a senior research fellow in the Middle East division of Chatham House, the London-based think tank. “But certainly, it has become more criticized in the Arab world – or, at least, become seen as more politicized.”

Although the popular revolts that swept the Arab world and brought down regimes from Tunisia to Yemen have presented al-Jazeera with an extraordinary opportunity to expand its audience, they have thrown up growing problems of perception.

And while the English channel is seen as enjoying a high degree of leeway, some analysts say Doha’s foreign policy positions — including support for armed rebels in Libya and Syria — are reflected in the tone of coverage, particularly on the flagship Arabic channel. Critics say Islamist movements with which Qatar has tried to achieve good relations have received over-sympathetic attention, with airtime given to wild allegations that opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, are agents of foreign powers.

Some observers say al-Jazeera is cautious about reporting sensitive stories in Qatar, such as the fire at a Doha nursery last year that killed 13 children and six adults, although the channel denies it was slow to cover the tragedy.

“Al-Jazeera is generally a free network, but it works within the political constraints as understood in Qatar,” said Michael Stephens, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute Qatar think tank.

Al-Jazeera dismisses suggestions its coverage shows any bias, including toward fellow Persian Gulf states allied to Qatar. The broadcaster says that, far from following official agendas, it often sets them. “We were covering Syria, for example, long before outside governments took great interest,” it said.

It says that — while it takes a “good portion” of its funding from the Qatari state — it is a private not-for-profit company with other sources of income, such as advertising. And though Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim al Thani, al-Jazeera’s director-general, is a member of Qatar’s ruling clan, the broadcaster says he has “no definable relationship” to the country’s ruler and is part of a “professional management who have steered Al Jazeera to success regardless of their nationalities or surnames”.

Perhaps the most unpredictable tension now facing al-Jazeera springs from Qatar’s political scene, which appears increasingly at odds with the broadcaster’s preferred image as a fearless network “dedicated to telling the real stories from the Arab street.” The Qatari authorities sentenced a poet to life imprisonment in November for insulting the emir in a widely-circulated work about the Arab Spring that criticized the “repressive elite”.

But al-Jazeera gives short shrift to the notion that its reputation might be threatened by the Qatar government’s intolerance of opposition at home. “Our journalists have never been told to cover or not cover a story due to pressure from outside this organization,” the broadcaster said.

Abeer Allam of the Financial Times in Cairo contributed to this story.

British Court Blocks Lawsuit Over US Drone Killings in Pakistan

December 22, 2012

Pakistani Attempting to Sue British Spy Agency for Drone Attacks

By Jason Ditz
Dec 22, 2012

British Lord Justice Alan Moses has blocked Pakistani Noor Khan from suing the Government Communications Headquarters for providing spy data to the US that led to drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Khan’s father was killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan last year, and argued that the GCHQ’s faulty intelligence was to blame for the attack which killed him. The Foreign Office has argued that the court had to scrap the case because it could harm ties with the US.

Lord Justice Moses said that the “real aim” of the lawsuit was to get the British High Court to condemn the US drone strikes for their large civilian death toll, and that the part about his father and the GCHQ was simply a way to get around to that.

British officials have regularly argued that national security cases could not be heard in British courts because they might conceivably offend the US. Generally the courts have rejected this argument, but today’s ruling may suggest that is going to change, and points to more secrecy in the UK…

Read more at Antiwar.com

SKYNET IS COMING: Computers will taste, smell and hear within five years, IBM predicts

December 18, 2012

21st Century Wire say… This is one step away from SKYNET ala Terminator – as these advances in artificial intelligence will be extended to the current multi-billion dollar per year drone industry, where unmanned drones will not just be chasing phantom terrorists in the hills of Afghanistan, but more likely chasing citizens within North America, Europe and elsewhere. 

Washington Post
Hayley Tsukayama

As 2012 winds down, lots of people are looking back at the year in tech. But at IBM, researchers have released a list of trends to expect not only in 2013, but in the next five years.

On Monday, the company released its annual “5 in 5” report, which offers up predictions about what technology innovations will catch on in the next half-decade. This year, the report focuses on how computers will process information in the future, and IBM’s researchers say that nature’s gift of five senses won’t be reserved for just the living: Machines may actually be able to process things as humans do — through touch, taste, sight, sound and smell.

That, said IBM vice president of innovation Bernie Meyerson, would be a major shift in the very architecture of computing.

“If you program a computer, it’s a gruesome undertaking,” said Meyerson, noting that — at its most basic level — the way humans load information, bit by bit, into computers, hasn’t changed since the abacus.

But advances in computer technology, Meyerson said, are already allowing computers to look at an object holistically, taking in information in a moment that would have taken years to input through code.

“Say you’re standing in a museum of modern art, surrounded by paintings and sculptures,” Meyerson said. “You would spend the rest of your adult life trying to put that into words and type it in [to a computer]. Now, imagine if you could teach it by just showing it something.”

The idea, Meyerson said, is to give humans and computers a common language. And it’s not as difficult — or as futuristic — as you may think.

Smell and taste, Meyerson said, are two senses that have a clear chemical base. If computers can sense the types of molecules — ammonia, explosive residue or gasses that indicate decay — they could alert users to different markers that would flag security risks or food-borne illnesses. The same is true of taste, he said, if computers could be programmed to recognize the correct proportions of certain chemicals. Or, the machines could be used in health planning, to find healthy combinations of foods that would appeal to the palate of the dieter.

When it comes to sight, Meyerson said, researchers have improved recognition software that can identify objects based on a database of images already loaded into the system. And in the future, computers could “hear,” by using detailed sound analyses that, for example, can tie a certain pattern of notes in a baby’s cry to anguish or joy.

Finally, computers could learn to tell the difference between cashmere or concrete by reading the appropriate signals of vibration and temperature, Meyerson said. Video game makers have already used a very basic version of this: controllers vibrate when there’s impact between objects on-screen. In the next five years, researchers could take that sort of program to a microscopic level, allowing machines to have some sense of touch, Meyerson said.

While each idea has applications of its own across many industries, Meyerson said that they would have the greatest impact when combined.

“It’s not that you want to make computers smarter than humans,” he said. “But they have bandwidth to get it in… If you want to scale its memory, you can buy a box of disk drives.”