In the Boom-Boom Room.
Well here’s something we’ve never seen before: soldiers prepping grenades for a live-fire exercise during Cadet Summer Training at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.
The soldiers are with 3rd Battalion, 304th Infantry Regiment, 104th Training Division.
Click on the photo to enlarge the image. To see more photos from this training exercise of young people, new to the Army, handling live explosives, click here.
Mullah Omar Dead?
The Afghan government made a surprising announcement Wednesday (July 29) that Mullah Muhammad Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban movement was dead — and had been for more than two years.
Officials said the one-eyed insurgent leader had died more than two years ago in a Pakistani hospital. He had not been seen in public since 2001, not long after the attacks of Sept. 11, carried out by a terrorist group to which he had given safe harbor. The New York Times has details here.
Analysts speculate that the Taliban leader’s death could spark defections from the Islamist insurgent group and might drive many to sign up with the hyper violent Islamist State gtoup, also known as ISIS and ISIL, according to CNN.
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India has executed the man convicted of financing a deadly string of bombings in Mumbai in 1993.
Yakub Memon was hanged at a prison in Nagpur in the western state of Maharashtra, the BBC reported.
The serial blasts killed 257 people, and were allegedly to avenge the killing of Muslims in riots a few months earlier.
There was tight security around the Nagpur prison today (July 30), and in parts of the state capital, Mumbai.
The March 1993 blasts targeted a dozen sites, including the Bombay Stock Exchange, the offices of national air carrier Air India and a luxury hotel.
Suspected Fraud Probe.
Brazilian federal police are investigating potential irregularities in a military program that aims to build a nuclear-powered submarine in partnership with France by 2023, Reuters reports, quoting a Brazilian newspaper.
The newspaper, Folha de S. Paulo reported today (July 29) that Folha said police searched for documents that could prove suspicions of fraud in the program. The search was part of a wider probe that led to the arrests on Tuesday (July 28) of two executives involved in building a nuclear power plant for state-run utility Eletrobras.
Federal police did not respond to a request for comment on whether they were investigating the submarine program, Reuters said. And the newspaper did not say how it had obtained the information.
As part of new defense strategy announced in 2010, to protect the Amazon Basin and Brazil’s Atlantic offshore oil deposits, Brazil is building a fleet of five submarines — one of them nuclear-powered — with French contractor DCNS.
Brazil is Latin America’s largest country and the sixth-largest economy in the world.
The government announced last year it would buy 36 Gripen NG fighter jets made by Sweden’s Saab to replace aging Air Force jets.
What’s Wrong with this Picture?
We usually skip over photos of the U.S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron — better known as the Blue Angels. While they are some of the world’s best military aviators and their aerial derring do is breathtaking, they, like their Air Force counterparts, the Thunderbirds, are doing what they do to provide publicity for the Navy and spur recruitment. Doing amazing feats in the air is their job.
Here at 4GWAR we prefer the FRIDAY FOTO to shed some light on the amazing feats performed by all the other service members that don’t routinely draw crowds and flocks of photographers.
But we decided to make an exception with this photo. It took a moment for us to realize that the ground was in the wrong place in this photo. On second look, we realized the fast-moving blue fighter jets are flying upside, obviously.
The Boeing F/A-18 Hornets of the the Blue Angels were performing a line loop maneuver during a practice demonstration at the Oregon International Air Show in Hillsboro, Oregon when this photo was taken earlier this month.
The Blue Angels are scheduled to perform 68 demonstrations at 35 locations across the United States in 2015.
TERRORISM ROUNDUP: Chattanooga Toll Rises; Turkey Gets Tough After Bombing; Italian Plot; Cameroon and Nigeria Suicide Attacks
Chattanooga Attack Update.
A fifth service member wounded in the July 16 shooting attack at the Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) in Chattanooga, Tennessee has died, according to Navy officials.
Navy Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Randall Smith, 26,succumbed to his wounds in the early morning hours Saturday (July 18). Four U.S. Marines were killed in the incident. They were identified as Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Sullivan, 40; Staff Sergeant David Wyatt, 35; Sergeant Carson Holmquist, 25; and Lance Corporal Squire Wells, 21.
The F.B.I. confirmed that at least one service member shot at the attacker, but did not say whether he had managed to wound the lone gunman, Mohammod Abdulazeez, 24. The gunman, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Kuwait, was killed minutes later in a shootout with the Chattanooga police. One officer was wounded in the gun battle. Edward Reinhold, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Knoxville office said two guns belonging to service members were recovered from the scene. And “at least one of those weapons had been discharged,” he said, the New York Times reported.
In the wake of the shootings, according to the Washington Post, armed civilians are stepping in to stand watch outside military recruiting centers from Arizona to Virginia to protect the service members inside. Several members of Congress have called for legislation allowing servicemen to go armed in various situations and postings stateside. Army General Mark Milley, President Obama’s nominee to become the next Army chief of staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday (July 21) that he is open to recruiters being armed in some cases. But he added that it’s a legally complicated issue. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has called for recommendations to improve protection.
But today (July 23) a Pentagon spokesman said the Defense Department opposes giving weapons to every service member on a domestic military installation. “We do not support arming all military personnel for a variety of reasons,” Vavy Captain Jeff Davis told reporters at the Pentagon. “(There are) safety concerns, the prohibitive cost for use-of-force and weapons training, qualification costs as well as compliance with multiple weapons-training laws,” McClatchy newspapers reported (via Defense News and Military Times’ Early Bird Brief)
The FBI said Abdulazeez was a “homegrown violent extremist” who acted alone during his rampage, USA Today reported. U.S. officials told ABC News that in 2013 Abdulazeez did online research for militant Islamist “guidance” on committing violence. The Internet searches were discovered on electronic devices such as his smartphone analyzed over the weekend by the FBI Lab in Quantico, Virginia, several counter-terrorism officials confirmed to ABC News. His family said Abdulazeez suffered depression. They released a statement Saturday (July 18) saying that there are “no words to describe our shock, horror, and grief.”
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Turkey Ups Security After Bombing.
The Turkish government is erecting a wall along part of its border with Syria, reinforcing wire fencing and digging extra ditches after a suspected Islamic State group suicide bombing killed 32 mostly young students in a border town this week. Reuters reports Turkish officials say they believe that the bomber in the attack at Suruc in southeastern Turkey was a 20-year old Turkish man who had traveled to Syria last year with the help of a group linked to the so-called Islamic State, which has taken control of larges areas in Syria and Iraq.
Thousands of foreign fighters are thought to have traveled through Turkey to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in the past few years, some of them with assistance from Turkish smuggling networks sympathetic to the militants. The Suruc bombing, whose victims included Kurds, enraged Turkey’s Kurdish minority, many of whom suspect the government of tacitly backing Islamic State in Syria against Kurdish forces, something Ankara strongly denies, according to Reuters.
Officials said flood-lighting would be installed along a 118 kilometer stretch of the Syrian border, while border patrol roads would be repaired. The armed forces were also digging a 365 kilometer-long ditch along the border and have deployed some 90 percent of their drones and reconnaissance aircraft to the Syrian border.
Meanwhile, Turkey is granting permission for American warplanes to use two Turkish air bases for bombarding the Islamic State. Turkey is also rushing troops to the border to fight militants for the first time, the New York Times reported. U.S. officials said using the Turkish airbases will allow U.S. and coalition aircraft to make more numerous bombings of Islamic State targets.
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Attack on Italian Base Foiled.
Italian prosecutors say two suspects arrested Wednesday (July 22), who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group, planned to target an Italian military base near the northern city of Brescia that has a U.S. military presence, the Associated Press reported.
But Prosecutor Maurizio Romanelli told a press conference in Milan that the two suspects did not have the capabilities to carry out an attack against the Ghedi air base or any other of the targets they had identified with a Twitter account, including Milan’s Duomo cathedral or Rome’s Colosseum.
Officials said the two men, a Tunisian and a Pakistani, were making plans to travel to Islamic State territory for military training while at the same time gathering information from the Internet.
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Bombings in Cameroon, Nigeria.
Security has been increased in northern Cameroon following Wednesday’s (July 22) double suicide bombing attack, carried out by two females, that left dozens dead.
The attack in the city of Maroua is the fourth in two weeks, the Voice of America website reported. The governor of the country’s Far North region said he has asked the military to be more vigilant and vigorous while checking travelers and their goods, adding that all suspected markets, shops, bars and popular spots have been sealed.
Al Jazeera reported the two suicide bombers killed at least 22 people at a marketplace near the border with Nigeria. The toll is likely to rise among the 50 injured, officials said.
Meanwhile, bomb blasts suspected to have been carried out by radical Islamists have killed at least 29 people in Nigeria. The attacks came after Nigeria’s new president warned that the U.S. refusal to sell his country strategic weapons is “aiding and abetting” Boko Haram, which wants to create an Islamic state in Nigeria and has allied itself with the Islamic State. The Nigerian bombings were at two busy bus stations in Gombe.
Obama African Visit No. 4.
President Barack Obama heads to East Africa this week for his fourth visit to the continent where his father was born.
Travel to Kenya, his father’s homeland, is on the president’s schedule. He will be attending the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Kenya. It marks the first time the gathering of entrepreneurs and leaders from business, international organizations and governments will take place in sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition to co-hosting the GES along with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, the two will hold bilateral meetings. Relations between the two countries have been strained due to International . Criminal Court charges against Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, for their alleged roles in orchestrating the violence that followed the 2007 election, the Voice of America website reported. Charges against Kenyatta have been dropped, while Ruto and another defendant continue to face trial.
Obama is expected to attend the summit during the weekend and to deliver a public address before traveling to Ethiopia. The Ethiopian visit to the headquarters of the African Union, has drawn criticism from human rights groups because the authoritarian regime in Addis Ababa has cracked down on political dissent, the Washington Post reports.
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Westgate Mall Reopens.
Security will be high on the agenda of Obama-Kenyatta talks, according to the BBC.. The East African nation is one of the top recipients of U.S. military aid and in the region and recent years have seen a spate of attacks from Somalia’s al-Shabab extremists.
One of the deadliest of those attacks took place two years ago in Nairobi when gunmen terrorized the upscale Westgate Shopping Mall — killing 67 and injuring scores more.
The mall reopened Saturday, for the first time since the attack. The mall has installed x-ray machines, explosive detectors and bullet-proof guard towers, Al Jazeera reported.
Gunmen from the Somalia-based armed group al-Shabab stormed the popular mall on September 21, 2013, in a brazen attack that the group said was in retaliation for Kenya’s military operations in Somalia. The siege lasted three days before Kenyan authorities retook the shopping center.
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Polls have closed in Burundi’s presidential election, and votes are being counter.
But incumbent Pierre Nkurunziza is certain to win after running unopposed, the VoA reported. Voter turnout was low in neighborhoods rocked by weeks of violent protests. Many in the tiny Central African nation said Burundi’s constitution bars Nkurunziza from seeking a third term.
At least 70 people have been killed in protests since he announced in April that he was running for re-election, the BBC reported. About 1,000 people are fleeing into Tanzania each day to escape the violence, according to medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).
The U.S. State Department has joined critics saying the disputed presidential election lacks credibility and will discredit the government. But the Nkurunziza government accuses the opposition of provoking violent protests.
The African Union (AU) did not send observers – the first time it has taken such a stance against a member state, BBC reported. The AU said the security climate did not allow for free and fair elections. The European Union took a similar view, and has cut some aid to Burundi to show its displeasure with Nkurunziza.
July in the Arctic.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks through ice in the Arctic circle on July 14, 2015. We’d be the first to admit this blog doesn’t run enough photos of Coast Guard operations. So here’s one we thought was both pretty and arresting.
This image was taken — not from an airplane or helicopter — but from an Aerostat, an unmanned, airship that is tethered to the ground — or in this case, a ship. In fact in this photo you can see the cable tethering the aerostat to the Healy’s deck.
Aerostats, which have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan to enhance perimeter security around the larger U.S. bases and in the Caribbean to monitor illegal drug trafficking by airplane, provide — in the words of this photo’s official caption– a “self-contained, compact platform that can deploy multiple sensor payloads [radar and video cameras] and other devices into the air.”
The recently released annual report on the world’s climate by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the American Meteorological Society finds that temperatures on the ocean surface reached their highest levels in 135 years of record keeping. For several years, experts have been worried about the rising rate of sea ice melt in the Arctic and its implications for climate, sea levels and maritime commerce. In March, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, this year’s maximum extent of sea ice was the lowest on record since satellites began monitoring the Arctic.