Global Security Brief
A daily, open source, around the world tour of international security-related news.
By Professor Joseph B. Varner
Global War on Terror
Three accidental explosions in the Afghan capital have left nine people dead and more than 20 wounded, including some counternarcotics police, officials said Monday. A policeman dropped a rocket-propelled grenade that exploded as his unit set off from Kabul on Monday on an opium poppy eradication mission north of the city. Three policemen were killed in the blast. At least eight others were wounded. Also Monday, four children died and one was wounded when an old artillery shell they were playing with exploded. Another police official, Sayed Ekramudin, said two civilians were killed and 13 others wounded in an explosion Sunday at a refuse dump in the city’s northern outskirts. Ekramudin said a truck had hit a buried explosive. (Source: AP)
Islamic insurgents killed at least three Ethiopian soldiers during a gunfight in the Somali capital on Sunday. Mohamed Toshow said both sides exchanged fire after an attack on an Ethiopian water tanker in southern Mogadishu. Ethiopian troops supporting the shaky U.N.-backed transitional government come under daily attack by Islamic insurgents, who receive support from Ethiopia’s archenemy Eritrea. In an unrelated incident, inter-clan fighting in western Somalia killed at least 12 people and wounded at least 15 others during a land dispute, residents said Sunday. (Source: AP)
A Shiite rebel leader in Yemen warned Sunday that his group will escalate its fight against the government if the army continues an offensive that has left almost 20 rebels and soldiers dead over the past two days. Six rebels and six soldiers were killed in clashes overnight Sunday in and around the mountainous rebel stronghold of Saada in northern Yemen, according to a security official and an eyewitness. A day earlier, three soldiers and four rebels were killed in similar clashes. Thousands have died in violence between the rebels and the government of this predominantly Sunni country since the rebellion erupted in 2004. On Friday, a bomb rigged to a motorcycle blew up amid a crowd of worshippers leaving a Shiite mosque in Saada, killing at least 18 people and wounding about four dozen, according to officials. Both sides blamed each other for the attack. Rebel leader Abdel Malak al-Hawthi said on Sunday that tribal chiefs have stepped in to mediate a new cease-fire, but warned that his group would escalate fighting “if the government insists on the option of war.”
The Shiite fighters signed two cease-fire agreements with the government in June 2007 and January of this year, but sporadic violence continues. The rebels said the government is corrupt and too closely allied with the West. The government has charged al-Hawthi with sedition, forming an illegal armed group and inciting anti-American sentiment. Many officials in Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and in Yemen’s government suspect Iran and Libya support al-Hawthi. Sunni governments in the region suspect Shiite Iran is trying to increase its influence by supporting Shiite groups like the militias in Iraq and Hizbullah in Lebanon. Al-Hawthi denies that his group, known as the Young Faithful, receives funds from Iran. Yemen is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, but Al Qaeda loyalists are active in the country. (Source: AP)
Suspected Islamic militants clashed with police in Chechnya, killing two law enforcement officers, a regional official said Saturday. A group of about 25 suspected militants fought with government forces late Friday in Chechnya’s southern district of Urus-Martan. One police officer and a soldier were killed, and one officer was wounded. At least four militants were wounded. (Source: AP)
The Turkish military says a raid in northern Iraq earlier this week killed more than 150 Kurdish rebels. The military said Saturday it successfully hit all its targets in a three-hour air operation on Mount Qandil. The raid ended early Friday. (Source: AP)
The U.S. military is reportedly drawing up plans for a “surgical strike” against an insurgent training camp inside Iran if Republican Guards continue with attempts to destabilize Iraq, western intelligence sources said last week. One source said the Americans were growing increasingly angry at the involvement of the Guards’ special-operations Quds force inside Iraq, training Shi’ite militias and smuggling weapons into the country. U.S. commanders are increasingly concerned by Iranian interference in Iraq and are determined that recent successes by joint Iraqi and US forces in the southern port city of Basra should not be reversed by the Quds Force. Although it was reported that U.S. military leaders are firmly opposed to any attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, they believe a raid on one of the camps training Shi’ite militiamen would deliver a powerful message to Tehran.
British officials reportedly believe the U.S. military tends to overestimate the effect of the Iranian involvement in Iraq. But they say there is little doubt that the Revolutionary Guard exercises significant influence over splinter groups of the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, who were the main targets of recent operations in Basra. The CBS television network reported last week that plans were being drawn up for an attack on Iran, citing an officer who blamed the “increasingly hostile role” Iran was playing in Iraq.
The American news reports were unclear about the precise target of such an action and referred to Iran’s nuclear facilities as the likely objective. According to the intelligence sources there will not be an attack on Iran’s nuclear capacity. “The Pentagon is not keen on that at all. If an attack happens it will be on a training camp to send a clear message to Iran not to interfere.” President George W. Bush is known to be determined that he should not hand over what he sees as “the Iran problem” to his successor. A limited attack on a training camp may give an impression of tough action, while at the same time being something that both Gates and the U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, could accept. (Source: The Times-UK)
Iran said Monday it would not hold a new round of talks with the U.S. on security in Iraq until American forces end their current assault against Shiite militias. U.S. and Iraqi forces have been battling supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and Iraq’s government spokesman said Sunday that the crackdown would continue even if Iran pulled out of the talks. (Source: AP)
In a brief news conference yesterday it was announced that the Peleliu Expeditionary Strike Group was being sent on a regular rotation. Led by the amphibious assault ship Peleliu, the convoy comprises the amphibious ships Pearl Harbor and Dubuque, the cruiser Cape St. George and the destroyers Halsey and Benfold. On board were Marines from the Camp Pendleton-based 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which took part in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, 2004 tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia and additional tours in Iraq from 2005 to 2007. The Marines were joined by aviators from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21 and Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light 45, both based at North Island Naval Air Station. Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station also went along. (Source: SignOnSanDiego.com)
The U.S. is reportedly drawing up plans to send 7,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan to combat a resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda, at a time when NATO countries appear unwilling to contribute further forces. The increase is being considered by the Pentagon after President Bush returned from a NATO summit in Romania last month disappointed by few pledges of extra troops by his European allies. The plans, which have yet to be formalized or sent to the White House, would increase the number of US troops in Afghanistan to about 40,000, the largest American presence since the war began more than six years ago. Last week Robert Gates, the U.S. Defense Secretary, said that America may consider taking over NATO’s command in southern Afghanistan, where British, Canadian and Dutch forces are concentrated. (Source: The Times-UK)
Unknown assailants attacked an oil installation in restive southern Nigeria and some crude production has been lost, Royal Dutch Shell PLC officials said Saturday. Shell spokesman Precious Okolobo said the attackers hit a flow station belonging to Shell’s joint venture in southern Nigeria late Friday and that some oil production had been shut down. He gave no further details. Flow stations are intersections for tubes carrying oil from wells to export terminals. The region’s main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, did not immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment or claims for the attack. (Source: AP)
Insurgents attacked an army convoy in northern Mali Saturday, violating a cease-fire and sparking a fire fight that left five people dead. It was the first major clash since the ethnic Tuareg rebels and the government signed a cease-fire a month ago. Libya had brokered that deal in an attempt to restore peace to a region that has been plagued by raids, kidnappings and clashes for more than a year. On Saturday morning, a group of armed men attacked an army supply vehicle outside of the town of Tessalit. He said four attackers and one soldier died in the fighting. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press. (Source: AP)
Rebels in Ivory Coast have begun to disarm, a crucial step toward long-awaited presidential elections that many hope will secure an end to years of war, officials said Sunday. About 1,000 rebels have arrived since Friday at a demobilization center in the northern city of Bouake, a former rebel stronghold. In all, about 43,000 rebels are expected to lay down their arms over a five-month period at six demobilization sites in the north and west. Some 26,000 will be reintegrated into civilian life, and the remainder will be integrated into the national army. In a statement, Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, the former rebel leader, congratulated his fighters for starting the process, sending a “strong signal” that the peace accord signed in Burkina Faso last year is being implemented.
Defense Minister Michel Amani Nguessan called the move “irreversible,” and said it “should represent an end to the mistrust … we’ve seen since the start of this crisis.” Rebels took up arms in 2002, seizing the northern half of the country. Though the nation was officially reunited last year after the Burkina Faso accord, former rebel soldiers have retained de facto control of the northern half of the world’s leading cocoa producer. (Source: AP)
Troops opened fire and killed at least two people as tens of thousands of people rioted over high food prices in Somalia’s capital Monday. Several people also were injured in the protest in Mogadishu in this Horn of Africa nation. (Source: AP)
Records obtained by The Canadian Press show that Russian bombers are again regular visitors along Canadian and U.S. Arctic airspace. One military analyst says it’s all part of the Russian effort to re-establish itself on the world stage, especially in the Arctic. Rob Huebert of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary said: “The Russians are just telling all the Arctic nations, ‘We’re back.’ ”
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last August that Russia would resume its long-range air patrols, about two Tu-95 bombers a month have been flying into the buffer zone just outside Canadian and U.S. airspace in the Arctic. Documents show that Canadian CF-18 Hornets have flown five such Bear intercept missions, one in 2006 and two each in September and November last year. American jets have flown another 12 such missions in the Arctic. (Source: Globe and Mail-CAN)
Bolivia’s largest state voted Sunday on a sweeping autonomy referendum that leaders said would forge “a new Bolivia,” defying leftist President Evo Morales who called the vote unconstitutional. Minor clashes across Santa Cruz state injured at least 25 people during the politically charged vote, which sought to separate the state’s freewheeling capitalism and mixed-blood heritage from Morales’ vision of a communal state ruled by indigenous Andean values. Relatives of a 70-year-old man said he was killed when police fired tear gas to break up one scuffle between pro- and anti-autonomy factions. The information could not be confirmed with authorities. Pre-election polls showed the referendum drawing as much as 70 percent support, though they were conducted by local news media sympathetic to the cause. (Source: AP)
China on Sunday raised the death toll to 24 following the outbreak of a virus in another province a day after the Health Ministry ordered heightened efforts to stem the spread of infectious diseases. Official Xinhua News Agency said an 18-month old boy who died in Foshan city in Guangdong Friday had died from enterovirus, known as EV-71. Another child who died in the district on April 25 also tested positive, it said. The deaths follow the 22 that have already died in central Anhui province, 1,000 miles to the north. Prompting the government to act was an unusual jump in cases of the enterovirus, known as EV-71, in Fuyang, a fast-growing city set in the rural heartland of central China. As of early Saturday, 3,736 cases of EV-71 were reported in Fuyang’s mainly rural outskirts, a rise of 415 in about 24 hours, health officials said. Besides the 22 deaths, 1,115 people remain hospitalized, 42 of them in serious or critical condition, said the health department of Anhui Province, where Fuyang is located. (Source: AP)
Communist rebels ambushed an army convoy in the southern Philippines with land mines and machine-gun fire Monday, killing three soldiers and wounding 13. Two army trucks carrying troops back to barracks from a combat operation hit several land mines along a highway in President Roxas town in North Cotabato province. About 20 New People’s Army rebels then opened fire on the soldiers from the side of the road, killing three and wounding at least 13. (Source: AP)
Indonesia extradited four rebel soldiers suspected in the attempted assassinations of East Timor’s President and Prime Minister, the police chief said Monday. The East Timorese men, who were detained after illegally crossing the border last month, were flown to the capital, Dili, where they will face trial in the February 11 shootings. (Source: AP)
Local reports in Myanmar say a cyclone killed more than 350 people and ripped apart thousands of homes, but tensions between the country and the West may make its military government reluctant to ask for international aid. Five states within Myanmar, also known as Burma, have been declared disaster areas, reported Myaddy television, which is operated by the military. Those are Yangon, Irrawaddy, Bago, Karen and Mon states. (Source: CTV.ca)
Heavy weekend fighting between government troops and Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged northern region left 35 rebels and eight soldiers dead, the military said Sunday. The latest battles erupted Saturday along the front lines in the Mannar and Welioya regions. In the worst fighting, soldiers killed 13 Tamil rebels in Janakapura in Welioya. Four soldiers were killed and six soldiers and 26 rebels were wounded. Sporadic fighting in the northern Mannar district killed 18 rebels and one soldier, the official said, adding that six soldiers and six rebels were wounded in that fighting. Separate fighting in Welioya left four rebels and three soldiers dead. (Source: AP)
Forces from Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia shot down two unmanned Georgian spy planes over the territory on Sunday. Georgia denied the claim and traded accusations with Russia, which is struggling with the West for influence in the country strategically located on the Caspian Sea. Each says the incident indicates the other is preparing for war over the breakaway region. Strained relations between Georgia and Russia, which has close ties with Abkhazia, have worsened since Georgia accused Moscow of shooting down a pilotless Georgian reconnaissance plane over the breakaway region two weeks ago. Russia denied involvement and separatist Abkhazian officials said their forces shot it down. (Source: AP)
Georgia has deployed nearly 7,500 troops on its border with breakaway region Abkhazia. Abkhazia Defense Minister DeMerab Kishmaria said should a military operation begin, about 3,000 troops will be used to seize the Kodori Gorge, which in the northeast of Abkhazia, RIA Novosti reported Sunday. Abkhaz armed forces, he added, had also been put on combat alert and that there would be enough forces and military equipment to repulse any “Georgian aggression.” The Russian news service reported that a Russian federal security source said Saturday that Georgia, “with the participation of foreign experts,” had prepared a plan for “armed action” against Abkhazia. (Source: UPI)
Jerusalem must be taken off the negotiating table, Israeli Transportation Minister and former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Friday. Speaking to leaders of U.S. Jewish organizations in New York, Mofaz said that reaching a final status agreement with the Palestinians by the end of the year would force Israel to give up on its very foundations and “sell” its national assets. He said Israel should try and reach a gradual interim deal with the Palestinians, since it was uncertain if the PA leadership could fulfill its agreements. He stressed that Israel must ensure it has defensible borders that can withstand every remaining test. (Source: Jerusalem Post)
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert met visiting U.S. Secretary of State Rice on Saturday evening after she arrived for a 36-hour visit. He is expected to hold a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas on Monday. A senior PA official in Ramallah said that in the wake of Abbas’ recent talks in Washington with President Bush and Rice, it was “unrealistic” to expect a breakthrough between the Palestinians and Israelis before the end of the year. (Source: Jerusalem Post)
On Sunday, four Israelis were treated for shock when three Kassam rockets fired by Palestinians in Gaza struck the city of Sderot. One rocket hit a cemetery, causing damage. The second destroyed the roof of a shop in the city’s commercial district and the third damaged a residential building. (Source: Ha’aretz)
Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said on Sunday that Iraq has “concrete evidence” Iran is fomenting violence in the country and that a high-level panel had been formed to document the proof. (Source: Washington Post)
Lebanese Communications Minister Marwan Hamada told the London-based Asharq Alawsat Sunday that the Iranian organization aiding Hizbullah in restoring its infrastructure after the war is also building a communications network with separate landlines that span most of Lebanon and would enable Hizbullah to listen to any entity within Lebanon. (Source: Ynet News)
Six world powers agreed Friday to offer Iran a new mix of incentives to curtail its nuclear program, updating an offer made to Iran in June 2006, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced in London. The centerpiece of the new offer is international assistance for a civilian nuclear program. After meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and top foreign policy figures from Russia, China, France and Germany to discuss Iran’s disputed program, Miliband said the group “reviewed and updated” an offer made to Iran in June 2006. (Source: Washington Post)
Thousands of Kuwaitis have demonstrated against a government crackdown on illegal tribal primaries, with some of them throwing stones at a security building before storming it, the Interior Ministry said Sunday. The confrontation Saturday evening was the third between authorities and tribesman over the banned parliamentary primaries since Kuwait’s leader dissolved the legislature in March and ordered early elections on May 17. No injuries have been reported from any of the protests. The crowd of several thousand gathered in front of a security building south of Kuwait City on Saturday, demanding the release of members of the Mutair tribe arrested for carrying out the primaries, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. (Source: AP)
Joe Varner is Assistant Professor and Program Manager for Homeland Security at American Military University.
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