Tag Archives: Wednesday

No airstrikes for now : US lacks intel to carry out attack in Iraq

American officials confirmed on Wednesday that the Iraqi government has explicitly asked the Pentagon to conduct airstrikes against insurgents taking their country by storm, but the United States is reportedly ill-prepared to wage suck attacks.

Intelligence gaps have left the White House uncertain about when or where to strike the militants, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday, worsening the likelihood that any aerial attack would prove to be successful.

“We have a request from the Iraqi government for air power,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told US lawmakers during a Senate hearing early Wednesday.

Dempsey added, however, that the results of a strike would be unknown “until we can clarify this intelligence picture” in Iraq.

“It’s not as easy as looking at an iPhone video of a convoy and then striking it,” the chairman told a Senate appropriations subcommittee, the AP reported.

Confirmation of the request from Baghdad comes less than two days after President Barack Obama announced that 275 US trooped would be deployed to America’s embassy there to protect diplomats in the midst of escalating violence.

In recent day, militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Syria group affiliated with Al-Qaeda have escalated a campaign that as of mid-week has led to the capture of two major cities and put Baghdad on high alert.

Following nearly a decade-long war on the heels of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Pres. Obama last week said that America will not “allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation” similar to what happened after that campaign.

“The United States is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they’re prepared to work together,” he said.

That refusal to strike ISIS insurgents has since proven to be a dividing concept in the US, where lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are split with regards of what role, if any, American troops should have in the escalating crisis.

“I think most important is that we take direct action now against ISIS, marching down to Baghdad, and prevent them from getting into Baghdad,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) told reporters this week.

Pres. Obama was expected to meet at the White House on Wednesday with key congressional leaders, and the AP reported that Feinstein’s democratic colleague, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), expressed a difference of opinion before meeting with the commander-in-chief.

“It’s time for the Iraqis to resolve it themselves,” Reid told the AP. “Those who attack President Obama for bringing our troops home from Iraq are wrong and out of step with the American people. After a decade of war, the American people have had enough.”

If the US has clearer intelligence to rely on, however, then military officials believe a successful strike would be easy to undertake.

“I’m very confident that if the order comes down … our Air Force would be ready,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told the Defense Writers Group at a breakfast in Washington this week.

During Wednesday’s briefing, Dempsey added that the US has mobilized “a great deal of manned and unmanned ISR to gain clarity” in the region, according to the Guardian, referring to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance planes and other aircraft.

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Militants, Iraq security forces clash at country’s largest oil refinery

Baiji oil refinery, 180km (112 miles) north of Baghdad

Baiji oil refinery, 180km (112 miles) north of Baghdad

An official at Iraq’s largest domestic oil refinery says Sunni militants have taken over 75 percent of the facility following clashes with Iraqi security forces.

“The militants have managed to break in to the refinery. Now they are in control of the production units, administration building and four watch towers. This is 75 percent of the refinery,” an official speaking from inside the refinery in Beiji told Reuters on Wednesday.

A state oil official told The Wall Street Journal that two fuel-storage tanks were in flames after hours of fighting before dawn Wednesday, some 155 miles north of the capital, Baghdad. The official said militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targeted the oil refinery with mortars and machine guns.

In response, Iraqi security forces and helicopter gunships bombarded positions of the militants inside the refinery, another state oil official added.

But Iraq’s government denied reports that the facility has been overrun.

Iraq’s chief military spokesman, Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, told The Associated Press that government forces repelled the siege.

Al-Moussawi said 40 attackers were killed in fighting there overnight and early Wednesday. There was no independent confirmation either of his claims or those of the Iraqi military’s retaking neighborhoods in Tal Afar. The areas are in territories held by insurgents that journalists have not been able to access.

The Beiji refinery was shut down on Tuesday and workers were flown out by helicopter, according to Reuters.

The refinery accounts for a little more than a quarter of the country’s entire refining capacity — all of which goes toward domestic consumption for things like gasoline, cooking oil and fuel for power stations. Any lengthy outage at Beiji risks long lines at the gas pump and electricity shortages, adding to the chaos already facing Iraq.

Meanwhile, in a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki struck an optimistic tone and vowed to teach the attackers a “lesson” — even though Iraqi soldiers abandoned their posts in the wake of the initial militant offensive.

“We have now started our counteroffensive, regaining the initiative and striking back,” al-Maliki said.

The campaign by the Al Qaeda-inspired ISIS has raised the specter of the sectarian warfare that nearly tore the country apart in 2006 and 2007. The relentless violence that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion now haunts those trying to decide how to respond.

At the White House, President Barack Obama was to brief lawmakers later Wednesday on what options the U.S. could take.

The U.S. is pressing al-Maliki to undermine the insurgency by making overtures to Iraq’s once-dominant Sunni minority, which has long complained of discrimination by al-Maliki’s government and excesses by his Shiite-led security forces.

Al-Maliki, a Shiite, has consistently rejected charges of bias against the Sunnis and has in recent days been stressing the notion that the threat posed by the Islamic State will affect all Iraqis regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliations. He appeared Tuesday night on television with Sunni leaders and politicians as a sign of solidarity.

The prime minister’s relatively upbeat assessment came as the Iraqi military said its forces regained parts of the strategic city of Tal Afar near the Syrian border, which Islamic State fighters captured on Monday. Its closeness to the Syrian border strengthens the Islamic State’s plan to carve out an Islamic caliphate, or state, stretching across parts of the two countries.

The Indian government also said Wednesday that 40 Indian construction workers have been kidnapped near Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, which ISIS and allied Sunni fighters captured last week. Roughly 10,000 Indian citizens work and live in Iraq, with only about 100 in violent, insecure areas like Mosul, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin.

And the Turkish Foreign Ministry said its diplomats were investigating a Turkish media report that militants abducted 60 foreign construction workers, including some 15 Turks, near the northern Iraqi oil city of Kirkuk.

Ethnic Kurds now control Kirkuk, moving to fill a vacuum after the flight of Iraqi soldiers. They too are battling the Sunni extremist militants.

On Wednesday, Kurdish security and hospital officials said that fighting has been raging since morning between Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga and militants who are trying to take the town of Jalula, in the restive Diyala province some 80 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Two civilians were killed and six peshmerga fighters were wounded, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The Sunni militants of the Islamic State have vowed to march to Baghdad and the Shiite holy cities of Karbala and Najaf in the worst threat to Iraq’s stability since U.S. troops left in late 2011. The three cities are home to some of the most revered Shiite shrines. The Islamic State also has tried to capture Samarra, a city north of Baghdad and home to another major Shiite shrine.

Iran, a neighboring Shiite country, already has seen thousands volunteer to defend the shrines. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, speaking Wednesday to a crowd gathered at a stadium near his country’s border with Iraq, said that the Islami State and others would be defeated.

“We declare to all superpowers, their mercenaries, murderers and terrorists that the great Iranian nation will not miss any effort in protecting these sacred sites,” Rouhani said.

The U.S. and Iran are discussing how the longtime foes might cooperate to ease the threat from the Al Qaeda-linked militants. Still, the White House ruled out the possibility that Washington and Tehran might coordinate military operations in Iraq.

Some 275 armed American forces are being positioned in and around Iraq to help secure U.S. assets as Obama also considers an array of options.

Putin: Kiev authorities are junta if they use force against civilians

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If Kiev authorities have started to use force against the civilian population, this is a serious crime, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. Taking this action makes them a “junta” and may affect their relations with other countries, he added.

“If the Kiev regime started military actions against the country’s population, this is without doubt a very serious crime,” Putin said at All-Russia People’s Front media forum.

According to Putin current situation in East Ukraine is another proof Russia was right when it supported Crimeans, when they decided to have a referendum.

“[Otherwise] it would have seen there the same things which are now happening in the east of Ukraine, or even worse,” he said. “That’s one more proof to the fact we did it all right and in time.”

Putin believes that the use of force by the coup-imposed government in Kiev means that it’s actually a junta.

“If current authorities in Kiev have done this [used force], then they are junta,” the president said. “For one thing, they don’t have nation-wide mandate. They might have some elements of legitimacy, but only within the framework of the parliament. The rest of the government bodies are for various reasons illegitimate.”

Vladimir Putin described the use of force in eastern Ukraine as a “reprisal raid” and said that it would have an impact on Russian-Ukrainian relations.

Earlier in the day, fighting erupted just outside Slavyansk, a town in eastern Ukraine where the population voiced their protest against the Kiev authorities. Ukrainian troops in tanks and armored vehicles have been trying to break into the town.

According to the Ukrainian Interior ministry, at least five self-defense guards have been killed and one policeman injured after the “anti-terrorist operation” launched by Kiev in the town. Three checkpoints erected by the anti-government protesters have also been destroyed.

Self-defense forces managed to repel an attack at one checkpoint 3 kilometers north of Slavyansk, forcing at least three infantry vehicles to retreat, Russia-24 TV reports.

On Wednesday, authorities in Kiev announced they were resuming a military operation against protesters in eastern Ukraine, which they described as an “anti-terrorist” one.

Protesters believe the move was contrary to the agreement on de-escalation reached in Geneva.

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S. Korea president condemns ‘murderous’ actions of ferry crew as four more held

April 21, 2014: A relative of a passenger aboard the sunken ferry Sewol shouts the name of her missing family member as she waits for their return at a port in Jindo, South Korea.

South Korea’s president described the actions of a sunken ferry’s crew as “unforgivable” and “murderous” Monday as a prosecutor said that four more crew members had been detained on charges that they had allegedly failed to protect the stricken vessel’s passengers.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye made the comments Monday at a Cabinet briefing, saying that the captain and crew “told the passengers to stay put but they themselves became the first to escape, after deserting the passengers.” Park added that “legally and ethically, this is an unimaginable act.”

Senior prosecutor Ahn Sang-don told reporters Monday that two first mates, one second mate and a chief engineer had been accused of abandoning the ship. Ahn says prosecutors are considering whether to ask a court for a formal arrest warrant that would allow for a longer period of investigation. South Koreans can only be detained for 48 hours without a court-issued formal arrest warrant. The ferry’s captain and two other crewmembers were previously formally arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need.

The announcement came as the confirmed death toll from Wednesday’s sinking reached 64, with approximately 240 of the ship’s 476 passengers, many of them high school students on a holiday trip, still missing. Divers gained access to the ship over the weekend and are expected to find more bodies trapped below decks, where passengers had remained, obeying the captain’s initial order not to evacuate the vessel. Efforts to reach the capsized vessel had been thwarted for three days by bad weather and strong currents.

The discovery of bodies has dashed the faint hopes of some families who have gathered on the island of Jindo, near the site of the wreck. Relatives have been asked to identify their loved ones using the slimmest of clues. Many favored hoodies and track pants. One girl painted her fingernails red and toenails black. Another had braces on her teeth.

Meanwhile, a newly released transcript shows the ship was crippled by confusion and indecision well after it began listing Wednesday. The transcript suggests that the chaos may have added to a death toll that could eventually exceed 300.

According to the transcript released by South Korea’s coast guard, about 30 minutes after the Sewol began tilting a crew member asked a marine traffic controller whether passengers would be rescued if they abandoned ship off South Korea’s southern coast. The crew member posed the question three times in succession.

That followed several statements from the ship that people aboard could not move and another in which someone said that it was “impossible to broadcast” instructions.

An unidentified official at Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Center told the crew that they should “go out and let the passengers wear life jackets and put on more clothing.”

“If this ferry evacuates passengers, will you be able to rescue them?” the unidentified crew member asked.

“At least make them wear life rings and make them escape!” the traffic-center official responded.

“If this ferry evacuates passengers, will they be rescued right away?” the crew member asked again.

“Don’t let them go bare — at least make them wear life rings and make them escape,” the traffic official repeated. “The rescue of human lives from the Sewol ferry … the captain should make his own decision and evacuate them. We don’t know the situation very well. The captain should make the final decision and decide whether you’re going to evacuate passengers or not.”

“I’m not talking about that,” the crew member said. “I asked — if they evacuate now, can they be rescued right away?”

The traffic official then said patrol boats would arrive in 10 minutes, though another civilian ship was already nearby and had told controllers that it would rescue anyone who went overboard.

The cause of the disaster is not yet known, but prosecutors have said the ship made a sharp turn before it began to list.

More than 170 people survived the sinking of the Sewol, which had been on its way from the South Korean port city of Incheon to the southern tourist island of Jeju. The captain took more than half an hour to issue an evacuation order, which several passengers have said they never heard.

Dozens of relatives have started camping out at the port in Jindo to be closer to where the search was taking place, sleeping in tents in the open. Volunteers provided food and drinks and ran cellphone charging stations. A Buddhist monk in white robes stood facing the water and chanted in a calm monotone as several relatives stood behind him, their hands pressed together and heads bowed in prayer.

Anguished families, fearful they might be left without even their loved ones’ bodies, vented rage Sunday over the government’s handling of the crisis.

About 100 relatives attempted a long protest march to the presidential Blue House in Seoul, about 250 miles to the north, saying they wanted to voice their complaints to President Park Geun-hye. They walked for about six hours before police officers in neon jackets blocked a main road.

“The government is the killer,” they shouted as they pushed against a police barricade.

“We want an answer from the person in charge about why orders are not going through and nothing is being done,” said Lee Woon-geun, father of 17-year-old missing passenger Lee Jung-in. “They are clearly lying and kicking the responsibility to others.”

He said relatives are desperate to retrieve bodies before they decompose beyond recognition.

“After four or five days, the body starts to decay. When it’s decayed, if you try to hold a hand, it might fall off,” he said. “I miss my son. I’m really afraid I might not get to find his body.”

The Sewol’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, 68, was arrested Saturday, along with one of the ship’s three helmsmen and the 25-year-old third mate. The third mate was steering at the time of the accident, in a challenging area where she had not steered before, and the captain said he was not on the bridge at the time.

Senior prosecutor Yang Jung-jin said the third mate has refused to tell investigators why she made the sharp turn. Prosecutors have not named the third mate, but a fellow crew member identified her as Park Han-kyul.

As he was taken from court in Mokpo on Saturday, the captain explained his decision to wait before ordering an evacuation.

“At the time, the current was very strong, the temperature of the ocean water was cold,” Lee told reporters, describing his fear that passengers, even if they were wearing life jackets, could drift away “and face many other difficulties.”

He said rescue boats had not yet arrived, and there were no civilian vessels nearby.

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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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China satellites spot suspected Malaysia Airlines plane debris

This aerial picture taken from aboard a Vietnamese Air Force Russian-made MI-171 helicopter shows a ship, as seen from the cockpit, sailing below during a search flight some 200 km over the southern Vietnamese waters off Vietnam’s island Phu Quoc on March 11, 2014 as part of continued efforts aimed at finding traces of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370.

Chinese satellite images show three floating objects suspected to be debris from the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, according to reports. Coordinates place the fragments in the South China Sea between Malaysia and Vietnam

The three objects are sized 13×18, 14×19, and 24×22 (meters), according to CNN.

The images, from China’s State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, were taken on Sunday morning but only released Wednesday, the BBC reported.

Flight MH370 went missing on Saturday morning local time. The China-bound plane left Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with 239 people on board. The plane lost communication about an hour after taking flight.

If the location holds true, it would indicate that the plane crashed not far from the last confirmed radar contact with MH370. It would also contradict reports this week that the plane had turned around, heading back to Malaysia as far as the Strait of Malacca.

“It also ties in with an earlier claim from an oil rig worker who claimed he saw a plane on fire over the South China Sea, southeast of Vietnam,” the Guardian wrote.

Malaysian authorities who met with the relatives of the flight’s passengers on Wednesday told them that the last radio transmission from MH370 was either “All right, roger that,” or “All right, good night,” according to different reports.

RT News.

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Gunfire erupts in army base in South Sudan capital : witness

 

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(Reuters) – Gunfire erupted inside the main military barracks in the South Sudanese capital Juba on Wednesday, a Reuters witness said, almost three months after fighting between soldiers in the city sparked a broader conflict.

The body of a government soldier lay in the street outside the military headquarters and a column of smoke billowed into the sky from inside the compound, sending panicked residents running through the streets.

It was not immediately clear what started the fighting but it did not appear to be a confrontation between government forces and rebels. Clashes between those two factions have largely been fought in other region’s of the country.

 

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Turkish protesters urge PM’s resignation as graft scandal shakes govt

Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of Turkey demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan amid a widening corruption scandal rattling his government. There are reports of tear gas and clashes with police in Istanbul.

Over 5,000 people gathered in Istanbul’s Kadikoy district and some 1,000 in the Besiktas district on Wednesday, Xinhua news agency reports. Protesters have also gathered in the capital of Ankara, as well as in Izmir and other cities. Ruptly news agency says hundreds took to the streets of Istanbul.

Police in Istanbul have fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. At least four people have been arrested, according to Firat news agency.

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Late on Wednesday, Erdogan announced a major cabinet reshuffle, replacing 10 key ministers. This came soon after the resignation of interior, economy, and environment ministers over a high profile corruption investigation. Resigned Environment Minister Erdogan Bayraktar turned against the Turkish leader, urging him to step down.

The scandal and ensuing feud between Erdogan and the judiciary have reignited anti-government protests against Erdogan’s 11-year rule within the past week.

The protesters rallying in Istanbul have shouted slogans such as “Three ministers’ resignation is not enough, the whole government should resign,” as well as ” corruption is everywhere” and “resistance is everywhere,” Xinhua reported.

More than 10 political parties and organizations have called for the protest.

The graft scandal poses an unprecedented challenge to his 11-year rule, which survived a massive anti-government demonstration that swept the nation in mid-2013.

Dozens of people have been arrested in the ongoing corruption investigation, including the head of state-run Halkbank. The government responded by purging police investigators describing the probe as a “dirty game.” Erdogan claimed it was a plot by foreign and other anti-government forces ahead of the March local elections.

According to Hurriyet newspaper, up to 550 police officers – including senior commanders – have been dismissed nationwide in the past week by now former Interior Minister Muammer Guler.

via Turkish protesters urge PM’s resignation as graft scandal shakes govt (VIDEOS, PHOTOS) — RT News.

Senate Egypt bill could ease US aid after coup | The Back Channel

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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to introduce an Egypt aid bill Wednesday that if passed could set a precedent for loosening current restrictions on US assistance to post-coup countries, Congressional sources tell Al-Monitor.

Sen. Robert Menendez  (D-NJ), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is expected to introduce the bill, called the Egypt Assistance Reform Act of 2013, at a SFRC business meeting or Wednesday.  The bill is listed as the first item on the published agenda  for the committee meeting.

A senior US administration official, speaking not for attribution Tuesday, said the bill is expected to pass, but it isn’t clear that Menendez has a vehicle to bring it to the floor before the end of the week, after which Congress is expected to go on break. The real test will be the continuing resolution or the omnibus in early January, the official said.

The bill, while geared to Egypt, could have wider implications for US defense/security and economic assistance to post coup countries universally, one Congressional staffer, speaking not for attribution, said. If passed, it would virtually eliminate the restrictions of Section 7008, which currently prevents aid to post coup countries, by offering a framework for a waiver, which could be renewed. The Congressional staffer suggested the Obama White House had been closely involved in drafting the text of the legislation with the SFRC.

“We are continuing to work with the Congress to ensure we obtain the funding and authorities necessary to provide assistance for Egypt, consistent with the approach we outlined earlier this year,” Bernadette Meehan, spokesperson for the National Security Council, told Al-Monitor Wednesday.

A spokesman for the SFRC majority staff contacted by Al-Monitor Tuesday evening said he may not be able to get guidance on the matter before Wednesday.  A spokesman for ranking SFRC Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee could not immediately be reached Tuesday.

The proposed bill would provide “the administration a legislative roadmap forward for U.S. assistance to continue to Egypt despite current legal restrictions on aid to countries where a military coup d’état has taken place,” a summary of the draft bill provided to Al-Monitor states.

“Though a number of requirements for continuing assistance under the waiver are specified, the bill removes standing legislative restrictions on U.S. assistance in cases of military coups and sets a potentially dangerous precedent for ad-hoc legislative waivers to be obtained by the administration in the future, should it desire,” the summary continues.

Under the proposed legislation, the “Secretary of States could waive such an aid suspension for 180 days after consultation and upon providing Congress a detailed justification and report which certifies ‘that providing such assistance is in the vital national security interests of the United States’ and that the government “is committed to restoring democratic governance and due process of law, and is taking demonstrable steps toward holding free and fair elections in a reasonable time frame,’” the summary states. “The waiver could be extended by additional 180-day periods following the same process.”

Senate Egypt bill could ease US aid after coup | The Back Channel.

 

Sisi: We are ‘ready to die’ for Egypt .

6546477Egypt’s army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued on Wednesday a defiant message to “terrorists,” saying the armed forces are “ready to die…for Egypt to stay alive.”

Gen. Sisi made the remarks in a televised speech following attacks in North Sinai in which at least 10 Egyptian soldiers were killed.

“People should know we are all ready to die in order for Egypt to stay alive,” he said, in statements carried by Egyptian news website Ahram Online.

“Everyone who used weapons against the military and the police is a terrorist who wants to crush his own people. We are there to fight this and be killed for this aim,” he added.

Earlier on Wednesday, a car bomb attack killed at least 10 Egyptian soldiers near the North Sinai city of el-Arish.

The assault is considered one of the deadliest in the restive Sinai Peninsula since al-Qaeda-inspired militants began stepping up assaults following the army’s ouster of Islamist President Mohammad Mursi in July.

The bodies of the slain soldiers arrived Wednesday evening at Almaza military air-base in Cairo, state media reported.

Footage aired on state television showed Sisi attending the soldiers’ funeral and comforting their family members.

“We do not fear, because we know if we fall while defending our country we will be martyrs; we will stand like martyrs in front of God,” Sisi said.

“God only knows the pain in our souls,” Sisi said in closing remarks.

Sisi: We are ‘ready to die’ for Egypt – Al Arabiya News.