Daily Archives: March 13, 2014

​Mercenaries took part in Maidan violence – Ex-Ukraine security chief

There is no doubt there were mercenaries at Maidan, the former head of Ukraine’s security service, Aleksandr Yakimenko, says.

The violence on Maidan which caused almost 100 deaths was organized by some opposition leaders who poured Western money and resources into the coup, Yakimenko told the Russia-1 TV channel. Now Major General Alexander Yakimenko is in the top five of Maidan’s hit list. He made it to that list while he was still in his office in Kiev.

Q: How did you manage to escape?

Aleksandr Yakimenko: I am a Security Service officer.

Q: Where did those snipers come from?

AY: First shots were fired from the Philharmonic building. Maidan Commandant Parubiy was in charge of the building. On February 20, this building was used as a base by the snipers and people with automatic weapons. They basically covered those who were attacking the demoralized policemen running in panic, hunted down like animals. They were followed by armed people with different kinds of weapons. At that point, somebody opened fire at those who attacked the police, and some of them were killed. All this fire was coming from the Philharmonic building. After this first round of fire, about 20 people came out of this building – this was witnessed by many. These people wore special combat clothes and carried sniper rifle cases, as well as AKMs with scopes. There were witnesses, and not just our operatives, but also Maidan activists from Svoboda, Right Sector, Batkivshchyna, and UDAR.

The snipers split into two groups – 10 men each. The Security Service lost track of one of the groups. The other group took a position at the Ukraine hotel. Killings continued. In the beginning, when the shots were scattered, I was asked by Right Sector and Svoboda to mobilize a Special Forces unit and remove the snipers from the buildings.

Q: They asked you?

AY: Yes, Right Sector and Svoboda. I was ready to do that, but I needed Parubiy’s [he is now now the Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine in the Turchinov-Yatsenyuk government] permission to enter Maidan. Otherwise our officers would’ve been attacked by the self-defense forces in the back. Parubiy didn’t give such permission. No weapons could be brought to Maidan without Parubiy’s permission. Hand guns, rifles, scopes – he had to agree to all of that. We had some intel about discharged Ukrainian army special forces participating in those activities. Some reports claimed that these were fighters from former Yugoslavia, as well as mercenaries from other countries.

Q: So you think they were mercenaries?

AY: No doubt. Parubiy removed himself from the picture. This affected the events of the last week. He joined Poroshenko. Gvozd, Malamuzh, and Gritsenko. These forces did what they were told by their bosses – the US. They basically lived in the embassy. They were there every day.

Q: Is it true that Nalivaichenko allowed the CIA agents to work in the Security Service building?

AY: Yes, that’s true. He also handed personal files of his own employees over to the CIA agents to study. But their mission was interrupted by an armed coup. The Maidan do not appoint these people; rather, it’s the US that does it. It’s enough to look at the newly appointed officials: Parubiy, Gvozd, Nalyvaichenko are all people who followed somebody else’s orders, the orders of the US, not even Europe. They are directly linked to the American intelligence. They sought to delay the negotiations and prevent the incumbent president from striking a deal with Russia and Russia from helping to prop up the social and economic order in Ukraine. After that they were planning to depose the president and integrate Ukraine into Europe, using Russian money. Who was troubled by the victory of the EU and the pro-integration forces? Only the US. It was the only country concerned over a possible alliance of Europe, Russia and Ukraine. The Customs Union and the connection between Russia and Ukraine did not sit well with their plans, either.

They’d been doing it ever since Yushchenko was president, and we couldn’t get rid of them. Once we started to put pressure, they relocated to Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. The most interesting part is that many regional governments spent budget money to pay for the so-called vyshkoli, i.e. training camps for militants to fight with various types of weapons.

All the orders were given either by the US embassy or by Jan Tombinski, a Polish representative who worked in the EU mission in Kiev. Poland played an invaluable role in the coup. It has always dreamt of restoring its former power and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Ever since the Maidan kicked off, our security service registered a dramatic increase in diplomatic correspondence coming in to various Western embassies in Kiev. There is one more mystery. Straight after this influx of correspondence we saw some foreign money at the Maidan and in Kiev exchange bureaus: the new, re-designed US dollar bank notes.

Q: So they were bringing in cash?

AY: Yes. Poroshenko, Firtash, Pinchuk – they all poured money into the Maidan. With all their assets in foreign banks, they found themselves trapped. So they had to follow orders from the West. All they were supposed to do was back the Maidan; otherwise they would have lost all their assets. They were thinking about their money rather than their own country. Unfortunately we couldn’t prevent the casualties, the people, mainly those who had come from the Western regions, were sent into the line of fire. The Maidan militants had left the barricades after the sniper fire started. But time will set the record straight.

The whole story has affected the Berkut guys, the Internal Troops, the Security Service, too. But ordinary Ukrainians have suffered as well. And I don’t think they should have sacrificed their lives for Yatsenyuk, Klitschko, Poroshenko and others to take their posts. Ukrainians have lots of patience. But one day they will run out of it and remove them from power. I hope that happens soon enough.

via ​Mercenaries took part in Maidan violence – Ex-Ukraine security chief — RT Op-Edge.

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​Russia deploys 8,500 troops for artillery drills in south

A BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher system

Russia’s Defense Ministry has launched massive artillery drills in the Southern Military District involving some 8,500 troops and a large amount of hardware. It coincides with war games conducted by the country’s Airborne Troops.

Artillery units are to be deployed in 10 ranges as part of the training, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. They will demonstrate their tactical, technical and special skills and will carry out more than 50 field maneuvers.

“The event involves some 8,500 artillery troops and a large number of rocket artillery systems, military and special hardware, including Grad-M, Uragan and Smersh multiple rocket launchers, Msta-S 152-mm caliber self-propelled howitzers, Nona artillery systems and Rapira 100-mm caliber anti-tank guns,” the statement said.

About half of the shooting practice exercises will be carried out at nighttime. The drills are focused on inter-service cooperation between artillery units and motorized, armor, airborne and amphibious troops, the ministry said.

The artillery exercises coincide with large-scale war games by Russian Airborne Troops currently under way in the south and west of the country. On Thursday, some 1,500 airborne troops have been transported to a range in the Rostov Region for a massive simultaneous deployment.

Those drills, involving a total of 4,000 troops, 36 transport aircraft and 500 military vehicles, will continue through Friday.

 

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Protester killed in Turkey clashes

A protester has been killed in violent clashes with police in Turkey. The country is witnessing a wave of unrest following the death of a 15-year-old who was shot by a tear-gas canister by police last summer and died in hospital after 269 days in a coma.

One protester in Istanbul died of a head injury after police cracked down on a crowd allegedly attacking police on Wednesday evening.

“There were two groups attacking the police and one youth suffered a head injury … and lost his life,” Aziz Babuscu, the ruling AK Party‘s Istanbul provincial head, told CNN Turk TV.

Riot police fire tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters during a demonstration in Istanbul March 12, 2014.

Turkey is gripped by unrest following the death of 15-year old Berkin Elvan who was injured in anti-government protests last summer.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators, many chanting political slogans, gathered for Elvan’s funeral on Wednesday in Istanbul. The crowd was also chanting “Tayyip! Killer!” Earlier on Wednesday, a group of Turkish activists hacked into the Twitter account of a top adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, posting messages like “We know who Elvan’s killer is.”

Police deployed water cannons to block the crowd from marching to the central Taksim square. Tear gas and rubber bullets were shot to disperse the people while police in riot gear chased scattered protesters into the side streets.

Fireworks thrown by anti-government protesters explode near riot policemen during a demonstration in Istanbul March 12, 2014.

On Wednesday, police also clashed with demonstrators in several other Turkish cities as protesters flooded the streets in acts of civil disobedience across the country. More demonstrations are planned to ratchet up pressure on Prime Minister Erdogan in the run up to the March 30 election.

Erdogan, who has remained silent on Elvan’s death, said that holding massive streets protests 18 days before elections was against the spirit of democracy.

“Does democracy come with Molotov cocktails?,” Erdogan told throngs of cheering supporters at a campaign rally in the southeastern city of Siirt, as cited by Reuters.

“The path of democracy is the ballot box. If you have the power, go to the ballot box,” he said.

An armoured police vehicle drives through a barricade on fire during a demonstration in Ankara March 12, 2014.

 

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Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Plane ‘may have flown for four hours after last-known contact’

The search for missing Malaysia Airlines plane

The search for missing Malaysia Airlines plane

US investigators are examining whether missing Flight MH370 was “intentionally diverted” from its planned route after new data revealed the plane may have flown for a further four hours from the point of its last confirmed location.

A report in the Wall Street Journal said US counter-terrorism officials are examining the possibility the plane’s course was changed “with the intention of using it later for another purpose” and that its transponders were intentionally turned off to avoid radar detection.

The report said data downloaded automatically from the plane’s engines, suggests the plane flew for a total of five hours. Its final confirmed location was at 1.31am last Saturday, about 40 minutes after it took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. At that point it was heading north-east across the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand on what should have been a six-hour flight to Beijing.

If true, the information downloaded from the plane’s Rolls Royce engines as part of a routine maintenance and monitoring programme, suggests the plane could have flown on for hundreds of miles and reached as far as India or even the north-west coast of Australia. It would expand the possible search area almost limitlessly.

Yet the report says the data has led investigators in the US to pursue the prospect that the plane may have been diverted by a pilot or someone else. It is unclear whether the plane reached an alternate destination or if it crashed, potentially hundreds of miles from where an international search effort involving 12 countries and more than 80 boats and planes has been focused.

Six days after the plane went missing, most reports had suggested that terrorism or hijacking had been largely discounted. But the report said the new data raised a “host of new questions and possibilities about what happened” to the plane and its 239 passengers and crew.

The report said US investigators remained “fluid” as to the causes of the plane’s disappearance and that it remained unclear whether investigators had evidence indicating possible terrorism or espionage.

The new revelations came as an effort to locate the plane spread out over more than 27,000 nautical square miles. Search planes had been dispatched to a site believed to be the location of where a Chinese government agency website said a satellite had photographed three “suspicious floating objects” on Sunday. It is unclear why it took China so long to share the information.

The location was close to where the plane lost contact with air traffic control but by early Thursday afternoon local time, nothing had been found at the spot. The Associated Press said the head of Malaysia’s civil aviation authority, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, had confirmed no debris had been located by the Vietnamese and Malaysian plans dispatched there.

Earlier on Thursday, China continued to put pressure on Malaysia. Of the 239 people on board, more than 150 were from China. China has criticised Malaysia for the slow pace of the operation and what it has called conflicting information about the search.

Speaking in Beijing, Premier Li Keqiang, called for the “relevant party” step up coordination while China’s civil aviation chief. “We will not give up on any suspected clue that has been found,” he said. “This is an international and large-scale search operation involving many countries.”

The last definitive sighting on civilian radar screens of MH370 came at 1.31am on Saturday, less than an hour after the plane took. On Wednesday Rodzali Daud, the Malaysian air force chief, said a dot was plotted on military radar at 2.15 a.m., 200 miles north-west of Penang Island off Malaysia’s west coast at the northern tip of the Strait of Malacca.

But he stressed that there was no confirmation that the dot on the radar was Flight MH370. He said Malaysia was sharing the data with the US Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Security Board.

The Independent.

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Sons of Thieves Tweet Secrets While Erdogan Scolds YouTube

In the epic corruption scandal that has enthralled Turkey, where the private affairs of powerful men are leaked daily on the Internet, one secret has remained stubbornly elusive: Who is Haramzadeler?

The nom de plume, employed by an anonymous user on Twitter Inc. (TWTR)’s messaging service, means Sons of Thieves in Turkish. Its owner or owners have achieved notoriety and outsized influence by posting links on Twitter to a large cache of secret documents and hours of audio described as police wiretaps, part of a 15-month corruption investigation that has swept up Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his family and his friends.

Haramzadeler’s proficiency in harnessing the anonymity of Twitter with the reach of YouTube has unleashed more than 1,000 pages of transcribed tapes and dozens of tape recordings. Postings also comment on current events: Today, as tens of thousands of protesters marched toward central Istanbul to mourn yesterday’s death of a 15-year old boy hit by a tear-gas canister last year, Haramzadeler posted a stylized drawing of the victim wearing angel wings.

The leaks have enlivened the opposition and put Erdogan on the defensive amid the public allegations of graft that stretch from the prime minister’s family to the businessmen who’ve profited during his 11 years in power.

With more than 500,000 followers across two related accounts, the posts have drawn the ire of the prime minister, who said in a television interview last week that he might consider blocking YouTube and other social media.

‘Media Blackout’

Twitter itself has become a zone of dissent, rooted in the government’s violent response in 2013 to protests over the demolition of Istanbul’s Gezi Park, said Ethan Zuckerman, director for the Center of Civic Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. The revelations have made Haramzadeler a major source of anti-Erdogan information, especially in a country where the largest television channels and newspapers are openly supportive of the prime minister.

“Twitter has become a channel both for sharing news and commenting on the failings of Turkish media,” Zuckerman said in an e-mail. “It developed quite specifically in response to what many protesters and their supporters see as a media blackout.”

Erdogan didn’t mention Twitter in last week’s interview on the ATV channel, whose 2013 sale from a company run by his son-in-law to another run by a business ally was itself the subject of a Twitter post by Haramzadeler. Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul are among the five most-followed world leaders on Twitter, with more than 8.4 million combined followers.

YouTube’s Mercy

The prime minister focused instead on the linked sites, usually on YouTube, where followers can find recordings, photographs and police records. And he mentioned Facebook (FB), which has 34 million active users in Turkey.

“We will not leave this nation at the mercy of YouTube and Facebook,” he said in the interview, and said he would make a decision on any ban after the March 30 elections.

Turks will choose between mayoral candidates from Erdogan’s AK Party and the opposition CHP, which has used the information leaked by Haramzadeler to attack Erdogan on the floor of parliament and in campaign speeches around the country.

While the authenticity of the recordings or the police records couldn’t be independently verified, Erdogan and his government have addressed the allegations in a lawsuit, in parliament and on the campaign trail. Speaking across Turkey, the prime minister has dismissed some of the recordings as fake, embraced one as “natural” and has said of the entire investigation that it is sparked by “foreign powers.”

Prime Thief

Haramzadeler hasn’t said where the recordings and documents come from. The posts call them court-ordered wiretaps, conducted by the police under the direction of a prosecutor. The results of that investigation, which became public on Dec. 17 when dozens of people related to Erdogan’s government were arrested, haven’t been officially released.

Another account, Bascalan, a play on the Turkish word for prime minister that means Prime Thief, sends out additional files. The user doesn’t say whether the wiretaps posted were authorized by law enforcement.

In Istanbul, Turkey’s richest and most populous city, Haramzadeler’s tweets are followed avidly, said about a dozen people interviewed in coffee shops in the city’s center.

“He’s a true hero,” said Asla, a mid-30s advertising executive who asked that her name not be used because she didn’t want to publicly criticize the government. “Everywhere in the news there are nothing but lies, but I trust these things because I can hear them, see them and show them to my parents and my friends.” Her laptop lay on the table in front of her at the outdoor cafe, open to her Twitter account.

Changing Handles

Through all of this, Haramzadeler has remained nameless, changing Twitter handles as the previous ones are spammed by government supporters. The user also shuffles the websites used to display material and recently started adding web proxies to the links. Those shield followers from exposing their own identities when they follow the links.

The user didn’t respond to a request for comment sent to a website mentioned in the Twitter bio. A spokesman for Facebook Inc. declined to comment. Nu Wexler, a spokesman for Twitter, declined comment, as did Ozlem Oz, the Turkey communications manager for Google Inc. (GOOG), owner of YouTube.

Haramzadeler has remained prolific as the government has stalled the investigation by replacing prosecutors and thousands of police officers. Last weekend alone, he posted about alleged bribes to bank executives, domestic spying and the purchase with loaned money of a cargo ship named “Pretty.”

Sons of Thieves Tweet Secrets While Erdogan Scolds YouTube – Bloomberg.

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A Guide to Turkey’s Tape Scandal

ISTANBUL–As Turkey prepares for crucial local elections March 30, the country has been convulsed by the release of recordings of private conversations of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and media executives, bureaucrats and businessmen.

Mr. Erdogan says his private conversations were wiretapped and confirmed the authenticity of some of the dozens of recordings, but says many have been edited to distort their meaning as part of a plot by his one-time political ally Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Turkish imam with millions of followers. Mr. Gulen has repeatedly denied any involvement and the movement’s representative said on Monday he had “nothing to do with the tapes.” Mr. Erdogan’s spokesman did not respond to calls for comment.

The recordings have been posted on social media, including YouTube and TwitterTWTR +0.89%, by accounts with the usernames Haramzadeler (the Sons of Sinners) and Bascalan (the Prime Swindler), but no one has claimed responsibility. Here is a look at recordings that have received the most attention.

The Cash

The most explosive tape, published Feb. 25, purports to show a conversation between the prime minister and his son, Bilal, discussing how to hide tens of millions of dollars in cash stored in the family’s home. The tape was alleged by the Prime Swindler to have been secretly recorded on the morning of Dec. 17, the first day of a sprawling corruption probe in which dozens of the premier’s allies, including three former ministers’ sons, were arrested on allegations of corruption.

On the tape, a voice alleged to be that of the prime minister instructs a person identified as his son to get rid of all the money, preferably after dark to avoid attention. The other speaker, purportedly his son, says he has moved everything except €30 million ($41.6 million), which is proving difficult to shift.

The prime minister has labeled the recording an “immoral montage,” and voiced anger at having his phone secretly wiretapped. The younger Mr. Erdogan has remained quiet through the scandal, and did not respond to calls for comment through his wholesale food company.

Pro-government media went to recording studios in the U.S. and asked them to assess the tapes. Employees at the studios had no clue they had been involved in a Turkish political scandal, and though they reported the tapes had been edited they later said their analyses had been misused.

The Court Case

On March 4, the Prime Swindler published a tape accompanied by tweets alleging it showed that Mr. Erdogan meddled with a high-profile tax case against a government critic five years ago. Mr. Erdogan appears to tell Turkey’s then justice minister, Sadullah Ergin, of his disappointment with the acquittal of media mogul, Aydin Dogan, in a trial over price gouging.

The prime minister appears to complain that Mr. Ergin had not followed the case closely enough. The men then appear to discuss in detail the prospects for reversing the decision.

A person close to Mr. Dogan said the case apparently discussed on the tape concerned charges brought against his company by Turkey’s Capital Markets Board for allegedly causing losses to investors by overcharging its subsidiaries for products sold by a Dogan-owned firm. The case continues despite the company being acquitted several times in separate courts, the person said.

Mr. Dogan, who was involved in a public row with Mr. Erdogan, has also received a handful of fines over tax irregularities that included one for $2.5 billion. They were eventually reduced by a large amount through court appeals and a government restructuring program.

Mr. Dogan’s company issued a statement the day after the tape was released, saying it would “further shake the judicial system in Turkey” if it was authentic.

Last week, Mr. Erdogan confirmed he discussed the case with Mr. Ergin, but said “it was only natural” to urge the justice minister to follow it more closely because it contained “dangerous” details, though he did not elaborate on what they were. He says the recording was “put together piece by piece.”

In an interview last week with CNN Turk, Mr. Ergin said the conversation was taken out of context by editing, and that he and Mr. Erdogan were discussing complaints over alleged manipulation of court documents they were trying to figure out how to correct.

The Ship Contract

On March 4, the Prime Swindler published a tape and alleged it contained conversations between Mr. Erdogan and a shipyard owner, Metin Kalkavan, in which the prime minister appears to manipulate a tendering process.

The Prime Swindler alleged the conversation was recorded shortly after the Turkish military awarded a $2.5 billion warship-construction contract to Koc HoldingKCHOL.IS +0.49%, a Turkish conglomerate that criticized Mr. Erdogan’s government during antigovernment protests last summer.

In the recording, Mr. Kalkavan, owner of the Sedef Gemi Insaat shipbuilding company, appears to tell Mr. Erdogan he had not officially applied for the bid in writing, but the premier tells him he should formally complain about an unfair bidding process. Mr. Kalkavan appears to promise he would enter a bid if it were reopened.

In the end, the bid was canceled and the contract was taken up by the Turkish navy, which has started work on building the ships.

Shortly after the cancellation, a separate $3 billion government shipbuilding contract was offered to Mr. Kalkavan and Spanish Navantia, a Spanish state-owned shipbuilding company.

Last week, Mr. Erdogan confirmed at least part of the recording, saying it was natural for him to advise someone to file a complaint to reverse wrongdoing. “As a result of the lawsuit, the bid is canceled. And the state earns a hundred, two hundred million dollars,” he said, in a reference to the navy contract.

“They are as lowly as to wiretap this conversation,” he said in a televised speech, referring to followers of Mr. Gulen.

According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, Mr. Kalkavan confirmed the conversation, but stressed it was “wrong to make conclusions based on just some parts of it.”  A spokesman for Spanish Navantia said the company had no doubt it won the tender based on the strength of its product.

The Media

The Sons of Sinners published a series of tapes, the first on Feb. 4, in which government officials allegedly order media bosses to change headlines, censor opposition politicians’ speeches and write stories planted by officials. According to the tapes, the orders were apparently executed without resistance.

Mr. Erdogan did not challenge their authenticity and directly confirmed one recording in which he personally called a media executive to order the removal of headlines from an opposition speech as he watched them airing on TV. “Yes, I made the call… because there were insults against us, against the prime minister… and they did what was necessary,” Mr. Erdogan said in televised remarks mid-February. “We have to also teach them these things. Because the insults were not normal.”

The content of many tapes was confirmed by Turkish editor in chief Fatih Altayli, who said in a television interview that the government would regularly interfere with the content published in his newspaper, Haberturk.

A Guide to Turkey’s Tape Scandal – Emerging Europe Real Time – WSJ.

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Arab Analysts: Egypt at Top of Agenda for Obama Saudi Arabia Trip

Middle East Institute Scholar Mohamed Elmenshawy on Tuesday published an extensive analysis of the psychological and geopolitical role played by the Egyptian army in the Arab world, amid increasing coverage and analysis in the Arab world regarding President Barack Obama’s potentially pivotal upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia.

Obama will soon go to meet Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah in Riyadh at a time when bilateral relations are very tense because of nuclear talks with Iran that could lead to improved relations between Tehran and the West. They also differ on the Syrian crisis especially after Washington refused to use force despite reports of the Syrian regime iusing chemical weapons against its opponents. But the real cleft between the two began earlier because of their opposing positions on the January 25 Revolution and this has not been addressed until today. Accordingly, Egypt will be high on the agenda of summit talks between Obama and King Abdullah.

The visit comes at a time of unprecedented public strain between Washington and its traditional Gulf allies, and earlier this week the Daily Beast revealed that relations between the United States and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were in an unprecedented crisis. Gulf nations are known to be livid with the administration over its handling of Egyptian political turmoil, which they believe the White House has irresponsibly stoked without regard for the risks presented by populist Islamist movements.

Elmenshawy’s analysis – published in Ahram Online under the headline “Egypt, the wound in US-Saudi relations” – quoted one Gulf diplomat as explaining that Cairo is looked to as the source of “tens of thousands of soldiers if needed” to help repulse threats to Arab countries.

“If we ever face such a terrible day as Kuwait did at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1990, we all know there are only two armies that can truly help us, including sending tens of thousands of soldiers if needed. They are the US and the Egyptian armies.”

via Arab Analysts: Egypt at Top of Agenda for Obama Saudi Arabia Trip – The Tower – The Tower.

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Israel fires on 29 ‘terror sites’ after rockets from Gaza hit towns – CNN

(CNN) — Israel responded with heavy fire after five rockets from Gaza landed Wednesday in populated areas of southern Israel, marking “the most substantial attack” in two years against the country, the Israeli military said.

The military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, called the Al-Quds Brigade, claimed responsibility for firing dozens of missiles on what it called “Israeli settlements.”

In response, Israel launched airstrikes on three areas in Gaza — Rafah, Khan Younis and Jabalia — that are believed to belong to Islamic Jihad, according to security sources in Gaza. A Hamas spokesman texted CNN to say they counted six airstrikes, but claimed they were against bases that were empty.

In all, the Israeli military targeted “29 terror sites” in Gaza, the military said on its Twitter page.

“Direct hits were confirmed,” the military tweeted.

“In today’s attack, 41 rockets struck in Israel, five hit populated areas and three were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system,” the military said in another statement. “This is the most substantial rocket attack from the Gaza Strip since Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.”

Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which is the Palestinian movement running Gaza, evacuated their military and civilian institutions on expectation of Israeli reprisals, the security sources in Gaza said.

Israel intercepts ship with weapons headed to Gaza

In the wake of the attack, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told Israeli army radio that “the position of my party Israel Beitanyu is that we support the full occupation of the whole of Gaza in any possible future action.”

Liberman opposed a response short of full occupation. “I am against a limited operation,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was later asked for his reaction to Liberman’s comments at a joint news conference with Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron Wednesday evening in Jerusalem.

“If it is not quiet in southern Israel, it will be very noisy in Gaza,” Netanyahu said in Hebrew.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called upon Israel to stop the “military escalation on the besieged Gaza Strip, considering that this escalation will put the isolated residents in the danger of the war and destruction,” presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said through the official Wafa news agency.

“The Gaza Strip is constantly being targeted by Israeli airstrikes that targeted many areas,” Rudeineh said.

Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV flashed a banner stating: “The occupation bares the full responsibility regarding this wave of aggression and the ongoing escalation.”

Abu Ahmad, spokesman for the Al-Quds Brigades, said the rocket fire came “after a long series of violations to the truce with the Palestinian resistance since November 2012.”

“This operation, dubbed ‘Breaking the Silence,’ comes as a response to the ongoing and continued Zionist Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza,” Ahmad said.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon ordered a halt to the shipment of goods to Gaza through a crossing on the Gaza-Israel-Egypt border until security assessments are made, the military said in statement.

However, another crossing will be open for humanitarian movements, the military said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the multiple rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and urged maximum restraint by all parties to prevent an escalation of violence and destabilization to the region, a spokesman said.

Israeli Apache helicopters flew over Gaza City on Wednesday after several rockets were reportedly fired from the Palestinian territory at the Israeli town of Sderot, officials said.

The Al-Quds Brigade claimed responsibility on its website for firing a total of 34 rockets and 14 mortar rounds at “Zionist targets.”

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Snowden leak: NSA plans to infect ‘millions’ of computers

The Threat Operations Center inside the National Security Agency (NSA)

Yet more previously secret surveillance operations waged by the United States National Security Agency were made public Wednesday morning thanks to leaked documents supplied by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The files — published first by The Intercept this week and dissected over the course of a 3,000-word article attributed to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher — bring to light a number of previously unreported programs undertaken by the secretive US spy agency, including operations that have given the NSA the potential to infect millions of computers around the world by relying on malicious software that’s sent to targets through surreptitious means.

In recent years, however, the NSA has reportedly made adjustments to these operations that enable them to by carried out automatically without the direct aid of human spies — a decision that experts say is undermining the internet as it is known today,

“Top-secret documents reveal that the National Security Agency is dramatically expanding its ability to covertly hack into computers on a mass scale by using automated systems that reduce the level of human oversight in the process,” the journalists wrote.

That automated system named “TURBINE,” they said later, is designed to “allow the current implant network to scale to large size (millions of implants) by creating a system that does automated control implants by groups instead of individually.”

NSA presentation from theintercept.com

According to The Intercept, the NSA has escalated offensive cyber operations significantly since 2004 in order to spy on targets, and has used an array of tactics and “implants” that were previously undisclosed in order to carry out these missions.

The website reported that the agency’s British counterpart, the GCHQ, “appears to have played an integral role” with regards to developing these implants, which have grown in number exponentially in recent years from only 100 or so to tens-of-thousands, according to the report.

These implants, the journalists wrote, allow the NSA “to break into targeted computers and to siphon out data from foreign Internet and phone networks.” They can also be combined with a number of specialized plugins to provide analysts with additional surveillance options, the likes of which could likely leave many thinking staying secure on the Web seem impossible after reading the Greenwald and Gallagher report.

NSA presentation from theintercept.com

n one example cited by The Intercept, the NSA disguised itself as a fake Facebook server in order to intercept connections attempted to be made between account holders and the social networking site’s real computers. Instead, however, the NSA sends those unsuspecting Facebook users to a real site embedded with malware that then has the ability to infect that target’s computer.

That program — QUANTUMHAND — became operational in October 2010, The Intercept reported, after it successfully allowed the NSA to gain access to “about a dozen targets.”

A spokesperson for Facebook told The Intercept he had “no evidence of this alleged activity,” but QUANTUMHAND is far from the only program that, thanks to Edward Snowden, have linked the NSA to relying on already established websites and programs to pry into the communications of targets.

In another example, The Intercept included images from an internal NSA slideshow presentation that indicates surveillance missions can be waged by the agency against targeted email addresses, IP addresses and the “cookies” created by websites like Google, Yahoo, YouTube and countless others to track visitors, often for advertisement and user experience purposes.

NSA presentation from theintercept.com

Ashkan Soltani, a DC-based independent security researcher, remarked on Twitter that the information in that presentation “looks a lot like a catalog of ad tracking tech.” Instead of being used by the likes of Google to give YouTube users a more “personalized” browsing experience, however, the NSA and GCHQ can use these selectors to spy on the habits of unknowing subjects of investigation.

GCHQ targeting sheet looks a lot like a catalog of ad tracking tech: UDIDs, Google prefIDs, doubleclickID, WiFi MAC pic.twitter.com/oOMl0yJj4k

— ashkan soltani (@ashk4n) March 12, 2014

Other programs disclosed by Mr. Snowden and described by The Intercept include CAPTIVATEDAUDIENCE (“used to take over a targeted computer’s microphone and record conversations”, GUMFISH (“can covertly take over a computer’s webcam and snap photographs”), FOGGYBOTTOM (“records logs of Internet browsing histories and collects login details and passwords”), GROK (“used to log keystrokes”) and SALVAGERABBIT to exfiltrate data from removable flash drives connected to a target’s computer.

To infect computers with these implants, The Intercept said, the NSA can avoid trying to trick targets into going to fake websites by instead spamming them with unsolicited email containing links to malware.

If we can get the target to visit us in some sort of web browser, we can probably own them,” an NSA employee wrote in one of the previously secret documents. “The only limitation is the ‘how.’”

NSA presentation from theintercept.com

The Intercept’s latest report was published only two days after Snowden spoke remotely to the audience of the SXSW Interactive tech conference in Austin, Texas and urged attendees to use encryption — a tactic, he said, that is still relatively successful with regards to thwarting snooping like the kind carried out by the NSA.

Encryption, Snowden said on Monday, makes it“very difficult for any sort of mass surveillance”to occur.

If The Intercept’s report is anywhere close to representative of the NSA’s actual capabilities though, then the agency’s operations are expanding regardless and relying on new tricks and techniques to track down and monitor persons of interest in the name of national security.

“When they deploy malware on systems,” malware expert Mikko Hypponen told The Intercept, “they potentially create new vulnerabilities in these systems, making them more vulnerable for attacks by third parties.”

RT USA.

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Kiev snipers were shooting from building controlled by Maidan forces – Ukraine’s ex-security chief

Former chief of Ukraine’s Security Service has confirmed allegations that snipers who killed dozens of people during the violent unrest in Kiev operated from a building controlled by the opposition on Maidan square. Shots that killed both civilians and police officers were fired from the Philharmonic Hall building in Ukraine’s capital, former head of the Security Service of Ukraine Aleksandr Yakimenko told Russia 1 channel. The building was under full control of the opposition and particularly the so-called Commandant of Maidan self-defense Andrey Parubiy who after the coup was appointed as the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Yakimenko added. Furthermore the former security chief believes that Parubiy has been in contact with US Special Forces that could have coordinated the assault. “Shots came from the Philharmonic Hall. Maidan Commandant Parubiy was responsible for this building. Snipers and people with automatic weapons were ‘working’ from this building on February 20. They supported the assault on the Interior Ministry forces on the ground who were already demoralized and have, in fact, fled,” Yakimenko said in an interview with Russian television. The police officers were chased by a group of rioters armed with various weapons and at that point, Yakimenko says snipers fired at pursuers themselves. “When the first wave of shootings ended, many have witnessed 20 people leaving the building,” former chief says, noting that they were well-equipped and were carrying military style bag for carrying sniper and assault rifles with optical sights. Not only the law enforcers, but people from the opposition’s Freedom, Right Sector, Fatherland, and Klitschko’s UDAR party have also seen this, Yakimenko claims. The former security head also said that according to the intelligence those snipers could be foreigners, including mercenaries from former Yugoslavia as well former Special Forces employees from Ukraine’s Defense Ministry. Yakimenko claims that Parubiy was part of a group that was heavily influenced by the people associated with the US secret services. “These were the forces that carried out everything that they were told by their leadership – the United States,” Yakimenko explained, claiming that Maidan leaders practically lived in the US embassy.

According to Yakimenko, during the massacre the opposition leaders contacted him and asked him to deploy special force unit to scoop out the snipers from buildings in central Kiev, but Parubiy made sure that won’t happen. “The Right Sector and Freedom Party have requested me to use the Alpha group to cleanse these buildings, stripping them from snipers,” Yakimenko said. According to him Ukrainian troops were ready to move in and eliminate the shooters. “I was ready to do it, but in order to go inside Maidan I had to get the sanction from Parubiy. Otherwise the ‘self-defense’ would attack me in the back. Parubiy did not give such consent,” Yakimenko said noting that the Maidan leader had full authority over the access to weapons on Maidan, and not a single gun including a sniper rifle could get in or out of the square. Aleksandr Yakimenko’s account supports previously voiced concerns over unknown snipers shooting both protesters and the police indiscriminately – who were the topic of the recently leaked phone conversation between EU’s Catherine Ashton and Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet. In a leaked phone conversation that took place February 26 Ashton and Paet discussed rumors that snipers were hired by some of the opposition leaders. “There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovich, but it was somebody from the new coalition,” Paet said during the conversation. “I think we do want to investigate. I mean, I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh,” Ashton answered. Almost 100 people were killed and another 900 injured during the violent standoff near Maidan Square in Kiev last month that forced president Yanukovich out of the country and installed a new government. Ukrainian self-proclaimed authorities maintain that the shooting was authorized by Yanukovich. On Wednesday Moscow suggested setting up a probe to investigate the crimes perpetrated by extremist and armed elements of the opposition over the past three months. The proposal to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) also seeks to examine the legitimacy of the post-coup Ukrainian government.

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