Tag Archives: Russia

March 25, 2017

Mosul’s children were shouting beneath the rubble. Nobody came

Coalition bombs buried more than a hundred people in the ruins of three houses and raised fresh questions about US rules of engagement

 

By the time rescuers finally arrived no one was left alive. For almost a week desperate neighbours had scraped through the rubble, searching for as many as 150 people who lay buried after three homes in a west Mosul suburb were destroyed by coalition airstrikes.

The full picture of the carnage continued to emerge on Friday, when at least 20 bodies were recovered. Dozens more are thought to remain buried in what could turn out to be the single most deadly incident for civilians in the war against Islamic State (Isis).

Rescuers at the scene in the suburb of Mosul Jadida said they had driven the 250 miles from Baghdad but had not been able to enter the area until Wednesday, five days after airstrikes hit the houses where local residents had been sheltering from fierce fighting between Iraqi forces and Isis.

Neighbours said at least 80 bodies had been recovered from one house alone, where people had been encouraged by local elders to take shelter. Rescuers were continuing to dig through the ruins, and the remains of two other houses nearby, which had also been pulverised in attacks that were described as “relentless and horrifying”.

The US military said it was launching an investigation. Cololnel Joseph Scrocca, from the US-led command in Baghdad, said “the coalition has opened a formal civilian casualty credibility assessment on this allegation” from Mosul.

The destruction took place in a district that was last week a frontline in the battle for Mosul. Locals said militants had positioned a sniper on the roof of the home that had sheltered the largest number of people. It has raised fresh questions about rules of engagement in the war against the terror group, after two recent US airstrikes in Syria resulted in at least 90 casualties, nearly all of them thought to be civilian.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/24/mosuls-children-were-shouting-under-the-rubble-nobody-came

Was Westminster terrorist guided by a mastermind? Killer’s phone was STILL connected to another on Whatsapp when he died raising fears he was taking instructions

  • Khalid Masood murdered four and injured at least 29 in Westminster attack
  • Jihadist Masood, 52, drove 4×4 into pedestrians along Westminster Bridge 
  • MailOnline revealed that Massod was on Whatsapp minutes before the attack
  • Police are now focusing their investigation on the killer’s online communications
  • However WhatsApp messages  are visible only to the person who has sent them and the individuals that were meant to receive

The Westminster attacker’s online communications have now become the core of the investigation around the terror raid with security forces keen to ascertain if he was receiving instructions from a jihadist master moments before he unleashed carnage.

Khalid Massod was on WhatsApp at 2.37pm on Wednesday, approximately two minutes before ploughing into people on Westminster Bridge and four minutes before he was shot dead by armed officers outside the Palaces of Westminster, the MailOnline exclusively revealed yesterday.

Now, Masood’s messages with others on the encrypted messaging service have prompted police to up their search for jihadist associates of the killer.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4348392/Was-Masood-guided-terror-mastermind-WhatsApp.html#ixzz4cL3OI0rb

Saudi embassy confirms UK attacker had been in Saudi Arabia

A Saudi Embassy statement released late Friday said that Khalid Masood taught English in Saudi Arabia from November 2005 to November 2006 and again from April 2008 to April 2009.

The embassy said that he had a work visa. It said he returned for six days in March 2015 on a trip booked through an approved travel agent.

The Saudi Embassy said that he wasn’t tracked by the country’s security services and didn’t have a criminal record there.

Before taking the name Masood, he was known as Adrian Elms. He was known for having a violent temper in England and had been convicted at least twice for violent crimes.

Masood drove his rented SUV across the crowded Westminster Bridge on Wednesday, striking pedestrians. Then he jumped out and attacked police officer Keith Palmer, who was guarding Parliament, fatally stabbing him before being shot dead by police.

In all, he killed four people and left more than two dozen hospitalized, including some with what have been described as catastrophic injuries. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/03/25/saudi-embassy-confirms-uk-attacker-had-been-in-saudi-arabia.html

Thousands attend funeral of slain Hamas terrorist as group vows revenge

Organization claims Israeli agents assassinated Mazen Faqha, in an attempt to ‘wage clandestine war’ against it

 

Thousands attended the funeral of a top Hamas terrorist in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, as leaders of the terror group continued to blame Israel for his killing and threatened retribution.

Mazen Faqha, a Hamas official freed as part of the 2011 deal to release captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and deported to Gaza, was assassinated on Friday evening by unknown gunme.

A Hamas official quoted by Army Radio said Israel was “trying to force a new model of a clandestine war on Hamas, as it has failed in the open war model.” He said Hamas would know how to respond to such tactics.

Khalil al-Haya, Hamas’s deputy chief in the Gaza Strip, said at the funeral that Israel “will bear responsibility for the killing.” On Friday al-Haya said that only the Jewish state would have had something to gain from the death.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/thousands-attend-funeral-of-slain-hamas-terrorist-as-group-vows-revenge/

Syria said threatening to fire Scud missiles at Israel

Assad regime says attacks by IDF on Syrian targets will be met with counter strikes on military bases, Haifa port

The Syrian leadership has sent messages to Israel warning that any further strikes by the IDF on targets within Syria’s borders would be met with Scud rockets fired deep into the Jewish state, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Diyar reported Saturday.

The Assad regime conveyed the message to Israel via Russian mediators, the report said.

According to the report, Syria warned that Israeli strikes on Syrian military targets would be met with the firing of Scud missiles capable of carrying half a ton of explosives at IDF bases, while an attack on civilian targets would see Syria launching a counter strike on the Haifa port and the petrochemical plants in the area.

The report warned that Syria has over 800 Scud missiles and that Syria would not issue any warnings before the missile strikes because Israel does not warn before it hits.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/syria-threatens-to-fire-scud-missiles-at-israel-report/

 

Two charged over arms supply to French airport attacker

Remanded suspects indicted for weapons possession and ‘association with terrorist criminals’ in connection with attack on Paris airport

March 25, 2017, 2:31 pm

PARIS — French anti-terrorism judges have charged two men suspected of involvement in supplying a weapon to the gunman killed at Paris’s Orly airport after attacking soldiers, a judicial source said Saturday.

The suspects, aged 30 and 43, were charged Friday for “association with terrorist criminals” over the March 18 attack and are being held in custody, the source said.

The younger one was also charged with arms possession related to a terror plot. They are both from the Paris area and lived close to the assailant, Ziyed Ben Belgacem, according to a preliminary investigation.

Ben Belgacem, 39, was under the influence of drugs and alcohol when he attacked the capital’s second busiest airport, according to judicial sources.

Ben Belgacem, born in France to Tunisian parents, grabbed a soldier on patrol at Orly’s southern terminal and put a gun to her head and seized her rifle, saying he wanted to “die for Allah.”

His father insisted his son — who had spent time in prison for armed robbery and drug-dealing — was not an extremist.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/two-charged-over-arms-supply-to-french-airport-attacker/

Flynn, Turkish officials talked about removal of Erdogan foe from US, former CIA boss says

Retired Army Lt. Mike Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, met last summer with top Turkish officials to discuss removing the cleric Turkey blamed for last year’s failed coup and delivering him to Ankara, a former Central Intelligence Agency director told The Wall Street Journal.

James Woolsey said the meeting occurred in September inside the Essex House hotel in New York. Woolsey told the paper that he arrived in the middle of the conversation, but said the basic idea was a “covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.” The group as reportedly refering to Fethullah Gulen.

Woolsey told the paper he found the conversation startling and possibly illegal. But he did not say anything because there were no specifics. Woolsey said he notified Vice President Biden through a mutual friend.

People briefed on the meeting told The Journal that the ideas were raised hypothetically. Woolsey, who served under President Clinton, told The Journal that the conversation “seemed to be naïve.”

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/03/24/flynn-turkish-officials-talked-about-removal-erdogan-foe-from-us-former-cia-boss-says.html

Putin meets French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen at Kremlin

Putin meets with Marine Le Pen at the Kremlin

  • French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has sought closer ties with Russia
  • Vladimir Putin spokesman: Russia isn’t trying to influence upcoming French election

(CNN)Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed the “great importance” of ties between his country and France as he met French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen at the Kremlin on Friday, Russian state-run news agency Tass reported.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that Russia was not seeking to influence the upcoming French election but had the right to communicate with French politicians.

Russia had no intention of “interfering in anyone’s internal business or electoral processes,” Peskov said.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/24/europe/putin-le-pen-kremlin/

Russia denies supplying Taliban after Scaparrotti claim

Moscow rejects NATO commander’s remark that it is ‘perhaps’ aiding the Taliban in fighting against US and allied forces.

Russia’s foreign ministry has dismissed a US general’s allegations that it may be supplying Taliban fighters in Afghanistan as “fabrications”.

Curtis Scaparrotti, the top US general in Europe, said on Thursday that he had witnessed Russia’s influence grow in many regions, including in Afghanistan.

In a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Scaparrotti, who is NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, said Moscow was “perhaps” supplying the Taliban in fighting against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/russia-denies-supplying-taliban-scaparrotti-claim-170324173505618.html

Iran TARGETS weapons at US warships that scramble deadly helicopters in FIERCE stand-off

ALARM are ringing in Washington after American warships were “harassed” by “aggressive” Iranian forces – who trained their weapons against the vessels.

The incident was condemned by US security forces who said Iran had been acting increasingly provocatively and unpredictably in recent months.Despite being in international waters in the Strait of Hormuz, the American ships were aggressively approached by members of the Iranian Navy on Tuesday.

Iranian forces trained their weapons on the US flotilla, which was made up of five ships and included the huge aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/783548/iran-usa-navy-military-warships-strait-of-hormuz

US-backed Syrian fighters reach IS-held dam in north Syria

U.S.-backed Syrian fighters reached a major dam held by the Islamic State group in northern Syria Friday as Syria’s U.N. ambassador said hundreds of American personnel are “invading my country,” insisting that any effort to liberate the city of Raqqa — the de facto capital of the Islamic State group — should be done in coordination with the Damascus government.

The push toward the Tishrin Dam came three days after U.S. aircraft ferried Syrian Kurdish fighters and allies behind IS lines to spearhead a major ground assault on the IS-held town of Tabqa where the dam is located. Tabqa is west of the city of Raqqa.

IS has been pounded in Syria in recent months with attacks against the extremists from three fronts, the U.S.-backed fighters, Turkish troops and their allies near the border with Turkey, and government forces in the northern province of Aleppo.

The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said government forces captured late Friday the town of Deir Hafer, the last IS stronghold in Aleppo province, after troops stormed the town under the cover of Russian airstrikes.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/french-defense-chief-battle-syrias-raqqa-days-46344501

Muqtada al-Sadr threatens to boycott Iraq elections

Powerful Shia leader demands changes to electoral law at Baghdad demonstration attended by thousands of supporters.

Influential religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr has told thousands of supporters in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, that he will boycott upcoming elections unless the country’s electoral law is changed.

Supporters of the Shia cleric have repeatedly rallied for changes to the law and the country’s electoral committee, which is dominated by affiliates of powerful political parties.

If “the law remains … this means that we will order a boycott of the elections,” Sadr said in remarks televised at Friday’s demonstration in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.

Iraq is set to hold holding provincial elections later this year, and parliamentary elections in 2018.

Sadr, a vocal critic of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, did not specify the specific changes he wants to take place, but the current law has been criticised as being biased towards large political parties over smaller ones.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/muqtada-al-sadr-threatens-boycott-iraq-elections-170324152533689.html

Central Congo militia decapitates 40 police officers in ambush

Militia fighters in central Democratic Republic of Congo decapitated about 40 police officers in an ambush, local officials said on Saturday, the deadliest attack on security forces since an insurrection in the region began last August.

The Kamuina Nsapu militants attacked the police on Friday as they drove from Tshikapa to Kananga. The militia members stole arms and vehicles, Francois Kalamba, speaker of the Kasai provincial assembly, told Reuters.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-congo-violence-idUSKBN16W0HN

 

Turkey threatens again to take actions regarding Cyprus’ natural gas

Turkey has condemned Cyprus’ research for natural gas in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), in a statement from the Foreign Ministry.

“These contacts clearly demonstrate yet again how the Greek Cypriot Administration disregards, in its unilateral pursuit of hydrocarbon-related activities, the inalienable rights on natural resources of the Turkish Cypriot people, the co-owners of the Island,” the statement reads, about meetings President Nicos Anastasiades had with natural gas companies in the US on March 22.

Ankara has also condemned the fact contracts were signed in the Republic of Cyprus for exploration of the EEZ, and that the Greek Cypriot side “is still not able to grasp the win-win-based potential for economic cooperation that can ensue on the Island and in the Eastern Mediterranean from a comprehensive settlement, towards which the Turkish Cypriot side and turkey have been expending intensive efforts.”

http://www.tornosnews.gr/en/tourism-businesses/new-investments/24162-turkey-threatens-again-to-take-actions-regarding-cyprus%E2%80%99-natural-gas.html

Cyber Firm Rewrites Part of Disputed Russian Hacking Report

U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike has revised and retracted statements it used to buttress claims of Russian hacking during last year’s American presidential election campaign. The shift followed a VOA report that the company misrepresented data published by an influential British think tank.

In December, CrowdStrike said it found evidence that Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app, contributing to heavy losses of howitzers in Ukraine’s war with pro-Russian separatists.

VOA reported Tuesday that the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), which publishes an annual reference estimating the strength of world armed forces, disavowed the CrowdStrike report and said it had never been contacted by the company.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense also has stated that the combat losses and hacking never happened.

CrowdStrike was first to link hacks of Democratic Party computers to Russian actors last year, but some cybersecurity experts have questioned its evidence. The company has come under fire from some Republicans who say charges of Kremlin meddling in the election are overblown.

After CrowdStrike released its Ukraine report, company co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch claimed it provided added evidence of Russian election interference. In both hacks, he said, the company found malware used by “Fancy Bear,” a group with ties to Russian intelligence agencies.

http://www.newdelhitimes.com/cyber-firm-rewrites-part-of-disputed-russian-hacking-report123/

Serbia says no to NATO on alliance’s airstrikes anniversary

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s prime minister pledged on Friday that the Balkan country will never join NATO or any other military alliance as Serbia marked the 18th anniversary of the start of NATO airstrikes that stopped its crackdown in Kosovo.

Aleksandar Vucic spoke at a ceremony near a railway bridge in southern Serbia where the Western military alliance’s missiles struck a passenger train, killing at least 28 people and injuring dozens.

“We will never be part of the alliance which killed our children, nor of any other alliance,” Vucic said. “They wanted to destroy and humiliate small Serbia and kill its children.”

Anti-NATO sentiments run high in Serbia since the 78-day bombing in 1999 over a bloody crackdown by Serbian forces against Kosovo Albanian separatists. Serbian officials claim that more than 2,000 people were killed in the airstrikes while independent estimates put that figure at about 800, mostly soldiers and police.

Some 10,000 people died and 1,660 are still missing from the 1998-1999 Kosovo war that ended with the NATO intervention and the withdrawal of Serbian troops from its former, majority ethnic Albanian-populated province. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, which Serbia doesn’t recognize.

Although it is a member of a NATO outreach program and is formally seeking EU membership, Serbia has lately been boosting its military cooperation with Russia, which has agreed to deliver fighter jets, tanks and anti-aircraft systems.

http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/serbia-says-no-to-nato-on-alliances-airstrikes-anniversary

N. Korea invents ‘quantum code communication’ tech: Naenara

Quantum communication system would make hacking or eavesdropping more difficult

North Korea claims it has invented a system for secure quantum-cryptographic communications, according to a report from the state-run Naenara news outlet published on Friday.

Quantum cryptography leverages the intrinsic properties of quantum theory to secure communications against outside interference or hacking.

“The scientists of Kim Il Sung University have succeeded in developing a quantum code communications technology, which makes it possible to open up a bright prospect for blocking various kinds of hacking and wiretapping from their sources by taking hold of its core technologies,” the Naenara report claims.

The article adds that DPRK scientists have solved “all the problems” associated with the technology, having designed bespoke circuits, and go on to say they can securely encode “all communications concerning images, sound and documents.”

“I’m guessing they are talking about quantum key distribution.  These systems are used to establish the cryptographic keys between two parties,” Dr Matthew Rose-Clarke, former Ph.D. researcher at CERN told NK News.

https://www.nknews.org/2017/03/n-korea-invents-quantum-code-communication-tech-naenara/

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March 24, 2017

Jihadi terror manuals on how to use a car as a ‘tool of war’ for mass murder can be found in just two minutes on Google and Twitter

  • Fanatics are urged to use cars before going on stabbing rampage in the guides
  • Video revealed after Khalid Masood killed three in car then stabbed a policeman
  • Manuals told jihadists in West to learn from Palestinian terrorists who use cars 
  • News comes as Boris Johnson accused social media sites of inciting terrorism 

Guides to mounting a car terror attack were available on Google and Twitter last night.

The vile manuals were online despite widespread warnings that UK jihadists use them for training.

Fanatics are urged to deploy large vehicles as ‘tools of war’ before going on a stabbing rampage – the template for Wednesday’s atrocity in Westminster. Boris Johnson accused social media websites of inciting terrorism.

The vile manuals were online despite widespread warnings that UK jihadists use them for training

And Google’s YouTube video platform was found to be raking in money from conspiracy theories saying the London outrage was a hoax.

As the maniac behind the attack was unmasked as 52-year-old Khalid Masood:

  •  The security services faced questions because he was known to police and MI5;
  •  Home Secretary Amber Rudd denied failures but admitted: ‘One got through’;
  •  It emerged MPs had raised concerns about the Commons gates Masood waltzed through;
  •  Officials revealed that he was shot dead by a ministerial bodyguard, rather than by armed police;
  •  Islamic State claimed Masood was its ‘soldier’;
  •  Officers made eight arrests around the country;
  •  The death toll rose to five when a 75-year-old man died in hospital last night.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4344338/Jihadi-terror-manuals-use-car-tool-war.html#ixzz4cF84mUUX

EXC: MPs railed against use of armed police at Parliamentary gates because they created a bad ‘atmosphere’ and said anti-terror barriers were ‘UGLY’

  • Interviews with MPs and staff from 2014 reveal resistance to boosting security
  • They complained that security barriers surrounding parliament were ‘ugly’ 
  • Also griped about armed police at main entrances creating bad ‘atmosphere’ 
MPs complained in 2014 that armed police being deployed at the Parliamentary gates because they created a bad 'atmosphere'

MPs complained in 2014 that armed police being deployed at the Parliamentary gates because they created a bad ‘atmosphere’

MPs railed against the armed police being deployed at the Parliamentary gates because they created a bad ‘atmosphere’.

There were also a slew of complaints that security barriers to prevent terrorists ramming cars into the building were ‘ugly’.

The complaints, in response to a survey by the House authorities in 2014, lay bare the extent of resistance among politicians to modernising security on the estate before the bloody terror attack this week.

Armed officers are not currently stationed round the clock at the Carriage Gates, the main entrance that looks out on to Parliament Square.

Khalid Masood marauded through the access point on Wednesday, stabbing Pc Keith Palmer to death. He was shot by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s personal guards after making it around 20 yards on to the estate.

Lib Dem MP Tom Brake, a member of the ruling Commons Commission, suggested today that officers manning the gates should always be armed or accompanied more closely by armed colleagues.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4346698/EXC-MPs-complained-armed-police-Parliament-gates.html#ixzz4cIGBINEv

Iran’s Spymaster Claims Pro-Regime Agents Operating in D.C., London, Canada

Claims pro-Iran ‘lobby’ pushing Tehran’s agenda in D.C.
March 23, 2017 3:28 pm

Iran maintains a network of spies and lobbyists who clandestinely push the Islamic regime’s agenda in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, according to the head of Iran’s ministry of intelligence, who touted the pro-Iran network’s ability to spread its ideology to the West.

Mahmoud Alavi, Iran’s intelligence minister, in recent remarks independently translated by the Washington Free Beacon, bragged about the Islamic Republic’s ability to operate an unnamed “lobby group” in D.C. that helps to push the regime’s hardline agenda.

Alavi disclosed that Iranians with dual citizenship in the United States, Canada, and England, remain devoted to the “Islamic revolution” and are working to promote this agenda in their adopted homelands.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/irans-spymaster-claims-pro-regime-agents-operating-d-c-london-canada/

2 more ‘significant’ arrests made in investigation into London attack

Authorities said two officers are listed in critical condition. Reuters reported on Friday that the attacker’s birth name was Arian Russell.

According to police, Masood was born in Kent, U.K., and they believe he was most recently living in the West Midlands, which includes the city of Birmingham.

Masood was known to authorities and had a range of previous convictions for assaults, including grievous bodily harm, possession of offensive weapons and public order offenses.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the rampage, saying Masood was “an Islamic State soldier” who “carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of the coalition.”

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/03/24/2-more-significant-arrests-made-in-investigation-into-london-attack.html

#DarkSeaSkies: CIA’s tool to hack MacBook Air in under 29 seconds exposed

Amidst WikiLeaks’ revelations about the CIA’s capabilities to hack into Apple products is DarkSeaSkies – a tool used to monitor and control MacBook Air that’s physically installed by a CIA agent or asset in “less than 29 seconds.”

DarkSeaSkies is a tool that runs in the background of a MacBook Air to allow the CIA command and control laptops. It is delivered via “supply chain intercept or a gift to the target.”

It’s loaded onto a MacBook via booting through a thumb drive. The CIA’s user document explains: “It is assumed that an operator or asset has one-time physical access to the target system and can boot the target system to an external flash drive.”

A 2009 “user requirements” document on DarkSeaSkies explains it was created to allow the CIA to access a MacBook Air.

The CIA’s COG [Computer Operations Group] had a “time-sensitive operational need” to install the Nightskies tool onto a MacBook Air, as the CIA had an “opportunity to gift a MacBook Air to a target that will be implanted with this tool.” It’s unknown who this target was.

https://www.rt.com/viral/382095-darkseaskies-cia-mackbook-darkmatter/

Swiss open probe into spying in Switzerland’s Turkish community

Switzerland has opened a criminal probe into possible spying involving Switzerland’s Turkish community, federal prosecutors said on Friday.

“The Office of the Attorney General has been made aware of concrete suspicion that political espionage has likely been conducted involving the Turkish community in Switzerland,” the agency said in a statement, giving no details about the probe launched on March 16.

The Swiss foreign minister told his Turkish counterpart on Thursday that Switzerland would “rigorously investigate” any illegal spying by Ankara on expatriate Turks before an April 16 referendum that could expand Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-swiss-turkey-espionage-idUSKBN16V1GD?il=0

In Venezuela’s Toxic Brew, Failed Narco-State Meets Iran-Backed Terrorism

In Venezuela’s Toxic Brew, Failed Narco-State Meets Iran-Backed Terrorism

As if the political and economic chaos wracking Venezuela wasn’t worrying enough, a couple of recent stories underscore the potential national security threat brewing there. First, last month’s designation of Venezuela’s vice president, Tareck El Aissami, as a drug kingpin by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Second, a CNN investigative report revealing that Venezuela’s embassy in Iraq was allegedly selling Venezuelan passports and identity documents to Middle Eastern nationals — raising the disturbing prospect that Caracas is facilitating the entry of Islamist militants to Latin America. Indeed, the CNN report echoed revelations from 2013 that the Venezuelan embassy in Syria was issuing passports to terrorists under the direction of Ghazi Atef Nassereddine, a Treasury-sanctioned, FBI-wanted Venezuelan diplomat who happens to be a key Hezbollah operative. Put all this together and what do you get? A rabidly anti-American failed state that appears to be incubating the convergence of narco-trafficking and jihadism in America’s own backyard.

Venezuela’s links to the drug trade are deep and well documented. Collusion with the cartels reaches the highest levels of the state. Two nephews of President Nicolás Maduro were arrested in Haiti and convicted on drug trafficking charges by a federal jury in Manhattan last November. General Néstor Luis Reverol Torres — Venezuela’s current minister of interior and justice, and former head of its national anti-narcotics agency — was indicted in the United States last August on cocaine trafficking charges, along with a former captain in Venezuela’s National Guard. The list of officials implicated in narco-trafficking also includes a former minister of interior and justice, two senior intelligence officers who later became governors, and now Vice President El Aissami

In Venezuela’s Toxic Brew, Failed Narco-State Meets Iran-Backed Terrorism

Venezuela expresses ‘desire’ to reestablish relations with Israel

8 years after Caracas expelled Israeli envoy, chief rabbi says he pitched a ‘period of courtship,’ consular relations before full ties

[Editor’s Note: Venezuela since Hugo Chavez and including Maduro has been anti semitic and anti-Israel in the extreme.  There are only 20,000 or fewer Jews in Venezuela, and many are leaving because of pressure from the regime. This initiative appears to indicate the extreme desperation of the current government.]

Venezuela’s foreign minister expressed to his country’s chief rabbi “the desire to establish full relations with the State of Israel” eight years after the South American nation expelled its Israeli ambassador.

“We suggested to start with a period of courtship, which means a beginning through consular relations, so that later it will become a marriage, which would be Israel’s own embassy again in Venezuela, as we have always had here,” Venezuela’s Sephardic chief rabbi, Isaac Cohen, told AJN News.

Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez spoke of the country’s commitment to re-establish ties during a meeting last Friday with several Jewish leaders, including Cohen and Elias Farache, president of the Confederation of Israelite Associations of Venezuela, the umbrella Jewish organization.

Cohen said that he has been in touch with the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

“I am an Orthodox and Zionist rabbi, and for me it is Jewish pride to have the flag of the State of Israel hoisted here in Venezuela, as in any country where there is a Jewish community. That gives us peace and tranquility, it’s fundamental,” the rabbi said.

Last month, President Nicolas Maduro welcomed a Jewish delegation including Cohen and Farache at the governmental palace to strengthen cooperation that over the years has faced roadblocks.

“A good day of dialogue for peace. Boosting the co-existence and the dialog of civilizations, of religions to consolidate our nation,” the far-leftist leader tweeted after the meeting.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/venezuela-expresses-desire-to-reestablish-relations-with-israel/

 

Imam calling for Jews to be killed in sermon at Montreal mosque draws police complaint

Larger Muslim community wants apology from mosque and wonders why controversial imam was invited to preach

By Brennan Neill, Stephen Smith, CBC News

The controversial imam is Jordanian cleric Sheikh Muhammad bin Musa Al Nasr who was the invited guest of a Saint-Michel mosque.

The controversial imam is Jordanian cleric Sheikh Muhammad bin Musa Al Nasr who was the invited guest of a Saint-Michel mosque. (YouTube)

A Montreal mosque is facing a police complaint and rebukes from the larger Muslim community after a video of an imam delivering a sermon in which he asks for Jews to be killed surfaced online.

The sermon took place at the Dar Al-Arqam Mosque in the city’s Saint-Michel neighbourhood on Dec. 23, 2016.

The video was posted to the mosque’s YouTube channel three days later. The imam in the video is Jordanian cleric Sheikh Muhammad bin Musa Al Nasr — he was reportedly an invited guest of the mosque.

In the video, the imam recites in Arabic the verse: “O Muslim, O servant of Allah, O Muslim, O servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

CBC independently verified the speech and its translation.

The controversial verse comes from a religious text known as a hadith, which interprets the words and actions by the Prophet Muhammad.

The hadith in question deals with end times and tells how stones and trees will ask Muslims to come and kill Jews hiding behind them.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/imam-sermon-montreal-mosque-1.4037397

 

China’s ZTE Pleads Guilty to Illegally Shipping U.S. Technology to Iran.

Mar 22, 2017

Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE on Wednesday pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court in Texas for illegally shipping U.S. goods and technology to Iran.

The guilty plea was part of an agreement the company reached earlier this month with U.S. authorities that also called for nearly $900 million in fines and other penalties.

The company admitted to three charges: conspiring to export American-made items to Iran without a license from the U.S. government, obstructing justice, and making a material false statement.

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A five-year investigation had found ZTE (ZTCOY, +1.86%) conspired to evade U.S. embargoes by buying U.S. components, incorporating them into ZTE equipment and illegally shipping them to Iran.

ZTE, which devised elaborate schemes to hide the illegal activity, agreed to the guilty plea after the U.S. Commerce Department took actions that threatened to cut off the gear maker’s global supply chain.

http://fortune.com/2017/03/22/zte-guilty-shipping-us-technology-iran/

Russia, India in Talks on Creating New Models of BrahMos Missiles – Putin’s Aide

Russia and India are in talks on creating new models of missiles at the BrahMos Aerospace joint enterprise, Russian Presidential Aide for Military-Technical Cooperation Vladimir Kozhin said Thursday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — India has set a target of $2 billion defense exports, a six-fold increase from current exports, by 2019. In order to give impetus to exports, the Narendra Modi government has allowed government-owned defense companies to earmark 10 per cent of their production for exports. “The biggest challenge in boosting defense exports from India is the limited range of exportable products, limited overseas markets and predominance of defense manufacturers who have been in the business far longer than India,” Cowshish added.

“Today, Indian partners propose to develop, deepen this cooperation, make new models of the missile, these talks are underway,” Kozhin said in an interview with Rossiya 24 television channel.

A hypersonic version of the BrahMos cruise missile, capable of flying at up to 5,000 kilometers per hour, is expected to be created by 2020.

https://sputniknews.com/military/201703231051898499-russia-india-brahmos/

France’s Marine Le Pen urges end to Russia sanctions

France’s far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has called for the lifting of EU sanctions on Russia, during a visit to Moscow.

The National Front (FN) leader called for closer French-Russian ties at a meeting in Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma.

She told its speaker sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea were counterproductive, Interfax reported.

Ms Le Pen has also met President Vladimir Putin.

He reportedly told her that Russia had no intention of interfering in the election, but had the right to meet any French politicians it wanted.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39375969

Terror suspect ‘drives car full of liquid gas, knives and rifles at high speed’ into Antwerp shopping crowds

Terrified pedestrians had to jump out of the way as the car entered the pedestrianised street just a day after the London terror attack

A suspected terrorist has been arrested in Belgium after he allegedly tried to drive a car into shoppers on a pedestrianised street – less than 24 hours after the attack in London.

The vehicle was reportedly full of liquid gas, knives and rifles.

Terrified pedestrians had to jump out of the way as the car entered the De Meir shopping street in Antwerp at high speed on Thursday morning.

The suspected driver, who was wearing camouflage, was later arrested by police, local media reported.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/antwerp-belgium-car-attack-london-10083953

U.S. Senate to vote on Montenegro’s NATO membership

The U.S. Senate will vote next week on the ratification of Montenegro as the newest member of the NATO alliance, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday, after the Trump administration urged lawmakers to take up the long-delayed matter.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had written to the leaders of the Senate to say Montenegro’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was “strongly in the interests of the United States.”

All 28 of NATO’s members must ratify Montenegro’s accession before it can formally join the alliance. The vote in the U.S. Senate was held up for months when at least two Republican senators, Rand Paul and Mike Lee, blocked a quick vote.

The Senate’s Republican leadership had not scheduled a more time-consuming roll call vote until Thursday. McConnell announced in the Senate that there would be a procedural vote on Monday evening, which should clear the way for a final ratification vote later in the week.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-nato-montenegro-idUSKBN16U33K

Moldovan PM Pavel Filip : NATO liaison office will open in Chisinau this July

1703241027561490270672original_8.jpg

Moldovan PM Pavel Filip said on Thursday at the end of the joint Romania – Moldova government meeting in Piatra Neamt that a NATO liaison office will open in Chisinau this July. Premier Pavel Filip also reaffirmed support for the participation of the Moldovan army in NATO joint exercises carried out outside country borders. 

“I said that the Republic of Moldova is a parliamentary country and the important decisions are taken by the government and Parliament. At the same time, we have the institution of the President who is also the commander-in-chief. We were faced with a less pleasant situation when the national army was unable to participate in the military exercises organized in Romania, under the NATO aegis. You are perfectly aware of President Igor Dodon’s stance and his love towards NATO. We managed to sign an agreement with NATO and a NATO liaison office will open in Chisinau in July. Back then we had discussions with the President of the country and explained to him that most of the national forces’ plan of activities related to training and exercises – that is about 80 percent – will take place outside the territory of the Republic of Moldova with the support of our NATO partners. The further refuse to participate in these exercises would mean the weakening of the national army, and it makes no logic when a commander-in-chief is complacent with the weakening of the National Forces. I believe this was the first and last time when this confusion occurred and that in the future the National Army of Moldova will participate in all applications. Even more than that, we should thank for this support with the training and exercises the Moldovan army participates in,” said Prime Minister Pavel Filip. 

http://actmedia.eu/daily/moldovan-pm-pavel-filip-nato-liaison-office-will-open-in-chisinau-this-july/68714

Pentagon worried about Chinese investment in US startups: report

The Pentagon is worried about new American technology firms turning to Chinese companies for investment on potential military applications, The New York Times reported.

Chinese firms are sending money to U.S. startups, include rocket engine manufacturers, companies that design sensors for autonomous naval ships and printers that make flexible screens that could be used in fighter jets. Many of the Chinese firms making the investments are owned by state-owned companies or have connections to Chinese officials, according to the Times.

Department of Defense (DOD) officials worry about the investments because they have found that China is encouraging companies with close government ties to invest in U.S. startups specializing in technology that could advance China’s military and its economy, according to a new DOD special report.

The Pentagon sent the report — commissioned before President Trump took office — to senior administration officials this week.

Details on the size of the deals are not available, as startups and their investors are not required to disclose them.

http://thehill.com/policy/defense/325519-pentagon-worried-about-chinese-investment-in-us-startups-report

Cyber war: Defense firms face battle to guard secrets

Thousands of defense contractors face a Pentagon directive to boost cyber security defenses by the end of the year, but many will likely won’t have all the safeguards in place, a cyber expert says.

“We don’t anticipate many companies being close to being compliant by the end of the year,” said Timothy Birt, Riverside Research information technology security administrator in Beavercreek.

Hackers target secret data on weapon systems, classified research on leap-ahead technology and personal information on top scientists and others with critical jobs.

“The interest in that personal data is to actually use it against employees of clear defense contractors to blackmail them or just coerce them into giving up information that they may not otherwise want to do,” Birt said.

 

Some of the prizes adversaries have pilfered via cyber espionage have loomed large: Congressional leaders have pointed out the close resemblance between the Chinese J-31 and the U.S. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the target of a cyber hack.

The Defense Science Board detailed other weapon systems cyber spies have stolen designs and data on span the F/A-18 fighter jet; the V-22 vertical take-off and landing aircraft; the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship and the Black Hawk helicopter, The Washington Post has reported.

“Cyber attacks have become the preferred method of conducting espionage, because virtually every U.S. secret is on a network somewhere.,” said Loren B. Thompson, senior defense analyst and a defense industry consultant with the Virginia-headquartered Lexington Institute. “If enemies can gain access to those networks, they can avoid the difficulty of planting agents in organizations — a drawn out and dangerous process.

http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/cyber-war-defense-firms-face-battle-guard-secrets/q5nqjUomGdjXeI5JQV1ceL/

 

 

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March 23, 2017

London Terror Killer Named as Convicted Criminal Khalid Masood

London’s Metropolitan Police named the man responsible for Wednesday’s Westminster terror attack as British born Khalid Masood.

In a press release from Scotland Yard Thursday afternoon approximately 25 hours after the attack took place, the force revealed 52-year-old Khalid Masood, born in Kent but lately a resident of the West Midlands was responsible for Wednesday’s deadly attack that killed three, including a British-Spanish woman, an American tourist, and a police officer.

Revealing that the killer wasn’t being monitored for terror reasons but had previously been convicted of criminal offences, Scotland Yard said: “Masood was not the subject of any current investigations and there was no prior intelligence about his intent to mount a terrorist attack.

“However, he was known to police and has a range of previous convictions for assaults, including GBH, possession of offensive weapons and public order offences.

“His first conviction was in November 1983 for criminal damage and his last conviction was in December 2003 for possession of a knife.

“He has not been convicted for any terrorism offences”.

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2017/03/23/london-terror-killer-named-convicted-criminal-khalid-masood/

London attack: Theresa May reveals ‘Islamist’ terrorist was British citizen who had been investigated by MI5 over extremism

The Westminster terrorist who brought bloodshed to the heart of London was a British citizen who had been investigated by MI5 over violent extremism, Theresa May has disclosed to the Commons.

The Prime Minister said the attacker – believed to have been inspired by Islamist terrorism – was known to the police and security services, as she defiantly vowed: “We are not afraid and our resolve will never waiver in the face of terrorism.”

Mrs May said the assailant who killed three people, including a police officer, was a “peripheral” figure and added: “He was not part of the current intelligence picture.”

She was speaking as it emerged eight people have been arrested in connection with the terror attack. Scotland Yard said six addresses have been raided in London, Birmingham and elsewhere overnight following the attack linked to “Islamic terrorism in some form”.

Police revised the death toll from Wednesday’s atrocity down from five to four – the attacker, who has not been identified but who police believe acted alone; Pc Keith Palmer, who he stabbed; Aysha Frade, a Spanish teacher and mother of two, and a man in his 50s – both of whom where mown down as the terrorist sped across Westminster Bridge in his car.

 

A total of 29 people were treated in hospital following the carnage, with seven people remaining in a critical condition on Thursday morning. The injured included 12 Britons, including three police officers who were returning from an event to recognise their bravery.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/23/london-attack-seven-arrested-police-raid-properties-linked-islamist/

Ukrainian arms warehouse storing 138,000 TONNES of rockets and tank ammunition is blown up by saboteurs forcing 20,000 to be evacuated

  • Military base was blown up in the early hours of Thursday morning in Balakleya
  • Rescue teams are helping residents in nearby villages evacuate in Kharkiv region
  • Explosions caused several sites in the warehouse storing weapons to blow up
  • Base is located 60 miles from Ukraine’s war against Russian-backed separatists 

The Ukrainian military said unknown saboteurs blew up a warehouse storing tank ammunition at a military base in the east of the country early on Thursday.

The base, which contained about 138,000 tonnes of ammunition including rockets and tank ammunition, is located in the city of Balakleya about 100 km (60 miles) from the frontline of Ukraine’s war against Russian-backed separatists.

Rescue teams were helping residents nearby villages in the eastern Kharkiv region, the military said, and up to 20,000 were evacuated.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4341530/Ukrainian-arms-warehouse-blown-saboteurs.html

Former Russian lawmaker shot dead in central Kiev (GRAPHIC VIDEO)

Former Russian lawmaker shot dead in central Kiev (GRAPHIC VIDEO)
Former Russian lawmaker Denis Voronenkov has been shot and killed in central Kiev, Ukrainian police have said.

“There was an exchange of fire in front of the entrance to the Premier-Palace Hotel about 40 minutes ago. One man was killed and two other persons were injured. The identity of the killed man has been established. He is a Russian politician, a former State Duma member. Yes, I can confirm that he is Denis Voronenkov,” the head of Kiev police, Andrey Krishchenko, said, as cited by TASS.

Krishchenko said the assailant injured Voronenkov’s bodyguard, who fired at him in return.

“[The suspect]  is under police protection, he is being given priority medical assistance at a hospital,” Krishchenko told reporters.

Voronenkov, a former member of the Russian Communist Party, emigrated from Russia to Ukraine in October 2016. He received Ukrainian citizenship in December, having given up his status as a Russian citizen. He was highly critical of the Russian authorities.

https://www.rt.com/news/381997-voronenkov-kiev-shot-dead/

10 Egyptian soldiers killed in Sinai roadside bombings

15 jihadists also killed in clashes as soldiers raided ‘extremely dangerous’ hideout, army says

Illustrative. Smoke rises after a house was blown up in a military operation in Egypt's Sinai peninsula on November 20, 2014. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Illustrative. Smoke rises after a house was blown up in a military operation in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula on November 20, 2014. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

CAIRO, Egypt — Ten Egyptian soldiers were killed in two roadside bombings as they clashed with Islamic State group jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula, the military said on Thursday.Fifteen jihadists were also killed in the fighting, the military said in a statement, without saying when the incidents took place.

The military said the clashes broke out when soldiers raided “an extremely dangerous” jihadist hideout.

The Islamic State group had said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon that it blew up two army vehicles during clashes south of the Sinai city of El-Arish.

The jihadists have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen since the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and cracked down on his supporters.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/10-egyptian-soldiers-killed-in-sinai-roadside-bombings/

WikiLeaks Vault 7 Leak Claims CIA Bugs ‘Factory Fresh’ iPhones

A new WikiLeaks Vault 7 leak titled “Dark Matter” claims, with unreleased documents, that the Central Intelligence Agency has been bugging “factory fresh” iPhones since at least 2008. WikiLeaks further claims that the CIA has the capability to permanently bug iPhones, even if their operating systems are deleted or replaced.

The documents are expected to be released after an 11:30 a.m. EDT “press briefing” that WikiLeaks promoted on its Twitter.

WikiLeaks Vault 7 Leak Claims CIA Bugs ‘Factory Fresh’ iPhones

Japanese nationalist claims cash from Abe as scandal deepens

Hiroshi HIYAMA
AFP NewsMoreA controversial nationalist educator said under oath Thursday he had received a donation for his school from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe despite the premier’s repeated denials in an intensifying political scandal that has gripped the country.

The nationally televised testimony by Yasunori Kagoike came as his purchase of government land at a huge discount has dominated media coverage for weeks.

Abe, whose high approval ratings have taken a hit, has repeatedly denied giving Kagoike money and on more than one occasion offered to resign if he was found to be involved in the land deal.

Analysts have said that there would likely be nothing illegal in such a donation, but if proven it could damage Abe’s credibility given his steadfast denials.

https://sg.news.yahoo.com/japanese-nationalist-claims-cash-abe-scandal-deepens-083605336.html

Russian Citizens Detained, Weapons Seized in Arms Smuggling Case From US – FSB

The Russian Federal Security Service said that it had detained Russian citizens for smuggling arms from the US.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Russian citizens have been detained across four cities and 19 weapons were seized in an illicit arms trafficking case from the United States, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said Thursday.

“The activity of an interregional criminal group involved in the illegal trafficking of firearms, its main parts and ammunition, as well as the organization of a channel for their smuggling to Russia from the United States through international mail, has been stopped,” the FSB said.

Among the weapons seized by the FSB were: two machine guns; two US-made assault rifles; eight foreign and domestic pistols and revolvers; seven foreign and domestic carbines and rifles; cartridges, main parts and components for various small arms.

https://sputniknews.com/russia/201703231051871401-weapon-russia-arms-seizure/

Podesta Was Board Member Of Firms Linked To Russian Investors

RICHARD POLLOCK
Reporter

Rep. Louie Gohmert, an outspoken House Republican from Texas, is calling for a congressional investigation of John Podesta’s role with Rusnano, a state-run company founded by Russian President Vladimir Putin, The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group has learned.

Podesta — Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign chairman and former President Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff — first made contact with the Russian firm in 2011, when he joined the boards and executive committees of three related entities: Boston-based Joule Unlimited; Rotterdam-based Joule Global Holdings; Joule Global Stichting, the company’s controlling interest. All are high-tech renewable energy enterprises.

Three months after Podesta’s arrival, Joule Unlimited accepted a 1 billion ruble investment from Rusnano, amounting to $35 million in U.S. currency. The firm also awarded a Joule board seat in February 2012 to Anatoly Chubais, Rusnano’s CEO, who has been depicted as a corrupt figure.

http://dailycaller.com/2017/03/21/exclusive-podesta-was-board-member-of-firm-linked-to-russian-investors/#ixzz4cAP16wUH

Report: Iran sending explosive drones to Yemen rebels

According to sources in the region Iran is sending advanced weapons to Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement

(WASHINGTON, DC) Iran is sending advanced weapons and military advisers to Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement, stepping up support for its Shi’ite ally in a civil war whose outcome could sway the balance of power in the Middle East, regional and Western sources say.

Iran’s enemy Saudi Arabia is leading a Sunni Arab coalition fighting the Houthis in the impoverished state on the tip of the Arabian peninsula – part of the same regional power struggle that is fuelling the war in Syria.

Sources with knowledge of the military movements, who declined to be identified, said that in recent months Iran has taken a greater role in the two-year-old conflict by stepping up arms supplies and other support. This mirrors the strategy it has used to support its Lebanese ally Hezbollah in Syria.

A senior Iranian official said Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force – the external arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – met top IRGC officials in Tehran last month to look at ways to “empower” the Houthis.

“At this meeting, they agreed to increase the amount of help, through training, arms and financial support,” the official said.

“Yemen is where the real proxy war is going on and winning the battle in Yemen will help define the balance of power in the Middle East.”

Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, spokesman for the Arab coalition fighting the Houthis, told Reuters: “We don’t lack information or evidence that the Iranians, by various means, are smuggling weapons into the area.

http://www.trunews.com/article/report-iran-sending-explosive-drones-to-yemen-rebels#sthash.g8wabOtP.dpuf

Russia Deals Major Blow to Turkey’s Syria Policy

Dorian Jones

Russian and Turkish soldiers are facing off over the Syrian Kurdish canton of Afrin. Ankara says the area that borders its territory is under the control of PYD ‘terrorists’ affiliated with the Kurdish insurgent group the PKK. But Moscow, like Washington, views the PYD and its YPG militia which controls Afrin as key to fighting Islamic State.

Moscow took Ankara by surprise when it deployed forces in the canton to monitor a cease-fire between YPG and the Free Syrian Army, which is backed by Turkey. On Wednesday violence erupted again. Ankara said one of its soldiers was killed by a sniper shooting across the border, prompting Turkish artillery to retaliate.

The YPG-controlled region has been under threat since Turkey launched a military incursion into Syria in August. Operation Euphrates shield has twin objectives, of removing Islamic State and the YPG militia and its political wing PYD. But Russian deployment puts Euphrates Shield in question.

“Practically it means the end of Operation Euphrates Shield,” said former senior Turkish diplomat Aydin Selcen, who served across the region. “The military operation cannot move down south towards Raqqa, because there is the Syrian Arab Army or Assad together with the Russians. It cannot turn east towards Manbij as it’s suggested by the Turkish government. Why? Because there is [the] Syrian Army backed by … Russia and also you have the U.S. special forces there along [with] U.S. Army Rangers. Militarily it means the end of the operation.”

http://www.voanews.com/a/russia-turkey-syria-kurds/3777443.html

Turkey to Suspend Plan to Sell $10 Billion of Seized Firms

Fund said trying to resolve legal issues around ownership
Companies were confiscated after failed coup last July

Turkey put on hold a plan to sell almost 600 companies worth about $10 billion that were seized in the aftermath of a failed military coup, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

It’s not clear whether the Istanbul-based Savings Deposit Insurance Fund, known as the TMSF, will ever go ahead with the sales because of concern over legal battles regarding their ownership, the people said, asking not to be identified because the plans are private.

The companies form part of the more than 850 firms confiscated by the government last year and which have assets that are estimated to be worth a combined 48 billion liras($13.2 billion). All of the companies were taken over for their alleged support of self-exiled Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused of plotting the failed coup last July. Gulen has denied any involvement in the botched takeover.

Turkiye Sinai Kalkinma Bankasi AS, or TSKB, Vera Varlik Yonetim AS and Garanti Yatirim Menkul Kiymetler AS were picked to advise on the sale in December. The fund hasn’t held any meetings with the advisers on strategy since nor has it signed a contract on the mandate to advise the sale process, the people said.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-23/turkey-said-to-suspend-plan-to-sell-10-billion-of-seized-firms

EU-bound senior Daesh terrorist arrested by police in Turkey’s Adana province

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL

Turkish police arrested a Canadian man, who is allegedly a senior figure in Daesh terrorist group, and was heading to Europe, in southern Adana province, reports said on Thursday.

According to reports, counter-terror police teams at Adana Airport detained Wassim Bouhadou, who has dual Algerian citizenship, and was planning to head to Europe after going to Istanbul on March 10.

The suspect was reportedly detained after boarding the plane, shortly before take off based on police intelligence claiming that he illegally entered Turkey from Syria and was planning to head to Europe through Istanbul.

The man was reportedly transferred to the court following testimony at police headquarters and was sent to prison after being charged for ‘being a member of an armed terrorist organization, recruiting for a terrorist organization and providing financial support for a terrorist organization.’

https://www.dailysabah.com/war-on-terror/2017/03/23/eu-bound-senior-daesh-terrorist-arrested-by-police-in-turkeys-adana-province

France’s Hollande says French suspect likely involved in attempted Antwerp attack

French President Francois Hollande said on Thursday that a French national appeared to have been involved in a suspected, attempted attack in the Belgium city of Antwerp.

“It seemed to involve a French national, with possibly a certain number of weapons in his boot – it’s up to the judges to make a statement on that – who was looking to kill or at the very least create a dramatic incident,” Hollande told reporters.

“Therefore we must continue to be on high alert and mobilize all our forces,” he added.

Earlier on Thursday, Belgian prosecutors said that a man who had tried to drive at high speed into a shopping district in Antwerp was a French national, living in France, with knives and other weapons in his car.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-security-belgium-france-idUSKBN16U1Z0

Taliban captures Sangin, the Afghan town where more than 100 UK soldiers died

An Afghan town that more than 100 British soldiers died trying to defend has been captured by the Taliban.

The strategic district of Sangin in Helmand province was the deadliest battlefield for UK forces in Afghanistan and 104 British troops died in the effort to keep it out of the Taliban’s hands.

But the town fell early on Thursday morning as Taliban forces continued a years-long offensive to extend their reach in southern Afghanistan.

The Afghan government said it intended to mount a counter-attack to recapture the town but it was not clear if they had the forces to immediately take it back.

sangin
UK forces handed control of Sangin to the US in 2010 and it was transferred to the Afghan security forces in 2013 CREDIT: JUSTIN SUTCLIFFE / TELEGRAPH 

The set back came as the top US general in Europe warned that Russia may now be arming the militants.

Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, Nato’s Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, said Moscow appeared to an increasingly influential player in Afghanistan.

“I’ve seen the influence of Russia of late – increased influence in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban,” he told a Senate hearing in Washington.

Gen Scaparrotti’s comments come after a senior Pakistani military source told the Telegraph that Russia could be tempted to stage a Syria-style intervention in Afghanistan if Taliban and Isil strength continues to grow.

Russia has denied supporting the Taliban, saying its contacts with the group are aimed at bringing them to the negotiating table.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/23/taliban-captures-sangin-afghan-town-100-uk-soldiers-died/

Losing Neutrality: What’s Behind US Attempts to Incorporate Finland Into NATO

The new United States presidential administration goes on with its old defense policy in northern Europe. On Tuesday, US Defense Secretary James Mattis held a meeting in Washington with his Finnish counterpart Jussi Niinisto.

[Sputnik News is a Russian news source.]

“Secretary Mattis met today with Finnish Minister of Defense Jussi Niinisto. The two leaders discussed Russian aggression, Finland’s relationship with NATO as an enhanced opportunities partner, and the bilateral security cooperation … between the US and Finland,” according to a statement by Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis.

During their meeting, both leaders “identified ways to continue deepening and increasing the lasting security partnership between the two countries.”

Meanwhile, earlier this week, the first batch of British armored vehicles has arrived in Estonia as part of NATO’s drive to boost military presence in Eastern Europe. In January, US tanks were also deployed to the region.

Despite being a vocal critic of NATO during the electoral campaign, Trump is in close coordination with the alliance. He will have talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Washington on April 12 and will attend a NATO summit in Brussels on May 25.

“Trump is turning into a typical US leader. As a result, northern European countries will be dragged into NATO’s problems and will have more obligations to Washington and Brussels, including financial,” journalist and political commentator Alexander Khrolenko wrote in a piece for RIA Novosti.

https://sputniknews.com/politics/201703231051885587-us-nato-finland-russia/

Bringing Montenegro Into NATO ‘Absolutely Critical’ – US European Command Head

Accepting Montenegro into NATO alliance is crucially important, US European Command head Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti said during Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — When asked about the importance of Montenegro’s inclusion in NATO, Scaparotti said, “It is absolutely critical that they’d be brought into NATO.”

“They’ve had this desire, they’ve met the map, and it underscores NATO’s outreach and ability to bring those who want to determine their own means of govern to become part of NATO,” he explained.

The Balkan nation is expected to join NATO in 2017. The authorities plan to decide on the membership not through a referendum, but through a parliament elected in October 2016.

Earlier in March, Russian envoy to NATO Alexander Grushko told Sputnik that Montenegro’s dragging into NATO was an attempt to show that the open door policy was alive, however, many understand its erroneous nature.

In February, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that NATO used an alleged threat from Moscow as a justification for its expansion. Several countries are actively negotiating NATO’s accession, including Georgia and Ukraine.

https://sputniknews.com/politics/201703231051892487-montenegro-nato-critical/

Pentagon: US troops are going to be in Iraq ‘for years to come’

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford told Senate leaders on Wednesday that even after ISIS is defeated in Syria and Iraq, US troops will be stationed in the region for at least a few years afterward.

“I believe it’s in our national interest that we keep Iraqi security forces in a position to keep our mutual enemies on their back foot,” Mattis told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Defense. “I don’t see any reason to pull out again and face the same lesson,” he added, referencing the removal of all US forces from Iraq in 2011.

Though President Barack Obama in 2008 campaigned on a promise to pull troops out of Iraq, the move has been criticized by conservatives in the years since as helping fuel the rise of ISIS.

In 2014, as ISIS militants seized vast swaths of Iraq and Syria, one senior military officer told Business Insider the rise of the terror group in the wake of US troop departures was inevitable.

“We said we won some success but this is reversible,” the retired senior U.S. military officer said, on condition of anonymity. “So what we’re seeing now is exactly what we forecasted.

http://www.businessinsider.com/pentagon-us-troops-are-going-to-be-in-iraq-for-years-to-come-2017-3

 

U.S. PREPARES FOR NORTH KOREA CHEMICAL WEAPON ATTACK IN ‘WARRIOR STRIKE 6’ DRILLS

U.S. and South Korean soldiers finished a two-day drill Wednesday that simulated an assault on North Korean chemical weapons laboratories as Washington and Seoul continued their massive, annual joint military exercises on the volatile Korean Peninsula.

Beginning Tuesday, the “Warrior Strike 6” drill saw the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division drop from Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters to meet South Korean troops and storm an imitation village loaded with fake sarin gas facilities. While the military has units specifically tasked with identifying and destroying chemical weapons agents, infantry units were expected to first secure the perimeter, according to 1st. Lt. Stephanie Hetland, an officer in the Army’s chemical branch. The mock site was littered with traps, emphasizing the danger of the lethal agents.

“They kill very quickly with very small amounts, and the means to make them has been pretty widespread for a long time,” Hetland told Washington-based military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

http://www.newsweek.com/us-prepare-north-korea-chemical-weapon-attack-warrior-strike-572812

 

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March 22, 2017

Parliament in lockdown: Police open fire outside Westminster and shoot knife-wielding man amid reports of explosion and ‘at least 12 pedestrians mowed down on bridge’

  • Several shots have been fired at the House of Commons in Westminster
  • At least three people have been hit and emergency teams are on the scene 
  • Reports aslo suggest a car ploughed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge
  • The Prime Minister has been evacuated and staff told to stay inside

Armed Police have opened fire and shot an intruder inside the grounds of the Houses of Parliament amid reports a car drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge.

An intruder with a knife managed to break into the grounds of Parliament and stabbed a police officer before he was shot, reports suggest.

More than 10 people are said to have been hit by a car on Westminster Bridge after a vehicle described as a ‘4×4’ reportedly drove into pedestrians and cyclists.

Three bodies were visible on the floor outside Parliament and the Palace was placed on an immediate lock down.

Prime Minister Theresa May is said to have been bundled into a car by a plain-clothes police officer and driven quickly from the scene.

Emergency teams were seen carrying out CPR inside the palace grounds in New Palace Yard, the main thoroughfare in and out of Parliament 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4338998/Police-open-fire-outside-House-Commons.html#ixzz4c4HvpJta

FOUR people are dead – including police officer and terrorist – and 20 more injured – after killer mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before killer is shot attacking police in Parliament grounds

  • Four-wheel drive was driven over Westminster Bridge knocking down pedestrians this afternoon
  • Victims were said to have been left scattered in the road, with one woman knocked into the River Thames
  • Emergency services  treated at least 20 injured people on the bridge, with one woman dead under a bus 
  • ‘Asian’ knifeman got into the grounds of Parliament where he stabbed and killed a police officer
  • The ‘middle-aged’ attacker was then shot by armed officers and died after being taken to hospital
  • Parliament was suspended and the Prime Minister was rushed from the scene in her official car

At least 20 people were hit when a 4×4 drove along the pavement on the crowded bridge, knocking down and seriously injuring pedestrians before crashing into a fence below Big Ben.

The killer, described by witnesses as ‘middle-aged and Asian’, then managed to break into the grounds of the Parliament where he fatally stabbed a police officer with two knives.

The policeman died at the scene. The attacker, who was shot by armed officers, died after he was taken to hospital.

It is currently believed one attacker was involved and he killed three people, including the policeman, and left at least 20 pedestrians and three other police officers seriously injured.

Prime Minister Theresa May was bundled into her car by a plain-clothes police officer and driven quickly from the scene as the attack unfolded. She will chair a meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra Committee tonight.

Scotland Yard said the attack, which comes a year to the day after the terrorist atrocities in Brussels, is being treated ‘as a terrorist incident until we know otherwise’.

A police officer was killed by a knifeman (pictured on stretcher) before the attacker was shot by other officers outside Parliament today. The suspected terrorist is also dead, along with two pedestrians killed when the attacker drove a 4x4 across Westminster Bridge, ploughing down and seriously injuring at least 20

A police officer was killed by a knifeman (pictured on stretcher) before the attacker was shot by other officers outside Parliament today. The suspected terrorist is also dead, along with two pedestrians killed when the attacker drove a 4×4 across Westminster Bridge, ploughing down and seriously injuring at least 20.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4338998/Police-open-fire-outside-House-Commons.html

Isil supporters cheer Westminster attack as ‘revenge’ for British air strikes on Syria

Injured suspect is taken away on a stretcher by emergency services
Injured suspect is taken away on a stretcher by emergency servies CREDIT: PA

Isil supporters have cheered the attack on Westminster, suggesting it was “revenge” for the UK’s airstrikes on the terror group in Syria and Iraq.

Followers on pro-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant channels on the social media service Telegram posted messages applauding the knife-wielding suspect and called the attack “blessed”.

One said the UK was paying “blood for blood” for its involvement in the US-led coalition’s campaign against the jihadists.

“Our battle on your land is only just beginning,” read one poster next to a photoshopped image of Big Ben being blown up.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/22/isil-supporters-cheer-westminster-attack-revenge-british-air/

 

 

China issues warning to US bomber flying in East China Sea

The Chinese military issued a warning to a U.S. Air Force B-1 bomber flying in the East China Sea Wednesday morning amid escalating tensions in the region, two U.S. officials told Fox News.

The Chinese said the U.S. bomber was flying in Chinese airspace. Both American officials said the bomber was flying in international airspace and continued on its mission.

The Chinese warning came over the emergency radio frequency known as “guard,” according to one official. The incident occurred when the American bomber was flying 70 miles southwest of the South Korean island of Jeju.

The episode occurred amidst rising tensions with North Korea, which tried to launch another ballistic missile Wednesday, but failed.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/03/22/china-issues-warning-to-us-bomber-flying-in-east-china-sea.html

 

North Korea missile test ends in failure as projectile “explodes within seconds” of launch

The launch made near the city of Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast, was detected by Japanese, South Korean and American systems

North Korea’s latest missile launch ended in catastrophic failure as it appeared the projectile exploded within seconds, say US officials.

The launch made near the city of Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast, was detected by Japanese, South Korean and American systems, leaving those countries scrambling to find out more about the type of missile that was launched and why it failed.

Neighbouring countries were preparing for the possibility of additional launches after the failed weapons test.

North Korea has launched a series of tests in recent months, with Wednesday’s launch coming after the nuclear-armed state claimed it had made a major breakthrough in its rocket programme.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/north-korea-fires-several-missiles-10072049?service=responsive

US Marines said to land behind Islamic State lines in Syria

Reported deployment of American troops to territory held by terror group part of offensive to retake city of Raqqa

An American-backed Syrian Kurdish coalition said Wednesday that the US had landed infantry behind Islamic State lines to spearhead an assault on the town of Tabqa.

The Syrian Democratic Forces said the US airlifted several Marines and SDF fighters by helicopter into Islamic State-held territory, capturing four villages, and cutting the main artery running between the terrorist group’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa and the western countryside.

It was not immediately possible to confirm the deployment with US commanders.

The group said in a statement on social media Wednesday that the operation was in preparation for an assault on Tabqa, an IS redoubt 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Raqqa.

The activist-run group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently said 500 US and Syrian Kurdish forces were deployed in the operation Wednesday morning. The group relies on local contacts to smuggle information out of IS territory.Earlier this month, a couple of hundred Marines were deployed into Syria with heavy artillery guns, as part of the preparations to oust the IS from Raqqa.

The Marines moving into Syria were pre-positioning howitzers to be ready to assist local Syrian forces, a senior US official said at the time.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/us-marines-said-to-land-behind-islamic-state-lines-in-syria/

 

ISIS Supporters Are Tracking Americans In Ramadi

Pro-ISIS followers are threatening Americans who are helping restore the city that was once an ISIS stronghold

Mar 22, 2017 at 8:14 AM ET

Images of Americans inside the Iraqi city of Ramadi have roiled ISIS supporters, who are calling online for anyone near the western city to attack them.

A pro-ISIS channel on Telegram posted that over 60 American soldiers are in Ramadi, specifically seen inside Anbar University and being escorted by Iraqi security forces and tribal militiamen.

“They tour and walk inside the university like it is their own land,” someone in the channel posted. ‘Wake up and attack them.” Earlier this month the same channel reported “Americans are walking freely” in the area and that “civilians are greeting them, taking pictures and laughing with them.”

The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs tweeted earlier this week that it was “demining work targets stockpiles of homemade explosives, IEDs, and improvised ordnance” and “clearing the mess” in one of Ramadi’s schools.

While ISIS was routed out of Ramadi nearly a year ago, the terror group has sympathizers and former members in towns on its outskirts. The presence of U.S. officials has been keenly monitored on the ground.

http://www.vocativ.com/413621/isis-supporters-are-tracking-americans-in-ramadi/

 

Fillon ‘was paid €50k to fix meeting between Vladimir Putin and Lebanese billionaire’

Beleaguered presidential candidate faces fresh allegations over 2015 meeting as prosecutors widen fake jobs inquiry

in Paris

The French presidential candidate François Fillon has been hit by allegations he was paid $50,000 (£43,000) to arrange a meeting between a Lebanese billionaire and Vladimir Putin as prosecutors investigating whether his wife was paid for fake jobs widened their inquiry into whether she had signed forged documents.

The latest accusations came a week after Fillon, 63, was formally put under investigation for a misuse of public funds over the €700,000 of taxpayers’ money British-born Penelope Fillon earned for acting as his parliamentary assistant.

French media reported on Tuesday that the inquiry was examining suspected “aggravated fraud, forgery and use of forgeries” to claim she had worked when she had not, which her lawyer denies.

The allegations of Fillon’s role in a meeting between the Russian president, Lebanese businessman Fouad Makhzoumi and Patrick Pouyane, the chief executive of energy giant Total, were made in the latest issue of the satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchainé, which broke the alleged ‘fake jobs’ scandal in January.

The article said Fillon’s consultancy company 2F Conseil had earned $50,000 for setting up the 2015 meeting.

Fillon’s spokesman vigorously denied the allegation, saying Canard Enchaîné’s “insinuations” were “completely without foundation”. The Kremlin dismissed the report as “fake news”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/22/fillon-paid-50k-to-fix-meeting-vladimir-putin-lebanese-billionaire-allegation

Lawyer for family of Russian whistleblower ‘thrown from building’

Nikolai Gorokhov, who represents family of Sergei Magnitsky, is in intensive care after falling from fourth floor of apartment block

in Moscow

A Russian lawyer who represents the family of Sergei Magnitsky is in intensive care after falling from the fourth floor of his apartment building, according to unconfirmed reports.

The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta suggested Nikolai Gorokhov had fallen after a winch snapped as he tried to lift a bath to a fourth-floor apartment, though details of the incident remained murky.

Magnitsky uncovered a massive fraud that implicated government officials, but was himself arrested in 2008 and died in prison in 2009, amid allegations he had been tortured and medical care had been withheld. Russia later put him on trial posthumously for tax evasion.

Gorokhov, 53, has represented the Magnitsky family since 2011, and was due in court on Wednesday as part of a case brought by Magnitsky’s mother against some of those allegedly involved in the fraud he uncovered.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/22/lawyer-for-family-of-russian-whistleblower-seriously-injured-after-fall

World leaders gather to discuss ‘secret plan’ to defeat Isil after laptop terror threat prompts UK flight ban

World leaders will gather for talks on how to defeat the Islamic State today after it emerged that an aircraft cabin ban on electronic devices was prompted by warnings of a new terrorist threat.

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump said he had a “secret plan” to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (Isil) and pledged to “bomb the hell out of” the terror group.

He has ordered his administration to “develop a comprehensive plan”, but is yet to set out the details.

Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, will today host the first full meeting of the international coalition against Isil since 2014.

Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, is attending the major 69-nation conference in Washington DC.

It comes as British passengers on holiday flights from the Middle East and North Africa were told they would be banned within days from carrying laptops, tablets and other electronic devices on board the aircraft.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/22/laptop-terror-threat-prompts-uk-flight-ban-world-leaders-gather/

Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was paid $10 million yearly in secret deal to help Vladimir Putin

President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics, The Associated Press has learned. The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.

Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse. Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.

“We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/22/trumps-former-campaign-chairman-paul-manafort-paid-10-million/

Laptop ban on flights ‘is based on intelligence about an ISIS plot to target the West gathered during the raid on Yemen which killed Navy SEAL’

[Editor’s Note: The press and members of Congress and others in Europe owe Donald Trump an apology for criticizing his decision to carry out the raid.]

  • The intelligence centered around al-Qaeda’s ‘successful development’ of compact battery bombs that fit inside laptops or other devices, sources claimed
  • Bombs would reportedly be manually triggered which explains cabin luggage ban
  • The US and the UK have instituted similar bans on large electronics in carry-on bags for direct flights from certain Middle East and North African nations
  • The US ban applies to 10 airports in Morocco, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates 
  • Britain’s restrictions apply to flights originating from the countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia 
  • Electronics cellphone sized and small will still be permitted in passenger cabins 
  • Restrictions come a year after the bombing of Daallo Flight 159, in which a bomber used an explosive hidden inside a laptop  

The ban of carry-on electronics on flights was prompted by intelligence gathered about an ISIS plot to target the West.

The US and UK announced restrictions on large electronics in carry-on baggage for direct flights from certain Middle Eastern and North African nations on Tuesday.

The move is allegedly based on the suspicion that Islamic State are working on ways to smuggle explosives on to planes by hiding them in electronics.

Information was gathered during a raid against al Qaeda in Yemen in January that killed Navy SEAL senior chief petty officer William ‘Ryan’ Owens.

The intelligence centred around al Qaeda’s ‘successful development’ of compact battery bombs that fit inside laptops or other devices, sources claimed.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4337982/Laptop-ban-based-intelligence-ISIS-plot.html

 

Nunes Says Trump Team Conversations Caught in Surveillance

  • Republican says ‘I’m actually alarmed’ conversations picked up
  • Disclosure may bolster Trump’s claim he was under surveillance
Devin Nunes, a Republican from California and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 27, 2017.

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes said Wednesday that the U.S. intelligence community collected multiple conversations involving members of Donald Trump’s transition team after he won the election last year.

He said the intercepts he’s seen appear to be legal and weren’t targeted at the transition team or related to an investigation of Russia’s attempts to influence the U.S. presidential election. But he said he was troubled by the collection — which he described as part of unrelated foreign surveillance — and that the intelligence community reported the names of transition team members internally.

“I’m actually alarmed by it,” Nunes, a California Republican, told reporters at the Capitol. “Details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value were widely disseminated in an intelligence community report,” he said. He said he didn’t know if Trump’s “own communications were intercepted.”

The disclosure may bolster Trump’s effort to back up his disputed claim in Twitter postings that former President Barack Obama tapped his phones, which his spokesman later said shouldn’t be taken literally and referred generally to having his team under surveillance. FBI Director James Comey testified before the House committee this week that “I have no information that supports those tweets.”

Nunes told reporters outside the White House, where he briefed the president on his findings, that “it is possible” Trump’s tweets were correct concerning surveillance.

It was previously disclosed that U.S. intelligence agencies had picked up conversations between Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, and the Russian ambassador to the U.S. before Trump’s inauguration. Flynn was fired in February after making contradictory statements to Vice President Mike Pence about those discussions.

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-03-22/nunes-says-trump-team-communications-caught-in-u-s-surveillance

 

5 congressional staffers in criminal probe over unauthorized computer access

Five people employed by members of the House of Representatives remain under criminal investigation for unauthorized access to Congressional computers. Former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz employed at least one of those under investigation.

The criminal investigation into the five, which includes three brothers and a wife of one of the men, started late last year, as reported by Politico in February. The group is being investigated by US Capitol Police over allegations that they removed equipment from over 20 members’ offices, as well as having run a procurement scheme to buy equipment and then overcharge the House.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said last week Capitol Police are receiving additional help for the investigation. “I won’t speak to the nature of their investigation, but they’re getting the kind of technical assistance they need to do that, this is under an active criminal investigation, their capabilities are pretty strong but they’re also able to go and get the kind of help they need from other sources,” Ryan said.

The brothers, Abid, Jamal and Imran Awan, worked as shared employees for various members of the House, covering committees relating to intelligence, terrorism and cybersecurity, which included the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Homeland Security and the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces of the Armed Services Committee.

Imran’s wife, Hina Alvi, and Rao Abbas, both of whom worked as House IT employees, are also under investigation.

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ

The group were banned from accessing the computers as a result of the investigation but, as of earlier this month, Imran Awan remains as an “technology adviser” to former Democratic National Committee chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was forced to resign in July following revelations that she worked to further Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the Democratic primary at the expense of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

https://www.rt.com/usa/381692-congressional-staffers-criminal-investigation/

Moscow extends Turkish food ban in response to heavy tax on Russian agriculture

Russia will not lift the import ban on Turkish vegetables, fruit, and meat, according to agriculture watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor. Last week, Turkey imposed stiff tariffs on Russian wheat and corn, making exports unprofitable

According to watchdog spokeswoman Yulia Melano, “the issue of full or partial removal of restrictions on Turkish fruit and vegetable products for the Russian market should be discussed in conjunction with the removal of counter restrictions on Russian products from the Turkish side.”

Last week, the Russian media reported that Turkey had imposed a 130 percent tariff on wheat, corn and sunflower meal that is making deliveries highly unprofitable for local businesses.

Turkey’s Trade Ministry denied the reports, but a representative of the Russian trade mission in Ankara said Turkey had excluded Russia from a list of countries with zero rates of customs duties. Turkey is the second largest buyer of Russian wheat after Egypt. Russia will keep the ban on Turkish frozen meat and poultry as well as tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, apples, pears, strawberries and other fruit and vegetables.

In March, Rosselkhoznadzor lifted the restrictions against Turkish onions, cauliflower, broccoli and some other vegetables, explaining there is a lack of these food items in Russia.

Food imports from Turkey were blocked in response to the downing of a Russian jet in Syria in November 2015. There were other restrictions, including the cancellation of charter flights to Turkey, the introduction of a visa regime, and a ban on hiring Turkish citizens. At the request of the Kremlin, Russian travel agencies suspended sales of package tours to the country.

Moscow-Ankara relations began to improve after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologized over the jet incident. Russia lifted the flight ban, but the food ban has remained.

https://www.rt.com/business/381728-russia-turkey-food-ban/

Minister’s son reportedly arrested as probe into IAI defense firm expands

Police confirm 2 suspects detained, 10 more questioned as part of investigation into corruption at Israel’s largest state-owned company

Police arrested two people, including, reportedly, the son of a minister, as part of an ongoing probe into corruption suspicions at Israel Aerospace Industries, one of the country’s largest defense firms.

Another 10 people were hauled in for questioning, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

The two suspects were arrested early in the morning and their homes searched, police said. They are expected to appear at an arraignment hearing at Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court later Wednesday to determine if they will remain in custody, police said.

One of the suspects is the son of a Likud minister, Channel 10 news reported. Police did not divulge the identities of those arrested Wednesday.

Suspicions of of corruption, fraud, and breach of trust surrounding IAI became public last week when police raided the defense contractor, arresting 14 people.

The labor union at IAI, which employs some 16,000 people and is Israel’s largest state-owned company, is known as a Likud stronghold.

The IAI Super Heron (screen capture: YouTube)

The suspects detained last week were from IAI and private companies who either supplied or were supplied by IAI, along with a former senior Israel Defense Forces officer, who police said was “well known in the defense establishment.”

“This is an extensive investigation, with a wide scope, which includes a number of sub-scandals, and raises suspicions of a range of charges — corruption, aggravated fraud, money laundering, theft by public officials, illegal business practices, fraud and breach of trust,” police said in a statement last week.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/ministers-son-reportedly-arrested-as-part-of-probe-into-iai-defense-firm/

Syrian rebels report fresh Israeli airstrikes near Damascus

Raids reportedly target regime posts in Mount Qasioun region; no immediate reports of casualties, damage

Israeli jets were reported to have carried out airstrikes near the Syrian capital early Wednesday, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue hitting weapons convoys and rebuffed claims Russia had ordered the strikes halted.

Syrian opposition news outlets reported that the airstrikes took place in the Mount Qasioun region near Damascus overnight.

The Israeli raids targeted Syrian army posts in the area, the reports said, in the fourth round of airstrikes attributed to Israel in Syria in less than a week.

There was no immediate confirmation from Jerusalem, nor any information on casualties or damage.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/syrian-rebels-report-fresh-israeli-airstrikes-near-damascus/

Airstrike reportedly kills 33 civilians sheltering in school

[This story is NOT confirmed.]

A London-based activist and monitoring group said Wednesday that a U.S.-led coalition airstrike had hit a school in ISIS-held territory in northern Syria that was being used to shelter displaced families, killing dozens of civilians.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which relies on an extensive network of contacts on the ground in Syria and which generally proves a reliable source of information on the war, said coalition aircraft “most likely” carried out the strike but did not explain how it reached that conclusion.

In a statement to CBS News, a spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition said it had no evidence yet to back up the claim of a strike hitting civilians, but that all such reports were taken seriously and investigated.

“At this time the Coalition has no indication that an airstrike struck civilians near Raqqah as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims,” a statement from the Operation Inherent Resolve public relations office said. “However, since we have conducted several strikes near Raqqa we will provide this information to our civilian casualty team for further investigation.”

The coalition has targeted ISIS militants and infrastructure in and around the northern Syrian city of Raqqa for months. It is the terror group’s last major urban stronghold in Syria and its self-declared capital.

Russian aircraft have also carried out one or two strikes in the area in recent months, but have largely focused on targeting groups other than ISIS. Both U.S. and Russian-backed factions on the ground are battling ISIS in an effort aimed at eventually retaking Raqqa.

The Wednesday strike reportedly hit a school in the town of Mansoura, about 15 miles southwest of central Raqqa.

“We can now confirm that 33 people were killed, and they were displaced civilians from Raqqa, Aleppo and Homs,” SOHR director Rami Abdel Rahman told the French news agency AFP. They’re still pulling bodies out of the rubble until now. Only two people were pulled out alive.”

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/syria-alleged-us-coalition-airstrike-school-raqqa-mansoura-shelter-civilians/

Cyber Firm at Center of Russian Hacking Charges Misread Data


U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia was behind Democratic National Committee hacks that aimed to boost Donald Trump's chances of beating Hillary Clinton (file photo).

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia was behind Democratic National Committee hacks that aimed to boost Donald Trump’s chances of beating Hillary Clinton (file photo).

An influential British think tank and Ukraine’s military are disputing a report that the U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike has used to buttress its claims of Russian hacking in the presidential election.

The CrowdStrike report, released in December, asserted that Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app, resulting in heavy losses of howitzers in Ukraine’s war with Russian-backed separatists.

But the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) told VOA that CrowdStrike erroneously used IISS data as proof of the intrusion. IISS disavowed any connection to the CrowdStrike report. Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense also has claimed combat losses and hacking never happened.

The challenges to CrowdStrike’s credibility are significant because the firm was the first to link last year’s hacks of Democratic Party computers to Russian actors, and because CrowdStrike co-founder Dimiti Alperovitch has trumpeted its Ukraine report as more evidence of Russian election tampering.

Alperovitch has said that variants of the same software were used in both hacks.

The Russian government has denied covert involvement in the election, but U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian hacks were meant to discredit Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump’s campaign. An FBI and Homeland Security report also blamed Russian intelligence services.

While questions about CrowdStrike’s findings don’t disprove allegations of Russian involvement, they do add to skepticism voiced by some cybersecurity experts and commentators about the quality of their technical evidence.

Iran steps up support for Houthis in Yemen’s war – sources

By Jonathan Saul, Parisa Hafezi and Michael Georgy

LONDON/ANKARA/DUBAI, March 22 (Reuters) – Iran is sending advanced weapons and military advisers to Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement, stepping up support for its Shi’ite ally in a civil war whose outcome could sway the balance of power in the Middle East, regional and Western sources say.

Iran’s enemy Saudi Arabia is leading a Sunni Arab coalition fighting the Houthis in the impoverished state on the tip of the Arabian peninsula – part of the same regional power struggle that is fuelling the war in Syria.

Sources with knowledge of the military movements, who declined to be identified, said that in recent months Iran has taken a greater role in the two-year-old conflict by stepping up arms supplies and other support. This mirrors the strategy it has used to support its Lebanese ally Hezbollah in Syria.

A senior Iranian official said Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force – the external arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – met top IRGC officials in Tehran last month to look at ways to “empower” the Houthis.

“At this meeting, they agreed to increase the amount of help, through training, arms and financial support,” the official said.

“Yemen is where the real proxy war is going on and winning the battle in Yemen will help define the balance of power in the Middle East.”

Iran rejects accusations from Saudi Arabia that it is giving financial and military support to the Houthis in the struggle for Yemen, blaming the deepening crisis on Riyadh.

But Iran’s actions in Yemen seem to reflect the growing influence of hardliners in Tehran, keen to pre-empt a tougher policy towards Iran signalled by U.S. President Donald Trump.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-4338066/EXCLUSIVE-Iran-steps-support-Houthis-Yemens-war–sources.html

Russia underplayed losses in recapture of Syria’s Palmyra

 By Maria Tsvetkova | GELENDZHIK, RUSSIA

Russia’s force in Syria has suffered losses since late January more than three times higher than the official toll, according to evidence gathered by Reuters, a tally that shows the fight in Syria is tougher and more costly than the Kremlin has disclosed.

Eighteen Russian citizens fighting alongside Moscow’s allies, the Syrian government forces, have been killed since Jan. 29 — a period that coincided with intense fighting to recapture the city of Palmyra from the Islamic State group.

The Russian defense ministry has publicly reported only five servicemen’s deaths in Syria over the same period, and its officials’ statements have not mentioned any large-scale Russian ground operations in the fight for Palmyra.

Military casualties abroad are not as politically sensitive in Russia as in some other countries but send a negative message ahead of a presidential election next year which is expected to give President Vladimir Putin a fourth term.

The toll was revealed in interviews with relatives and friends of the dead men, cemetery workers, local media reports of funerals and evidence collected by a group of investigative bloggers, Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT).

In each case, Reuters has independently verified information about the death by speaking to someone who knows the dead man.

The casualties since the end of January represent one of the highest tolls for the Russian contingent in Syria since the start of Moscow’s military intervention 18 months ago.

An official with the Russian foreign ministry referred questions about them to the defense ministry. The Russian defense ministry did not respond to Reuters questions about the casualties and about military operations in Syria. The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Most of the dead were not regular Russian soldiers but Russian civilians working as private military contractors under the orders of Russian commanders. Moscow has not officially acknowledged the presence of the contractors in Syria.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-russia-casualtie-idUSKBN16T0S4

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian insurgents seized several government positions on the outskirts of Damascus on Tuesday in the third day of their most ambitious offensive in the capital in years, sending a sharp reminder that the war in Syria is far from over.

Fierce fighting broke out on the northeastern edge of Damascus, as a mix of Islamist rebel groups and hard-line Qaeda-linked jihadists seized an industrial area about a mile from the historic Old City near the heart of the Syrian capital. Rebel offensives erupted in several other parts of the country.

Government forces have been scrambling to repel the attack since it began on Sunday, bringing troops and allied militias from other front lines to hold their territory in Damascus, as government warplanes pummel rebel-held suburbs with scores of strikes. Rebel shells hit the city, wounding 15, and the authorities shut down many of the main roads.

After the government seized the eastern half of Aleppo from rebels last year, it worked hard to create the impression that the war was essentially over. The recent activity, including a series of suicide bombings in Damascus and a rebel attack Thursday on the northern city of Hama, seemed to indicate that the war might be entering a new phase instead.

Intelligence official says Russia must contain Iran in Syria

Chagai Tzuriel says Moscow has interest in preserving regional stability, warns that Iran is seeking to expand its military presence in Syria

 Russia must work to ensure that Iran is unable to establish a military presence in Syria that poses a threat to Israel and the region, the director-general of the Intelligence Ministry told Reuters on Tuesday.

Chagai Tzuriel, who told The Times of Israel last month “the most important strategic issue we’re currently facing is the strengthening of the Shiite axis led by Iran in Syria,” warned that Iran is seeking to exploit its status as one of the main backers of the Syrian regime in order to establish a long-term military presence in the country.

“Iran is in the process of putting together agreements, including economic agreements, with Syria to strengthen its hold, its ports and naval bases there,” he said.

He added: “There is a need for Russia and other powers to work to avoid the threat that Iran ends up with military, air and naval bases in Syria.”

According to Tzuriel, the six-year long Syrian civil war has undermined the balance of power in the region to Iran’s advantage, which poses a threat to both Russia and other world powers’ interests in the Middle East.

“When it comes to Iran, the United States, Russia and other powers need to understand that (growing Iranian influence in Syria) is going to be a constant source of friction,” he said.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/intelligence-official-says-russia-must-contain-iran-in-syria/

Trudy Rubin: Iran deepens presence in Iraq

Washington should regard the black flags as a warning signal. Even before the Islamic State is fully defeated, Shiite Iran is laying the groundwork to expand its deep penetration of Iraq. Tehran wants to control the Baghdad government through its Shiite political and militia proxies, marginalizing Sunnis, including in Mosul.

But judging by history, repression in Sunni areas of Iraq will provide fertile ground for the next jihadi movement to take root.

So the Shiite flags at Mosul’s gateway signal that a military defeat of the Islamic State is insufficient. There must also be a political plan (although none is yet evident in Baghdad or Washington) to assure Sunnis of a role in a post-Islamic State Iraq.

That plan is needed sooner rather than later. So far, the Shiite militias are not entering the city proper, Mosul residents tell me. “Right now they are not pushing people out,” says an elementary school teacher who lives in East Mosul. He says, however, that sectarian Shiite political parties linked to the militias are already opening offices in the city.

In other contested parts of Iraq, hardline Shiite militias are ethnically cleansing Sunnis from towns and villages to create a Sunni-free corridor from Iran across Iraq to the Syrian border. These militias receive extensive Iranian support and Iraqi government funds.

Maslawis (as Mosul natives are called) view the Iraqi military far more positively than they do the militias, even though Iraqi forces are composed heavily of Shiites (who make up a majority of the population). That’s because Iraqi forces are loyal to the state, not to Shiite political parties or Tehran.

I heard nothing but praise for the behavior of the Iraqi military units that entered the city, especially the U.S.-trained Counter Terrorism Service, or CTS. “The only force people like is the CTS and (its) Golden Division,” the prominent Sunni Sheikh Abdullah al-Yawar told me. “It did not force people to leave their homes.”

Although the militias are technically under military control, no one knows their future after the Islamic State is defeated. Sunnis fear they will act as armed wings of competing Shiite parties or an Iraqi version of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard corps, which took over Iran’s army from within.

And Sunnis rightly fear Iran’s long-term intentions. They know Tehran still remembers Saddam Hussein’s 1980 invasion of Iran, when Sunnis ran Iraq, and the decade-long war that followed. “Iran wants to see Iraq’s Sunnis weak and divided,” one Sunni politician told me, “so the 1980s can never happen again.”

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/mar/22/trudy-rubin-iran-deepens-presence-in-iraq/

Germany blocks arms sales to Turkey – report

The German government has refused approval for military exports to NATO partner country Turkey on a growing number of occasions. Ministers are concerned the weapons could be used to oppress the local population.

Berlin has rejected more than 10 applications for arms exports to Turkey in recent months, the German daily “Süddeutsche Zeitung” (SZ) reports, citing a letter from the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The ministry was answering questions by the left-wing MP Jan van Aken.
As a NATO partner, Turkey is rarely subject to restrictions on arms exports. But there are concerns that since last July’s coup attempt, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched a far-reaching purge of political opponents.

“The importance of observing human rights will be particularly important in respect to arms export approvals,” a ministry official reportedly said in his reply to van Aken. Since the failed coup, “the federal government’s foreign security policy review” has given special consideration “to the risk of an intervention in the context of internal repression of the Kurdish conflict.”

http://www.dw.com/en/germany-blocks-arms-sales-to-turkey-report/a-38059815

Turkey’s AKP cancels campaign rallies in Germany

Turkish politicians have abandoned plans for more campaign events on German soil ahead of the April referendum, says the ruling AKP party. Previously, Angela Merkel threatened to ban such events over Nazi insults.

The decision to halt referendum events was made in Ankara, a Cologne-based representative of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party said on Tuesday.

“All future events that were planned have been cancelled,” she told the AFP news agency.

The move was a “gesture of goodwill” towards Germany, said rally organizers from the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD) who confirmed the cancelation to German news agency DPA.

Turkish AKP politicians are eager to gain votes of Turkish citizens living in Germany ahead of the April 16 referendum. Roughly 1.4 million of them are eligible to vote. The controversial plebiscite would approve a constitutional reform to give the Turkish president more power.

However, their attempts to hold campaign events in Europe sparked a thunderous diplomatic row that saw Erdogan compare German and Dutch officials with Nazis.

On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had warned that Germany could ban all AKP campaign events if Ankara continued with Nazi jabs.

‘Enough is enough’

Despite the AKP’s announcement on Tuesday, it remains unclear whether President Erdogan – who continued with the harsh rhetoric on Tuesday, urging his supporters to vote “yes” on the constitutional reform as a response to a “fascist” Europe – would also stay home.

According to German media reports, Erdogan was planning to visit Germany. When asked about the reports, however, UETD General-Secretary Bulent Bilgi said that his organization “cannot determine” the president’s actions.

http://www.dw.com/en/turkeys-akp-cancels-campaign-rallies-in-germany/a-38050660

NSA Official Suggests North Korea Was Culprit in Bangladesh Bank Heist

A senior National Security Agency official appeared to confirm that North Korean computer hackers were behind a multi-million dollar heist targeting Bangladesh’s central bank last year.

Computer hackers attempted to steal $951 million, but only got away with $81 million, some of which was later recovered. After the theft, security firms quickly pointed the finger at North Korea. Other experts disputed that finding. But on Tuesday, NSA Deputy Director Rick Ledgett appeared to say North Korea was the culprit during a cryptic exchange at a Washington forum.

Speaking at an Aspen Institute roundtable, Ledgett pointed out that private sector researchers had linked the digital break-in in Bangladesh to the 2014 hack on Sony Pictures, which the U.S. government attributed to Pyongyang.

“If that linkage from the Sony actors to the Bangladeshi bank actors is accurate — that means that a nation state is robbing banks,” Ledgett said. “That’s a big deal.”

NSA Official Suggests North Korea Was Culprit in Bangladesh Bank Heist

China Expands Its Spying Against Taiwan

The recent discovery that a former Chinese university student in Taiwan has likely been spying for the People’s Republic of China (PRC) may at first glance appear to be just another entry in a long list of PRC espionage cases against Taiwan. After all, Chinese espionage against Taiwan has been an ongoing security problem. Some estimates have identified as many as 60 cases of Chinese espionage against Taiwan since 2002, and this may represent only be the tip of the iceberg. However, the March 10 arrest of 29-year-old Zhou Hongxu for breaching Taiwan’s security laws suggests that China is expanding its espionage campaign against Taiwan in a number of ways.

Zhou’s case is the first known instance of a Chinese student being used to spy in Taiwan since the island opened its universities to Chinese students in 2009. Zhou Hongxu first came to Taiwan in 2009 and enrolled in Tamkang University as an exchange student. In 2012, Zhou enrolled in a business administration program at National Chengchi University in Taipei. After graduating in 2016, Zhou left Taiwan in August that same year, but returned to Taiwan shortly afterwards under the pretext of business. After returning, Zhou sought out a junior official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whom he had become acquainted with as a student, and allegedly attempted to obtain classified information in return for a free trip to Japan and an unspecified amount of money.

According to prosecutors, it is believed that Zhou was instructed by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office to enroll at National Chengchi University for the purpose of spying. National Chengchi University is an ideal choice for identifying and recruiting future government officials and leaders. The school is one of Taiwan’s top social science universities and produces many of Taiwan’s government officials. It is home to Taiwan’s only diplomacy program, from which over 100 of Taiwan’s ambassadors have graduated, and it hosts a number of professional programs, such as the Master’s Program in National Security and Mainland China Studies, which is reserved for military officers and government officials.

http://thediplomat.com/2017/03/china-expands-its-spying-against-taiwan/

Apple’s iPhones and Apple IDs are a tough nut to crack for hackers, but it’s not be impossible. At least that’s what a group of hackers seem to suggest, as they’re currently attempting to blackmail Apple for up to $100,000 before they start remotely wiping millions of iPhones. Can they actually do it? Should you be worried? It’s unclear at this point.

The hackers apparently engaged in conversations with the media to force Apple’s hand. The Turkish Crime Family hacker group, which spoke to Motherboard, want either $75,000 in Bitcoin or Ethereum, or $100,000 worth of iTunes gift cards.

“I just want my money and thought this would be an interesting report that a lot of Apple customers would be interested in reading and hearing,” one of the hackers said.

Apparently, the hackers have been in contact with Apple’s security team for quite a while now. They even posted a video on YouTube to prove they have actual access to iCloud accounts, access which can be used to remotely wipe iPhones.

Apple, understandably, doesn’t appear to be willing to pay up the ransom. “We firstly kindly request you to remove the video that you have uploaded on your YouTube channel as it’s seeking unwanted attention, second of all we would like you to know that we do not reward cyber criminals for breaking the law,” a screenshot of a message purportedly coming from an Apple security team member reads.

The hackers say they have access to more than 300 million Apple email accounts, including @icloud and @me domains. The number is the source of some confusion though, because a different hacker from the group claimed they had 559 million accounts in all. They have not explained how they gained access to Apple ID credentials.

The hackers are threatening to move forward with remotely wiping Apple devices on April 7th, unless Apple pays up. Apple hasn’t publicly commented on the matter at this point. On the off-chance that the hackers are indeed holding access to millions of iCloud accounts, you might consider changing your password to protect your Apple ID.

Hackers claim to have breached hundreds of millions of Apple accounts

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March 21, 2017

Military Cooperation Between Russia, China Hits Three-Decade High

Expanded coordination poses significant threat to U.S., allies in Asia Pacific

Russia and China are displaying the highest level of military cooperation in three decades, posing an escalated threat to the United States and its allies, according to a government report released Monday.

U.S. air superiority in the Asia Pacific is particularly vulnerable due to sustained Russian arms sales to Beijing and a new focus between the two militaries on missile defense, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission detailed in its new report.

Russian deliveries of Su-35 strike fighter jets to China, which began in December 2015, along with deliveries of its S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system, which are set to begin in 2018, will expand Beijing’s reach in the Taiwan Strait and threaten air assets of U.S. allies in the South China and East China Seas.

 Ethan Meick, a policy analyst in security and foreign affairs at USCC who authored the report, predicted missile defense cooperation between Moscow and Beijing would continue for years to come. The two militaries held their first joint missile defense exercise in May 2016 and have announced a second exercise to be conducted in 2017.

Sweden preparing nuclear fallout bunkers across the country amid fear of Russian war

War preparations come as Nordic country reintroduces military conscription

NUCLEAR war shelters are being readied in Sweden to prepare for a surprise Russian attack, according to reports.

The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) has reportedly been ordered to carry out a review this year of bunkers the coming weeks as the Scandinavian country also reintroduces military service.

A system of 65,000 bunkers was established in the Cold War to protect the population from nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

According to MSB, the bunkers currently protect against blast and radiation as well as chemical or germ warfare.

With a distinctive logo, they can easily be located by civilians seeking shelter.

But with fears growing over threat posed by Vladimir Putin and his resurgent Russia they are being reviewed to make sure they are ready.

Russian military drills in the region have raised fears among neighbouring nations that an attack could happen in the coming months.

Civil defence measures are therefore being stepped up, especially in the Island of Gotland where Sweden has already re-opened a garrison.

Swedish broadcaster Sveriges Radio reported that Mats Berglund had ordered a review of the island’s 350 civilian bunkers.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3140359/sweden-nuclear-fallout-bunkers-russian-war-threat/

 

FBI Confirms Counterspy Probe Into Trump Aides’ Links to Russian Election Influence Operation

Comey: ‘Russians will be back’ to create ‘chaos, division, doubt’ in American democracy

James Comey

James Comey, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation / Getty Images

BY:
March 20, 2017 6:09 pm

FBI Director James Comey said during a contentious House hearing Monday that FBI counterspies are investigating whether aides to Donald Trump coordinated activities with Russia’s intelligence services during last year’s operation to influence the outcome of the presidential election.

Comey, testifying with National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers, also said he has seen no evidence supporting President Trump’s claim that the Obama administration spied on Trump and his campaign.

The director and the nation’s top electronic intelligence official appeared before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where Republicans and Democrats presented competing political narratives during more than five hours of testimony.

 Trump has stated in a tweet he “found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower” just before the Nov. 8 election. The president then stated, “Nothing found. This is McCarthyism.”

RSAF’s new drone Heron 1 now combat-ready

SINGAPORE – It can fly as high as 6km in the sky, cruise at speeds as fast as 130kmh, and can be deployed up to 200km away from a remote location.

This drone – or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) – can also fly for more than 24 hours continuously, and take off and land automatically.

It is no ordinary drone though, but the Singapore airforce’s latest “eye-in-the-sky” – the Heron 1, which was declared combat-ready on Wednesday (March 15) by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

It is a milestone which places the Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) on a par with other advanced militaries in intelligence and surveillance capabilities.

In a ceremony held at Murai Camp, Dr Ng marked the Heron 1’s achievement of the Full Operational Capability (FOC) status by the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF) 119 and 128 Squadrons.

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/rsafs-new-drone-heron-1-now-combat-ready

 

EXCLUSIVE: Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev turned on America when his citizenship application was rejected because he was an informant for the U.S. government and felt ‘double crossed’, bombshell book claims

  • Award-winning Boston journalist Michele McPhee claims that the federal government may have played a ‘direct role in creating the monster that Tamerlan Tsarnaev became’ in new book
  • She theorizes that Tsarnaev was a federal informant who turned on America after his citizenship was denied
  • The government recruited Tamerlan as he was the ‘perfect candidate’ – he was broke, had a new wife and a baby, spoke fluent English, Russian and Chechen
  • McPhee told DailyMail.com that the CIA were ‘running Tamerlan’ while he was in Russia, and that the FBI were in charge of him when he returned to America
  • Tamerlan, 26, died during a shootout on the streets of Boston after killing a cop
  • His brother, Dzhokhar, now 23, was captured alive and put on trial and ultimately sentenced to death by a Boston jury
  • McPhee took three years to research Maximum Harm: the Tsarnaev Brothers, the FBI and the Boston Marathon Bombing, which will be released in April

In her book Maximum Harm: The Tsarnaev Nrother, the FBI and the Road to the Marathon Bombing  to be published in April, she tells how U.S. authorities believed Anzor Tsarnaev’s claimed his life was in danger due to his Chechen heritage and his family was granted political asylum.

McPhee’s theory – which she admits she cannot definitively prove – is that Tamerlan was a federal informant and that he turned on America after his citizenship application was rejected.

McPhee writes that Tamerlan expected to be granted citizenship quickly and his anger grew when the process was delayed.

He was initially told to come in for his swearing in ceremony in October 2012 but it was put off.

The U.S. Immigration service wrote to Cedarleaf, the FBI terrorism chief in Boston, and asked if he was a ‘national security concern’. Cedarleaf replied that there was ‘nothing I know of’.

In January 2013 Tamerlan tried again to get his citizenship and had another interview where he was asked about his arrest related to a domestic violence charge.

McPhee says that Tamerlan ‘fully expected to walk way’ with his citizenship’. Instead. his status was delayed again due to paperwork issues.

Two weeks later, on February 6 2013, an ‘angry Tamerlan walked into Phantom Fireworks in Seabrook, New Hampshire, and asked for the “biggest and loudest” pyrotechnics in the story’, McPhee writes.

McPhee, an Emmy-award nominated reporter with the ABC News investigative team, writes  that he felt ‘double crossed’ and that he turn

Tillerson reportedly to skip NATO meeting, visit with Russia in April

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip a semiannual meeting of NATO foreign ministers in April and will reportedly stay behind to meet with China President Xi Jinping and will go to Russia later in the month.

Tillerson would miss the first meeting of the 28 NATO allies, which takes place on April 5 and 6 in Brussels, in order to attend President Trump’s meeting with Xi at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort on April 6 and 7, U.S. officials told Reuters Monday. Tillerson will also attend the G7 meeting in Italy before traveling to Moscow.

U.S. officials added that Tillerson will meet NATO diplomats this week in Washington for a conference on defeating the Islamic State, suggesting there was no need for him to attend the Brussels meeting. Instead, the State Department Under Secretary Tom Shannon will represent t the U.S. at the meeting.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/03/21/tillerson-reportedly-to-skip-nato-meeting-visit-with-russia-in-april.html

Israeli drone crashes in Syria, circumstances unclear

The Israeli military has confirmed that a drone crashed in Syria earlier this week in unclear circumstances.

In a statement, the military said the “Skylark” went down on Sunday and that the incident was being investigated. Tuesday’s statement said there is “no risk of a breach of information.”

Hezbollah’s media arm published photographs of what it said was a drone it had shot down after infiltrating Syrian airspace in the Golan Heights.

Although Israel is not actively fighting in the Syrian civil war, it keeps close tabs on its enemies Iran and Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group, which are both backing Syrian government forces.

Last week, Israel shot down a Syrian anti-aircraft missile fired at an Israeli aircraft carrying out an airstrike on a suspected Hezbollah weapons convoy in Syria

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/03/21/israeli-drone-crashes-in-syria-circumstances-unclear.html

Israeli Air Force to host 7 nations in its largest-ever air drill

TEL AVIV, Israel — The Israeli Air Force will host flying forces from seven nations later this year in the largest and most complex air exercise in its history.

Nearly 100 aircraft and several hundreds of air warriors and support crews from the United States, Greece, Poland, France, Germany, India and Italy will converge here in the autumn for Blue Flag, a biennial, two-week drill aimed at honing the type of planning, targeting and coordinated command and control demanded by coalitions operating in high-threat theaters.

“It will be a massive exercise; the biggest ever for the IAF. Seven nations plus Israel,” said Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, the Israeli Air Force’s chief of international affairs.

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/israeli-air-force-to-host-7-nations-in-its-largest-ever-air-drill

Moscow ‘knows nothing about’ reported April visit by Tillerson

Moscow diplomats say they are not aware of any preparations for a visit by US State Secretary Rex Tillerson. Reuters said the American would arrive in Russia in April.

When asked about the reported visit on Tuesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Interfax: “I know nothing about it.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, said she could not confirm Tillerson’s visit either.

“At this stage, we do not intend to neither confirm nor refute the information which emerged [in the media],” Zakharova wrote on her FB page, pointing out that the information had initially been leaked.

“It is time for US political elites to decide: have ‘the Russian hackers’ hacked the US State Department servers again or is the threat to the security of US information of an American origin?” she joked.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dodged the question about the news agency report.

“Let’s wait for the official statements on the matter rather than those of Reuters. For the State Department and the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation to announce the visit,” he said.

https://www.rt.com/news/381579-tillerson-visit-moscow-april/

Shin Bet: Hamas stealing Gaza aid from Turkish charities

Security service arrests one, accuses another of funneling reconstruction money to terrorist group’s military wing

Muhammad Murtaja, 40, arrested by the Shin Bet for allegedly helping funnel money from Turkish charities to the Hamas terrorist group. (Coordinator of the Government's Activities in the Territories)

Muhammad Murtaja, 40, arrested by the Shin Bet for allegedly helping funnel money from Turkish charities to the Hamas terrorist group. (Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories)

The Shin Bet security service accused two Palestinian men of funneling Gaza reconstruction funds from Turkish charities to the Hamas terrorist group.

The manager of the Gaza branch of the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA), Muhammad Murtaja, was arrested last month on suspicion that he was working on behalf of Hamas, the Shin Bet announced on Tuesday.

Mehmet Kaya, the head of the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation, known by its acronym IHH, was also implicated in the Shin Bet investigation. However, Kaya has not yet been arrested.

“The egotistical Hamas terror organization has robbed funds that are meant for the needy of Gaza from international organizations. Hamas prospers at the expense of the residents of the Strip and uses donations meant for them to finance terror,” said Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, coordinator of government activities in the territories.

Palestinian children play in abandoned vehicles in an impoverished area in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, on April 26, 2016. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

http://www.timesofisrael.com/shin-bet-hamas-stealing-gaza-aid-from-turkish-charities/

Syria war: Russia denies aiding Kurds to set up a military base

Russia is helping Syrian Kurdish YPG forces to establish a military base in northern Syria that will be used to train its fighters, the militia says.

But Russian officials have insisted there are no plans to open new bases in Syria and the one near Afrin serves as a “reconciliation centre”.

Russia says the role of the base is to negotiate local truces between the various warring sides in Syria.

Meanwhile fighting between the military and rebels has continued near Damascus.

Government forces are reportedly bombarding eastern areas of the capital, Damascus, a day after rebel fighters launched a surprise offensive.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-39335029

Poland hands 4-year prison term for spying for Russia

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March 20, 2017

Kim Jong-Un vows to reduce the US ‘to ashes’ with nuke strikes if Donald Trump fires ‘even a single bullet’ at North Korea

The rogue state threatened to use its ‘invincible Hwasong rockets’ to rain down nuclear destruction on its enemies

KIM Jong-un has threatened to reduce the US “to ashes” as tensions with North Korea continue to increase.

The secretive state released a statement earlier this month warning Donald Trump of nuclear destruction if America fires “even a single bullet” towards Pyongyang.

Kim Jong-un has threatened to reduce the US 'to ashes' with nuclear strikes

The statement said: “The Korean People’s Army will reduce the bases of aggression and provocation to ashes with its invincible Hwasong rockets tipped with nuclear warheads and reliably defend the security of the country and its people’s happiness in case the US and the South Korean puppet forces fire even a single bullet at the territory of the DPRK.”

The menacing talk came as South Korea warned that its northern neighbour’s latest rocket-engine test showed “meaningful” progress.

The North’s KCNA news agency said on Sunday the engine would help the country achieve world-class satellite-launch capability – indicating a new type of rocket engine for an intercontinental ballistic missile.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3131278/kim-jong-un-nuclear-weapons-donald-trump-north-korea/

 

SECRET SERVICE THEFT CAUGHT ON VIDEO

Thief Knew What He Was After

EXCLUSIVE

0317-secret-service-agent-laptop-tmz-gettyThe thief who swiped a Secret Service agent’s laptop targeted the agent in question and knew exactly what he was after … law enforcement sources tell TMZ.

Our sources say the thief — whom they say is a man — was caught on surveillance video pulling up to the agent’s driveway in an Uber at around 3 AM Thursday.

The video shows the man make a beeline for the agent’s car, removing a backpack with the computer inside and then walking off. As we reported, the hard drive contained Trump Tower floor plans and evacuation protocols, but the agency insists there was no classified info inside.

The thief also made off with a passport and several Secret Service lapel pins.

It’s unclear what the thief was looking for if all the content was non-sensitive.

We’re told the video is grainy so it’s hard to make out the thief’s features, but it’s definitely a lead.

http://www.tmz.com/2017/03/20/mystery-thief-secret-service-laptop/

 

Electronics banned from cabins on some Middle Eastern and African flights to U.S.

Airlines that fly from certain countries in the Middle East and Africa to the U.S. must require passengers to check in almost all electronic devices rather than carry them into the cabin, said a U.S. official.

The official told CNN that there is a security concern regarding passengers boarding non-stop flights to the U.S. from some specific countries. The directive is to ensure enhanced security measures at select airports for a limited duration.

The source said it will impact over a dozen airlines flying into the US. Another US administration official says this covers devices larger than a cellphone.

In a written statement, the Department of Homeland Security said, “We have no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide any update as appropriate.”

A State Department officials says embassy officials have been notifying relevant countries and airlines.

An aviation official said U.S. carriers are not impacted because none flies directly from the countries in question to the U.S. Neither source would specify what airlines were impacted beyond Royal Jordanian Airlines, which tweeted Monday that it will ban most electronics from the cabins on its flights to and from its North American destinations.

http://money.cnn.com/2017/03/20/news/companies/middle-east-airline-electronics-ban/index.html

 

3 US soldiers shot in Afghanistan ‘insider attack’

Three U.S. Army soldiers were shot and wounded Sunday when an Afghan Army soldier opened fire on them inside a base in southern Afghanistan’s volatile Helmand Province, officials told Fox News.

The attack occurred around 1:30 p.m. local time at Camp Antonik in Washer District in Helmand.

“Coalition security forces on the base killed the soldier to end the attack,” Capt. Bill Salvin, spokesman for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, told Fox News. “The U.S. soldiers are receiving medical treatment at this time and we will release more information when available.”

The severity of the soldiers wounds was not immediately clear. Salvin declined to offer more details.

There are roughly 8,400 U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan — more than in Iraq and Syria combined.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/03/19/3-us-soldiers-shot-in-afghanistan-insider-attack.html

Russian space official found dead with stab wounds while awaiting embezzlement trial

Russian space official found dead with stab wounds while awaiting embezzlement trial
A top-tier official of Russian space agency Roscosmos has been found dead at a pre-trial detention center where he was being held on charges of embezzlement. Stab wounds were found on his body, but no suspects have been identified so far.

Vladimir Evdokimov, 56, was found dead on Saturday in his cell at a pre-trial detention center in Moscow, according to Russia’s Investigative Committee. Investigators found two stab wounds on Evdokimov’s chest and one on his neck, and also retrieved a knife from the crime scene, committee spokesperson Yulia Ivanova said.

Later in the day, Roscosmos, where Evdokimov served as executive director in charge of quality control and reliability issues, confirmed his death in a brief statement published on the space agency’s Twitter account.

In December last year, Evdokimov was jailed on charges of embezzling 200 million rubles ($3.1 million) from the MiG aerospace corporation, an indictment he strongly denied.

Eleven people in Evdokimov’s cell have already been questioned, and investigators are now trying to identify a suspect, the Investigative Committee says.

https://www.rt.com/news/381382-roscosmos-official-stabbed-prison/

Israel explains Arrow intercept of Syrian SAM

March 20, 2017 (Photo Credit: Pierre Verdy/AFP via Getty Images)
TEL AVIV — A senior Israeli Air Force officer on Monday provided operational context to the unusual March 17 Arrow intercept of a Syrian SA-5 surface-to-air missile, which the jointly developed U.S.-Israel anti-ballistic missile system was not designed to fight.

Briefing reporters here, the officer said the Syrian SAM launched against Israeli fighter aircraft following a bombing mission in Syria “behaved like a ballistic threat” with “an altitude, range and ballistic trajectory” that mimicked the Scud-class targets the Arrow 2 interceptor was designed to kill.

“It wasn’t a Scud-class ballistic threat. But from our perspective, it doesn’t matter if it was a SAM. Once it behaved like a ballistic missile weighing tons and with a warhead of hundreds of kilograms, we couldn’t allow it to threaten our cities and towns,” the officer said.

When asked to identify the specific threat, the officer confirmed that the Arrow 2 had indeed scored its first operational intercept against a Syrian SA-5.

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/israel-explains-arrow-intercept-of-syrian-sam

China to ax military corps of disgraced generals amid downsizing of world’s biggest army – sources

China’s People’s Liberation Army will reportedly disband five of its 18 army corps, including two that served as the power base of two disgraced generals, sources with knowledge about the ongoing shakeup told the South China Morning Post.

Two years ago, Beijing announced that it would lay off 300,000 members of its 2.3 million-strong military as part of a major reform, which is meant to turn the PLA into a more efficient and flexible modern fighting force. The country’s top brass has since been overhauled, and China has restructured its military and investigated generals for alleged corruption.

Among the dozens of senior officers caught in the anti-corruption probes were two former vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission, Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong. According to the newspaper’s sources, among the five army corps slated to be disbanded are the 16th and the 47th, which had served as the disgraced generals’ power base.

“The axing of the 16th and 47th army groups is a decision made by [President] Xi [Jinping] to further clean up all the pernicious influence left by Guo and Xu, paving the way for Xi to assign his men amid the ongoing leadership reshuffle ahead of the party’s congress in autumn,” one of the sources said.

https://www.rt.com/news/381350-china-army-cut-sources/

Israeli airstrike in Syrian Golan said to kill pro-Assad fighter

IDF refuses to confirm reported drone strike near Quneitra, as tensions between Jerusalem and Damascus ratchet up

An Israeli drone strike reportedly killed a member of a Syrian pro-regime militia Sunday afternoon, amid spiraling tensions between Jerusalem and Damascus.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Israeli aircraft struck a truck driving near the town of Khan Arnabeh in the Quneitra province, on the road to Damascus.

The National Defense Force, a pro-regime militia set up in 2012, claimed the man killed was from among its ranks.

It named the man as Yasser Hussien Assayed.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-airstrike-said-to-kill-driver-in-syrian-golan-heights/

Assad: Oscar-feted White Helmets are part of Al-Qaeda

“White Helmets are Al Qaeda members and that’s proven on the net,” Assad told RT during an interview with Russian journalists in Damascus. “The same members are killing or executing or celebrating over dead bodies, at the same time they are humanitarian heroes, and now they have an Oscar.”

The White Helmets, which calls itself a civil defense organization, operates in rebel-controlled parts of Syria, where they say they are involved exclusively in peaceful activities such as rescuing civilians after bombing raids. They are part-funded by donations, and by Western governments.

An eponymous British-made film about their work was given an Oscar for Best Documentary at last month’s Academy Awards.

Both Damascus and Moscow have repeatedly accused them of functioning as a propaganda operation that stages videos and manipulates coverage to generate sympathy abroad for the rebel cause, and as a jihadist rescue service that operates in tandem with Al Nusra and other radical groups in Syria.

https://www.rt.com/news/381542-white-helmets-al-qaeda-members/

 

Israel to Declare Air Defense Shield Fully Operational: Officer


File - This Monday, Dec. 21, 2015 file photograph provided by the Israeli Ministry of Defense shows a launch of David's Sling missile defense system. A senior Israeli air force official says a joint U.S.-Israeli missile interceptor will be operational soon, completing the country's multi-layer defense system.

File – This Monday, Dec. 21, 2015 file photograph provided by the Israeli Ministry of Defense shows a launch of David’s Sling missile defense system. A senior Israeli air force official says a joint U.S.-Israeli missile interceptor will be operational soon, completing the country’s multi-layer defense system.

Israel’s multi-tier air defense missile system will be fully operational early next month with the deployment of the David’s Sling interceptor, a senior Israeli air force officer said on Monday.

David’s Sling, designed to shoot down rockets fired from 100 to 200 kilometers away, will be the final piece of a shield that already includes short-range Iron Dome and long-range Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 missiles.

“In the next two weeks we will declare operational the David’s Sling and at that time we will have completed our multi-tier (defense capability),” said the officer who could not be identified under military rules.

“I’m sure that together with the Iron Dome and the Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 it will enhance our ability to deal with threats,” he added.

Israel used Iron Dome extensively to intercept rockets fired by Palestinian militants in the 2014 Gaza war, and the Arrow missiles were developed with an Iranian missile threat in mind.

David’s Sling, developed and manufactured jointly by Israel’s state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd and the U.S. Raytheon Co, would likely be used to intercept projectiles fired by the Iranian-backed Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah, which last fought a war with Israel in 2006.

The Israeli military said it used an Arrow-2 on Friday to destroy an anti-aircraft missile fired from Syria after Israeli aircraft carried out strikes there.

http://www.voanews.com/a/israel-to-declare-air-defenses-shield-fully-operational-officer-says/3773961.html

 

Turkish buyers put Russia wheat deals on hold, despite denial of ban: sources

Turkish buyers have put purchases of Russian agricultural products – mainly wheat, maize (corn) and sunflower oil – on hold, despite denials from Ankara that it has effectively banned imports from Moscow, trade and industry sources said on Monday.

Last week, import licenses issued by the Turkish government no longer included Russia in a list of accepted tax-free origins, the sources said, suggesting an import tariff of 130 percent could be applied to supplies from Russia.

Turkey’s Economy Ministry said on Friday media reports it had banned imports of certain products from Russia were wrong.

However, one trader, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, told Reuters: “The exports from Russia to Turkey remain suspended. My understanding is that Turkish customs have instructions not to allow the discharge of vessels with Russian wheat, corn, sunflower oil and other grain and agricultural products.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/turkey-wheat-russia-idUSL5N1GX1J7

 

IRAN LOSES THOUSANDS, 10 GENERALS IN SYRIA-IRAQ WARS

BY 

A report released by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center assesses that Iran has lost thousands of fighters and more than 10 generals while engaging in the Syria-Iraq wars.

Iran has lost thousands of fighters and more than 10 generals during its engagement in the Syria- Iraq wars, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported on Sunday.

The report from the Glilot-based center analyzed the different estimates of Iranian losses that have been recently announced.

At a conference on martyrdom in Iranian culture on March 6, Mohammad Ali Shahidi, director of the Martyrs Foundation, estimated Iranian losses in the Syria-Iraq wars at 2,100.

The report noted that Washington Institute for Near East Policy researcher Ali Alfoneh recently put the number of Iranian losses at 2,603.

The center broke down the 2,603 as 511 actual Iranians, 1,045 Hezbollah fighters and 1,047 Afghan, Pakistani and other Shi’ite militia fighters – all under Iranian command.

Notably, more than 10 Iranians of the rank equivalent to a brigadier- general have been among those killed.

The intelligence report claimed that the high losses, especially of so many senior officers, is the reason Iran’s military footprint in Syria and Iraq has fallen from thousands to hundreds.

http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iran-News/Iran-loses-thousands-10-generals-in-Syria-Iraq-wars-484611

REVEALED: Turkey’s Plan To ‘Camouflage’ Its Lobbying Activities In The US

CHUCK ROSS
Reporter

The government of Turkey planned to use front groups and operatives “camouflaged” as journalists to gain access to Capitol Hill and the U.S. security apparatus, hacked emails released by WikiLeaks reveal.

The documents, which are from the Gmail account of Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s energy minister and the son-in-law of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, show the nascent plan for what has turned into a sprawling lobbying and PR campaign undertaken by the Turkish government.

Turkey’s lobbying efforts catapulted into the news last week after Donald Trump’s short-lived national security adviser Michael Flynn registered as a foreign lobbyist for Turkey.

Flynn was paid $530,000 for three months of work by Inovo BV, a Dutch shell company owned by a businessman with deep connections to Ankara.

http://dailycaller.com/2017/03/15/revealed-turkeys-plan-to-camouflage-its-lobbying-activities-in-the-us/#ixzz4bsB2o2KS

Iran’s third Airbus delivery postponed

ایرباس321
News ID: 3936371 – Mon 20 March 2017 – 15:26
TEHRAN, Mar. 20 (MNA) – An informed resource said, most probably, banking issues have caused a delay in delivery of the third Airbus aircraft to Iran Air.

As quoted by IRIB from Paris, the informed resource said Iran’s third purchased aircraft from Airbus Airbus Aerospace company was not delivered according to the schedule mainly due to banking restrictions rather than technical issues.

An A330 aero plane was scheduled to be handed over to Iran Air, the Iranian national flag carrier, prior to beginning of the new Persian calendar year Nowruz though the process has been postponed to following days.

“Banking restrictions rather than technical issues have most probably caused the delay in the delivery process,” he underlined.

In a lucrative deal, Iran Air (Homa) has purchased 100 Airbus aircraft though only two airplanes have been so far delivered to the Iranian airline.

http://en.mehrnews.com/news/124342/Iran-s-third-Airbus-delivery-postponed

Iraq buys fighters with Israeli radars

According to the website Israel Defence, Iraq bought 24 ‘T-50IQ’ fighter jets made in South Korea and equipped with radars made in an Israeli factory.

The Israeli website, according to Safa, said that Iraq had bought the fighter jets which are similar in performance to the F-16s.

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170320-iraq-buys-fighters-with-israeli-radars/

TURKEY S-400 TALKS PROGRESSING

Following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s official visit to Moscow, Turkish and Russian officials have their respective media outlets that talks regarding the sale of Almaz-Antey S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems to Turkey are progressing.

Sergey Chemezov, the CEO of Rostec (the overarching firm involving Russia’s state-owned industries), told the Russian broadcaster Rossiya-24 that Ankara requested a loan to back an S-400 purchase (via Russian News Agency TASS). Chemezov added that the Russian Ministry of Finance is actively engaged in the talks, indicating that Moscow is eager to finalize a sale to Turkey.

Turkish Minister of Defence Fikri Işık told A Haber that “there is progress in the discussions.” Responding to questions regarding the S-400’s place in NATO’s air defence environment, Işık reportedly stated (via the Daily Sabah) that the S-400 “will not be integrated into the NATO system.”

Işık also confirmed that Turkey’s homegrown long-range SAM is under development, and is expected to enter production “within five-to-seven years.” Earlier reports indicated that Turkey is also seeking Russia’s technical support for the domestic SAM program.

http://quwa.org/2017/03/20/turkey-s-400-talks-progressing/

Juncker warns Turkey death penalty is ‘red line’ issue

Turkey and Europe are locked in a diplomatic crisis
Turkey and Europe are locked in a diplomatic crisis

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has warned Turkey that any return of the death penalty would be a “red line” in the country’s stalled EU membership bid.”If the death penalty is reintroduced in Turkey, that would lead to the end of negotiations,” he told Sunday’s edition of Germany’s Bild newspaper, calling it a “red line”.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday he expected parliament to approve the restoration of capital punishment after next month’s referendum on controversial consitutional changes to expand his powers.Mr Juncker nevertheless said he was opposed to a complete halt to all membership negotiations with Turkey.”It makes no sense to try to calm (Erdogan’s) nerves by stopping negotiations that are not even taking place.”German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel went even further, saying in an interview with Der Spiegel: “We are farther away than ever from Turkey’s accession to the EU.”

https://www.rte.ie/news/world/2017/0319/860931-turkey-death-penalty/

Outrage as Juncker boasts that no-one else will want to leave the EU after they see how badly the UK is punished for Brexit

  • EU commission president says ‘example’ of Brexit will discourage other states
  • Warns that Theresa May will have to accept divorce bill demand from Brussels
  • But Brexiteers deride Juncker for living in a ‘fool’s paradise’ as EU ‘crumbles’
  • Comes as PM announces she will triggers the Article 50 process on March 29
Eurosceptics have reacted with fury after Jean-Claude Juncker boasted that no-one else will want to leave the EU after they see how harshly Britain is punished.The European Commission chief crowed that the ‘example’ of the UK would ensure the survival of the Brussels club.He also threatened that Theresa May will have to accept demands from the EU for a divorce bill.But his bullish stance was derided by Brexiteers who branded him ‘out of touch’ and accused him of living in a ‘fool’s paradise’.No 10 played down the intervention, pointing out negotiations were yet to begin.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4330846/UK-example-stop-states-leaving-EU-boasts-Eurocrat.html#ixzz4buFDnx4c

Why Chabahar Deal is so Important for India?

The Chabahar deal is an extremely important strategic decision which would help India to get a transit route to Afghanistan and further to Central Asian region and beyond. This 500 million $ investment would give India a much wanted access to the region’s resources bypassing the land route via hostile Pakistan. Secondly, this port is located very close (around 100kms) to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, which has been developed by China. Therefore, a geo-strategic game is at play between the two regional powerhouses (India and China) in the region.India’s trade relations and economic relations with Central Asian region in future depends a lot on the utilisation of Chabahar Port because it provides direct sea-land route access for India to reach Central Asia via Iran. The distance between India’s Kandla Port and Chabahar Port is quite short, thereby reducing the transportation costs of the goods. It can be inferred that this is a win-win situation for India. The Chabahar deal would also help in countering the China’s string of Pearl of strategy against India.https://defenceaviationpost.com/chabahar-deal-important-india/Germany owes zero debt to NATO – defense ministerGermany’s defense minister has rejected US President Donald Trump’s assertion that Berlin owed “vast sums of money” to NATO. Relations between the two allies have soured over Germany’s military spending commitments.

Verladung Panzer nach Litauen (Getty Images/S. Gallup)

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement on Sunday that “there is no account where debts are registered with NATO,” responding to accusations by US President Donald Trump that the Berlin government was in debt to the military alliance.The German defense minister also questioned how military spending was calculated, arguing that a country’s financial commitment to the military alliance shouldn’t be the only measure.Trump: Germany owes ‘vast sums’ for NATO

On Saturday, Trump tweeted that Germany owed NATO “vast sums of money,” just hours after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington for the first time since taking office.US demands more cashThe billionaire added that Washington “must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany.”Since he began his campaign for the US presidency, Trump has regularly used Twitter to make sweeping and contentious remarks in which he outlines changes of direction in domestic and foreign policy. But the lack of clarity often leaves other politicians and world leaders guessing.http://www.dw.com/en/germany-owes-zero-debt-to-nato-defense-minister/a-38015228

Fierce fighting erupts in Damascus as rebels, government forces clash

Syrian rebels launched a major offensive on Sunday that brought them close to the heart of the Old City of Damascus, and government forces responded with intense bombardments of rebel-held areas.The escalation, reported by witnesses, state TV, rebel sources, and a monitoring group, marked a bid by the rebels to relieve army pressure on besieged areas they control to the east of the capital.Moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA) and jihadist groups were both involved in the assault on the districts of Jobar and Abbasiyin, some 2 km (1.2 miles) east of the Old City walls. Syrian state television said the army had repelled an infiltration attempts by the militants and bombarded them with artillery, inflicting heavy losses.

Witnesses said the army deployed tanks in some adjacent neighbourhoods, and troops could be seen patrolling on foot.
 

HUNGARY BOOSTS GEORGIA’S NATO AND EU INTEGRATION, FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS ON VISIT TO TBILISI

Hungary fully supports a visa waiver for Georgian citizens to the EU by the end of the month. It also maintains its role in the UN Observer Mission in Georgia, providing six police officers and five army officers, Szijjártó told Hungarian news agency MTI. Szijjártó held talks with his counterpart Mikheil Janelidze, and met President Giorgi Margvelashvili (featured above), Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and Chairman of Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze. Hungary’s top diplomat also signed an agreement with Natia Loladze, head of the Georgian Red Cross, of 10 million forints’ (EUR 32,422) support to alleviate flood damage.

http://hungarytoday.hu/news/hungary-supports-georgia-nato-eu-integration-foreign-minister-says-visit-tbilisi-36048

Taiwan confirms China’s deployment of DF-16 missiles

2017/03/20 16:15:21

Taipei, March 20 (CNA) Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) on Monday confirmed that there is a growing military threat from China, which he said has been deploying a new type of medium-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting Taiwan.

Since 2016, China has been pushing military reform, including streamlining its armed forces to improve joint combat capabilities, Feng said in a report to the Legislature on Taiwan’s responses to the changing situation in East Asia since U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

In recent years, China’s air and naval forces have built main and auxiliary combat ships and produced the J-10, J-11 and J-15 fighter jets, bought Russian Su-35 fighter jets and unveiled their most advanced stealth J-20 fighter jets, Feng said.

As part of the weapons modernization program to strengthen its combat power, China has also been deploying Dong Feng-16 (DF-16) ballistic missiles capable of launching precise attacks on Taiwan proper, Feng said.

http://focustaiwan.tw/news/acs/201703200015.aspx

 

 

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March 19, 2017

NSA DOCUMENTS PROVE SURVEILLANCE OF DONALD TRUMP & HIS FAMILY

Bombshell discovery shows targets of NSA’s “Project Dragnet”


Michael Zullo, formerly the commander and chief investigator of the Cold Case Posse (CCP), a special investigative group created in 2006 in the office of Joseph M. Arpaio, formerly the sheriff in Maricopa County, an Arizona State Certified Law Enforcement Agency, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, provided sections of the database to Infowars.com.

The electronic surveillance database, provided to Zullo by a whistleblower in 2013, was apparently created by the NSA as part of the NSA’s illegal and unconstitutional Project Dragnet electronic surveillance of U.S. citizens, first revealed by news reports published in 2005, as further documented by the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013.

Sheriff Arpaio and Chief Investigator Zullo have identified dozens of entries at various addresses, including both Trump Tower in New York City and Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, under which Donald Trump was apparently under NSA electronic surveillance from 2004, during President George W. Bush’s term of office, through 2009, the first year of President Obama’s presidency.

Electronic surveillance of Donald Trump was listed in the database for the following companies, locations, and dates:

Trump International
1 Central Park, NYC, NY
2008

Trump World Tower
845 United Nations Plaza, NYC, NY
No Date

Trump Tower SAL
108 Central Park, NYC, NY
2007

Trump Palace Co
200 E. 69th Street A, NYC, NY
2008

Trump Entertainment
725 Fifth Ave. FL, NYC, NY
2007

Trump Organization
725 Fifth Ave. BSM, NYC, NY
2009

Trump Palace
725 Fifth Ave., NYC, NY
2004

Mar-a-Lago Club
1100 S. Ocean BL, Palm Beach, FL
2006

Trump International
401 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago, IL
2008

Douglass Limousine
239 Nassau St., Princeton, NJ
2008

Trump International
3505 Summit BLV, West Palm Beach, FL
2004

Flights INC
P.O. Box 196, Hamilton MA
2004

Trump International
1 Central Park, NYC, NY
2008

Trump Hotels
Huron Ave., Atlantic City, NJ
No Date

Trump National
339 Pine Rd, Briarcliff, NY
No Date

Trump Plaza & C
2500 Pacific Ave, Atlantic City, NJ
2008

Trump Palace Co.
200 E. 69th St., NYC, NY
2008

Seven Springs
66 Oregon Rd, Mount Kisco, NY
2006-2008

While attempts have been made to deny such domestic surveillance, reports from the New York Times in 2014 showed the Central Intelligence Agency had done just that by spying on a senate panel investigating the agency’s use of “enhanced interrogation.”

https://www.infowars.com/nsa-documents-prove-surveillance-on-donald-trump-and-alex-jones/

Bomb scare at the White House: Man drives to the gates and tells security he has explosives in his car – the second security alert at the president’s home in one day

  • A person claiming to have a bomb  pulled up to the White House
  • They were taken into custody and security at the White House was upgraded
  • It is not clear if they actually had an explosive device  

A driver reportedly pulled up to the White House and claimed to have a bomb in their car early Sunday.

It is not clear if there was an actual explosive device in the vehicle. The driver was taken into custody and security was upgraded at the White House according to CNN.

Streets around the residence were also closed.

Saturday, a person jumped over a bike rack in a buffer zone in front of the White House on Saturday while President Trump was in Florida, but was not able to make it over the fence into the grounds.

Two Secret Service agents tackled the individual, who was arrested and questioned.

Jonathan Tuan-Anh Tran, 26, who had two cans of mace and said he had an appointment with his ‘friend’ President Donald Trump, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for entering the grounds without permission.

The individual managed to climb over an outer perimeter fence, scale a vehicle gate and hop another fence near the southeast corner of the White House’s East Wing before he was captured after his 16 minute-plus jaunt, according to the Secret Service statement.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4328222/Driver-pulls-White-House-claiming-bomb.html#ixzz4bm75w357

Pyongyang declares ‘rebirth of rocket industry’ after new engine test

North Korea has performed a ground test of a “new-type” engine, designed to boost country’s “capability in the field of outer space.” However, in contrast to the usual saber-rattling, Pyongyang did not use the opportunity to tout the potential military use of the tech.

Kim Jong-un attended the test of the “new-type high-thrust engine” at the Sohae satellite-launching site early on Sunday, state KCNA news agency reported. The engine would give the country an opportunity to “consolidate the scientific and technological foundation to match the world-level satellite delivery capability in the field of outer space development,” KCNA said, citing country’s leader.

The specifications and type of the engine remain a mystery, but the supreme leader was so satisfied with the test that he gave lead developers and scientists a hug and a photo session, and emphasized that the “world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries.”

Pyongyang claimed that the engine was created solely for space exploration and satellite launches and did not mention any of the usual militaristic rhetoric, which usually accompanies such tests.

The new tests comes amid heightened tensions in the Korean Peninsula. Denouncing annual US-led drills with Seoul last week, North Korea launched four missiles in a simulated attack on US facilities in the region, and vowed “merciless ultra-precision strikes from ground, air, sea and underwater” if the allies violate its “sovereignty and dignity even a bit.”

https://www.rt.com/news/381277-north-korea-engine-test/

No evidence exiled Turkish cleric Gulen behind anti-Erdogan coup – German intel

No evidence exiled Turkish cleric Gulen behind anti-Erdogan coup – German intel
There is no evidence that self-exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen is behind the failed 2016 military coup in Turkey, the head of German intelligence said. Ankara claims the comments are a sign of Berlin backing the Gulen movement.

Bruno Kahl, the head of German intelligence (BND), told Der Spiegel the military coup of July 2016 “was probably a welcome pretext” for the Turkish government to unleash a sweeping crackdown on thousands of people suspected of having connections with Fethullah Gulen – a 75-year-old opposition cleric who Ankara says was the mastermind behind the failed putsch.

Kahl stressed that there was no evidence that the Gulen movement was involved in the July plot, saying, “Turkey tried to convince us at every level, but so far they didn’t succeed.”

Likewise, he dismissed Turkey’s claims that Gulen’s movement is an Islamist or even terrorist network: “The Gulenist movement is a civic association whose aim is to provide religious and secular education.”

The chief of intelligence did, however, rule out the idea that the coup was engineered by the Turkish government itself.

“The coup attempt was not initiated by the government. Before July 15 the government had already started a big purge so parts of the military thought they should do a coup quickly before it hit them too,” Kahl said.

Shortly after the interview, which adds to the ongoing flare-up between Turkey and some European countries that banned pro-Erdogan rallies ahead of the landmark vote to expand presidential powers, a brusque response came from Ankara. Ibrahim Kalin, the Turkish president’s spokesman, said the BND’s statement proves that Berlin supports the organization claimed to be behind the coup attempt.

https://www.rt.com/news/381290-bnd-gulen-erdogan-coup/

Liberman threatens to ‘destroy’ Syrian air defense systems

After Friday’s attempt by Syria to down IAF planes, defense minister says in next incident Israel will have no ‘hesitation’

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday threatened to destroy Syrian air defense systems after they fired ground-to-air missiles at Israeli warplanes carrying out strikes.

“The next time the Syrians use their air defense systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation,” Lieberman said on Israeli public radio.

Israeli fighter jets hit several targets in Syria on Friday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the strikes targeted weapons bound for the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

Syria’s military claimed it downed one of the Israeli planes and hit another as they were carrying out the predawn strikes near the famed desert city of Palmyra that it recaptured from jihadists this month.

Jordanians inspect the remains of a Syrian missile and an Israeli Arrow interceptor that fell in Jordan on March 17, 2017 (Jordanian government/Petra)

The IDF denied that any of its planes were hit. The Syrian government has made similar claims in the past.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/liberman-threatens-to-destroy-syrian-air-defense-systems/

DELTA IV LAUNCHES WGS-9 TO EXPAND DEFENSE COMMUNICATIONS

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — After a number of postponements, and a technical glitch at T-minus 4 minutes, United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Delta IV Medium+ (5,4) rocket finally got off the ground with the Department of Defense’s ninth Wideband Global SATCOM satellite (WGS-9). The after twilight launch took place at 8:18 p.m. EDT March 18 (00:18 GMT March 19), 2017, from Space Launch Complex 37.

The weather for the launch of the Delta IV Medium+ (5,4) configuration Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) was all but perfect. The only concerns Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s 45th Weather Squadron had was the potential of cumulus clouds; however, those never materialized.

Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing commander and mission Launch Decision Authority, said that this was the fourth major launch operation on the Eastern Range and the second successful launch in just two-and-a-half days, culminating many long hours of hard work by the entire mission team.

“Thanks to the amazing commitment, focus on the mission, and teamwork the men and women of the 45th Space Wing share with our mission partners at SMC and ULA, we successfully launched the next satellite in the WGS constellation,” he said. “This mission demonstrates the Air Force’s commitment to deliver secure and reliable satellite communications around the globe to U.S. forces and our allies. It also once again showcases why the 45th Space Wing is the ‘World’s Premiere Gateway to Space.’”

The launch was postponed several times for various reasons including, on March 4, when the liftoff date for WGS-9 was changed to March 14 after the ULA team discovered an issue with the Delta IV first stage booster during standard prelaunch inspections. Later, on M

http://www.spaceflightinsider.com/organizations/ula/delta-iv-launches-wgs-9-expand-defense-communications/#ALrLQciZcdbtYliG.99

So much for the Russian threat: Putin slashes defense spending while Trump plans massive buildup

Despite Western paranoia, Russia’s defense budget is about one-tenth of America’s — with huge cutbacks ahead

Russia, led by supervillain Vladimir Putin, intent on the domination and destruction of the Western world, has just slashed its defense budget — and no one really noticed.

Figures from the Russian Federal Treasury show that the defense budget has been cut by 25.5 percent for 2017, falling from 3.8 trillion rubles to 2.8 trillion rubles. IHS Jane’s, one of the most authoritative sources on defense news, said the move represents “the largest cut to military expenditure in the country since the early 1990s.”

Let’s put this in context before we move on: The cuts come after significant military budget increases in recent years (averaging about 19.8 percent a year since 2011) as Putin sought to revamp the Russian military and replace a massive chunk of Soviet-era hardware by 2020.

There’s also some quibbling going on over the figures used by Jane’s. Some experts believe the cut is more like 7 percent when the impact of debt repayment to defense industry firms is taken into account.

Either way, the Russian defense budget is being cut — and not insignificantly — at a time when we’re being told Moscow is a grave threat to peace-loving people everywhere. There are a number of reasons for the cuts, the most obvious being that the Russian economy has been put under pressure due to Western sanctions and reduced oil and gas prices. So no, the cuts don’t come from the goodness of Putin’s heart — but it’s clear that he doesn’t see Russia as being on course for major military conflict with the West in the immediate future.

http://www.salon.com/2017/03/19/so-much-for-the-russian-threat-putin-slashes-defense-spending-while-trump-plans-massive-buildup/

 

South Africa wants to sell missiles to Iran

South Africa has applied to the United Nations Security Council to sell missiles worth R1.5 billion to Iran.

The Rapport newspaper reported that this will be the biggest deal yet for Denel’s Umkhonto surface-to-air missile system.

The Umkhonto vertical launch surface-to-air missile was developed for the SA Navy’s Meko A200 class frigates, and has been in service since 2001.

The missile is high-velocity and infrared homing, providing defence against attacks from missiles and aircraft.

Although it is a surface-to-air missile, it is also capable of taking out stationary surface targets.

The Umkhonto was designed with a 23kg warhead for high-kill probability, unlike other missile systems in its class.

This news follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding in December 2016 between Iran and South Africa to boost defence and military cooperation.

https://mybroadband.co.za/news/government/203318-south-africa-wants-to-sell-missiles-to-iran.html

France will cooperate with Russia for preparing Syrian peace talks in Geneva

BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:18 A.M.) – Russian and French Foreign Ministers Sergei Lavrov and Jean-Marc Ayrault have agreed to cooperate in preparing the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday according to TASS.

“The ministers have agreed that Russian and French representatives will be cooperating to prepare and hold a next round of intra-Syrian talks, due to begin in Geneva on March 23, 2017,” the ministry said in a statement.

Although Lavrov expressed his satisfaction with negotiations in Astana, he did highlight that some militant groups refusing to negotiator only hampered a peaceful solution.

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/france-will-cooperate-russia-preparing-syrian-peace-talks-geneva/

Leonardo CEO Moretti out, replaced by Italian banking exec

March 18, 2017 (Photo Credit: Dino Panato/Getty Images)
The Italian government on Saturday named a veteran Italian banker, Alessandro Profumo, to run state controlled defense group Leonardo, replacing CEO Mauro Moretti who had finished his three year mandate.

Genoa-born Profumo, 60, took the helm at Italian banking giant Unicredit in 1998, steering it to international growth through acquisitions and oversaw a leap in staff numbers from 15,000 to over 162,000 in over 20 countries before leaving in 2010.

Despite his business credentials, the appointment of a financial manager with no defense experience provoked rumors in Italy on Saturday that the government had handpicked Profumo to handle the sell off of the firm, but a government spokesman told Defense News the reports were “totally false.”

“Profumo has international experience and a global culture and Leonardo needs to be international,” said the spokesman, who declined to be named. “With Profumo we will reinforce the international business development of Leonardo.”

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/leonardo-ceo-moretti-out-replaced-by-italian-banking-exec

 

 

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Technology and Security

March 18, 2017

‘Radicalised Muslim’ is shot dead at Paris Orly airport after snatching a soldier’s gun and shooting at three police officers from a car as Kate and William meet Bataclan and Nice terror victims

  • Convicted criminal, 39, was shot dead at the airport’s south terminal 
  • Less than two hours earlier he had shot at three police officers during a routine stop-and-search
  • Authorities believe he had been radicalised in prison, and his father and brother had been arrested 
  • Witnesses recounted hearing ‘four or five’ shots, and the airport was evacuated
  • It comes at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit the French capital 

A convicted criminal with links to radical Islam has been shot dead at Paris Orly airport after trying to wrestle a soldier’s gun from her and fleeing into a McDonald’s.

Less than two hours earlier he had shot a female police officer in the head in a northern Paris suburb during a routine stop-and-search.

The man’s father and brother have been taken into custody, judicial sources have confirmed, and the attacks are being investigated by France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor.

After the police shooting in the suburb of Stains, at around 6.55am, the 39-year-old fled in a Renault Clio, which was found abandoned 11 miles away.

He then hijacked a woman’s Citroen Picasso at gunpoint, and this second car was later found parked at the airport.

Today’s incidents come as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Paris, where they have met with victims of terrorism.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4326276/Paris-Orly-airport-evacuated-shooting.html#ixzz4bgDTftf4

US admits Syria airstrike that killed 46 but denies targeting mosque

  • Rescue workers search for survivors amid rubble into the night
  • US military: ‘We are going to look into any allegations of civilian casualties’

 

The US has said it carried out an airstrike in Syria against an al-Qaida meeting but denied deliberately targeting a mosque where 46 people were reportedly killed.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said most of the dead were civilians in the Thursday evening raid on the village of Al-Jineh, in the northern province of Aleppo.

The US has been bombing jihadists in war-torn Syria as part of an international coalition since 2014, with hundreds of civilians unintentionally killed in the country and in neighbouring Iraq.

“We did not target a mosque, but the building that we did target – which was where the meeting took place – is about 50ft (15 metres) from a mosque that is still standing,” said Col John J Thomas, spokesman for US Central Command.

According to a Centcom statement: “US forces conducted an air strike on an Al-Qaeda in Syria meeting location March 16 in Idlib, Syria, killing several terrorists.”

The Centcom spokesman later clarified that the precise location of the strike was unclear – but that it was the same one widely reported to have hit the village mosque in Al-Jineh, in Aleppo province.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/17/syria-mosque-airstrike-kills-dozens-of-civilians-near-aleppo

Suspected Hack Attack Snagging Cell Phone Data Across D.C.

Malicious entity could be tracking phones of domestic, foreign officials

Adam Kredo

An unusual amount of highly suspicious cellphone activity in the Washington, D.C., region is fueling concerns that a rogue entity is surveying the communications of numerous individuals, likely including U.S. government officials and foreign diplomats, according to documents viewed by the Washington Free Beacon and conversations with security insiders.

A large spike in suspicious activity on a major U.S. cellular carrier has raised red flags in the Department of Homeland Security and prompted concerns that cellphones in the region are being tracked. Such activity could allow pernicious actors to clone devices and other mobile equipment used by civilians and government insiders, according to information obtained by the Free Beacon.

It remains unclear who is behind the attacks, but the sophistication and amount of time indicates it could be a foreign nation, sources said.

Mass amounts of location data appear to have been siphoned off by a third party who may have control of entire cell phone towers in the area, according to information obtained by the Free Beacon. This information was compiled by a program that monitors cell towers for anomalies supported by DHS and ESD America and known as ESD Overwatch.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/hack-attack-cell-phone-data-dc/

Netanyahu: Syria raids targeted ‘advanced’ Hezbollah arms

After unprecedented missile clash, PM says Israel will continue to operate against weapons transfers from Assad regime to Shiite terror group

AFP — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday the Israeli strikes on several targets in Syria earlier that day targeted weapons bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and that the Jewish State would do the same again if necessary.

The Israeli airstrike prompted retaliatory missile launches, in the most serious incident between Syria and the Jewish state since the Syrian civil war began six years ago.

Syria’s military said it had downed an Israeli plane and hit another as they were carrying out pre-dawn strikes near the famed desert city of Palmyra that it recaptured from jihadists this month.

The Israeli military denied that any planes had been hit. The Syrian government has made similar unfounded claims in the past.

“The safety of Israeli civilians or the Israeli air force aircraft was at no point compromised,” Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner told AFP.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-syria-raids-targeted-advanced-hezbollah-arms/

Russia summons Israeli envoy following IDF strikes in Syria

(JTA) — Russia summoned its ambassador to Israel for clarifications following Israeli airstrikes in Syria.

Russia, which backs Syria’s embattled president, Bashar Assad, summoned its envoy, Gary Koren, on Friday less than 24 hours after the Israeli military action on Thursday night, according to The Times of Israel.

In a rare statement, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed to having carried out aerial strikes in Syria and intercepted missiles launched at its aircraft from the ground.

No Israelis were hurt during the strikes Thursday night or from the anti-aircraft fire, according to a statement by the IDF spokesman.

Israel is believed to have carried out several attacks on Syrian soil in recent years, but usually refrains from confirming or denying reports on its alleged actions there.

According to the nrg news site, the strikes were against targets affiliated with Hezbollah, possibly on a weapons shipment to the Shiite terrorist group, which is based in Lebanon but is fighting in Syria alongside Assad’s forces against rebels and Sunni militants.

Israeli “aircrafts targeted several targets in Syria. Several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria following the mission and IDF Aerial Defense Systems intercepted one of the missiles. At no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF aircraft compromised,” the IDF spokesman wrote.

The missiles were launched at the airplanes minutes after they had left Syrian airspace, according to nrg. Debris from the missiles, which were intercepted by the Arrow defense system over Jordan, landed on residential homes in the west of that country near Inba and Irbid.

http://www.jta.org/2017/03/17/news-opinion/israel-middle-east/russia-summons-israeli-envoy-following-idf-strikes-in-syria

Russia announces deepest defence budget cuts since 1990s

Figures released by the Russian Federal Treasury have confirmed that Russia’s defence budget has been cut by 25.5% for 2017, falling from RUB3.8 trillion (USD65.4 billion) to RUB2.8 trillion.

The reduction represents the largest cut to military expenditure in the country since the early 1990s.

The reduction follows an extended period of large increases to Russian defence spending with growth having achieved an average rate of 19.8% a year since 2011 in nominal terms. Despite the cut, the 2017 budget will remain about 14.4% higher than the level of defence spending seen in 2014 in nominal terms.

The Russian government initially outlined plans to reduce defence expenditure in the draft of the three year budget for 2017 to 2019 released in October 2016.

http://www.janes.com/article/68766/russia-announces-deepest-defence-budget-cuts-since-1990s

 

Analysis What Role Did Russia Play in the Israel-Syria Missile Clash?
Syria’s missile fire at Israeli warplanes may indicate that Assad and his Russian protectors are not fully coordinated.

Anshel Pfeffer Mar 18, 2017 1:00 AM

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow, Russia on March 9, 2017. Pavel Golovkin, AP

After Israeli attack in Syria: Russia summons Israel’s envoy for clarifications
Israeli Air Force strikes targets in Syria; Assad forces threaten ‘direct’ retaliation
Analysis Putin is the Middle East’s new boss

Analysis Israel-Syria clash: With missile fire, Assad is trying to change the rules of the game

Over the six years of the Syrian war, dozens of airstrikes carried out against Hezbollah targets there have been ascribed to Israel. Until now the government has refused to acknowledge or deny them. Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman have stated publicly that Israel does attack in Syria to defend its strategic interests – in other words, preventing Hezbollah obtaining “balance-breaking” weapons for its arsenal in Lebanon. The attacks that took place early Friday were the first to be confirmed officially by the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson. While it remains unclear what the target or targets were – was it a Hezbollah convoy, a weapons factory or storage, and whether a senior Hezbollah commander was killed in the airstrike as some reports in the Arab media have claimed – a series of important questions arise from the little information that has been published.

With missile fire, Assad is trying to change the rules of the game | Analysis

First, why has Israel changed its policy and suddenly acknowledged an attack? Syria’s air-defense forces launched a long-range missile in an attempt to shoot down Israel’s fighter-jets. The missile was fired much too late to endanger the planes, but could have fallen on civilian areas within Israel and was therefore intercepted by an Arrow 2 missile. The loud explosion which was heard as far as Jerusalem and the missile parts that fell in Jordan meant that some explanation had to be given. But a statement on the missile intercept would have been sufficient. The decision to take responsibility for the attacks as well would have been made by the prime minister and may have been made for other reasons.

http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.777965

How Russia Is Turning Syria into a Major Naval Base for Nuclear Warships (and Israel Is Worried)

During the 1970s, the Syrian naval base of Tartus became a major port servicing warships of the Soviet Union’s Fifth Mediterranean squadron.

The Soviet Union is gone, and so is Syria as a unified nation. But Russia is back, and it’s building up Tartus again as a naval base that can handle Russia’s largest nuclear-powered ships.

Already, Israel says the Tartus base is affecting its naval operations. U.S. and NATO operations could be next.

Under the forty-nine-year agreement inked late last year by Russia and Syria, “the maximum number of the Russian warships allowed at the Russian naval facility at one time is 11, including nuclear-powered warships, providing that nuclear and ecological security rules are observed,” according to Russia’s RT news site. Russia will also be allowed to expand port facilities to accommodate the vessels.

The specification allowing nuclear-powered warships means that Russia wants to be able to base in Syria large surface ships, namely Kirov-class nuclear-powered battle cruisers, as well as nuclear submarines.

In addition, the treaty allows “Russia is allowed to bring in and out any kind of ‘weaponry, ammunition, devices and materials’ to provide security for the facility staff, crew, and their families throughout the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic ‘without any duties or levies,’” according to RT.

Expansion of the port will take about five years, according to an anonymous source cited in Russia’s Sputnik News. “The source added that the works would focus on dredging operations to allow cruisers and even possibly aircraft carriers to use the facility’s infrastructure,” Sputnik News reported. “According to the source, Russia also needs to develop the facility’s ground infrastructure, through construction of canalization, electricity generation facilities and barracks for the servicemen.”Sputnik News also listed other provisions of the agreement. These include:

• Russia will be responsible for sea and air security of the base, while Syria handles the land defenses.

• Russia can deploy “temporary mobile outposts” beyond the base, as long as they coordinate them with the Syrians.

• Russia can renovate the base at will, including underwater construction, and build offshore platforms.

• Upon Syrian request, Russia will send specialists to service Syrian warships, conduct search and rescue in Syrian waters, and organize the defense of Tartus.

• Syria agrees not to “make any objections related to the military activities of the base, which will also be beyond Damascus’ jurisdiction.”

• “Syria also pledges to solve any conflicts that may arise if a third party objects to the activities of the base.”

http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/how-russia-turning-syria-major-naval-base-nuclear-warships-19813

Iran Challenges Need to Ship Out Excess Material Under Nuclear Deal

By Francois Murphy and Shadia Nasralla

VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has challenged the need for it to ship sensitive material abroad if its stock exceeds a limit set by its nuclear deal with major powers.

The challenge raises the prospect of a confrontation with the new U.S. administration of President Donald Trump because diplomats say Iran is only months away from reaching that cap.

The 2015 deal restricts Iran’s atomic activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against Tehran. One restriction is on its stock of heavy water, a moderator used in a type of reactor that can produce plutonium, like an unfinished one at Arak that had its core removed under the accord.

Iran has already exceeded the 130-tonne limit on its heavy water stock twice. The latest standoff with Washington over the issue was only defused in December when Iran shipped the excess amount to Oman, where the heavy water is being stored until a buyer can be found.

In a letter to the U.N. nuclear watchdog circulated to member states on Thursday and posted on the agency’s website, however, Iran argued that the deal does not require it to ship excess heavy water out of the country.

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2017-03-17/iran-challenges-need-to-ship-out-excess-material-under-nuclear-deal

French Oil Giant Seeks 50% Stake In Iran’s $4B South Pars

Total signed a preliminary deal for the project last year, and today stated its intentions in a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The move makes Total the first Western supermajor to sign a deal with Iran on energy following the easing of sanctions.

According to Total’s SEC filing, the company would finance 50.1 percent of the South Pars 11 project, which requires a total investment of US$4 billion.

If this deal goes through, Total would be the operator of the project, while China’s CNPC would hold a 30-percent interest through a subsidiary, while Iran’s Petropars would hold 19.9 percent.

A final investment decision is expected from Total this summer, while Iran is expected to finalize contracts in April, according to Reuters.

It gets tricky, though, with the possibility that the new regime at the White House may not renew sanctions waivers.

The Persian Gulf South Pars field will begin production by the end of the fiscal year, according to Iranian officials. The first stage of production will see output of 35,000 barrels per day, while the second stage will increase to 100,000 bpd.

http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/French-Oil-Giant-Seeks-50-Stake-In-Irans-4B-South-Pars.html

US places Bahrainis backed by Iran on terrorist list, imposes sanctions

The US government has imposed sanctions on two men from Bahrain and has placed them on a terrorist list on Friday.

The US government has imposed sanctions on two men from Bahrain and has placed them on a terrorist list on Friday.

The two, Ahmad Hassan Yousuf and Mortada Majid Ramadan Alawi, have been placed by the US Treasury Department on the list of economic sanctions and banned financial dealings with them.

The US state department said in a statement that the two have been placed on the terrorist list in accordance with a previous executive order for those who pose threats to US interests.

The US foreign ministry explained that the decision to place the two on the list came “after the escalation of rebel attacks in Bahrain, where Iran has provided arms, funding and training the rebels.”

It added that this was “a further step in the ongoing effort to forcefully confront Iran’s activities that seek to destabilize the region and promote activities relating to terrorism.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/03/18/US-places-Bahrainis-backed-by-Iran-on-terrorist-list-imposes-sanctions.html

Turkish opposition TV starts broadcasts from Germany

A Turkish opposition television channel has started broadcasting from Germany. The channel hopes to highlight anti-democratic practices in Turkey.

Türkei Istanbul Demonstranten protestieren gegen Verhaftung von Reportern ohne Grenzen (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Suna)Protesters in Turkey have called for the release of jailed journalists

 

A group of Turkish opposition journalists has started television broadcasts from the German city of Cologne in an effort to provide independent and objective news in Turkey.

Arti TV, Turkish for Plus TV, went live on Friday evening with the slogan “for a free and independent media and a democratic Turkey.”

The channel brings together several prominent opposition journalists, academics and politicians.

Among those at the station are journalists who lost their jobs and fled to Germany amid a crackdown on media under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

More than 100 journalists in Turkey are in prison, around 150 media outlets have been shut and nearly 3,000 journalists have lost their jobs in a sweeping crackdown on freedom of speech in the wake of last July’s failed coup attempt. Germany’s attention has recently focused on German journalist Denis Yucel, who is among the reporters imprisoned in Turkey.

The immediate goal of the opposition broadcaster is to prevent a referendum from passing next month. Voters will decide on a set of constitutional changes designed to dramatically expand Erdogan’s powers.

Arti TV is available online and via satellite.

http://www.dw.com/en/turkish-opposition-tv-starts-broadcasts-from-germany/a-38004868

Montenegro accession to NATO: It is McConnell’s move

Former minister of foreign affairs and the first Montenegrin ambassador to the USA Miodrag Vlahovic told Pobjeda it was now up to the leader of the Senate majority, Senator Mitch McConnell, to include the discussion on Montenegrin protocol on the Senate’s agenda, as soon as next week.

Pobjeda’s Washington-based source agrees with him and says that McConnell is the only one who has the right to put the accession protocol on the agenda of the Senate without prior consent from other senators.

Thus, the majority leader in the Senate can do it directly and the adoption would then take the votes of a two-third Senate majority.

On Wednesday, the Republican senator John McCain called on colleagues in the Senate to consider and unanimously vote on the protocol, but the senator Rand Paul objected that and left the meeting without explanation.

The surprise move has caused sharp criticism of Senator McCain and his colleagues Democrats Ben Cardin and Jeanne Shaheen. McCain has even said that the senator Paul “is now working for Vladimir Putin”.

Absolute US support

Vlahovic believes that “the statements of senators McCain, Cardin and Shaheen confirmed that there was almost absolute support for Montenegrin accession, and that there is a deep and detailed understanding of the Montenegro’s position and the importance of the enlargement, development and strengthening of NATO had for the United States in the context of relations in Europe and, in particular, to Russia”.

Montenegro accession to NATO: It is McConnell’s move

Trump says Germany owes ‘vast sums’ to NATO

President Donald Trump says Germany owes “vast sums of money” to NATO and the U.S. “must be paid more” for providing defense.

In a tweet from his Florida resort, where he is spending the weekend, Trump wrote that he had a “GREAT” meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, despite reports to the contrary.

But he reiterated his stance that Germany needs to meet its end of the bargain if it is to continue benefiting from the military alliance.

Trump wrote, “Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.”

He added, “Nevertheless, Germany owes … vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/18/trump-says-germany-owes-vast-sums-to-nato.html

 

Russian company that paid Flynn deemed ‘unsuitable’ by Pentagon

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
Technology and Security

March 17, 2017

Laptop holding Trump Tower floor plans, Hillary Clinton email investigation info stolen from Secret Service agent

A laptop computer containing floor plans for Trump Tower, information about the Hillary Clinton email investigation and other national security information was stolen from a Secret Service agent’s vehicle in Brooklyn, police sources told the Daily News.Authorities have been frantically searching for the laptop since it was stolen Thursday morning.

Some items stolen along with the laptop — including coins and a black bag with the Secret Service insignia on it — were later recovered.

But the laptop, along with other documents described as “sensitive,” were still being sought.

The thief stepped out of a car, possibly an Uber, on a street in Bath Beach and stole the laptop from the agent’s vehicle, which was parked in the driveway of her home.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/laptop-trump-tower-floor-plans-stolen-secret-service-article-1.3001078

 

31 Somali refugees killed in helicopter attack off Yemen coast

[Editor’s Note: The number has grown higher with some 42 dead, 80 survivors rescued. The boat was filled with women and children.]

Boat carrying refugees was travelling to Sudan when it was hit by airstrike from Apache helicopter, coastguard says

While the identity of the helicopter was not immediately clear, Saudi Arabia, which is leading a coalition in the war in Yemen, has US-built Apache A-64 Longbow attack helicopters.

The kingdom’s Al-Madinah class frigates, one of which was damaged in an attack by a Houthi militia in January, is also capable of carrying a single helicopter. Other naval forces operating in the area are also equipped with helicopters, including the US military.

The International Organization for Migration’s spokesman, Joel Millman, told a UN news briefing in Geneva that he was unable to confirm news reports indicating that an Apache helicopter strike was responsible for the attack.

He said: “Our confirmation is that there are dozens of deaths and many dozens of survivors brought to hospitals.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/17/somali-refugees-killed-helicopter-attack-off-yemen-coast

Israeli fighter jets fired upon during Syria mission in clash with pro-Assad forces

Israeli fighter jets targeting sites inside Syria came under anti-aircraft missile fire but returned unharmed, says military

Two Israeli Air Force F-16I jet fighters
Two Israeli Air Force F-16I jet fighters. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA

Israeli and pro-Assad forces have had their most serious clash since the beginning of the civil war in Syria after Israeli military jets on an operation over Syria were targeted by anti-aircraft missiles.

Israeli said none of the aircraft was hit, but one of the missiles was intercepted north of Jerusalem by an Israeli missile defence system.

The first indications of the exchange of fire came in the middle of the night with air raid sirens in the Israeli-occupied Jordan valley and reports of an explosion, which was later confirmed as the sound of one of the missiles being brought down by Israeli air defences.

In its own account of the incident the Syrian army said that four Israeli jets had entered Syrian airspace, and that one had been shot down and a second hit, a claim denied in the Israeli military statement.

Lebanese media and websites affiliated with Hezbollah, said the strike had killed Badie Hamya, a veteran of the Shia militant group, who was described as a “mujahedin leader”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/17/israeli-fighter-jets-fired-upon-missiles-syria-mission-assad

IAF ‘Arrow’ battery intercepts Syrian missile, in first reported use of the system

Syria fires three anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli jets; one knocked down by defense system, reportedly over Jordan; other two land in Israel, cause no damage

Israel shot down an incoming Syrian anti-aircraft missile with the Arrow defense battery early Friday morning, military officials said, in the first reported use of the advanced system.
At approximately 2:30 a.m., Israeli “aircrafts targeted several targets in Syria,” the Israel Defense Forces said, prompting a Syrian attempt to down the Israeli jets.

According to Arab media, the target of the IAF strikes was a Hezbollah weapons convoy.

“Several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria following the mission and IDF aerial defense systems intercepted one of the missiles,” the army said in a statement.

The anti-aircraft missiles were fired from eastern Syria by Bashar Assad’s military, traveling over Jordan and toward the Jerusalem area. They were apparently SA-5 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs).

The Arrow is primarily designed to shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles outside the atmosphere, intercepting the weapons and their conventional, nuclear, biological or chemical warheads close to their launch sites.

Surface-to-air missiles are designed to detonate at high altitudes to bring down aircraft or other missiles, and so do not pose much of a threat to people on the ground other than the possibility of being directly hit by falling shrapnel or the remains of the missile.

Therefore, it was not immediately clear why the IDF used the Arrow against a SAM, possibly indicating a misidentification of the type of weapon being fired from Syria.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/iaf-arrow-battery-intercepts-syrian-missile-in-first-reported-use-of-the-system/

UN chief’s spokesman: He ‘cannot accept’ officials publishing reports without consultation

Head of UN body resigns as her group’s anti-Israel report is withdrawn

Rima Khalaf cites pressure to remove document accusing Jewish state of apartheid; Israeli envoy says her departure was ‘long overdue’

The head of a Lebanon-based United Nations agency that promotes development in Arab countries resigned Friday, after the body she led was ordered by the UN secretary-general to remove from its website a controversial report that charged Israel has established an “apartheid regime” guilty of “racial domination” over the Palestinians.

Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian who served as executive secretary of the Beirut-based Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), announced her resignation at a hastily arranged press conference in the Lebanese capital.

She said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s insistence that the document be removed from the agency’s website led her to quit.

“The secretary general asked me yesterday morning to withdraw (the report). I asked him to rethink his decision, he insisted, so I submitted my resignation from the UN,” Khalaf said.

Turkish daily depicts Merkel as ‘Frau Hitler’ on front page

Turkey furious over refusal in Germany, the Netherlands to allow rallies in support of expansion of President Erdogan’s powers

A Turkish pro-government newspaper depicts Chancellor Angela Merkel on its front page in Nazi uniform with a Hitler-style mustache on March 17, 2017

A Turkish pro-government newspaper depicts Chancellor Angela Merkel on its front page in Nazi uniform with a Hitler-style mustache on March 17, 2017

ANKARA, Turkey — A Turkish pro-government newspaper on Friday depicted Chancellor Angela Merkel on its front page in Nazi uniform with a Hitler-style mustache, labeling the German leader “Mrs. Hitler” amid a bitter war of words between Ankara and Berlin.

Right-wing tabloid-style daily Gunes (“Sun”) printed the picture along with the words in German: “#Frau Hitler” and called her an “ugly aunt.”

The mocked-up image took up most of the front page of the daily, with a Nazi swastika on Merkel’s “uniform” and another swastika next to her head while she is shown holding a gun.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/turkish-daily-depicts-merkel-as-frau-hitler-on-front-page/

Sirens Blare As Japan, Fearing North Korea, Holds First Missile Drill

OGA:  Sirens blared and loudspeakers broadcast warnings in Japan’s first civilian missile evacuation drill on Friday, conducted in a fishing town by officials wary about the threat of North Korean missiles.

The exercise comes more than a week after North Korea launched four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan’s northwest coast, with one rocket landing about 200 km (124 miles)from the town of Oga.

Friday’s drill played out a scenario in which North Korea had fired a ballistic missile on the Japanese islands.

“The missile is seen to have landed within a 20-km (12-mile) boundary west of the Oga peninsula,” a speaker blared during the evacuation. “The government is currently examining the damage.”

Residents of the largely rural peninsula jutting into the ocean about 450 km (280 miles) north of the capital, Tokyo, made their way to a designated evacuation centre equipped with emergency kits and protective gear.

http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/sirens-blare-as-japan-fearing-north-korea-holds-first-missile-drill-1670596

Russian spy ship steers clear of U.S. waters while passing near Kings Bay, Mayport

Government officials insist a Russian spy ship steered clear of U.S. waters Wednesday as it moved north in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida’s Mayport Naval Station and Georgia’s Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, according to the Department of Defense.

“The ship has not entered U.S. territorial waters,” said Maj. Jamie Davis, a spokesman for the Department of Defense. “We respect freedom of navigation exercised by all nations beyond the territorial sea of a coastal state consistent with international law.”

Davis said the Vishnya-class intelligence ship Viktor Leonov was about 20 miles south of Kings Bay on Wednesday. He said the same ship was spotted off the coast of Connecticut last month, and it has travelled up the Atlantic Coast before in 2014 and 2015.

http://jacksonville.com/news/military/2017-03-16/russian-spy-ship-steers-clear-us-waters-while-passing-near-kings-bay

Delegation of French MPs visit Russia, wanting stronger ties

A delegation of French MPs starts the second day of its two-day visit to Russia on Friday. They are from the ‘French-Russian Dialogue association’ — a group of French MPs who are friendly to Russia and who have visited the country several times over the past few years. They have also visited Crimea in the past and several of them have stated that Russia had the right to annex Crimea in 2014.

This group of MPs is known for thinking that the West is too harsh on Russia, and that France could benefit from restoring ties. Many of them feel that France has common interests with Russia – notably in the fight against Islamic terrorism.

“Russia is not an enemy in Europe; it should be a partner,” says Jacques Myard, a politician in France’s right-wing party Les Republicans, who is not part of the current delegation, but is widely considered to be relatively pro-Russian.

Myard acknowledges that “we have differences with Russia”, he highlights that “in combatting the Islamic State, we have good relations with Russia”, because “you cannot avoid that we have a common enemy”.

http://en.rfi.fr/europe/20170316-delegation-french-mps-visit-russia-wanting-stronger-ties

It’s time for the US to quit enabling Iran in Syria

If the Trump administration is serious about taking on Iran in the Middle East it must transform its strategy in Syria for fighting the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS).  Our current strategy will only continue to strengthen Tehran’s grip on the region.

The US needs a new approach that gives it the independence and leverage it needs to begin pushing back successfully.

It won’t be easy. The strategy the administration inherited from President  Obama sees Iran as a partner in the fight.  The U.S. has therefore done nothing to contain the dramatic and alarming Iranian expansion of military power in Syria.

Yet the expansion was avoidable.

Tehran had used Syria as a base for Lebanese Hezbollah, HAMAS, and its own subversive activities for decades at no cost.  The 2011 uprising against Syrian President Bashar al Assad was a blow to its position.  Therefore Iran rushed to support Assad, sending in special Qods Force operatives, then advisors from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

As the revolt against Assad deepened, Tehran added thousands of fighters from Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraq’s Shi’a militias. Conventional combat forces of the IRGC joined in when a Russian air campaign in support of Assad started in late 2015.

Today, Iran commands tens of thousands more fighters in Syria than it did before the Arab Spring uprising.  It has established its own military headquarters and embedded troops and advisors so deeply in the Assad regime that it cannot survive without them.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/03/16/its-time-for-us-to-quit-enabling-iran-in-syria.html

Iran, Pakistan to hold joint naval drills in east of Hormuz Strait

The Pakistani flotilla comprising Navy ships Tippu Sultan and PNS Jurrat and a chopper on Wednesday left the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas for the east of the Hormuz Strait where the drills will be held, Tasnim quoted Commander of Iran’s First Naval Zone Admiral Hossein Azad as saying.

He added that Iranian Navy’s Jamaran Destroyer besides a missile-launching frigate and a helicopter will join the Pakistani fleet.

The commander noted that some 800 personnel of the Iranian and Pakistani navies will participate in the drills.

The Pakistani flotilla berthed at Bandar Abbas on Sunday and was officially received by the Iranian Navy’s officers, Tasnim reported.

Speaking at the welcoming ceremony, Admiral Azad said the visit was in line with efforts to boost security cooperation between Tehran and Islamabad.

https://www.geo.tv/latest/134531-Iran-Pakistan-to-hold-joint-naval-drills-in-east-of-Hormuz-Strait

U.S. Denies Striking Syrian Mosque After Dozens Reported Killed

Image: Rescuers who were trapped under the debris

The organization said it didn’t know who launched the attack.

Some human rights activists and monitors alleged that the United States hit the mosque. But a senior U.S. military official told NBC News that while there was a mosque about 50 feet from the U.S. target, the United States has photographic evidence that the mosque was not hit and was still standing.

The official wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the mosque may have been struck or blown up later by someone else.

Al-Jinnah is located in one of the main rebel-held parts of Syria, the northwest that includes Idlib province and the western parts of Aleppo province, and its population has been swollen by refugees, U.N. agencies have said.

Rebels in northwest Syria fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad also include groups supported by Turkey, the United States and Gulf monarchies.

The conflicting reports come one day after at least 25 people were killed in a suicide bombing at the main court complex in Syria’s capital, Damascus, on the sixth anniversary of the start of the uprising against Assad.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/u-s-denies-striking-syrian-mosque-after-dozens-reported-killed-n734696

Iraq, U.S. offer differing accounts of progress in Mosul

March 16, 2017 (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Alex Manne/Army)

MOSUL, Iraq — Iraqi and U.S. commanders offered conflicting accounts Thursday of progress in western Mosul, where U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have been battling the Islamic State group for nearly a month as they try to retake the remainder of the city.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, the American commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq, said the troops had recaptured “a little over a third” of neighborhoods west of the Tigris River, while Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, an Iraqi military spokesman, said they had retaken up to 60 percent, with fighting still underway. Iraq declared eastern Mosul “fully liberated” in January.

Iraqi officials have overstated gains in the past, declaring areas liberated from ISIS militants only to see the resumption of fighting or militant attacks. The extremists have targeted eastern Mosul with bombings and other attacks on several occasions in recent weeks.

Front-line commanders meanwhile said progress has been slow over the past week, with troops advancing just a few hundred meters (yards) in the face of ISIS car bomb attacks.

Turkey is about to take another step toward dictatorship

  March 16 at 4:11 PM

Seyla Benhabib is a professor of political science and philosophy at Yale University.

On April 16, Turkish voters — some 58 million of them — will take part in a constitutional referendum proposed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Though the referendum will have all the appearances of democratic legitimacy, the reality could not be more different. At issue is a sweeping program of constitutional changes that, if passed, will establish a new form of autocracy with Erdogan at its top. Parliament gave its approval to the referendum this year, albeit by the narrowest of majorities, with only nine more votes than were needed for the required two-thirds majority. That result came only after a long and intensive campaign of government-sponsored intimidation. (The leaders of one of the main opposition parties, which appeals to a mainly Kurdish constituency, are still in jail.)

Now Turkish voters find themselves confronting an even broader system of state-orchestrated pressure and coercion as they prepare to go to the polls. If the referendum passes, the effect will be to transform a multiparty, parliamentary democracy into an authoritarian presidential regime in the model of Kazakhstan or Russia. It is no exaggeration to say that the vigorous if flawed parliamentary Turkish republic founded in 1923 by Kemal Ataturk — one that long granted me and millions of other citizens wide-ranging rights and freedoms — will be no more.

If the referendum passes, the office of prime minister will be abolished. The number of representatives in a newly powerless National Assembly will increase from 550 to 600 (a cynical bit of democratic window-dressing). In a stark break with the republican principles of the past, which dictated that the head of state should remain politically neutral, the president will be permitted to retain direct ties to a political party — in Erdogan’s case, the ruling Justice and Development Party, which first brought him to power in 2003. The referendum plan will give the president the power to appoint and remove ministers and exert even greater control over the judiciary than he does now.

NUCLEAR TURKEY? Imam close to Erdogan calls for weapons NOW amid tensions with EU

TURKEY should ignore rules set by ‘the West’ and build its own NUCLEAR WEAPONS – an Imam close to president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has advised – as the fallout between Brussels and Ankara deepens.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been told he should invest in nuclear weapons
The worrying advice has been called weeks ahead of a Turkish referendum aimed at giving more power to President Erdogan – and in the midst of a keeping fallout between Ankara and EU leaders.Hayrettin Karaman, the Turkish AK Party’s go-to religious leader, attacked ‘the West’ in a letter which insisted Erdogan should immediately invest in weapons of mass destruction.In the online post the imam accused Christian countries in the West of egotism and racism – stating the bad attitude towards Turkey has been “accelerated”.

President Erdogan is in the midst of a deep fall out with European nations including Germany and the Netherlands after both countries banned rallies and kicked out his ministers who had sworn to campaign for his referendum.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/780240/TURKEY-Imam-Erdogan-nuclear-weapons-NOW-EU-tension-Germany-Netherlands

Bulgaria accuses Turkey of election meddling, recalls ambassador

Sofia hauled in Turkey’s envoy after he openly backed the new pro-Turkish Dost party, which is running in the Bulgarian election on March 26. 

Bulgaria on Thursday recalled its ambassador to Turkey for consultations, days after accusing Ankara of meddling in upcoming snap elections.

The foreign ministry did not provide any further details around the move, a traditional sign of diplomatic anger.

Last week, Sofia hauled in Turkey’s envoy after he openly backed the new pro-Turkish Dost party, which is running in the Bulgarian election on March 26, in a campaign video.

It also slammed Ankara for encouraging the 60,000 or so Bulgarian citizens living in Turkey to vote for Dost, calling the move “direct interference in Bulgarian domestic affairs”.

For its part, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has accused Bulgaria of hindering ethic Turkish Bulgarians from voting, according to the Anadolu Agency.

Last year, changes to the Bulgarian Election Code imposed restrictions on voting rules. Critics argue that the reforms will deny millions of citizens abroad the right to vote.

Bulgaria has limited the number of ballot boxes in Turkey for this year’s election to 35, a move Turkey sees as limiting the political rights of minorities in the country.

Full tech transfer could derail Indo-Russian fifth-gen fighter program

March 16, 2017 (Photo Credit: Dmitry Kostyukov/AFP via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI — The Indo-Russian fifth-generation fighter aircraft under joint development and production by the two countries has taken a hit, with Russia showing reluctance to fully transfer the aircraft technology, particularly stealth capabilities, despite repeated reminders, according to a top Indian Air Force official.
After the preliminary agreement on the particulars of the fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) program in 2010, and with both sides having paid $295 million each, the final agreement that enables India to release more than $4 billion, is pending.
The Air Force has worked out its requirements for the FGFA, but the crucial “work sharing and technology sharing draft has yet to be finalized,” the IAF official said.
“The project is likely to get delayed further unless the issue of transfer of technology is finalized,” offered Daljit Singh, a defense analyst and retired Indian Air Force air marshal. India should insist on technology transfer in specified fields, he added, as “full technology transfer may not be feasible.”

Russia’s United Shipbuilding, Goa Shipyard In Pact To Build Frigates

Our Bureau

India’s Union defence ministry has officially approved Goa Shipyard Limted’s (GSL) partnership with Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corp to develop two guided-missile stealth frigates for the Indian Navy.

“The Naval HQ has written to the Russian authorities seeking technical and cost details for building guided-missile stealth frigates. Thereafter, GSL will start discussions. The private sector may have the capacity, but it is yet to prove its capability,” an official was quoted as saying by Times of India today.

The defence ministry was forced to turn to GSL and the two private sector shipyards as the major public sector shipyards were tied up executing current orders.

Russian delegations have already visited the Vasco-based shipyard and cleared its facilities for construction of the frigates, which will be equipped with sensors and weapons, including the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles.

During a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the 2016 Brics Summit, the two countries signed a deal to purchase four guided-missile stealth frigates from Russia.

Under the agreement, two of the frigates will come from Russia, while the other two will be constructed in India, official said.

http://www.defenseworld.net/news/18743/Russia_s_United_Shipbuilding__Goa_Shipyard_In_Pact_To_Build_Frigates#.WMvW4JArJD8

Germany’s Merkel to make rare Russia visit for Putin talks

Germany’s Angela Merkel will visit Moscow for talks on May 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, for the first bilateral visit since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014.

There is no immediate prospect that Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis will be lifted, but Merkel’s visit sends a signal that Germany, the European Union’s foremost power, is willing to engage with the Kremlin.

The agenda of Merkel’s visit has yet to be made public, but talks are likely to focus on Ukraine, EU sanctions, trade ties and German concerns that Russia may try to meddle in a parliamentary election in September.

Germany is also president of the G20 group of leading nations this year and Merkel will need to meet with key members ahead of an upcoming summit.

“Give my best wishes to the federal chancellor,” Putin told Horst Seehofer, Bavaria’s prime minister, who was in Moscow for talks on Thursday. “We are waiting for her to visit on May 2.” Seehofer confirmed Merkel was planning to visit that day.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-germany-visit-idUSKBN16N24S

Here’s what the Pentagon plans to do with its ‘historic’ budget increase

US President Donald Trump’s budget proposal is in, and it calls for a “historic” $54 billion increase in defense spending, and an additional $30 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations spending this year.

“This is a hard power budget, it is not a soft power budget,” Mick Mulvaney told reporters at a Wednesday briefing. “And that was done intentionally. That’s what our allies can expect. That’s what our adversaries can expect.”

So what does Trump want to spend the additional $84 billion on?

The Army wants $8.3 billion, which includes $871 million for increasing readiness, $1.3 billion for “enhanced and more realistic training,” $2.8 billion to restore and modernize equipment in aviation, armor, drones, and air and missile defense systems, and another $1.2 billion for US combat commanders to fight ISIS.

Additionally, more than $2 billion will go to addressing shortfalls, infrastructure readiness, and ammunition.

http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-defense-budget-2017-3

SWIFT Messaging System Cuts Off Remaining North Korean Banks

They are “no longer compliant with SWIFT’s membership criteria.”

SWIFT, the inter-bank messaging network which is the backbone of international finance, said it planned to cut off the remaining North Korean banks still connected to its system, as concerns about the country’s nuclear program and missile tests grow.

SWIFT said the four remaining banks on the network would be disconnected for failing to meet its operating criteria.

The bank-owned co-operative declined to specify what the banks’ shortcomings were or if it had received representations from any governments.

Experts said the decision to cut off banks which were not subject to European Union sanctions was unusual and a possible sign of diplomatic pressure on SWIFT.

Belgium-based SWIFT has previously refused to cut off Burmese, Russian or Syrian banks which were subject to sanctions by other countries, such as the United States, citing a policy of remaining politically neutral.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/swift-bank-north-korea_us_58caf2d7e4b0ec9d29da2859

Japan launches new spy satellite to keep eye on North Korea

Japan launched a new spy satellite Friday, the country’s space agency said, as the region grows increasingly uneasy over North Korea’s quickening missile and nuclear programs.

The Radar 5 unit was carried into space on Japan’s mainstay H-IIA rocket from a launch site in the country’s southwest.

It is meant to replace an existing satellite that is approaching the end of its mission.

Japan began putting spy satellites into orbit in 2003 after North Korea fired a midrange ballistic missile over the Japanese mainland and into the Western Pacific in 1998.

The threat has steadily accelerated and just last week Pyongyang fired four ballistic missiles, with three landing in waters provocatively close to Japan.

Tokyo currently maintains three optical satellites for daytime surveillance and three radar satellites for nighttime monitoring. Two of those are backups.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/17/national/japan-launches-new-spy-satellite-keep-eye-north-korea/#.WMvaP5ArJD8

 

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Technology and Security

March 16, 2017

Don’t Fight Saudi Arabia’s War

It would be a mistake to get more involved in the Yemeni conflict that poses no risk to national security.

By Daniel DePetris | Contributor

March 15, 2017, at 1:45 p.m.

The civil war in Yemen has created one of the world’s greatest humanitarian disasters. According to United Nations estimates, more than two-thirds of Yemen’s entire population need some kind of assistance. Seven million people are hungry, 10,000 have been killed in the war and the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator recently reported to the Security Council “the Yemeni people now face the spectre of famine.”

While all parties in the war have violated international law during hostilities, most of the misery Yemenis have forcibly endured over the past two years were perpetrated by Saudi Arabia.

Most important, the U.S. has no vital national security interests at risk in this conflict.

Why, then, is the United States reportedly preparing to assist the Saudis to an even greater extent than when the conflict began?

The State Department recently signed off on a $350 million package of smart bombs to the Saudi-led military coalition currently combating the Houthi rebellion in Yemen. And in the event one thought this was an isolated sale to merely generate business, Foreign Policy magazine reported just last month that the Trump administration is searching for ways to escalate America’s part in the civil war “[t]o counter Iran’s proxies in Yemen.” It continues, “the administration is considering ramping up drone strikes, deploying more military advisors and carrying out more commando raids.”

This would be a mistake with potentially huge ramifications.

https://www.usnews.com/opinion/world-report/articles/2017-03-15/the-us-shouldnt-fight-saudi-arabias-proxy-war-with-iran-in-yemen

[Editor’s Note: This is an Iranian news source.]

This photo provided by the media bureau of the Joint Operations Command in Yemen shows the site where a Saudi helicopter was brought down in Hudaydah province, Yemen, March 16, 2017.
This photo provided by the media bureau of the Joint Operations Command in Yemen shows the site where a Saudi helicopter was brought down in Hudaydah province, Yemen, March 16, 2017.

Yemeni army soldiers and fighters from Popular Committees have shot down an Apache helicopter operated by Saudi Arabia in the western province of Hudaydah, a report says.

The chopper was brought down in Hudaydah’s Bayt al-Faqih district on Thursday, Arabic-language al-Masirah television network reported.

On January 25, the Yemeni forces shot down another Apache helicopter belonging to the so-called Saudi-led coalition in Dhubab neighborhood of Yemen’s Ta’izz province.

Ten Saudi soldiers slain

Separately on Thursday, al-Masirah reported that a Saudi trooper had been killed in the al-Dukhan military base in the kingdom’s southwestern Jizan region.

Nine other Saudi soldiers lost their lives in several places across Saudi Arabia’s southern region, including Jizan’s al-Dafinah village.

According to later reports, one of the slain soldiers came form the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/16/514582/Yemen-Saudi-Arabia-Hudaydah

 

Al Houthis interception of relief ships causes famine in Yemen, government says

Al Houthis abducting aid workers and stealing relief goods, minister says

Image Credit: AP
A World Food Programme ship is docked in Aden. Hundreds of trucks transporting vital medicines, tents and food heading to Al Houthi-held areas have been seized by the militia and the goods sold on the black market, Yemen’s government said.
Saeed Al Batati, Correspondent

Al Mukalla: The internationally supported Yemeni government has said Al Houthi rebels have intercepted 63 ships and 223 convoys carrying humanitarian aid to areas under their control since ejecting President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi from Sana’a in early 2015.

In a statement carried by the state-run Saba news agency on Friday, Abdul Rageeb Fateh, the minister of local administration and head of supreme relief committee, said rebels seize relief ships immediately after docking at Hodeida and Saleef seaports and supply goods to their fighters battling government forces across Yemen.

Fateh also said hundreds of trucks transporting vital medicines, tents and food heading to rebel-held territories have also been seized by Al Houthis and goods sold in the black market.

The minister accused Al Houthis of abducting 30 aid workers from areas under their control, including several Norwegian Refugee Council staff, in the Red Sea city of Hodeida. He said Al Houthi supporters in Taiz’s Khader district abducted seven aid workers. He said harassment of aid workers and interception of humanitarian convoys by Al Houthis is causing famine in areas under their control. He said humanitarian situation would deteriorate if rebels continued confiscating aid convoys.

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/yemen/al-houthis-interception-of-relief-ships-causes-famine-in-yemen-government-says-1.1992019

Saudi-led coalition’s port op would cut off Yemen from food & aid supplies, Russia warns

The coalition’s “plans to storm Yemen’s biggest port of Hudaydah give rise to serious concerns,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement published on the ministry’s official website.

She added that battles in this area “would not only inevitably lead to a mass exodus of the [local] population but would also de facto cut the [Yemeni] capital of Sanaa from… food and humanitarian aid supplies.

Zakharova called the humanitarian situation in Yemen “catastrophic,” citing the UN who earlier said that the Yemeni people “face the specter of famine” while their country suffers from “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.

https://www.rt.com/news/380524-russia-yemen-saudi-op/

One of Libya’s Rival Governments Asks Russia for Military Assistance

March 15, 2017 6:00 PM

A member of Libyan security forces gestures after armed groups aligned with a U.N.-backed government took over a compound occupied by a self-declared rival prime minister in heavy fighting, in Tripoli, Libya, March 15, 2017.

A member of Libyan security forces gestures after armed groups aligned with a U.N.-backed government took over a compound occupied by a self-declared rival prime minister in heavy fighting, in Tripoli, Libya, March 15, 2017.

An interview in Russian state media Tuesday indicates that one of Libya’s rival governments is looking increasingly to Moscow as a patron, a move that’s concerning U.S. military commanders in the region.

Aguila Saleh, speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR), told RIA Novosti, a Kremlin-controlled news agency, that he’s asked Russia to help train Libyan National Army fighters led by General Khalifa Haftar and has invited Russian lawmakers to visit eastern Libya.

“Most of our officers were trained in Russia and many speak Russian, and they know how to use Russian equipment,” Saleh is reported as saying. He promised Libya will pay $4 billion in Gadhafi-era military debt owed to Russia and added the Kremlin has promised to help “in the fight against terrorism.”

http://www.voanews.com/a/libya-rival-government-asks-russia-for-military-assistance/3767870.html

Moldova sees Russian plot to derail money-laundering probe

By Matthias Williams | CHISINAU

Two months ago, Moldova’s Deputy General Prosecutor Iurie Garaba traveled to Moscow with an invitation to attend an official function for Russia’s General Prosecutor’s Day.

The visit didn’t go as planned.

Garaba was stopped by border guards at Moscow’s airport and taken in for questioning. He said one guard rifled through his passport for 15-20 minutes while another asked what he was doing in Russia – despite his official invitation and a document naming him as the head of the Moldovan delegation.

“I was asked questions that have absolutely nothing to do with border document checks. For example, ‘How do I pronounce my last name?’, or ‘How to write it correctly?’, Garaba told Reuters by telephone.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm his version of events.

But some Moldovan officials say the incident is part of a campaign by members of Russia’s security apparatus to humiliate officials from the ex-Soviet state as they travel to or through Russia.

The primary aim, four top Moldovan officials including Garaba’s boss Eduard Harunjen told Reuters, is to derail a Moldovan probe into a Russian-led money laundering operation that funneled $22.3 billion of Russian money through the Moldovan financial system between 2011-2014.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-moldova-russia-insight-idUSKBN16M1QQ

Russian Bribe Jumps 75 Percent, Anti-Corruption Tsar Tells Newspaper

MOSCOW — Graft is a booming business in Russia, where the average bribe has grown by 75 percent year-on-year, according to the country’s anti-corruption tsar.

Greasing the palm of a Russian official cost 328,000 rubles ($5,600) on average in 2016, leading business daily Kommersant quoted Lt. Gen. Andrei Kurnosenko as saying on Thursday.

“But often the bribes are much higher,” the policeman said, according to the paper.

The total amount of money spent on bribes was 298 billion rubles ($5.1 billion) in 2016, Kurnosenko said. But this is only the corruption uncovered by law enforcement agencies, which opened 69,000 cases involving graft and fraud last year, he added.

Kurnosenko did not explain the reasons for the increase. The ruble has lost half its value against the dollar since 2014 in the wake of international sanctions imposed as punishment over Russian meddling in Ukraine and plummeting oil prices.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/russian-bribe-jumps-75-percent-anti-corruption-tsar-tells-newspaper-n734246

Iran behind Yemeni rebels’ explosive boats

– – Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels working to take power in Yemen are using a new weapon that is raising fears of seaborne attacks on both military and commercial shipping in the region.

The weapon is an Iranian-designed remotely piloted small boat filled with explosives, a defense official told Inside the Ring.

The exact number of the explosive drone boats is not known, but the rebels are believed to have enough to threaten ships that pass through the strategic sea lanes off the Yemeni coast. The Navy has intelligence photos of the deadly boats but declined a request to release them. The boats were first detected after one was used in an attack Jan. 30 on a Saudi frigate in the Red Sea.

Iran is backing Houthi rebels as part of a strategy of seeking to encircle its rival, Saudi Arabia, and ultimately to take control of the peninsula.

One strategic objective of the Iranians is to control the strategic Bab el-Mandeb or Mandeb Strait on the southern Red Sea that is a major shipping passage.

Iran already has a major influence in Iraq and in the past has threatened to shut down shipping in the Persian Gulf by targeting traffic passing through the Hormuz Strait.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/mar/15/inside-the-ring-iran-behind-yemeni-rebels-explosiv/

Pentagon Deploys B-52 Bombers, 400 Airmen for Iraq, Syria Air Campaign

© AFP 2017/ Paul CROCK

The Pentagon has sent to Iraq and Syria more than 400 airmen along with B-52H Stratofortresse jets for day-to-day combat operations in a first event of a kind in over twelve years.

WASHIGTON (Sputnik) — B-52 bombers at Minot Air Force Base in the US State of North Dakota have been deployed, along with more than 400 airmen, to the air campaign in Syria and Iraq against the Daesh terror group (outlawed in Russia), the Department of Defense stated in a press release on Wednesday.

“The 23rd Bomb Squadron sent a number of B-52H Stratofortresses to take over day-to-day operations, which will be the first time in 12 years aircraft from the base have deployed in support of combat operations,” the release stated.

The B-52 is a subsonic long-range bomber that can fly at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet and deploy the widest range of weapons in the US aerial arsenal.

The aircraft has been operated by the US Air Force since the 1950s.

The US-led coalition of 69 nations has conducted an air campaign against Daesh in Syria and Iraq since the summer of 2014. However, the coalition’s actions in Syria have not been approved by the country’s government of President Bashar Assad or the UN Security Council.

It was also reported that the United States may deploy an additional 1,000 troops into northern Syria in a matter of weeks to aid the offensive against Daesh in Raqqa.

https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201703161051627659-pentagon-b52-syria-iraq/

 

F-35 firing boosts ASRAAM sales prospects

[Editor’s Note: MBDA is owned by BAE Systems and Airbus Group which each have 37.5% shares and Leonardo – Finmeccanica which has a 25% share.  The group was formed by a merger of French Aérospatiale-Matra Missiles (of EADS, now Airbus Group), Italian Alenia Marconi Systems (now Leonardo) and British Matra BAe Dynamics (of BAE Systems) in December 2001.]

Lockheed Martin F-35s have fired their first non-US-produced missiles in testing, with the activity providing a boost to MBDA’s sales efforts for the ASRAAM.

Announcing the development on 15 March, MBDA said flight trials and air-launched firings have taken place using test aircraft operating from Edwards AFB, California and NAS Patuxent River, Maryland.

The short-range, infrared-guided ASRAAM is being integrated with the short take-off and vertical landing F-35B variant for the UK. “The effort is progressing to plan, and these integration activities will allow the initial operating capability of the aircraft” for the nation, MBDA says.

The European company hopes that other F-35 customers could opt to acquire its weapon, in preference to the Raytheon AIM-9X. Australia already uses the Mach 3-capable missile on its Boeing F/A-18A/B strike aircraft, and has previously expressed some interest in also using it with its Joint Strike Fighters.

“The fact that it is a real firing that has taken place is important, because that allows the other F-35A and B users to now have a choice,” says Dave Armstrong, MBDA’s executive group director for sales and business development.

Meanwhile, Armstrong says the company remains hopeful that the US military could acquire its Brimstone air-to-surface missile to provide some of its fast jet platforms with an “off-the-shelf” precision strike capability against moving targets, despite the business uncertainty raised by US President Donald Trump’s buy-American agenda.

“We know that the US military still aspires to have Brimstone on [Boeing] F-15 and F-18,” he says. “It’s a question of economics and programme management.”

MBDA on 15 March reported its receipt of new orders worth €4.7 billion ($5 billion) in 2016, against sales totalling €3 billion. This compares with respective figures of €5.2 billion and €2.9 billion in 2015, and chief executive Antoine Bouvier notes that the company’s book-to-bill ratio over the past four years has been 1.6, due to “an exceptional order track record”.

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/f-35-firing-boosts-asraam-sales-prospects-435233/

 

Top Indonesian fighter with IS killed in Syria

Followers of the Islamic State (IS) group in Indonesia for the second time in less than a year have lost a leader with the reported death of Bahrumsyah, an Indonesian militant fighting in Syria who is said to have died on a suicide mission in the war-torn country.

Bahrumsyah’s death comes only four months after IS Indonesian jihadist Abu Jandal al Yemeni Al Indonesi alias Salim Mubarak Atamimi was killed during a US-led international coalition assault in Mosul, Iraq, in November 2016.

The death of Bahrumsyah leaves Bahrun Naim as the only Indonesian IS fighter in Syria with a reputable position in the terrorist organisation.

http://news.asiaone.com/news/asia/top-indonesian-fighter-killed-syria#sthash.nn3ibUYy.dpuf

Al Qaeda Is Starting to Swallow the Syrian Opposition

After six years of conflict, Syria and its people have been completely transformed. The effects of a crisis that has killed nearly a half-million people and forced nearly 11.5 million more from their homes are now etched into the many identities to which Syrians attach themselves. While a majority of Syrians vigorously resist the formal breakup of their country, it is impossible to ignore how the brutal and protracted war has instilled deep divisions in a once-cohesive society.

In many areas of the country, battle lines remain physically drawn among villages that once lived in harmony. And the sectarian dynamic that was once supported only by extremist fringes has started to decisively shape the mainstream opposition.

But Syria’s armed opposition is also changing as a result of internal pressures. Al Qaeda’s Syrian representatives — rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS) in July 2016 and then renamed Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) after subsuming several other groups in January — have been relentless, and patient, in pursuing their long-term objective: a merger of all armed Syrian opposition groups under its broad transnational Islamic umbrella. Al Qaeda has commonly called this goal a “uniting of the ranks.”

Largely free of any government instruction, and spurred on by the gradual weakening of the opposition’s most moderate base, al Qaeda spent much of 2012 to 2015 building the trust of Syria’s opposition under the guise of Jabhat al-Nusra, which means literally “support front.” This was the first phase of al Qaeda’s attempt to embed itself in the opposition. The group positioned itself as merely one component of a broad Syrian revolutionary movement, using controlled pragmatism, a clearly defined military strategy, and an emphasis on localism to socialize Syrians into accepting, then supporting, its presence. By rebranding itself as JFS in mid-2016 and by telling Syrians that it had broken its external ties to al Qaeda, the group sought to overcome the only remaining hurdle to uniting the ranks by convincing enough of Syria’s opposition that it was a fundamentally Syrian movement, dedicated to a local cause and not to a transnational jihadi project.

Al Qaeda Is Starting to Swallow the Syrian Opposition

Moscow lends Turkey credit card to buy Russian missiles

Turkey is looking to pay for a new Russian missile defence system with a loan from Moscow, according to the Russian CEO responsible for the deal.

The loan required to buy a new S-400 missile system was being considered by the Kremlin, Sergey Chemezov told Russia’s state-owned news channel, Rossiya-24.

“They have expressed a wish to get a loan, but the issue has not yet been resolved,” the CEO of Rostech said.

“The Finance Ministry is holding talks, as soon as they sign this and take a decision on allocating a loan, we will sign contracts on supplies, including the S-400.”

https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2017/3/15/moscow-lends-turkey-credit-card-to-buy-russian-missiles

Greek group claims it mailed parcel bomb to German finance minister

The militant Greek group Conspiracy of Fire Cells has claimed responsibility for a parcel bomb mailed to German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, police said on Thursday.

The parcel was mailed to Schaeuble from a post office branch in Athens but was intercepted by the German finance ministry’s mail department.

The group has previously claimed responsibility for a wave of parcel bombs sent to foreign embassies in Athens in 2010.

“We still have the rage. We sent the package to Germany’s finance minister as part of the second act of Nemesis Plan,” the group said in a statement on the internet. “Nothing is over, everything continues.”

It did not specify what Nemesis Plan was. Police consider the claim as credible.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-greece-schaueble-parcelbomb-idUSKBN16N1BA

Letter bomb explodes at France office of IMF, injuring 1

A letter bomb exploded Thursday at the French office of the International Monetary Fund, lightly injuring one person, according to Paris police.

Staff from the IMF office were evacuated and armed military officers and police guarded the area, in a chic district of western Paris. The World Bank office in France is in the same compound.

It is unclear who sent the homemade explosive, which was like a “big firecracker” and sent by regular mail, said Paris police chief Michel Cadot. He said the IMF office had received threatening phone calls in recent days but they were not necessarily linked to Thursday’s incident.

IMF director Christine Lagarde, who is French, said in a statement that she was informed about the explosion while on a trip to Germany. “I condemn this cowardly act of violence and reaffirm the IMF’s resolve to continue our work in line with our mandate,” she said.

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/business/article138830503.html#storylink=cpy

S-400 missile systems will not be integrated into NATO system, Defense Minister says

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
emAA Photo/em

AA Photo

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık said that Russia’s S-400 missile systems would not be integrated into the NATO system during a televised live interview Thursday.

Işık said that Turkey preferred to purchase the long-range missiles from a NATO member, but added that Turkey had not seen desired cooperation.

The defense minister stated that if the two countries agree upon the sale of S-400 missile defense systems, then there would not be any obstacles.

Işık emphasized that the S-400 missiles would be placed under national control, adding that Turkey could produce its own missile defense system within five to seven years, which would then be integrated into the NATO system.

Turkish officials confirmed Wednesday that the talks between Turkey and Russia concerning the sale of S-400 missile defense systems have been positive, also noting that negotiations on the details of the deal are ongoing.

The sale of the missile system was also discussed during a meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow during Erdoğan’s visit to Russia March 10.

https://www.dailysabah.com/defense/2017/03/16/s-400-missile-systems-will-not-be-integrated-into-nato-system-defense-minister-says

 

Russia Military To Practice Detecting Missiles Amid NATO Tensions

Amid growing tensions with NATO, a division of Russia’s Aerospace Force will practice detecting ballistic missiles during launches carried out by the Strategic Missile Force, Aerospace Force Commander-in-Chief Colonel-General Viktor Bondarev said Wednesday, in an interview with Russian daily Krasnaya Zvezda.

Space Troops, the division of Aerospace Force, is expected to launch 15 carrier rockets this year and about 40 tactical exercises with subordinate military units will also be conducted, Bondarev reportedly said.

“The Space Troops will team up with other branches and services of the Russian Armed Forces to practice detecting ballistic missiles, using the forces and resources of the (Special Designation) Aerospace Army during the demonstrative launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles by the Strategic Missile Force,” Bondarev told the Russian-language newspaper, according to Tass news agency.

“For the purpose of building up the orbital grouping of satellites, 15 launches of space carrier rockets have been planned to deliver more than 20 satellites into orbit,” Bondarev added.

http://www.ibtimes.com/russia-military-practice-detecting-missiles-amid-nato-tensions-2509521

Kuwait approves NATO use of its territory

BAGHDAD, IRAQ: Foreign Minister of Kuwait, Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah, and Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari (not seen) hold a press conference after signing an agreement on border gates, security and aviation cooperation in Baghdad, Iraq, on 28 December 2016. [Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency]

Foreign Minister of Kuwait, Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah attends a press conference after signing an agreement on border gates, security and aviation

The Kuwaiti National Assembly approved on Tuesday an Agreement between the State of Kuwait and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) on the transit of troops and members of the alliance across Kuwaiti territory.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly explained in a report that the agreement works on a legal basis and provisions which permit the transit of forces and members of the NATO alliance through the State of Kuwait if a request is made.

Kuwait News Agency reported First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, saying that Kuwait is “one of the first countries to join the Istanbul iInitiative, which seeks to see security and stability in the region in 2004”.

Sabah stressed on the importance of cooperating with 28 countries represented in the alliance for the sake of the country’s security and stability.

He noted Kuwait has cooperated with NATO in several areas such as counter-terrorism, natural calamities and in areas of maritime security and military training.

Al-Sabah said his country’s cooperation with NATO came in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions which stipulate helping NATO forces and facilitating their tasks to help in Iraq and Afghanistan.

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170316-kuwait-approves-nato-use-of-its-territory/

14 Obama Holdovers Still at the PentagonDrew Angerer – Pool/Getty Images

WASHINGTON – There are 14 Obama holdovers still at the Pentagon, two months into the Trump administration.

Currently, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is the only presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed appointee at the Pentagon, out of 53 such positions.

Obama holdovers are filling four of those positions: Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work remains in his position; Robert Speer is serving as Acting Army Secretary; Sean Stackley is serving as Acting Navy Secretary; and Lisa Disbrow as Acting Air Force Secretary.

The Pentagon said there are 10 other Obama holdovers still serving, but has declined to name who they are or what positions they are filling.

Trump has filled an additional 32 slots for non-Senate confirmed positions, for a total of 33 hires, including Mattis. That number is less than a fourth of the 163 political appointees at the Pentagon on election day.

The White House was expected to announce a handful of names for top political positions at the Pentagon as soon as this week, a defense official told Breitbart News. The White House declined to give a time frame for the announcement.

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/03/16/14-obama-holdovers-still-at-the-pentagon/

Espionage risk to US heightened as China’s military presses its domestic tech firms

China is taking a page from the Pentagon’s playbook under the Obama administration: it’s partnering with tech companies to develop more cutting-edge weapons.

But China’s innovation-focused strategy could elevate the espionage risk to the U.S.

Ironically, this new threat emerges as the Trump administration is expected to slow its outreach to the tech firms.

Over the weekend, Chinese President Xi Jinping made an address to the country’s national legislature where he urged the People’s Liberation Army “to speed up” the application of advanced technologies, according to the Chinese military’s official web portal. Jinping sees “integrated military and civilian development” as one of the drivers of science-tech innovation and key to upgrading China’s military capabilities.

‘Trump’s presidency is an opportunity for Xi’  Tuesday, 14 Mar 2017 | 7:27 PM ET | 01:23

“If you were to look at reports like Chinese military power over time, it’s obvious that China is closing the gap more quickly than, for example, we probably would have estimated five or three years ago,” said Anthony Cordesman, a national security expert and Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, D.C.

The communist nation’s military has made major technology strides in the past decade in missile, laser weapon, advanced sensor and stealth aircraft development with the help of Chinese firms in the civilian sector.

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/15/espionage-risk-to-us-heightened-by-china-military-innovation-push.html

Donald Trump gives Pentagon permission to carry out more raids in Yemen after botched operation

Similar permission is being sought by military leaders to carry out operations in Libya and Somalia 

  • Ben Kentish
  • Donald Trump has reportedly given the Pentagon permission to carry out more raids in Yemen – despite a botched mission in January that resulted in the deaths of 20 civilians and a US Navy Seal.

The White House told military leaders they can carry out missions in the Gulf state without specific presidential approval.

Negotiations about extending similar permissions to raids in Libya and Somalia are also taking place, CNN reported.

Instead of needing Mr Trump to sign off on specific missions, officials told the broadcaster that military leaders will be given the freedom to carry out operations providing they are in line with a broader strategy agreed by the President.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-yemen-raids-permission-botched-death-navy-seal-ryan-owens-a7631126.html

Trump’s ‘Reaffirming the Right of CIA to Decide Whom to Kill and Where’

US President Donald Trump has authorized the CIA to carry out drone strikes against terrorists, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday citing anonymous US officials. Radio Sputnik discussed the issue with Laurie Calhoun, the author of the book “We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age.”

US drone campaigns have been repeatedly criticized for civilian casualties. Now there are concerns that the authorization of the CIA to carry out drone strikes against terrorists will lead to even more controversy.

Trump reportedly extended the authority of the agency shortly after his inauguration. The intelligence agency will now be able to use unmanned aircraft and target terrorists without permission from the Pentagon or the White House.

https://sputniknews.com/us/201703151051619733-trump-reaffirming-cia/

North Korean Hackers Were Behind a Recent Major Cyber Attack

A North Korean hacking group known as Lazarus was likely behind a recent cyber campaign targeting organizations in 31 countries, following high-profile attacks on Bangladesh Bank, Sony and South Korea, cyber security firm Symantec said on Wednesday.

Symantec said in a blog that researchers have uncovered four pieces of digital evidence suggesting the Lazarus group was behind the campaign that sought to infect victims with “loader” software used to stage attacks by installing other malicious programs.

“We are reasonably certain” Lazarus was responsible, Symantec researcher Eric Chien said in an interview.

The North Korean government has denied allegations it was involved in the hacks, which were made by officials in Washington and Seoul, as well as security firms.

http://fortune.com/2017/03/15/north-korea-hackers-cyber-attack/

Taiwan military to upgrade fighters, seek stealth capability

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan is planning to upgrade its F-16 fighter jets and will seek cutting-edge stealth aircraft from the United States in the face of a growing military threat from rival China, the Defense Ministry said Thursday.

The announcement follows the release of this year’s $11.4 billion defense budget, an increase of less than 1 percent from last year, reflecting strains on the government’s finances resulting from a heavy entitlements burden and slowing growth in the high-tech, export-oriented economy.

That compares to China’s 7 percent rise in defense spending, announced this week, bringing its defense budget to about $151 billion, the world’s second largest after the United States.

In response, Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan told lawmakers that Taiwan is focusing on inexpensive but effective “asymmetric warfare” techniques to combat threats in the air and seas.

http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/taiwan-military-to-upgrade-fighters-seek-stealth-capability/

Take your best shot: Iraqi soldiers are now using SHUTTLECOCK grenades attached to drones to bomb jihadis (after stealing the idea from ISIS)

  • Feathered tails usually found on badminton courts being attached to explosives
  • They are fitted in order to keep them balanced when they fall ensuring accuracy
  • ISIS had previously been using the tactic, which is now employed by Iraqi troops 

The Iraqi army is giving ISIS a taste of its own medicine by bombing them with shuttlecock grenades attached to drones.

The feathered tails, usually found on badminton courts across the world, are being attached to the grenades in order to keep them balanced when they fall to ensure a more accurate explosion.

ISIS had previously been using the tactic to drop bombs on coalition forces and civilians in Iraq, but after seeing their effectiveness, the weapons are now in the hands of their opposition.

A member of the Iraqi forces carries two grenades carrying feathers, which are to be fired from a drone in the fight against Islamic State jihadists in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul

A member of the Iraqi forces carries two grenades carrying feathers, which are to be fired from a drone in the fight against Islamic State jihadists in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul

Two Iraqi soldiers prepare the drone on the street next to a heavily-armoured vehicle for the test flight 

Two Iraqi soldiers prepare the drone on the street next to a heavily-armoured vehicle for the test flight

Terrorists have used small commercial drones to drop explosives on advancing Iraqi forces since they launched the offensive to retake Iraq’s second city in October.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4319902/Iraqi-soldiers-using-SHUTTLECOCK-grenades-target-ISIS.html#ixzz4bVjDlw5b

Suspected Hack Attack Snagging Cell Phone Data Across D.C.

Malicious entity could be tracking phones of domestic, foreign officials

 

BY:
March 16, 2017 12:50 pm

An unusual amount of highly suspicious cellphone activity in the Washington, D.C., region is fueling concerns that a rogue entity is surveying the communications of numerous individuals, likely including U.S. government officials and foreign diplomats, according to documents viewed by the Washington Free Beacon and conversations with security insiders.

A large spike in suspicious activity on a major U.S. cellular carrier has raised red flags in the Department of Homeland Security and prompted concerns that cellphones in the region are being tracked. Such activity could allow pernicious actors to clone devices and other mobile equipment used by civilians and government insiders, according to information obtained by the Free Beacon.

It remains unclear who is behind the attacks, but the sophistication and amount of time indicates it could be a foreign nation, sources said.

Mass amounts of location data appear to have been siphoned off by a third party who may have control of entire cell phone towers in the area, according to information obtained by the Free Beacon. This information was compiled by a program that monitors cell towers for anomalies supported by DHS and ESD America and known as ESD Overwatch.

Cell phone information gathered by the program shows major anomalies in the D.C.-area indicating that a third-party is tracking en-masse a large number of cellphones. Such a tactic could be used to clone phones, introduce malware to facilitate spying, and track government phones being used by officials in the area.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/hack-attack-cell-phone-data-dc/

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