U.S. Seeks Wider CIA Role

Efforts to Intensify Targeting of Taliban on Pakistani Soil Have Been Rebuffed by Islamabad

[CIAPAK2] Agence France-Presse
Pakistani soldiers carry coffins of their colleagues during a funeral.
WASHINGTON—The U.S. is pushing to expand a secret CIA effort to help Pakistan target militants in their havens near the Afghan border, according to senior officials, as the White House seeks new ways to prod Islamabad into more aggressive action against groups allied with al Qaeda,
The push comes as relations between Washington and Islamabad have soured over U.S. impatience with the slow pace of Pakistani strikes against militants who routinely attack U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama has said he will begin to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in July, increasing the urgency to show progress in the nine-year war against the Taliban.
The U.S. asked Pakistan in recent weeks to allow additional Central Intelligence Agency officers and special operations military trainers to enter the country as part of Washington's efforts to intensify pressure on militants.
The requests have so far been rebuffed by Islamabad, which remains extremely wary of allowing a larger U.S. ground presence in Pakistan, illustrating the precarious nature of relations between Washington and its wartime ally.
The number of CIA personnel in Pakistan has grown substantially in recent years. The exact number is highly classified. The push for more forces reflects, in part, the increased need for intelligence to support the CIA drone program that has killed hundreds of militants with missile strikes. The additional officers could help Pakistani forces reach targets drones can't.
There are currently about 900 U.S. military personnel in Pakistan, 600 of which are providing flood relief and 150 of which are assigned to the training mission.
A senior Pakistani official said relations with the CIA remain strong but Islamabad continues to oppose a large increase in the number of American personnel on the ground.
The Obama administration has been ramping up pressure on Islamabad in recent weeks to attack militants after months of publicly praising Pakistani efforts. The CIA has intensified drone strikes in Pakistan, and the military in Afghanistan has carried out cross-border helicopter raids, underlining U.S. doubts Islamabad can be relied upon to be more aggressive. Officials have even said they were going to stop asking for Pakistani help with the U.S.'s most difficult adversary in the region, the North Waziristan-based Haqqani network, because it was unproductive.
The various moves reflect a growing belief that the Pakistani safe havens are a bigger threat to Afghan stability than previously thought.
When senior Pakistani officials visited Washington this week, Obama administration officials signaled they are willing to push for a long-term military aid package. But they also have made clear to Pakistani officials they expect tangible results, and they threatened that current cash payments to Pakistan could be reduced if things don't improve in tribal areas such as North Waziristan.
The current efforts to expand CIA presence are meant to expand intelligence collection and facilitate more aggressive Pakistani-led actions on the ground. Some U.S. officials, however, remain hopeful that Islamabad will allow a greater covert presence that could include CIA paramilitary forces.
Given Pakistan's objections to U.S. ground troops, using more CIA paramilitary forces could be a "viable option," said a government official. "That gives them a little bit of cover," the official added, referring to the Pakistanis.
U.S. officials said a stronger U.S-Pakistan intelligence partnership would not be a substitute for closer working relationship with the military's special operation forces.
Much of the on-ground intelligence in Pakistan is gathered by the country's Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Some U.S. officials believe Pakistan wants the U.S. to remain dependent on the ISI for that intelligence.
While the Obama administration has been focused on North Waziristan, officials said there also is a need for Pakistani operations in the southern city of Quetta and the surrounding province of Baluchistan. The U.S. hopes that if it can develop precise information on militant leaders, it could entice the Pakistan government to arrest some top members of the Quetta Shura, the ruling council of the Afghan Taliban movement.
Some officials are hopeful that Islamabad will reverse course and grant the additional CIA and military visas in the coming days. The Pakistani government has in the past used its control over visas to express displeasure with U.S. policy and limit the number of Americans who can work in the country.
Tensions remain between the Pakistan military and the U.S. military in Afghanistan, especially after a series of cross border raids by NATO in recent weeks.
In September, the CIA stepped up the pace of drone strikes in Pakistan, in part to counter suspected terrorism plots in western Europe as well as cross-border attacks by the Haqqani network. The stepped-up activity by the CIA has received little criticism from Pakistan, and tacit support from the government.
CIA Director Leon Panetta, who visited Islamabad late last month, said ISI has been "very cooperative," playing down tensions over U.S. allegations that elements of the intelligence agency were helping the Haqqanis and other militant groups fighting the U.S. "We're getting good cooperation," Mr. Panetta said.
Pakistani officials believe the CIA is better able to keep details of its operations largely out of the public eye, although the agency's drone program has received widespread attention and is enormously unpopular with the Pakistani public.
U.S. military forces on the ground remain a red line for Islamabad. A senior Pakistani official said if the Pakistan public became aware of U.S. military forces conducting combat operations on Pakistani territory, it would wipe out popular support for fighting the militants in the tribal areas. Whether covert CIA forces would cross that line however, remains an open question.
READ MORE - U.S. Seeks Wider CIA Role

Iraq war logs: secret files show how US ignored torture

• Massive leak reveals serial detainee abuse
• 15,000 unknown civilian deaths in war

Nick Davies, Jonathan Steele and David Leigh
Iraq, Rawa. Operation Steel Curtain
Insurgent suspects are led away by US forces. Some of those held in Iraqi custody suffered appalling abuse, the war logs reveal. Photograph: Sean Smith for the Guardian A grim picture of the US and Britain's legacy in Iraq has been revealed in a massive leak of American military documents that detail torture, summary executions and war crimes.
Almost 400,000 secret US army field reports have been passed to the Guardian and a number of other international media organisations via the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
The electronic archive is believed to emanate from the same dissident US army intelligence analyst who earlier this year is alleged to have leaked a smaller tranche of 90,000 logs chronicling bloody encounters and civilian killings in the Afghan war.
The new logs detail how:
• US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished.
• A US helicopter gunship involved in a notorious Baghdad incident had previously killed Iraqi insurgents after they tried to surrender.
• More than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents. US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities.
The numerous reports of detainee abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles, and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee's apparent death.
As recently as December the Americans were passed a video apparently showing Iraqi army officers executing a prisoner in Tal Afar, northern Iraq. The log states: "The footage shows approximately 12 Iraqi army soldiers. Ten IA soldiers were talking to one another while two soldiers held the detainee. The detainee had his hands bound … The footage shows the IA soldiers moving the detainee into the street, pushing him to the ground, punching him and shooting him."
The report named at least one perpetrator and was passed to coalition forces. But the logs reveal that the coalition has a formal policy of ignoring such allegations. They record "no investigation is necessary" and simply pass reports to the same Iraqi units implicated in the violence. By contrast all allegations involving coalition forces are subject to formal inquiries. Some cases of alleged abuse by UK and US troops are also detailed in the logs.
In two Iraqi cases postmortems revealed evidence of death by torture. On 27 August 2009 a US medical officer found "bruises and burns as well as visible injuries to the head, arm, torso, legs and neck" on the body of one man claimed by police to have killed himself. On 3 December 2008 another detainee, said by police to have died of "bad kidneys", was found to have "evidence of some type of unknown surgical procedure on [his] abdomen".
A Pentagon spokesman told the New York Times this week that under its procedure, when reports of Iraqi abuse were received the US military "notifies the responsible government of Iraq agency or ministry for investigation and follow-up".
The logs also illustrate the readiness of US forces to unleash lethal force. In one chilling incident they detail how an Apache helicopter gunship gunned down two men in February 2007.
The suspected insurgents had been trying to surrender but a lawyer back at base told the pilots: "You cannot surrender to an aircraft." The Apache, callsign Crazyhorse 18, was the same unit and helicopter based at Camp Taji outside Baghdad that later that year, in July, mistakenly killed two Reuters employees and wounded two children in the streets of Baghdad.
Iraq Body Count, the London-based group that monitors civilian casualties, says it has identified around 15,000 previously unknown civilian deaths from the data contained in the leaked war logs.
Although US generals have claimed their army does not carry out body counts and British ministers still say no official statistics exist, the war logs show these claims are untrue. The field reports purport to identify all civilian and insurgent casualties, as well as numbers of coalition forces wounded and killed in action. They give a total of more than 109,000 violent deaths from all causes between 2004 and the end of 2009.
This includes 66,081 civilians, 23,984 people classed as "enemy" and 15,196 members of the Iraqi security forces. Another 3,771 dead US and allied soldiers complete the body count.
No fewer than 31,780 of these deaths are attributed to improvised roadside bombs (IEDs) planted by insurgents. The other major recorded tally is of 34,814 victims of sectarian killings, recorded as murders in the logs.
However, the US figures appear to be unreliable in respect of civilian deaths caused by their own military activities. For example, in Falluja, the site of two major urban battles in 2004, no civilian deaths are recorded. Yet Iraq Body Count monitors identified more than 1,200 civilians who died during the fighting.
Phil Shiner, human rights specialist at Public Interest Lawyers, plans to use material from the logs in court to try to force the UK to hold a public inquiry into the unlawful killing of Iraqi civilians.
He also plans to sue the British government over its failure to stop the abuse and torture of detainees by Iraqi forces. The coalition's formal policy of not investigating such allegations is "simply not permissible", he says.
Shiner is already pursuing a series of legal actions for former detainees allegedly killed or tortured by British forces in Iraq.
WikiLeaks says it is posting online the entire set of 400,000 Iraq field reports – in defiance of the Pentagon.
The whistleblowing activists say they have deleted all names from the documents that might result in reprisals. They were accused by the US military of possibly having "blood on their hands" over the previous Afghan release by redacting too few names. But the military recently conceded that no harm had been identified.
Condemning this fresh leak, however, the Pentagon said: "This security breach could very well get our troops and those they are fighting with killed. Our enemies will mine this information looking for insights into how we operate, cultivate sources and react in combat situations, even the capability of our equipment."
READ MORE - Iraq war logs: secret files show how US ignored torture

How Clinton lost the nuclear codes and left US "unarmed"

Washington: For months during Bill Clinton's administration, the White House lost the card with a set of numbers for opening the briefcase containing codes for a nuclear attack, a former military officer says.
How Clinton lost the nuclear codes and left US "unarmed"
Gen Hugh Shelton, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, said in his new memoir, "Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior", that "the codes were actually missing for months. That's a big deal -- a gargantuan deal", said The Telegraph newspaper. A similar claim was made by Lt Col Robert Patterson, a former aide, in a book published seven years ago.
He was one of the men who carried the briefcase, known as the "football", and he said the morning after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke that he made a routine request of the president to present the card so that he could provide an updated version.
How Clinton lost the nuclear codes and left US "unarmed"
"He thought he just placed them upstairs," Lt Col Patterson recalled. "We called upstairs, we started a search around the White House for the codes, and he finally confessed he in fact misplaced them. He couldn't recall when he had last seen them."
The daily quoted him as saying that the president lost the card holding the codes, known as the biscuit, in 1998. But according to Gen Shelton, the card went missing in 2000. Former president Jimmy Carter was rumoured to have once left the "biscuit" in a suit that was sent to the dry cleaners.
Source: IANS
Images: AP
READ MORE - How Clinton lost the nuclear codes and left US "unarmed"

Karachi in flames; toll reaches 60

Islamabad: Pakistan's largest city reeled on Wednesday after gunmen opened fire in a commercial market, killing 11 people in the latest spasm of violence to underscore the poor state of law and order in this US-allied nation.
Karachi in flames; toll reaches 60
At least 60 people, including several political activists, have been killed and dozens more wounded since Saturday in Karachi, a sprawling port city of more than 16 million residents that is prone to political, ethnic and religious strife. Many killings in Karachi have been linked to gangs allegedly controlled by political parties.
The attack on the market occurred late Tuesday and its victims included eight Pakistanis of Baluch descent, said Sharmila Farooqi, a provincial government spokeswoman. The wave of violence in the city has coincided with Sunday's election to replace a provincial lawmaker killed in August.
Karachi in flames; toll reaches 60
Because of its status as the country's main economic hub, keeping Karachi calm is of prime importance to Pakistani leaders who have already seen criminal activity soar alongside Taliban-led Islamist militant violence. A major chunk of supplies for US and NATO troops is shipped to the city before traveling overland in Pakistan and into neighboring Afghanistan. Farooqi said police had detained 55 suspects in connection with the latest violence, and that some were linked to local political parties. Security forces were patrolling the city to prevent fresh violence on Wednesday, she said.
The two parties most linked to violence in Karachi - the Muttahida Quami Movement and the Awami National Party - have their electoral bases in different ethnic groups that make up a large share of the city's population.
Karachi in flames; toll reaches 60
People rush a shooting victim to an emergency ward at a local hospital in Karachi, Pakistan on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010.
The MQM claims to represent the Urdu-speaking descendants of those people who came to Karachi from India soon after the birth of Pakistan in 1947. It is secular and likes to speak out against the so-called Talibanization of the city, a jab at the Awami National Party, which represents the ethnic Pashtuns from the Taliban heartland in the northwest.
Raza Haider, the member of the provincial assembly who was gunned down in August, was a senior member of the MQM. Both parties were competing for Haider's vacant seat, but the ANP announced Saturday evening that it would boycott the election, saying the MQM would rig the vote. The MQM won the seat.
Karachi in flames; toll reaches 60
People rush a shooting victim to an emergency ward at a local hospital in Karachi, Pakistan on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010.
MQM lawmaker Haider Abbas Rizvi said the party had handed authorities a list of 150 alleged criminals it suspects in the attacks but that nothing had come of it. He not only blamed the ANP, but also faulted the Pakistan People's Party, which control's the provincial government. ANP spokesman Amin Khattak said the MQM was to blame, noting that the killings began shortly after his party said it would boycott the election.
Also Wednesday, a police constable was wounded when someone threw a grenade at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Pakistan's main northwestern city, Peshawar, said Liaquat Ali, a senior police official. Peshawar is right on the edge of Pakistan's tribal belt, a lawless stretch of territory along the Afghan border where many militants shelter.
Source: AP
READ MORE - Karachi in flames; toll reaches 60

Taliban’s Elite, Aided by NATO, Join Talks for Afghan Peace


The discussions, some of which have taken place in Kabul, are unfolding between the inner circle of President Hamid Karzai and members of the Quetta shura, the leadership group that oversees the Taliban war effort inside Afghanistan. Afghan leaders have also held discussions with leaders of the Haqqani network, considered to be one of the most hard-line guerrilla factions fighting here; and members of the Peshawar shura, whose fighters are based in eastern Afghanistan.
The Taliban leaders coming into Afghanistan for talks have left their havens in Pakistan on the explicit assurance that they will not be attacked or arrested by NATO forces, Afghans familiar with the talks say. Many top Taliban leaders reside in Pakistan, where they are believed to enjoy at least some official protection.
In at least one case, Taliban leaders crossed the border and boarded a NATO aircraft bound for Kabul, according to an Afghan with knowledge of the talks. In other cases, NATO troops have secured roads to allow Taliban officials to reach Afghan- and NATO-controlled areas so they can take part in discussions. Most of the discussions have taken place outside of Kabul, according to the Afghan official.
American officials said last week that talks between Afghan and Taliban leaders were under way. But the ranks of the insurgents, the fact that they represent multiple factions, and the extent of NATO efforts to provide transportation and security to adversaries they otherwise try to kill or capture have not been previously disclosed.
At least four Taliban leaders, three of them members of the Quetta shura and one of them a member of the Haqqani family, have taken part in discussions, according to the Afghan official and a former diplomat in the region.
The identities of the Taliban leaders are being withheld by The New York Times at the request of the White House and an Afghan who has taken part in the discussions. The Afghan official said that identifying the men could result in their deaths or detention at the hands of rival Taliban commanders or the Pakistani intelligence agents who support them.
The discussions are still described as preliminary, partly because Afghan and American officials are trying to determine how much influence the Taliban leaders who have participated in the talks have within their own organizations.
Even so, the talks have been held on several different occasions and appear to represent the most substantive effort to date to negotiate an end to the nine-year-old war, which began with an American-led campaign to overthrow the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks. “These are face-to-face discussions,” said an Afghan with knowledge of the talks. “This is not about making the Americans happy or making Karzai happy. It’s about what is in the best interests of the Afghan people.”
“These talks are based on personal relationships,” the official said. “When the Taliban see that they can travel in the country without being attacked by the Americans, they see that the government is sovereign, that they can trust us.”
The discussions appear to be unfolding without the approval of Pakistan’s leaders, who are believed to exercise a wide degree of control over the Taliban’s leadership. The Afghan government seems to be trying to seek a reconciliation agreement that does not directly involve Pakistan, which Mr. Karzai’s government fears will exercise too much influence over Afghanistan after NATO forces withdraw.
But that strategy could backfire by provoking the Pakistanis, who could undermine any agreement.
Mullah Muhammad Omar, the overall leader of the Taliban, is explicitly being cut out of the negotiations, in part because of his closeness to the Pakistani security services, officials said.
Afghans who have tried to take part in, or even facilitate, past negotiations have been killed by their Taliban comrades, sometimes with the assistance of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.
“The ISI will try to prevent these negotiations from happening,” the Afghan official said. “The ISI will just eliminate them,” he said, referring to the people who take part.

more here on NYTimes
READ MORE - Taliban’s Elite, Aided by NATO, Join Talks for Afghan Peace

Gunmen Storm Chechen Parliament

Oct. 19 -- Gunmen screaming "Allahu Akbar!" stormed the Chechen parliament in southern Russia today, killing two guards and a parliamentary staffer before being killed in a shootout with police.

One of the assailants blew himself up in an apparent suicide attack, The New York Times quoted investigators as saying. No parliamentarians were killed in the spree, and no group has yet claimed responsibility. All three attackers were gunned down.

Gunmen Storm Chechen Parliament, Violence,
Musa Sadulayev, AP
Special Force officers are seen in front of Chechen parliament complex after a bomb blast on Tuesday.
Chechnya is a semiautonomous region of southern Russia that's long struggled with a fierce insurgency by Muslim separatists. The area's rugged mountains harbor Islamic fundamentalists who've fought two wars with Russian troops and whose fight has also destabilized neighboring areas, fueled by religion, poverty and mistrust of faraway Moscow.

Today's attack began around 8:45 a.m. local time as lawmakers and employees were arriving for work at the Chechen parliament complex in the regional capital of Grozny. The assault coincided with a visit by the Russian interior minister, Rashid Nurgaliyev, who wasn't harmed, Bloomberg News reported.

"We heard shots in the courtyard, and we knew they were trying to take us hostage," parliamentary spokesman Zelim Yakhikhanov told Agence France-Presse. "We managed to take refuge on the third floor, where we stayed until the end of the operation."

At least 17 people were wounded, The Associated Press reported, describing a grisly scene at the parliament, with body parts strewn in the hallways and the severed head of an insurgent being carried away.

Nurgaliyev discussed the situation by phone with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who is in France today for talks with his French and German counterparts.
READ MORE - Gunmen Storm Chechen Parliament

Bin Laden hiding in Pakistan

Osama Bin Laden

Oct 18, 2010 A leading private channel has reported that the Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan-China border.

The channel further reported that Laden is being helped by Pakistan ISI and some local people.

The Saudi-born militant is wanted for the September 11 attacks on the United States nine years ago.

A senior NATO official told the channel that none of the militants are hiding in a cave, instead they are staying in a comfortable house.

"The official also confirmed the US assessment that Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, has moved between the cities of Quetta and Karachi in Pakistan over the last several months," said the report on the channel’s website.

The channel said that the NATO official could not be named "because of the sensitivity of the intelligence matters involved".
READ MORE - Bin Laden hiding in Pakistan

DR Congo troops in rape and murder claim

Margot Wallstrom, the UN's special representative on sexual violence, listens to villagers in Kitchanga, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo Margot Wallstrom visited the Democratic Republic of Congo last week to hear first hand testimony from witnesses and victims of abuses
A UN envoy says government troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) might have committed rape and murder.

The special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Margot Wallstrom, said UN peacekeepers there had information suggesting soldiers had committed such abuses.
The alleged attacks are said to have occurred in the same place where rebels carried out mass rapes just weeks ago.
Ms Wallstrom urged the government to investigate the allegations.
She was briefing the Security Council on her visit to North Kivu province.
After the mass rapes in July and August came to light, UN peacekeepers based just 20 miles (32km) away were criticised for not responding quickly enough.

"A dead rat is worth more than the body of a woman." That's the quote from a rape victim with which Margot Wallstrom began her report to the Security Council.
She also described communities reeling with shock after the rapes of elderly women, which shattered social taboos.
The reality is that eastern Congo itself is shattered, with both rebels and government troops preying on civilians. In such a context of lawlessness, what can be done?
Much has been said about improving the performance of UN peacekeepers who failed to respond to the mass rapes in July and August. But even at best they are not a substitute for a functioning government.
Ms Wallstrom's strategy has been to press for holding militia leaders accountable under international law. She therefore made much of the recent arrests of two rebel commanders, including one on a warrant from the International Criminal Court, calling this an important precedent which gave victims a "glimmer of hope."
About 300 civilians and more than 50 children in the Walikale region were raped by the rebels - many of them in front of their families and neighbours.
Ms Wallstrom blamed the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and Mai-Mai militia.
The attacks had focused international attention on the endemic sexual violence in Congo and UN failures to deal with it.
Since then, Ms Wallstrom said government troops (FARDC) had been deployed to the territory to reassert control and to implement the president's moratorium on mining in the area, which is rich in minerals.
The UN special representative heard directly from locals on her visit last week and said UN peacekeepers in the area had also told her of rapes, killings and lootings perpetrated recently by government soldiers.
She urged the DRC government to investigate the new attacks and "swiftly hold any perpetrators to account".
"The possibility that the same communities that were brutalised in July and August are now also suffering exactions at the hands of the FARDC troops is unimaginable and unacceptable," she said.
Click to play

Margot Wallstrom says civilians want to feel safe and protected
The BBC's United Nations correspondent, Barbara Plett, says Ms Wallstrom's warning underlines the enormous difficulty of protecting civilians in a region overrun by rebel groups, with an army made up of former militias.
The UN Security Council also heard a call for sanctions against a Rwandan Hutu commander known as "Colonel Serafim" who the special representative says is among those responsible for the July and August attacks.
Ms Wallstrom welcomed the recent arrests of two rebel leaders, saying this should serve as a warning that sexual violence would not be tolerated.
READ MORE - DR Congo troops in rape and murder claim

Army inflation, Russian-style

Russia inflates its military with blow-up weapons

Click to play
Blowing up Russia's inflatable army
The Russian military has come up with an inventive way to deceive the enemy and save money at the same time: inflatable weapons.
They look just like real ones: they are easy to transport and quick to deploy.
You name it, the Russian army is blowing it up: from pretend tanks to entire radar stations.
The decoys are a hundred times cheaper than the real thing, which means Moscow will save a lot of money by blowing up its own weapons.
On the edge of Moscow, two men carry a black duffle bag into a field, then drop it on the ground.
When they open the bag, they take out a large sheet of plastic. It looks like a tent or a tarpaulin.
In fact, it's the Russian army's latest strategic weapon. It doesn't need ammunition - just air.

Start Quote

I'm proud to be making entire rocket-launchers and tanks for our armed forces. When you finish sewing them and you watch them being filled with air, it's so satisfying”
End Quote Lena, seamstress
On goes the pump, in goes the air and the plastic sheet begins to rise and take shape.
A turret appears, then out pops a long plastic gun barrel. This is an inflatable Russian tank.
State-of-the-art When the men pump up their next piece of plastic, this one expands into a S-300 rocket launcher, complete with giant truck and inflatable rockets. It is a cross between a ballistic missile and a bouncy castle.
And waiting to be blown up are inflatable MiG fighter jets - even entire Russian radar stations.
An inflatable missile-launcher in Russia The inflatables are stitched together at a former hot-air balloon factory
These state-of-the-art stand-ins are among the most advanced military decoys in the world.
What they lack in firepower, they make up for in flexibility: they are light and can be deployed quickly to deceive the enemy.
They are also very realistic. They are made of a special material that tricks enemy radar and thermal imaging into thinking they are real weapons.
The inflatables are stitched together at a former hot-air balloon factory.
"I'm proud to be making entire rocket-launchers and tanks for our armed forces," says Lena, who is stitching a surface-to-air missile system.
"When you finish sewing them and you watch them being filled with air, it's so satisfying."
READ MORE - Army inflation, Russian-style

US drones kill 10 Taliban militants



US Drone attack
US Drone attack


US drones targeted the Taliban four times in the volatile North Waziristan tribal region of northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, killing at least 10 militants, security officials said.
 
The unmanned spy planes fired at least seven missiles during the strikes, targeting a house and a vehicle. The dead militants were linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the officials said.

In the first strike, a drone fired two missiles at a house in Latakka area of Datta Khel sub-division, 30 km southeast of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan Agency. Three militants were killed in the strike that occurred at 8.45 pm.

After about five minutes, a drone fired two missiles at a vehicle parked near the house, killing two militants.

The third strike targeted a vehicle while the same house was targeted again in the fourth attack. Five more militants were killed in these strikes. The last two attacks occurred just after 9 pm.
READ MORE - US drones kill 10 Taliban militants

Al-Qaida magazine offers terror tips, suggests crashing trucks into crowds

PARIS: Al-Qaida urged Muslims in western countries to weld steel blades to heavy SUV vehicles and plough then into civilian crowds, in the second edition of the group's online English-language magazine.

"Inspire", a 74-page propaganda organ published by the Yemen-based wing of the Islamist group, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), aims to recruit young westerners to the jihadi cause and to inspire random attacks.

In an article titled "The Ultimate Mowing Machine", illustrated with a picture of an imposing civilian Ford four-by-four truck, the group suggests turning the vehicle into a deadly battering ram and targeting crowded areas.

It urges attacks in " Israel, the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Denmark, Holland and other countries where the government and public sentiment is in support of the occupation of Palestine.

"If you have access to firearms, carry them with you so that you may use them to finish off your work if your vehicle gets grounded during the attack," the article continued, warning that militants must be prepared to die.

"After such an attack we believe it would be difficult to get away safely. Hence, it should be considered a martyrdom operation," it said.

Another section, entitled "My Life in Jihad", profiles US citizen Samir Khan, whom US intelligence believes is an internet militant who once operated out of his parent's basement in New York and who is now in Yemen.

"I'm proud to be a traitor to America," wrote Khan, whom authorities suspect is one of the militants behind the magazine. "I'm proud to be a traitor in America's eyes just as much as I'm proud to be a Muslim."

"And I take this opportunity to accentuate my oath of allegiance to the ferocious lion, the champion of jihad, the humble servant of God, my beloved Sheikh Osama bin Laden, may Allah protect him," he added.

Other articles include an interview with Abu Sufyan al-Azdi, a Saudi AQAP leader who was formerly imprisoned for six years at the US detention centre in Guantanamo, and messages from the radical US imam Anwar al-Awlaki.
READ MORE - Al-Qaida magazine offers terror tips, suggests crashing trucks into crowds

Pakistan sparks U.S. anger after secretly accelerating nuclear programme

  • Cooling towers at Khushab-III reactor have been finished
  • Plant could begin nuclear weapons operation within months
  • One kg of plutonium equal to 20,000 tons of normal explosives
The U.S. has been left fuming by revelations that Pakistan, an ally in the Afghanistan war, has been secretly accelerating the speed of its nuclear weapons programme, after satellite images of a row of completed cooling towers came to light.
America has been attempting to cap worldwide stocks of potential material for nuclear weapons - only last year president Barack Obama called for 'a new treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials'.
It marks further deterioration in relations between the two countries, following U.S. drone and helicopter attacks on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border which led, last week, to over 100 Nato tankers being destroyed when the Torkham crossing, the main route between the two countries, was shut.
Nuclear power: The Washington-based nuclear watchdog have obtained satellite images of the completed cooling towers at Pakistan's secret Khushab-III reactor
Nuclear power: The Washington-based nuclear watchdog have obtained satellite images of the completed cooling towers at Pakistan's secret Khushab-III reactor
Tensions have been bubbling recently after the drone attacks on insurgents and the helicopter fire which killed two Pakistani soldiers.
As a result the Torkham crossing was closed by Pakistan after the attack, which left hundreds of supply trucks stranded alongside highways and bottle-necked traffic heading towards the Chaman crossing in the southwest of the country.
At least six drivers were killed in the attacks and although the crossing is now open again, tensions are still simmering.
trucks waiting at closed border point
Trucks await the re-opening of the Torkham border crossing in Pakistan. Despite profuse U.S. apologies for the deaths of two Pakistani soldiers in a cross-border helicopter strike last month, Islamabad has refused to name a date to reopen the route
fuel trucks set on fire in Pakistan
One of the fuel trucks still burns after the pre-dawn raid on a village 120 miles from Quetta

Truck driver sits next to his fuel tanker meant for NATO troops, which was set on fire by gunmen,
A truck driver sits next to his torched tanker. The attackers used guns and fired a rocket to set fire to them
Meanwhile a joint investigation revealed that the Pakistani soldiers began firing at the two U.S. helicopters prior to the attack, a move the investigation team said was likely meant to notify the aircraft of their presence.
Now a Washington-based nuclear watchdog, the Institute for Science and International Security, has unearthed satellite images showing that the cooling towers at Pakistan's secret Khushab-III reactor have been finished.
The intelligence hints that the plant could begin operation within months, allowing Pakistan, which is deepening its nuclear ties to China, to increase substantially its stockpiles of weapons-grade plutonium.
Pre-empting an attack: American forces have intensified missile strikes against militants in Pakistan from unmanned drones
Pre-empting an attack: American forces have intensified missile strikes against militants in Pakistan from unmanned drones
The Obama administration is also disturbed by Chinese plans to build two new nuclear reactors in Pakistan - a move that would bypass Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) rules that bar sales of nuclear equipment to states that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
China contest that it does not need NSG permission to sell reactors to Pakistan, arguing it had committed to the deal before it joined the NSG in 2004 – a claim the United States disputes.
The U.S. are now worried that tensions are so strained that more sniping attacks are expected. 'There is really mounting concern that we are extremely vulnerable to an attack from a group in Pakistan that could occur,' a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
'[An attack] will change the nature of the relationship, not because necessarily it makes sense to, but because the congressional outcry and the public outcry will be such that you will have to dramatically do things quite differently.'
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said last week: 'We have a very difficult and complicated situation in Pakistan. We have worked hard on this relationship. We understand it's important to our security.'
Meanwhile Rose Gottmeiler, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, has warned that her country's 'patience is running out'.
'Pakistan thinks its going to be forced to cap its fissile material stocks and wants to make sure it has as much as it can get before then,' said Asheley Tellis, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The U.S. were at the forefront of the Conference on Disarmament, a 64-nation coalition that negotiated the 1992 Chemical Weapons convention and the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which agreed to negotiate a Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty.
This was intended to cap production of weapons-grade enriched uranium and most forms of plutonium.
But Pakistan has stopped the Conference on Disarmament from beginning talks, contesting that a cut-off would harm its national security interests.
Khushab-III, the latest in a series of reactors built to fuel Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, is located next to Khushab-II which became operational in February.
Small but lethal weapons can be produced using the plutonium at the plants - just one kilogram can cause an explosion equal to 20,000 tons of conventional explosives.
Production at Khushad III has been going ahead despite Pakistan struggling with the fallout from the recent floods, which inflicted damage estimated at £27 billion.
Pakistan argues that the nuclear weapons programme is necessary in order to counter the superior conventional forces of India, its local enemy.
Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists estimated recently that Pakistan had assembled 70-90 nuclear warheads to India's 60-80, and had produced enough fissile material to manufacture another 90 more.
READ MORE - Pakistan sparks U.S. anger after secretly accelerating nuclear programme

U.S. Rescue Forces May Have Killed Abducted Briton

http://i.huffpost.com/gen/208218/thumbs/s-LINDA-NORGROVE-large.jpgLONDON — A kidnapped British aid worker may have been killed by her American rescuers, rather than her Taliban captors, officials said Monday. The U.S. is leading a joint investigation with the British into the death.

NATO initially said Linda Norgrove died when her captors detonated a bomb as NATO forces moved in to free her. But Prime Minister David Cameron said the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, had informed him that Norgrove may have been killed by a grenade detonated by a member of the U.S. special forces rescue team during the Friday operation in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province.

"We were clear that Linda's life was in grave danger and the operation offered the best chance of saving her life," Cameron told reporters during a news conference at 10 Downing St.

"I will obviously go over in my mind 100 times whether it was the right decision but I profoundly believe it was," Cameron said.

Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman at NATO headquarters in Kabul, said Monday that the rescue mission leader saw surveillance footage of the incident and had discussions with members of the rescue team, and decided "it was not conclusive what the cause of her death was."

The rescue mission leader spoke with Petraeus, who requested a full investigation, Dorrian said. The U.S.-British investigation will be led by U.S. Central Command.

Cameron said he had informed Norgrove's family of the "deeply distressing development."

Norgrove, 36, who worked on a U.S.-funded aid project for Development Alternatives Inc., was abducted in an ambush on Sept. 26 along with three Afghan colleagues who were later released. Six kidnappers also died in the rescue attempt.

Cameron said Norgrove's family had been kept informed of the decision, which was made by Foreign Secretary William Hague with his full support.
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He said the rescue operation was carried out by American rather than British forces because it was in an area of Afghanistan under U.S. command.

"I want to assure Mr. and Mrs. Norgrove that I will do everything I possibly can to establish the full facts and give them certainty about how their daughter died," he added.

Norgrove's father, John, said the family had no comment.
READ MORE - U.S. Rescue Forces May Have Killed Abducted Briton

Kim Jong Un Confirmed As Next North Korean Leader

Kim Jong Un
South Korean man watches a TV screen at a railway station in Seoul on September 30, 2010 broadcasting a closeup of a KCNA group photo taken in Pyongyang centred on a man believed to be Kim Jong-Un, the youngest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. Secretive North Korea published its first-ever adult photograph of a man said to be the youngest son and heir apparent to the communist state's ailing leader Kim Jong-Il. A group photo released by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows


PYONGYANG, North Korea
— A top North Korean official has made the first public confirmation that the son of leader Kim Jong Il will succeed his father and become the third generation of his family to lead the nation.
Yang Hyong Sop, a top official in North Korea's ruling party, made the comments to broadcaster APTN in an exclusive interview Friday in the North Korean capital.
READ MORE - Kim Jong Un Confirmed As Next North Korean Leader

Pakistan's ISI is pushing Taliban to fight US: Report

New York: Close on the heels of a White House report that slammed Islamabad for not doing enough to battle terrorists holed up near the Af-Pak border, the American media said Pakistan's ISI was pushing the Taliban to attack US troops and their allies based in Afghanistan.
Pakistan's ISI is pushing Taliban to fight US: Report
Several similar charges against ISI have been made in the past but 'The Wall Street Journal' suggested that this one was the "strongest yet" and showed a "deteriorating relationship with an essential ally in the Afghan campaign" which had received billions of dollars in aid.
Some Taliban commanders and US officials have accused Pakistan's spy agency of telling the insurgents not to surrender and the Americans also say they have heard similar accounts from captured militants.
"The ISI wants to arrest commanders who are not obeying (ISI) orders," a Taliban militant in Kunar province was quoted as saying by the Journal.
Pakistan's ISI is pushing Taliban to fight US: Report
"The ISI wants us to kill everyone -- policemen, soldiers, engineers, teachers, civilians -- just to intimidate people," he said, adding that when he refused the ISI had tried to arrest him. "Afghans are all brothers; tomorrow we could be sitting together in one room."
A senior Pakistani official, however, dismissed the allegation. "Whenever anything goes wrong in Afghanistan, ISI is to be blamed," the official said. "Honestly, they see ISI agents behind every bush in Afghanistan."
Now, the ISI's motivation to keep friendly relations with the insurgents is believed to be desire to keep its leverage in Afghanistan when the US eventually leaves, as well as preventing India from getting cosy inside the war-torn country, the report said.
Pakistan's ISI is pushing Taliban to fight US: Report
The newspaper further pointed out that the suspicions against the ISI are once again renewed at a time when the US is shifting focus to the militants that have found sanctuary in the lawless tribal regions of Pakistan, which border Afghanistan.
The Taliban and Haqqani network are believed to be planning and executing the majority of their attacks from the safe havens in North Waziristan and South Waziristan tribal areas.
sanctuaries the Taliban and Haqqani have in Pakistan "is a concern we share," Gen David Petraeus, top US commander said in Afghanistan, said recently, amid reports that the CIA is using US military resources to beef up its drones attacks inside Pakistan -- a tactic many Pakistanis detest and view as violation of their sovereignty.
Pakistan's ISI is pushing Taliban to fight US: Report
Despite high praise for Pakistan's fight against terrorism from the top brass, reports suggest that many US officials are frustrated at its alleged double game, which was also highlighted in the massive leak of Afghan-related documents pulled off by WikiLeaks, earlier this year.
The newspaper said that Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has repeatedly warned that elements within the ISI have had ties with extremist organisations and called on the intelligence agency to "strategically shift its focus."
Despite several accusations that the ISI is in cahoots with the Taliban, the US has not publicly accused Islamabad since it is not clear whether this is ISI policy or a few rogue elements are acting out.
Pakistan's ISI is pushing Taliban to fight US: Report
The ISI-Taliban nexus goes back decades when the spy agency along with the CIA trained the militants to fight against the Russians in Afghanistan. Some US officials say the top levels of the ISI are committed to trying to reform the agency.
"It is difficult to know how much the lower levels of ISI answer to senior leadership," a military official was quoted as saying by the WSJ. Other officials, however, say that such activities cannot go on unless with nod from the top.
"I haven't seen evidence that the ISI is not in control of all of its parts," said a senior US defence official. A Taliban commander from the southeastern Paktia region said the ISI "is supporting those under its control with money, weapons and shelter on Pakistani soil."
Pakistan's ISI is pushing Taliban to fight US: Report
Pakistan, on its part, has consistently rejected these accusations and maintains that no country has done more to fight terrorism.
Earlier, a declassified White House report said that Pakistan is not doing enough to combat terrorists and extremists in its restive tribal belt where some of the most wanted insurgents are hiding.
"The Pakistan military continued to avoid military engagements that would put it in direct conflict with Afghan Taliban or al-Qaeda forces in North Waziristan," the WSJ reported citing the 27-page White House report which is to be given to Congress.
Source: Agencies
READ MORE - Pakistan's ISI is pushing Taliban to fight US: Report

Twin attacks strike at Western targets in Yemen

Yemeni security forces outside the entrance to the British embassy in Sanaa after the rocket attack (6 October 2010) The vehicle was on its way to the British embassy with five staff on board
Twin attacks on Western targets in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, have left one person dead and at least four injured.
Militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a British embassy car, slightly injuring one staff member as well as bystanders, officials said.
In the other incident, a security guard at an Austrian gas company near Sanaa opened fire killing a French contractor and badly injuring a UK contractor.
Yemen has seen a string of militant attacks on Western targets.
The armoured UK embassy car was said to have been carrying the deputy chief of the British mission in Yemen when it was hit by shrapnel from the blast.
In a statement, the UK Foreign Office said the attack happened at about 0815 local time (0515 GMT).
"The vehicle was on its way to the British embassy with five embassy staff on board," the statement said.
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The BBC's Yolande Knell says there have been recent warnings of al-Qaeda attacks
"One member of staff suffered minor injuries and is undergoing treatment, all others were unhurt. We are informing their families at the moment. We are aware of at least two bystanders injured during the attack, and are seeking further details."
'Risks highlighted' UK Foreign Secretary William Hague described the attack as "shameful".
"This morning's attack... highlights the risks our diplomats face working for Britain's interests abroad," he said.
"I am full of admiration for the way our embassy is dealing with this difficult situation.
"This shameful attack on British diplomats will only redouble Britain's determination to work with the government of Yemen to help address the challenges that country faces."
The other attack happened inside the compound of the Austrian gas company OMV, near Sanaa. The compound was surrounded by security forces and the gunman was eventually disarmed.

YEMEN FACTS

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  • Population: 23.6 million (UN, 2009)
  • Capital: Sanaa
  • Major language: Arabic
  • Major religion: Islam
  • Oil exports: $1.5bn/24.5m barrels (Jan-Oct 2009)
  • Annual income per capita: US $950 (World Bank, 2008)
In a statement, OMV said the French national who died had worked for OMV as a procurement officer. It said that the UK contractor, who worked as an expert within the branch office, was being treated in hospital for serious injuries.
The company said it saw no political background for the action taken by the Yemeni security guard.
OMV is in contact with the contractor companies and embassies to provide full support, it said.
The attacks come two days after Yemeni authorities tightened security around embassies in the capital amid warnings about a planned strike by al-Qaeda.
In April a suicide bomber threw himself at the British ambassador's two-car convoy in Sanaa as it neared the embassy compound.
The blast injured three passers-by and damaged a police car.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) later claimed responsibility for the attack.
The embassy was closed for two weeks as a result.
Yemen has been plagued by decades of poverty and instability, and its high numbers of unemployed youths are seen as potential recruits for Islamist militant groups.
More than 40% of Yemen's population live on less than $2 (£1.25) a day.
READ MORE - Twin attacks strike at Western targets in Yemen

More Pakistan NATO Attacks: Dozens More Fuel Tankers Destroyed, Driver Killed

Pakistan Nato Attacks

Pakistani fire fighters gather next to burning oil tankers after militants attacked a terminal in Quetta, Pakistan on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010. Gunmen in southwestern Pakistan torched a dozen tankers carrying fuel to NATO troops and killed a driver Wednesday, police said, the latest strike against supply convoys heading for Afghanistan since Pakistan shut a key border crossing last week. (AP Photo/Arshad Butt)


QUETTA, Pakistan
— Gunmen torched more than two dozen tankers carrying fuel to NATO troops and killed a driver Wednesday, the sixth attack on convoys taking supplies to Afghanistan since Pakistan closed a key border crossing almost a week ago.

Islamabad shut down the Torkham crossing along the fabled Khyber Pass last Thursday after a NATO helicopter attack in the border area killed three Pakistani troops. The closure has left hundreds of trucks stranded alongside the country's highways and bottlenecked traffic heading to the one route into Afghanistan from the south that has remained open.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said an investigation of the helicopter attack was expected to be concluded later Wednesday, and that he expected the spat between allies could be resolved soon.

The U.S. has supply routes through other countries into Afghanistan, and Morrell emphasized that the Torkham closing had not caused fuel problems for NATO troops.

"We don't suspect it will, even if this were to last into the future," he said Tuesday at the Pentagon. "But we really do have a sense we're making progress and this can be resolved soon."

Hundreds of supply trucks still cross into landlocked Afghanistan each day through the Chaman crossing in southwestern Pakistan and via Central Asian states.

Still, Pakistan is the fastest and cheapest way to get goods to Afghanistan, and trouble with other routes in the past makes it even more vital. Uzbekistan evicted U.S. troops from a base that was used to ferry supplies into Afghanistan, and last year Kyrgyzstan threatened to do the same, though it has since backed down.

The attack early Wednesday morning came on trucks on their way to the Chaman crossing.

An unidentified number of gunmen in two vehicles attacked the trucks as they sat in the parking lot of a roadside hotel on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. At least 25 trucks were destroyed by fire that spread quickly from vehicle to vehicle, senior police official Hamid Shakil said.

Of the six attacks on convoys bringing supplies in from the port city of Karachi since the Torkham closure, four were on trucks heading to that crossing and two were on their way to Chaman.

The convoys bring fuel, military vehicles, spare parts, clothing and other non-lethal supplies for foreign troops in Afghanistan.

It was unclear who was behind the latest attack, but the Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for similar assaults on NATO supplies, including one before dawn Monday that killed four people.

The events have exposed the frequent strains in the alliance between Pakistan and the United States, but Morrell downplayed the possibility of any lasting effects.

"There are incidents which create misunderstandings, there are setbacks, but that does not mean the relationship – this crucial relationship to us – is in any way derailed."

In addition to ensuring safe passage for NATO supplies, the U.S. needs Pakistan to help target Taliban and al-Qaida militants who stage cross-border attacks against foreign troops in Afghanistan. In return, Pakistan receives billions of dollars in military and civilian assistance that help keep its economy afloat.

Even if the border is reopened, underlying tensions will remain in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, especially over Pakistan's unwillingness to go after Afghan Taliban militants on its territory with whom it has strong historical ties and who generally focus their attacks on Western troops, not Pakistani targets.

The Pakistani military says it is too busy fighting militants at war with the state to expand its list of targets.

A bomb exploded inside a home in the northwestern town of Bannu on Wednesday, killing one person and wounding two others, local police chief Hameed Ullah said. Authorities are investigating the motive for the attack, he said.

Bannu is near the North Waziristan tribal region, home to a range of Taliban and al-Qaida militants.

___

Associated Press writers Riaz Khan in Peshawar and Anne Gearan in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.
READ MORE - More Pakistan NATO Attacks: Dozens More Fuel Tankers Destroyed, Driver Killed

Check-in areas at five major European airports were targets of terror plot as French arrest men with links to al Qaeda

  • French police arrest 11 men tied to Islamic extremists
  • Mumbai-style commando attacks on European airports
  • Eight German militants killed in drone attack
Check-in areas in at least five major European airports were among the possible targets of a suspected European terror plot, it has been revealed.
A law enforcement official told ABC News that terror teams could have staged commando-style attacks on pre-security areas packed with travellers before they boarded flights.
It comes after French police today arrested eleven men suspected of links to Islamic extremists, a police source said.
Target? Security officials have said terrorists were considering commando-style attacks on check-in areas at major European airports
Target? Security officials have said terrorists were considering commando-style attacks on check-in areas at major European airports

Threat: Pre-security areas in busy European airports, which could include Amsterdam's Schipol, are said to have been among the targets of a European plot
Threat: Pre-security areas in busy European airports, which could include Amsterdam's Schipol, are said to have been among the targets of a European plot
And eight German militants said to have been training with the Taliban were killed in an American missile strike close to the Afghan border.
The militants were undergoing terrorist training in North Waziristan, a lawless tribal area which is a stronghold for al Qaeda, when they were hit by bombs dropped from unmanned drones.

 
The strike last night, on a mosque in the town of Mir Ali, is believed to be the largest on foreign militants since the conflict began in 2001.
But the intriguing timing of the announcement by Pakistani officials will raise concerns over whether a series of terror announcements have been choreographed.
Pakistan has long been eyed with suspicion over its links to the Taliban and announcing such as strike when Europe is on heightened terror alert will be seen by some as an attempt to win favour with the West.
This morning two men were arrested in the southern French port city of Marseille and a third in Bordeaux, southwest France.
Alert: Armed French soldiers patrol next to the Eurostar platforms at Gare du Nord station in Paris
Alert: Armed French soldiers patrol next to the Eurostar platforms at Gare du Nord station in Paris

Concerns: Police today made 11 arrests of men with associations to al Qaeda across the south of France
Concerns: Police today made 11 arrests of men with associations to al Qaeda across the south of France
The three men were linked to a man arrested in the Italian city of Naples and all are suspected to have al Qaeda links, the police source added.
Last month, French authorities said they had received news that a suicide bomber was preparing to attack the Paris metro system and Western intelligence sources also said they had uncovered plans for a coordinated attack on European cities.
The U.S. State Department warned American citizens on Sunday to exercise caution while travelling in Europe and Britian raised its terrorism threat to 'high' for citizens travelling to Germany and France.
Reports suggested that terrorist teams had completed their preparations and surveillance and were ready to strike having been given the blessing of Osama bin Laden.
The alert is a highly unusual move and is one step below a formal travel warning advising Americans not to visit Europe.
Lasting until January 11, the alert cautions citizens about previous al Qaeda attacks on subway and rail systems, airports and maritime services.
The eight militants killed in Pakistan are thought to be the same Germans who were involved with two British brothers in the commando-style raid similar to the Mumbai attacks in 2008 which killed 166 innocent people.
Their identities have not been confirmed.
Commando attacks: The Europe terror plot is said to include attacks by teams of militants with machine guns similar to those in Mumbai in 2008
Commando attacks: The Europe terror plot is said to include attacks by teams of militants with machine guns similar to those in Mumbai in 2008

Strike: A U.S. drone killed eight German militants said to have been training with the Taliban on the Afghan and Pakistan border
Strike: A U.S. drone killed eight German militants said to have been training with the Taliban on the Afghan and Pakistan border
One of the British brothers, understood to be called Abdul Jabbar, was killed in a CIA air strike last month. The location of his brother is unclear.
Heightened alerts of a coordinated terrorist attack have centred on France and Germany.
Key information about the plot came from the arrest of another Germany citizen, Ahmed Siddiqui, in July.
Siddiqui, of Afghan origin, is said to have known Mohammed Atta, mastermind of the September 11 bombings when they worshipped at the same mosque in Hamburg.
The killings are likely to cause Germany to reassess its attitude toward the threat it faces given that all eight men who were bombed were from their country.
Yesterday German ministers had played down the heightened terror alerts made in Britain and America, claiming talk of an imminent attack was 'alarmist' and that there were no threats against the country.
American and Nato forces have intensified missile strikes against militants in Pakistan from unmanned drones in the last two weeks.
The head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, spoke publicly last month about the continuing threat of terror attacks in the UK.
In his speech he suggested that around 50 per cent of the plots identified had links to Pakistan – a decline on previous estimates that suggested the figure was nearer 75 per cent.
READ MORE - Check-in areas at five major European airports were targets of terror plot as French arrest men with links to al Qaeda

Drone strike kills 8 Germans in northwest Pakistan

Islamabad: A suspected US drone strike killed eight militants of German nationality in northwest Pakistan on Monday, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

They died when two missiles from a suspected CIA pilotless aircraft struck a mosque in Mirali in North Waziristan, the officials added.

The attack came a day after the United States and Britain warned of an increased risk of terrorist attacks in Europe. Western security officials said last week they believed a group in northern Pakistan were connected to a plot to stage attacks.

The militants were members of a group called Jihad Islami, the Pakistani intelligence officials said without elaborating. There was no independent verification and militants often dismiss official reports of successful operations against them.

"People were gathering at the mosque for prayers when a missile hit the building," Mohammad Alam, a resident of Mirali, said describing Monday's drone strike.

"The area has been cordoned off by militants and they are not allowing anyone there."

The State Department warned American citizens to exercise caution if travelling in Europe. Britain raised the threat level to "high" from "general" for its citizens travelling to Germany and France.

US-Pakistan tensions

The immediate trigger for Sunday's travel alerts was intelligence about a plot against European targets reportedly originating with a group of individuals in mountainous northern Pakistan, some of them believed to be European citizens.

One security official in Germany said last week word of the plot had probably originated from the interrogation of a German-Afghan suspect in Afghanistan.

The suspect believed to be behind the intelligence was identified by media as Ahmed Sidiqi, a German of Afghan origin. German media said he came from Hamburg and had been held in the US military prison of Bagram in Afghanistan since July.

German counter-terrorism expert Guido Steinberg said Sidiqi was a member of a cell of militants from Hamburg that was believed to be a central component of the conspiracy.

Steinberg said the cell left for Pakistan in March 2009 and joined Pakistan-based members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a Central Asian militant organisation.

CNN reported the 11-strong group included a German of Syrian descent and a German of Iranian descent while an associate of the plot was a Frenchman of Algerian origin, it said

Sidiqi divulged new, unverified information every day, CNN reported German intelligence sources as saying.

The United States has increased drone aircraft strikes on al Qaeda-linked militants in Pakistan's northwest, with 21 attacks in September alone, the highest number in a single month.

It is as yet unclear, however, how closely these intensified drone strikes are linked to the reported plot in Europe.

NATO helicopters from Afghanistan have also attacked militant targets within Pakistan, drawing anger in Islamabad which has condemned these as violation of sovereignty.

Pakistan blocked one of the supply routes for NATO troops in Afghanistan after a helicopter strike last week killed three Pakistani soldiers in the western Kurram region.

NATO incursions and closure of the route have raised tensions between the United States and Pakistan, whose long relations have are often uneasy.

The CIA has also been trying to eliminate leaders of the Haqqani network, an Afghan Taliban faction operating out of North Waziristan which is one of the most effective forces fighting US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan.
Islamabad: A suspected US drone strike killed eight militants of German nationality in northwest Pakistan on Monday, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

They died when two missiles from a suspected CIA pilotless aircraft struck a mosque in Mirali in North Waziristan, the officials added.

The attack came a day after the United States and Britain warned of an increased risk of terrorist attacks in Europe. Western security officials said last week they believed a group in northern Pakistan were connected to a plot to stage attacks.


The militants were members of a group called Jihad Islami, the Pakistani intelligence officials said without elaborating. There was no independent verification and militants often dismiss official reports of successful operations against them.

"People were gathering at the mosque for prayers when a missile hit the building," Mohammad Alam, a resident of Mirali, said describing Monday's drone strike.

"The area has been cordoned off by militants and they are not allowing anyone there."

The State Department warned American citizens to exercise caution if travelling in Europe. Britain raised the threat level to "high" from "general" for its citizens travelling to Germany and France.

US-Pakistan tensions

The immediate trigger for Sunday's travel alerts was intelligence about a plot against European targets reportedly originating with a group of individuals in mountainous northern Pakistan, some of them believed to be European citizens.

One security official in Germany said last week word of the plot had probably originated from the interrogation of a German-Afghan suspect in Afghanistan.

The suspect believed to be behind the intelligence was identified by media as Ahmed Sidiqi, a German of Afghan origin. German media said he came from Hamburg and had been held in the US military prison of Bagram in Afghanistan since July.

German counter-terrorism expert Guido Steinberg said Sidiqi was a member of a cell of militants from Hamburg that was believed to be a central component of the conspiracy.

Steinberg said the cell left for Pakistan in March 2009 and joined Pakistan-based members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a Central Asian militant organisation.

CNN reported the 11-strong group included a German of Syrian descent and a German of Iranian descent while an associate of the plot was a Frenchman of Algerian origin, it said

Sidiqi divulged new, unverified information every day, CNN reported German intelligence sources as saying.

The United States has increased drone aircraft strikes on al Qaeda-linked militants in Pakistan's northwest, with 21 attacks in September alone, the highest number in a single month.

It is as yet unclear, however, how closely these intensified drone strikes are linked to the reported plot in Europe.

NATO helicopters from Afghanistan have also attacked militant targets within Pakistan, drawing anger in Islamabad which has condemned these as violation of sovereignty.

Pakistan blocked one of the supply routes for NATO troops in Afghanistan after a helicopter strike last week killed three Pakistani soldiers in the western Kurram region.

NATO incursions and closure of the route have raised tensions between the United States and Pakistan, whose long relations have are often uneasy.

The CIA has also been trying to eliminate leaders of the Haqqani network, an Afghan Taliban faction operating out of North Waziristan which is one of the most effective forces fighting US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan.

North Waziristan, a forbidding tribal area, is home to a variety of militants fighting the Pakistani government or battling US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan, or both.

Some are foreigners who have taken up the cause of holy war against the West and see North Waziristan as a safe haven or training ground. US officials say drones are valuable weapons which have killed high-profile Taliban and al Qaeda figures in an area in northwest Pakistan described as a global hub for militants.

Pakistan worries the strikes undermine efforts to deal with militancy because civilian casualties inflame public anger and bolster support for the fighters.

Elimination of high-profile targets could not be possible without Pakistani intelligence, however, analysts say.
READ MORE - Drone strike kills 8 Germans in northwest Pakistan

World's first 'cyber superweapon' attacks China

Virus1.jpg
The virus has wreaked havoc in China, infecting millions of computers around the country
BEIJING: A computer virus dubbed the world's "first cyber superweapon" by experts and which may have been designed to attack Iran's nuclear facilities has found a new target -- China.

It has wreaked havoc in China, infecting millions of computers around the country, state media reported this week. Stuxnet is feared by experts around the globe as it can break into computers that control machinery at the heart of industry, allowing an attacker to assume control of critical systems like pumps, motors, alarms and valves.

It could, technically, make factory boilers explode, destroy gas pipelines or even cause a nuclear plant to malfunction. The virus targets control systems made by German industrial giant Siemens commonly used to manage water supplies, oil rigs, power plants and other industrial facilities.

"This malware is specially designed to sabotage plants and damage industrial systems, instead of stealing personal data," an engineer surnamed Wang at antivirus service provider Rising told the Global Times.

"Once Stuxnet successfully penetrates factory computers in China, those industries may collapse, which would damage China's national security," he added. Another unnamed expert at Rising International said the attacks had so far infected more than six million individual accounts and nearly 1,000 corporate accounts around the country, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The Stuxnet computer worm -- a piece of malicious software (malware) which copies itself and sends itself on to other computers in a network -- was first publicly identified in June.

It was found lurking on Siemens systems in India, Indonesia, Pakistan and elsewhere, but the heaviest infiltration appears to be in Iran, according to software security researchers.

A Beijing-based spokesman for Siemens declined to comment when contacted. Yu Xiaoqiu, an analyst with the Information Technology Security Evaluation Centre, downplayed the malware threat.

"So far we don't see any severe damage done by the virus," Yu was quoted by the Global Times as saying. "New viruses are common nowadays. Both personal Internet surfers and Chinese pillar companies don't need to worry about it at all. They should be alert but not too afraid of it."

A top US cybersecurity official said last week that the country was analysing the computer worm but did not know who was behind it or its purpose.

"One of our hardest jobs is attribution and intent," Sean McGurk, director of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), told reporters in Washington. "It's very difficult to say 'This is what it was targeted to do,'" he said of Stuxnet, which some computer security experts have said may be intended to sabotage a nuclear facility in Iran.

A is a term used by experts to describe a piece of malware designed specifically to hit computer networks that run industrial plants. "The Stuxnet worm is a wake-up call to governments around the world," Derek Reveron, a cyber expert at the US Naval War School, was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post. 
READ MORE - World's first 'cyber superweapon' attacks China

Israeli cyber unit responsible for Iran computer worm – claim

An elite Israeli military unit responsible for cyberwarfare has been accused of creating a virus that has crippled Iran's computer systems and stopped work at its newest nuclear power station.
 
Israel demonstrated its intent to conquer cyber warfare in the 1990s by presenting the country's legions of hackers with a choice between prison and working for the state.
Israel has led the way in combating cyber attacks Photo: ALAMY
Computer experts have discovered a biblical reference embedded in the code of the computer worm that has pointed to Israel as the origin of the cyber attack.
The code contains the word "myrtus", which is the Latin biological term for the myrtle tree. The Hebrew word for myrtle, Hadassah, was the birth name of Esther, the Jewish queen of Persia.
In the Bible, The Book of Esther tells how the queen pre-empted an attack on the country's Jewish population and then persuaded her husband to launch an attack before being attacked themselves.
Israel has threatened to launch a pre-emptive attack on Iran's facilities to ensure that the Islamic state does not gain the ability to threaten its existence.
Ralf Langner, a German researcher, claims that Unit 8200, the signals intelligence arm of the Israeli defence forces, perpetrated the computer virus attack by infiltrating the software into the Bushehr nuclear power station
Mr Langer said: "If you read the Bible you can make a guess."
Computer experts have spent months tracing the origin of the Stuxnet worm, a sophisticated piece of malicious software, or malware, that has infected industrial operating systems made by the German firm Siemens across the globe.
Programmers following Stuxnet believe it was most likely introduced to Iran on a memory stick, possibly by one of the Russian firms helping to build Bushehr. The same firm has projects in Asia, including India and Indonesia which were also attacked. Iran is thought to have suffered 60 per cent of the attacks.
Mr Langner said: "It would be an absolute no-brainer to leave an infected USB stick near one of these guys and there would be more than a 50 per cent chance of him pick it up and infect his computer."
Cyber security experts said that Israel was the most likely perpetrator of the attack and had been targeting Iran but that it had not acknowledged a role to its allies.
"Nobody is willing to accept responsibility for this particular piece of malicious software which is a curious, complex and powerful weapon," said one Whitehall expert.
The Iranian authorities acknowledged the worm had struck Bushehr and a statement conceded that the plant would come into operation in January, two months later than planned.
Elizabeth Katina, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute, said the possibility of a copycat attack on British or American electricity networks or water supplies had been elevated by the release of Stuxnet.
"Critical national infrastructure is at greater risk because this shows groups on the outside of governments how to do it," she said. "It's more likely now that the northeast of England power grid can be shut down until someone decides to start it up again."
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