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Paris Police: Soldier Opens Fire Outside the Louvre Museum

French soldiers enforcing the Vigipirate plan, France's national security alert system, patrol in front of the Louvre museum on November 16, 2015 in Paris, three days after a series of deadly oordinated attacks claimed by Islamic State jihadists, which killed at least 129 people and left more than 350 injured on November 13. AFP PHOTO/DOMINIQUE FAGET / AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET

French media reported on Friday that a soldier has opened fire on a man armed with a knife at a shopping centre next to the famous Louvre museum in Paris.

Reports say the soldier opened fire on the knifeman after he attacked him at the Louvre Carrousel shopping centre on Friday morning.

According to reports the attacker was shot in the leg. A security cordon has been set up and the underground Louvre Carrousel shopping centre has been evacuated.

Reports on Twitter said tourists at the museum were being moved into rooms to keep them safe. The Louvre itself has declined to comment on the situation.

Images on Twitter also appeared to show worried visitors outside the world famous museum.

“Something is going down at The  30 National Police vehicles with guns drawn,” said one tweeter.

An alarm can be heard in the background. A worried passerby can be heard saying: “I wonder if it’s a training exercise”.

France’s interior ministry confirmed on Twitter that a serious security operation was underway in the area around the Louvre.

Paris and the rest of France is on high alert for terrorism after a series of attacks in recent years. Read the rest of this entry »

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USS Mason Fired 3 Missiles to Defend From Yemen Cruise Missiles Attack

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Mason launched two Standard Missile-2s (SM-2s) and a single Enhanced Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) to intercept the two missiles that were launched about 7 P.M. local time. In addition to the missiles, the ship used its Nulka anti-ship missile decoy

 reports: The crew of a guided-missile destroyer fired three missiles to defend themselves and another ship after being attacked on Sunday in the Red Sea by two presumed cruise missiles fired by Iran-backed Houthi-forces, USNI News has learned.

During the attack against USS Mason (DDG-87), the ship’s crew fired the missiles to defend the guided-missile destroyer and nearby USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) from two suspected cruise missiles fired from the Yemini shore, two defense officials told USNI News.

Mason launched two Standard Missile-2s (SM-2s) and a single Enhanced Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) to intercept the two missiles that were launched about 7 P.M. local time. In addition to the missiles, the ship used its Nulka anti-ship missile decoy, the sources confirmed. Mason was operating in international waters north of the strait of Bab el-Mandeb at the time of the attack.

Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) on April 11, 2016. US Navy Photo

Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) on April 11, 2016. US Navy Photo

According to a defense official on Monday, Mason “employed onboard defensive measures” against the first suspected cruise missile, “although it is unclear whether this led to the missile striking the water or whether it would have struck the water anyway.” The official did not specify that the defensive measure was a missile fired from the ship.

USNI News understands, as of Monday, the crew of the ship was uncertain if the suspected cruise missile was taken out by an SM-2 or went into the water on its own. In the Monday statement, the Pentagon said an investigation was ongoing.

The second missile launched from Yemen hit the water without being struck by a U.S. interceptor, the Pentagon said. Read the rest of this entry »


Multiple Suicide Blasts Hit Saudi Arabia

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Riyadh (AFP) – Three suicide bombers struck in Saudi Arabia on Monday in a rare incidence of multiple attacks in the kingdom where the Islamic State group has previously staged deadly attacks.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility.

The latest explosion occurred at one of Islam’s three holiest sites, the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina in the kingdom’s west where Mohammed is buried, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel reported.

Other blasts occurred in the Red Sea city of Jeddah near the US consulate and in Shiite-dominated Qatif on the other side of the country.

The interior ministry said two security officers were wounded in the Jeddah bombing.

Residents of Qatif said only the bomber died in that attack, blowing his body apart near a Shiite mosque.

Al-Arabiya said the Medina incident occurred during sunset prayers after which Muslims break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan, which ends Tuesday.

It showed images of fire raging in a security forces parking lot with at least one body nearby.

The Prophet’s Mosque is particularly crowded during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is supposed to be a time of charity but has seen spectacular attacks around the region.

Sunni extremists from IS claimed, or weer blamed for, a suicide bombing in Baghdad on Sunday that killed more than 200 people as well as other attacks in Bangladesh and at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport.

At about the same time as the Medina blast, another bomber killed himself in Qatif, residents there said.

“Suicide bomber for sure. I can see the body” torn apart, said one witness to the attack in Qatif.

Nasima al-Sada, another resident, told AFP that “one bomber blew himself up near the mosque”, frequented by Shiites in downtown Qatif on the Gulf coast. Read the rest of this entry »


Match Made in Hell: SoCal Terrorists Likely Forged Bond in Online Jihadist Forums

Hollie McKay reports: The online romance between Southern California terrorists Farook Rizwan Syed and Tashfeen Malik was more a meeting of like minds than lonely hearts, with two radical jihadists forming a bond of hate and bloodlust in the dark recesses of the Internet.

Family members have said Syed, 28, and Malik, 29, met online and embarked on a whirlwind digital relationship capped by their 2014 marriage. But if they did, it was not on any dating site resembling those that bring people together every day in the civilized world. Their meeting brought together two already-radicalized soulmates who would go on to kill 14 people and wound 21 more in last week’s massacre at a San Bernardino social services facility

“They were actually radicalized before they started [dating online],” FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers Wednesday. “As early as the end of 2013 they were talking about jihad and martyrdom, before they became engaged.”

“As early as the end of 2013 they were talking about jihad and martyrdom, before they became engaged.”

– FBI Director James Comey

Farook seemingly set up several profiles years ago in his search for a wife – reportedly using sites like Dubaimatrimonial.com, BestMuslim.com and iMilap.com, which is an Indian-centered matrimonial and dating site “for people with disabilities and remarriage.

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A spokesperson for iMilap.com confirmed to FoxNews.com that while Farook has an inactive profile not in public view, Malik never belonged to the site and they have no history of any such name or details. In his profiles, Farook described himself as a “devout” Muslim and added that he spends “much free time in the [mosque] memorizing the Quran and learning more about the religion.”

[Read the full story here, at Fox News]

As for Malik, she was an online ghost, and experts said absent her participation in hardcore jihadist chat forums or use of a pseudonym, it is unlikely that she met Farook innocently. Read the rest of this entry »


Dept. of Unpopular Reality: ‘George W. Bush Didn’t Create ISIS; Islam Did’, by David French

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David French, National ReviewRead more…


Iran Fires on, Seizes U.S. Ship in Gulf

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Pentagon officials say the US is monitoring the seizure by Iran of a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship

Iran has opened fire at a U.S. cargo ship and directed it to Bandar Abbas port on the southern coast of Iran, Al Arabiya News Channel has reported on Tuesday.

A Pentagon spokesman told Reuters Iranian forces had boarded a Marshall Island-flagged vessel, the MV Maersk Tigris, in the Gulf. He said the boarding occurred after Iranian patrol boats fired shots across the vessel’s bow and ordered it deeper into Iranian waters.

U.S. planes and a destroyer were monitoring the situation after the vessel, the MV Maersk Tigris, made a distress call in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most important oil shipping channels.

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The ship had no U.S. citizens aboard, the spokesman said, contradicting earlier reports which said there were 34 U.S. sailors on board.

Reuters tracking data showed the Maersk, a 65,000-tonne container ship, off the Iranian coast between the islands of Qeshm and Hormuz. It was listed as sailing from the Saudi port of Jeddah, bound for the United Arab Emirates port of Jebel Ali.

A U.S. government official said the ship was intercepted by the Naval force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) at 0905 GMT. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Everybody Knows Who killed Her and Why’: Gunmen Kill Prominent Female Activist Sabeen Mahmud in Pakistan

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Friends are calling it an assassination

(KARACHI, Pakistan)— Adil Jawad reports: Gunmen on a motorcycle killed a prominent women’s rights activist in Pakistan just hours after she held a forum on the country’s restive Baluchistan region, home to a long-running insurgency, police said Saturday.

While investigators declined to speculate on a motive for the killing of Sabeen Mahmud, friends and colleagues immediately described her death as a targeted assassination in Pakistan, a country with a nascent democracy where the military and intelligence services still hold tremendous sway.

The gunmen shot both Mahmud and her mother, Mehnaz Mahmud, as they stopped at a traffic light Friday night in an upscale Karachi neighborhood, senior police officer Zafar Iqbal said. Later, Mahmud’s car was brought to a nearby police station; blood stained the car’s white exterior, the front driver’s side window was smashed and a pair of sandals sat on the floor, surrounded by broken glass.

“Two men riding a motorcycle opened fire on the car,” Iqbal said. Mahmud “died on her way to the hospital. Her mother was also wounded,” he said.

Alia Chughtai, a close friend of Mahmud, told The Associated Press that Mahmud was driving at the time of attack and her mother was sitting next to her. Chughtai said Mahmud’s driver, who escaped unharmed, was sitting in the back seat at the time of the attack. She said she did not know why the driver wasn’t driving the car.

Iqbal and other police officials declined to speculate on a motive for the slaying. However, earlier that night, Mahmud hosted an event at her organization called The Second Floor to discuss human rights in Baluchistan, an impoverished but resource-rich southwestern province bordering Iran.

Thousands of people have disappeared from Baluchistan province in recent years amid a government crackdown on nationalists and insurgent groups there. Activists blame the government and intelligence agencies for the disappearances, something authorities deny. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Navy Offical Reports: U.S. Warship Heads to Yemeni Waters

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DEVELOPING: U.S. Navy officials say the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is steaming toward the waters off Yemen and will join other American ships prepared to intercept any Iranian vessels carrying weapons to the Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen.

The U.S. Navy has been beefing up its presence in the Gulf of Aden and the southern Arabian Sea amid reports that a convoy of Iranian ships may be headed toward Yemen to arm the Houthis.

The Houthis are battling government-backed fighters in an effort to take control of the country.

There are about nine U.S. ships in the region, including cruisers and destroyers carrying teams that can board and search other vessels. Read the rest of this entry »


St. Helena Island’s Secret Weapon: Some of the Rarest, Most Expensive Coffee in the World

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The rare beans have fans in independent coffee roasters and dealers in the European Union, Russia, Japan, the United States, South Korea and Taiwan

Jamestown (AFP) – Jean Liou reports: Most coffee snobs can only dream of sipping on a brew made from Saint Helena beans. Imported from Yemen in the 18th century, the tiny South Atlantic island’s green-tipped Bourbon Arabica coffee plant produces some of the world’s most expensive — and most delectable — beans.

St Helena coffee’s most famous fan was French emperor Napoleon, who said it was “the only good thing” about living in exile in a rat-infested house on the island for six years until his death in 1821.

“This coffee has a superb fragrant bouquet with no off flavours and pleasant floral fruity hints of citrus and caramel strongly hinting of its Yemeni origins.”

The sheer remoteness of the far-flung British island — stranded between South America and Africa — has preserved the genetic heritage of the coffee planted by the East India Company, the English trading company, almost 300 years ago.

But good luck getting your hands on the beans, which have become scarce after years of neglect.

The RMS Saint Helena anchored in the bay of the South Atlantic island of Saint Helena off the coast from Jamestown (AFP Photo/Jean Liou)

The RMS Saint Helena anchored in the bay of the South Atlantic island of Saint Helena off the coast from Jamestown (AFP Photo/Jean Liou)

Coffee groves on the island, which has a varied climate despite being on the equator, were left deserted until some enthusiasts started cultivating the crop again in the 1990s.

That renaissance was short-lived. The main producer went bankrupt, even after putting the beans on sale in London’s exclusive Harrods store.

“Our market is global but the quantities are tiny. For example, the harvest this year is 200 kilos (440 pounds), which does not take us very far.”

— Peter de Bruyne, director of British importer St Helena Trading

Then in 2009, Solomon & Company — a public company known as Solomons on the island — took over and breathed new life into the Bamboo Hedge plantation.

“It had become overgrown and there was die-back on many of the trees,” said Mandy Peters, Solomons’ executive director.

Bill Bolton, 74, a pensioner from Britain who has lived in Saint Helena since 1991, walks in his coffee plantation in Jamestown on March 14, 2015 (AFP Photo/Jean Liou)

Bill Bolton, 74, a pensioner from Britain who has lived in Saint Helena since 1991, walks in his coffee plantation in Jamestown on March 14, 2015 (AFP Photo/Jean Liou)

“It’s a hobby, really. It’s very slow and laborious, everything is done by hand.”

— Bill Bolton, who runs a cafe near the port of Jamestown, the capital of the island

“We have been slowly rebuilding the plantation.”

Still, the organic beans are in short supply.

Solomons produces between one and 1.5 tonnes a year, a tiny amount considering world coffee production was about 8.5 million tonnes in 2014. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Al-Qaeda Celebrates Obama Administration’s Foreign Policy Success by Capturing Major Airport in Southern Yemen

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Al Qaeda overran the city itself earlier this month and freed inmates, including a militant commander, from its prison.

AHMED AL-HAJ reports: Military officials and residents say al-Qaida has taken control of a major airport in southern Yemen after briefly clashing with troops.

“Nasser Baqazouz, an activist in the city, said the troops guarding the airport put up little resistance.”

The officials say al-Qaida fighters clashed Thursday with members of the infantry brigade in charge of protecting the Riyan airport in the city of Mukalla, a major port city and the provincial capital of Yemen‘s largest province, Hadramawt.

Al-Qaida overran the city itself earlier this month and freed inmates, including a militant commander, from its prison. Read the rest of this entry »


Noonan: Misplaying America’s Hand With Iran

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The president’s desperation for a foreign-policy legacy is leading toward a bad nuclear deal—and a dangerous one

Peggy Noonan writes: Barack Obama, six years into his presidency, does not have a foreign-policy legacy—or, rather, he does and it’s bad. He has a visceral and understandable reluctance to extend and overextend U.S. power, but where that power has been absent, violence and instability have filled the void. When he overcomes his reluctance to get involved, he picks the wrong place, such as Libya, where the tyrant we toppled was better than many of those attempting to take his place.

“The Arab world has entered a war phase that may go for decades. Its special threat is that the struggle is not only an essential one—Sunni vs. Shia, in a fight to the end—but that it engenders and is marked by what British Prime Minister David Cameron has called ‘the death cult.’ Many in the fight have no particular fear of summoning the end of the world.”

Syria, red lines, an exploding Mideast, a Russian president who took the American’s measure and made a move, upsetting a hard-built order that had maintained for a quarter-century since the fall of the Soviet Union—what a mess.

In late February, at a Washington meeting of foreign-policy intellectuals, Henry Kissinger summed up part of the past six years: “Ukraine has lost Crimea; Russia has lost Ukraine; the U.S. has lost Russia; the world has lost stability.”

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“Nuclear proliferation has been a problem for so long that we no longer talk or think about it. But in the current moment in the Mideast, we’re not talking ‘nuclear proliferation’ in the abstract. It’s more like talking about the spread of nuclear weapons among the inmates of an institution for the criminally insane.”

What Barack Obama needs is a foreign-policy win, and not only for reasons of legacy. He considers himself a serious man, he wants to deal constructively with a pressing, high-stakes international question, and none fits that description better than Iran and nuclear weapons. And so the talks in Lausanne, Switzerland.

[Read the full text here, at the Wall Street Journal]

Here is the fact. The intention behind a deal—to stop Iran from developing, and in the end using, nuclear weapons—could not be more serious and crucial. The Arab world has entered a war phase that may go for decades. Its special threat is that the struggle is not only an essential one—Sunni vs. Shia, in a fight to the end—but that it engenders and is marked by what British Prime Minister David Cameron has called “the death cult.” Many in the fight have no particular fear of summoning the end of the world.

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“There are many reasons nuclear weapons have not been used since 1945. One is that the U.S. was not evil and the Soviet Union was not crazy. It was also a triumph of diplomacy, of imperfect but ultimately sound strategic thinking, that kept the unthinkable from happening.” 

Once Iran has what used to be called the bomb, there will be a race among nearby nations—Persian Gulf states, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey—to get their own. As each state builds its arsenal, there will be an increased chance that freelancers, non-states and sub-states will get their hands on parts of it.

The two most boring words in history are “nuclear proliferation.” Jimmy Carter made them so on Oct. 28, 1980, when, in a presidential debate, he announced that his 12-year-old daughter, Amy, had told him that the great issue of the day was the control of nuclear arms. America laughed: So that’s where the hapless one gets his geopolitical insights. Read the rest of this entry »


Kenya’s Garissa University College Attacked by Masked Gunman, CEC Health Reports 30 Casualties Taken to Hospital, 4 ‘Very Serious’

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Alexander Smith reports: At least two people were killed and 30 others injured after armed attackers stormed a college in Kenya on Thursday, officials said.

The attackers “shot indiscriminately” inside the compound of Garissa University College, prompting an hours-long gun battle with security forces, Kenya’s National Police Service said in a statement.

The attack comes three days after President Barack Obama announced he would visit the East African country in July.

The country’s National Disaster Operation Center said two people had been killed in the incident, according to Reuters. The Kenya Red Cross said 30 people had been injured, four of which were “very serious.” Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Houthi Forces Fire Tear Gas at Yemen Protesters


Iran Calls Saudi Airstrikes in Yemen ‘Dangerous Step’

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Saudi ambassador to the United States Adel al-Jubeir announced the military operation in a news conference in Washington. He said his government had consulted closely with the U.S. and other allies but that the U.S. military was not involved in the operations.

The White House said in a statement late Wednesday that the U.S. was coordinating military and intelligence support with the Saudis but not taking part directly in the strikes.

Other regional players were involved in the Saudi operation: The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain joined Saudi Arabia in a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency, saying they would answer a request from Hadi “to protect Yemen and his dear people from the aggression of the Houthi militias which were and are still a tool in the hands of foreign powers that don’t stop meddling with the security and stability of brotherly Yemen.” Oman, the sixth member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, didn’t sign onto the statement.

Egypt also announced political and military support. “There is coordination ongoing now with Saudi Arabia and the brotherly gulf countries about preparations to participate with an Egyptian air and naval forces and ground troops if necessary,” it said in a statement carried by the state news agency.

Pakistan, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan were also joining the operation, the Saudi Press Agency reported Thursday. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Saudi Arabia Launches Airstrikes in Yemen, Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir Says

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WASHINGTON –  The Saudi ambassador to the United States says his country has begun airstrikes against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who drove out the U.S.-backed Yemeni president.

Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir says the operations began at 7 p.m. Eastern time.

He says the Houthis, widely believed to be backed by Iran, “have always chosen the path of violence.” He declined to say whether the Saudi campaign involved U.S. intelligence assistance.

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Al-Jubeir made the announcement at a rare news conference by the Sunni kingdom.

He says the Saudis “will do anything necessary” to protect the people of Yemen and “the legitimate government of Yemen.” Read the rest of this entry »


Michael J. Totten: Yemen Falls Apart

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Michael J. Tottentotten reports: Suicide-bombers killed at least 137 people and wounded more than 350 in Yemen at two Shia mosques in the capital city of Sanaa on Friday. The very next day, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula seized control of the city of al-Houta, and the day after that, the Iranian-backed Houthi rebel movement conquered parts of Taiz, the nation’s third-largest city. Rival militias are battling for control of the international airport in the coastal city of Aden, and the US government just announced that American troops are evacuating Al Anad airbase.

ISIS is taking credit for the Sanaa attacks. “Infidel Houthis should know that the soldiers of the Islamic State will not rest,” it said, “until they eradicate them and cut off the arm of the Safavid (Iranian) plan in Yemen.” Al Qaeda has a much larger footprint in Yemen, so the ISIS claim is a little bit dubious, but ISIS is on the rise there and its attitude toward Shia Muslims is more bloodthirsty—more explicitly genocidal as the quote above shows—than Al Qaeda’s.

Regardless of who committed the latest round of atrocities, everything in Yemen is about to become much, much worse. The region-wide storm of sectarian hatred has been gathering strength by the year for more than a decade, and it blew the roof off Yemen earlier this year when the Tower of the Sun Cover for blog-2Houthis, who are Shias, seized control of the capital and sent Sunni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi into semi-exile in Aden.

[Order Michael J. Totten‘s book “Tower of the Sun: Stories from the Middle East and North Africa” from Amazon.com] 

The Houthis see their takeover of the city and government institutions as a natural progression of the revolution in 2011 that toppled former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but it isn’t, not really. While they enjoy some backing beyond their Shia support base, the sectarian dimension is inescapable. Shias make up almost half the population, and the Sunni majority is keenly aware that minorities in the Middle East are capable of seizing power and lording it over everyone else—especially if they’re sponsored by a regional mini superpower like Iran. Syria has been ruled by the Iranian-backed Alawite minority for decades, and Saddam Hussein used brute force to bring the Sunni minority to power in Iraq.

Still, the Houthis have virtually no chance of ruling the entire country. Their “territory,” so to speak, is restricted to the northwestern region surrounding the capital. Previous governments had a rough go of it too. South Yemen was a communist state—the so-called People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen—until the Soviet Union finally ruptured, and four years after unification with North Yemen, the armed forces of each former half declared war on each other. Read the rest of this entry »


Pentagon Official: ‘Even in the Best-Case Scenario in an Unstable Country We Never Have 100 Percent Accountability’

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Pentagon Loses Track of $500 Million in Weapons, Equipment Given to Yemen

Craig Whitlock reports: The Pentagon is unable to account for more than $500 million in U.S. military aid given to Yemen, amid fears that the weaponry, aircraft and equipment is at risk of being seized by Iranian-backed rebels or al-Qaeda, according to U.S. officials.

With Yemen in turmoil and its government splintering, the Defense Department has lost its ability to monitor the whereabouts of small arms, ammunition, night-vision goggles, patrol boats, vehicles and other supplies donated by the United States. The situation has grown worse since the United States closed its embassy in Sanaa, the capital, last month and withdrew many of its military advisers.

In recent weeks, members of Congress have held closed-door meetings with U.S. military officials to press for an accounting of the arms and equipment. Pentagon officials have said that they have little information to go on and that there is little they can do at this point to prevent the weapons and gear from falling into the wrong hands.

“We have to assume it’s completely compromised and gone,” said a legislative aide on Capitol Hill who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

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[Yemen Arms View Graphic] 

U.S. military officials declined to comment for the record. A defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon, said there was no hard evidence that U.S. arms or equipment had been looted or confiscated. But the official acknowledged that the Pentagon had lost track of the items.

“Even in the best-case scenario in an unstable country, we never have 100 percent accountability,” the defense official said.

Yemen’s government was toppled in January by Shiite Houthi rebels who receive support from Iran and have strongly criticized U.S. drone strikes in Yemen. The Houthis have taken over many Yemeni military bases in the northern part of the country, including some in Sanaa that were home to U.S.-trained counterterrorism units. Other bases have been overrun by fighters from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Auditors with the Government Accountability Office found that Humvees donated to the Yemeni Interior Ministry sat idle or broken because the Defense Ministry refused to share spare parts. (Government Accountability Office)

Auditors with the Government Accountability Office found that Humvees donated to the Yemeni Interior Ministry sat idle or broken because the Defense Ministry refused to share spare parts. (Government Accountability Office)

As a result, the Defense Department has halted shipments to Yemen of about $125 million in military hardware that were scheduled for delivery this year, including unarmed ScanEagle drones, other types of aircraft and Jeeps. That equipment will be donated instead to other countries in the Middle East and Africa, the defense official said. Read the rest of this entry »


Sources: U.S. Pulling Last of its Special Operations Forces Out of Yemen Due to Deteriorating Security

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U.S. evacuating Special Operations forces from Yemen

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN)The U.S. military is in the process of evacuating about 100 Special Operations forces members from the Al Anad airbase in Yemen due to that country’s deteriorating security situation, sources in the region familiar with the situation told CNN.

Those being evacuated are the last American troops stationed in the Arab nation, which is home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist group also known as AQAP. The United States closed its embassy in Sanaa last month, after Houthi rebels took over the Yemeni capital.

For years, the U.S. military has worked closely with Yemen’s government to go after AQAP, together carrying out numerous attacks like the 2011 drone strike that killed prominent al Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaki. And U.S. President Barack Obama has hailed this cooperation as a pillar in his anti-terrorism campaign.

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“Yemen has never been a perfect democracy or a island of stability,” Obama said in January, promoting the policy of “partnering and intelligence-sharing with that local government” as the best approach in a bad situation.

“The alternative would be for us to play whack-a-mole every time there is a terrorist actor inside of any given country,” the President said.

But while there have been drone strikes as recently as last month, these cooperative efforts have been hampered by Yemen’s growing difficulty in maintaining unity and peace. These include the rise of the Houthis, their battles with forces loyal to ousted President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and the presence of not only al Qaeda fighters but other militants. Read the rest of this entry »


State Department Official Dan Rosen Arrested, Suspected of Soliciting Sex from Minor

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Christine Mai-Duc reports: A senior State Department official who oversees counter-terrorism programs has been arrested on suspicion of of soliciting sex from a minor, authorities in Virginia said late Tuesday.Official_photo_of_Jen_Psaki

“We are aware that a State Department employee has been arrested and charges have been issued…His security clearance will be suspended, and he will be put on administrative leave while this proceeds to its end through any judicial process.”

— State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki

Daniel Rosen was arrested at his home in Washington, D.C., just after noon and is being held in the city’s jail on suspicion of use of a communications device to solicit a juvenile, said Lucy Caldwell, spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Police Department.

According to Caldwell, Rosen’s arrest was the result of an online exchange between him and detectives in her agency’s Child Exploitation Unit.

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He is expected to be extradited to the Fairfax County jail soon.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Rosen, 44, is the director of counter-terrorism programs and policy for the State Department. Police said they have notified the State Department of his arrest.

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“We are aware that a State Department employee has been arrested and charges have been issued,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Psaki declined to name the employee or the charges, citing privacy reasons. Read the rest of this entry »


Instability: U.S. Closes Embassy in Yemen Amid Continued Unrest, Staff Evacuated

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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — The State Department confirmed late Tuesday that it has closed the U.S. Embassy in Yemen and evacuated its staff because of the political crisis and security concerns following the takeover of much of the country by Shiite rebels.

“The United States remains firmly committed to supporting all Yemenis who continue to work toward a peaceful, prosperous and unified Yemen. We will explore options for a return to Sanaa when the situation on the ground improves.”

— State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki

The department announced it had suspended operations at the embassy in Sanaa and relocated its remaining diplomatic personnel “due to the ongoing political instability and the uncertain security situation.” The embassy had been operating with only a skeleton staff for some weeks amid deteriorating conditions.

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Yemen has been in crisis for months, with Iran-linked Shiite Houthi rebels besieging the capital and then taking control. Earlier Tuesday, U.S. officials said the embassy closure would not affect counterterrorism operations against al-Qaida’s Yemen branch.

“The United States remains firmly committed to supporting all Yemenis who continue to work toward a peaceful, prosperous and unified Yemen,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “We will explore options for a return to Sanaa when the situation on the ground improves.”

APTOPIX Mideast Yemen

The State Department also issued a travel warning advising U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and urging U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart.

Two U.S. officials said Marines providing the security at the embassy will also likely leave, but American forces conducting counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate in other parts of the country would not be affected. The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the closure publicly on the record.

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Although operations against al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate will continue, the closure of the embassy will be seen as a blow to the Obama administration, which has held up its partnership with ousted Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government as a model for his strategy in combatting terrorism, particularly in unstable countries.

“Yemen has never been a perfect democracy or an island of stability,” President Barack Obama said late last month as conditions in the capital of Sanaa became worse. “What I’ve said is, is that our efforts to go after terrorist networks inside of Yemen without an occupying U.S. army, but rather by partnering and intelligence-sharing with that local government, is the approach that we’re going to need to take.”

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The embassy closure will also complicate the CIA’s operations in Yemen, U.S. intelligence officials acknowledge. Although CIA officers could continue to work out of U.S. military installations, many intelligence operations are run from embassies, and the CIA lost visibility on Syria when that embassy was evacuated in 2012. The CIA’s main role in Yemen is to gather intelligence about members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and occasionally kill them with drone strikes. Both the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command run separate drone killing programs in Yemen, though the CIA has conducted the majority of the strikes, U.S. officials have said. Read the rest of this entry »


Tens of Thousands Protest in Yemen: ‘Hadi, Hadi, Return, Your People Are Awake’

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Largest Protest Since Houthis Rebels Swept into the Capital 

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Tens of thousands of Yemenis marched in protest on Saturday against Shiite rebels who hold the capital, amid a power vacuum in a country that is home to what Washington describes as al-Qaida‘s most dangerous offshoot.

Some 20,000 hit the streets of the capital, Sanaa, where demonstrators converged on the house of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who resigned Thursday along with his Cabinet. It was the largest protest since the rebels, known as Houthis, swept into the capital in September.

Protesters carried banners and chanted slogans denouncing the rebels and demanding the restoration of the president. Scuffles involving knives and batons broke out in one instance in Sanaa when the rebels tried to block one procession, leaving two demonstrators and one Houthi injured. Read the rest of this entry »


Yemen President’s Chief of Staff Abducted

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Anti-Castro Cubans Fled to the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay 50 Years Ago…

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Anti-Castro Cubans fled to the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay 50 years ago—and never left


[VIDEO] Salman Rushdie: ‘The Moment You Limit Free Speech It’s Not Free Speech’

The University of Vermont in Burlington invited Salman Rushdie to speak on campus Wednesday night, giving The Satanic Verses author a chance to deliver his most comprehensive response yet to the terrorist attack that targeting French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Rushdie used the opportunity to defend free speech as an absolute right that cannot be diminished just because you happen to disagree with what someone is trying to say.

“The moment somebody says, ‘Yes I believe in free speech, but’ — I stop listening.”

Rushdie said Charlie Hebdo and its cartoonists were “beloved” in France for the willingness to make fun of anyone and everyone. “The thing that I really resent is the way in which these, our dead comrades… who died using the same implement that I use, which is a pen or pencil, have been almost immediately vilified and called racists and I don’t know what else,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Nasr al-Ansi, Top Commander for Al Qaeda in Yemen Claims Credit for the Charlie Hebdo Attack, Warns West of More ‘Tragedies and Terror’

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Top leader of al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula says it ordered last week’s deadly attack on French satirical magazine

(Reuters) – Al Qaeda in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, saying it was ordered by the Islamist militant group’s leadership for insulting the Prophet Mohammad, according to a video posted on YouTube.

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“As for the blessed Battle of Paris, we, the Organisation of al Qaeda al Jihad in the Arabian Peninsula, claim responsibility for this operation as vengeance for the Messenger of God.”

“As for the blessed Battle of Paris, we, the Organisation of al Qaeda al Jihad in the Arabian Peninsula, claim responsibility for this operation as vengeance for the Messenger of God,” said Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, a leader of the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda (AQAP) in the recording.

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Gunmen killed a total of 17 people in three days of violence that began when they opened fire at Charlie Hebdo in revenge for its past publication of satirical images of the Prophet.

A still from the video

A still from the video

“We did it in compliance with the command of Allah and supporting His Messenger, peace be upon Him.”

Ansi, the main ideologue for AQAP, said the “one who chose the target, laid the plan and financed the operation is the leadership of the organization”, without naming an individual.

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He added without elaborating that the strike was carried out in “implementation” of the order of overall al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, who has called for strikes by Muslims in the West using any means they can find. Read the rest of this entry »


Thousands March as French Police Hunt for Jihadist Femme Fatale Hayat Boumeddiene

Several thousand people gather to pay tribute to victims of a shooting by gunmen at the office of the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo during a demonstration in Marseille

PARIS — France’s government urged the nation to remain vigilant Saturday, as thousands of security forces try to thwart new attacks and hunt down a suspected accomplice in a rampage by terrorists linked to al Qaeda in Yemen that scarred the nation and left 20 dead.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched Saturday in cities from Toulouse in the south to Rennes in the west to honor the 17 victims of three attackers, killed by police after three days of bloodshed at the offices of a satirical newspaper, a kosher supermarket and other sites around Paris.

The sense of relief was tinged with sorry and worry. In Paris, security forces guarded places of worship and tourist sites, and prepared for what’s likely to be a huge silent march Sunday to show unity against extremists. Two dozen world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, are among the many expected to join.

Authorities are on the hunt for Hayat Boumeddiene. Photo: ZumaPress.com

Authorities are on the hunt for Hayat Boumeddiene.
Photo: ZumaPress.com

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said authorities will do everything to ensure security at the event. Speaking after an emergency meeting called by French President Francois Hollande on Saturday morning, Cazeneuve called for “extreme vigilance,” saying that “given the context, we are exposed to risks.”

Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen said it directed Wednesday’s attack against the publication Charlie Hebdo to avenge the honor of the Prophet Muhammad, a frequent target of the weekly’s satire.

In a sign of the tense atmosphere, a security perimeter was briefly imposed at Disneyland Paris on Saturday before being lifted, a spokeswoman said, without elaborating. Movement around the park was back to normal by early afternoon.

Several thousand people walk behind a banner which reads,” Live Together Free, Equal, and United” during a march in Nantes, France.Photo: Reuters

Cazeneuve said the government is maintaining its terror alert system at the highest level in the Paris region, and said investigators are focusing on determining whether the attackers were part of a larger extremist network.

People hold up signs to pay tribute to the massacre victims in Paris before the French Top 14 rugby match January 7th.Photo: Getty Images

People hold up signs to pay tribute to the massacre victims in Paris before the French Top 14 rugby match January 7th.Photo: Getty Images

Five other people are in custody as part of the investigation, and family members of the attackers are among several given preliminary charges so far.

“You must consider her as the companion of a dangerous terrorist who needs to be questioned. Since 2010, she has had a relationship with an individual whose ideology translates into violence and the execution of poor people who were just doing their shopping in a supermarket.”

—  Christophe Crepin, spokesman for UNSA police union

French radio RTL released audio Saturday of the attacker, Amedy Coulibaly, who seized hostages in the kosher supermarket, in which he lashes out over Western military campaigns against extremists in Syria and Mali. He describes Osama bin Laden as an inspiration. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Charlie Hebdo Massacre Update: Hostage Held as Suspects Surrounded

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Chris Morris reports on from Dammartin-en-Goele where police have surrounded the warehouse

French police have surrounded a building in a northern town where two Islamists suspected of the Charlie Hebdo massacre have taken a hostage.

Holed up in a small printing business in Dammartin-en-Goele, 35km (22 miles) from Paris, the gunmen reportedly said they were prepared to die.

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Shots were fired during a high-speed car chase earlier on Friday, the third day of the manhunt for the attackers.

Twelve people were shot dead and 11 injured in Wednesday’s attack.

The suspects, two brothers linked by intelligence officials to militant groups, shouted Islamist slogans during the shooting and then fled Paris in a hijacked car, heading north.

It appears that on Friday they hijacked another car in the town of Montagny-Sainte-Felicite before travelling on to Dammartin.

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The car’s owner recognised them as brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, the key suspects.

In a televised statement Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve confirmed the men being sought on Friday were those wanted for the Charlie Hebdo attack and said they would be “neutralised”.

In another development, a police source said there was a connection between the Charlie Hebdo attack and the shooting of a policewoman in Paris on Thursday.

The suspects have been surrounded in a small printing business named CTD, a source close to the investigation told AFP news agency.

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This Google Streetview image shows the printing business where the hostage has been taken

Officials from the town council say pupils from three schools are being evacuated to a nearby gymnasium, where they will be reunited with their parents.

An interior ministry official said there had been no deaths or injuries on Friday, as reported by some media.

Christelle Alleume, who works near CTD in Dammartin, said a round of gunfire had interrupted her morning coffee break.

“We heard shots and we returned very fast because everyone was afraid,” she told French broadcaster iTele. “We had orders to turn off the lights and not approach the windows.”

People in the area say police helicopters began arriving around 08:45 (07:45 GMT) followed by convoys of armed officers. Sharpshooters could be seen taking up position on rooftops.

Read the rest of this entry »


Tragedy in Yemen: American Hostage Luke Somers Killed in Rescue Attempt

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South African Pierre Korkie Also Killed in Raid

Julian E. Barnes and Maria Abi-Habib reporting: An American and a South African held hostage for more than a year by al Qaeda’s Yemen branch were killed during a U.S. special operations forces raid Friday night, in the second rescue attempt in as many weeks.

“There were compelling reasons to believe Mr. Somers’ life was in imminent danger… Both Mr. Somers and a second non-U.S. citizen hostage were murdered by the AQAP terrorists during the course of the operation.”

— U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

Luke Somers, 33 years old, was killed by militants, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Saturday. Several members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, were also killed in the raid.Pierre-Korkie

South African teacher Pierre Korkie was also killed in the raid, according to a charity that had been trying to help negotiate his release.

“The United States will spare no effort to use all of its military, intelligence, and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located. And terrorists who seek to harm our citizens will feel the long arm of American justice.”

— President Barack Obama

Mr. Hagel said the raid was ordered by President Barack Obama because “there were compelling reasons to believe Mr. Somers’ life was in imminent danger.”

“Both Mr. Somers and a second non-U.S. citizen hostage were murdered by the AQAP terrorists during the course of the operation,” Mr. Hagel said in a statement.

A U.S. official said Mr. Somers was shot by militants as the raid unfolded and wasn’t killed in crossfire.

“We received with sadness the news that Pierre was killed in an attempt by American Special Forces, in the early hours of this morning, to free hostages in Yemen.”

— Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman

It wasn’t immediately clear where Mr. Somers’s remains were.

The raid took place after AQAP had warned that they would kill Mr. Somers if U.S. forces attempted another “foolish” rescue attempt, in a video statement released Thursday. In the video, an AQAP commander threatened to kill Mr. Somers by the end of the week if their unspecified demands weren’t met. Read the rest of this entry »


Where Do ISIS Militants in Syria Come From?

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‘A Man in Denial, On the Verge of Delusion’

The Hammer: Dr. Charles Krauthammer, discussing the president’s handling of ISIS, on Special Report.

“Here’s a man who comes into office and denies the existence of a war on terror.”

“And what do we see?” Krauthammer then proceeded to list attacks by Islamic jihadists in Somalia, Nigeria, Niger, Libya, Yemen, and, of course, Syria and Iraq. “It’s everywhere.”things-that-matter

“Obama persists in calling them ‘extremists.’ As if they are extremists for — what reason?”

[Charles Krauthammer‘s book  Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics”, available at Amazon]

“He will not call it by its name, Islamic radicalism.”

“He will not explain or concede that it is a worldwide movement, and he will not concede that what he’s done for these five years — underestimating, underplaying…(read more)

National Review Online


Kenyan Mall Massacre Hero: Off duty SAS soldier with handgun saved 100 lives

Our saviour: The soldier, whose gun is circled, helps two women to safety. His identity has been protected for security reasons

An off-duty member of the SAS emerged as a hero of the Nairobi siege yesterday, after he was credited with saving up to 100 lives. The soldier was having coffee at the Westgate mall when it was attacked by Islamists on Saturday. With a gun tucked into his waistband, he was pictured helping two women from the complex.

He is said to have returned to the building on a dozen occasions, despite intense gunfire. A friend in Nairobi said: ‘What he did was so heroic. He was having coffee with friends when it happened.

‘He went back in 12 times and saved 100 people. Imagine going back in when you knew what was going on inside.’  Read the rest of this entry »


Report: Yemen Officials Deny 8-Year-Old Girl Died From Sex With 40-Year-Old Husband

Yemeni officials and journalists are saying the reports that an 8-year-old girl allegedly died of vaginal tearing on her wedding night are false, according to a report in Dubai-based news site Gulf News.

“When I heard the rumors [of the girl’s death], I called the girl’s father,” the local director of Criminal Investigation, Mosleh Al Azzani, told Gulf News by telephone on Monday. “He came with his daughter and denied the marriage and death of his daughter. I have the photos of the girl and will show it to anyone.” Read the rest of this entry »


8 Year Old Yemeni Child Bride Raped to Death on Wedding Night by 40 Year Old Bridegroom

600x450xchild-bride-husband-yemen.jpg.pagespeed.ic.VA2i-FYrYmAn 8-year-old Yemeni girl has become the latest victim of the Religion of Pieces.  Harwan, the little girl, lived in the tribal area of Hardh in northwestern Yemen, near the Saudi border.  Her family married Harwan to a bridegroom approximately five times as old as she was.  He insisted on his marital rights on their wedding night.  These marital rights included tearing Harwan’s genitals so that she bled to death.

The toxic combination of tribal culture and Islam means that child brides are common in Yemen.  According to a 2010 Yemeni government report, more than 25% of Yemeni brides are 15 and under.   Read the rest of this entry »


Obama’s not to be trusted on foreign policy

Having declared an end tothe War on Terror, the US president no longer has any clear idea of his country’s global role

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Barack Obama: since the president declared an end to the War on Terror, the US has retreated from 19 embassies  Photo: REUTERS

The West can no longer rely on American leadership in the world. For the remaining duration of the Obama administration, Washington’s judgment and effectiveness in foreign policy cannot be trusted. It is quite an achievement for the one remaining superpower to appear as ineffectual and wrong-footed as the United States has managed to do in the past week. But there it is. The president’s global strategy in his second term was based on two resounding premises. First, al‑Qaeda was “on the run” having been smashed by the killing of Osama bin Laden and the successful US drone operations in Pakistan: in May, Mr Obama gave a triumphal speech in which he declared the War on Terror officially over.

That was then. This is now: over the past week, 19 US embassies in the Middle East and North Africa had to be closed for a week, and diplomatic staff evacuated from Yemen because of “specific terrorist threats”. So who exactly is on the run? When the embarrassing contrast between this mass exit of the American presence and the “War on Terror (End of)” speech was pointed out, White House spokesmen clarified – as government spokesmen like to call it – what the president had said: it was al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan that had been all but defeated, not its franchise in Yemen, which was clearly still alive and kicking.

This clarification was followed shortly by the evacuation of diplomatic staff from Lahore in Pakistan due to – a specific terrorist threat. In his most recent comment, Mr Obama rephrased his dismissal of the Islamist forces: al-Qaeda may not be “on the run” but it is “on its heels”. (Meaning: still facing forward and able to fight?) More confusingly still, Mr Obama is apparently determined to return some Guantánamo prisoners to Yemen, where they will presumably add to the dangerous mix of jihadi terrorists.

Read the rest of this entry »


US special forces on alert overseas to strike any potential Al Qaeda targets

By Barbara Starr

American special forces units overseas have been on alert for the past several days for a mission to attack potential al Qaeda targets if those behind the most recent terror threats against U.S. interests can be identified, a senior Obama administration official told CNN.The official declined to identify the units or their locations because of the sensitive nature of the information. The units, along with several others, were put on heightened alert by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week. The United States closed embassies and consulates across an area of Africa and the Middle East and imposed a global travel alert for Americans following threats against U.S. interests described as serious and credible. An intercepted message among senior al Qaeda operatives in the last several days raised concerns that led to the closures, CNN has learned.

Three sources said the United States has information that members of the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are in the final stages of planning an unspecified attack.


Yemeni Security Official for U.S. Embassy Killed in Drive-by Shooting

A masked gunman assassinated a Yemeni security official who worked for the U.S. Embassy in a drive-by shooting Thursday near his home in the capital, officials said, adding the assault bore the hallmarks of al-Qaidas Yemen branch.

The attack comes amid amid a sharp deterioration of security in Yemen and several other Muslim countries since the collapse of police states controlled by autocratic leaders during a wave of uprisings known as the Arab Spring…

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