Arab League Condemns Iran’s Terrorist Ally: Hezbollah

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Saudi Arabia ramped up its campaign against Iran’s growing influence in the Arab World Sunday by persuading most of the 22 member states of the Arab League to condemn Iran’s Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, as a “terrorist organization.”

Arab foreign ministers gathered at the League’s headquarters in Cairo Sunday for an emergency meeting called by Saudi Arabia. Lebanon’s foreign minister, Gibran Bassil, did not attend, and the Lebanese representative at the meeting expressed reservations over the final communique.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari also did not attend the meeting. Iran, along with the US-led international coalition, has been a major supporter of Baghdad in its war against ISIS.
“We want to hold everyone responsible,” Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said during the deliberations. “We want to hold countries where Hezbollah is a partner in government responsible, specifically Lebanon.” Al-Khalifa claimed that Lebanon “is subject to full control by this terrorist group.”

Arab ministers attend a meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Sunday.

The cabinet, led by outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, includes several ministers affiliated with Hezbollah.
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Commenting on the Bahraini foreign minister’s statement, American University of Beirut professor Rami Khouri told CNN that “Hezbollah is certainly the single most powerful political group in Lebanon, where governance requires complex consensus building in which Hezbollah is clearly preeminent. But it is not in total control.”
This latest flare-up between Saudi Arabia and Iran was sparked by a November 4 incident in which Iranian-supported Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a ballistic missile at Riyadh’s international airport. Saudi Arabia subsequently accused Hezbollah and Iran of being behind the attack. Both have denied any involvement in the incident. Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been rocky since the 1979 Iranian revolution.
Saudi Arabia subsequently expressed its anger at Hezbollah, which maintains close ties with Iran. Saudi Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamar Sabah has warned the Lebanese they must choose “either peace or to live within the political fold of Hezbollah.”
Hariri announced his resignation as prime minister of Lebanon on November 4 from Riyadh on the Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya news network, accusing Iran of destabilizing Lebanon and the region. Many Lebanese, including President Michel Aoun and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, have said they believe Hariri resigned under Saudi pressure.
Hariri flew to Paris Saturday and vowed to return to Lebanon to attend celebrations marking the country’s independence day on November 22.
It’s not clear whether Sunday’s Arab League meeting will translate into concrete action. The League is notorious for passing resolutions and issuing communiques which are rarely acted upon. It is, however, the first time the Arab League has taken such a strong public stand against Hezbollah.
Reacting to the emergency meeting, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said, “Unfortunately countries like the Saudi regime are pursuing divisions and creating differences, and because of this they don’t see any results other than divisions.”
While the Arab foreign ministers deliberated in Cairo, Iran’s growing power across the region was on display in Syria. On Sunday evening Hezbollah’s media unit posted on YouTube a video of Qassem Suleimani, the powerful head of Iran’s Quds Force, meeting with what appeared to be Iraqi, Lebanese and Syrian fighters in the newly liberated Syrian town of Albu Kamal. The town, on the Iraqi-Syrian border, was the last significant population center in Syria to be held by ISIS.
Iranian forces have played a key role in backing the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in its war against the rebels and ISIS.

World’s 50 Most Dangerous Countries Revealed For Travelers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘BORED PANDA’ WEBSITE)

 

World’s Most Dangerous Countries Revealed, And It May Change Your Travel Plans

Just like last year, International SOS and Control Risks have released a map that shows just how tourist-friendly all countries are, and it’s worth looking at if you’re planning a trip for 2018 to a place you’ve never been before. After all, we all like coming back from a holiday with all of our limbs and other valuables.

Collecting data from the World Health Organization and other institutions, the interactive ‘Travel Risk Map’ reveals just how risky countries are regarding road safety, security and medical matters. According to The Ipsos Mori Business Resilience Trends Watch 2018, 63% of people think travel-related risks have increased during the past year. In the paper, security threats and natural disasters were cited as main reasons for changed travel plans.

Scroll down to check out how countries rank up against each other and let us know what you think about it in the comment section below!

More info: travelriskmap.com (h/t)

This is how much travelers will be risking their health in 2018 across the globe

And this is how the world looks from a security threat point of view

Finally, road safety

Saudi Arabia Threatens Hezbollah In Lebanon

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Saudi Arabia calls on Hezbollah to disarm, threatens its ouster from Lebanon

Riyadh’s foreign minister says ‘peace-loving countries’ exploring ways to reduce terrorist group’s influence in Beirut

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir addresses a joint press conference with his French counterpart in the Saudi capital Riyadh on November 16, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Fayez Nureldine)

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir addresses a joint press conference with his French counterpart in the Saudi capital Riyadh on November 16, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Fayez Nureldine)

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Thursday called on the Hezbollah terrorist organization to disarm, warning the group that regional efforts were underway to oust them from the Lebanese government.

At a press conference in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, al-Jubeir denounced Hezbollah as “a tool of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards” and “a first-class terrorist organization used by Iran to destabilize Lebanon and the region.”

“Hezbollah has kidnapped the Lebanese system,” he said.

Al-Jubeir added that “consultations and coordination between peace-loving countries and Lebanon-loving countries are underway to try to find a way that would restore sovereignty to Lebanon and reduce the negative action which Hezbollah is conducting in Lebanon.”

The minister’s remarks came as the kingdom rejected accusations that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was being detained in Riyadh following his shock resignation earlier this month.

Former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri gives his first televised interview on November 12, 2017, eight days after announcing his resignation. (Future TV via AP)

“The accusation that the kingdom would hold a prime minister or a former prime minister is not true, especially a political ally like” Hariri, al-Jubeir said at the news conference flanked by his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian.

“I don’t know the source of these accusations. But they are rejected and are baseless and untrue,” al-Jubeir said, adding that Hariri is in Saudi Arabia of his own free will and “he leaves when he wants to.”

Hariri has been in Riyadh since giving a statement on television on November 4 that he was stepping down because he feared for his life while also accusing Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of destabilizing Lebanon.

But Lebanese President Michel Aoun refused to accept his resignation from abroad, and accused Saudi authorities of “detaining” Hariri in Riyadh against his will.

At Thursday’s press conference, it was announced that Hariri had accepted an invitation to visit France in the coming days.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil delivers a press conference in Paris, November 14, 2017. (AFP/Lionel BONAVENTURE)

Aoun confirmed that Hariri and his family would arrive Saturday in France, “where he will rest for a few days” before returning to Beirut to make “a decision regarding the resignation.”

He welcomed Hariri’s decision to accept the French invitation, saying he hoped it “opened the door for a resolution” of the political crisis in Lebanon.

“I wait for the return of President (of the council of ministers) Hariri to decide the next move regarding the government,” Aoun told journalists.

Separately on Thursday, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil, on a European tour over the crisis, told reporters that “our concern is that he (Hariri) returns and takes the decision that he wants.”

Bassil spoke at a news conference in Berlin with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who called the situation in Lebanon “very dangerous.”

He warned other countries not to interfere or do anything to threaten the unity and stability of Lebanon, saying “every attack will backfire and will make the entire region suffer.”

READ MORE:

Egypt’s Sisi Seeks more Coordination with EU to Confront Terrorism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Sisi Seeks more Coordination with EU to Confront Terrorism

Tuesday, 31 October, 2017 – 10:30
Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi speaks during a news conference at the El-Thadiya presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt. (Reuters)
Cairo – Mohammed Abdo Hassanein

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi stressed the importance of strengthening coordination and consultations with the European Union (EU) in regional files to confront joint challenges emerging from the existing regional crises, topped by terrorism and its repercussions on the security of the Middle East and Europe.

Sisi received on Monday Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn in the presence of Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

The president welcomed the EU official, stressing that Egypt pays great attention to its ties with the EU in light of their bilateral cooperation within the framework of the Egyptian-European partnership agreement, said presidential spokesman Bassam Rady.

Sisi also affirmed that the EU is the first trade partner of Egypt.

For his part, Hahn voiced the EU’s keenness on bolstering the existing cooperation with Egypt, which is considered one of the most important neighboring countries.

He hailed Egypt’s pivotal role in the region as it is the main pillar of stability and security, lauding steps taken over the past years to achieve stability and efforts exerted to fight terrorism and illegal migration..

The meeting tackled means of promoting joint cooperation in various developmental issues, as well as the latest regional developments, including Egypt’s efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation and settle the Libyan crisis.

The two sides agreed on continuing coordination and consultation pertaining to the various regional issues, the spokesman reiterated.

In this context, during a joint press conference with Hahn, Shoukry pointed out that the meeting provided ample opportunity to address human rights issues.

The Egyptian point of view was raised regarding the aspirations of the society and the government to promote human rights, the positive role of civil society organizations and the attention given by the government to address these issues from a comprehensive perspective.

Shoukry also shed light on Egypt’s efforts to prevent any type of illegal immigration from its territory, stressing that this stems from the Egyptian state’s responsibility to control its coasts, prevent illegal immigration and eliminate human trafficking.

The meeting also included the singing of a memorandum of understanding, which outlined the allocation of European financial assistance to a number of development projects in accordance with Egypt’s Sustainable Development Strategy 2030.

Israel-Hezbollah war is inevitable, sure to be devastating

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel-Hezbollah war is inevitable, sure to be devastating — defense experts

International High Level Military Group paints grim picture of potential conflict between Jewish state, Iran-backed terror group, and what, if anything, can prevent it

Soldiers evacuate a wounded comrade during the Second Lebanon War, on July 24, 2006 (Haim Azoulay/ Flash 90/ File)

Soldiers evacuate a wounded comrade during the Second Lebanon War, on July 24, 2006 (Haim Azoulay/ Flash 90/ File)

A war between Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group is inevitable, though not necessarily imminent, and will be unavoidably bloody for both sides, according to an assessment by a number of former generals from around the world, known collectively as the High Level Military Group.

In an extensive report, published Wednesday, the organization details both the IDF’s and Hezbollah’s reorganization in the 11 years following the Second Lebanon War, the last time the sides engaged in all-out combat with one another. The High Level Military Group (HLMG) also describes the strategies each side will use in the apparently approaching war, as well as the potential pratfalls of those plans.

“Hezbollah doesn’t want a conflict to break out at present, given it is still seeking to consolidate its gains in Syria and continue preparations in Lebanon. However, its actions and propaganda suggest that it considers its ability to fight a war with Israel as a given,” according to the report.

A Hezbollah fighter stands behind an empty rocket launcher, May 22, 2010. (AP/Hussein Malla)

“The timing of such a conflict is likely to be determined by miscalculation as much as decision-making in Iran and Lebanon.”

The group said that should such a war break out, it will likely be “more violent and destructive than the previous ones,” due to the improvements that both sides have made to their respective military capabilities in the interim.

The report, “Hezbollah’s terror army: How to prevent a third Lebanon war,” offers limited recommendations for avoiding such a conflict, instead painting it as a war waiting to happen.

The retired generals and defense officials from the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Colombia, India, and Australia who make up the HLMG also express significant criticism of the United Nations for its “evident severe failure” to fully implement UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, a dereliction that they credit with exacerbating the situation.

The former military leaders found that the UN Interim Force in Lebanon peacekeeping mission is not enforcing the aspects of Resolution 1701 that are meant to keep armed non-state actors like Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon.

The 76-page report, which is based on interviews solely with Israeli representatives during a fact-finding mission, comes to many of the same conclusions as those of Israeli defense officials. In preparing the assessment, the HLMG did not meet with Lebanese, Hezbollah, or UN officials.

Yet the High Level Military Group maintains that its assessments are “based purely on the accumulated military and strategic experience of its members.”

Colonel Richard Kemp speaks at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, June 29, 2015 (courtesy UN Watch/ Oliver O’Hanlon)

The HLMG, which includes a former chairman of the NATO military committee, a former chief of staff of the Italian army, a former US ambassador-at-large on war crimes, a former director-general of the Indian Defense Intelligence Agency and the outspoken Israel supporter Col. (res.) Richard Kemp of the British military, was created by the Friends of Israel Initiative, a group founded by former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar in 2010 to fight an “unprecedented campaign of delegitimization against Israel.”

This is not the group’s first foray into Israeli security. In December 2015, the organization also released a report that defended the IDF’s actions during the previous year’s Gaza war, finding that the army had abided by the rules of armed conflict and even surpassed them.

Hezbollah is all grown up

Hezbollah was founded in 1985, three years after the start of the First Lebanon War. It was created with Iranian support, and began killing Israeli soldiers stationed in IDF outposts in southern Lebanon with anti-tank missiles, improvised explosive devices, and small arms fire.

Over time, however, the group grew from a terrorist nuisance to a full-scale nemesis with significant sway in domestic Lebanese politics. What was once a two-bit terrorist group now represents the benchmark by which the IDF measures its preparedness.

Supporters of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah watch a video screening of a speech by the group’s head, Hassan Nasrallah, to mark the 11th anniversary of the end of the 2006 war with Israel, in the village of Khiam in southern Lebanon, August 13, 2017. (AFP/Mahmoud ZAYYAT)

In its report, the former generals and defense officials describe Hezbollah as being “widely considered to be the most powerful non-state armed actor in the world.”

As the Lebanese terrorist group has taken part in the fighting on behalf of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, it has gotten stronger through combat experience and improved access to advanced weaponry from its benefactor, Iran.

“Hezbollah has the political clout of a government, the firepower of an army and the strategic approach of a terrorist organization,” according to the report.

Israel believes that Hezbollah maintains a force of approximately 25,000 full-time fighters — 5,000 of which underwent advanced training in Iran — with another at least 20,000 fighters in reserve units.

A Hezbollah armored vehicle sits at the site where clashes erupted between Hezbollah and al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Wadi al-Kheil or al-Kheil Valley in the Lebanon-Syria border, July 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

The terrorist army boasts of possessing attack drones, air defense systems, armored personnel carriers and even tanks. It is also believed to have the Yakhont shore-to-sea missile, with which it can threaten Israeli Navy ships.

But its weapons of choice are missiles and rockets, which it has been amassing and improving, with Iranian assistance, at a fantastic rate.

Hezbollah is believed to possess between 100,000 and 150,000 projectiles, most of them short range. Israeli officials assess that in a future war, the terrorist group would be able to sustain a firing rate of over 1,000 missiles per day.

Increasingly, the IDF believes, the group has been focusing on making its missiles more precise so that it can direct attacks to key Israeli strategic sites.

Israeli explosives experts inspect a Hezbollah rocket after it landed in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, August 9, 2006. (Max Yelinson /Flash90)

“Thus, not only has the sheer numeric scale of the threat increased exponentially, but the lethality is greatly increased on account of larger payloads, range and higher targeting accuracy,” the HLMG wrote in its report.

Israel has been working to counter that threat through advanced missile defense systems like the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Patriot and Arrow. But military officials regularly stress that these batteries will not provide perfect, hermetic protection.

On the defensive side, Hezbollah has been embedding itself in the southern Lebanese civilian population “for tactical advantage (making the IDF hesitate to attack) and strategic advantage (using images of civilian harm to delegitimize the IDF),” according to the report.

The HLMG said that Hezbollah “transformed almost every Shiite village in the country’s south into a military asset.”

Inside and under those villages, Hezbollah is believed to have prepared extensive fighting positions from which it could confront the more powerful IDF.

Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah has also threatened that the terrorist group would not be fighting alone, but would have the support of Iran-backed militias in Syria and other fighters from across the Middle East. This which would force the Israeli army to fight on two fronts or even more, if Hamas in Gaza joins in the conflict as well.

Lebanese supporters of Hezbollah gather in the southern town of Nabatiyeh on May 24, 2015 (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

But the terrorist group has another advantage: the Israeli citizenry is unaccustomed to and unprepared for sustained conflict.

A man inspects the damage to a house following a rocket attack by terrorists from the Gaza Strip on the Israeli town of Yehud, beside Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport, on July 22, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Policymakers expressed concerns about how prepared the Israeli public is for the level of devastation that would be wrought in a major military clash with Hezbollah,” the HLMG wrote.

“Younger Israelis are less familiar with the threat of direct attack than older generations, and Israel’s success in neutralizing less sophisticated rockets fired from Gaza may have led to inflated expectations of its capacity to intercept the volume of rockets likely to be fired by Hezbollah.”

The IDF’s nothing to scoff at either

While Hezbollah’s arsenal contains “more rockets than many European armies,” according to the HLMG report, Israel’s military is considered by many analysts to be the most powerful in the Middle East.

Israel’s first two F-35 stealth fighter jets on their maiden flight as part of the Israeli Air Force on December 13, 2016. (Israel Defense Forces)

“Israel is equipped with the most advanced fighter jets, high-tech armed drones, and is widely assumed to be a nuclear weapons power,” the retired generals and defense officials wrote.

“Statistical data available for 2014 suggests that the IDF has 410,500 active frontline personnel, 3,657 tanks, and 989 aircraft.”

Israel has also dramatically improved its intelligence on the terrorist group in the 11 years since the Second Lebanon War, an important development, as a severe shortage of accurate information has been blamed for causing many of the conflict’s failures.

By combining the overwhelming military force at its disposal and the intelligence required to direct it, the IDF would seek to end a future war quickly, before the Israeli home front would sustain heavy casualties.

“However, as a potential conflict progresses, it will become harder for Israel’s military superiority to translate into battlefield victory,” according to the HLMG.

In their report, the former generals wrote that Israeli officials told them they expect there to be “thousands of casualties in Lebanon, many of whom will be civilians despite the IDF adhering to the highest standards of the Law of Armed Conflict.”

Conspicuously, while the High Level Military Group provides a general estimate of Lebanese casualties, it offers no such assessment of Israeli civilian deaths, beyond saying that the number is “likely to far exceed previous conflicts.” (There were 50 Israeli civilian deaths in the 1982 Lebanon War, and 46 in the 2006 conflict.)

Hezbollah is Lebanon, or is it?

One of the lingering questions in the High Level Military Group’s report is how Israel perceives the country of Lebanon, if it is fundamentally intertwined with Hezbollah or distinct from it.

“During the HLMG fact-finding, it was clear that an intense policy debate in Israel’s upper echelons increasingly sees some senior voices making the case that a conflict should probably be conceived as including the state of Lebanon as an adversary,” the former generals wrote.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, October 22, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky)

For instance, Education Minister Naftali Bennett has been leading the charge that the two cannot be separated and that Lebanese national infrastructure should also be counted as a legitimate military target in a future war.

This was not the case in the 2006 Lebanon War, when the IDF’s policy was to differentiate between Lebanon and Hezbollah, but developments inside the Arab country could change that.

In its report, the HLMG noted an “increasingly symbiotic relationship between Hezbollah and the Lebanese Armed Forces,” which is believed to include intelligence sharing, as well as material cooperation.

Lebanese soldiers sit atop an armored personnel carrier in the eastern town of Ras Baalbek on August 21, 2017, after returning from fighting against Islamic State. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

“Israel shared evidence with the HLMG that suggests that at least some military equipment which the LAF receives from international patrons, including the United States, ultimately finds its way into the hands of Hezbollah units,” the retired generals wrote.

However, some analysts, who are not cited in the HLMG document, make the case, against the view of Bennett and other Israeli officials that Lebanon is Hezbollah, and Hezbollah is Lebanon.

One of these is David Daoud, a researcher analyst for the United Against a Nuclear Iran think tank and advocacy group, who argues that by attacking Lebanese national infrastructure, Israel could end up helping Hezbollah by proving to the Lebanese population that the terrorist group is, as it claims, the country’s defender against the “Zionist regime.”

Peacekeepers with their hands tied behind their back

The HLMG puts significant focus on the role and failures of UNIFIL, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon.

The international force is generally seen by Israel to be feckless and incapable, or at least unwilling, to take serious action against Hezbollah’s force build-up, while in Lebanon the group is perceived by many as being a shill for the IDF.

A Spanish UNIFIL peacekeeper drives an armored vehicle in the Lebanese town of Adaisseh, near the border with Israel, on January 19, 2015. (AFP/Mahmoud Zayyat)

UNIFIL’s activities in southern Lebanon are dictated by UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which, among other things, calls for no non-state armed forces to occupy positions south of Lebanon’s Litani River.

According to the HLMG, the United Nations force understands Resolution 1701 “in a very narrow sense with regards to the authority to search for weapons in Lebanon and curtail the activity of armed groups.”

A new and improved mandate is required to address the situation

Israel, and now the HLMG, argue that this mandate should be interpreted more broadly, which would allow UNIFIL to curb Hezbollah’s efforts to prepare for war by actively preventing the terror group from possessing weapons south of the Litani, with force if necessary.

“A new and improved mandate is required to address the situation,” according to the report.

What else can be done?

Beyond granting UNIFIL broader powers, the High Level Military Group offers scant advice for preventing a future conflict between Hezbollah and Israel.

What advice is offered is relatively vague, with no specifics to implement or mention of its feasibility. The main recommendation is to address not Hezbollah, but its patron.

“The international community must take actions to curtail Iran’s activities, raise the cost of its behavior and engage in efforts at deterrence,” the group wrote.

In terms of Hezbollah specifically, the High Level Military Group calls for Western nations to cease distinguishing the terror group’s political and terrorist wings.

The international community must take actions to curtail Iran’s activities

The former generals and defense officials also encourage the United States to make any future aid arrangements with Lebanon contingent “on a plan to strip Hezbollah of its de facto status as the leading force in the country.”

More generally, the HLMG calls for the West to “strongly support Israel in its efforts to de-escalate the tensions.”

READ MORE:

Senegal Thwarts Terrorist Attack On Hotel In Dakar Thursday Night

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Senegal Thwarts Terrorist Attack in Collaboration with Western Intelligence

Saturday, 21 October, 2017 – 10:30
Above, an aerial view of Dakar. AP Images
Nouakchott – Al-Sheikh Mohamed

Senegal’s security apparatuses in collaboration with Western intelligence agencies have thwarted a terrorist plot to target a hotel in the capital Dakar, local media reported on Friday.

The media quoted sources as saying that Senegalese security forces foiled the attack that was set to take place on Thursday night.

The hotel that lies on the shores of Dakar is frequented by Westerners, the sources said, although they did not name it.

The sources also refused to reveal more information about the operation to foil the plot.

Earlier this week, the US embassy warned its citizens in Senegal of a “credible threat” of a terror attack in Dakar, advising them to take special care when visiting places and areas popular with Westerners.

The embassy also told its own staff members to stay away from seaside hotels in the capital.

A message, issued on Wednesday to US citizens in the country, warned them “to be vigilant when visiting establishments and staying at hotels frequented by Westerners due to a credible threat related to potential terrorist activity in Dakar”.

It went on to advise US nationals to “review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings,” while banning embassy personnel from staying at the seaside hotels until the first week of December.

The Canadian government on Thursday issued a similar warning to its nationals in the west African nation.

Somalia: Deadly explosion hits Mogadishu

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Somalia: Deadly explosion hits Mogadishu

At least 20 people died and others were wounded in a bombing Saturday in Mogadishu,

Mogadishu, Somalia (CNN)At least 20 people were killed and many more were wounded Saturday in a massive vehicle bomb explosion at a busy junction in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, a senior police officer said.

Security forces had been tipped off about the vehicle carrying explosives and were pursuing it in the busy K5 district of the city when the explosion happened, said Col. Ahmed Hassan of the Mogadishu police.
Another vehicle bomb later went off less than a mile from the first blast. There were no reports of injuries, Hassan said. The driver of the car was arrested before the explosion but it remains unclear what triggered the blast.
No one has claimed responsibility for the bombings. The blasts triggered a heavy security presence in the city, with security forces blocking many major roads.
Wire service news footage showed torn-up buildings and a burning truck at the first blast site.
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Men carried away a stretcher holding a person concealed by a brown material. A large white building collapsed into rubble and other structures appeared blackened and destroyed.
In other instances, it was hard to determine precisely what was destroyed in the devastated streetscape.
Other videos from the scene posted on social media showed a huge plume of black smoke rising from the blast site.
The UK ambassador to Somalia, David Concar, tweeted that the blast was clearly audible from inside the British Embassy. He also posted a video clip showing thick, dark smoke on the skyline.

Mogadishu Somalia

Mogadishu, a large city on the east African nation’s coast, has endured a lot of violence in recent years.
Al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda-linked terror group, carried out several deadly car bomb attacks in the city in just the first few months of this year.
Somalis also face another threat — starvation.
he country is in the midst of a severe drought and 3.1 million people are threatened by famine because of the food shortages and violence, according to reports from the United Nations this year.

Body Of Missing U.S. Soldier In Niger Has Been Found: 4th American

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

(CNN)The body of a US service member who went missing following a deadly ambush Wednesday in southwest Niger has been recovered, multiple US officials told CNN Friday.

The discovery of the missing US service member in a remote area of the northwestern African country by Nigerien troops comes nearly 48 hours after he was first discovered to be missing in the wake of the attack.
The recovery of the missing US service member raised the number of US troops killed in Wednesday’s attack to four.
The Pentagon later confirmed the recovery.
“The body of another US service member has been recovered from the area of the attack bringing the number of US service members killed in this attack to four,” Department of Defense spokesman Col. Rob Manning told reporters at the Pentagon.

The attack

The American service member, who has been identified by US military personnel, went missing after a group of US soldiers near the Niger-Mali border were attacked by up to 50 fighters that are thought to be likely affiliated with ISIS, a US official said.
The 12-member US team was leaving a meeting with local leaders in unarmored pick-up trucks when they began taking fire from small arms, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, according to a US defense official.
With window glass exploding all around them, the US soldiers, including multiple Green Berets, exited the vehicles, ran for cover, and began returning fire, killing some of the attacking militants.
It is unclear how the missing service member became separated during the firefight from the rest of the advisory team he was accompanying. None of the other soldiers involved in the engagement witnessed him being captured or taken away by enemy forces.
The US military does not believe the missing service member was ever in enemy hands.
One reason the US military launched the urgent search and rescue mission was that electronic signals were monitored indicating the possibility that he was still alive in the field.
The US military initially issued a statement Thursday saying the attack left three US service members dead and two wounded.
A large-scale search and rescue operation involving US, French and Nigerien troops was launched soon after US officials realized one of the US service members was unaccounted for.

Coordination of efforts

Elite US Special Operations Forces troops were flown in from the continental US to aid in the recovery effort.
US Navy SEALs were deployed to a US military base in Sigonella, Sicily in anticipation of a possible rescue attempt but never went into Niger.
“We had everything, jets, rotary wings, (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance), various platforms, human intelligence, signals intelligence, you name it,” US Army Col. Mark Cheadle, a spokesman for Africa Command told reporters at the Pentagon Friday via a phone call. “There was a full-court press by all of (the Department of Defense), the Nigerien government, the Department of State and the French to help us recover our lost one.”
He added that the Nigerien troops who found the body in the vicinity of the attack transferred the remains to a team of US Special Operations Forces who flew the body to the capital, Niamey, where it was identified, Cheadle said.
Cheadle said the Nigeriens were “very respectful” and “fully aware of the need to honor the fallen.”
CNN did not report the details of the search operation while it was ongoing and did not report the deceased service member’s recovery until CNN was assured that his family was notified.

The investigation

A US official says a full investigation into what happened is underway.
Cheadle told reporters that Africa Command was reevaluation its force protection procedures for its advisory missions.
“This was not expected,” Cheadle said, adding “had we anticipated this sort of attack we would have absolutely devoted more resources to it to reduce the risk and that’s something we are looking at right now.”
A spokeswoman for the French Ministry of Defense told CNN Thursday that French troops from the Barkhane anti-terror force based in neighboring Chad were involved in an operation in Niger. She said the operation was led by Niger with French troops supporting them. US officials told CNN Thursday that French military Super Puma helicopters evacuated the wounded Americans along with those killed in action while also providing covering fire. The wounded were first flown to the capital Niamey and later to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
French military attack aircraft also flew to the area in an attempt to support US personnel on the ground.
“Our allies the French were very quick to respond,” Cheadle said.
Five Nigerien soldiers also were killed in the attack, according to a Nigerien security official.
About a platoon-sized element of Nigerien troops were accompanying the US team.
“We are resolved and stalwart in our efforts to go after those who attacked us,” Cheadle said, adding that while the US military has “an idea” who was behind the ambush, he declined to identify the group involved.

Advise and assist mission

The US soldiers were part of a team advising and assisting local forces.
The Army issued a statement Friday identifying the three soldiers earlier reported killed in action as being two Green Berets, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, and a third soldier, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson.
All three soldiers were assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, according to a statement issued by US Army Special Operations Command.
The attack occurred approximately 200 kilometers north of the country’s capital, Niamey, in southwest Niger, according to the statement from Africa Command, which oversees military operations in Africa.
“US forces are in Niger to provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces, in their efforts to counter violent extremist organizations in the region,” the statement from Africa Command said.
There are about 800 US troops in Niger and the US military has maintained a presence in the northwest African country for five years, with small groups of US Special Operations Forces advising local troops as they battle terrorist groups, including, Islamic State in Greater Sahara, the ISIS-affiliated Boko Haram and al Qaeda’s North African branch, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
“US forces are in Niger to provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces, including support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts, in their efforts to target violent extremist organizations in the region,” US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo, a spokesman for US Africa Command, said Wednesday, adding, “one aspect of that is training, advising and assisting the Nigerien’s in order to increase their ability to bring stability and security to their people.”
“Niger is an important partner of ours, we have a deep relationship with them,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday. “We are committed to that relationship, we believe that they are as well in fact I think it’s a very good success story.”

Terror group movement

US officials access that these terrorist groups view Chad, Niger and Mali as being particularity important as they serve as bridges between north and sub-Saharan Africa, saying that local al Qaeda and ISIS affiliates use control of these transit routes to gain revenue that helps them recruit, expand and export attacks. ISIS uses these North-South transit routes to move fighters northward, where they can gain more easily access Europe and the West.
One official told CNN that ISIS is attempting to illegally infiltrate the gold mining industry in Niger to sell on the black market and finance world terrorism.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has maintained a presence in the Mali-Niger border area, despite a multi-year French-led military counterterrorism effort, Operation Barkhane, which began in 2014.
The US military has largely played a supporting role, providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets in support French forces operating in Mali and Niger. The French operation involves thousands of French troops as well as forces from Germany, Mali, Niger and other countries in the region.
And while US troops largely play a supporting role in Niger, military leaders acknowledge the risks they face.
“Clearly there are risks for our forces in Niger,” McKenzie said while declining to discuss the specifics of Wednesday’s attack, citing “ongoing partnered operations.”
“Any time we deploy full forces globally, we look very hard at the enablers that need to be in place in order to provide security for them and that ranges from the ability to pull them out if they’re injured to the ability to reinforce them at the point of a fight if they need reinforcement,” he said.
“Certainly to the soldiers in the fight it was combat,” McKenzie added.
The Pentagon is in the process of establishing a drone base just outside the city of Agadez in Niger in an effort to bolster regional counterterrorism efforts. The US has been using a local Nigerien airport while the base is under construction, according to US Africa Command.

3 Men Charged in Foiled ISIS Terror Plot on New York City

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

3 Men Charged in Foiled ISIS Terror Plot on New York City

6:26 PM ET

Three men face charges of terrorism in an alleged plot to attack New York City during the summer of 2016, the acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney announced Friday.

Abdulrahaman El Bahnasawy, 19, Talha Haroon, 19, and Russell Salic, 37, are accused of plotting bombings and shootings in parts of New York City during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan last year, according to a release from the Department of Justice. The men allegedly plotted the attacks in the name of ISIS. They planned to bomb Times Square and the subway system, and to shoot civilians at specific concert venues.

According to the DOJ, law enforcement thwarted the plot when an undercover FBI agent acted as an ISIS supporter and communicated with the men with an intent to help them carry out the attacks. Through the undercover agent, authorities determined that the men intended to carry out terror attacks in the style of the attacks in Paris and Brussels.

El Bahnasawy, who was arrested in May 2016, has pled guilty to terrorism offenses. Haroon was arrested in Pakistan last September and Salic was arrested in the Philippines. Authorities said they hope the two men will be extradited the U.S.

Bahrainis Stripped of Citizenship over Training with IRGC

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

(Commentary: Bahrain government shows it has far more intelligence than their counterparts in the U.S. or in Western Europe.)(trs)

Bahrainis Stripped of Citizenship over Training with IRGC

Thursday, 5 October, 2017 – 09:15
Bahrain’s Public Prosecution Building, Bahrain, BNA
Manama- Obaid Al Suhaimy

Bahrain’s public prosecution on Wednesday sentenced two nationals to jail terms and revoked their citizenship after they were convicted of training in Iran and the “possession of weapons for terrorist purposes”.

One of the two accused received special training in weapons and explosives provided by the Revolutionary Guard in Iran, while the second facilitated travel for the first suspect.

The High Criminal Court convicted them of the counts of charges leveled against them and revoked their nationality, the Bahrain News Agency (BNA) cited Terror Crime Prosecution Advocate Esa Al-Ruwaei.

Based on a notification from The General Directorate for Criminal Investigation (CID), an inquiry was launched into the case of one the convicts who received military training in Iran.

The investigation confirmed that the first convict, who was among the most active participants in acts of rioting, rallying, and sabotage, was in contact with terrorists in Bahrain and abroad, BNA reported.

The inquiry also established that he left Bahrain in 2015 and headed to Iran in coordination with terror leaders based abroad, with the help from other elements in the Kingdom.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard trained him on using, dismantling and assembling all types of military armament as well as shooting so as to prepare him to perpetrate terrorist operations. The second convict, who helped the first travel to Iran, was also involved in recruiting him.

The investigation revealed that terrorists tasked the first convict with monitoring sensitive locations inside the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Based on results of the investigation, the two accused were arrested and referred to the Public Prosecution to face charges, in compliance with constitutional measures.

The public prosecution based its charge on the verbal testimony of a witness, the confessions of the first accused and the monitoring of their movement in and out of Bahrain.

The two accused, who were provided all legal guarantees, stood trial at the Criminal Court in the presence of their defense lawyers.

The convicts have the right to challenge the verdict before the Court of Appeal within the legal deadline. The Bahraini judicial system also stipulates post-appellate guarantees for the case to be reviewed by the Court of Cassation.

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