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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mohammed Abdu Saleh al-Haudali Captured in Yemen

CNN) -- A man described as "one of al Qaeda's most dangerous members" was arrested in Yemen, the Yemeni military, an embassy official and state-run news agency Saba said.
Mohammed Abdu Saleh al-Haudali, 35, is "one of the most dangerous terrorists wanted by the security forces," according to a Yemeni military Web site, citing a security source.

Al-Haudali was arrested Wednesday in the village of Deer Jaber in the Bajel district, northeast of the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, said Mohammed Albasha, spokesman for the Yemen Embassy in Washington.

Al-Haudali exchanged fire with security forces before his arrest, Saba reported, citing Hodeidah province security officer Abdul-Wahab al-Radhi. However, the Yemeni military site quoted the security source as saying al-Haudali was caught when he attempted to open fire on authorities.
In addition, Albasha told CNN, Mohammed Ali Al-Henk, "a wanted al Qaeda operative," was captured in the Arhab district north of Sanaa.

Yemeni air forces have raided al Qaeda hideouts in Sanaa along with Abyan and Shabwa governorates, killing dozens of al Qaeda suspects, Saba reported. It did not say when the raids took place.

Following the raids, the Interior Ministry told its offices to raise security alerts and tighten defense procedures nationwide in anticipation of operations, Saba said.

The arrests come after a Nigerian man allegedly attempted to detonate an explosive device on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan, December 25. Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack.

Suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab spent time in Yemen, sources have said. His father, Umaru AbdulMutallab, contacted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria several weeks ago to report his son had "become radicalized," and had gone to Yemen to participate in "some kind of jihad," a family source said.

A federal security bulletin obtained by CNN says the explosives used in the incident were obtained in Yemen.

A U.S. government official said that between August and October, extremists in Yemen were discussing operations and mentioned a person called "the Nigerian." The source said that U.S. intelligence officials also had a partial name for the person: Umar Farouk.

The Rest @ CNN


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Shimron Issachar

Shabaab and Hizbul Islam Aim at Kenya

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia's hardline al Shabaab rebels have prepared two suicide bombers disguised as military and police officers who are planning to strike Mogadishu's seaport and airport, the Somali police said on Monday.

A suicide bomber disguised as a woman in a veil blew up a medical graduation ceremony in the capital on Thursday and killed at least 22 people, including three government ministers, several doctors, students and their relatives.

Western security agencies say the failed Horn of Africa state is a safe haven for militants including foreign jihadists who use it to plot attacks across the region and beyond.

"Our intelligence reports say al Shabaab has prepared two suicide bombers in high-ranking police and military uniforms. They are going to target the airport and seaport," police spokesman Abdullahi Hassan Barise told reporters in Mogadishu.

"We have alerted all our forces. They should not be deceived by these al Shabaab suicide bombers."

The United States accuses the insurgent group of being al Qaeda's proxy in the impoverished, drought-ravaged country.

Somalia has lacked a functioning central government since 1991, and the Western-backed administration of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed controls just a few strategic sites in the capital, including the heavily guarded seaport and international airport.

Fighting has killed at least 19,000 Somali civilians since the start of 2007 and driven 1.5 million from their homes, triggering one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters.

At sea, Somali pirates gangs have made tens of millions of dollars in ransoms.

On Sunday, Ahmed's government fired the head of the country's police force and its military chief in an effort to bolster security following Thursday's bombing.

Neighboring Kenya has arrested more than 300 people in recent days in Eastleigh, a Nairobi suburb that is predominantly populated by the Somali ethnic community, residents said.

"They are categorizing them as al Shabaab members," local councilor Abdifatah Ali told Reuters. "They are searching houses, hotels and businesses without court permission, and this is clearly a violation of our national laws."

Kenyan police could not immediately be reached for comment.

Kenyan security forces are on high alert along their frontier with Somalia after al Shabaab gunmen seized several small towns on the Somali side of the border in recent weeks.

On Monday, nine suspected members of another Somali rebel group, Hizbul Islam, appeared in court in Mombasa charged with illegal firearms possession after they arrested on Thursday with 20 AK-47 rifles close to the A-list resort island of Lamu.

The men were also charged with being in Kenya illegally. A magistrate remanded them to prison until a hearing on January 8.

(Additional reporting by Abdiaziz Hassan in Nairobi and Celestine Achieng in Mombasa; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Michael Roddy)

The Rest @ AP and Inform.com


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Shimron Issachar

Somali Bomber in Dubai Bound Plane

In an incident eerily similar to the Christmas Day crotch- bomb plot, airport guards in Somalia nabbed a suspected terrorist last month trying to smuggle a syringe, acid and more than 2 pounds of explosive powder aboard a Dubai-bound flight, authorities revealed yesterday.


The Somali terrorist was carrying more than 13 times the amount of explosives that al Qaeda-linked operative Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was packing in his undies in his failed attempt to blow up a jet over Detroit.


"We don't know whether [the November suspect is] linked with al Qaeda or other foreign organizations, but his actions were the acts of a terrorist. We caught him red-handed," said Somali police spokesman Abdulahi Hassan Barise.
In Washington, US officials said the Homeland Security Department did not learn of the Nov. 13 incident until yesterday morning.


It resembled Abdulmutallab's Christmas Day attempt to bomb Northwest Airlines Flight 253 with 80 grams of the explosive PETN -- believed to be enough to blow a hole in the plane.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said linking the Somalia case to the foiled Christmas attack "would be speculative at this point."


The suspect in the Somali incident initially told authorities, who had recognized him as a member of the al Shabaab Islamist insurgency group, that the chemicals were for his farm.


Security Minister Abdullahi Mohamed Ali told reporters in the capital city of Mogadishu that he believed the powder was explosive, and it had been sent to London for analysis. Somali officials do not believe the man sought to bomb the jet, which was operated by Daallo Airlines and was headed to Somaliland and Djibouti before Dubai, as it contained religious pilgrims.


The news came as Washington was abuzz over whether heads will roll because of the stunning intelligence failure to detect Abdulmutallab.


US intelligence chief Adm. Dennis Blair and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano are obvious contenders for the chopping block, but administration officials gave no hints as Republicans hammered the Obama administration over the security lapse.


Meanwhile, Yemeni forces stormed an al Qaeda lair yesterday, wounding several terrorists, as the country's leaders vowed to destroy the group that orchestrated the bombing attempt over Detroit.


US officials said Abdulmutallab has provided some leads to help find his Yemeni handlers, but locating them won't be easy, since huge parts of the country, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, are lawless.

In other developments yesterday:

* A senior US intelligence official downplayed the quality of the information authorities had on the Christmas plot, telling Politico.com, "Abdulmutallab's father didn't say his son was a terrorist, let alone planning an attack . . . I'm not aware of some magic piece of intelligence that suddenly would have flagged this guy -- whose name nobody even had until November -- as a killer en route to America."

* A comprehensive report prepared by the CIA's Africa desk on Abdulmutallab was not sent to the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) because the analyst lacked a photo of the 23-year-old Nigerian national, sources told Fox News.

* It emerged that Abdulmutallab had attended a two-week Islamic studies program at the AlMaghrib Institute in Houston last year.

* Nigeria announced that travelers departing on international flights would be subject to full body scans, while the Dutch government announced that travelers on all US-bound flights out of Amsterdam will undergo a body scan or physical patdown.
chuck.bennett@nypost.com

The Rest @ the NY Post


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shimron Issachar

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Twelve (12 )Etritrian Soccer Players disappear into the Eastliegh Community of Nairobi, Kenya, known to be a frequent Shabaab transhipment for its recruits. It is possible this is simply a group of youths who have been enticed to stay in Kenya for economic reasons, but they may soon find that Shabaab requires a price for hiding them.

-Shimron Issachar

NAIROBI, Dec. 15 (Xinhua) -- The Kenya police said Tuesday 12 Eritrean national soccer players who disappeared after their team was bundled out of the Orange Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup are hiding in Eastleigh, east Nairobi.

The police said they have already launched an elaborate search to track down these players, but it will be a long shot for police to trace down their target in a residential estate full of illegal immigrants especially from Somalia.

Cecafa secretary Nicholas Musonye said he has handed all the names to the police and is not to blame for their disappearance.

The Eritreans were knocked out of the Cecafa competition for East and Central African nations last week. But when the team's plane landed back home, it was reportedly only carrying 10 players, a coach and an official.

However, Eritrea's Ambassador to Kenya Salih Omar said the number was exaggerated for political reasons in a bid to portray Asmara as an unstable place.

"We know who are behind this scam. It is pointless to name them, but I will tell them they will not succeed," Omar told journalists in Nairobi.

The ambassador extended an arm to the players to report to his embassy so he may help them secure the right documents.

"Nobody will force them back home. Maybe they need to taste life outside home to realize home is best. My government is doing everything possible to see that the needed infrastructure is available to support the youths. There is no point running away from home," said the ambassador.

The Eritrean government, according to Omar, will dig to the root cause and tackle the problem.

"Last year, we had another four disappearing. But the numbers are always blown up. They are trooping back home after realizing their mistakes. Those involved take advantage of the adventure and their young mind to confuse them," said Omar.

Musonye, who is helping the police with the search, remained skeptic that most of the players are hiding in the populous Eastleigh Estate.

"I am certain they are hiding in Eastleigh. We have so many Eritreans there. It is unfortunate, and puts Cecafa and Eritrea Football in ambiguous situation," Musonye said. "Eritrean FA did work extra hard to get them take part in the competition, unfortunately these boys had other ideas."

Many Eritreans live in Nairobi and it will be hard for the police to pin point the culprits.

The Rest @ Xinhuanet
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Shimron Issachar
This was originally published in the Christian Science Monitor August 26, 2009

The Somali enclave of Eastleigh in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, is now a recruiting and financial center for hardline Islamists fighting in neighboring Somalia.

The streets of Eastleigh, a Somali enclave of Kenya's capital, Nairobi, are crowded and dirty. Sewage and rotting garbage flow through gullies. Police are virtually nonexistent; restaurants are locked, even when open, for safety reasons; and guns are readily available for sale at the market. No one ever said "Little Mogadishu" was paradise, but now the sprawling neighborhood has become a hub of financing and recruiting for militant Islamists waging holy war in neighboring Somalia, according to residents, security analysts, and diplomats.

"Those who kill people in Somalia are also here – scattered all over the place," says an elderly Sufi Muslim sheikh matter-of-factly. "This is the hotspot of the Somali fundamentalism.... They are recruiting right here in Nairobi."

In the latest chapter in a civil war that has raged since 1991, Somalia's radical insurgents this week rejected the Western-backed transitional government's call for a cease-fire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Militant and moderate Islamists are battling for control of the rubble-strewn streets of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, fighting that has forced more than 1.4 million people to flee their homes and caused what the United Nations on Wednesday called the country's worst humanitarian crisis in 18 years of war.

But here in Eastleigh, the war takes a different form. Little Mogadishu has become a port through which Somali insurgents raise money and recruit fighters, especially for the militant group, Al Shabab, which has been labeled an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist organization by the US government.

"What we know is that Al Shabab is very popular in Eastleigh," says Roland Marchal, senior research fellow at the Paris-based National Center for Scientific Research. "Al Shabab has been able at different moments to bring a number of people in Eastleigh to fight in Somalia. It's very likely that a number of economic operators in Eastleigh try to collect money and support this organization."

Why young Somali-Kenyans join militants Outside a small green-gated home in Eastleigh, the elderly sheikh – who declined to be named due to the grave threat to anyone talking about Somali militant operations – says agents of Somali insurgents have recruited from across the country dozens of Somali-Kenyans, most in their early 20s, who are missing and presumed dead in Somalia.

Though their parents were moderate, a lack of employment or alternatives led them to become students of madrassas (religious schools), where they adopted more extreme ideologies, he says.

Estimates of the number of recruited Kenyans range from dozens to thousands, most – but not all – Somali-Kenyans. The insurgency benefits from an effective recruitment network that works out of Eastleigh. Diplomats say recruiters use a combination of money and brainwashing to pull in the youths, many of them from refugee camps and areas along the Somali border. "

These young men have no ID papers, no future," says the sheikh. "The only future they see is blowing themselves up and going to heaven." Insurgents in Somalia are increasingly relying on suicide bomb attacks in their offensives.

One woman, the sheikh says, lost her 12-year-old son. She went looking for him in Somalia's southern port town of Kismayo, under insurgent control, and found him training to be a suicide bomber. She returned home emptyhanded. "If she'd tried to bring him, she'd be killed," the sheikh says.

In Somalia, moderate Sufis, belonging to a traditionally peaceful group called Ahl al-Sunna wal Jama'a, have taken up arms to defend their vision of Islam against militant groups, like Al Shabab, that are not only fighting the government, but also desecrating Sufi graves and attacking their more moderate views.

In Kenya, Sufis are also fighting back, but not with guns. Instead, they are trying to keep their children alive through a "counterjihad." "We are trying to teach our children at home. We don't even send them to madrassas.... We don't trust [the madrassas] with our children," says the sheikh.

"If they knew you were writing this, you'd go back without a head."

How money flows through Eastleigh According to a regional analyst who has studied Somalia for nearly two decades but cannot be named because his work is too politically and diplomatically sensitive, up to $3 million passes through Eastleigh to Somalia every year. The money comes from businessmen who support the insurgency, from mosques that fundraise, and from foreign donors who sometimes funnel it through Eastleigh.

Using an informal money transfer system called hawala, Somalis in any part of the world can make money available in Eastleigh within minutes.

From there, it can be carried north to the porous and badly guarded Kenya-Somalia border. The cash funds anything from guns to fuel to uniforms. The transfers are hard to track, Mr. Marchal says, because they are generally small payments that do not attract much attention. But money also gets to Somalia in other ways.

He lays out an example: Sympathizers of insurgents knowingly buy sugar from certain vendors in Kenya. They send that sugar to Somalia, where it is resold. None of these activities are illegal, but "then the money disappears," Marchal says. "It's very efficient.... There is no profit, no fee.

[All the money] goes to the organization. This is untraceable for anybody." No entity in Eastleigh has been under more suspicion than the Sixth Street mosque, a small, unimposing building on top of a FedEx shop, hidden among laundry-cluttered balconies.

The mosque is among Al Shabab's main fundraisers in Eastleigh, according to a Nairobi-based official of the African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in Somalia who spoke anonymously because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

"Sixth Street mosque has a history of supporting militant Islamist causes in Somalia since 1991," says the regional analyst. Its leader, Sheikh Umall, has called the Somali government an "infidel government" and a "puppet of foreign interests," he says. But knowing he is a person of interest to the US, Kenya, the AU, and the UN, Umall has sung a more moderate tune in recent months.

Fighters without borders Unconfirmed numbers gathered by the Institute for Security Studies in Kenya suggest that as many as 1 in every 10 refugees crossing the border from Somalia into Kenya are members of Al Shabab, which has used severe forms of sharia, or Islamic law, such as amputating the hands of thieves and stoning women accused of adultery.

Al Shabab uses Eastleigh to treat its wounded and run madrassas, from which children often disappear, says the AU official. "They have agents who are here, who brainwash these kids, who end up going there [to Somalia to fight]," he says. "It has become problematic." The AU and UN say Somali-Kenyan recruits are joined by others from Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, even the United States and Europe – many of whom enter Somalia through Nairobi, according to analysts.

Until recently, you could get a fake Somali passport in Eastleigh's Garisa Lodge mall in minutes.

Government plays down Eastleigh concerns

In June, the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation reported that a Kenyan named Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan leads a group of 180 foreigners in Somalia, called al-Muhajirun, fighting alongside the Somali insurgents and connected to the global terrorist group Al Qaeda.

But the Kenyan government denies there is much of a problem. "We don't believe Kenyans have gone to Somalia or have been recruited to go to Somalia," says Alfred Mutua, the Kenyan government spokesman. "We received reports of attempted recruitment, [but] ... because of our security apparatus, we've made it impossible for them."

In late 2006, when Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia to overthrow Islamists who had taken over, Kenya took precautionary measures, he says. It closed its border with Somalia, allowing only aid workers to enter Somalia from Kenya. The border is heavily patrolled by police, military, and helicopters 24 hours a day, and the government is using satellite technology to monitor vehicles crossing it, says Mr. Mutua. Reports of recruitment are "mere speculation," he adds, as Kenya has used "very high intelligence" to infiltrate the Somali community and disband any recruiting circles.

Kenyan police spokesman Erick Kirathe says Eastleigh is under high surveillance – both overt and covert – because it is a poorer, more-crowded neighborhood where crime is more likely. "It is much better policed than is apparent," he says. "Even visibly, there is much more police presence than in other areas." Because the attention it has received makes it unappealing to terrorists, he argues, Eastleigh is not as threatening as people think.

Mr. Kirathe says no one has been arrested for supporting the Somali insurgency, and "we really don't consider Eastleigh a major risk as of yet." "It's a point of concern," Mutua adds, "but we feel that we've got the situation under control."

Others beg to differ Some observers strongly disagree. They say recruitment in Kenya is longstanding and widespread. "We all know it's happening," one diplomat in Nairobi says, adding that the Kenyan government is unable or unwilling to stop it. The border may be officially closed, but even Mutua admits people are able to sneak through. But sources say the Kenyan government is beginning to take the threat more seriously. "They are panicking," the diplomat says. "They were not doing their best. Now the threat to Kenya is higher than ever. They have to do something." It seems the government is starting to feel that way, too. But it remains divided. Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula have called for sending in troops, as Ethiopia had done, to defend the Somali government. "It will be most inappropriate and inadvisable to do nothing when our national security and regional stability is threatened," Mr. Wetangula said recently.

Authorities fear a backlash But with hundreds of thousands of Somalis living in Kenya, strong involvement by the government and any taking of sides could expose Kenya to a big risk.

Insurgents have already threatened to retaliate within Kenya if attacked. "There's a reluctance to really mess with the Somalis," the regional analyst says. The fear is not only on the political level. Insurgents are perceived to have such a presence in Kenya that even average citizens are wary of providing authorities with information on their operations.

In Nairobi, activists who speak out against Somali extremists are threatened. "Because I'm not one of them, then I'm on the other side," says a Somali civil society activist who goes by the name Madobe. He calls the Somali Islamist movement a "cancer spreading very fast," and the insurgents "sub-human." He believes they are tapping his phone and e-mail. "Anytime, I expect a very big knife in my back."

Source The Christian Schince Monitor, by way of Horufahdi.com

Details on Attempted Airline Bombing

12/28/2009

WASHINGTON - A 23-year-old Nigerian man was charged in a federal criminal complaint today with attempting to destroy a Northwest Airlines aircraft on its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Christmas Day, and with placing a destructive device on the aircraft.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, a Nigerian national, boarded Northwest Flight 253 in Amsterdam, Netherlands on December 24, 2009 and had a device attached to his body. As the flight was approaching Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Abdulmutallab set off the device, which resulted in a fire and what appears to have been an explosion. Abdulmutallab was then subdued and restrained by the passengers and flight crew. The airplane landed shortly thereafter, and he was taken into custody by Customs and Border Patrol officers.

A preliminary FBI analysis found that the device contained PETN, also known as pentaerythritol, a high explosive. Further analysis is ongoing. In addition, FBI agents recovered what appear to be the remnants of the syringe from the vicinity of Abdulmutallab’s seat, believed to have been part of the device.

"This alleged attack on a U.S. airplane on Christmas Day shows that we must remain vigilant in the fight against terrorism at all times," Attorney General Eric Holder said. "Had this alleged plot to destroy an airplane been successful, scores of innocent people would have been killed or injured. We will continue to investigate this matter vigorously, and we will use all measures available to our government to ensure that anyone responsible for this attempted attack is brought to justice."

Abdulmutallab required medical treatment, and was transported to the University of Michigan Medical Center after the plane landed. He will make his initial court appearance later today.

Interviews of all of the passengers and crew of Flight 253 revealed that prior to the incident, Abdulmutallab went to the bathroom for approximately twenty minutes, according to the affidavit. Upon returning to his seat, Abdulmutallab stated that his stomach was upset, and he pulled a blanket over himself. Passengers then heard popping noises similar to firecrackers, smelled an odor, and some observed Abdulmutallab’s pants leg and the wall of the airplane on fire. Passengers and crew then subdued Abdulmutallab and used blankets and fire extinguishers to put out the flames. Passengers reported that Abdulmutallab was calm and lucid throughout. One flight attendant asked him what he had had in his pocket, and he replied "explosive device."

These prosecutions are being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

The investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Customs and Border Protection, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The public is reminded that criminal complaints contain mere allegations and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Source: The Justice Department by way of Apoistille

Thursday, December 24, 2009

AFP Reports - US to Suspend Aid to Niger

AFP - 23/12/09. Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The United States will suspend their aid to Niger to protest against the continuation in office of President Mamadou Tandja, told AFP on Wednesday a U.S. official on condition of anonymity.

"Since we do not see enough progress on site, we will ban travel to the United States of people who support Tandja and we will suspend our assistance in Niger," said this source within the State Department.

"We believe that (Mr. Tandja) must relinquish power peacefully and allow transparent elections," said the diplomat. " We have made our position clear for months."

U.S. aid to Niger was approximately $ 27 million in 2009. The second five-year successive term for Tandja is to expire December 22 but was extended by the adoption of a controversial new constitution in August, sparking protests from the Economic Community of African States (ECOWAS) , a mediator in negotiations with the opposition.

The European Union had suspended aid to development in November.

The Rest @ Issikta 16:23







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Shimron Issachar

Crew Flying North Korea Arms in Same Prison as Viktor Bout

BANGKOK -- A five-man crew charged with illegal arms possession insisted their plane was headed for Sri Lanka and not Iran when it was seized in the Thai capital with a cache of North Korean weapons, their lawyer said Wednesday.

Defense lawyer Somsak Saithong told The Associated Press shortly after visiting the jailed crew that they also denied any knowledge of accused international weapons trafficker Victor Bout, who is in the same prison battling attempts to be extradited to the United States on terrorism charges.

The shipment was seized Dec. 12 when the plane made a refueling stop in Bangkok, and there has been much speculation since then about where the plane was headed and whether it was linked to Bout.

“They told me they don't know Victor Bout,” Somsak said. He quoted the five men — four from Kazakhstan and one from Belarus — as saying that their flight plan called for a refueling stop in Bangkok before flying on to Sri Lanka.

But according to a flight plan seen by arms trafficking researchers, the aircraft was chartered by Hong Kong-based Union Top Management Ltd., or UTM, to fly oil industry spare parts from Pyongyang to Tehran, Iran, with several other stops, including in Azerbaijan and Ukraine.

Thai authorities, acting on a U.S. tip, impounded the Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane after uncovering 35 tons of weapons, reportedly including explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and components for surface-to-air missiles.

The plane's papers described its cargo as oil-drilling machinery for delivery to Sri Lanka.

“They always deny any involvement with the weapons or any charges they are accused of. They told me that their job was just to fly the cargo plane to its destination. They don't know about or had anything to do with the cargo itself,” Somsak quoted his clients as saying.

The U.N. imposed sanctions in June banning North Korea from exporting any arms after the communist regime conducted a nuclear test and test-fired missiles. Impoverished North Korea is believed to earn hundreds of millions of dollars every year by selling missiles, missile parts and other weapons to countries such as Iran, Syria and Myanmar.

The Thai government has been investigating the arms cache and says it will send the results to the United Nations.

Somsak said the five men complained that they had been forced by police investigators into signing documents written in Thai. They asked to be provided with a translator “or someone who can explain to them what is going on.”
The report on the flight plan from the nonprofit groups TransArms in the United States and IPIS of Belgium was funded by the Belgian government and Amnesty International. It could not be independently verified.

The Rest @ China Post



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Shimron Issachar

Imam Ghalib bin Al-Hinai Dies 29/11/2009

Imam Ghalib bin Ali Al-Hinai was the last elected Imam of the Ibadi sect in Oman. He led the Ibadi sect from his Imamate of Oman in Nizwa and Oman proper in revolt against Said Bin Taimur the Sultan of Muscat in various small uprisings starting in 1955.
The United Kingdom gave military support Said Bin Taimur during the first rebelion in 1955 and then again in 1958, helping him to retain power and put down the uprising[1]. The Imam then fled to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where he resided in exile for many years. He died on Sunday 29 November 2009

Wikipedia

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

On 17/12/08 December I published this piece about the North Korean Arms detained in Thailand. I received the following comment, so in fairness I will publish the response in its entirety. It is unedited, an unverified, but if it comes from GT Group Limnitted, it suggests someone in the UK is behind SP Trading
Shimron Issachar

Ian Taylor said...
18 December 2009

SP Trading Limited – in reference to seized weapons in Thailand

GT Group Limited, Port Vila Vanuatu – We are a consulting company based in Vanuatu, providing various business and company incorporation services to professional clients internationally. We provide this service from Vanuatu, New Zealand, Cook Island, Samoa and other jurisdictions. Each jurisdiction has various requirements for due diligence and or identification of the beneficial owner or operator of the incorporated company.

GT Group Limited follows the due diligence and client identification requirements according to the laws of each jurisdiction from which it offers services. GT Group Limited is not responsible for the operation or activities of companies that it has incorporated. GT Group Limited may at times also supply a Nominee Director or Shareholder and in the case of SP Trading Limited, we can confirm that GT Group Limited has supplied such.

SP Trading Limited was incorporated by our New Zealand Agent the 22nd day of July, 2009 at the request of one of our professional clients based in the United Kingdom. The professional client met the due diligence requirements in place with regard to identification of the beneficial owner.

GT Group Limited confirms that it has no connection to the activities of SP Trading Limited and strongly emphasizes that it acted as an Incorporator and Registered Agent only.

All persons employed by, contracted by, or sub contracted by GT Group Limited in relation to the incorporation and Nominee Directorship and Nominee Shareholding of SP Trading Limited have no knowledge of the activities of SP Trading Limited and are in no way involved with the shipment of any items of any kind, at any location and by any means.

GT Group Limited has approached the New Zealand Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in a pro-active move to fully cooperate with any investigation in any jurisdiction in relation to SP Trading Limited or its beneficial owners. As of the issue of this press release, GT Group Limited has in no way been contacted by any authority.

Time: 1:00PM, Vanuatu Time.

Date: December 18, 2009

Location: Port Vila, Vanuatu.

Contact person: Ian Taylor by telephone (+61) 450955048.

Further Comments: No further comments will be made by any person other than the above appointed person and any attempt to obtain comments from any other employee, manager, director, agent or associates will be met with a “no comment” response.


END GT GROUP LIMITED MANAGEMENT STATEMENT

2:28 AM
NAIROBI, Kenya, December 9 (CDN) — Somali Christian Mohamud Muridi Saidi last month fled a refugee camp near Kenya’s border with Sudan after Muslims threatened to kill him.
For Saidi, a father of four, the recent relocation of 13,000 refugees from the Dadaab refugee camp near the Somali border to the Kakuma camp, where he had lived since 2002, brought its own nightmare: the arrival of Muslims from Somalia’s Lower Juba region who knew of his father’s Christian activities in his home village.

After Somalis four times threw stones at Saidi’s iron sheet home in the Kakuma refugee camp – once in mid-October, and again on Nov. 17, 21 and 22 – word spread that they intended to kill him. Case workers for a Lutheran World Federation (LWF) service group confirmed the death threat.

“I know the attackers are the Muslims who forced us to leave Somalia in 2002,” Saidi told Compass in Nairobi, adding that he was unable to bring his family with him when he fled on Nov. 23. “

They are not safe, and that is why we should be out of Kakuma as soon as possible.”
Saidi has reported the attacks to the LWF service group as well as to police in Kakuma. Case workers for the LWF service group confirmed that the stoning of his home had escalated to the threat of him being assassinated.

“Saidi has security-related issues fueled by the new refugees from Dadaab,” said one LWF service group worker, who requested anonymity for security reasons, last month. “I did some investigation and found out that Saidi’s life is threatened.”

On one of the occasions in which his house was stoned as his family slept, Saidi turned on a flashlight and neighbors rose up, scaring off the assailants.

He and his family had enjoyed some tranquility since fleeing raging conflict in Somalia, but that ceased with the transference of the Somali Muslims from Dadaab refugee camp to Kakuma in August. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees relocated the refugees to ease congestion in the crowded Dadaab camps of Ifo, Hagadera and Dagahaley, where close to 300,000 Somalis had arrived to sites designed to house only 90,000 refugees.

The influx of those refugees from the Dadaab camp more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) away came with the quickly spreading word that Saidi and his family must be Christian, since his father was a well-known Christian while living in Somalia. A Somali Bantu from Marere, Lower Juba, Saidi’s family left Marere in 2002 after strict Muslims sought to kill them when they found out they were followers of Christ.

Saidi’s late father had coordinated activities for a Christian charity in Lower Juba. Since the death of his father in 2005, Saidi has been working as a translator for a Non-Governmental Organization. As a translator, he became known to the newly arrived Somalis from Dadaab.
Because of the dangers, Saidi has been forced to abandon his job for fear of exposing himself to other Muslims who might know of his father. He is the sole supporter for his family, including his 55-year-old mother, wife and four children.

“It is not safe for us to continue living in Kakuma – we have to move away, possibly to Nairobi,” Saidi said.

As a stop-gap measure, Saidi said he hopes to work as a freelance translator, for which he would need a computer, printer, photocopying machine and laminator.

“This would be a temporary measure – asylum for my family would be a permanent solution,” he said.

Despite the relocation of the refugees from Dadaab, overcrowding has not eased due an influx of newly displaced people fleeing fighting in southern Somalia. Earlier this month, radical Islamic al Shabaab militia recaptured three key towns, including the key town of Dobhley, in Lower Juba province along Somalia’s border with Kenya. They retook control from the more moderate Isbul-Islam militants as they each try to overthrow the Western-backed Transitional Federal Government of president Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed in Mogadishu.

Report from Compass Direct News

Particular Kev



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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Vanuatu-based GT Group Behind North Korean Arms Shipment

Vanatu, an Island 2200 KM East of Australia, near Fiji is the base for GT Group, the owners of Viacom, a company formed in Aukland, New Zealand about 6 months ago. Viacom chartered the Viktor Bout Ilyushin-76 aircraft that was transporting 35 tonnes or arms, 140 crates, to parts unknown, possilby Iran. During a stopover,The plane was detained in Thiland, and TBDA suggests the deal may have been set up and coordinated by Russian Speakers out of Uzbekistan.

-Shimron Issachar


WELLINGTON (AFP) – The New Zealand government said Thursday it was investigating whether there were any links between a New Zealand-registered company and a huge cache of weapons flown out of North Korea.

The 35-tonne load, including missiles and rocket-propelled grenades, was discovered after the plane and its Belarussian pilot and four Kazakh crew landed to refuel at Bangkok's domestic airport on Friday.

A New Zealand foreign ministry spokeswoman said it was investigating reported New Zealand links to the shipment.

"We are aware of the media reports and are seeking to verify any substance to allegations of a New Zealand connection," the spokeswoman said.

Officials in Kazakhstan -- where an airline previously owned the seized Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft -- said the plane had been leased by the Georgian owners to a company called SP Trading in New Zealand.

"According to the information of the Kazakh diplomatic mission in Thailand and competent organs in Kazakhstan, the detained Ilyushin-76 aircraft was... rented to a New Zealand company, SP Trading Limited, to carry out the delivery of cargo," Kazakh foreign ministry spokesman Ilyas Omarov said Monday.

A company called SP Trading is on the New Zealand Companies Register with an office in Auckland. The only listed director is Lu Zhang and all the company shares are owned by another company Vicam (Auckland) Ltd.

Vicam in turn is owned by Vanuatu-based GT Group, whose website says it provides services including privacy, legal tax avoidance, and asset protection.

Attempts by journalists to visit or contact SP Trading, which was incorporated in July this year, and Zhang have been unsuccessful, New Zealand media reports said.

The Soviet-era aircraft was seized in the Thai capital on Friday during a refuelling stop and was discovered to be carrying about 35 tonnes of weapons from North Korea, in violation of UN sanctions against Pyongyang.

The plane's five crew members have been charged in Thailand with possessing war weapons but police said they deny knowing what they were transporting.

On Monday, a Thai court extended the detention of the crew so police could investigate further.

It is the first known airborne arms cargo seized under the latest UN resolution against North Korea -- adopted in response to Pyongyang's nuclear programme -- and Washington has hailed it as proof sanctions have been effective.

Thai media have claimed the authorities were tipped off about the plane by US intelligence.

The Rest @ AFP

Viktor Bout' Arms Transport Caught in Tailand With North Korean Arms

12/17/09 10:53 AM EST BANGKOK — Thai authorities were acting on a tip from the United States when they seized tons of illicit weapons from a plane from North Korea, a senior official said Thursday.

The Ilyushin Il-76 transport plane was impounded Saturday in Bangkok during what officials said was a scheduled refueling stop. Thai authorities found a reported 35 tons of weaponry aboard it, all exported from North Korea in defiance of U.N. sanctions.

Speaking at a news conference, National Security Council chief Thawil Pliensri confirmed media reports that there had been U.S. assistance in the seizure, but gave no details.

He said that Thailand was waiting for advice from the United Nations on whether the weapons should be destroyed.

The U.N. sanctions — which ban North Korea from exporting any arms — were imposed in June after the reclusive communist regime conducted a nuclear test and test-fired missiles. They are aimed at derailing North Korea's nuclear weapons program, but also ban it from selling any conventional arms.

Thawil revealed little else new at his news conference, which seemed aimed at quashing some rumors. He denied that Thailand would receive a reward or bounty for the seizure, or that it was pressured to act, saying it took action "as a member of the world community."

He added, however, that Thailand would like to be compensated if possible by the U.N. for the cost of transporting the weapons, which were taken to an Air Force base in the nearby province of Nakhon Sawan.

It is still not known where the weapons — said to include
  • explosives,
  • rocket-propelled grenades
  • components for surface-to-air missiles
  • and other armaments — were to be delivered.

The plane's papers, which described its cargo as oil-drilling machinery, said the shipment was to be delivered to Sri Lanka.

Arms trade experts have speculated that the cargo may have been destined for conflict zones in Africa, Iran or Myanmar.

U.S. Treasury Department records show that the plane had previously been registered with firms controlled by suspected arms trafficker Russian Viktor Bout, who is currently being held in Thailand.

The U.S. is trying to extradite him on terrorism charges. On Wednesday, he denied any involvement with the plane, according to Russian news agency ITAR-Tass, accusing the media of trying to influence the decision in his extradition hearing.

The crew — four from Kazakhstan and one from Belarus — have been jailed on illegal arms possession charges.

The wife of Mikail Petukhov — the Belarussian identified in Thai court documents — said he had served in the Soviet military and afterward took whatever job he could find. Vera Petukhova said her husband never knows who he'll be working with before going out on a job. A friend of Petukhov, 54, added that he also never knows what he'll be transporting.

"All the containers are sealed, and the captain only gets the printout of what is supposed to be inside them. But what's inside, that's a question for the people who load it onto the plane at the pick-up point," said Vladimir Migol, who also served in the Soviet air force and noted that many ex-service men struggled to find work after being discharged. Migol said while crew members such as Petukhov would never knowingly transport weapons, they are all aware of the risk but are usually desperate for jobs.

The plane was registered to Air West, a cargo transport company in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry said this week that the plane was leased to New Zealand company SP Trading Ltd.

Authorities in New Zealand are investigating, a spokesman for its Foreign Ministry, James Funnell said Thursday.

"We have always been staunch supporters of the sanctions regime imposed against North Korea," Funnell told The Associated Press. "So we're very concerned by these allegations and are inquiring into them."

SP Trading is listed in the government's register of companies as having offices in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, which names Lu Zhang as its director. The company's shares are held by nominee company VICAM (Auckland) Ltd. Listed phone numbers rang unanswered on Thursday.

Impoverished North Korea is believed to earn hundreds of millions of dollars every year by selling missiles, missile parts and other weapons to countries such as Iran, Syria and Myanmar.

Associated Press writer Simon Shuster contributed to this report from Kiev, Ukraine.

(This version CORRECTS that ITAR-Tass report was from Wednesday, not Thursday.)


The Rest @ the AP






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Friday, December 11, 2009

Saleh al-Somali Dead

WASHINGTON – A senior al-Qaida operations planner was killed in an American missile strike this week in western Pakistan, a U.S. counterterrorism official said Friday.

Saleh al-Somali was responsible for the terror group's operations outside the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, reaching into activities in Africa. The official said al-Somali was believed to have been involved in plotting attacks against the United States and Europe. He was killed by an unmanned drone missile Tuesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss covert operations, said al-Somali was part of al-Qaida's senior leadership circle and had connections to other Pakistan-based extremists. His role was to take guidance from senior leaders and develop plans for prospective terrorist attacks, the official said.

Previously, al-Somali had worked in tribal areas of Pakistan with newly arrived Westerners recruited by al-Qaida.

Intelligence officials have confirmed that the pace of attacks by armed unmanned aerial vehicles, conducted largely by the CIA, has increased during the Obama administration.

The strikes have fanned anti-American sentiment in Pakistan because they have caused many civilian deaths. Since Jan. 28, 2008, there have been at least 67 suspected U.S. missile strikes into Pakistan.


The Rest @ The AP



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Friday, December 04, 2009

Pakistan Reserved on Obama's Troop Plan

4 December 2009 LONDON — Pakistan’s prime minister on Thursday defended his country’s efforts in fighting terrorism, saying he didn’t believe Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan and that Pakistani security forces had been successful in tackling terrorism within the country’s borders.

Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was meeting with his British counterpart Gordon Brown in London, was responding to Brown’s demands earlier that Pakistan needed to do more to find bin Laden.

“I doubt the information which you are giving is correct because I don’t think Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan,” Gilani said at a joint news conference.

“Pakistan is fighting the war on terrorism, and we have a good intelligence and defense cooperation with the United States,” he said, adding that the U.S. and Britain have not provided any actionable intelligence about bin Laden’s purported whereabouts.

Gilani also signaled his country’s cautious response to President Barack Obama’s new policy for Pakistan and Afghanistan by declining to endorse the U.S.-led troop surge. He said his government needs more information about Obama’s plan to expand the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and at the same time increase aid to Pakistan.

Gilani said Pakistan was looking into the policy announced by Obama on Tuesday, including the suggestion that more covert CIA resources would be deployed in Pakistan, where the central government faces a strong threat from Islamic extremists.

“Regarding the new policy of President Obama, we are studying that policy,” Gilani said. “We need more clarity on it, and when we get more clarity on it, we can see what we can implement on that plan.”

Unlike Brown, who strongly supports Obama’s approach and is sending 500 more British troops to Afghanistan to augment the surge, Pakistani leaders had remained silent until Gilani’s carefully worded comments.

Analysts said the lack of a public endorsement of U.S. policy is in part a response to rising anti-American sentiment in Pakistan that prevents national leaders from publicly embracing expanded U.S. aid — even if they need the support.

Since 2001, the U.S. has given the Pakistani army billions of dollars to try to get it to fight Islamic militants along the Afghan border. Starting last year, the U.S. began a sustained program of covert missile strikes against militant targets close to the border.

The results have been mixed. While the army has taken on the Pakistani Taliban, it has failed to go after Afghan Taliban leaders who base their operations in the tribal areas in the border region. At the same time, anti-Western sentiment, spurred by the security forces, has grown.

Many Western officials and analysts believe Pakistan is playing off both sides — accepting U.S. funds to crack down on Pakistani militants while tolerating the Afghan Taliban in the expectation that the radical Islamic movement will take power in Afghanistan once the Americans withdraw.

Shaun Gregory, an expert on Pakistani security at the University of Bradford in Britain, said the Pakistanis will take note of Obama’s pledge to start bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan in July 2011.

“The Pakistanis are smart enough to read the signals coming out of Washington,” Gregory said. “It seems to me that the army’s longer-term strategy of broadly backing the Afghan Taliban is paying off now. They have their tails up.”

Gilani said his government expects to learn more about U.S. plans when Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visit Pakistan.

Gilani has been lukewarm to the idea of a troop surge, saying he fears it would merely push Afghan militants across the mountainous border region into Pakistan.

The U.S. and Britain have been putting pressure on Pakistan to root out the militants already on its side of the border, in a lawless area from which they frequently attack NATO and Afghan troops.

Senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have castigated Pakistan for its failure to find al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, believed by many to be hiding in tribal regions of Pakistan.

Gilani stressed Thursday that Pakistan has been “extremely successful” in tackling terrorism and that most Taliban terrorists are not in Pakistan but in neighboring Afghanistan.

The Rest @ Khaleej Times



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