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Global Security Brief

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A daily, open source, around the world tour of international security-related news.
By Professor Joseph B. Varner


Global War on Terror
It was reported that Al Qaeda increasingly faces sharp criticism from once-loyal sympathizers who openly question its ideology and tactics, including attacks that kill innocent Muslims, according to U.S. intelligence officials, counter-terrorism experts and the group’s own communications. In March, Al Qaeda’s chief strategist, Ayman Zawahiri, released a 188-page Internet book to rebut complaints, particularly those saying Zawahiri and Bin Laden should be held accountable for violence against Muslims. (Source: Los Angeles Times)


The Pentagon is considering whether it should push to change the NATO mission in volatile southern Afghanistan to give the United States greater control in the fight against a growing Taliban threat. The move is one of many being assessed as fears rise that the collective effort of NATO forces in the country lacks coherence. The Taliban’s comeback over the past two years has been marked by a spike in suicide bombings and other violence, at the same time that critics say the complex command structure governing NATO and U.S. forces has stifled combat and reconstruction efforts. American officials see a possible answer in modeling the southern region after the east, which falls under NATO but is led by a subordinate U.S. command and viewed as relatively successful. (Source: Christian Science Monitor)


A car bomb killed three people in northwestern Pakistan Friday, despite calls from Taliban leaders asking Islamic militants to refrain from attacks amid efforts by the new government to reach peace deals in the region. A spokesman for Pakistani Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the blast but said it did not damage their commitment to peace negotiations opened by the government. The bomb, which shattered a five-week lull in violence, went off between a police station and a market area in the city of Mardan at 6 a.m. local time. Javed Khan, a city police official, said one police officer as well as the owner of a small restaurant and one his staff were killed. Twenty-six people were injured, including 18 policemen. It was the first major bombing since Pakistan’s new government took office and pledged to scale back military operations against militants. The last deadly blast was a suicide attack that killed five soldiers in the South Waziristan region on March 20. The government, led by the party of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, has vowed to negotiate with militants who renounce violence and sought to distance itself from the strong-arm tactics of U.S.-backed President Pervez Musharraf, whose influence is fading. Maulvi Umar, spokesman for an umbrella group called Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, said its militants carried out the attack to avenge the death of an associate called Hafiz Saidul Haq. Umar said police shot and killed Haq about 10 days ago when he came to Mardan for his brother’s wedding. (Source: AP)


The latest flare-up in fighting this week in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, has sparked a fresh exodus of an estimated 7,000 people rushing to escape violence that has killed a substantial number of civilians and reportedly wounded some 200, including women and children. The exodus from the war-ravaged city further aggravates the situation in a country where over 1 million people are already internally displaced. Some 700,000 of them fled Mogadishu last year alone. The latest violence also prevents the internally displaced living in areas surrounding the city from returning to their homes. (Source: Reuters)


The head of Interpol said on Friday that there is a “real possibility” that the Beijing Olympics will be targeted by terrorists or that anti-China groups could attack athletes. (Source: Reuters)


An accused terrorist with ties to Al Qaeda was able to secure a visa before being arrested at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada in July of last year. According to a secret document sent to Stockwell Day from the Canada Border Services Agency last July, the Minister of Public Safety was told a man of Pakistani descent obtained a visa to temporarily live in Canada from the High Commissioner in London. According to the note, the man, whose identity is not revealed, is a suspected terrorist implicated in Al Qaeda’s mass destruction weapons program. On July 12, 2007, agents from the CBSA arrested the man who’d arrived from Newcastle, England. While verifying his passport, agents were able to ascertain he had been flagged by Canadian authorities. The man was interrogated by customs agents and then requested to be returned to England while renouncing his visa, but the pilot would not let him on the plane. The man spent a night in a detention in centre in Toronto before he was deported back to Manchester, England the following day. Authorities in Great Britain were told the man was being deported back to their country, but it is unclear where he is now. (Source: Globe and Mail)


Only a third of Canadians believe Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr will receive a fair trial if the U.S. prosecutes him for war crimes, a new survey reveals. An Angus Reid Strategies poll released yesterday shows a country still divided over the case of the Toronto-born prisoner, who has been in custody at the U.S. base in Guantanamo, Cuba, for almost six years. While 33 per cent of the 1,015 Canadians questioned online last week believe Khadr will get justice at the U.S. prison, 47 per cent said they do not “feel sympathy” for him. When asked whether Canada should intervene in his case, 38 per cent said he should be left to face trial in Guantanamo Bay, 43 per cent said he should be brought home to face trial here, and 19 per cent were undecided. The survey has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The Pentagon has charged Khadr with five war crimes, including “murder in violation of the laws of war” for the death of U.S. Sergeant Christopher Speer. Khadr was 15 when he was shot and captured following a firefight in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002. Guantanamo prosecutors allege he threw a grenade that mortally wounded Speer. Khadr’s father, Ahmed Said Khadr, was aligned with Al Qaeda’s elite and comments made by his mother and siblings after the September 11, 2001 attacks enraged many Canadians. Pakistani forces killed Khadr’s father in 2003, and Khadr’s lawyers have argued Omar is being tried for the “sins of his father.” (Source: The Star)


Iraq
At least 13 people were killed Thursday as U.S. and Iraqi troops battled Shiite gunmen in Baghdad, where the fighting spread last month after erupting in the southern city of Basra, where Britain’s 4,000 soldiers are based. (Source: AFP)


Several rockets or mortar shells slammed into the U.S.-controlled Green Zone. One projectile hit the roof of the building housing the Polish Embassy’s security staff, slightly wounding one person. (Source: AFP)


Five people were killed and 28 wounded early Thursday in Sadr City. (Source: AFP)


Eight more people were killed and two wounded during fighting in the capital’s Husseiniyah area, another base of Shiite militants. (Source: AFP)


Also Thursday, a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol exploded in Baghdad’s western Mansour area, killing three civilians and wounding 14 others. (Source: AFP)


Meanwhile, the U.S. military said two of its soldiers died in an accident north of Baghdad in Salahuddin province when their vehicle rolled onto its side. (Source: AFP)


In western Anbar province, U.S. troops killed six Sunni insurgents in a clash north of Lake Tharthar. The region, a former resort area northwest of Baghdad, is now a stronghold of insurgents affiliated with Al Qaeda. (Source: AFP)


An aide has said the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s threat to unleash a full-scale war applies only to U.S.-led forces. Last week, al-Sadr warned he would declare “open war” if the government did not end its crackdown against his fighters. (Source: AP)


British Defense Secretary Des Browne said in London that Britain still hopes to remove hundreds of soldiers this year, but the pullout will stay frozen because of the surge in fighting. Britain had planned to withdraw about 1,500 soldiers this spring, leaving some 2,500 in the south, down from 46,000 during the U.S.-led invasion, 18,000 in May 2004 and 8,500 at the end of 2005. The U.S. has 155,000 military personnel in Iraq. The announcement came as British Foreign Secretary David Miliband made an unannounced visit to Baghdad for talks with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other top Iraqi officials. (Source: AFP)


The U.S. military said on Friday it had killed 10 fighters in helicopter missile strikes and ground battles in eastern Baghdad overnight. Sources at two hospitals in Baghdad’s Sadr City slum said they had received the bodies of 11 people killed in air strikes, all men. Another 74 people, including nine women and 12 children, were wounded. In a statement, the U.S. military said soldiers had killed three fighters who attacked them with mortars. Two helicopter strikes against militants planting roadside bombs killed six, and a third strike killed one. (Source: Reuters)


Nearly three-quarters of the attacks that kill or wound American soldiers in Baghdad are carried out by Iranian-backed Shiite groups, the U.S. military said Wednesday. (Source: New York Times)


Iraq’s largest Sunni bloc has agreed to return to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s cabinet after a boycott of nearly a year, several Sunni leaders said. They cited a recently passed amnesty law and the government’s crackdown on Shiite militias as reasons for the move. (Source: New York Times)


United States
The Senate Armed Services Committee has asked the Defense Department’s inspector general to review the role of senior Air Force officials in a $50 million contract, seeking further investigation into possible criminal conduct, ethical violations and failures of leadership. (Source: Washington Post)


A project heralded as the dawning of an innovative, low-cost era in Navy shipbuilding has turned into a case study of how not to build a combat ship. The bill for the first of a new class of vessels designed to operate in coastal waters, being built by Lockheed Martin in Wisconsin, has soared to $531 million, more than double the original, and by some calculations could be $100 million more. With an alternate General Dynamics prototype similarly struggling, the Navy last year temporarily suspended the entire program. The program’s tribulations speak to what military experts say are profound shortcomings in the Pentagon’s acquisitions system. Even as spending on new projects has risen to its highest point since the Reagan years, being over budget and behind schedule have become the norm. (Source: New York Times)


The Navy plans to re-establish its Fourth Fleet, disbanded in 1950, to oversee ships, aircraft and submarines operating in the Caribbean and Central and South America. To be led by Rear Admiral Joseph Kernan, the fleet will be based in Mayport, Fla., coordinating efforts with the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, which also is based there. (Source: San Diego Union-Tribune)


U.S. is reportedly adding 60,000 barrels of oil a day to giant underground caverns in Texas and Louisiana to be used for the proverbial “rainy day” in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. At issue now are the reserve’s 701.3 million barrels of oil, enough to replace imports for 58 days. As a member of the International Energy Agency, the U.S. is required to hold 90 days of net petroleum imports. By 2019, the U.S. plans to reach 1 billion barrels, which will provide 100 days of emergency supplies. Adding in 90 percent of commercial stockpiles, the U.S. has 118 days’ supply today and will have 123 days by 2020, estimates Jeremy Cusimano, an economist for the Petroleum Reserves, which is part of the Department of Energy, in Washington. (Source: Christian Science Monitor)


Africa
Zimbabwe police said they have raided opposition headquarters in Harare and arrested people they accuse of being responsible for postelection violence. The opposition has said people were seeking refuge at the offices after being attacked by ruling party loyalists. Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena could not say how many people were rounded up in Friday’s raid. The opposition and independent religious and human rights groups have accused President Robert Mugabe’s regime of a violent crackdown on dissent since March 29 elections. (Source: AP)


Militants say they have sabotaged an oil pipeline in Nigeria’s south. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta says its fighters hit a pipeline late Thursday in southern Rivers State. That brings to four the number of pipelines the militant group claims to have blown up in the past week. The group said Friday that the pipeline belongs to a Royal Dutch Shell PLC joint venture. Shell was not immediately available for comment. (Source: AP)


A Spanish fishing boat seized off Somalia was spotted on Friday near a remote coastal town and local leaders there said they had sent gunmen to chase away the pirates holding the vessel. The tuna fishing boat Playa de Bakio, with 26 crew on board, was sighted near Hobyo, central Mudug region, a day after the pirates were chased away from another town, Haradheere. Both towns have served in the past as bases for pirates who have made the waters off Somalia, some of the World’s most dangerous. (Source: Reuters)


The rebel Lord’s Resistance Army reportedly appears to have begun a new campaign of abducting child fighters in central Africa, after balking at signing a peace deal earlier this month. The move raises fears that the group is planning to renew its decades-long insurgency and expand it beyond the borders of Uganda. All of the abductions have occurred in remote bush areas. In the raid about which the most is known, rebel fighters abducted 99 men, women and children in Obo, a town in the southeastern corner of the Central African Republic, near the borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. The rebels moved into this largely lawless triangle two years ago, after five LRA commanders were indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. (Only two of those are still alive.) It is difficult to establish precisely how many people have been abducted, Amnesty International said that it has evidence of “at least 350” people abducted; the UN has put the number near 500 during the past three months, while the Ugandan military reported 200 people abducted in DRC early this month, and 55 in Sudan in late March. (Source: Globe and Mail)


Americas
A high-level Canadian military delegation, led by the Chief of the Defense Staff, General Rick Hillier, will pay a two-day visit to Macedonia on Sunday through Monday. At the meeting in the General Staff of the ARM, General Hillier will be updated on defense reform and transformation of the ARM as well as on the analysis after the NATO summit in Bucharest. ARM General Staff will brief the Canadian military delegation about the latest restructuring of the ARM and its participation in international peacekeeping operations. The ARM will benefit from the shared experiences/lessons learnt from the operations of Canadian Special Forces within ISAF in Afghanistan. The interlocutors will discuss the opportunities to enhance the bilateral military cooperation between the two armies. In the course of the visit, General Hillier will meet with Defense Minister Lazar Elenovski. In 1999, Macedonian Ministry of Defense and the Canadian Ministry of National Defense signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Military Cooperation. (Source: MakFax Online)


Argentina’s Economy Minister has resigned in the first major departure from President Cristina Fernandez’s four-month-old administration, a government official said Friday. (Source: AP)


Gunmen ambushed and killed the leader of Honduras’ largest workers federation and two traveling companions on Thursday. At least six assailants opened fire on a vehicle carrying Altagracia Fuentes and her companions as they traveled along the country’s northern Caribbean coast, chief prosecutor Leonidas Rosa said. Fuentes, 60, was the secretary of Honduras’ Workers Federation, which has some 300,000 members. She had traveled to the region for an International Workers Day celebration on May 1. Investigators believe the killings were planned in advance. (Source: AP)


Asia
The White House said Thursday that North Korea’s secret work on a nuclear reactor with Syria was “a dangerous and potentially destabilizing development for the world,” raising doubts about North Korea’s intention to carry through with agreements to end its nuclear program. Seven months after Israel bombed the reactor, the White House broke its silence and said North Korea assisted Syria’s secret nuclear program and that the destroyed facility was not intended for “peaceful purposes.” (Source: AP)
The Chinese government agreed on Friday to meet with a representative of the Dalai Lama in the coming days, state-run media reported, after weeks of calls from world leaders for dialogue in the wake of anti-government protests in Tibet. (Source: AP)


The head of the European Commission said Friday he hopes to see “positive developments soon” in Tibet after talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters in Beijing that he remained opposed to a boycott of the Olympic Games, which have become a lightning rod for criticism of China’s human rights record, especially after a crackdown on anti-government protests in Tibet. (Source: AP)


A Chinese General has disclosed the arrangements for using the newly established direct telephone link between the Pentagon and China’s Ministry of Defense, indicating that it may not be easy to reach a Chinese military leader in a crisis or an emergency. Chinese Major General Qian Lihua, Director of Foreign Affairs for the Ministry of Defense, said in an interview published in the official military newspaper PLA Daily April 16 that the phone link is located in the Chinese Defense Ministry in Beijing, not the real Chinese military command center located underground at a place called Western Hills. (Source: Washington Times)


Indonesia launched a major bird flu drill Friday that will test the ability of the nation hardest hit by the virus to respond to a possible pandemic. Thousands were taking part, from local residents to government officials. The three-day simulation started with the isolation of a village on the resort island of Bali, where a field hospital was being set up to treat people with flu-like symptoms. Before the drill ends Sunday, officials will try to prevent “infected” travelers from leaving the international airport and spreading the virus to other countries. (Source: AP)


The European Union will call next week for an international arms embargo on Myanmar’s military junta and warn of tougher sanctions if the generals fail to improve human rights conditions. (Source: AFP)


Sri Lankan forces took control Friday of a revered Roman Catholic church that religious groups had feared was in danger of being damaged by the raging civil war between the government and ethnic Tamil separatists. The seizure of the church in Madhu, which had been abandoned by the Tamil Tiger rebels, was an important morale boost for the government two days after scores of soldiers were killed in a fierce battle with the rebels.
However, a cherished statue of the Virgin Mary, a magnet for mass pilgrimages, remained in rebel-controlled territory. In other fighting, 17 rebels and four soldiers were killed in a series of battles in the north Thursday. (Source: AP)


Meanwhile, controversy continued to grow in the aftermath of the ferocious battle Wednesday along the front lines at Muhamalai. The army reported 81 soldiers killed or missing in that fight, though other reports gave far higher death tolls. The military said more than 100 rebels died. (Source: AP)


Sri Lanka’s government has sent police to seize hoarded rice as it looks to harvests in the island’s strife-torn north to help ease a shortage of the island’s staple food. (Source: AFP)


Nepal’s Maoist former rebels won 220 seats in a 601-member special assembly, making them the single largest party, the Election Commission said on Friday. The election crowns a 2006 peace deal ending a 10-year-long Maoist insurgency that killed some 13,000 people in one of the world’s poorest countries. The new assembly will write a new constitution, abolish Nepal’s 240-year-old monarchy and make laws. (Source: Reuters)


Europe
Nicolas Sarkozy admitted Thursday to making mistakes during his volatile first year as French president, but said he remains committed to deep reforms to one of the world’s major economies. In a wide-ranging television interview, Sarkozy defended his presidency amid mounting criticism from both those who say his promised reforms have been too limp and those who fear he is dismantling the social protections many French hold dear. Observers said the scope of reforms to labor protections, schools and health care in the major European economy hinges on Sarkozy’s will to push them through and his ability to convince the French of their importance. (Source: AP)


In a major shift in policy, Poland, long considered a close ally of the United States, wants the European Union to beef up its military role by having its own independent planning headquarters and more say over military issues, according to the Polish Defense Minister. But the Minister, Bogdan Klich, said Poland would maintain its traditionally strong pro-U.S. stance. (Source: International Herald Tribune)


A sharp rise in food prices has developed into a global crisis, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday. Ban said the UN and all members of the international community are very concerned, and immediate action is needed. He spoke to reporters at UN offices in Austria. He was meeting with the nation’s top leaders for talks on how the UN and European Union can forge closer ties. (Source: AP)


A seismology center says a moderate earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.8 has shaken a city in southwestern Turkey. There are no reports of any injuries. (Source: AP)


Middle East
The UN stopped distributing aid to Gaza on Thursday after running out of fuel. The Nahal Oz terminal, which supplies the Strip with commodities, remained shut due to the terror attacks on the Nahal Oz and Kerem Shalom crossings, during which five Israelis were killed. Palestinian distributors have been refusing to pick up about a million liters that Israel pumped earlier this month into the Palestinian side of the fuel depot. UNRWA said the stored fuel was not destined for UN agencies in Gaza, which buy their own supplies but also have to import them through Nahal Oz. (Source: AFP/Ynet News)


Two Israeli security guards were shot dead Friday at the Nitzanei Shalom industrial zone on the boundary between Israel and the Palestinian-ruled West Bank city of Tulkarm. Hundreds of Palestinians work at Nitzanei Oz. (Source: Ha’aretz)


Also Friday, three Kassam rockets fired by Palestinians in Gaza struck southern Ashkelon. A fourth rocket was fired toward Kibbutz Yad Mordechai. (Source: Ha’aretz)


Israel dismissed on Friday a proposal by Hamas to call a conditional six-month truce in Gaza, calling it a ruse aimed at allowing the Palestinian Islamist group to recover from recent fighting. (Source: Ha’aretz)


A delegation from Hamas on Thursday told Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman that Hamas is prepared to accept a temporary cease-fire with Israel, to begin in Gaza, and then extend to the West Bank after a predetermined time. According to Hamas’ proposal, Israel will cease all military activity in Gaza and, in return, Hamas will ensure an end to cross-border rocket fire at Israel or other militant operations, including arms smuggling into Gaza. (Source: Ha’aretz)


Hamas spokesman in Gaza Ayman Taha told the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya that Hamas will stop rocket fire if Israel lifts the blockade on Gaza. Nevertheless, he said that Hamas would not stop arms smuggling or weapons development. (Source: Jerusalem Post)
Thousands of Hamas supporters are gathering near Gaza’s northern and southern borders calling for an end to the blockade of the territory. (Source: AP)


According to a survey by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center this week, support for Haniyeh is higher than that for Mahmoud Abbas. The main reason lies in Fatah’s failure to demonstrate change. Elections to the Fatah leadership are not on the horizon, and talk of injecting young blood sounds more like a joke than a real possibility. (Source: Ha’aretz)


President Bush sought to assure Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas that a peace agreement with Israel remains possible, during a meeting at the White House Thursday. (Source: Washington Post)


The Bush administration released detailed photographic images on Thursday to support its assertion that the building in Syria that Israel destroyed in an airstrike last year was a nuclear reactor constructed with years of help from North Korea. The administration said it withheld the pictures for seven months out of fear that Syria could retaliate against Israel and start a broader war in the Middle East. A senior administration official said the White House had extensive discussions with Israel before the airstrike. The White House raised the possibility of confronting Syria with a demand that it dismantle the reactor or face the possibility of an attack. But that idea never gained traction with the Israelis or some in the administration, and in the end, the official said, Israel cited satellite evidence to declare that the Syrian reactor constituted “an existential threat” to Israel because it might soon be ready for operation. The official added that Israel’s attack proceeded “without a green light from us.” “None was asked for, none was given.” A senior intelligence official said the U.S. agreed that Syria was “good to go” in turning on the reactor, though it would have been years before it could have produced weapons fuel. (Source: New York Times)


The head of the UN nuclear monitoring agency angrily criticized Israel on Friday for bombing an alleged Syrian nuclear facility, and chastised the U.S. for withholding information on the site. The International Atomic Energy Agency said Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei also was not provided information about the site until Thursday, the same day U.S. officials briefed members of the House Intelligence Committee about evidence including dozens of photographs taken from ground level and footage of the interior of the building gathered by spy satellites after the Israeli strike seven months ago.
ElBaradei was briefed by telephone by John Rood, the U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control. (Source: AP)


Syria on Thursday dismissed U.S. accusations that North Korea was helping it build a nuclear reactor that could produce plutonium. Syria’s ambassador to Britain, Sami al-Khiyami, told Reuters that the accusation, which President George W. Bush’s administration was expected to lay out to lawmakers on Thursday, was to put pressure on North Korea in talks about Pyongyang’s nuclear program. (Source: AP)


Iranians voted Friday in parliamentary run-off elections expected to leave conservatives firmly in control because most reformist candidates were barred from running. At stake are 82 of the 290 seats in parliament, including 11 representing the capital, Tehran. In the first round, conservatives won 132 seats. But the conservatives, who are loyal to principles of the 1979 Islamic revolution, are divided between supporters of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and opponents. His supporters took 90 of the 132 conservative seats in the first round on March 14. Reformists won 31 seats and independents won 39 seats. The remaining seats are permanently assigned to religious minorities such as Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians. Ahead of the first round of voting, the cleric-run Guardian Council disqualified some 1,700 reformist candidates accused of insufficient loyalty to Islam and the 1979 revolution. Reformists, who call for reducing clerical powers and support greater economic and social tolerance, could only run in about half the races around the country. (Source: AP)


The Commander of the Israeli air force, Major General Eliezer Shkedy, spoke to 60 Minutes about Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s threats against Israel. Shkedy said: “I think it is a very serious threat to the State of Israel, but more than this, to the whole world. They are talking about destroying and wiping us from the earth. We should trust only ourselves….In those days people didn’t believe that Hitler was serious about what he said. I suggest not to repeat this way of thinking, and to prepare ourselves for what they are planning.” (Source: CBS News)


By 2009, Iran “could be a nuclear power, if not a nuclear weapon state,” former special Middle East envoy Dennis Ross said in Toronto, as reported by the Canadian Jewish News. If not stopped by next year, Iran will have “crossed the threshold of stockpiling fissionable material….Once they cross that threshold, we’re going to be in a different ball game. We have to approach this with a high degree of urgency. We’re running out of time.” (Source: Newsmax)


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Joe Varner is Assistant Professor and Program Manager for Homeland Security at American Military University.

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