Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mali: German killed; Dutch, S. African, Swede seized


Western tourists beware:  World not the same and never will be; yet another mythical "Al Qaida" (CIA) group blamed

Associated Press
By Baba Ahmed
11/27/2011

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — 

Gunmen killed a German man in Mali's most famous city of Timbuktu and seized three men from the Netherlands, South Africa and Sweden, officials and witnesses said, as officials on Saturday ordered a plane to evacuate foreigners from the tourist destination.

    The Dutch and Swedish governments confirmed Saturday that their citizens had been taken. A fellow traveler said the other man seized was South African and said she met the German man.

Tour guide Ali Maiga was with the tourists during Friday's attack at a Timbuktu restaurant and gave the same list of nationalities. A witness and an official said gunmen burst into the restaurant, grabbed four tourists dining there and executed one when he refused to climb into their truck.

Officials on Saturday evacuated foreigners from Timbuktu to the capital, said a man who owns a hotel in Bamako where the tourists previously stayed. He asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Ward Bezemer confirmed that one Dutch man was among those kidnapped.

    "In the interests of the people involved, we never comment on these cases," Bezemer told The Associated Press.

    The kidnapping comes ahead of an official visit by Mali's president to the Netherlands next week.

    Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on Saturday confirmed on Twitter that one of those kidnapped was Swedish. He did not mention the nationalities of the others.

   Germany's Foreign Ministry said in a Saturday statement that the killed foreigner is "with a high probability a German national" and updated its Mali travel advisory to mention the killing.

    South African foreign affairs department spokesman Clayson Monyela said Saturday his government was trying to confirm whether one of those kidnapped was South African.

Timbuktu
Canadian tourist Julie-Ann Leblond said she met a group consisting of a South African, a Swede and a Dutch couple in Mali. She said they invited her to join them as they headed to Timbuktu, but she took ill on Wednesday and had to stay behind.

    "I was supposed to go there with them," Leblond, a 25-year-old resident of Quebec City, told the Associated Press by phone from Bamako. "I was never so happy to get a cold."

    She did not provide the names of the travelers and said the German was traveling separately. She said the group of four met on the road as they were traveling from Europe to Africa.

    "They're incredible people, so peaceful, so nice," she said. "That kind of thing cannot just happen to those kind of people. It's crazy."

   The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, also condemned the attack in a statement and said "these incidents show the need to continue and intensify the efforts against insecurity in the Sahel," the desert region stretching from Mauritania to Chad.

    "Through its Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel, the EU is committed to help the Sahel countries in this endeavor," the statement said.

    Also Saturday, France's Foreign Ministry expanded the zone that it "strongly advises" French travelers to avoid traveling in Mali, moving the line southward from the Sahel region.

    Until a few years ago, Timbuktu was one of the most visited destinations in Africa, but it is now one of the many former tourist hotspots in Mali that have been deemed too dangerous to visit by foreign embassies because of kidnappings by the local chapter of al-Qaida.

    Friday's incident comes after two French citizens were grabbed in the middle of the night from their hotel in the Malian town of Hombori on Thursday. French judicial officials have opened a preliminary investigation into their kidnappings.

    Neither kidnapping has yet been claimed by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, whose members have kidnapped and ransomed more than 50 Europeans and Canadians since 2003.

    If Friday's kidnapping is by AQIM, it will mark the first time they have taken a hostage inside of Timbuktu's city limits. Thursday's kidnapping would be another first — the first hostage taking south of the Niger River.

  The group's footprint has grown dramatically since 2006, when the Algerian-led cell first joined al-Qaida. Security experts estimate the group has been able to raise around $130 million from ransom payments alone.

Images:  Google royalty free unless otherwise attributed.


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Iran threatens to hit Turkey if US, Israel attack


Brilliant move by idiot Iranian government; Iran alienates one of last potential allies in region

Associated Press
By Ali Akbar Dareini
11/27/2011

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — 

Iran will target NATO's missile defense installations in Turkey if the U.S. or Israel attacks the Islamic Republic, a senior commander of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard said Saturday.

    Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Guards' aerospace division, said the warning is part of a new defense strategy to counter what he described as an increase in threats from the U.S. and Israel.

Turkey Jupiter ballistic missile
Tensions have been rising between Iran and the West since the release of a report earlier this month by the International Atomic Energy Agency that said for the first time that Tehran was suspected of conducting secret experiments whose sole purpose was the development of nuclear arms.

The U.S. and its Western allies suspect Iran of trying to produce atomic weapons, and Israel, which views Tehran as an existential threat, has warned of a possible strike on Iran's nuclear program. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes.

    "Should we be threatened, we will target NATO's missile defense shield in Turkey and then hit the next targets," the semiofficial Mehr news agency quoted Hajizadeh as saying.

    Tehran says NATO's early warning radar station in Turkey is meant to protect Israel against Iranian missile attacks if a war breaks out with the Jewish state. Ankara agreed to host the radar in September as part of NATO's missile defense system aimed at countering ballistic missile threats from neighboring Iran.

    A military installation in the Turkish town of Kurecik, some 435 miles (700 kilometers) west of the Iranian border, has been designated as the radar site, according to Turkish government officials.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Guards' aerospace division
Hajizadeh said the United States also plans to install similar stations in Arab states, which has spurred Iran to alter its military defense strategy.

"Based on orders from the exalted commander in chief, we will respond to threats with threats," he was quoted as saying.

    Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, is also commander in chief of Iran's armed forces.

    Another senior Guard commander, Yadollah Javani, threatened that Tehran will target Israel's nuclear facilities should the Jewish state attack Iran.

    "If Israel fires a missile at our nuclear facilities or vital installations, it should know that Israel's nuclear centers will be the target of our missiles," the semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.

   Also Saturday, the chief of Iran's elite Quds Force said he doesn't fear assassination and is ready for "martyrdom."

Fools:  Iran mullahs thik they can survive exchange with Turkey
 The comments by Quds Force commander Brig. Gen. Ghassem Soleimani were published in several Iranian newspapers. The Quds Force is the special foreign operations unit of the country's powerful Revolutionary Guard, and Soleimani is a key figure in Iran's military establishment but rarely speaks in public.

    Tensions have increased in recent weeks between Iran and the U.S., with several American neoconservatives urging the Obama administration to use covert action against Iran and kill some of its top officials, including Soleimani.

    The force has been accused by the Americans of involvement in an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington. Two men, including an alleged member of Iran's Quds Force, have been charged in New York federal court in the case.

    Iran has dismissed the American claims as a "foolish plot", saying U.S. officials have offered no proof.

 Images:  Google royalty free unless otherwise attributed.


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.  We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.




NATO attack allegedly kills 24 Pakistani troops


U.S. drones kill Pakistan soldiers indiscriminately, could care less; Pak Army orders U.S. airbase for drones shut down in 15 days

Associated Press
By Sebastian Abbot
11/27/2011

ISLAMABAD (AP) —
 
Pakistan on Saturday blocked vital supply routes for U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan and demanded Washington vacate a base used by American drones after coalition aircraft allegedly killed 24 Pakistani troops at two posts along a mountainous frontier that serves as a safe haven for militants.

    The incident was a major blow to American efforts to rebuild an already tattered alliance vital to winding down the 10-year-old Afghan war. Islamabad called the bloodshed in one of its tribal areas a "grave infringement" of the country's sovereignty, and it could make it even more difficult for the U.S. to enlist Pakistan's help in pushing Afghan insurgents to engage in peace talks.

U.S. drones responsible for deaths of hundreds of innocents
A NATO spokesman said it was likely that coalition airstrikes caused Pakistani casualties, but an investigation was being conducted to determine the details. If confirmed, it would be the deadliest friendly fire incident by NATO against Pakistani troops since the Afghan war began a decade ago.

    A prolonged closure of Pakistan's two Afghan border crossings to NATO supplies could cause serious problems for the coalition. The U.S., which is the largest member of the NATO force in Afghanistan, ships more than 30 percent of its non-lethal supplies through Pakistan. The coalition has alternative routes through Central Asia into northern Afghanistan, but they are costlier and less efficient.

    Pakistan temporarily closed one of its Afghan crossings to NATO supplies last year after U.S. helicopters accidentally killed two Pakistani soldiers. Suspected militants took advantage of the impasse to launch attacks against stranded or rerouted trucks carrying NATO supplies. The government reopened the border after about 10 days when the U.S. apologized. NATO said at the time the relatively short closure did not significantly affect its ability to keep its troops supplied.

    But the reported casualties are much greater this time, and the relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. has severely deteriorated over the last year, especially following the covert American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town in May. Islamabad was outraged it wasn't told about the operation beforehand.

Pakistan closing NATO truck routes to Afghanistan
The government announced it closed its border crossings to NATO in a statement issued after an emergency meeting of the Cabinet's defense committee chaired by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.



    It also said that within 15 days the U.S. must vacate Shamsi Air Base, which is located in southwestern Baluchistan province. The U.S. uses the base to service drones that target al-Qaida and Taliban militants in Pakistan's tribal region when they cannot return to their bases inside Afghanistan because of weather conditions or mechanical difficulty, said U.S. and Pakistani officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive strategic matters.

    The government also plans to review all diplomatic, military and intelligence cooperation with the U.S. and other NATO forces, according to the statement issued after the defense committee meeting.

   The Pakistani army said Saturday that NATO helicopters and fighter jets carried out an "unprovoked" attack on two of its border posts in the Mohmand tribal area before dawn, killing 24 soldiers and wounding 13 others. The troops responded in self-defense "with all available weapons," an army statement said.

    Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani condemned the attack, calling it a "blatant and unacceptable act," according to the statement.

This time Pakistan government not Army telling U.S. to get out
A spokesman for NATO forces, Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, said Afghan and coalition troops were operating in the border area of eastern Afghanistan when "a tactical situation" prompted them to call in close air support. It is "highly likely" that the airstrikes caused Pakistani casualties, he told BBC television.

    "My most sincere and personal heartfelt condolences go out to the families and loved ones of any members of Pakistan security forces who may have been killed or injured," said Gen. John Allen, the top overall commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, in a statement.

   The border issue is a major source of tension between Islamabad and Washington, which is committed to withdrawing its combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

    Much of the violence in Afghanistan is carried out by insurgents who are based just across the border in Pakistan. Coalition forces are not allowed to cross the frontier to attack the militants. However, the militants sometimes fire artillery and rockets across the line, reportedly from locations close to Pakistani army posts.

At least 938 Pakistanis killed in 2010 by U.S. drone
American officials have repeatedly accused Pakistani forces of supporting — or turning a blind eye — to militants using its territory for cross-border attacks.



    But militants based in Afghanistan have also been attacking Pakistan recently, prompting complaints from Islamabad.

    The two posts that were attacked Saturday were located about 1,000 feet apart on a mountain top and were set up recently to stop Pakistani Taliban militants holed up in Afghanistan from crossing the border and staging attacks, said local government and security officials.

   There was no militant activity in the area when the alleged NATO attack occurred, local officials said. Some of the soldiers were standing guard, while others were asleep, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

    Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said map references of all of the force's border posts have been given to NATO several times.

    Pakistan's prime minister summoned U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter to protest the alleged NATO strike, according to a Foreign Ministry statement. It said the attack was a "grave infringement of Pakistan's sovereignty" and could have serious repercussions on Pakistan's cooperation with NATO.

    Munter said in a statement that he regretted any Pakistani deaths and promised to work closely with Islamabad to investigate the incident.

Pakistanis have had it, demand U.S. get out now
The U.S., Pakistan, and Afghan militaries have long wrestled with the technical difficulties of patrolling a border that in many places is disputed or poorly marked. Saturday's incident took place a day after a meeting between NATO's Gen. Allen and Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Islamabad to discuss border operations.

    The meeting tackled "coordination, communication and procedures ... aimed at enhancing border control on both sides," according to a statement from the Pakistani side.

    The U.S. helicopter attack that killed two Pakistani soldiers on Sept. 30 of last year took place south of Mohmand in the Kurram tribal area. A joint U.S.-Pakistan investigation found that Pakistani soldiers fired at the two U.S. helicopters prior to the attack, a move the investigation team said was likely meant to notify the aircraft of their presence after they passed into Pakistani airspace several times.

    A U.S. airstrike in June 2008 reportedly killed 11 Pakistani paramilitary troops during a clash between militants and coalition forces in the tribal region.
____

Associated Press writers Anwarullah Khan in Khar, Pakistan, Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan, Matiullah Achakzai in Chaman and Deb Riechmann in Kabul, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.

Images:  Google royalty free unless otherwise attributed.


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.  We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.


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