March 26, 2017

Iraq suspends Mosul offensive after coalition airstrike atrocity

Move comes as international outrage grows over airstrikes that killed at least 150 people in Mosul Jadida neighbourhood

in Mosul, and

Iraqi military leaders have halted their push to recapture west Mosul from Islamic State as international outrage grew over the civilian toll from airstrikes that killed at least 150 people in a single district of the city.

The attack on the Mosul Jadida neighbourhood is thought to have been one of the deadliest bombing raids for civilians since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Rescuers were still pulling bodies from the rubble on Saturday, more than a week after the bombs landed, when the US-led coalition confirmed that its aircraft had targeted Isis fighters in the area.

They carried out the attack on 17 March “at the request of the Iraqi security forces”, and have now launched a formal investigation into reports of civilian casualties, the coalition said.

Laptop ban on planes came after plot to put explosives in iPad

Failed attacks using shoes and underwear led to new attempts with electronic devices, security source reveals
The US-UK ban on selected electronic devices from the passenger cabins of flights from some countries in north Africa and the Middle East was partly prompted by a previously undisclosed plot involving explosives hidden in a fake iPad, according to a security source.

The UK ban on tablets, laptops, games consoles and other devices larger than a mobile phone came into effect on Saturday. It applies to inbound flights from six countries – Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey. Six UK airlines – British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2, Monarch, Thomas Cook and Thomson – and eight foreign carriers are affected.

It follows a similar move in the US, which applies to flights from 10 airports in eight countries – Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The security source said both bans were not the result of a single specific incident but a combination of factors.

One of those, according to the source, was the discovery of a plot to bring down a plane with explosives hidden in a fake iPad that appeared as good as the real thing. Other details of the plot, such as the date, the country involved and the group behind it, remain secret.

WhatsApp accused of giving terrorists ‘a place to hide’ as company fails to hand over London attacker’s messages

Amber Rudd

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has accused the messaging service WhatsApp of giving terrorists “a place to hide” as she revealed the US firm has failed to hand over the content of a message sent by Westminster attacker Adrian Ajao.

Scotland Yard and the security services cannot access encrypted messages sent on Whatsapp, meaning they have no idea what Ajao said – or to whom – in his final communication three minutes before he began Wednesday’s slaughter.

In a scathing attack on Whatsapp, as well as Google and social media platforms which have failed to take down extremist material, she said: “They should be on our side.”

ISIS fanatics called for a ‘lone wolf’ attack on Parliament via secret messaging app Telegram just weeks before Westminster carnage

  • Jihadists listed Jewish schools, pubs and politicians as ‘perfect targets’ on app
  • Fanatics also urged each other to attack football stadiums as security is ‘relaxed’
  • Telegram’s ‘end-to-end’ encryptions makes it hard for security services to hack
  • Khalid Masood killed three and injured 29 during horrific in Westminster attack 

ISIS fanatics called for a ‘lone wolf’ attack on Parliament via a secret messaging app just weeks before the carnage in Westminster.

Jihadists used Telegram to outline a list of possible victims and ‘perfect targets’ in Britain including politicians, Jewish schools pubs and clubs.

In the post was an illustration – titled ‘Fight Them’ –  of an ISIS terrorist dressed like Jihadi John holding a sword in front of Big Ben, as a fireball engulfed the background with a tattered Union Flag flying in the wind.

Six weeks after the disturbing call to arms was posted on Telegram, terrorist Khalid Masood launched his horrific attack on Westminster.

The horrific rampage saw the murder of four and the injuring of at least 29, when the jihadist mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before stabbing a police officer outside Parliament.

During conversations on the app, fanatics ordered each other to target football stadiums due to a lack of security, reports the Sunday Mirror

Senior Al Qaeda leader linked to Islamabad hotel attack which featured in Zero Dark Thirty is killed in a drone strike, US military reveals

  • A United States drone strike in eastern Afghanistan on March 19 killed the senior Al-Qaeda military commander Qari Yasin
  • Yasin was accused of plotting the September 20, 2008 bombing of a Marriott Hotel in Islamabad that killed dozens of people
  • That attack was featured in the 2012 movie Zero Dark Thirty  
  • He was also said to have been behind a 2009 attack on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore
  • Yasin was killed during an air strike in Paktika Province, which borders Pakistan, the Pentagon said 

A US drone strike in eastern Afghanistan on March 19 killed the senior Al Qaeda military commander Qari Yasin, who has been linked to numerous attacks in his native Pakistan, the United States military confirmed on Saturday.

‘The death of Qari Yasin is evidence that terrorists who defame Islam and deliberately target innocent people will not escape justice,’ Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement.

A native of the Pakistani region of Balochistan who has ties to the Tehrik-e-Taliban group, Yasin was accused of plotting the September 20, 2008 bombing of a Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.

Rouhani to visit Putin in Moscow as Iran and Russia move closer

March 26 at 5:00 AM

As U.S. influence wanes across the Middle East, Iran and Russia have joined forces to expand their power in the region, strengthening political and diplomatic ties and stepping up joint military operations in Syria.

In a sign of the closer relations, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is slated to travel Monday to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is expected to be Rouhani’s last major trip before he faces reelection in May.

Together the two countries have fought Syrian rebels, sidelined the United States from regional diplomacy and embraced each other as bulwarks against the West.

In a meeting Tuesday, Putin and Rouhani are scheduled officially to discuss projects in areas such as energy, infrastructure and technology. Unofficially, however, the talks are likely to be dominated by their tacit alliance in the Middle East.

“The visit shows the importance that Russia has in Iranian foreign policy. For Russia, Iran is one of their most important political allies,” said Mohsen Milani, executive director of the Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies at the University of South Florida.

Iran is “playing a key role in Putin’s longer-term strategy to become a major player in the Middle East,” said Milani, who is also the author of “The Making of Iran’s Islamic Revolution: From Monarchy to Islamic Republic.”

Iran Charges Russia With Selling Out its Air Defense Secrets to Israel

The Islamic Republic says Russia sold codes to Israel that neutralize its air defenses.

An Iranian government official claimed earlier this week that its Russian-made air defenses were compromised by Moscow, leaving Iran and its allies defenseless against Israeli airstrikes. An engineer with Tehran’s Ministry of Defense alleged that codes forcing anti-aircraft missiles to treat hostile Israeli fighters as friendly were sold to Tel Aviv, effectively neutralizing Syria and Iran’s S-300 surface-to-air missile systems.

An Iranian official, described by the Jerusalem Post as a senior member of Iran’s Defense Ministry, told the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida that Russia had sold “codes” to Israel that identified Israeli aircraft as friendly. The codes were used by Israel to prevent its aircraft from being targeted. Israel has flown dozens of air raids over Syria, and despite advanced air defenses, only the latest raid, flown last Friday, involved an actual missile launch.

The article doesn’t say what the Iranians mean by “codes”, but Tehran apparently means the Identify Friend or Foe codes that aircraft transmit to avoid being shot down by their own air defenses. The S-300 missile, an older surface-to-air missile similar to the American Patriot, was identified as the affected system. The S-300s not only would refuse to engage the Israeli planes, the report says, but also they wouldn’t give notice that the planes had taken off from nearby Israel, giving Syrian troops time to prepare.

According to Al-Jarida, “Iranians and the Syrians suspected that Russia gave the codes for the air defense system to Israel and even refused the requests of Tehran and Damascus to check the codes.” As the story goes, Iran managed to change the codes on its own supplied S-300 missile systems, then sent engineers to Syria to change the codes on unspecified Syrian air defense systems. The fact that the Syrian missiles finally launched after the codes were changed confirmed to the Iranians that Russia had thrown them under the bus.

Could there be any truth to the claims? It is unlikely that Russia would intentionally give IFF codes to the enemies of its allies, the Syrians and Iranians, and allow them to be bombed with impunity. Not only would that anger the Syrian government, it would also potentially endanger Russian troops operating in Syria. The simpler explanation is that Israeli radar jamming is very good and outmatches the older S-300 technology.

German police predicted Berlin terror attack nine months prior

Months before Anis Amri rammed a truck into a crowded market, police warned he was planning an attack. Authorities ignored their calls for his deportation, saying such a move was legally impossible.

Deutschland LKW nach dem Anschlag am Breitscheidplatz in Berlin (Reuters/H. Hanschke)

German state police predicted nine months ahead of time Anis Amri’s truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market that killed 12 people, Sunday paper “Bild am Sonntag” reported.

State police (LKA) in Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) warned its state interior ministry of solid evidence that Amri was planning a suicide attack, the tabloid reported.

In a confidential letter investigators cited, among other evidence, Amri’s chat history in the Telegram mobile app, in which he used euphemisms to indicate his plan to commit such an act.

Despite the warning NRW’s Ministry of the Interior decided that deportation was not legally enforceable. Since the attack state Interior Minister Ralf Jäger repeated that position.

Jäger was due to appear on Wednesday before a state parliament investigation committee.

Security alert for Anis Amri (picture-alliance/dpa/Bundeskriminalamt)

Calls for resignation

Opposition figures called for Jäger’s dismissal, given the revelations. “This memorandum is clear proof that Interior Minister Jäger failed in his responsibilities, Liberal Democrat Joachim Stamp told the paper.

“These new revelations are dramatic,” said Armin Laschet, the state leader of the Christian Democratic Union party. “Interior Minister Jäger is a security risk for people all over Germany.”

Nine months after the March report, Amri drove a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring scores more.

The Tunisian was facing deportation, but his use of more than a dozen identities and a hold-up on his paperwork allowed him to stay for 18 months.

On Wednesday the state parliament will interview several high-level state politicians on the failure to deport Amri and how he slipped passed authorities’ radars.

One of Europe’s largest Nato exercises begins

Thousands of Nato army, navy and air force personnel are in Scotland for one of the largest military exercises in Europe.

Joint Warrior is held twice a year – in spring and autumn.

The first of this year’s exercises runs to 6 April and involves warships operating from Faslane on the Clyde and aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth, Moray.

Live firing training will also be held at a Ministry of Defence range at Cape Wrath in Sutherland.

Thirty-five naval units and more than 50 aircraft will be used during Joint Warrior.

Countries taking part include Denmark, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the US.

About 430 of the thousands of personnel involved are co-ordinating the exercise from HM Naval Base Clyde’s Maritime Operations Centre.

Russian Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny Detained by Police During Moscow Protest

MOSCOW — Russian police detained opposition leader Alexei Navalny in central Moscow on Sunday at a rally which Navalny had called to protest against corruption.

A Reuters reporter saw police detain Navalny on Moscow’s Tverskaya Street and put him in a police truck. Hundreds of opposition protesters crowded around the police van and tried to prevent it from taking Navalny away.

A tweet from Navalny’s account after the incident said: “Guys, I’m all right. Don’t try to break me out. Go on walking down the Tverskaya [Street]. Our topic today is fight against corruption.”

Russian protesters denouncing government corruption had gathered in cities across Russia and some have scuffled with police.

The Sunday protests appear to be one of the largest coordinated outpourings of dissatisfaction since the 2011-12 demonstrations following a fraud-tainted parliamentary election.

The demonstrations are driven by Navalny and focus on his recent claims that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has amassed a collection of mansions, yachts and vineyards.

In the Pacific coast port city of Vladivostok, police forcefully detained some demonstrators near the city’s railway terminal, in one case falling down a small grassy slope as they wrestled with a detainee.

Russia builds an ‘unstoppable’ 4,600mph cruise missile that could sink the Royal Navy’s new £6bn aircraft carriers with a single strike

  • Russia has constructed a Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, according to reports
  • The weapon cannot be stopped by the Navy’s current defenses, experts say
  • Zircon could render Navy’s two new £6.2billion aircraft carriers useless
  • Missile is being tested and could be fitted to Russian cruisers by 2022 

Russia has built a hypersonic missile capable of destroying an aircraft carrier with a single impact, it has been reported.

Kremlin chiefs claim to have constructed a Zircon cruise missile which travels between 3,800mph and 4,600mph – five to six times the speed of sound.

Experts warn the ‘unstoppable’ projectiles could spell disaster for the Navy’s new £6.2billion aircraft carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

Russia has reportedly built a Zircon hypersonic missile which is capable of traveling up to six times the speed of sound, making it ‘unstoppable’

The Zircon is capable of traveling twice as fast as the Royal Navy's Sea Ceptor missile (pictured) which would be responsible for shooting it down

The Zircon is capable of traveling twice as fast as the Royal Navy’s Sea Ceptor missile (pictured) which would be responsible for shooting it down

Current Navy anti-missile defenses are only equipped to shoot down projectiles traveling 2,300mph, meaning they would be useless against the Zicron.

This would force aircraft carriers to anchor outside of their estimated 500 mile range

That would make it impossible for the carrier’s jets and helicopters to reach their target, carry out their mission, and return without running out of fuel – effectively rendering them useless.

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