Tag Archives: Agence France-Presse

Saudi-led coalition denies Aden ground operation

In this photo provided by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Royal Saudi Land Forces and units of Special Forces of the Pakistani army take part in a joint military exercise.

In this photo provided by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Royal Saudi Land Forces and units of Special Forces of the Pakistani army take part in a joint military exercise.

The Saudi-led coalition has not started any major ground operation in the Yemeni port of Aden, coalition spokesman Ahmed al-Asiri said on Sunday, denying previous reports from Yemeni sources that ground troops had arrived and had began to fight.

“There are no foreign forces in Aden but coalition continues to help fight against the Houthi militia,” Asiri said in a statement.

It was earlier reported that a “limited coalition force entered Aden and another force is on its way” to the southern port city, a Yemeni official who requested anonymity, was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s Aden al-Ghad newspaper had reported that “the first push of the Arab ground force arrived on Sunday morning in Aden and began to take part in battle,” citing its reporters. The newspaper is linked to southern separatists demanding the restoration of the southern state that merged with North Yemen in 1990.

Aden has been the center of an offensive between forces loyal to the internationally-recognized government of Hadi battling the Houthis.

The Saudi-led coalition has been conducting an air war against the Houthi rebels and their allies since March 26 but the earlier reports were the first news of a ground deployment inside the country.

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‘Limited’ coalition ground force in Aden, Yemen, more coming – reports

A “limited” Saudi-led force is on the ground in Yemen‘s strategic port of Aden and more troops are on their way, a government official has confirmed to AFP. About 20 troops have landed in the city for a “reconnaissance” mission, AP reports.”A limited coalition force entered Aden and another force is on its way” to Aden, the official and commander told the agency on terms of anonymity.

The Saudi-led forces “will start helping us in fighting” the Houthi rebels, a leading member of the popular committees, a locally recruited militia loyal to expelled President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, also told the agency.

Similar reports appeared in the local Al-Ghad daily, which claimed the ground forces have entered the airport. The newspaper is linked to southern separatists, who demand the restoration of the southern state that merged with North Yemen 15 years ago.

Between 40-50 Arab special forces soldiers have arrived in the city, Ali al-Ahmed, spokesman for the Southern Popular Resistance, anti-Houthi group said.

“Joint land forces from the Arab coalition landed in Aden on Sunday and are now participating with the southern resistance to fight around Aden airport,” he said, “It’s a limited force – 40-50 from special forces.”

However, AP reported 20 troops deployed by Saudi-led coalition in Aden.

A spokesman from the Saudi-led coalition, Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, denied the information, saying the Arab states haven’t stared any major ground operation in Aden. He then added there are no foreign troops in the port city, but the coalition continues to battle Houthi rebels.

“There are no foreign forces in Aden but the coalition continues to help fight against the Houthi militia,” Asseri said in a statement.

Fighting continued in the strategic port city of Aden on Sunday, local sources told Reuters, adding that the city has seen fierce battles for three days. The attacks were reported in the city’s central districts of Mualla and Khor Maksar, near the main commercial port, as well as around a military camp and the airport.

Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa in September 2014, in a move that forced Sunni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia. They are fighting to control of Aden, which is home to about 800,000 people.

On April 21, Saudi Arabia said the first phase of the campaign, codenamed operation “Decisive Storm”, had achieved all its goals and was concluded. The new phase, operation “Restoring Hope”, was announced with a focus on diplomacy, but didn’t rule out new airstrikes.

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Sisi in Riyadh to congratulate Saudi royals

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Saudi King Salman

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Saudi King Salman

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has paid a short visit Saturday to Saudi Arabia, coming in the wake of a major reshuffle in the kingdom’s royal court.

The visit, that lasted less than 90 minutes, comes in the framework of continuous coordination and consulting between the two countries, Egypt’s ambassador to Riyadh Afify Abdel Wahab told state media.

Crown Prince Mohamed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman welcomed Al-Sisi upon his arrival.

Al-Sisi congratulated King Salman bin Abdul Aziz for the appointment of bin Nayef and bin Salman, as the two leaders discussed regional and international developments, Saudi state news agency reported.

Al-Sisi was accompanied by Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Head of General Intelligence Service (GIS) Khaled Fawzy, Head of the President’s Office Abbas Kamel, and ambassador Abdel Wahab.

King Salman executed a major reshuffle in his country’s administration on Wednesday, replacing his Crown Prince, the  Foreign Minister and naming his son as Deputy Crown Prince.

Bin Nayef is the former defence minister and incumbent interior minister, who is known for having strong ties with the US, where he was educated. He also has well-known ties to the security forces, and will be the first grandson of the founding king Abdul Aziz to lead the kingdom, if the current line of succession remains unchanged.

Why NATO is terrified of Russia

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Pepe Escobar

The twin-pronged attack – oil price war/raid on the ruble – aimed at destroying the Russian economy and place it into a form of Western natural resource vassalage has failed.

Natural resources were also essentially the reason for reducing Iran to a Western vassalage. That never had anything to do with Tehran developing a nuclear weapon, which was banned by both the leader of the Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

The ‘New Great Game’ in Eurasia was always about control of the Eurasian land mass. Minor setbacks to the American elite project do not mean the game will be restricted to a mere “war of attrition”. Rather the contrary.

All about PGS

In Ukraine, the Kremlin has been more than explicit there are two definitive red lines. Ukraine won’t join NATO. And Moscow won’t allow the popular republics of Donetsk and Lugansk to be crushed.

We are coming closer to a potentially explosive deadline – when EU sanctions expire in July. An EU in turmoil but still enslaved to NATO – see the pathetic “Dragoon Ride” convoy from the Baltics to Poland or the “Atlantic Resolve” NATO show-off exercise – may decide to expand them, and even try to exclude Russia from SWIFT.

Only fools believe Washington is going to risk American lives over Ukraine or even Poland. Yet let’s plan a few steps ahead. If it ever comes to the unthinkable – a war between NATO and Russia in Ukraine – Russian defense circles are sure of conventional and nuclear superiority on sea and land. And the Pentagon knows it. Russia would reduce NATO forces to smithereens in a matter of hours. And then would come Washington’s stark choice: accept ignominious defeat or escalate to tactical nuclear weapons.

The Pentagon knows that Russia has the air and missile defense capabilities to counter anything embedded in the US Prompt Global Strike (PGS). Simultaneously though, Moscow is saying it would rather not use these capabilities.

Major General Kirill Makarov, Russia’s Aerospace Defense Forces’ deputy chief, has been very clear about the PGS threat. Moscow’s December 2014 new military doctrine qualifies PGS as well as NATO’s current military buildup as the top two security threats to Russia.

Unlike non-stop Pentagon/NATO bragging/demonizing, what Russian defense circles don’t need to advertise is how they are now a couple of generations ahead of the US in their advanced weaponry.

The bottom line is that while the Pentagon was mired in the Afghanistan and Iraq quagmires, they completely missed Russia’s technological jump ahead. The same applies to China’s ability to hit US satellites and thus pulverize American ICBM satellite guidance systems.

The current privileged scenario is Russia playing for time until it has totally sealed Russia’s air space to American ICBMs, stealth aircraft and cruise missiles – via the S-500 system.

This has not escaped the attention of the British Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) – as it gamed sometime ago whether Washington might launch a first strike against Russia.

According to the JIC, Washington might go rogue if “a) an extreme government were to take over in the United States, b) and there was increased lack of confidence by the United States in some if not all of her Western allies owing to political developments in their countries, c) and there was some sudden advance in the USA in the sphere of weapons, etc. that the counsels of impatience may get the upper hand.”

US ‘Think Tankland’ spinning that Russian military planners should take advantage of their superiority to launch a first strike nuclear attack against the US is bogus; the Russian doctrine is eminently defensive.

Yet that does not exclude Washington doing the unthinkable the next time the Pentagon thinks of itself to be in the position Russia is now in.

SWIFT changes

The whole game used to be about who ruled the waves – the geopolitical gift the US inherited from Great Britain. Control of the seas meant the US inheriting five empires; Japan, Germany, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands. All those massive US carrier task forces patrolling the oceans to guarantee “free trade” – as the hegemonic propaganda machine goes – could be turned against China in a flash. It’s a mechanism similar to the carefully choreographed “leading from behind” financial op to simultaneously crash the ruble/launch an oil war and thus smash Russia into submission.

Washington’s master plan remains deceptively simple; to “neutralize” China by Japan, and Russia by Germany, with the US backing its two anchors, Germany and Japan. Russia is the de facto only BRICS nation blocking the master plan.

This was the case until Beijing launched the New Silk Road(s), which essentially mean the linking of all Eurasia into a “win-win” trade/commerce bonanza on high-speed rail, and in the process diverting freight tonnage overland and away from the seas.

So NATO’s non-stop Russia demonizing is in fact quaint. Think about NATO picking a fight against the constantly evolving, complex Russia-China strategic partnership. And in a not so remote future, as I indicated here, Germany, Russia and China have what it takes to be the essential pillars of a fully integrated Eurasia.

As it stands, the key shadow play is Moscow and Beijing silently preparing their own SWIFT system while Russia prepares to seal its air space with S-500s. Western Ukraine is doomed; leave it to the austerity-ravaged EU – which, by the way, doesn’t want it. And all this while the same EU tries to handicap the US commercially with a rigged euro that still doesn’t allow it to penetrate more US markets.

As for an irrelevant NATO, all it can do is cry, cry, cry.

Russian hackers obtained Obama’s unclassified emails, report says

Russian hackers reportedly obtained some of President Obama’s emails when the White House’s unclassified computer system was hacked last year, indicating that the breach was significantly more intrusive than originally thought.

Citing officials briefed on the investigation, The New York Times reported Saturday that while the hackers did not appear to have breached more carefully guarded servers that contain Obama’s BlackBerry messages, they did manage to obtain access to email archives of people with whom Obama communicated.

Officials did not tell The Times how many emails were obtained, but admitted that the unclassified system often contains highly sensitive information that includes schedules, email exchanges with ambassadors and diplomats, and debates about policy and legislation. The president’s email account itself does not appear to have been hacked

No classified networks were compromised and hackers obtained no classified information, White House officials said. Many administration officials have two computers in their offices, one of which operates on a secure network and another unit connected to the outside world for unclassified information.

That Obama’s emails were obtained by Russian hackers in particular – presumed to be linked to the Russian government – caused the intrusion to be seen as so serious that officials met on a nearly daily basis for several weeks afterwards, The Times reported.

“It’s the Russian angle to this that’s particularly worrisome,” a senior US official told The Times.

While the White House is hit by daily cyber attacks, primarily from Russia and China, the hacking occurred at a time of renewed tension with Russia, particularly over the crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s military patrols in Europe.

Click for more from The New York Times.

147 killed in attack on Kenyan university dormitories by al-Shabab

Militants stormed dormitories at Garissa University, killing at least 147 people and taking others as hostages

NAIROBI — Masked al-Shabab militants stormed dormitories at a university in northeastern Kenya early Thursday, killing at least 147 people in the worst terror attack on Kenyan soil in nearly two decades, officials said.

More than 500 students were rescued after the Islamist militants, heavily armed and strapped with explosives, attacked the campus of Garissa University College around 5:30 a.m. local time, shooting some young people and taking others hostage. At least 79 people were injured, according to Kenya’s National Disaster Operation Center.

A government spokesman said the siege ended after 15 hours, with four gunmen from the Somali group having been killed.

“The gunmen are dead. There were four; they are all dead,” said Abdulkadir Sugow, spokesman for the Garissa governor. However, he could not confirm how they were killed.

“The fire exchange has now stopped,” Sugow said. “The next step is to reconcile, and to analyze the way forward.” Security forces have yet to enter the university compound, he continued. “Nothing can be ascertained fully,” he said.

A Kenyan soldier takes cover as shots are fired in front of Garissa University in Garissa town, northeast of the capital Nairobi

Outside the university, in the city of Garissa about 90 miles from the Somali border, confusion and tension dominated. Scores of students remained unaccounted for; many had jumped through a fence to escape the campus.

The gunmen had been holed up in the compound with an unconfirmed number of hostages. When they were shot by police, they exploded “like bombs,” said Kenya’s interior cabinet secretary, Joseph Nkaissery.

Ogutu Vquee, a student at the university, was sleeping in his dormitory when the gunmen arrived. He said there was indiscriminate shooting of both Muslims and non-Muslims, though there were reports that Muslims had been separated from Christians, who were targeted. “When they attacked us, most of us were asleep, so we were woken by the gunshots,” he said. “I am totally in fear and confusion.”

Rosalind Mugambi said she fled her dormitory in a panic, dodging gunfire. While she had been able to run across the sandy ground into a surrounding field, some of her friends had fallen. “We saw some blood stains, and they were shot,” she said.

A 19-year-old student from Nairobi, who asked not to be named, said that he transferred from Garissa University College to Nairobi after threats of an al-Shabab attack circulated in December. “Everybody had to go home because there was a lot of tension. Shabab was saying they were going to attack the school in one week’s time, so we went home. It was rumors, but we had to vacate.”

He said the students left in mid-December, missing the end-of-semester exams. “I transferred because of the tension.”

He said he was horrified to learn of the attack Thursday morning. “I was so frightened. People see normality and they think maybe al-Shabab will take two years [to strike]. I never ignored the threat.”

Paramedics help a student injured during the attack by Al-Shabaab extremists.

Paramedics help a student injured during the attack by Al-Shabaab extremists.

The massacre is the worst terror attack in Kenya since the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in 1998, which killed 224. An attack on an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi in 2013 left 67 dead and renewed fears that al-Shabab could wage significant operations from its strongholds in neighboring Somalia.

Since the 2013 attack, the U.S. military has maintained a campaign of targeted drone strikes against the leaders of the al-Qaeda-affiliated group. Last month, one such strike killed Adnan Garaar, thought to be behind the mall attack and several others in the region.

An al-Shabab spokesman told Agence France-Presse that the gunmen had been holding Christian hostages. “When our men arrived, they released some of the people, the Muslims, and it is they that alerted the government. We are holding the others hostage,” Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage told AFP by telephone.

Al-Shabab considers Kenya an enemy in part because the country sent troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight the group. Kenyan troops remain stationed there as part of an African Union mission.

The recent attack comes 18 months after four al-Shabab gunmen killed shoppers at the Westgate mall.

U.S. drone strikes had recently appeared to be weakening the group, which has also lost territory within Somalia. American troops have been training African Union soldiers to defeat al-Shabab terrorists. Western sanctions are also thought to have struck a blow to its finances.

Last year, President Barack Obama pointed to the U.S. strategy in Somalia as an example of a successful counterterrorism campaign.

He called it a “strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the frontlines.”

But Thursday’s attack proved that al-Shabab still has the capacity to strike soft targets in the region, and with deadly effect.

The country’s border with Somalia is vast and largely unguarded. Attacks on many targets, particularly in rural Kenya, are incredibly difficult to prevent. The Garissa campus had little protection, despite recent security alerts at Kenyan universities.

Kenya is a key U.S. ally in the region, a product of its role in combating terrorism as well as its growing economy and prominence in East African geopolitics.

“The United States stands with the people of Kenya, who will not be intimidated by such cowardly attacks,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday.

Last week, al-Shabab militants seized control of a Mogadishu hotel, killing at least 20 people, including Somalia’s ambassador to Switzerland.

Students at Garissa reported seeing notices warning of a possible attack on the campus. “As it was April 1, we just thought that it was fooling,” one student said. Several universities in Kenya reportedly had made students aware of a potential security threat by distributing posters around campuses.

Garissa University College, which opened in 2011, according to its Web site, is the first and only public university in Kenya’s arid and marginalized north.

“This is a moment for everyone throughout the country to be vigilant as we continue to confront and defeat our enemies,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said.

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Hamas Official Brags Group Will Blanket Israel With Advanced Missiles in Next War

A Hamas official reportedly told Agence France-Presse (AFP) over the weekend that any future war between Israel and the Iran-backed terror group will see Hamas launching missiles at Israeli civilians far in the country’s north, a boast bound to deepen increasingly open concerns within Israel’s military and political establishments that Hamas is stockpiling an arsenal capable of the sustained saturation bombing of Israeli civilian centers.

The comments were made during a Hamas ceremony in Gaza City for the unveiling of a rocket-statue which features a life size M-75 rocket, whose real life counterpart can reach 75 kilometers into Israel. The M-75 was used to target Tel Aviv and its surroundings as well as the greater Jerusalem area during 2012′s Operation Pillar of Defense.

AFP conveyed other boasts from the ceremony, including one by a masked figure who bragged that “Hamas managed to take the battle to the heart of the Zionist entity (Israel) after developing its rocket system.”

Israel last week intercepted a Gaza-bound arms ship dispatched by Iran and carrying missiles capable of putting roughly five million Israelis under fire. The nature and substance of Hamas’s threats, especially coupled with the Palestinian faction’s ongoing efforts to stockpile advanced missiles, are likely to solidify Israeli skepticism toward calls from some corners of the international community that Jerusalem lift its blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

via Hamas Official Brags Group Will Blanket Israel With Advanced Missiles in Next War – The Tower – The Tower.

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Kerry arrives to cairo tomorrow “Sunday” a day before Morsi first trial on charges of inciting violence

37AFP – US Secretary of State John Kerry will arrive in Cairo on Sunday for his first visit to Egypt since the army overthrew Mohamed Morsi in July, state media said.

Kerry’s visit comes at a time of strained relations between the traditional allies after Washington suspended some military aid to Egypt following Morsi’s ouster.

Egypt’s official MENA news agency said on Friday that Kerry would stay in Cairo for “several hours”.

Kerry arrives a day before Morsi and 14 other Brotherhood leaders go on trial on charges of inciting violence.

Car bomb found at site of deadly Tunisia clash.

A Tunisian policeman attends the funeral of one of the six policemen that were killed in a firefight with suspected jihadists on 24 October 2013 in Kef

A Tunisian policeman attends the funeral of one of the six policemen that were killed in a firefight with suspected jihadists on 24 October 2013 in Kef

AFP – Tunisian security forces found a car bomb “ready to explode” at the site of clashes with suspected jihadists that left six policemen dead, the interior ministry said .

“We seized weapons, explosives, two grenade belts and a car bomb containing three canisters ready to explode,” ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui said, speaking on Tunisian radio.

A quantity of TNT and ammonium nitrate substances frequently used in homemade explosives were also found, he added.

Security forces made the discovery at Sidi Ali Ben Aoun, a locality in the central Sidi Bouzid region, at the site of Wednesday’s deadly fighting, which erupted when the National Guard was preparing to raid a house where the suspected Islamists were hold up.

Six guardsmen and one militant died in the ensuing firefight, with Aroui saying another assailant was arrested and one was on the run.

The car was registered in the name of someone from Goubellat, a town in the Beja region 70 kilometres west of the capital, where nine militants were killed last week in a military operation launched after an attack that left two policemen dead.

“There is a link between the operation in Goubellat and the one in Sidi Ali Ben Aoun,” the ministry spokesman said.