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Suspect in New Year’s Eve Attack on Istanbul Nightclub Captured Alive

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Suspect aught with his son in a raid in an Istanbul suburb.

The man authorities suspect of being behind the New Year’s Eve attack on an Istanbul nightclub has been captured alive, according to Turkish police sources.

The alleged attacker was caught with his son in a raid on the Esenyurt suburb of Istanbul, sources said.

Thirty-nine people were killed in the attack and dozens more were injured.

Authorities said the gunman fired 180 rounds of 7.62-mm bullets, which are commonly used in AK-47 assault rifles. The attacker also used flares to illuminate the inside of the nightclub during the attack, according to police.

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Police said they don’t believe the weapon used in the attack came from inside Turkey. The serial number on the weapon had been defaced. Read the rest of this entry »

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[VIDEO] No Arrests in Siege of Belgian Extremist Hub as Suspected ‘Mastermind’ of Paris Attacks Identified 

TOPSHOTS Police officers stand guard as an operation takes place in the Molenbeek district of Brussels on November 16, 2015. Belgian police launched a major new operation in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, where several suspects in the Paris attacks had previously lived, AFP journalists said. Armed police stood in front of a police van blocking a street in the run-down area of the capital while Belgian media said officers had surrounded a house. Belgian prosecutors had no immediate comment. AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYSJOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images

Belgian believed to be behind Paris attacks

DEVELOPING — Explosions rang out Monday during a massive police operation in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek as investigators searched for a suspect in the Paris massacre, but they said they failed to make any arrests.

Police were seeking the suspected attacker Salah Abdeslam, 26, and any possible associates. Dozens of masked and heavily armed security officials had sealed off the area and neighbors were told to stay out of harm’s way. Molenbeek mayor Francoise Schepmans said the operation ended after more than three hours.

One of the suspect’s brothers, Brahim Abdeslam, killed himself in Friday’s string of attacks. Another brother, Mohammad, was released after being detained over the weekend, according to his attorney. She told the RTL network her client “hadn’t made the same life choices.”

In all, five of the seven people who were detained over the weekend because of possible links to the massacre have been released, according to the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office. Two others have been charged with being part of a terror group and links to a terror attack, the office said in a statement.

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The U.S. and Russia were among the nations rushing to France’s aid. French president Francois Hollande announced Monday that he would soon speak with Presidents Barack Obama and mastermind-sqVladimir Putin to discuss pooling their efforts to destroy ISIS. He also urged his parliament to extend France’s state of emergency for three months.

Investigators identified a Belgian jihadist believed to be fighting alongside ISIS in Syria as the suspected mastermind behind Friday’s attacks that killed at least 129 people.

A French official told The Associated Press that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old from Molenbeek, was also believed to have ties to the thwarted attack on a Paris-bound high-speed train this past August, as well as a failed plot to attack a Paris-area church. He is reportedly the child of Moroccan immigrants.

telegraph

The Daily Telegraph reported that Abaaoud was the head of a terror cell based in Verviers, Belgium that was broken up by police this past January. However, he appears to have escaped the clutches of the authorities and made his way to Syria.

Salah Abdeslam had been stopped at the French border with Belgium early Saturday, hours after the attacks, The Associated Press reported. Read the rest of this entry »


Central Asia’s Energy Rush

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Image Credit: REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

For The Diplomat, Michał Romanowski writes: Central Asia is rapidly emerging as the key playing field in the contest to access energy resources and the leverage they offer. The new Great Game is played out once again in the region, only this time it is not over political or territorial influence, but over the vast raw material deposits that are in the possession of the former Soviet Union republics, especially those situated by the Caspian Sea. The Caspian’s share of oil and gas global exports is set to rise to 9 and 11 percent, respectively, in the coming 20 years. Much is at stake.

The region’s major powers compete to control energy sources

Russia, although not a direct producer, was and still is – given the developed pipeline network – supervising much of an energy transit from Central Asia. The Central Asia-Center gas pipeline system, the first line of which was completed in 1960, makes for a good case study. It allows both Uzbek and Turkmen gas to be delivered to Russia, which then resells it at a profit to energy-hungry Europe or uses it for domestic purposes. Moscow exercises its influence over the region and as a consequence gains both politically and economically.

“China in fact controls around 20 percent of Kazakhstan’s oil production and is its key trade partner. Bilateral trade should reach $40 billion next year.”

In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Central Asian states sought to loosen Russia’s firm grip. An independent complex pipeline system was a priority for transporting the resources outward. Given that the Caspian Sea is landlocked, gas and oil need to cross several borders before reaching an end customer. This requires a very substantial investment, yet energy diversification in Central Asia is moving steadily ahead. Read the rest of this entry »


Analysis: Post-America Conflict From Beijing to Jerusalem

Gunmen gather in a street as they chant slogans against Iraq's Shiite-led government and demanding that the Iraqi army not try to enter the city in Fallujah (AP Photo)

Gunmen gather in a street as they chant slogans against Iraq’s Shiite-led government and demanding that the Iraqi army not try to enter the city in Fallujah (AP Photo)

Robert D. Kaplan writes:  As the events of the past week demonstrate, the Middle East has still not found a solution to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Melting away before our eyes is the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, in which the British and French carved out spheres of influence in the Levant, leading to the creation of Syria and Iraq. A terrorist Sunnistan has now emerged between the Lebanese city of Tripoli and the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, while a messy child’s finger-painting of different tribalized sovereignties defines Sunni and Shia areas of control between the eastern edge of the Mediterranean and the Iranian plateau. This happens even as a sprawling and fractious Kurdistan sinks tenuous roots atop the corpses of Baathist regimes. But Middle Eastern chaos is but prologue to the drama sweeping much of the temperate zone of Afro-Asia all the way to China. Indeed, so much else is going on beyond the Levant that the media overlooks: not necessarily violent, but increasingly and intensely interrelated. Understanding it all requires not a knowledge of Washington policy alternatives, but of classical geography.

The ancient Greeks had a term for what they considered the “inhabited quarter” of the globe: the Oikoumene, the temperate zone of the Afro-Asian landmass stretching from North Africa to the confines of western China. Marshall Hodgson, the great historian of the Middle East at the University of Chicago who died in 1968, defined the Oikoumene as more-or-less “Nile-to-Oxus,” a term both grand and suggestive, linking as it did the river valley civilization of Egypt with that of Central Asia, and connoting the intricate tapestry of peoples, trade networks and conflicts from one end of Afro-Asia to another. Nile-to-Oxus perfectly sums up a vast zone of quasi-anarchy that we now can no longer deny. For the Cold War divisions of area studies—which both circumscribe and distort the work of academics, journalists and government analysts—are finally yielding to a more organic and fluid geography: not the geography of globalization in which people desert their cultures for the sake of cosmopolitan values and identities; but the geography of interacting, catalytic instability.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Great Game

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The Weekly Standard‘s  Ken Jensen writes: The cartoon above is from the Great Game era in Central Asia, when the British and Russians were in a contest for places like Afghanistan and Iran. It’s strongly (perhaps perversely) suggestive given current events.

Could it be that, in withdrawing from the Middle East, the United States believes the Russian bear will sit on the Persian (nuclear-clawed) cat and keep him in order—along with Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon—so that the (cowardly) lion(s) of the West can stand by and do nothing?

Could this be the realpolitik fantasy that underlies Obama’s “multipolar” Middle East fantasy?