Black Widow Falcon.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Brad Hunt taxis to the runway in an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft on Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, February 1, 2016.
From this angle one can see how far out ahead of the wings the pilot sits. One can also see the mountains of the Hindu Kush in the background.
Hunt is a pilot assigned to the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. Known as the “Black Widows,” the 421st EFS began a six-month deployment in Afghanistan October 28, 2015.
According to Bloomberg, officials in the West African nation of Niger say instability in nearby Libya poses a bigger threat to them and other nations in the Sahel than Boko Haram violent extremist Islamist group.
The government of the landlocked Niger will spend 10 percent of its annual budget on defense through the next five years to protect itself from militants, Interior Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou tells Bloomberg in an interview in Niamey, Niger’s capital.
Niger, the world’s fourth-largest producer of uranium shares borders seven nations including Libya, where the so-called Islamic State has gained a foothold amid a power vacuum caused by a breakdown in central authority.
“As long as Libya isn’t stabilized, it’s obvious that there will be a permanent threat throughout the Sahel,” Massaoudou said.
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Somali Jet Blast.
Somali officials investigating an apparent bomb blast that forced a passenger jet to make an emergency landing in Mogadishu tell the VOA news site that the explosion was likely the work of militant group al-Shabab.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior security official told VOA’s Somali Service that investigators have evidence that al-Shabab was behind the blast and that they will present their conclusions soon.
Somalia’s former national intelligence director, Ahmed Moallim Fiqi, said the nature of the incident and the evidence available so far both indicate it was “a planned bomb attack.”
A passenger on the Djibouti-bound Airbus 321 has been confirmed missing by the airline, the BBC reports. Daallo Airlines had previously said that all the passengers had been accounted for.
It is thought that the man fell out of the hole, which appeared shortly after take-off from Mogadishu on Tuesday (February 2).
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A confidential United Nations report has repeated previous allegations that Rwanda has been recruiting and training Burundian rebels on its territory with the goal of ousting Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza.
A group of experts monitoring U.N. sanctions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said it had interviewed 18 Burundian fighters in DRC’s South Kivu Province, according to the VOA website.
They all told the experts that “they had been recruited in the Mahama Refugee Camp in eastern Rwanda in May and June 2015,” and were given two months of military training by instructors who “included Rwandan military personnel,” according to the U.N. experts. Their findings were first reported by Reuters.
Rwanda has dismissed the allegations in the leaked U.N. report, according to the BBC. Similar allegations have been made by Burundi’s government.
A political crisis in the country, sparked by President Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term last April, has led thousands to flee.
Cannon at Dusk.
U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Pena
U.S. Army Paratroopers fire high-explosive rounds from an M119A2 105mm howitzer during live-fire training at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska on January 11, 2016.
These soldiers are from the 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
Odd fun fact: the motto of the 25th ID, first activated in Hawaii in 1941, is “Tropical Lightning.” While the division is still headquartered at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, two brigade combat teams, including the 4th BCT are posted in Alaska.
To see a photo essay of this live-fire training click here.
Zika Virus Worries.
(World map showing where active transmission of the Zika virus have been reported, mostly in Central and South America. Map: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
The World Health Organization says the Zika virus — which may be linked to birth defects — is spreading explosively in the Americas and may infect as many as four million people by the end of the year.
The global health agency says it will convene a special meeting on Monday (February 1) to decide whether to declare a public health emergency. The W.H.O. is moving swiftly to combat this outbreak after widespread criticism that it had allowed the last major global health crisis, Ebola, to fester without a coordinated, effective strategy, the New York Times reported Thursday (January 28).
At a briefing in Switzerland, Dr. Margaret Chan, the W.H.O.’s director-general, said Zika cases have been reported in 23 countries and territories in the region. “The level of alarm is extremely high,” she said Thursday.
Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon, according to the CDC.
The outbreak in Brazil, where the first infection was reported, has led to reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome and pregnant women giving birth to babies with birth defects and poor pregnancy outcomes.
The W.H.O. says a “causal relationship” between Zika virus infection and birth malformations and neurological syndromes has not yet been established, but is strongly suspected.
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Brazil Deploys Army.
(Aedes aegypti mosquito, one of the transmitters of Zika virus. Photo by Rafaelgilo, via Wikipedia)
In Brazil, where the Zika outbreak has hit hardest, soldiers are being deployed to combat mosquitos, which transmit the disease.
The government says it will deploy 220,000 soldiers who will go from home to home handing out leaflets on how to avoid the spread of Zika, which has been linked to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains, the BBC reported.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel alert on January 15 advising pregnant women to consider delaying travel to affected areas to avoid the possibility of being infected, according to NBC.
In the Central American country of El Salvador, the government has taken the drastic step of urging women to refrain from becoming pregnant until 2018
For more about Zika virus, click here.
Ensign Frank Sysko, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3, exits a mud-filled trench during a jungle warfare training session at the Marine Corps Jungle Warfare Training Center (JWTC) in Okinawa, Japan.
The JWTC endurance course tests the Seabees will, stamina and the ability to work together as a team. A total of 49 Seabees from NMCB 3 attended the five-day course.
NMCB 3 deploys to several countries in the Pacific area for construction operations and humanitarian assistance projects.
USSOCOM Eyes Libya.
The head of U.S. Special Forces Command says his organization is keeping tabs on goings on in Libya, as part of an effort to keep the Islamic State (ISIS) from growing more powerful there.
“There is concern about Libya,” Army General Joseph Votel told an industry-special ops conference in Washington this week. “In order to address this threat holistically, we do have to do activities and pursue objectives that allow us to tamp down on it,” Defense One reported Thursday. He added ISIS needs to be destroyed in areas where it is not wholly grown yet “so that we can bring that area back to legitimate local control.
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Beach Front Attack.
The East African terrorist group, Al Shabab, is claiming responsibility for an attack by suicide bombers on a hotel and restaurant in the capital, Mogadishu.
A car laden with explosives rammed into the Beach View Hotel in the capital’s Lido Beach area Thursday evening (January 21) . At least four armed men rushed the hotel shooting the place up., the Al Jazeera news service reported.
Another bomb struck a nearby restaurant, where several gun also attacked. Al Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to Al Jazeea.
Lido Beach, on the northern edge of Mogadishu, attracts thousands of mostly young Somalis looking to relax and enjoy the beach and surf, the BBC reported.
Al Shabab, which has links to al Qaeda, has carried out similar attacks in the past, the BBC said, noting the violent extremist group was driven from the capital in 2011, but still has a presence in large areas of Souther Somalia.
The group stormed an African Union military base in Souther Somalia last week, killing dozens of soldiers from Kenya.
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Corey Hook
U.S Air Force Major Steve Briones (left) and 1st Lieutenant Andrew Kim fly a an aerial refueling KC-135 Stratotanker over Turkey on January 6. Looks easy, doesn’t it?
Coalition forces fly daily missions to support Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. led air campaign against the so-called Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.