Posts filed under ‘Counter Terrorism’
Waiting for Fuel.
A U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jet waits to receive fuel from an Air Force KC-135 Stratotankerwhile flying over Al Udeid Base in Qatar. Coalition forces fly daily missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve,the air war against the self-styled Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Please click on the photo to enlarge the image and see details.
$6.75 Billion Contract.
The U.S. Army has selected Oshkosh Corp. to build the new combat vehicle to replace the military’s aging Humvee troop carier.
In a statement released late Tuesday (August 25), the Army said was awarding the Wisconsin heavy truck maker a contract, valued at $6.7 billion, to the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) for both the Army and Marine Corps.
Initial production, first at a low rate, 17,000 vehicles for the Army and Marines, is slated to begin in the first three months of Fiscal Year 2016, which begins October 1. The Pentagon is expected to make a decision on full-rate production in Fiscal Year 2018. Overall the Marines will acquire 5,500 JLTVs, while the Army take nearly 50,000 by 2040. The contract could swell to $30 billion if all 55,000 vehicles are built.
The U.S. military has been looking to replace the lightly armored Humvee (High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle) since 2006. In the first years of the Iraq war, thousands of troops were injured or killed when even up-armored Humvees were blasted by mines and roadside bombs. The JLTV program sought a combat vehicle more heavily armored than the Humvee but more maneuverable vehicle than the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The JLTV will be built in Oshkosh, Wisconsin with deliveries beginning 10 months after contract award. The Army anticipates having its first unit equipped with JLTVs in FY 2018.
The Army, which led the JLTV joint acquisition program with the Marines, selected Oshkosh over Humvee manufacturer AM General and giant defense contractor Lockheed Martin. At a Pentagon briefing late Tuesday, Army officials declined to specify what characteristics led them to pick Oshkosh’s offering, known as the L-ATV. That may be because one or both of the also-rans could file a protest, challenging the decision.
Lockheed and AM General have 10 days to file formal protests over the contract award, the Associated Press noted. Both companies issued statements saying they are considering their options.
All three companies participated in the program’s engineering and manufacturing development phase, which began in 2012. Each competitor send a total of 22 prototypes for field tests at Aberdeen, Maryland and Yuma, Arizona, and other government proving grounds.
UPDATES with identities of the train passengers who subdued the gunman and the alleged gunman’s identity.
It turns out there were three Americans involved in the tackling and subduing a heavily armed gunman last week on a Paris-bound high-speed train.
They are Air Force Airman First Class Spencer Stone, 23; Oregon National Guard Specialist Alek Skarlatos, 22, and a 23-year-old California college student Anthony Sadler. The three boyhood friends were on a two-week vacation touring Europe when they stepped up and took out the alleged gunmen, who has been idenified as Ayoub El Khazzini, .
On Monday (August 24) French President Francois Hollande bestowed the Legion of Honor, France’s highest decoration, on the three Americans and Chris Norman, 62, a British consultant, who subdued Khazzani.
At a ceremony in Paris, Hollande said their actions last week in the face of terror provided “a message of courage, solidarity and hope,,” according to the Voice of America website.
A French citizen, who was the first to tackle the gunman, but who declined to be identified, and Mark Moogalian, 51, who has dual U.S. and French citizenship , who was wounded in his struggle with the attacker, will receive the French honor at a later date, the New York Times reported.
Stone, the airman, suffered a serious cut, which nearly cost him his thumb, and an eye injury in the struggle on the packed train.
There are conflicting reports on whether the alleged gunman, said by French news media to be a 26-year-old man of Moroccan origin, was able to fire an automatic weapon before being subdued. He was placed under arrest by French police when the train stopped in the northern French city of Arras. Also unresolved: how many people were wounded and what their medical status is. The Associated Press reported that the attacker did not fire his automatic weapon but wounded one man with a handgun and another with some sort of blade.
At the Pentagon, a spokesman confirmed that a member of the American military was on the train and had been injured, the New York Times reported. Quoting a Pentagon statement, the Associated Press said “The injury is not life threatening.”
A European counter terrorism official told CNN said the two Americans were Marines in civilian dress. That turned out to be incorrect. The White House called them U.S. Service members, CNN reported, adding that a member of the Oregon National Guard on personal leave was involved in the incident.
French officials praised the Americans for preventing a tragedy on the crowded Thalys train, which is owned by the French and Belgian railways and operates high speed trains to several European cities.
While the French government has not yet classified the incident — which occurred on Belgian soil — as a terrorist attack, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel tweeted @CharlesMichel “I condemn this terrorist attack.” Both countries are cooperating on the investigation.
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Air Strike Kills a Top Terrorist.
The White House confirmed today (August 21) that the second-in-command of the violent extremist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was killed in a U.S. attack earlier this this week.
In a statement, Ned Price, spokesman for the National Security Council said Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, also known as Hajji Mutazz, the second in command of ISIS (which the U.S. government calls ISIL) was killed in a U.S. military air strike on August 18 while traveling in a vehicle near Mosul, Iraq.
“Al-Hayali was an ISIL Shura Council member and, as the senior deputy to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was a primary coordinator for moving large amounts of weapons, explosives, vehicles, and people between Iraq and Syria,” the statement said, adding: “Al-Hayali’s death will adversely impact ISIL’s operations given that his influence spanned ISIL’s finance, media, operations, and logistics.”
According to Rudaw, a Kurdish news agency, Mutazz was an ethnic Turk born in Tal Afar, northern Iraq. He was an army commander under late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and joined the anti-U.S. insurgency after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Reuters reported. After being charged with terrorism, Mutazz spent time in Camp Bucca, the notorious U.S. prison in Iraq, Rudaw reported. He changed his name and joined ISIS after being released.
Al-Hayali has been declared dead before, including as recently as last December, the New York Times reported. “This time we are 100 percent certain,”a senior official with the American-led coalition that is fighting the Islamic State told the Times. “We have multiple confirmations he was in the car at the moment of the strike.”
Eastbound and Down.
More than 600 members of the Florida National Guard are leaving for deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom — but members of the 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment are going to Africa, not Afghanistan, according to local news and broadcast sites.
The troops are set for an estimated nine-month mission in the Horn of Africa. Before shipping overseas, they are heading to Fort Bliss, Texas for additional training. The regiment is part of the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
While in Africa, the Florida troops will conduct protection and security operations.
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.
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.