At least 81 people have been reported dead, including 32 Islamist militants, after a bloody, four-day hostage situation at Algeria’s remote Ain Amenas natural gas plant. Nearly two dozen foreign workers remained unaccounted for late Sunday.
Here’s the latest information from Algeria on the dead and missing: THE DEAD 32 Islamist militants, according to the Algerian government. 23 hostages, according to Algeria. Confirmed dead so far include three from Britain, two from the Philippines, one each from the U.S., Romania and France. 25 more bodies found Sunday, unclear yet whether they were hostages or militants, according to an Algerian security official.
One Romanian hostage who had been evacuated died of his wounds, according to the Romanian government.
HE MISSING HOSTAGES JAPAN: 10 Japanese working at the plant are unaccounted for, according to their employer JGC Corp. NORWAY: Five Norwegian employees of Statoil are still missing, the energy company said Sunday. BRITAIN: Three other Britons still missing and feared dead, the U.K. government said Sunday.
UNITED STATES: One Texan is dead, the U.S. has confirmed. A U.S. official said some American hostages escaped or were unaccounted for but would not give any numbers. The militants at first said they had seven American hostages, then later offered to trade two of them for two terrorists behind bars in the U.S., an offer rejected by Washington. MALAYSIA: Two Malaysians are missing, the government says.
At least 13 militants killed in Yemen in blast and drone attack
Explosion at house kills more than 10 suspected al-Qaida bombmakers on same day airstrike claims three militants
More than 10 suspected al-Qaida operatives were killed by an explosion in a house in south Yemen where they were making bombs and at least three others died in a drone strike, tribal and official sources said on Sunday.
A bomb ripped through a house in the province of al-Bayda on Saturday night, the state news agency, Saba, and a local official said. Three other suspected militants were killed in a drone strike in the central province of Maarib, also on Saturday, tribal sources and the Ministry of Defence said.
Yemen’s government has been fighting a powerful branch of al-Qaida that took advantage of chaos in the impoverished state two years ago, during a popular uprising against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is considered by western governments to be one of the most active and dangerous wings of the global network founded by Osama bin Laden; it has attempted a number of attacks against US targets.
The house that was destroyed in al-Bayda had been used for making bombs, an official from the area told Reuters on Sunday. “We heard a massive explosion that terrified people and when we went to the house it was destroyed and everyone there was dead,” the official said.
In Maarib, a pilotless plane carried out two strikes against a car, a witness said.
“One of the strikes missed the target and the other hit the car and left the bodies of the three people in it completely charred,” the witness told Reuters by telephone from the area. He said unidentified people evacuated the bodies while tribesmen blocked the main road linking the capital of Maarib province with Sanaa.
The Yemeni Defence Ministry said in a text message that a number of militants were killed in two air strikes but gave no further details.
Earlier this month, dozens of armed tribesmen took to the streets in southern Yemen to protest against drone strikes which they said killed innocent civilians and fed anger against the United States. President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi spoke openly in favour of the strikes during a trip to the US in September.
Hadi, who was praised by the US ambassador in Sanaa as being more effective against al-Qaida than his predecessor, was quoted in September as saying that he personally approved every attack. Hadi has not commented on the most recent strikes.
CIA drone strikes will get pass in counterterrorism ‘playbook,’ officials say
Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima, and Karen DeYoung Washington Post
January 20, 2013
The Obama administration is nearing completion of a detailed counterterrorism manual that is designed to establish clear rules for targeted-killing operations but leaves open a major exemption for the CIA’s campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan, U.S. officials said.
The carve-out would allow the CIA to continue pounding al-Qaeda and Taliban targets for a year or more before the agency is forced to comply with more stringent rules spelled out in a classified document that officials have described as a counterterrorism “playbook.”
The document, which is expected to be submitted to President Obama for final approval within weeks, marks the culmination of a year-long effort by the White House to codify its counterterrorism policies and create a guide for lethal operations through Obama’s second term.
Still unable to establish the final number of hostage casualties, Algerian bomb squads scouring the gas plant where Islamist terrorists herded dozens of foreign workers found “numerous new bodies” Sunday. The soldiers were searching for bomb traps left by the attackers after the final Algerian military raid Saturday ended the four-day siege at the remote desert gas plant. An Algerian official said the bodies were “badly disfigured” and hard to identify either as Algerian or foreign hostages.
The hostage-takers are beleived to have summarily killed remaining hostages before themselves being killed in the final army raid. The Algerian interior ministry said provisionally that 685 Algerian workers and 107 out of 132 foreigners working at the plant had been freed. None of these figures are final. French President Francois Holland defended the Algerian military operation as “the most suitable” because there could be no negotiations.
BAMAKO, Mali — Algerian officials said Sunday that security forces combing the scene of a bloody four-day hostage siege had discovered many more corpses, some badly burned, at a gas-production complex deep in the Sahara.
They also said for the first time that some of the hostage takers were captured alive.
“There are a good 20 bodies,” a senior Algerian official said of the grim discoveries at the site on Sunday, a day after a final assault ended the siege. “These must be identified.”
Once they are, the preliminary count of 23 dead hostages seemed certain to rise, officials acknowledged.
“I’m very afraid that the numbers are going to go up,” the Algerian communications minister, Mohamed Saïd Oublaïd, told France 24 Television.
The standoff between several dozen radical Islamists and Algerian security services came to a bloody conclusion on Saturday when the Algerians assaulted the kidnappers’ last redoubt at the facility, where hundreds of Algerian and scores of expatriate workers were employed.
The victims — from the United States, Britain, France, Japan and other countries — were killed after hours of harrowing captivity in which some were forced to wear explosives. An unknown number of the hostages died in the assault on Saturday; Algerian officials said they also killed most of the remaining hostage takers, who they said were followers of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a warlord linked to Al Qaeda based in northern Mali. A regional Web site reported that he had issued a video claiming responsibility for the attack.
ALGIERS, Algeria – The death toll from the bloody terrorist siege at a natural gas plant in the Sahara climbed to at least 81 on Sunday as Algerian forces searching the complex for explosives found dozens more bodies, many so badly disfigured they could not immediately be identified, a security official said.
Algerian special forces stormed the facility on Saturday to end the four-day siege of the remote desert refinery, and the government said then that 32 militants and 23 hostages were killed, but that the death toll was likely to rise.
The militants came from six countries, were armed to cause maximum destruction and mined the Ain Amenas refinery, which the Algerian state oil company runs along with BP and Norway’s Statoil, said Algerian Communications Minister Mohamed Said. The militants “had decided to succeed in the operation as planned, to blow up the gas complex and kill all the hostages,” he said in a state radio interview.
With few details emerging from the remote site of the gas plant in eastern Algeria, it was unclear whether anyone was rescued in the final operation, but the number of hostages killed Saturday — seven — was how many the militants had said that morning they still had.
The Algerian security official said the 25 bodies found by bombs squads on Sunday were so badly disfigured that it was difficult to tell whether they were hostages or attackers. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation and said those casualties were not official yet.
The squads were bombing the plant in the Sahara Desert to defuse mines they said were planted throughout the vast site, not far from the Libyan border.
In addition to the bodies found at the site Sunday, a wounded Romanian who had been evacuated and brought home died, raised the overall death toll to at least 81.
The Masked Brigade, founded by Algerian militant Moktar Belmoktar, claimed responsibility for the attack. Belmoktar claimed the attack in the name of Al Qaeda, according to the text from a video the Mauritania-based Internet site, Sahara Media, said it had obtained. The site sometimes carries messages of jihadists.
“We at Al Qaeda are responsible for this operation that we bless,” Sahara Media quoted the video as saying. The video was dated Jan. 17, a day after the attack began. Belmoktar recently created his own group in a schism with associated in Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, but his statement appears to show his link with the terror group’s motherhouse and put the stamp of global jihad on the action by a special commando unit, “Those Who Sign in Blood.”
Briton recounts terrifying escape from Algeria siege
LONDON | Sun Jan 20, 2013 11:50am EST
(Reuters) – A British survivor of the Algerian gas plant siege described on Sunday a nerve-racking escape across a stretch of desert and a moment of terror when he feared he had fallen into the hands of the hostage takers.
The Algerian authorities say at least 23 hostages and 32 militants were killed in the four-day siege, a preliminary death toll they expect will rise when they have finished clearing out the remote gas plant deep in the Sahara. Hundreds of Algerian workers and scores of foreigners escaped.
Alan Wright, now safe at home in Aberdeenshire in northern Scotland, told Sky News television he hid in an office block within the In Amenas complex for a day and a night with three other expatriate workers and a group of Algerian colleagues.
Cut off from the world, the men could hear sporadic gunfire throughout the first day of the crisis. During the night, which was quieter, he briefly called his wife who was desperately waiting for news at home with the couple’s two daughters.
“She asked if I wanted to speak to Imogen and Esme and I couldn’t, because I thought, I don’t want my last ever words to be in a crackly satellite phone, telling a lie, saying that you’re OK when you’re far from OK,” Wright said.
Early the next morning, hours before the Algerian army began storming the compound, the Algerian workers hiding in Wright’s block decided to try and escape.
“The national employees had convinced themselves that there was nobody going to come and get us, we weren’t going to be rescued because they didn’t know where we were. So they decided that they were going to cut the fence and make a break for it.
“When you don’t know what’s out there and you know the terrorists are dressed the same as the security forces, it was a huge decision, do you stay or do you go?”
Mohammed Said, Algeria’s communications minister, confirmed that that the charred corpses were found lying inside a heavily fortified compound at the BP run facility. Mr Said said that ‘the number feared dead will unfortunately be revised upwards’, saying that searches would carry on ‘for a number of days’. The jihadists had strapped Semtex explosives around the torsos of many of their captives, threatening to blow them up at a moment’s notice.
And Obama said and did nothing except to say Al Qaedas has been vanquished. Tell that to the hundreds of family members whose left ones died because they were ‘kufar.”
The Al Qaeda arsenal: Weapons, handcuffs and phones recovered from Algerian gas plant as one-eyed fugitive Mr Marlboro claims responsibility for hostage bloodbathDaily Mail, January 20, 2013
Siege reaches climax after seven executed in final act of violence
‘We in Al Qaeda announce this blessed operation’, said one-eyed leader
Three Britons confirmed dead – further three feared to be dead
Among those feared to be dead include Garry Barlow from Liverpool
Happened just as special forces soldiers storm desert gas facility
All 11 remaining militants shot dead in a fierce gun battle
In total, 32 kidnappers and 23 captives had died in the siege
22 British nationals have been flown back to the UK
Five terrorists have been captured alive at the Algerian gas plant, security sources have confirmed, as officials uncovered a huge cache of weapons stashed by the militants.
The developments came after the >one-eyed master of terror, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, claimed responsibility for the hostage crisis which ended in a murderous bloodshed yesterday.
In a chilling video message,the militant Islamist leader, nicknamed ‘Mr Marlboro’ for his illicit cigarette empire, said: ‘We in Al Qaeda announce this blessed operation.’
He said he was ready to negotiate with Algeria and Western countries if they stop bombing North Mali. His message came as 25 burnt bodies have been discovered inside a gas plant today.
Militant Islamist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar has said he is ready to negotiate with Algeria and Western countries if they stop bombing North Mali. The picture is taken from Sahara Media’s website
A view of the weapons seized by the Algerian authorities at the gas plant. The pile, which included handcuffs and bullets, were shown to journalists in the town of In Amenas
Garry Barlow, 49, from Liverpool who was a systems supervisor on the plant and is feared to be among the British nationals who have been killed in the bloodshed
Three Britons were confirmed dead this morning and a further three feared to be dead, along with a UK national.
mong those feared to be dead is Garry Barlow, 49, from Liverpool, who was a systems supervisor at the plant.
A total of 22 British nationals have now been flown back to the UK to be reunited with their loved ones after being caught up in the horrifying ordeal which began in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Sahara Media did not display the video of Belmokhtar, 41, itself on its site and it was not immediately possible to verify the information.
‘We in Al Qaeda announce this blessed operation,’ Belmokhtar said in the video, according to Sahara Media.
‘We are ready to negotiate with the West and the Algerian government provided they stop their bombing of Mali’s Muslims.’
A huge cache of the weapons seized by the Algerian authorities following the siege yesterday has been shown to journalists in the town of In Amenas.
The weapons included handcuffs, bullets, hand grenades and assault rifle magazines.
he four-day siege reached its climax after seven workers were executed in a final, monstrous act of violence by their Al Qaeda-linked captors just as special forces soldiers stormed the desert gas facility to try to rescue them. Their nationalities are not yet known.
All of the 11 remaining militants – who had booby-trapped the complex with explosives – were later shot dead in a fierce gun battle.
The news that the siege had ended came as the first pictures emerged of the moment the militants took control of the BP plant in the Sahara. They show terrified workers kneeling in the sand with their hands in the air.
Last night the Algerian interior ministry announced that, in total, 32 kidnappers and 23 captives had died in the siege.
Moment of surrender: The terrifying first image of hostages being taken captive by Al Qaeda terrorists
In fear of their lives: Hostages put their hands up, in dramatic footage of their ordeal broadcast on Algerian TV
In action: A member of the Algerian special forces, also known as the kouksoul
The Algerian government today said more than 23 hostages have died and the new discovery of bodies means that number is likely to rise in the coming hours.
In the course of the stand-off 685 Algerian and 107 foreign workers were freed. Efforts are now under way to try to identify a number of burned bodies found by Algerian troops after the fighting ended.
Algeria’s Ennahar TV reported that 25 bodies have so far been discovered inside the gas plant. An Algerian official said they were discovered by de-mining squads searching for explosives.
Israeli prime minister’s aides accused American president of interfering in Israel’s elections
Already fractious relations between Binyamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama have been further strained in the runup to the president’s inauguration on Monday and the Israeli prime minister’s anticipated victory in Tuesday’s election.
Netanyahu aides accused Obama of interfering in the Israeli election following publication of an article by Jeffrey Goldberg, which quoted the president as saying: “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.” Obama, wrote Goldberg, viewed Netanyahu as a “political coward”.
The Israeli president, Shimon Peres, who has voiced alarm at the rupture between the two leaders, was due to meet a delegation of US senators, led by Republican John McCain, in Jerusalem on Saturday night to discuss strengthening strategic relations between the two allies.
“We must not lose the support of the United States. What gives Israel bargaining power in the international arena is the support of the United States… Without US support, it would be very difficult for us. We would be like a lone tree in the desert,” he told the New York Times last week.
The Goldberg article, along with Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel as defence secretary, has been interpreted in Israel as clear signs of the president’s exasperation with Netanyahu and possible payback for the latter’s support of Obama’s rival, Mitt Romney, in the US election in November. Hagel is seen as “anti-Israel” because of his questioning of Israeli government policy and the pro-Israel lobby in the US.
Goldberg, who is known to be close to the president, wrote that Israel risked becoming “more of a pariah” and that Obama was reluctant to invest fresh effort in the Middle East peace process in the face of Netanyahu’s continued settlement expansion.
“On matters related to the Palestinians, the president seems to view the prime minister as a political coward, an essentially unchallenged leader who nevertheless is unwilling to lead or spend political capital to advance the cause of compromise,” Goldberg wrote.
“Obama… has been consistent in his analysis of Israel’s underlying challenge: If it doesn’t disentangle itself from the lives of West Bank Palestinians, the world will one day decide it is behaving as an apartheid state.” The White House did not deny the words attributed to the president.
“Barack Obama said, simply and clearly, what he thinks about Israel’s prime minister and where he is leading Israel,” wrote former Israeli diplomat Alon Pinkas in Yedioth Ahronoth. “These are grave, alarming statements, which are without precedent.”
Netanyahu is expected to continue as prime minister following Tuesday’s election, which is likely to see a significant strengthening of the hardline pro-settler faction within the Israeli parliament. He is thought to be keen to include at least one centrist party in the next coalition government, in part to appease the US administration.
Following a ‘sham’ presidential election in 2012, Washington DC gets nuked on January 20th, 2013 in a video game from 2005. Will reality follow this ‘fantasy’? As much as many of us dislike the politicians in Washington DC, let’s all hope not… From Wikipedia:
On Thursday, January 31st, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will deliver remarks on American Leadership, at the Council on Foreign Relations. Additional details will be forthcoming.
Council on Foreign Relations
1777 F St, NW, Washington, DC 20006
The remarks will be open to the press.
Media representatives may attend this event upon presentation of one of the following: (1) A U.S. Government-issued identification card (Department of State, White House, Congress, Department of Defense or Foreign Press Center), (2) a media-issued photo identification card, or (3) a letter from their employer on letterhead verifying their employment as a journalist, accompanied by an official photo identification card (driver’s license, passport).
For further information, please contact the Department of State Office of Press Relations at (202) 647-2492
Today there are many organizations that work over top of our government which have been put into place by the modern day feudal oligarchy. Many times these organizations are called “think tanks” or “policy institutes“. Policy institute is the more appropriate term, because these are the organizations that set the political policy and hand it down to the politicians. This is where our politicians get all their wonderful ideas from! Bush didn’t come up with the 300 page patriot act all by himself, but it was actually the work of a think tank called “the project for a new American century“. Obama‘s infamous health plan wasn’t something that good ol Barack spent half of law school working on, but that too was the work of a thank tank.
The foreign and economic policy is set by these organizations as well, so that means the government’s stance on wars, tax plans or welfare is all decided upon by these groups. Memos and reports created at these organizations make their way through the pentagon and the white house where they eventually land on the president’s desk. At this point the president signs to authorize the plan, and reads over the policy so he is prepared to explain it when asked by reporters.
The most powerful of these organizations are the committee of 300, the Bilderberg Group, The Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. There are plenty of other diabolical think tanks, but these are the most influential. The people who belong to these specific groups are the wealthiest people in the world who own and operate the world’s largest multinational corporations. The families that sit at the head of these organizations belong to the royal bloodlines that I have been discussing. There are well over a dozen bloodlines who have been secretly working together to exploit the rest of humanity for many centuries.
The four-day hostage standoff in Algeria reportedly came to a bloody end Saturday when the country’s special forces stormed the gas plant and killed 11 militants, but not before they allegedly executed seven hostages, the state news agency reported.
U.S. officials have not confirmed to Fox News that any hostages were executed at the remote desert gas plant Saturday.
However, Britain’s defense minister says it appears the hostage situation in Algeria has come to an end and resulted in further loss of life.
US President Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu will have to bury past hostilities if the Israeli prime minister is re-elected to jointly face looming threats such as Iran, analysts say.
The two men have never warmed to each other, and ties have remained frosty. Obama pointedly failed to make time to meet the Israeli leader on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September.
Netanyahu also made little secret of the fact that he was rooting for Obama’s Republican rival, Mitt Romney, in November’s US presidential election.
Yet another spat made public headlines this week when Netanyahu reacted angrily to comments attributed to Obama that “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.”
“I think everyone knows that the citizens of Israel are the only ones who can decide who will faithfully represent the vital interests of the state,” Netanyahu snapped back.
Analysts say, however, that such posturing is part of Netanyahu’s campaign to portray himself domestically as a strong leader who can stand up for Israel, even against its closest ally the United States, ahead of Tuesday’s elections.
But they also argue that, ironically, US-Israeli ties at an institutional level may never have been stronger.
“It’s quite extraordinary that given the disparity of roles, obligations and world views, that there isn’t more that divides the US and Israel,” said Aaron David Miller, a vice president and distinguished scholar at the Wilson Center.
“The anomaly of the relationship is that while on the one hand you have the most dysfunctional relationship between an Israeli prime minister and an American president that I’ve seen, the relationship itself… the American public support, the military cooperation, security assistance… intel sharing, all of the aspects of this relationship are doing quite well,” he told AFP.
Daniel Kurtzer, former US ambassador to Israel and Middle East expert at Princeton University, agreed, saying he believed that “2012 was a year of repairing the personal relationship,” highlighting “some real accomplishments.”
He pointed to the Iron Dome technology deployed during the November Gaza crisis to shoot down Hamas rockets aimed at southern Israel, and the staunch US opposition to the Palestinian bid for UN recognition as an observer state.
Even Netanyahu’s angry appearance at the United Nations wielding a cartoon picture of a bomb to urge America to set red lines over Iran’s suspect nuclear program was seen as little more than elaborate grandstanding by analysts. Back home, it fed his desired image as tough on national security.
Iran is set to be one of the top foreign policy challenges in 2013, with Tehran ignoring international calls to halt its production of enriched uranium.
Commander of the Iranian Army Ground Forces Brigadier General Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan (file photo) via PressTV
A senior Iranian commander says the United States planned the 9/11 terrorist attacks to use them as pretext to invade the energy-rich Middle East.
“The US, looking for a pretext to invade the Middle East, masterminded the 9/11 incident and pointed an accusing finger at Muslim countries,” Commander of the Iranian Army Ground Forces Brigadier General Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan said on Saturday.
Pourdastan added that following the fall of the Soviet Union, the US introduced itself as the world’s sole superpower and moved to instill the new world order to prove its supremacy.
[…] “To achieve that goal, they launched preemptive attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, and Iran was their next target, but wise policies adopted by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei along with the unity of the Iranian nation prevented them from achieving their objective,” Pourdastan said.
American isolationism: Obama’s unfolding signature policy
DEBKAfileExclusive Analysis January 19, 2013, 4:51 PM (GMT+02:00)
Whereas in his first term as president, Barack Obama opted for “leading from behind,” in international military operations, he enters his second term – even before being sworn in this week – by expanding this step-back precept into American isolationism proper – even when it comes to countering Islamist terrorism.
debkafile’s analysts note that this stance was heralded in December 2012 by his abrupt order to the USS Eisenhower strike group and the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group to withdraw from stations opposite Syria.
Washington had already then decided to ignore the Syrian chemical war threat, and brush aside the report from the US consul in Istanbul that the Syrian ruler Bashad Assad had already fired chemical bombs against rebels.
And so French military intervention in Mali on Jan. 12 and Al Qaeda’s massive attack on an international Algerian gas field four days later found the United States without a single carrier, landing vessel or marine force anywhere in the vicinity, to be available for aiding in the rescue of scores of Western hostages from ten countries, including the United States.
The USS John Stennis carrier is the only vessel left at a Middle East battle station. It is tied down at the Strait of Hormuz to secure the flow of Gulf oil to the West.
It is therefore hardly surprising to find Pentagon and top US military experts leveling sharp criticism at the White House’s policy of non-intervention in the Mali conflict, where France is fighting alone, or in Algeria’s In Amenas gas field, where Algerian forces are battling a multinational al Qaeda assault and multiple hostage-taking raid for the third day.
The Los Angeles Times reported Saturday, Jan. 20 that the sharp debate between the Pentagon and White House is over the “danger posed by a mix of Islamist militant groups, some with murky ties to Al Qaeda that are creating havoc in West Africa” and whether they present enough of a risk to US allies and interests to warrant a military response.
Many of Obama’s top aides say “it is unclear whether the Mali insurgents, who include members of the group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, threaten the US.”
As to the question, “What threat do they pose to the US homeland? The answer so far has been none.”
Some top Pentagon officials and military officers warn that without more aggressive US action, Mali could become a haven for extremists, akin to Afghanistan before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
debkafile’s counterterrorism sources report that these assertions are misleading.
Whereas the US homeland may not be in immediate peril from the Mali and Algeria episodes, it is important to remember the far-reaching interconnectivity of al Qaeda’s operations. Seven years ago, the suicidal jihads who on July 7, blew up London trains and a bus, used explosives provided by the same Al Qaeda cells of Sahel Desert which are now threatening Mali and which struck the Algerian gas field.
No US official can guarantee that such explosives from the same source won’t be used in 2013 against American targets in Europe or be smuggled into the American homeland by al Qaeda cells in Europe.
The Algerian gas field hostage siege was carried out after all by a multinational group that included Algerians, Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans, a Frenchman and a Malian.
It is true that Al Qaeda terrorists are engaged in vast smuggling rackets – especially of drugs and cigarettes – across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, as well arms trafficking through networks covering Egypt, Sinai, Arabia, the Gulf, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Sudan – all of which are direct threats of US national security. But to write them off as criminals and smugglers is simplistic: “… some are diehard terrorists with more grandiose visions,” as Pentagon officials point out.
The way the Al Qaeda menace is being handled by Washington has a ripple effect in the wider context. Tehran and Damascus are avidly watching the Obama administration’s stand-aside stance on military involvement in external crises – even emergencies posed by the Al Qaeda terrorist threat encroaching on continental Europe and Africa and the Middle East up to and including the Persian Gulf.
Washington should therefore not be surprised when its diplomatic efforts – overt and secret – to rein in Iran’s military nuclear ambitions run into the sand. The Iranians know they have nothing to fear from the Obama administration. The next surprise, our Middle East sources are now reporting, will come from Damascus where, according to a hint President Bashar Assad threw out this week to his intimates.
The media’s claims about 30,000-strong Iranian “terror and assassination force” are dubious at bestMadison Ruppert, Contributor Activist Post
Recently several mainstream media outlets jumped on a report from the Federal Research Division, a branch of the Library of Congress, that claims Iran’s intelligence ministry, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, has what CNN called “a terror and assassination force 30,000 strong,” a number which is at best highly questionable.
The most insane part is that all of the unsubstantiated claims were based on “an obscure, anonymous website that was simply citing another source,” according to an investigative report by ProPublica.
Ultimately, the 30,000 number can be traced back to Magnus Ranstorp, a Swedish terrorism researcher, quoted in a 2008 Christian Science Monitor article.
Ranstorp isn’t even sure where the number came from. “I think obviously that it would be an inflated number” of formal employees, Ranstorp said.
One of the most astounding perspectives on the Federal Research Division study comes from Gary Sick. According to Columbia University, “Sick served on the National Security Council under Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan. He was the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis.”
Sick said the entire study “has all the appearance of a very cheap piece of propaganda and should not be trusted.”
This would hardly be surprising given that the study was produced under an agreement with the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO), a branch of the Pentagon.
Sick pointed out how the study not only uses highly questionable internet sources, but also contains blatant errors.
“In one section, for example, the study lays out in detail how ‘Iran’s constitution defines’ the intelligence ministry’s official functions,” writes ProPublica. “The problem, as Sick notes: Iran’s constitution doesn’t mention an intelligence ministry, let alone define its functions.”
“Whether the figures emanate from Iran or from western reporting, they are generally exaggerated and either meant as self-aggrandizing propaganda, if self-reported by Iran, or just approximations based on usually scant data or evidence,” said Afshon Ostovar, a senior Middle East analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses who frequently writes on Iran.
The number “could be more or less accurate, but there’s no way to know,” Ostovar said.
When asked about the report, Federal Research Division Chief David Osborne told ProPublica it “was leaked to the media without authorization” and declined to comment further “because it is proprietary to the agency for which it was written.”
While the study indeed claims that Iran’s intelligence ministry employs “more than 30,000 officers and support personnel,” it also notes that Iranian intelligence is “a difficult subject to study because so little information about it is publicly available.”
The study doesn’t even pretend to include any original intelligence or reporting whatsoever, instead stating that the sources are Iranian blogs and news websites.
“The reliability of blog-based information may be questionable at times,” the report admits. “But it seems prudent to evaluate and present it in the absence of alternatives.”
In other words, they’re saying that even though they know the information could very well be completely inaccurate, they’re going to publish it anyway.
It seems that the media sources couldn’t even be bothered with questioning the veracity of the report, although a CNN spokeswoman told ProPublica that CNN “checked the number with sources that led us to feel comfortable that the report was in line with the national security community’s understanding.”
CNN then aired a report (see below) detailing what they claimed were “troubling new details” about Iranian intelligence.
The source for the number parroted throughout the media? According to the study, it is IranChannel, a website aggregating news critical of the Iranian government.
IranChannel was citing a 2010 study, “Shariah: the Threat,” published by the Center for Security Policy. That study cited the Christian Science Monitor’s 2008 article.
Interestingly, Ranstorp told ProPublica he “did not recall citing the figure to the Monitor,” although it “might have originated with Kenneth Katzman, a Mideast specialist with the Congressional Research Service who often writes on Iran.”
However, Katzman said that he was not the source of the 30,000 figure and didn’t know of any evidence supporting it, though he said it did not seem “inordinately unreasonable.”
Instead of owning up to the dubious number Gertz said, “In my 30-plus years in reporting on national security issues, I have found that such unclassified reports often use press reporting of such numbers to avoid having to use classified information.”
“I also know that most of the people who write such reports have access to classified information about the subjects they write about and I doubt they would publish a figure that would be contradicted by classified assessments of the number of personnel in the [intelligence ministry],” Gertz added.
In an attempt to support the number and his use of it, Gertz pointed to a 2010 report published by Stratfor which said that as of 2006 Iran’s intelligence ministry had only 15,000 employees.
To make matters even worse, Stratfor didn’t cite a source for the figure.
This just goes to show how easily and shamelessly a highly questionable figure can be used to support the U.S. mainstream media’s narrative. This isn’t all that surprising given the fact that the media has no problem pushing propaganda reports published by groups affiliated with terrorists so long as it is in line with the rest of the propaganda.
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Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. He is available for podcast and radio interviews. Madison also now has his own radio show on UCYTV Monday nights 7 PM – 9 PM PT/10 PM – 12 AM ET. Show page link here: http://UCY.TV/EndtheLie. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at [email protected]
Al Qaeda offers to swap 2 US hostages for 2 jailed terrorists
DEBKAfile Special Report January 18, 2013, 6:46 PM (GMT+02:00)
Long-sought Algerian terrorist Moktar Belmoktar
The North Afrfican Al Qaeda group which seized hostages from 10 nations at the remote Algerian gas field in In Aminas Wednesday, Jan. 16, has addressed its first demand to the United States: The release of two American hostages for two high-profile Islamist terrorists jailed in the US: Egyptian Omar Abdel-Rahman, the Blind Sheikh convicted of masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and Pakistani-American neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, convicted for trying to kill US troops and FBI agents in Afghanistan in 2009.
The offer from Moktar Belmoktar, head of al Qaeda’s Signed-in-Blood Battalions, was relayed by a Mauritanian news site Friday afternoon Jan 18. Until now, their most pressing demand was for France to end its military operation in Mali.
The Obama administration has not released information about the Americans held hostage at the gas field. They are believed to number seven.
Friday afternoon, as Algerian special forces were still unable to overpower the terrorists holed up with hostages at a gas facility, US military transports began lifting foreign nationals out of Algeria. Most are oil and gas facility personnel and their families. Their evacuation, which will badly affect the operation of Algeria’s energy industry, indicates fears that more terrorist attacks on oil and gas sites are still to come, with devastating impact on world energy markets.
Military sources in London reported that a British MI6 secret service plane has landed near the Algerian hostage site carrying a command and control team specializing in terrorist situations.
British Prime Minister David Cameron called the Cobra emergency cabinet into session Friday night, its third since the hostage crisis erupted. Addressing Parliament earlier, Cameron promised the UK would hunt down the terrorists responsible for the brutal and savage attack in Algeria.
According to the first tentative hostage figures released by Algeria Friday afternoon, the second day of its rescue operation, a total of 650 hostages were taken, of whom 573 were freed – most of them Algerian – indicating that 77 were killed or missing. A total of 132 foreign nationals from 10 nations were taken of whom 66 were freed, which leaves 66 dead or unaccounted for.
None of these figures will be final before the gas field is finally cleansed and secure.
debkafile: Al Qaeda’s demand for the Blind Sheikh’s release from an American jail is intended to embarrass Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who has said he would press for this when he visits Washington soon. This now puts Morsi on the same side as al Qaeda.
Bucked up by their success in keeping the Algerian army at bay and dragging out their first multinational hostage crisis into another day, Al Qaeda in North Africa upped the ante by directly confronting the United States in what is unlikely to be their last demand.
Dark uncertainty over more than scores of Algerian gas field hostages
DEBKAfileExclusive Report January 18, 2013, 7:04 PM (GMT+02:00)
On January 11, a few hundred French troops and a handful of fighter jets and gunships launched a campaign against Islamist terrorists in Mali, a West African desert vastness larger than Texas and California combined. This former French colony appealed to Paris for aid to throw back a mixed al Qaeda-rebel advance on the capital, Bamako.
But France, no more than the US, had learned from the Afghanistan War that Al Qaeda cannot be beaten by aerial warfare – certainly not when the jiahdists are highly trained in special forces tactics and backed by highly mobile, well-armed local militias, armed with advanced anti-aircraft weapons and knowledgeable about conditions in the forbidding Sahara.
Within 48 hours, this modest “crusader” intervention had united a host of pro-al Qaeda offshoots and allies, some of them castoffs from the army of Libya’s deposed Muammar Qaddafi.
They are led by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – AQIM; the West African jihadist MUJAO; and the Somali al-Shabaab which is linked to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP. Together, they are threatening to execute one by one the 10 or eleven French hostages they are holding as part of their revenge on France.
The French declared their mission to be to dislodge the Islamists from an area larger than Afghanistan in the north, including the principal towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal. Without several thousand special forces’ troops on the ground, this is just a pipedream.
The disaffected Touareg tribes are supporting al Qaeda against the French as part of their drive for independence. Their added value is the training in special forces’ tactics some 1,500 Touareg fighting men and their three officers received from the US. The US originally reserved them as the main spearhead of a Western Saharan multi-tribe campaign to eradicate al Qaeda in North and West Africa.
Instead, the Sahel tribesmen followed the Touareg in absconding to Mali with top-quality weapons for desert warfare and hundreds of vehicles from US and ex-Libyan military arsenals.
This major setback for US administration plans and counter-terror strategy in Africa tied in with Al Qaeda’s assassination of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his staff in Benghazi last September. Because the United States held back from direct US military action in both cases, Qaeda has been allowed to go from strength to strength and draw into its fold recruits from Mali’s neighbors. They are tightening their grip on northern Mali and have imposed a brutal version of Islam on its inhabitants, putting hundreds to flight.
France stepped in when al Qaeda drove south to extend its rule to all parts of Mali and pose a terrorist threat to Europe.
Algeria siege: Hostage situation ongoing, dozens of captives and militants dead
The militants who seized an Algerian gas plant, taking scores of hostages, have demanded the release of terrorists, one of whom was involved in the 9/11 attacks. At least 30 hostages, including several foreigners, have died in rescue attempts.
The Al-Qaeda-linked military group that claimed responsibility for the kidnappings said it will carry out more attacks, Mauritania’s ANI news agency reported.
The Mulathameen group warned people to stay away from
“the installations of foreign companies as we will strike where it is least expected,”
ANI quoted the group as saying. The group reportedly pre-planned the attack on the plant for two months.
Conflicting reports have emerged regarding the rescue operation and its final death toll. Out of the 30 hostages killed, there were at least two Brits, one French national and two Japanese nationals, Reuters reported.
The hostage situation has given rise to a number of conflicting figures. Algerian news outlet APS says that nearly 650 hostages have been freed, among them 573 Algerians and 100 of the 132 foreigners being held. This leaves about 60 foreign citizens still being held by the militants.
Brahim, a technician working on the facility told France 24 about how he and around 50 others escaped from their captors.
“We cut the wire fence with clippers, and ran for it, all together, 50 or so of us with the three foreigners. We were welcomed by the special forces who were only a few dozen meters from the base.”
How the Twin Towers Disappeared from ‘The Carrie Diares’ and ‘Sex and the City’
(ESTHER ZUCKERMAN) In this week’s series premiere of The Carrie Diaries, the new Sex and the City prequel that takes place in the 1980s, a teenaged Carrie Bradshaw is seen working and shopping in Lower Manhattan, presumably right near the World Trade Center, but there is no reference to the Twin Towers. Turns out that was a conscious decision, and one that echoes how the franchise has approached the iconic buildings since September 11, 2001. In a phone interview today with The Atlantic Wire, Carrie Diaries executive producer/showrunner Amy B. Harris, who also worked on Sex and the City, said that the creative team “talked about it for quite some time,” adding that “from a sensitivity standpoint it was the right decision” to leave the Twin Towers out of any shots of downtown New York.
Painting the idea as a “foolish” proposition, Paul argued that current anti-Americanism in the Middle East and North Africa had been fostered by a perpetual cycle in which the U.S. has felt compelled to send troops to deal with crises in the region, in turn inviting “blowback.”
It’s “clear that we should have followed the Founders’ advice of staying out the entangling alliances and staying out of internal affairs of other nations, mind our own business and save a dollar now and then, because we’re flat-out broke,” the libertarian-leaning former presidential candidate claimed.
Fox News’ Neil Cavuto countered, however, asking Paul if it would be acceptable to give terrorists “free run” even if it was clear that the perpetrators “hated us” and wanted Americans dead.
“They might ask the same question,” Paul said. “What if we didn’t hate Muslims? We have to bring up a lot of hatred for us to go 6,000 miles away and kill people with drones. This is where the conflict is coming. We have to beat the drums of war in this hatred that we go over and do these things and then all of a sudden we have an epidemic of suicides of American soldiers that come back [asking], ‘What am I doing over here shooting drone missiles and little kids dying?’”
Paul went on, referencing recent military suicide tallies — which last year reached a record high at 349 — and suggested that the trend, as well as terrorist retaliation, would only “get a lot worse as long as we think we are the king of the world.”
With that, Paul signed off, leaving Cavuto to introduce his next guest, former CIA agent and waterboarding supporter Wayne Simmons.
Simmons quickly took the opportunity to offer a rebuttal to Paul, arguing that “if we did act like kings of the world much more often and showed how powerful we were, we would not be having all the mayhem.”
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