Posts filed under ‘Counter Terrorism’

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: New Commanders at SOCOM, CENTCOM

Ranger In, Ranger Out.

Votel relinquishes command of USSOCOM

Army General Joseph Votel, former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the change-of-command ceremony March 30 at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. Newly promoted Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas assumes command of SOCOM and Votel becomes commander of U.S. Central Command. (Photo by Technical Sergeant Angelita M. Lawrence)

Four star Army General Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), has taken over as commander of U.S. Central Command (CENCOM), which oversees U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

At the same time Votel moved over to CENTCOM, Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas replaced him at Special Operations Command.

Both men are Army Rangers and both are former commanders of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) — a SOCOM component which oversees the hunt for terrorists among other tasks. Thomas has also served in the 1st Special Operations Forcers Operational Deteachment — Delta, the highly secretive Army commando unit known as Delta Force.

160330-F-YT673-465

Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas at the change of command ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base at Tampa, Florida.

Both Thomas and Votel are also 1980 graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point New York.

At a brief press conference before the change of command ceremonies in Tampa, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said “accelerating the defeat” of the terrorist group that calls itself Islamic State is President Obama’s top priority. Carter added that the United States and its allies would be successful in Iraq and Syria in defeating Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL), but the group has spread around the world and the United States may be fighting the terror group on U.S. soil. “It’s going to require effort around the world, and yes, it’s going to require protection against the homeland,” Carter added.

mapMidEast

U.S. Central Command’s area of operations (in color). (CENCOM  map)

 

 

 

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March 31, 2016 at 10:48 pm Leave a comment

TERRORISM: Add Brussels to the Growing List

The Global War on Terror continues …

New York office towers, four airliners, the Pentagon (2001), Madrid commuter trains (2004), London bus and subway (2005), Mumbai hotels and train station (2008), Moscow airport (2011),  Nairobi shopping mall (2013), Boston Marathon finish line (2015), Paris concert hall, cafes, football stadium, grocery store and magazine office (2015, twice) … and now Brussels. The list of major world cities wracked by terrorist attacks seems to grow ever longer.

160322153424-brussels-attack-suspects-large-169

Security photo of Brussels airport bombing suspects from Belgian Police.

Thirty-one people were killed and 300 wounded in suicide bomber attacks on the airport and a busy metro station in Belgium’s capital on Tuesday (March 22).

On Thursday (March 24) top Belgian officials acknowledged miscommunications and other errors in the prelude to the attacks, the New York Times reported. Growing evidence of links to last November’s attacks in Paris by the Islamic State suggest that a wide network of trained attackers leading back to Syria is now rooted in Europe, according to the Times  report, co-written by our friend and former AP colleague, Rick Gladstone.

Here is a list of some of the most recent attacks …

Paris, November 2015

As many as eight terrorists launched a series of shootings and bombings across Paris Friday (November 13) — from an international soccer match that the French president was attending to restaurants and neighborhood cafes, killing more than 100 people and wounding hundreds more, French officials said.

Bangkok, August 2015

Twenty people died and more than 120 were injured in the horrific bombing on 17 August in central Bangkok at the Erawan shrine.

Tunis, March 2015

Gunmen tried to storm the country’s national assembly Wednesday (March 18) while lawmakers were debating an anti-terrorism bill. When that attack was thwarted, the gunmen — some wearing military-style uniforms — attacked tourist buses outside the National Bardo Museum across from the government building.

Paris, January 2015

More than 10,000 troops are guarding “sensitive sites” around France including synagogues, railway stations, airports and tourist attractions in the wake of last week’s terrorism incidents in Paris that left 17 people dead — including three alleged attackers.

March 24, 2016 at 11:21 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: Ivory Coast Attack Fallout

Beach Bloodshed.

MAP-Ivory Coast BigOfficials in the West African nation of Ivory Coast say the death toll from Sunday’s terror attack at a beach resort has risen to 19. Twenty-four people injured in the attack remain hospitalized.

The victims reportedly came from six different countries. Eleven Ivorians were killed, and four French citizens were among the dead, as well as one German, one Nigerian, one Macedonian and one Lebanese, according to the Voice of America website.

Armed with grenades and assault rifles, the attackers stormed three hotels on Sunday and sprayed the beach with bullets in the resort of Grand Bassam, located 40 kilometers from the commercial capital Abidjan.

Al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), claimed responsibility for the attck, saying it was revenge for a French offensive against fighters in the Sahel region and called for France to withdraw them.

President Alassane Ouattara has pledged that Ivory Coast would not be “intimidated by terrorists,” Al Jazeera reported. In a statement broadcast on radio and television, Ouattara said “Ivory Coast is standing up, standing up to fight the cowards and protect its people.”

French helicopters in Africa

French helicopters in Africa (Ministry of Defense photo)

Meanwhile, France has announced plans to send paramilitary forces to the capital of Burkina Faso to counter the threat posed by Islamist militants in West Africa. A team from the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN) will be deployed in Ouagadougou to respond in the event of a “terrorist crisis,” said French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve according to the BBC. The announcement comes 48 hours after the attack that left four French nationals among the dead.

For the first time, Ghana’s government has put the nation on high alert in the wake of Sunday’s deadly terror attack in neighboring Ivory Coast, the VoA website reported.

Since November, al-Qaeda militants have attacked hotels in two other regional capitals, Bamako (Mali) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso).

March 17, 2016 at 10:54 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: Mexican Punitive Expedition 1916

Pancho Villa’s Raid.

Pancho_villa_horseback

General Francisco “Pancho” Villa. (Photo from Library of Congress via Wikipedia

A hundred years ago today the tiny border town of Columbus, New Mexico was reeling and the rest of the country was howling for revenge following a bloody cross border raid by hundreds of Mexican irregulars commanded by bandit-turned general and Mexican Revolution hero “Pancho” Villa.

In the early morning hours of March 9, 1916, about 500 mounted gunmen loyal to Villa attacked Columbus — three miles north of the border — and the adjoining U.S. Army base, Camp Furlong.

Part of the town was looted and burned and at least 17 Americans — both civilians and soldiers — were killed in the three-hour attack. More than 100 Villistas were also killed, wounded or captured on the streets of Columbus and on their retreat back to Mexico by pursuing U.S. cavalry troopers.

The Columbus raid prompted President Woodrow Wilson to send a punitive force of cavalry, infantry and artillery — eventually numbering more than 10,000 men — plus trucks and airplanes (deployed by the Army for the first time in a conflict zone) to catch and punish Villa’s irregular forces.

Pershing-River-Crossing

Brigadier General John J. Pershing and some of his staff crossing a river in Mexico 1916.

Crossing into Mexico on March 15, under the command of Brigadier General John J. Pershing, the U.S. troops — including the celebrated Buffalo Soldiers of the black 10th Cavalry regiment — pushed hundreds of miles over rugged terrain deep into the Mexican state of Chihuahua searching for Villa.

Within two months they killed or wounded scores of Villistas in several gun battles. But after two skirmishes with Mexican government troops nearly brought both nations to the brink of war, Pershing’s force returned to U.S. territory in February 1917. Just two months later the United States was at war with Germany.

We’ll be following the major events of this unusual U.S. military action over the next few months, and looking for parallels to the current border security crisis.

shakoSHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

March 10, 2016 at 11:50 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Niger, Somalia, Burundi-Rwanda

Libya Threat.

MAP-Niger

NIGER: CIA World Factbook

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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Rwanda Accused.

MAP-Burundi

BURUNDI: CIA World Fact Book

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.

 

February 4, 2016 at 11:04 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Libya; Somalia

USSOCOM Eyes Libya.

MAP-Libya

Libya (CIA World Factbook)

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.

Somalia_19881

The Horn of Africa. Map courtesy of University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center

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.

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January 22, 2016 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (January 15, 2016)

Cockpit Reach.

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Corey Hook

340th EARS refuels A10s and B1U.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.

January 15, 2016 at 1:37 am Leave a comment

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