Posts filed under ‘Counter Terrorism’
No Easy Task.
A U.S. Marine Corps raiding force clambers from a rigid-hulled, inflatable boat up into a gas and oil platform during maritime interoperability training (MIT) off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. Another group of raiders descended by rope (fast-roping) from a hovering MH-60R Seahawk helicopter.
MIT prepares the Marines for their upcoming deployment by enhancing combat skills, and teaching them techniques for boarding vessels. These Leathernecks are with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force.
To see a slide show of this exercise, click here.
And here’s another photo from a different angle to show how far up the oil rig deck was. Please click on both photos to enlarge the image.
There’s a cautionary saying from the early days of aviation that “only angels have wings.” But here we have a photo of U.S. Air Force special tactics airmen demonstrating their skill with a HALO — high altitude, low opening parachute jump. The object of such a jump is to free fall from a high altitude then open the chute at a low altitude and descend without being detected from the ground.
These airmen are from the 24th Special Operations Wing, part of U.S. Special Operations Command and one of three Air Force wings dedicated to demanding and dangerous jobs like combat controllers, pararescuemen and special operations weather officers.
Combat controllers are special air traffic controllers operating from the ground in combat zones.They provide expert air support coordination and communications capabilities and often accompany Army Special Forces, Army Rangers and Navy SEALS when they deploy into hostile areas.They call in air strikes and control air traffic on and above landing strips and jump zones in hostile or austere environments. They were among the first U.S. troops on the ground during emergency relief efforts after the 2010 Haitian earthquake. Pararescuemen, known as PJs, parachute over land or water to render medical assistance and rescue downed pilots and other personnel in combat or natural disaster situations. They are also lowered to ground or water level on a cable to rescue people. Among their many tasks, special operations weather officers and airmen deploy into combat and non-permissive environments (the ‘bad guys’ or ‘bad conditions’ on the ground don’t want you there) to collect and interpret meteorological data and provide ground force commanders with accurate intelligence during a special operations mission.
The HALO jump, from MC-130H Talon II special operations aircraft over Hurlburt Field, Florida, is designed to help participants maintain their qualification for special tactics airmen, trained to jump into hostile or austere environments not accessible to aircraft.
To see a photo slideshow of the pre-jump preparations and the jump itself, click here. As ever, to enlarge the image just click on the photo.
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.
Nearly half the soldiers – about 4,700 – will be assigned to protect France’s 717 Jewish schools, the Washington Post reported January 12.
“I’m glad the soldiers are here. But the fact they’re here means something is very wrong,” said the director of on Jewish school in Paris. “It shouldn’t be this way,” the school official told the Post. Some mosques will also receive government protection, following more than a dozen attacks on Islamic buildings since January 7.
That’s when masked gunmen stormed a satirical weekly magazine killing 12 people including a Muslim French police officer. The alleged gunmen, two bohers, originally from Algeria, were killed by police January 9 during a hostage rescue raid outside Paris. Five cartoonists and three other staffers were killed at the weekly, Charlie Hebdo, which has outraged Muslims in the past with cartoons and satirical copy about the Prophet Muhammad. Charlie Hebdo plans to print 3 million copies, rather than the usual 600,00 of its next issue, which will a drawing of Muhammad on the front page.
Four more people, and a female police officer were killed by another radicalized Muslim man who took hostages at a kosher market in Paris before he, too, was shot by police January 9.
*** *** ***
In response to the Paris attacks, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to increase random screenings of passengers at airports as well as ordering the Transportation Security Administration to conduct a short-term review of whether more security measures are needed.
“We have no specific, credible intelligence of an attack of the kind in Paris last week being planned by terrorist organizations in this country,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement, the POLITICO website reported.
DHS said the latest security measures are being taken as part of “precautionary” steps following the attacks in Paris, just as they were following recent incidents in Sydney and Ottawa. Johnson also urged Congress not to pass a funding bill for DHS with any restrictions on spending. House Republicans have said they plan to restrict U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a DHS unit, from implementing President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
The Paris attack seems to have had some affect on Republicans’ strategy, however. While Republicans will still try to block Obama from implementing his immigration overhaul — they won’t risk funding for the Department of Homeland Security to do it, says Texas Republican senator John Cornyn, according to CNN.
Cornyn said January 11 on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Republicans will try to “address and defund” what he called an “unconstitutional” executive action to limit deportations for the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens. “But we’re not going to take any chances with the homeland,” Cornyn said.
*** *** ***
Nigeria says 150 people lost their lives in an assault by Boko Haram militants on the town of Baga last week.
The Nigerian defense ministry says this figure includes “many of the terrorists” who had attacked the town in Borno state and faced resistance by troops. Local officials earlier estimated the number of deaths at as many as 2,000, the BBC reported. Nigeria has often been accused of underestimating casualty figures to downplay the threat of Boko Haram.
Earlier, the Catholic Archbishop of Jos, in central Nigeria, accused the West of ignoring the threat posed by Boko Haram. Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama said the world had to show more determination to halt the group’s advance in Nigeria. The archbishop told the BBC that the slaughter in Baga had shown that the Nigerian military was unable to tackle Boko Haram.
Meanwhile, at least 23 people were killed at the weekend by three female suicide bombers, one reported to be 10 years old.
Islamabad Gets Tough.
Ten days after a Taliban attack on an army-run school that left 148 people dead – most of them children – Pakistan’s government is giving the military a blank check for two years to do whatever it takes to finish the country’s protracted battle with Islamic terrorists.
According to a McClatchy Newspapers website, the government response was broadened from the Taliban Movement of Pakistan — which has waged a bloody insurgency since July 2007 — to all jihadist and sectarian militants on Pakistani soil. That decision echoes Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s December 17 vow, not to differentiate between so-called “good and bad Taliban,” McClatchy reported.
The military’s nationwide campaign, launched in June with a massive offensive in Pakistan’s northwest tribal areas, is being closely watched by the United States and other countries to see whether it includes Pakistan-based militant groups that have repeatedly attacked neighboring Afghanistan and India, according to McClatchy.
On December 17 – the day after the Peshawar school massacre – Prime Minister Sharif ordered an end a to six-year moratorium on capital punishment. Pakistan’s interior ministry has approved the execution of 400 people convicted of terrorism offenses prior to 2008. In all, there more than 3,000 convicted terrorists on death row — all of whom are to be hanged. Six people have already been handed, the BBC reported.
An additional 6,000 suspected terrorists and their supporters have been targeted for arrest in the nationwide crackdown and summary trial in military courts.
*** *** ***
Strikes on ISIL/ISIS
The U.S. military and its allies carried out 12 airstrikes against ISIL/ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria on December 27, Reuters reported.
Six strikes near the Syrian town of Kobani on the Turkish border destroyed Islamic State buildings, fighting positions and vehicles, according to the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve Public Affairs office. In Iraq, targets including buildings, vehicles and an Islamic State refinery were hit in six strikes near Al Asad, Mosul, Falluja, Al Qaim and Baiji, it said.
The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve — which aims to eliminate the ISIL/ISIS terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community.
Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In Syria, coalition airstrike partners include the United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to the Combined Join Task Force.
*** *** ***
Al Shabab Leader Captured
Authorities in Somalia say they have captured one of the most wanted commanders of the African Islamist terror group, al Shabab.
Zakariye Ismail Hersi was captured in a raid Saturday morning (December 26) in the town of El Wak near the border with Kenya, according to the Voice of America.
General Abbas Ibrahim Gurey, the commander of Somali government troops in the southern Gedo region, told VOA’s Somali service that authorities received a tip from members of the public that al-Shabab suspects were hiding in a house. Gurey said that Hersi was captured with his secretary and without a struggle.
In June 2012, the U.S. put a $3 million reward for the capture of Hersi, describing him as an associate of former al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane. Godane was killed in a U.S. airstrike in September.
Hersi’s capture comes after militants with the group, which is linked to al Qaeda, attacked a large African Union base in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, last week (December 25). Three Ugandan soldiers and a civilian were killed, said CNN. Al-Shabaab has said that attack was revenge for the U.S. airstrike that killed Godane. The State Department had offered a $7 million reward for information on Godane’s location.
French Hostage Released.
A Frenchman kidnapped by Islamist terrorists in North Africa more than three years ago has been freed, the French government announced today (December 9).
Details of the release of Serge Lazarevic were not disclosed but French officials have insisted that no ransom is paid or prisoners released in exchange for any French hostages. At one time 14 French citizens were being held by terrorists in Africa. A Malian security source told AFP that Lazarevic was released at Kidal in northern Mali.
French President Francois Hollande said there are “no more French hostages in any country in the world.” Another, Phillipe Verdon, who was abducted with Lazarevic in 2011 by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, was killed last year in retaliation for France’s military intervention in Mali to halt a revolt by Islamic extremists and nomadic Tuaregs.
While authorities denied or wouldn’t comment on reports that ransom was paid, a retired French anti-terrorism judge, Alain Marsaud, was more frank. He told France’s RTL radio: “There is no reease if there is no payment. Someone paid, if not the government, a business or insurance company.
A Malian newspaper and two sources, requesting anonymity, told Reuters that several Islamist-linked militants held in Mali were freed.
A Dutch tourist, Sjaak Rijke, kidnapped in Timbuktu in November 2011, has not been seen or heard from since he appeared alongside Lazarevic in a November AQIM video, the BBC reported.
*** *** ***
The World Health Organization reports new cases of Ebola are still rising in West Africa, with Sierra Leone overtaking Liberia with the highest number of cases.
Data published Monday (December 8) by the WHO shows Sierra Leone has recorded 7,798 cases of the deadly virus, making it the country with the fastest growing infection rate, according to the Voice of America website. Meanwhile, infection rates are dropping in Liberia, which now has just over 7,700 cases – but Liberia still has more Ebola deaths than any other country: a little more than 3,100.
Overall, Ebola has infected 18,000 people in Africa and killed 6,346. The vast majority of those cases have been in Liberia, Sierra Leone and neighboring Guinea.
*** *** ***
International Court Drops Kenyatta Charges.
The International Criminal Court has dropped its case against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta for alleged crimes against humanity.
The prosecution withdrew the charges Wednesday (December 5) against Kenyatta, citing a lack of evidence. But there were also allegations that because the Kenyan government did not cooperate with the international court’s investigation, the case was unable to proceed, according to the Voice of America website.
The ICC’s lead prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said there was not enough evidence to prove the charges against Kenyatta beyond a reasonable doubt. Bensouda said Kenya’s government failed to provide key documents to the prosecution, which undermined her investigations and “had a severe, adverse impact” on the case. She also said she reserved the right to file charges again if more evidence becomes available.
Kenyatta was charged for his alleged role — before he was president — in the ethnic violence that followed the 2007 Kenyan elections. More than 1,000 were killed and a half million more were displaced by the violence, which prosecutors claimed Kenyatta and his deputy president, William Ruto, incited.
After the ICC dropped the case, Kenyatta – son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta — called it a “travesty” adding that he felt vindicated, the BBC reported. In the Hague, prosecutors accused the Kenyan government of refusing to hand over evidence vital to the case and said officials in Nairobi had intimidated potential witnesses.
Obama Makes Change at the Pentagon.
UPDATES with Obama announcing selection of Ashton Carter to be next Secretary of Defense — subject to Senate confirmation.
It’s official, President Barack Obama has picked veteran Pentagon official Ashton Carter as his nominee to succeed Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense.
In remarks at the White House, Obama characterized Carter as someone who knows the Defense Department “inside and out.” The president added that Carter would “hit the ground running” if the Senate confirms the nomination — which most observers expect.
Carter was deputy defense secretary under Leon Panetta, but Obama passed over him in early 2013 to tap Hagel as SecDef. Numerous news outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times indicated earlier this week that Carter was Obama’s choice this time around.
While he has never served in the military, Carter held key posts in the Clinton and Obama administrations at the Pentagon. In addition to serving as the No. 2 official at the Pentagon from October 2011 to December 2013, Carter, 60, has served as the Pentagon’s chief of acquisition, technology and logistics – the head weapons buyer for the military.
“As a top member of our Pentagon team for the first five years of my presidency, including two years as deputy secretary, he was at the table in he Situation Room; he was by my side navigating complex security challenges that we were confronting,” Obama said.
Carter is known for a keen, well-educated mind – he has a doctorate from Oxford in theoretical physics and degrees in physics and medieval history from Yale. Your 4GWAR editor was impressed by Carter’s candor, intelligence and laid-back but articulate manner at the 2013 Aspen Security Forum, explaining the expansion of cyber security in the wake of the mess caused by the National Security Agency revelations and other disclosures by rogue contractor Edward Snowden.
While the White House hasn’t confirmed Carter’s nomination, the choice isn’t expected to run into much opposition on Capitol Hill. From the moment Hagel’s resignation was announced last month, Carter was among the names Washington insiders considered most likely for the post. The reported front-runner, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Michele Flournoy, took her name out of contention, as did Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat and former Army Ranger who sits on the Armed Services Committee.
The fact that Hagel’s departure was announced without a successor standing by, surprised Washington pundits, who speculated that it showed more disorder in an Obama White House, contending with a shooting war in Iraq, Russian belligerence, global jihad and Taliban resurgence while the United States is winding down its combat role in Afghanistan – all with less money from Congress.
But CNN reported that Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, declined to accommodate his resignation announcement until the White House settled on a nominee. On Thursday (December 4) Hagel discounted reports that he resigned over differences with Obama, Reuters and other news outlets report. However, Hagel did not attend today’s White House event with Carter, according to The Hill.
All we can say is … Stay tuned.
TECHNOLOGY/SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Paralyzed Special Ops Marine Walks to Medal Ceremony with Robotic Exoskeleton [UPDATE]
Special Marine, Special Machine.
UPDATES with links to two videos of ceremony.
In the November 17 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology, we wrote about U.S. Special Operations Command’s quest for a lightweight, ballistic protective suit equipped with sensors that could monitor the wearer’s vital signs, signal for help if they were injured, add support allowing soldiers to carry heavy loads more easily — and maybe even jump higher or run faster. Regular readers will remember we’ve blogged about the Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit (TALOS) several times since February.
In the latest story (subscription required) we noted that SOCOM says it will share these technology developments with the other armed services and that it could also have applications “for the Homeland Security Department, local first responders and even seriously injured veterans.”
When we wrote that, we thought “that will be a great benefit to wounded warriors and civilian paraplegics when it happens someday in the future.” But the news coming out of a small military ceremony in California last Friday (November 21) indicates someday is here already. Captain Derek Herrera of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) walked to the ceremony at Camp Pendleton to receive the Bronze Star medal with “V” for valor device for heroic leadership under fire in Afghanistan. While his combat award was certainly notable, the really remarkable thing about the event was that Herrera — paralyzed from the chest down since he was struck by a sniper’s bullet in June 2012 — was able to walk up and receive his decoration.
The captain walked with the assistance of a robotic exoskeleton that moves his legs. Known as the “ReWalk,” the technology consists of leg braces, a computer and batteries-equipped backpack, a watch-like controller and crutches. The system, manufactured by Israel-based ReWalk Robotics Ltd., is the first powered exoskeleton approved by the Food and Drug Administration for sale in the United States rehabilitate people suffering paraplegia due to spinal cord injury. And Herrera is one of the first people to acquire the system. The MARSOC Foundation, a charitable fund for MARSOC Marines, raised the money for Herrera to buy the $69,500 device, according to the Associated Press.
While ReWalk is not among the companies SOCOM lists as participants in the TALOS development project, its technology shows that powered exoskeletons are here and like computers and robots have a wide array of potential uses.
Herrera also received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal. The ceremony also marked Herrera’s retirement for medical reasons from the Marines, reported Marine Corps Times, noting that Herrera has remained active despite his injuries: participating in 10 kilometer road races and triathlons, working toward a business degree and renovating his house. The 2006 Naval Academy graduate had vowed that he would retire standing on his own — the same as he did when he joined the Marine Corps.
Click here to see a short Defense Department video report of Herrera using the ReWalk robotic braces at his retirement ceremony.
Click here to see a longer Marine Corps video without narration where you can hear the exoskeleton in action.