Posts filed under ‘Counter Terrorism’

HOMELAND SECURITY: DHS Comes Up With New Warning System

Six Month Warning.

Department of Homeland Security seal

Department of Homeland Security seal

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unveiled a new terrorism alert system Wednesday (December 16) while advising concerns about “self-radicalized” actor(s) who could strike with little or no notice.

According to the Associated Press, DHS is adding a new “Bulletin” category to two existing alert categories: elevated and imminent. An elevated warns of a “credible terrorism threat” while imminent alerts advise the public of a “credible specific and impending terrorism threat.”

This is the first change to the National Terrorism Advisory System since it replaced the color-coded system in 2011.

The first bulletin informed Americans that while there is no new intelligence of a specific, credible threat, the public should remain vigilant, according to NBC News. The bulletin will remain in effect until June 16, 2016. That’s right, until the middle of next year.

“We are in a new phase in the global threat environment, which has implications on the homeland. Particularly with the rise in use by terrorist groups of  the Internet to inspire and recruit, we are concerned about the “self-radicalized” actor(s) who could strike with little or no notice,” the bulletin stated, adding that recent attacks in Paris as well as San Bernardino, California “warrant increased security, as well as increased public vigilance and awareness.”

December 17, 2015 at 11:27 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 11, 2015

Crossed Lasers.

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class J.R. Pacheco

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class J.R. Pacheco

U.S. sailors train with the LA9/P laser hail and warning system on the fantail (rear deck) of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the Atlantic Ocean. The LA 9/P is a non-lethal, non-blinding way to get the attention of  intruders, warn them off and confuse them optically if they persist.

They have been used to hail, warn and deter people until their intent is determined at vehicle checkpoints.

December 11, 2015 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

AFRICA: U.N. Seeks $2 Billion to Head Off Desert Migration Crisis

Sahel Imperiled.

The Sahel Region. (Wikipedia)

The Sahel Region. (Wikipedia)

The United Nations is seeking a record $2 billion in aid for North Africa’s Sahel region to counter poverty, insecurity and climate change that could tip the area over, generating a new wave of mass migration, Reuters reported Wednesday (December 9).

The U.N. has increased its appeal for the nine countries of the semiarid band stretching from Senegal on the Atlantic to Eritrea on the Red Sea more than tenfold over the last 10 years, but funding has fallen short each year.

Attacks by militants from the radical Islamist group Boko Haram in the Lake Chad basin, as well as efforts by regional armies to counter them, have already forced 2.5 million people to flee their homes — a figure that has tripled in 12 months, according to Reuters.

Toby Lanzer, a U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator, noted the thousands of refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East flooding into Europe. “Eventually, you are going to have thousands or tens of thousands of people [from the Sahel] who will seek opportunities elsewhere or, if worse comes to the worst, be forced to flee,” he told Reuters.

A portion of the 2016 funding, part of a $20.1 billion record U.N. humanitarian appeal, will also go toward education, which Lanzer hopes will encourage young girls to finish schooling and cap population growth in a region ill-equipped to cope with a forecast sixfold increase in population by 2100.

The biggest recipient in 2016 will be Chad with $567 million, which has suffered a series of Boko Haram suicide bombings in recent months, followed by Mali with $354 million and Niger with $316 million. Other countries in the Sahel include Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Sudan

The refugee appeal comes just a day after U.N. Security Council appealed for greater international security cooperation and more humanitarian aid to bring stability to sub-Saharan Africa.

Concern about terrorist safe havens in Libya and the humanitarian crisis caused by Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria, are at the heart of the Security Council’s warning.

In a presidential statement issued two weeks after the top U.N. regional official warned that the sub-Saharan Sahel region will become fertile ground for recruiting terrorists among its tens of millions of disadvantaged people, the 15-member Council called for a dual policy of combatting terrorism and its havens while eliminating its root causes through aid and development.

December 9, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: [UPDATE] Two Mass Shooting Suspects Slain in Gun Battle with Police

San Bernardino Bloodbath.

Authorities in San Bernardino, California say two suspects in a mass shooting that left 14 people dead and 17 wounded, Wednesday (December 2) were themselves killed in a running gun battle with police later in the day.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said the suspects, a male and a female, were killed in an exchange of gunfire with pursuing police that left their dark-colored SUV riddled with bullets on a city street.

Fourteen people were killed and 17 were wounded in the late morning shooting at a holiday party at a rented meeting space that sparked the police chase and gun battle. The FBI said “it is a possibility ” that terrorism is a motive. But David Bowdich, assistant special agent in charge of the Los Angeles field office said the bureau is “still not wiling to say that it is” yet. He added: “We will go where the evidence takes us.”

In an outdoor televised news conference, Burguan said police received a tip after the shooting that led them to a residence in nearby Redlands, California. While the building was under police surveillance the two suspects fled in the SUV, the chief said, and police pursued them. An officer who intercepted the vehicle was wounded and later hospitalized. A third person seen leaving the scene was apprehended and is being held for questioning. “We do not know the extent of his involvement — if any,” Burguan said.

The fleeing pair exchanged shots with police who fired numerous times at the vehicle. Both occupants were killed and police took their time cautiously approaching and searching the getaway vehicle, which authorities said contained suspicious materials that could be explosives. The police chief said the suspects were dressed in “assault style clothing” and were armed with assault rifles and handguns. It is not clear if there was a third shooter as some witnesses told police after the incident.

Around 11 a.m. Pacific Time Wednesday, gunmen burst in on a gathering at a local office building owned by a private sector social services company. Fourteen people were killed and 17 were wounded. Some other people in the building were injured fleeing the facility.

Location of San Bernardino city and county in California (via wikipedia)

Location of San Bernardino city and county in California
(via wikipedia)

After the shooting, authorities said witnesses told them at least three gunmen armed with long guns opened fire and fled the Inland Regional Center after just a few minutes.

Descriptions of the three suspects and their vehicle were very sketchy. A motive for the shootings has not yet been determined and while it appeared to bear the hallmarks of a terrorist attack, officials are not calling it that at this time.

In addition to local police and county  sheriff’s deputies, the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and California Highway Patrol were reported on the scene, according to the Los Angeles Times.

December 2, 2015 at 5:52 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: U.S. to Deploy More Special Ops in Fight Against ISIS

Expeditionary Targeting Force.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, foreground, and Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testify before the House Armed Services Committee about U.S. strategy for Syria and Iraq. (Defense Dept. photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, foreground, and Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testify before the House Armed Services Committee about U.S. strategy for Syria and Iraq.
(Defense Dept. photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

The Obama administration is sending more Special Operations Forces (SOF) to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a congressional hearing Tuesday (December 1) that the Pentagon was deploying “a specialized expeditionary targeting force to assist” Iraqi and Kurdish forces and put “even more pressure” on the leadership of the so-called Islamic State — also known as ISIS and ISIL (for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant).

Eventually, Carter said, special operators will be able to “conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders.”

Carter did not detail how many SOF troops would be sent to the region or where they would be deployed. But Pentagon officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to several news organizations, said this new force was expected to be based in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish-controlled region of Iraq. The number of SOF operators could be between 150 and 200, it was reported by USA Today, the Washington Post and Reuters.

President Obama has already sent 3,500 troops to Iraq and the surrounding region to advise and support — but not fight alongside —  Iraqis, Kurds and moderate Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime. In October Obama authorized the deployment of  50 special ops troops to advise and train Arab and Kurdish anti-ISIS fighters in Syria.

Before that, Obama was — and remains — reluctant to commit U.S. ground forces to fight ISIS, preferring to rely on U.S. led airstrikes on ISIS targets in support of Kurds, Iraqis and Syrians fighting the Islamist terror organization, which has captured chunks of Iraq and Syria.

Map and data courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War.

Map and data courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War. (Click to enlarge)

Carter told the House Armed Services Committee the the air campaign has intensified against ISIS’s main revenue stream: oil exports. Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  also at the hearing, said the air attacks had disrupted 43 percent of ISIS oil production. But under sometimes testy questioning, Dunford conceded that “we have not contained” ISIS.

“We are at war,” Carter told the hearing, adding that he meant “this is a serious business … it has that kind of gravity.” ISIS has claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian jetliner over Egypt, killing all 224 people on board, and a string of attacks in Paris last month that left 130 dead.

Carter said  the new SOF presence in Iraq will raise uncertainty among ISIS leaders. “It puts everybody on notice in Syria. You don’t know at night who’s coming through the window,” he added.

December 1, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: UN Base in Mali Attacked; Boko Haram Bombing; Pirates Are Back; Covering Africa

Another Mali Attack.

Mali and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Mali and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

Two United Nations peacekeepers and a civilian contractor were killed in a rocket attack Saturday (November 28) on a U.N. base in northern Mali.

The attack on the dessert base near Kidal (see map) killed two soldiers from Guinea. More than 10,000 UN peacekeepers from several countries — mostly nearby West African nations like Guinea — have been patrolling violence-wracked Mali since 2013, according to the BBC.

The UN mission in Mali — criticized at the time of its approval because there is no peace deal to support — has suffered more casualties than any other in recent years, with 56 troops killed, the BBC indicated in a November 20 video report.

Olivier Salgado, spokesman for the UN’s deployment in Mali known as MINUSMA, told Al Jazeera the attack was launched before dawn with five rockets landing inside the UN compound. Salgado said 20 other people were wounded, four seriously.

“In the past we’ve had mortar shells land outside, but this time they made it into the camp,” he said.

The armed group Ansar Dine told the AFP news agency it was responsible for the attack. Hamadou Ag Khallini, one of the group’s senior figures told AFP by phone that the attack was “in response to the violation of our lands by the enemies of Islam.”

French forces intervened in Mali, a former French colony, when a rebellion by heavily-armed Tuareg nomads sparked an Army coup in 2012 because the government’s poor handling of the revolt. The Tuaregs, backed by al Qaeda-linked Islamist extremists, took advantage of the chaos and swept over half the country — threatening Bamako, the capital — before the French intervened with ground troops and aircraft.

But violence has picked up again. Five UN peacekeepers were killed in July, and just over a week ago a militant assault on a luxury hotel in Bamako left more than 20 people dead. On Friday (November 27), Malian forces arrested two men in connection with the hotel attack, the Voice of America website reported..

Other West African governments are also battling insurgents. Boko Haram, the leading armed group in the region, has this year extended its attacks from Nigeria to the neighboring states of Niger, Cameroon and Chad, Al Jazeera noted.

*** *** ***

Boko Haram-Nigeria.

Nigeria (CIA World factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World factbook)

The Islamic State-linked militant group Boko Haram is claiming responsibility for a suicide bombing in northern Nigeria Friday (November 27) that killed at least 22 people marching in a procession of Shi’ite pilgrims.

The blast near the village of Dakozoye, south of Kano, came just days after two female bombers blew themselves up at a local mobile telephone market in Kano, killing at least 14 people and wounding more than 100 others in the city of 2.1 million residents, the Voice of America reported.

A statement posted Saturday (November 28) on Twitter referred to the Friday blast as a “martyrdom-seeking operation.”  It also vowed more violence would come as the extremist group presses its six-year campaign for an independent Islamic state, or caliphate, in northeastern Nigeria and the nearby countries of northern Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Followers of The Islamic Movement of Nigeria were marching from Kano to Zaria through the village of Dakasoye on Friday when the attackers struck, according to Al Jazeera. The followers were on a “symbolic trek” to Zaria, where the Islamic Movement of Nigeria’s leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky is based, to mark the 40th day of Ashura – the death of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Hussein.

Meanwhile, Boko Haram has been labeled the world’s deadliest terrorist group, according to the New York Times.

The militant group that has tortured Nigeria and its neighbors for years, was responsible for 6,664 deaths last year, more than any other terrorist group in the world, including the Islamic State, which killed 6,073 people in 2014, according to a report released (November 18).

The report, by the Institute of Economics & Peace, said the Islamic State and Boko Haram were responsible for half of all global deaths attributed to terrorism. Last year, the deaths attributed to Boko Haram alone increased by more than 300 percent, the report said. The report also found a drastic increase in terrorist attacks last year, with the majority occurring in three countries: Iraq, Syria and Nigeria, where other militant groups besides Boko Haram operate.

*** *** ***

Pirates Redux.

Five Polish sailors have been abducted from a cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria, according to the BBC and other news outlets.

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said the men– including a captain and other three officers — were kidnapped Thursday night (November 26) from the cargo ship Szafir.

Pirates boarded the vessel as it traveled from Belgium to Nigeria, according to Polish media reports. Eleven other sailors evaded capture, apparently by locking themselves in the engine room.

Security experts classify the waters off Nigeria as some of the deadliest on earth, with pirates based in the country often targeting oil tankers, as well as hostages to ransom, Al Jazeera reported.

But the region has seen no documented attacks since February, when a crude carrier was boarded with the ship’s Greek deputy captain killed and three crew members taken hostage.

November 28, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 27, 2015)

Up Close and Very Personal.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kate Thornton

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kate Thornton

A KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-15E Strike Eagle over the northern Mediterranean Sea.

As you might suspect from the logo on the refueling drogue, this Stratotanker is assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, the U.S. military’s only permanently assigned air refueling operation in the European theater. The Strike Eagle is assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing.

Both air wings while deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, will be supporting Operation Inherent Resolve , the U.S. led air campaign over Iraq and Syria to degrade and defeat the self-proclaimed Islamic State — also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Daesh.

November 27, 2015 at 2:10 am Leave a comment

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