Daily Archives: May 4, 2015

GCC to hold Riyadh summit on Yemen crisis

A general view of the last session of the 34th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held in Kuwait, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013.

A general view of the last session of the 34th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held in Kuwait, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013.

The six-state Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states will meet in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Monday to discuss regional developments, most significantly the ongoing crisis in Yemen.

Alongside the Gulf heads of state, will be French President Francois Hollande who will be the first foreign leader to attend a GCC Summit since its inception in 1981. Hollande will be on an important tour of Qatar and Saudi Arabia as he continues to foster strong ties between France and the GCC.

The GCC Summit will be also be an opportunity for the Gulf leaders to discuss bilateral relations and ways to strengthen their close ties in the face of regional challenges including the situations in Syria, Iraq, as well as Yemen.

In Yemen, a Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries is trying to stop Iranian-backed Houthi militias and forces loyal to deposed leader Ali Abdullah Saleh from taking control of the country.

Peace talks had collapsed after Houthi militias went on the offensive in recent months, seizing the capital Sanaa and advancing on Aden, forcing President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi to flee into exile in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-led coalition launched an air campaign on Houthi targets in Yemen on March 26 to prevent the militia from taking the entire territory and to restore Hadi’s legitimate authority.

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NATO & allies stage thousands-strong drills across Europe

A Marder armoured infantry vehicle drives past German Bundeswehr armed forces soldiers of the 371st armoured infantry battalion during a media day of the NATO drill ‘NOBLE JUMP 2015’ at the barracks in Marienberg April 10, 2015.

Three sets of military exercises kicked off in Europe on Monday, involving thousands of servicemen from a variety of NATO nations and their allies, amid a wave of similar action across the area.

Estonia is holding its largest-ever military drills. Named Siil-2015 (Hedgehog), the maneuvers involve about 13,000 personnel. The number includes about 7,000 reservists, along with members of the volunteer Estonian Defense League.

Siil-2015, scheduled to last until May 15, also involves forces from the US, the UK, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Belgium, Poland and the Netherlands. American troops, who are staying in Estonia as part of the massive training operation Atlantic Resolve, will bring four Abrams main battle tanks to the exercise. British, Belgian and German air defense units, as well as several NATO warplanes, will also take part.

The Lithuanian Army is holding its own maneuvers as part of the largest national drills called Zaibo Kirtis (Lightning Strike). The training involves over 3,000 troops. It is focused on joint action by the army and civilian authorities against so-called hybrid threats combining both military and non-military methods of fighting, according to Army Commander Major-General Jonas Vytautas Zukas.

In a statement cited by TASS, the major-general said: “The exercises will simulate situations when the Interior Ministry’s forces and resources are insufficient to neutralize various extreme situations unrelated to the direct repulsion of an imaginary enemy’s attack and the army should be involved.”

Lightning Strike will also be testing the country’s mobilization system and cyber security works, according to the Defense Ministry’s press release.

In Norway, NATO and its allies have gathered for annual anti-submarine exercises. About 5,000 servicemen from 10 NATO countries and Sweden are taking part. The drills, codenamed Dynamic Mongoose, involve simulated sub hunts utilizing surface vessels, aircraft and a variety of radar and sonar technologies. The US, Germany and Sweden are providing the submarines.

The two-week exercise follows reports of a suspected foreign underwater vessel off the coast of Finland, which prompted the use of depth charges to scare it off. In autumn last year, a similar scare triggered a weeklong search in the sea near Stockholm, for what later turned out to be a civilian workboat. In the latter case, the finger of blame was unequivocally pointed at Russia, amid rising tensions over the Ukrainian conflict. When speaking to the media about Dynamic Mongoose, NATO commanders avoided sending a message to any country in particular: “Obviously we’re aware of the incidents that have happened in some of our partner nations’ waters,” NATO Rear Admiral Brad Williamson said. “I think what it does is it focuses our efforts and our training here.”

2 gunmen killed outside Mohammed ‘art event’ in Texas

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Two gunmen have been shot and killed in a parking lot outside a venue in Garland, Texas that had been hosting a controversial Mohammed art event dedicated to free speech. As a precaution police and SWAT have swept the area for possible explosive devices.

The two suspects drove up to the center and opened fire, injuring a Garland ISD security officer in his leg, the city confirmed. The officer suffered non-life threatening injuries and was soon released from the hospital.

Both attackers were killed in the shooting, but police proceeded to search the area for a vehicle that could allegedly have explosives in it.

“Because of the situation and what was going on today and the history of what we’ve been told has happened at other events like this, we’re considering their car as possibly having a bomb,” said Garland police officer Joe Harn, describing the search as a “precaution.”

According to tweets from IS followers, the attack was carried out by jihadi militants loyal to the terrorist group.

An IS fighter from the UK tweeted – “2 of our brothers just opened fire at the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) art exhibition in texas” and “They Thought They Was Safe In Texas From The Soldiers of The Islamic State,” according to SITE Intelligence, an online watchdog of jihadist activities.

One of the gunmen is believed to have tweeted about the impending attack earlier on Sunday, saying ‘May Allah accept us as mujahideen.’

Reports on the grounds say that police have finished checking the attackers’ car for explosives and announced no immediate threat to area.

The FBI has reportedly arrived at the scene to investigate the incident further.

People inside the exhibition center were initially ordered to stay indoors, while the nearby Walmart and other businesses were evacuated.

SWAT inside

SWAT inside

The SWAT team evacuated the convention participants to a safer location on a local high school campus. Channel 8 reporter on the scene, Jobin Panicker, reported that initially the crowd heard around 3-4 gunshots. A further exchange of gunfire followed after a brief pause.The Curtis Culwell Center was hosting the first annual Mohammad Art Exhibit and Contest, a controversial “free speech” event that offered a $10,000 prize for the best cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative event was being broadcast live on YouTube, when a SWAT member burst in telling the crowd that two suspects had been shot. The event was interrupted and guests and organizers were moved into a secure room by the authorities.

The event had created controversy prior to its execution with some seeing it as an attack on Islam. The event’s organizers said they are exercising the right to freedom of speech, according to the Dallas News.

The shootings allegedly took place just before 7:00 pm local time, when the event was about to conclude, shortly after the last speaker had finished his presentation.

Additional police forces had already been deployed to the Curtis Culwell Center at the time of the incident to provide security because of the controversy of the event. However, no protests were taking place prior to the event, and neither were there threats of any imminent attacks reported.

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Bodies on road outside TX free speech event

Texas governor, Greag Abbott, meanwhile issued a statement saying that authorities are trying to figure out what caused the “senseless” attack. He expressed his condolences and thanked the policemen for “quickly” resolving the situation.

“It is a terrible thing people in America today think, ‘well they told us that they would kill us if we draw cartoons, so we [had] better not draw cartoons!’” Robert Spencer, one of the organizers said during the event. “No…that is when we have to draw cartoons!”

“We were aware of the threats. We were aware of the difficulties. We have paid tens of thousands of dollars for security for this. And you saw the massive security measures that there are in place,” Spencer said about an hour ahead of the incident.

One of the organizers, Pamela Geller, was “known to make anti-Muslim statements,” and is notorious for arguing in courts the idea of placing anti-Muslim ads around New York, Al Jazeera reports.

In her tweets after the shooting, Geller said that what has occurred in Texas was “a war on free speech.”

The American Freedom Defence Initiative was allowed by a federal court to display its ad campaign on New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses. Some online comments have suggested that the shooting might be linked to this particular ad campaign. Similar campaigns have also taken place in Washington DC.