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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
President Hamid Karzai was warned of a weekend assassination plot against him, Afghanistan’s intelligence chief said Tuesday, while admitting that failings by the security services allowed militants to launch the attack. Amrullah Saleh told Parliament the plot to kill Karzai was hatched last month and the gunmen had rented the hotel room they opened fire from 45 days before the attack. Karzai and other dignitaries escaped unharmed from Sunday’s assault during a ceremony in Kabul marking Afghanistan’s victory over the Soviet occupation of the country in the 1980s. Three other people, including a lawmaker, died. Three of the attackers were also killed in a gun battle with security forces after the assault, Karzai’s government said, but the Taliban said three other insurgents got away. (Source: AP)


Meanwhile, a suicide attack killed 16 people, including 12 police, in an eastern province, a NATO spokesman said. Forty-one people were wounded. (Source: AP)


The North African Al Qaeda shifted its tactics to woo new recruits from the Berber community in Algeria, intelligence sources say. Anonymous Algerian sources Tuesday quoted by Med Basin Newsline said Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb network, which seeks to overthrow the Algerian government and establish an Islamist state, shifted its methods of intimidation against the Berber minority in favor of urging Berbers to join its mission. (Source: UPI)


An explosion in southwestern Somalia killed four Ethiopian troops and the subsequent gunfire killed two civilians, witnesses said Tuesday. Local resident Asha Madey Abdi said the explosion Monday afternoon in Baidoa, 155 miles southwest of the capital, also wounded two Ethiopian soldiers. Sheik Muqtar Roble said the Ethiopian troops had opened fire after the explosion, killing two civilians and wounding another two. It was not clear what caused the blast. Ethiopian troops supporting the shaky transitional government come under daily attack from Islamic insurgents, whom they kicked out of the capital in December 2006. The insurgents, who vow to fight an Iraq-style insurgency, receive support from Ethiopia’s archenemy Eritrea. (Source: AP)


The State Department has urged American citizens to reconsider travel to Syria, warning that they could be targeted by Islamic insurgency groups. The warning comes on the heels of reports Syria is mobilizing for a possible war with Israel and the closed session briefing last week to members of Congress on North Korea-Syria collaboration in the construction of a nuclear reactor leading to an Israeli air strike last year. (Source: World Tribune)


Iraq
The U.S. military said soldiers have killed 28 militants during a four-hour firefight in Baghdad’s Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City. A U.S. military spokesman said the clashes broke out after a U.S. patrol was attacked about 9:30 a.m. with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. Six U.S. soldiers were wounded in Tuesday’s fighting but their injuries were not life-threatening. (Source: AP)


An Iraqi official has said a roadside bomb has killed a senior government official in northern Baghdad. A spokesman said Tuesday’s roadside bomb hit Dhia Jodi Jaber as he left his home in his car. The spokesman Abdullah al-Lami says Jaber was a Director General at the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. He was in charge of the Ministry’s projects and reconstruction department. His son also has been lightly injured in the blast. (Source: AP)


The U.S. military has killed two regional commanders of Al Qaeda in Iraq. U.S. aircraft tracked and killed the Al Qaeda commander in the Salah Eddin province on April 26, officials said. They identified the operative as Mohammed Muzahem Al Harbouni. Officials said Al Harbouni and three of his lieutenants, one of them a Saudi national, were killed in the air strike. They said the Al Qaeda squad was traveling in a car that was tracked and targeted by U.S. aircraft about 25 kilometers east of Samara. (Source: World Tribune)


Three attacks by suicide bombers in northern Iraq Tuesday killed one person at a checkpoint and wounded several others, including a mayor. The separate incidents happened in Nineveh and Diyala provinces, were fighting has picked up between insurgents and Iraqi and U.S. forces. In one incident, a woman detonated an explosive vest at a checkpoint manned by members of a local Awakening Council, an organization that assists Iraqi and U.S. security in Abu Sayda in Diyala province. One person was killed and five others injured. Details about the other two bombings weren’t immediately available. (Source: UPI)


U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad on Monday slammed the destabilizing role of Iran and Syria in Iraq and urged them to stop the flow of weapons and foreign fighters into their war-scarred neighbor. He said the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force “continues to arm, train, and fund illegal armed groups in Iraq.” He added that the bulk of weapons used by these militias were “made in Iran and supplied by Iran, including mortars, rockets and explosively-formed penetrators (EFPs).” He also expressed concern about the flow of arms and foreign fighters across the Iraqi-Syrian border, citing estimates that Syria is the entry point for “90% of all known foreign terrorists in Iraq…and we know that al-Qaeda terrorist facilitators continue to operate inside Syria.” (Source: AFP)


Turkey has decided to revise its policy toward the Kurdish movement. The government has launched a drive to engage with the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq. Officials said the policy was meant to reduce support for the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a war against Ankara. (Source: World Tribune)


United States
Budget experts have warned that Navy plans to spend billions for expanding the fleet are unlikely to materialize. The Navy’s plan to produce a future fleet of 313 ships is getting panned by critics that charge the long-range plan to increase the current fleet of 279 ships and reverse decades of decline is not affordable and unrealistic. Independent naval analysts have also said the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan is based on too many optimistic assumptions about cost growth. (Source: Newport News Daily Press)
Africa
Lawyers for Zimbabwe’s opposition party pressed police Tuesday to respect a court order and release nearly 200 people arrested at its headquarters during raids last week. Alec Muchadehama of the Movement for Democratic Change said a Harare High Court late Monday ordered that they be released. He said he was heading to the main police station to find out why the ruling wasn’t carried out. Police made the mass arrests during a swoop on opposition party headquarters on Friday. Many of those detained had fled to Harare to escape mounting violence and intimidation from ruling party loyalists in the countryside following the March 29 elections. The raids sent a powerful message that longtime leader President Robert Mugabe intends to hold onto power despite a growing global clamor for him to step aside and rising violence at home. (Source: AP)


Royal Dutch Shell’s oil production in Nigeria has dropped by more than 500,000 barrels a day due to attacks on its operations, militant groups claim. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said that recent attacks carried out by the group caused the largest producer of oil to reduce its output, Panapress News Agency reported Tuesday. (Source: UPI)


In another incident in the Gulf of Aden, off Somalia, a South Korean bulk carrier came under pirate attack on Monday at about 0940 GMT. Pirates believed to be from Somalia attacked the ship for about 40 minutes with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
The ship was still sailing to its destination in Europe despite the damage suffered in the attack. There has been an unprecedented surge in pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden with 13 attacks so far this year. (Source: AFP)


The International Criminal Court has published an arrest warrant for a Congo militia leader wanted for allegedly using child soldiers. The court says Bosco Ntaganda conscripted child soldiers to fight in the Ituri region of eastern Congo from July 2002 until December 2003. The court’s prosecutor says Ntaganda is still at large in the Congo.
Prosecutors say he is chief of staff of a “political-military group” commanded by rebel Laurent Nkunda in North Kivu province. (Source: AP)


Americas
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that the United Nations plans to establish a task force to tackle the global food crisis to avert “social unrest on an unprecedented scale.” (Source: AP)


France’s Foreign Minister and President Alvaro Uribe on Monday sought to advance efforts to free hostages held by Colombia’s leftist rebels. Neither Uribe nor Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner commented publicly on their hourlong meeting. France recently sent a plane with a doctor aboard in a failed attempt to help hostage Ingrid Betancourt, a dual French-Colombian citizen kidnapped while running for president in 2002. (Source: AP)


President Raul Castro announced Monday that Cuba will convene its first Communist Party Congress since 1997, a gathering that could chart the island’s political future long after he and his older brother Fidel are gone. Castro also said the government within weeks will commute death sentences for several inmates. The prisoners are likely to include two Central Americans sentenced for planting bombs, one of which killed an Italian tourist, in Havana tourist locales a decade ago. Capital punishment will remain on the books in Cuba. The Congress, planned for next year, follows a series of minor social changes the younger Castro has decreed during his first two months in power to make life easier and less restrictive for ordinary Cubans. (Source: AP)


Asia
South Korea approved on Tuesday its first financial assistance package to victims of abductions by the North. (Source: AFP)
A Chinese court sentenced 17 people, including six monks, to jail Tuesday for their alleged roles in deadly riots in the Tibetan capital, in the first trial concerning last month’s unrest. (Source: AP)


An activist says officials have detained two people at Hong Kong’s airport ahead of the Olympic torch relay. Students for Free Tibet spokeswoman Lhadon Tethong told The Associated Press that two fellow activists were detained and questioned after arriving in Hong Kong on Tuesday. (Source: AP)
A deadly virus outbreak in Fuyang in China’s eastern Anhui province has killed 20 children and infected 1,500 others. The virus confirmed as enterovirus 71 apparently has been spreading since last month. All affected children are younger than six years of age with the majority being under two. By Tuesday, the virus had killed 20 of the affected children. (Source: UPI)


Dead swans found recently in northeast Japan carried the deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza, the government said Tuesday. One dying and three dead swans were discovered April 21 near Lake Towada, a popular tourist spot, in Akita prefecture. Officials had determined earlier that they were infected with the bird flu virus, but further testing by the National Institute of Animal Health confirmed the strain involved. (Source: AFP)


Heavily armed pirates attacked a Thai oil tanker carrying jet fuel in Malaysian waters the maritime watchdog said Tuesday. Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre, told AFP that in the April 25 incident, eight armed pirates on a powerful speedboat boarded the Thai tanker. Maritime officials identified the tanker as “Pataravarin 2.” Choong said the pirates attacked the ship’s master and stole seafarers’ money before escaping in the dark. The ship was heading into the Singapore Strait on the way to Phuket in southern Thailand. Choong said this was the second pirate attack since January this year in Malaysian waters. (Source: AFP)


A dozen rebels suspected of involvement in attacks on East Timor’s top leaders surrendered to authorities Tuesday, and met the president in an emotional ceremony. Rebel commander Gastau Salsinha and 11 of his men, believed to have carried out the February 11 ambushes on the Premier and President turned themselves in with 11 firearms. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped unharmed from the ambush of his motorcade by mutinous soldiers. An attack the same day on President Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, nearly killed him. (Source: AP)


Five Chinese workers being held hostage since Saturday in Indonesia’s Aceh province were reportedly freed Tuesday. The five along with two other Chinese workers and one Indonesian men were abducted by gunmen last Saturday in the province’s Gayo Lues district, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported. The gunmen demanded a ransom of about $32,600 and released two Chinese hostages Sunday to carry their demand, the report said quoting Chinese Embassy officials. (Source: UPI)


The government has won a majority in a snap election held in the tiny Pacific island country of Nauru, ending a five-month political deadlock over the budget, a government spokesman said Tuesday. Twelve of the 18 members of the new Parliament took up seats on the government side when the house met Tuesday for the first time since elections last weekend, spokesman Rod Henshaw said in a statement. (Source: AP)


India and Iran were expected to push ahead with a $7 billion gas pipeline during a visit by the Iranian president to New Delhi on Tuesday, despite opposition from the U.S. Energy-starved India desperately wants to kick-start the long-stalled pipeline project because it needs the Iranian fuel to help drive its economic development. But the pipeline and India’s traditionally strong ties with Tehran have both come under pressure from the U.S., which strongly opposes the project. (Source: AP)


Europe
Workers returned to the Grangemouth refinery in central Scotland on Tuesday after a 48-hour strike that forced the closure of a major North Sea pipeline system. UNITE, Britain’s largest union, said further industrial action is possible unless refinery owner Ineos backs down in a dispute over pensions. The strike at the refinery led to the closure of the Forties Pipeline System, which brings more than 700,000 barrels of oil a day from the North Sea to British Petroleum PLC’s Kinneil plant. Kinneil is powered from the Grangemouth site. (Source: AP)


Web sites run by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty fell victim to a cyberattack causing a denial-of-service to Belarusian and other users. (Source: UPI)


Russia announced on Tuesday it was beefing up its peacekeeping force in Georgia’s breakaway regions, saying it had evidence Tbilisi was readying its forces for an attack.

Georgia denied it had any plans to attack the separatist Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions, but the Russian move marks a new escalation in a crisis between the two ex-Soviet neighbors that has already alarmed Georgia’s allies in the West. Tbilisi accuses the Russian peacekeepers serving in the breakaway regions of siding with the separatists. A Georgian official said President Mikhail Saakashvili would make a statement later on Tuesday. Russia announced the new troops four days after saying it would use force to defend its compatriots if Georgia attacked the regions, which threw off Tbilisi’s control in wars in the chaotic post-Soviet 1990s. Most residents hold Russian passports. The Russian Defence Ministry said Georgian forces had been building up on Abkhazia’s borders, sending aircraft over the conflict zone and harassing Russian peacekeepers. Saakashvili has said he wants the Russian peacekeepers replaced by an international force. (Source: Reuters)


Middle East
The new security chief of the Palestinian Authority is the son of a longtime opponent of the late Yasser Arafat. Major General Hazem Atallah has taken over the PA police in the West Bank. The 49-year-old is the son of Abu Zaim, or Atallah Atallah, who led a Jordanian-backed reform movement against Arafat in the 1980s. (Source: World Tribune)


Palestinians in Gaza fired ten Kassam rockets and six mortar shells at Israel Tuesday morning, causing damage at three different locations. One rocket directly hit a house in Sderot, while another hit a kibbutz infirmary. On Monday, Palestinians fired at least 18 rockets and dozens of mortar shells at Israel. (Source: Ha’aretz)


As part of Israeli efforts to bolster Mahmoud Abbas, the Israeli Defense Force lifted a key West Bank roadblock outside Nablus on Monday. Nablus is a hotbed of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror activity, defense officials said. (Source: Jerusalem Post)


Three wanted members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, who had been arrested for their activities against Israel, escaped Monday from the PA prison in Jericho. (Source: Ynet News)


U.S. President George W. Bush will try to bolster the faltering Israeli-Palestinian peace process on a May 13-18 trip to the Middle East, but the White House said on Monday he is “under no illusions” of a quick breakthrough. (Source: Reuters)


Hizbullah has embarked on a major expansion of its fighting capability and is now sending hundreds, if not thousands, of young men into intensive training camps in Lebanon, Syria and Iran to ready itself for war with Israel. The initial training and selection of recruits is done in Lebanon, with Iran preferred for training on certain weapons, RPGs and anti-tank missiles. Signs of the militia’s dramatic expansion are alarming Hizbullah’s domestic and international enemies. The decision to expand both the military wing and the supporting militias stems not from the losses during the 2006 war but from Hizbullah’s success as a conventional military force in that conflict, says a Lebanese army commander who has worked with the group, his view being confirmed by a U.S. military study. (Source: Observer-UK)


CIA Director Michael Hayden said that the alleged Syrian nuclear reactor destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in September would have produced enough plutonium for one or two bombs within a year of becoming operational. (Source: Houston Chronicle)


Saudi Arabia plans to increase oil exploration over the next four years. The Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) reported that Saudi Aramco has drafted a plan to increase drilling by 33 percent from 2009 through 2013. The industry newsletter said Aramco would drill 248 wells, a major increase from the initial 187. MEED reported that the Saudi plan, expected to be approved by the company and the Oil Ministry over the next two weeks, also stipulated a 40 percent increase in oil exploration investment. This would mean that Aramco would invest $13.7 billion, up from the original target of $10.7 billion. (Source: World Tribune)


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

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