Daily Archives: March 6, 2016

Egypt, France conduct joint military exercise off the Mediterranean

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Egypt and France began on Sunday a joint military exercise termed as the “Ramses-2016” in the coastal city of Alexandria along the Mediterranean.

According to Egyptian military, the joint venture off the coast of Egypt will go on for several weeks. This includes both air and naval forces training together to strengthen both military in combating threats.

“Both Navy and Air forces of Egypt and France have commenced a team exercise called the Ramses-2016 in Egypt and this joint venture will go on for several weeks off the coast of Alexandria (north) and in the Egyptian airspace,” read the press statement released by the Egyptian military.

 

The drill is aimed at “sharing our expertise with the Egyptian military, one of our main Middle East partners,” the French defense ministry said at the time.

France also had announced the maneuvers on Tuesday saying the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which is being used to launch airstrikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq, would also take part.

On December 19, the Charles de Gaulle carrier took command in the Gulf of the naval contingent operating as part of the international coalition fighting the jihadist IS group.

‘Ramses-2016’ wargames are held amid reports that western countries are gearing up for military intervention in next-door Libya

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Egypt Links Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas to Prosecutor’s 2015 Assassination

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Egypt’s Minister of Interior Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar said that 14 out of 48 suspected organizers, conspirators and perpetrators of the assassination of Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat have been detained.

Egypt’s Minister of Interior Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar said Sunday the Muslim Brotherhood organized the assassination of Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat with assistance from Palestine’s Hamas movement.

Earlier on Sunday, prosecutors ordered the arrest of six suspects linked to Barakat’s murder in a car bomb attack on June 29, 2015 in Cairo.

“Members of the Muslim Brotherhood who planned this murder are hiding in Turkey. The terrorist attack was plotted and its perpetrators were trained in the Gaza Strip under the supervision of Hamas members. Then the culprits were sent to Egypt across the border,” Abdel-Ghaffar said in a press conference.

he minister said 14 out of 48 suspected organizers, conspirators and perpetrators of the attack have been detained.Barakat oversaw several cases against officials of the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement of Egypt’s former president Mohamed Morsi, deposed by the current leadership in 2013.

وزير الداخلية المصري : الإخوان وحماس نفذوا اغتيال النائب العام هشام بركات

أعلن وزير الداخلية المصري اللواء مجدي عبد الغفار، الأحد، أن التحقيقات في اغتيال النائب العام المصري هشام بركات، أظهرت أنه ضمن “مؤامرة كبرى” من جماعة الإخوان المسلمين، بالتعاون مع حركة “حماس”، لزعزعة استقرار الدولة

وجاء ذلك عقب إعلان النيابة العامة المصرية أنها أمرت بحبس ستة أشخاص ينتمون لجماعة الإخوان لمدة 15 يوما على ذمة التحقيقات لصلتهم باغتيال بركات، الذي لقى مصرعه في تفجير استهدف موكبه في يونيو عام 2015

وقال عبد الغفار، في مؤتمر صحفي، إن اغتيال بركات كان في إطار “مؤامرة كبرى” تمت بأوامر من قيادات لجماعة الإخوان المسلمين تعيش في تركيا وبتنسيق مع الذراع الآخر المسلح للجماعة في غزة وهو حركة حماس التي اضطلعت بدور كبير جدا في هذه المؤامرة منذ بدايتها حتى انتهاء تنفيذها”، وأكد أنه “تم استخدام تقنيات حديثة جدا في التحقيقات لكشف المخطط، وسيتم الاعتماد على هذه التقنيات في تحقيقات أخرى”، دون أن يوضح طبيعتها

وأضاف أن تم ضبط الخلية التي شاركت في عملية اغتيال النائب العام وعمليات الأخرى، وتابع: “بلغ عدد العناصر التي شاركت في العملية نحو 14 شخصا ومجموع الخلية بالكامل تضم نحو 48 عنصرا تم ضبطهم جميعا”

وأشار إلى أنه “تم ضبط العديد من السيارات المعدة للتفجير في الجيزة والشرقية وبها كميات هائلة من المتفجرات، وكشف العديد من الشقق السكنية في عدة محافظات والتي كانت تستغل في تصنيع المتفجرات وبها كميات ضخمة من المتفجرات، وتم تقديم جميع المضبوطين إلى النيابة واعترفوا جميعا بارتكاب الحادث”

وأوضح عبد الغفار أنه قبل حادث تفجير موكب النائب العام بفترة، صدر التكليف بالعملية من الإخوانى الهارب يحيى السيد إبراهيم موسى “طبيب مطلوب ضبطه”، والمتحدث الرسمي باسم وزير الصحة، في عهد الرئيس الأسبق محمد مرسي، وهارب في تركيا حاليا

وقال إن الهارب يحيى موسى قاد مجموعة كبيرة من كوادر التنظيم في مصر لارتكاب هذه العلميات، ومنها اغتيال النائب العام، وأضاف: “صدر التكليف على نفس الخط لأحد كوادر حركة حماس في غزة بتنفيذ هذه العملية في إطار عدة علميات متتالية، ثم بدأ عدد من العناصر التي كُلفت بارتكاب العملية في التدريب على بعض الأعمال المتصلة بالتفجيرات وإعداد العبوات والتدريب العسكري، وتدريب رصد المواقع على يد عناصر من حركة حماس في غزة”

وتابع وزير الداخلية أنه “أشرف على تهريبهم من سيناء إلى قطاع غزة مجموعة من البدو ثم عادوا إلى البلاد مرة أخرى وبدأوا في عمليات الرصد التي استمرت حوالي شهر وكانوا فيها على تواصل مع عناصر حماس ومع الدكتور يحي موسى في تركيا وبدأوا في إعداد العبوة التي بلغ وزنها 80 كيلوجراما واستعانوا في تركيبها بمعرفة كوادر حماس”

 

 

Libya Military Intervention Possible Only After Parliament Approval

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called for a “balanced and long-term” solution to the instability in Libya, as UN-backed efforts to form a unity government were “in full swing.”

A military intervention in Libya is only possible after all needed hurdles, including Libyan parliamentary approval, are cleared, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Saturday.

The Corriere della Sera daily cited Renzi’s secret February 10 decree on Thursday as saying 50 Italian special forces troops were ready to join US, UK and French counterparts to fight Islamic State (ISIL or Daesh) jihadist group fighters in Libya.

“Mass media are attempting to present scenarios of an Italian war in Libya, which do not correspond to reality,” Renzi said as quoted by the Ansa news service.

The Italian prime minister called for a “balanced and long-term” solution to the instability in the North African republic as UN-backed efforts to form a unity government were “in full swing.”

“Only then will we be able to assess, based on the request of the legitimate government, the level of Italian participation. In any case, this will require the necessary parliamentary and organizational procedures,” he underscored.

The 50 anti-Daesh special forces would reportedly be under the purview of Italy’s External Intelligence and Security Agency.

Islamic State truck bomb kills at least 60 people south of Baghdad

Residents gather at the site of a bomb attack at a checkpoint in the city of Hilla, south of Baghdad, March 6, 2016.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide attack with an explosive-laden fuel tanker on an Iraqi police checkpoint south of Baghdad, killing at least 60 people and wounding more than 70, medical and security officials said.

Responsibility was claimed in a posting on the website of the Amaq news agency, which supports the ultra-hardline Sunni group.

“A martyr’s operation with a truck bomb hit the Babylon Ruins checkpoint at the entrance of the city of Hilla, killing and wounding dozens,” the statement on the Amaq website said.

Hilla is the capital of Babylon province, a predominantly Shi’ite region with some Sunni presence.

“It’s the largest bombing in the province to date,” Falah al-Radhi, the head of the provincial security committee, told Reuters. “The checkpoint, the nearby police station were destroyed as well as some houses and dozens of cars.”

A provincial hospital official confirmed the number of casualties. Many had suffered burn injuries.

 

 

Two Hostages Freed in Libya Return to Italy

Two Italian hostages who were captured in Libya returned in Italy, according to media reports.

Two of the four Italian construction workers abducted in Libya last year arrived in Rome early Sunday, days after news of their release and the deaths of the other two.

Gino Pollicardo, 55, and Filippo Calcagno, 65, touched down at Ciampino airport before meeting officials and family, then giving evidence to prosecutors in Rome, Italy’s Ansa news service reported.

The two were not available to speak to the press neither after their release, nor on their return to Italy.

Pollicardo’s and Calcagno’s release was announced on Friday, a day after confirmation of the deaths of Salvatore Failla, 47, and Fausto Piano, 60.The four Bonatti construction company employees were kidnapped from an oil and gas site in western Libya in July 2015.

Failla and Piano are believed to have fallen victim to clashes between Islamist extremists and local militias as the security situation in the North African republic continues to deteriorate.

Full Speed Ahead! Russian Warship Sets Sail for Mediterranean Mission

The Russian guided missile destroyer Smetlivy has left the country’s southwestern port of Sevastopol for the Mediterranean Sea, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

The Russian Defense Ministry stated that the Smetlivy destroyer of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet has departed from the country’s southwestern port city of Sevastopol and is headed for the Mediterranean, where the warship will be on a mission.

According to the statement, the Smetlivy is due to join Russia’s naval force in the region on March 7.

Currently, more than 15 Russian warships and other vessels are carrying out security-related missions in the Mediterranean, including those pertaining to providing logistical support to a Russian Aerospace Forces unit in Syria as well as to the Syrian Army.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the Russian Navy’s Mediterranean task force, which includes warships from the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Northern and the Pacific Fleets, may be joined by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in the summer of 2016.

B-52 Stratofortress may join air campaign against ISIS in April

The US is considering deploying its massive Boeing B-52 Stratofortress long-range strategic bomber against Islamic State, a report citing US Air Force officials says. The aircraft is capable of simultaneously dropping 32 tons of bombs.

The B-52s will replace several Rockwell B-1 Lancer supersonic strategic bombers, which had been striking terrorist positions near Kobani, Syria for several months and have now returned to their base in Texas, the Air Force Times reports. Defense officials also confirmed the information to Fox News.

It has not yet been disclosed how many B-52s will be deployed against the jihadists. It also remains unclear which European military airfield the largest American bombers will be operating from.

For over a year US warplanes pounding Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq have been taking off from airbases in Saudi Arabia and Qatar – America’s allies in the region.

From August 2015, the US has been using Turkey’s Incirlik airbase to target terrorists in Syria.

Although B-52 production ended back in 1962 (744 aircrafts built), the US Air Force still has 58 modernized models (18 in reserve). The last time B-52s were put into action was in the Afghan campaign.

“We’re going to keep the B-52 around. It provides some missions for us that are hard to replicate, primarily the range and payload the airplane provides,” the Air Force Times said, citing Lt. Gen. James “Mike” Holmes, the deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, as saying on February 18.

The B-52 Stratofortress bombers are set to remain in active service until at least 2040.

Nuclear-capable B-52s are regularly deployed when Washington needs to demonstrate its military might to intractable countries.

In early January, the US command deployed a B-52 bomber for a low altitude flight over South Korea to demonstrate its nuclear might and determination, following North Korea’s latest provocative underground nuclear test.

In late December 2015, a B-52 bomber performed a demonstration flight over a man-made island in the South China Sea, which China claims sovereignty over. Beijing filed a complaint with the Pentagon over the incident.

On Thursday, three B-52 Stratofortress bombers recently deployed to Europe were announced to participate in military exercises in Norway. Although the aircraft had been scheduled for NATO exercises, a top US commander characterized the redeployment as “not normal.” It was done in response to European countries’ anxiety over perceived “Russian aggression.”

Since November 17, 2015, Russian strategic bombers, Tu-160s (Blackjack), Tu-95s (hug), and Tu-22s (Blinder), operating from airbases in Russia, have been delivering airstrikes against terrorist targets in Syria. While Tu-22s have been dropping conventional bombs, the Tu-160s and Tu-95s use long-range airborne Kh-101 precision cruise missiles.

he air campaign in Syria was the first combat employment for the Tu-160 and Tu-95 bombers.

Cruz wins Kansas caucuses, gains momentum on ‘Super Saturday’

Sen. Ted Cruz’s bid to become the chief alternative to Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump gained steam Saturday, as he secured a commanding victory in the Kansas caucuses and appeared poised to claim a first-place finish in Maine.

As party leaders have wrung their hands over the prospect of Trump winning the Republican nomination, Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio have each sought to paint themselves as the only candidate who can take him down. They have accused Trump of feigning conservative values and fooling voters with promises he cannot keep.

“The scream you hear, the howl that comes from Washington D.C., is utter terror at what We the People are doing together,” Cruz said in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, speaking shortly after his projected victory was announced.

Trump’s detractors hope that a series of disappointing losses Saturday for Trump could signal a break in the populist momentum that has swept him to the top of the polls. Republican leaders fear that his bombastic personality and controversial rhetoric on Mexican immigrants and Muslims could ruin their chances of capturing the White House in the fall and damage the party brand permanently.

Cruz’s ascension comes after a week of intense criticism of the front-runner. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, called Trump a “fraud” on Thursday in a blistering speech at the University of Utah, and that night, Trump’s rivals launched similar attacks against him at a debate in Detroit.

But although Cruz’s rise could signal growing opposition to Trump’s candidacy within the party, it would be bittersweet for the party leadership. Both Cruz and Trump have run on anti-establishment messages and have put party establishment directly in their cross hairs.

The 2016 election pressed forward Saturday as five states held presidential nominating contests across the country. On a day dubbed “Super Saturday,” Republicans voted in Louisiana and caucused in Maine and Kentucky. Democrats also voted in Louisiana and caucused in Kansas and Nebraska.

The presidential race entered a new stage Tuesday after Trump and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton (D) secured victories in a majority of the 11 partisan primaries and caucuses held that day, when hundreds of delegates were at stake. Clinton, the Democratic establishment favorite, has pulled sharply ahead of rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, while Trump’s wave of populist support showed little sign of waning even as he has endured scathing attacks from GOP leaders.

The fallout from Saturday’s contests will again pitch the election forward, as Clinton and Trump’s rivals seek to keep them at bay by maximizing their delegate counts. The two front-runners, meanwhile, are looking to protect their leads and to sustain their momentum ahead of a series of high-stakes, high-delegate races in mid-March.

“I don’t want to tell you that we’re 21 points up in Louisiana because you won’t vote,” a bullish Trump quipped Friday evening during a campaign event here in New Orleans. “You have to go out and vote, so let’s assume we’re tied, okay? Let’s assume. No, you have to go out and vote.”

Cruz’s Kansas focus pays off

 

In the lead-up to Saturday, the Cruz campaign focused its efforts on Kansas and Maine, which both held caucuses instead of primaries that the campaign hoped would favor its ground organization. In Maine, Cruz made a direct appeal to libertarian-leaning voters, hoping to siphon off voters who once supported Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.).

Trump and Cruz crossed paths at a caucus site in Wichita on Saturday morning, where each delivered abridged versions of their stump speech to potential supporters. On display was Cruz’s increasingly populist pitch, which he believes will help blunt Trump’s appeal moving forward. He directly singled out single mothers and working-class voters he said are struggling under Obama’s policies.

“The media tells us this is as good as it gets. That is an utter lie,” Cruz said. “The heart of our economy is not Washington, D.C. The heart of our economy is not New York City. The heart of our economy is small business all across this country.”

In Kansas, Rubio stumbled to a third-place finish despite racking up endorsement from major political figures in the state, including Gov. Sam Brownback and Sen. Pat Roberts. The senator is looking ahead to the March 15 primary in his home state of Florida, though Trump appears to have an enormous lead in the Sunshine State. The Rubio campaign has remained steadfast in its belief that the senator can turn things around; a loss there would be devastating for Rubio and would give Trump all of the state’s delegates, which will be allocated on a winner-take-all basis.

The Florida senator spent Saturday morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., where he delivered an impassioned speech and was received warmly by the audience. He made a passing dig at Trump, who he has repeatedly accused of being a false conservative and a “con man” on the campaign trail.

“Young Americans have a chance to fulfill an incredible potential,” he said at the end of his address. “But we have to give them a chance. And they won’t have a chance if a Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is elected. And they won’t have a chance if the conservative movement is hijacked by someone who isn’t a conservative.”

Rubio was scheduled to travel to Puerto Rico on Saturday evening, where voters are poised to give him a second primary win this cycle on Sunday. Victory in Puerto Rico could give him a boost on Florida, where a significant bloc of Puerto Ricans have relocated amid ongoing economic turmoil on the island.

Trump spent the afternoon in the Sunshine State, where he ripped apart “little Marco Rubio” and pitched himself to the crowd as the only Republican candidate who can beat Hillary Clinton. Trump said he hopes to win Kansas and Kentucky on Saturday, and he urged the Orlando crowd to vote for him in the March 15 GOP primary. At one point, Trump asked everyone in the audience to raise their right hand and swear to vote, trying their best to repeat a lengthy and at times rambling pledge.

“If we win Florida, it’s over,” Trump said. “If we win Florida and Ohio, it’s really over.”

Democratic race

 

In the Democratic contest, Sanders is facing down questions about how much longer he can realistically stay in the race with Clinton’s prohibitive delegate lead; she has 1,066, including superdelegates, to his 432.

Sanders has a good chance to win caucuses in Nebraska and Kansas on Saturday, the campaign manager for Clinton said last week. And he is also likely to win a caucus Sunday in Maine, which is close to his home state of Vermont. But Clinton is likely to prevail in the Louisiana primary by a wide margin the same day — and that would make her still come out ahead on the delegate math, said campaign manager Robby Mook.

“We have no doubt that as long as Sen. Sanders remains in the primary, he will continue to win elections along the way, but it will make little difference to Hillary’s pledged delegate lead,” Mook wrote in a state-of-the-race memo released a day after her big victory on Super Tuesday.

The voting Saturday “will reinforce this point,” Mook wrote. Sanders “has clear advantages and is investing heavily in two upcoming caucuses,” Mook wrote of Nebraska and Kansas.

Sanders has spent roughly double what Clinton has on advertising in Nebraska. Clinton went to Omaha to collect the endorsement of Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett but has not spent significant time campaigning there.

At a rally in Portland, Maine, last week, Sanders reminded the crowd how far he had come.

“We were up against the candidate supported by the entire political establishment, someone who had been anointed by the pundits,” he said. “Well guess what? It doesn’t look like she’s so inevitable now.”

Council of Europe Urges Turkey to Protect Press Freedom

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe (CoE) Thorbjorn Jagland on Saturday called on Turkey to respect media freedom in the light of government seizure of the Feza Media Group.

On Friday, a Turkish court ordered the Feza Media Group, which includes opposition newspaper Zaman, Today’s Zaman daily and the Cihan news agency, to be placed under the management of government trustees. The move resulted in mass protest in the largest Turkey’s city of Istanbul. On Saturday, Turkish police used tear gas, water cannons and plastic bullets to disperse the protests.

“Yesterday’s court decision to appoint trustees to Zaman media group is yet another worrying development with regard to media freedom in Turkey. The violent events in front of Zaman’s headquarters in Istanbul are also challenging…I call on Turkish authorities to respect their legal obligation to protect media freedom,” Jagland said in a statement published on the CoE website.

Jagland said that Turkey was a founding member of the CoE and party to the European Convention on Human Rights to which it must abide.

Ankara’s move has been widely criticized by a number of states, including the United States and Russia, as well as by the international organizations, such as the European Union and the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organization.

Turkey ranks 149th out of 180 in the RSF 2015 press freedom index.