Russian company selling cruise missile in a shipping box

London: A Russian company’s decision to market a cruise missile that can be launched from a shipping container, has led defence experts to warn of a new danger of ballistic weapons proliferation.

It is feared that the covert Club-K missile attack system could prove "game-changing" in fighting wars with small countries, which would gain a remote capacity to mount multiple missiles on boats, trucks or railways.

According to The Telegraph, Iran and Venezuela have already shown an interest in the Club-K Container Missile System.

Defence experts say the system is designed to be concealed as a standard 40 foot shipping container that cannot be identified until it is activated.

Priced at an estimated GBP 10 million, each container is fitted with four cruise anti-ship or land attack missiles. The system represents an affordable "strategic level weapon".

Club-K is being marketed at the Defence Services Asia exhibition in Malaysia this week.

Novator, the manufacturer, is an advanced missile specialist that would not have marketed the system without Moscow's approval. It has released an emotive marketing film complete with dramatic background music.
READ MORE - Russian company selling cruise missile in a shipping box

Islamic Extremists Lash Out At Media, Americans, And Snacks

Younus Abdullah Mohammed, of the web-hacked and rightly go-fuck-yourselfed collective known as Revolutionary Islam, has directed a torrent of whinging at Gawker's Ravi Somaiya. He confirms that his group's website has been forcibly redirected, but isn't concerned because all of the attention due to his threats at Comedy Central drove enough traffic to his website to bring it down anyway, and "Islam will take over the world," so whatever.
What follows is a litany of cliched complaint. He's mad at the media for their "senseless" coverage of their death threats and the way they "never cover any of the other crimes against Islam we write about." He also rages at "dumbed down, stupid and pathetic" Americans who are "worried more about missing their favourite TV show" than they are about "the world," which is a terrific pretext for calling for people's deaths.
But then there's this:
"It is American oppression," he said. But, he added, we probably wouldn't understand such issues as we are "Darwinist faggots who are as despicable as the rest, walking around eating your Triscuits."
Seriously? They're bringing Triscuits into this? This guy truly is a joke.
READ MORE - Islamic Extremists Lash Out At Media, Americans, And Snacks

War Among the Stars

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — An unmanned Air Force space plane resembling a small space shuttle has been launched on its maiden voyage into orbit, carried aloft aboard an Atlas 5 rocket Thursday evening, the service announced.
The rocket carrying the reusable X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle lifted off at 7:52 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, an Air Force statement said. It called the launch of the winged spacecraft a success, but released no immediate details of the mission's progress.
The space plane is to serve as a test platform for unspecified experiments and can stay in orbit for up to 270 days before gliding to an autonomous runway landing, the Air Force has said. The primary landing site is Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast northwest of Los Angeles.
The mission length wasn't disclosed by the Air Force.
The service has made public only a general description of the mission objectives: testing of guidance, navigation, control, thermal protection and autonomous operation in orbit, re-entry and landing.
However, the ultimate purpose of the X-37B and details about the craft have longed remained a mystery, though experts said the spacecraft was intended to speed up development of combat-support systems and weapons systems.
"This launch helps ensure that our warfighters will be provided the capabilities they need in the future," said Col. Andre Lovett, a launch official and vice commander of the Air Force's 45th Space Wing, in Thursday's statement.
The launch culminated the project's long and expensive journey from NASA to the Pentagon's research and development arm and then on to the secretive Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the X-37 program, but the current total hasn't been released.
While the massive space shuttles have been likened to cargo-hauling trucks, the X-37B is more like a sports car, with the equivalent trunk capacity.
Built by Boeing Co.'s Phantom Works, the 11,000-pound craft is 9 1/2 feet tall and just over 29 feet long, with a wingspan of less than 15 feet. It has two angled tail fins rather than a single vertical stabilizer.
Unlike the shuttle, it was designed for launch like a satellite, housed in a fairing atop the expendable Atlas V rocket, and capable of deploying solar panels to provide electrical power in orbit.


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Two Top Al Qaeda Figures In Iraq Killed, PM Claims

BAGHDAD — U.S. and Iraqi forces killed the two top al-Qaida figures in the country in a nighttime rocket attack on a safe house near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, a joint operation the U.S. called a significant blow to the insurgency and a sign Iraqi security forces are strengthening.
Al-Qaida has remained a potent force, seeking most recently to sow chaos after the March 7 parliamentary elections and as U.S. forces prepare to go home. The terror group has shown a remarkable ability to change tactics and adapt despite repeated blows to its leadership.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the killings of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri at a news conference in Baghdad and showed reporters photographs of their bloody corpses. The deaths were later confirmed by U.S. military officials in a statement.
The Iraqi leader said ground forces surrounded the house and used rockets to kill the two, who were hiding in a safe house. The U.S. military said an American helicopter crashed during the nighttime assault, killing one U.S. soldier.
U.S. forces commander Gen. Raymond Odierno praised the operation.
"The death of these terrorists is potentially the most significant blow to al-Qaida in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency," he said. "There is still work to do but this is a significant step forward in ridding Iraq of terrorists."
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the operation targeting the two leaders showed the growing capability of Iraqi security forces.
The Iraqi prime minister described the deaths as "a quality blow breaking the back of al-Qaida."
Al-Masri was the shadowy national leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, which he took over after its Jordanian-born founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a June 2006 U.S. airstrike. Al-Masri's real name was Abdul-Monim al-Badawi, according to a 2009 al-Qaida statement describing the makeup of a new "War Cabinet."

Al-Qaida in Iraq emerged after al-Zarqawi pledged his allegiance to Osama bin Laden, leader of the global al-Qaida network, in October 2004. It has survived innumerable reverses in recent years.
At its height, the group was able to inflame sectarian violence so intense that some described Iraq as having been sucked into a civil war.
Though al-Qaida has shown it is still capable of staging its hallmark coordinated suicide attacks in the heart of the capital, U.S. and Iraqi military operations have diminished its power since the height of the violence.
A revolt against al-Qaida by Sunni Arab tribes in Western Iraq in late 2006 and 2007 deprived the group of its main bases of support. Taking advantage of the vulnerability, the U.S. pummeled the group during the 2007 troop surge.
Al-Qaida in Iraq has been led primarily by foreigners, but Iraqis form its backbone. Estimates put its highest strength at one point at close to 10,000 fighters.
Al-Masri, an Egyptian, kept a lower public profile than al-Zarqawi, who appeared in militant videos on the Web – in one he personally beheaded American Nicholas Berg.
The deaths are a significant boost for al-Maliki, who has staked his reputation on being the man who can restore stability to Iraq after years of bloodshed.
The news came as Iraq's election commission announced it would recount ballots cast in Baghdad in the March 7 election, after al-Maliki's State of Law coalition raised accusations of fraud and irregularities in the capital as well as four other provinces.
Al-Maliki's coalition is currently trailing one led by a secular challenger, Ayad Allawi, and the recount could potentially give the Iraqi prime minister the lead.
READ MORE - Two Top Al Qaeda Figures In Iraq Killed, PM Claims

Bin Laden Is 'Healthy, Giving the Orders,' Says Terror Suspect

Michael Isikoff
A new FBI terrorism case provides a rare nugget of intelligence about Osama bin Laden: the Al Qaeda leader is alive, well, and personally “giving the orders” for the terror group’s operations, according to comments made by an alleged American Al Qaeda operative on a secret bureau recording.
The bureau’s case against the alleged operative, a Chicago cab driver named Raja Lharsib Khan, has so far gotten little attention. This is likely because there is no evidence that the cabbie’s alleged discussions about blowing up an American stadium with remote-control bombs this summer (secretly recorded by the FBI) had progressed beyond the talking stage. But contained in court documents made public shortly after Khan’s arrest on terrorism charges last Friday were some unexpected revelations about Al Qaeda's No. 1 leader.
Khan, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was able to travel back and forth to his native Pakistan in recent years and meet near the Afghanistan border with Ilyas Kashmiri, the head of a Sunni extremist group that is closely linked to Al Qaeda, according to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court in connection with Khan's arrest.
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Moreover, Khan told an undercover FBI agent about talks he had with Kashmiri (whom he called “Lala”) that took place in 2008 and concerned the activities of bin Laden.
Contrary to some intelligence reports in recent years, bin Laden was not ill nor was he isolated from his followers, according to the conversation that was secretly recorded between Khan and an undercover FBI agent at a Chicago coffee shop on Feb. 23. Instead, the Al Qaeda leader continues to be very much in charge of his organization and is personally directing terrorist operations, according to excerpts of the conversation that are recounted in the FBI affidavit. “I asked the Lala about him,” Khan said about bin Laden while describing his talks with Kashmiri. “And he says … he’s perfect, healthy, and he’s leading and he’s giving the orders … he’s OK, he’s in safe hands.”

At a later recorded conversation on March 12 between the undercover informant and Khan, the talk returned again to what Kashmiri had told Khan during the same 2008 meeting the two men had had in Miranshah in northwest Pakistan. Bin Laden is “commanding everythings [sic],” Khan said Kashmiri had told him, according to the FBI affidavit. "He’s commanding, he’s giving orders.”

“Does he give orders to Kashmiri?” the FBI informant asked Khan. 


“Just, yeah, to Kashmiri, then Kashmiri give [sic] the order to mujahideen …” 


It is impossible to evaluate the credibility of Khan’s comments about what Kashmiri told him based on the FBI’s evidence. And it is worth noting that Khan concedes on the tapes that he never personally met bin Laden during his trips to northwest Pakistan.

Still, it is rare for the bureau to obtain and make public even secondhand comments about bin Laden’s activities in its investigations. Moreover, the FBI affidavit in support of Khan’s arrest cites documents and other evidence showing that the taxi driver had indeed traveled to Pakistan in 2008 and 2009. Khan also had references to Kashmiri in his address book (which was examined and photographed by U.S. border-control agents) and sent a wire transfer of $950 to an alleged associate of Kashmiri’s last November, directing that portions of the funds go to Kashmiri, according to the FBI affidavit.  

Robert D. Grant, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Chicago, made a point of citing the case against Khan as one of a number of domestic terrorism cases in the past six months that have yielded “significant intelligence.”  

Khan did not enter a plea during an appearance in federal court on Friday after being charged on two courts of providing material support to Al Qaeda. He is expected to be appointed a federal defender to represent him early this week.

The FBI’s case against Khan is completely separate from another high-profile case out of Chicago that last week produced a guilty plea by Dennis Headley, another U.S. citizen of Pakistani origin, and also involved Kashmiri, according to federal law-enforcement officials. Headley has admitted performing scouting operations for the November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, as well as plotting with Kashmiri (who is also indicted in that case) to attack a Danish newspaper that had published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. (The plot included a plan to behead some of the paper’s employees.) 

If nothing else, the case against Khan shows yet again that Al Qaeda and its affiliates are still managing to find American recruits. And it underscores the role of Kashmiri as one of the most ruthless and dangerous of terrorist figures in Pakistan.  

As Declassified reported last fall, Kashmiri was widely reported to have been killed by a U.S. missile strike last September. But no sooner were those reports published than Kashmiri reemerged and told a reporter for Asia On Line that the 2008 Mumbai attacks were “nothing compared to what has already been planned for the future” and that he had joined with Al Qaeda because “we were both victims of the same tyrant. Today, the entire Muslim world is sick of Americans and that’s why they are agreeing with Sheikh Osama.”
READ MORE - Bin Laden Is 'Healthy, Giving the Orders,' Says Terror Suspect

Catching up with Somali pirates on their day off

Down and Out in Nairobi: Somali Pirates in Retirement
By Nick Wadhams / Nairobi

An armed pirate looks at a cargo ship anchored offshore in northeastern Somalia

The pirate is sitting in the backseat of my car. We are parked in the basement lot of a Nairobi mall; the Muzak version of Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" echoes across the concrete. The man, who calls himself Ahmad, tells me he helped hijack six ships off Somalia before he quit the trade in November because his wife left him for another pirate. He starts to cry and hides his face with his hands. "I felt that I could murder that man," Ahmad says. "My town was dominated by him. I thought the best thing was to run away from that place before I killed someone."
I met Ahmad a couple of weeks ago at a restaurant in Eastleigh, a Nairobi neighborhood dominated by Somalis. He came with another ex-pirate, named Bashir, who bared his black, rotted teeth every time he smiled. Bashir and Ahmad sipped strawberry milkshakes through long straws. Soon after the shakes arrived, a group of well-dressed Kenyans sat down in an adjacent booth and began shooting them cold stares. Ahmad thought they might be police or intelligence officers, so we paid the bill and retreated to the safest place we knew, another car, and parked it down an empty road.

Bashir was once a fisherman. The pirates wanted to hire him because he knew how to swim, a valuable skill he could teach other recruits. Bashir claims he was among the pirates who hijacked the MV Faina, a ship carrying 33 Soviet-era battle tanks to Kenya, on Sept. 25, 2008. He fled Somalia after that job, he says, because he fell out with the pirate leaders over pay. He earned $6,000, but his bosses deducted two-thirds of that to pay for the food he ate during the operation. "We are the ones out on the water taking all the risks and suffering," Bashir says. "That was how our differences began. I feared that because I disagreed with the boss about money, they would assassinate me."
When Somali piracy really hit the headlines in 2008, the first crop of stories told of young pirates who had struck it rich. They bought expensive cars and houses and married the prettiest girls. Then, everyone said, the pirates started looking for places to invest their money safely and fueled a building boom in Nairobi. Bashir and Ahmad headed to Nairobi for a different reason: asylum. Willing to risk police harassment, hunger and poor prospects, they arrived with a few hundred — maybe even a few thousand — dollars, but nothing like the riches they dreamed of when they joined the business.


Good information on the inner workings of the piracy trade is hard to come by, but evidence from out of Somalia indicates that criminal syndicates with financiers and investors based in Dubai and London and Mombasa, Kenya, have taken over piracy in Somalia, which got its start in the early 1990s as a way to mete out retribution on ships that fished illegally or dumped toxic waste in Somali waters. Now the warlords at the top take almost all the money and pay the men at the bottom next to nothing. The pirates caught on camera bobbing in their skiffs are the high-sea equivalent of the Cosa Nostra's lowliest associates. "The people being arrested are actually foot soldiers. They are not the real pirates," says Dickson Oruku Nyawinda, a lawyer who represents accused Somali pirates in Kenya's jails. "We are dealing with people who have no idea where the ransoms are going."

The U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia provided some illuminating details in a report in February. The report describes a corporate system in which pirates may be fined $1,500 for stealing from their ships or $500 for entering their bosses' offices without permission. On the flip side, pirates can win rewards of several thousand dollars for good behavior. "As the saying goes, 'the parents initially love their children equally, but it is the children who make them love some more than the others,' " says a document distributed to pirates by their bosses, according to the U.N. report. "It is up to your abilities to qualify [for] this easy-to-earn reward."

According to the report, rank-and-file militiamen receive $15,000 for their role in hijacking a ship. They get much more if they bring their own weapons or a boat. But pirates who have fled Somalia for Nairobi say that figure is much inflated. Ahmad, for example, says he might get a $10,000 share but his bosses would withhold as much as half of that to pay for his expenses. "The big fish are the guys who lead us, the ones who invest in the equipment, the boat, those things," he says. "Whether we die or not, they don't care."
The inequities are easy to see among the suspects who were arrested on piracy charges and are now being held in Kenyan prisons. They are generally illiterate young men who have no say in the operations they join and don't even know how much ransom is paid for the ships they hijack. All of the financial negotiations are conducted well above their pay grade. "These guys, you can call them ragtag people," says Nyawinda, their lawyer. "They don't have a leader as such. When I go visit them in jail, one may know Swahili more than the others. Whoever among them understands more becomes the leader."
There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that pirate money is still driving a real estate boom in Kenya. Brokers and Somalis in Eastleigh point to new buildings, housing estates and businesses said to have been started with piracy money. They tell stories of Somalis bidding two to three times the asking price for a plot of land. "I have friends who ... tell me, 'This is piracy money. Take advantage of the situation while the money's here,' " says a broker who identifies himself as Willy.

But most pirates can only dream of such riches. Mohamed, another pirate I meet in Nairobi, is in the city for a few days, he says, to check on his employers' investments. Wearing a cheap charcoal suit and dirty fake-leather shoes, this father of eight clearly doesn't make a lot from piracy. He is vague about his boss's investments and says they might be small stalls selling clothes or cheap hotels. Mohamed got across the border from Somalia by paying someone to hide him inside the back of a truck. "I'm not happy with it, but since I have no education, I have no choice," he said. "If I had another choice, I'd do it, but this is the only job I know. If you tell me now you want to hire me, I'll work for you."
READ MORE - Catching up with Somali pirates on their day off

The LuftRAFfe: British pilot and German navigator share Tornado in first-ever join combat flights

An RAF pilot and an aviator from the Luftwaffe have flown together on a combat mission for the first time since Britain and Germany were bitter Second World War enemies.
The two airmen joined forces in the skies above Afghanistan in the war against the Taliban.
Last night, the Ministry of Defence confirmed that an RAF flight lieutenant had piloted a Tornado GR4 supersonic jet with a German navigator behind him in the cockpit.
Afghan allies: A tornado GR4, like the one piloted by two airmen from Britain and Germany
Afghan allies: A tornado GR4, like the one piloted by two airmen from Britain and Germany
The Luftwaffe major - the equivalent of a squadron leader in the RAF - speaks perfect English and is said to have fitted in well with his British counterparts at Kandahar air base.
The pair provided 'top cover' --alerting British and US ground troops on Taliban positions. It is understood that although their Tornado was loaded with bombs, they were not deployed.

 
Until now, RAF and Luftwaffe pilots and navigators have flown together only on slow-moving C-130 Hercules transport aircraft in Afghanistan as part of a reciprocal scheme under which air crew are seconded to other Nato countries.
The new era of co-operation, however, has not prevented wags in the RAF's 31 Squadron, based at Marham, Norfolk, from cracking the odd joke about the German navigator.
An RAF source said: 'There was a bit of banter when it was discovered that an RAF pilot was to fly with a Luftwaffe navigator. But he proved to be an outstanding professional and made a valuable contribution to protecting troops on the ground.
'When you are in the air, there is only one issue: are you able to do your job to the required standard? In this navigator's case, he proved himself more than up to the job.' The German navigator is not only of a more senior rank than his British counterpart, he is also paid more.
The source added: 'Squadron personnel understand that German air crew received about £100 a day more than their British counterparts while in Afghanistan.
'This caused a fair amount of grumbling among the British air crew, but there was nothing they could do about it. Let's face it, the Government isn't likely to raise their pay.'
Another squadron source said: 'The Second World War was a long time ago and we are more than happy to work closely with our German allies against a common enemy.'
The Tornado flown by the Anglo-German crew on 18 missions between December and January was armed with 500lb laser-guided Paveway IV bombs and Brimstone air-to-ground missiles.
The Luftwaffe navigator --who, like the RAF pilot, cannot be identified for security reasons - was posted to Afghanistan at the request of the German government, which wanted him to work with 31 Squadron, considered one of the RAF's best.
The Luftwaffe operates a fleet of 115 Tornado fighter-bombers.
READ MORE - The LuftRAFfe: British pilot and German navigator share Tornado in first-ever join combat flights
 
 
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