Saturday, April 21, 2007

Taleban uses boy to behead 'spy'

BBC NEWS South Asia Taleban uses boy to behead 'spy': "The Taleban in Afghanistan have used a boy of around 12 to behead a man they accused of spying for the US. "

Parts of a video of the beheading were broadcast on the Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV network.

The Taleban said the dead man, Ghulam Nabi, had given the US information which led to an air strike in which a senior Taleban commander died.

The video footage shows Mr Nabi being blindfolded with a chequered scarf and making what is said to be a confession.

The boy, wearing a camouflage jacket and wielding a large knife, denounces him as a spy and then cuts off his head.

The father of Mr Nabi, who lives in Pakistan and who confirmed that his son was the man killed in the video, said his son had been a loyal member of the Taleban.

Senior Taleban commander Akhtar Mohammad Osmani was killed during a December air strike on his car in southern Afghanistan.

Pro-Pakistan tribal leader 'would shelter Bin Laden'

Pro-Pakistan tribal leader 'would shelter Bin Laden' - Yahoo! News: "WANA, Pakistan (AFP) - A pro-government tribal leader hailed by Pakistan for expelling foreign militants from a troubled frontier region said Friday he would protect Osama bin Laden if he sought shelter with him. "...

Roll call of the dead for April so far

TBogg - "...a somewhat popular blogger": "19-Apr-2007 NAME NOT RELEASED YET Muqdadiyah - Babil Hostile - hostile fire - rocket attack"
18-Apr-2007 NAME NOT RELEASED YET Baghdad (northwest part) Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
18-Apr-2007 NAME NOT RELEASED YET Baghdad (north of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
18-Apr-2007 NAME NOT RELEASED YET Baghdad (north of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
17-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class Richard P. Langenbrunner Rustamiyah - Baghdad Non-hostile - injury
16-Apr-2007 1st Lieutenant Shaun M. Blue Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire
16-Apr-2007 Lance Corporal Jesse D. Delatorre Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire
16-Apr-2007 Lance Corporal Daniel R. Scherry Al Anbar Province Non-hostile - accident
16-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class Lucas V. Starcevich Baghdad (southern part) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
16-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class Aaron M. Genevie Baghdad (southern part) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
16-Apr-2007 Sergeant Mario K. De Leon Baghdad (southwest part) Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
15-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class Steven J. Walberg Baghdad (southern part) Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
14-Apr-2007 Sergeant Joshua A. Schmit Fallujah - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
14-Apr-2007 Sergeant Brandon L. Wallace Fallujah - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
14-Apr-2007 Lance Corporal Daniel J. Santee Ramadi - Anbar Non-hostile - vehicle accident
14-Apr-2007 Staff Sergeant Robert J. Basham Qatar Non-hostile - injury
14-Apr-2007 Specialist Ryan A. Bishop Baghdad (south of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
14-Apr-2007 NAME NOT RELEASED YET Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire
13-Apr-2007 Sergeant Larry R. Bowman Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
12-Apr-2007 Corporal Cody A. Putnam Baghdad (south of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
12-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class John G. Borbonus Baghdad (south of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
12-Apr-2007 Specialist James T. Lindsey Baghdad (south of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
12-Apr-2007 Corporal Jason J. Beadles Baghdad Non-hostile - injury
12-Apr-2007 1st Lieutenant Gwilym J. Newman Tarmiya (12 mi. N of Baghdad) - Salah ad Din Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
11-Apr-2007 Sergeant Raymond S. Sevaaetasi Baghdad (eastern part) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
10-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class Kyle G. Bohrnsen Baghdad (southern part) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
09-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class Brian Lee Holden Baghdad (southeast part) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
09-Apr-2007 Specialist Ismael Solorio Baghdad (southeast part) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
09-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class Brett Andre Walton Baghdad (southeast part) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
09-Apr-2007 Specialist , Clifford A. Spohn III Karmah - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - indirect fire
08-Apr-2007 Sergeant Adam P. Kennedy Diwaniyah - Qadisiyah Hostile - hostile fire - indirect fire
08-Apr-2007 Staff Sergeant Jesse L. Williams Baqubah (died in Balad) - Diyala Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
08-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class David N. Simmons Baghdad (south of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED, small arms fire
08-Apr-2007 Staff Sergeant Harrison Brown Baghdad (south of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED, small arms fire
08-Apr-2007 Sergeant Todd A. Singleton Baghdad (south of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED, small arms fire
08-Apr-2007 1st Lieutenant Phillip I. Neel Balad - Salah Ad Din Hostile - hostile fire - grenade
07-Apr-2007 Captain Jonathan D. Grassbaugh Zaganiyah - Diyala Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
07-Apr-2007 Specialist Ebe F. Emolo Zaganiyah - Diyala Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
07-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class Levi K. Hoover Zaganiyah - Diyala Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
07-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class Rodney L. McCandless Zaganiyah - Diyala Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
07-Apr-2007 Commander Philip A. Murphy-Sweet Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
06-Apr-2007 Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph A. McSween Kirkuk (near) - At-Ta'mim Hostile - hostile fire
06-Apr-2007 Petty Officer 2nd Class Curtis R. Hall Kirkuk (near) - At-Ta'mim Hostile - hostile fire
06-Apr-2007 Chief Petty Officer Gregory J. Billiter Kirkuk (near) - At-Ta'mim Hostile - hostile fire
06-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class Jay S. Cajimat Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
06-Apr-2007 Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph C. Schwedler Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire
06-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class Daniel A. Fuentes Baghdad (eastern part) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack06-Apr-2007 Private Damian Lopez Rodriguez Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
06-Apr-2007 Specialist Ryan S. Dallam Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
06-Apr-2007 Captain Anthony Palermo Jr. Baghdad (western part) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
05-Apr-2007 Specialist Jason A. Shaffer Baqubah - Diyala Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
05-Apr-2007 Sergeant Forrest D. Cauthorn Hawijah - At-Ta'mim Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
04-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class James J. Coon Balad - Salah ad Din Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
04-Apr-2007 Staff Sergeant Jerry C. Burge Tikrit - Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
04-Apr-2007 Corporal Joseph H. Cantrell IV Tikrit - Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
04-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class Derek A. Gibson Baghdad (southern part) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
04-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class Walter Freeman Jr. Baghdad (southern part) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
03-Apr-2007 Staff Sergeant Shane R. Becker Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
03-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class Gabriel J. Figueroa Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
02-Apr-2007 Specialist Curtis R. Spivey San Diego - Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
02-Apr-2007 Lance Corporal Daniel R. Olsen Fallujah - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
02-Apr-2007 Sergeant Bradley D. King Amiriyah - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
02-Apr-2007 Specialist Brian E. Ritzberg Kirkuk - At-Ta'mim Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
01-Apr-2007 Staff Sergeant David A. Mejias Baghdad (southwest of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
01-Apr-2007 Staff Sergeant Eric R. Vick Baghdad (southwest of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
01-Apr-2007 Sergeant Robert M. McDowell Baghdad (southwest of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
01-Apr-2007 Specialist William G. Bowling Baghdad (southwest of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
01-Apr-2007 Private 1st Class Miguel A. Marcial III Al Asad - Anbar Non-hostile
01-Apr-2007 Staff Sergeant Jason R. Arnette Baghdad (southwest of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

That is just this month, and it's only the twentieth...
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IraqSlogger: Afghan Insurgent Arrested in Muqdadiya

IraqSlogger: Afghan Insurgent Arrested in Muqdadiya: "Muqdadiya, Apr 20, (VOI) - A joint force of Iraqi and U.S. troops launched a security crackdown in Muqdadiya district, 45 km north of Baaquba, where they arrested five gunmen including an Afghan, an official security source said on Friday. "

"A joint force from Iraqi and U.S. troops waged a security operation on Friday in Muqdadiya district," the source, who asked not to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

"The operation ended with the arrest of five armed men, including an Afghan," he added. Amounts of weapons and ammunitions were also confiscated during the operation which targeted a number of neighbors in the district, he added.

The source said, "Captives were sent to an Iraqi army base for interrogation."

Baaquba is the capital city of Diala province and is located 57 km west of Baghdad.

Taleban’s elusive leader urges more suicide raids

Khaleej Times Online - Taleban’s elusive leader urges more suicide raids: "SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan - The fugitive Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has urged his followers to step up suicide attacks on foreign and Afghan troops and remain united, according to a Taleban commander."

Violence has surged in Afghanistan in recent weeks after a winter lull, following last year’s bloodiest period since the Taleban’s ouster in 2001.

Taleban commander Mullah Hayatullah Khan told Reuters late on Friday by satelite phone from an undisclosed location that Omar had contacted senior and regional commanders and congratulated them for carrying out “successful” attacks in recent weeks.

He would not give details as to how and when Mullah Omar contacted the commanders.

“Taleban mujahideen (holy warriors), through unity in their ranks, should continue and increase their guerrilla and suicide attacks on occupation forces and the infidels will soon run away,” Khan quoted Omar as saying.

“Mullah Omar has ordered us to liberate our country, (and) we should step up attacks on occupation forces and their puppet Afghans,” he said.

The Taleban refer to Western-backed President Hamid Karzai and his associates as puppets.

Mullah Omar, who has a $10 million US government bounty on his head, told his fighters to try not to harm innocent civilians during their offensives, Khan said.

More than 1,000 civilians have been killed during fighting between Taleban with foreign troops-led by NATO and the US-led coalition and Taleban suicide attacks since last year.

The deaths also include hundreds of militants, hundreds of Afghan and foreign troops as well as dozens of aid workers.

The head of NATO said on Thursday he expected to see more suicide attacks and roadside bombings from the Taleban but saw it as a sign of desperation because they lack military muscle.

“They are likely to come in this year, this fighting season, in greater numbers of suicide bombers and IEDs (improvised explosive devices),” he told journalists in his first public briefing at the heavily fortified NATO compound in Kabul.

“It’s as much a desperation tactic as anything.”

Whereabouts unknown

Omar’s whereabouts are not known. Afghanistan’s government insists the one-eyed bearded Omar lives and operates in Pakistan, the former key supporter of the Taleban until the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Islamabad denies this and the Taleban say Omar lives in Afghanistan and coordinates attacks from there.

The Taleban and their Islamic allies such as the Al Qaeda network, are largely active in southern and eastern areas close to the border with Pakistan.

The Taleban have been copying suicide attacks and kidnapping tactics from Iraqi militants and hold two French aid workers.

On Friday they threatened to kill the pair if Taleban demands were not met in one week’s time.

The Islamic group has told France to withdraw its 1,100 strong force from Afghanistan and wants release of Taleban’s prisoners held by the Afghan government.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has vowed that his government would do all it can to free the two French nationals, who were kidnapped on April 4, a state newspaper said on Saturday, amid an ultimatum by Taleban.

Karzai gave the assurance on Friday to France’s Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Philippe Faure.

“The president of the country assured ... the envoy of the all sided cooperation of ... Afghanistan regarding the safe release of French nationals,” the Anis daily said, without elaborating.

Karzai has ruled out any ransom deal for Afghan or foreign hostages after he was criticised for releasing five Taleban prisoners last month in return for the release of an Italian journalist.

Daniele Mastrogiacomo was freed after two weeks, but his Afghan driver and translator were beheaded.
The Mastrogiacomo deal drew criticism in Afghanistan and Italy for encouraging the Taleban to take more hostages.

The Taleban are also holding five Afghan health workers and have threatened to kill one soon unless the government starts negotiations for their release.
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U.S. may open doors to 25,000 refugees

U.S. may open doors to 25,000 refugees - World - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "The United States could take in up to 25,000 Iraqi refugees this year -- more than three times the number it previously agreed to admit -- in an effort to provide some relief to the crisis affecting several Arab countries, the State Department said yesterday. "

The department also said it plans to allow Iraqis and Afghans working for the U.S. government in their respective countries to immigrate to the United States after only three years of service instead of the current 15 required by law.

"It's fair to say that, if we get the referrals [from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees], we could resettle up to 25,000 Iraqi refugees within the president's determination this year," said Ellen Sauerbrey, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration.

The Bush administration, criticized for resettling only 466 Iraqis since the war began in 2003, said last month that it could accept as many as 7,000 of the more than 2 million Iraqi refugees this year. The annual worldwide refugee cap set by Congress is 75,000. I

n order to prevent any terrorists and other dangerous Iraqis from coming to the United States, the Department of Homeland Security is conducting detailed interviews in several countries in the region, U.S. officials said.

They declined to discuss specific questions and techniques being used in the process, but said they are taking all necessary measures to screen applicants sufficiently.

Mrs. Sauerbrey spoke to reporters in Geneva, where she was attending a two-day conference on the Iraqi refugee crisis. Syria and Jordan, which are most affected by the problem, appealed to the participants to help in any way they can. Iraq said it will spend $25 million to aid refugees in neighboring countries.

UNHCR estimates there are more than 4 million displaced Iraqis around the world, including 1.9 million inside Iraq and 2.25 million in neighboring countries, of which 1.2 million are in Syria, 750,000 in Jordan, 100,000 in Egypt and 200,000 in the Persian Gulf states. Only those who have left Iraq are formally considered refugees.

At the same conference, Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs, announced Washington's plan to make it easier for Iraqis and Afghans working for the United States to move to the United States.

Hundreds of local employees, known as Foreign Service nationals, in Iraq and Afghanistan would be eligible to apply for immigrant visas, commonly referred to as green cards. U.S. officials said those people, many of whom have lost family members, deserve a reward for their sacrifice.

"We want to do right by people who have served well and honorably on behalf of their country and the United States, and we think that's important," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. He urged Congress to swiftly pass a bill the Bush administration is about to send to Capitol Hill concerning special immigrant visa (SIV) applications.

"The proposed legislation gives the secretary of state the worldwide authority, under exceptional circumstances, to lower the number of years a Foreign Service national must work in order to be eligible for the existing SIV program from 15 to 3 years," the department said in a separate statement.

Mrs. Dobriansky also endorsed two recently introduced bills -- one in the Senate and one in the House -- that "seek to expand the existing law on SIV to allow as many as 1,500 interpreters under Departments of Defense and State authority, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, access to the SIV program," the State Department said.

Mrs. Dobriansky is the chairman of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's Interagency Task Force on Iraqi Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, which was established in February. • John Zarocostas in Geneva contributed to this report.
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Scientist find chemical to stop anthrax

United Press International - NewsTrack - Science - Scientist find chemical to stop anthrax: "A report published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry says a team from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, and University of Nevada-Las Vegas have identified seven chemicals that block the germination of cultured anthrax spores. "

The researchers showed that one of the compounds, 6-thioguanosine, blocked the spores' germination inside mammalian cells -- thus blocking anthrax infection, the journal said Friday in a release. The scientists are planning to test 6-thioguanosine in mice infected with the anthrax bacterium.

Anthrax is a disease caused by spores that germinate into bacteria, which then release a deadly toxin.
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Training Iraqi troops no longer driving force in U.S. policy

McClatchy Washington Bureau 04/19/2007 Training Iraqi troops no longer driving force in U.S. policy: "WASHINGTON - Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and now believe that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces. "

Training Iraqi troops, which had been the cornerstone of the Bush administration's Iraq policy since 2005, has dropped in priority, officials in Baghdad and Washington said.

No change has been announced, and a Pentagon spokesman, Col. Gary Keck, said training Iraqis remains important. "We are just adding another leg to our mission," Keck said, referring to the greater U.S. role in establishing security that new troops arriving in Iraq will undertake.

But evidence has been building for months that training Iraqi troops is no longer the focus of U.S. policy. Pentagon officials said they know of no new training resources that have been included in U.S. plans to dispatch 28,000 additional troops to Iraq. The officials spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to discuss the policy shift publicly. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made no public mention of training Iraqi troops on Thursday during a visit to Iraq.

In a reflection of the need for more U.S. troops, the Pentagon decided earlier this month to increase the length of U.S. Army tours in Iraq from 12 to 15 months. The extension came amid speculation that the U.S. commander there, Army Gen. David Petraeus, will ask that the troop increase be maintained well into 2008.

U.S. officials don't say that the training formula - championed by Gen. John Abizaid when he was the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and by Gen. George Casey when he was the top U.S. general in Iraq - was doomed from the start. But they said that rising sectarian violence and the inability of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to unite the country changed the conditions. They say they now must establish security while training Iraqi forces because ultimately, "they are our ticket out of Iraq," as one senior Pentagon official put it.

Casey's "mandate was transition. General Petraeus' mandate is security. It is a change based on conditions. Certain conditions have to be met for the transition to be successful. Security is part of that.

And General Petraeus recognizes that," said Brig. Gen. Dana Pittard, commander of the Iraq Assistance Group in charge of supporting trained Iraqi forces.

"I think it is too much to expect that we were going to start from scratch ... in an environment that featured a rising sectarian struggle and lack of progress with the government," said a senior Pentagon official. "The conditions had sufficiently changed that the Abizaid/Casey approach alone wasn't going to be sufficient."

Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who's in charge of training Iraqi troops, said in February that he hoped that Iraqi troops would be able to lead by December. "At the tactical level, I do believe by the end of the year, the conditions should be set that they are increasingly taking responsibility for the combat operations," Dempsey told NBC News.

Maj. Gen. Doug Lute, the director of operations at U.S. Central Command, which oversees military activities in the Middle East, said that during the troop increase, U.S. officers will be trying to determine how ready Iraqi forces are to assume control.

"We are looking for indicators where we can assess the extent to which we are fighting alongside Iraqi security forces, not as a replacement to them," he said. Those signs will include "things like the number of U.S.-only missions, the number of combined U.S.-Iraqi missions, the number where Iraqis are in the lead, the number of Joint Security Stations set up," he said.

That's a far cry from the optimistic assessments U.S. commanders offered throughout 2006 about the impact of training Iraqis.

President Bush first announced the training strategy in the summer of 2005.

"Our strategy can be summed up this way," Bush said. "As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down."

Military leaders in Baghdad planned to train 325,000 Iraqi security forces. Once that was accomplished, those forces were to take control. Casey created military transition teams that would live side by side with their Iraqi counterparts to help them apply their training to real-world situations.

Throughout 2006, Casey and top Bush administration leaders touted the training as a success, asserting that eight of Iraq's 10 divisions had taken the lead in confronting insurgents.

But U.S. forces complained that the Iraqi forces weren't getting the support from their government and that Iraqi military commanders, many who worked under Saddam Hussein, weren't as willing to embrace their tactics. Among everyday Iraqis, some said they didn't trust their forces, saying they were sectarian and easily susceptible to corruption.

Most important, insurgents and militiamen had infiltrated the forces, using their power to carry out sectarian attacks.

In nearly every area where Iraqi forces were given control, the security situation rapidly deteriorated.

The exceptions were areas dominated largely by one sect and policed by members of that sect.

In the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar, which Bush celebrated last year as an example of success, suspected Sunni Muslim insurgents set off a bomb last month that killed as many as 150 people, the largest single bombing attack of the war. Shiite Muslim mobs, including some police officers, pulled Sunnis from their homes and executed dozens afterward. U.S. troops were dispatched to restore order.

Earlier this month, U.S. forces engaged in heavy fighting in the southern city of Diwaniyah after Iraqi forces, who'd been given control of the region in January 2006, lost control of the city.

U.S. officials said they once believed that if they empowered their Iraqi counterparts, they'd take the lead and do a better job of curtailing the violence. But they concede that's no longer their operating principle.
Pentagon officials won't say how many U.S. troops are engaged in training, though they said that the number of teams assigned to work alongside trained Iraqi troops hasn't changed.

Military officials say there's no doubt that the November U.S. elections, which gave Democrats control of both houses of Congress, helped push training down the priority list. The elections, they said, made it clear that voters didn't have the patience to wait for Iraqis to take the lead.

"To the extent we are losing the American public, we were losing" in the transition approach, said a senior military commander in Washington.

Military analysts cite a number of reasons that the training program didn't work.

"The goal was to put the Iraqis in charge. The problem is we didn't know how to do it and we underestimated the insurgency," said Anthony Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Said Paul Hughes of the U.S. Institute for Peace: "In our initial efforts to hand security missions over to Iraqi forces, we took the training wheels off too early - and the bike fell over."

Military officials now measure success by whether the troops are curbing violence, not by the number of Iraqi troops trained.

Many officials are vague about when the U.S. will know when troops can begin to return home. Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. is trying to buy "time for the Iraqi government to provide the good governance and the economic activity that's required."

One State Department official, who also asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject, expressed the same sentiment in blunter terms. "Our strategy now is to basically hold on and wait for the Iraqis to do something," he said
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Curfew imposed on Iraq's volatile Tal Afar - mayor

Reuters AlertNet - Curfew imposed on Iraq's volatile Tal Afar - mayor: "TAL AFAR, Iraq, April 20 (Reuters) - Authorities in the volatile Iraqi town of Tal Afar have imposed an indefinite curfew after militants distributed leaflets threatening to carry out chemical attacks, local officials said on Friday"

Dozens of families have fled the religiously mixed town in northwestern Iraq in recent days after militants urged Sunni Muslim residents to leave the area.

Suspected Sunni al Qaeda militants killed 152 people with a truck bomb in Tal Afar last month -- the deadliest single insurgent attack in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

That attack sparked reprisal killings by Shi'ite gunmen and Iraqi police in a Sunni district that left 47 dead. Most of Tal Afar's residents are Shi'ite and Sunni ethnic Turkmen.

"We have imposed a total curfew from April 19th ... to calm people because these statements are not serious. We do not think that these groups have the capability to launch attacks using chemical weapons," said Najim al Jibouri, Tal Afar's mayor.

"These groups only want to scare people," he said.

Insurgents across Iraq have recently turned to car and truck bombs that spew out poisonous chlorine gas. When an explosion turns chlorine from solid or liquid form into gas, it causes severe burns when inhaled and can be lethal.

Lieutenant Colonel Ali Hadi said most of the families who have fled Tal Afar are Sunnis. Those who have left since the reprisal killings last month have taken shelter in a camp set up for refugees in the nearby city of Mosul.

'Devastating' Moyers Probe of Press and Iraq Coming

By Greg Mitchell Published: April 19, 2007 9:00 PM ET

NEW YORK (Commentary) The most powerful indictment of the news media for falling down in its duties in the run-up to the war in Iraq will appear next Wednesday, a 90-minute PBS broadcast called "Buying the War," which marks the return of "Bill Moyers Journal." E&P was sent a preview DVD and a draft transcript for the program this week.

While much of the evidence of the media's role as cheerleaders for the war presented here is not new, it is skillfully assembled, with many fresh quotes from interviews (with the likes of Tim Russert and Walter Pincus) along with numerous embarrassing examples of past statements by journalists and pundits that proved grossly misleading or wrong. Several prominent media figures, prodded by Moyers, admit the media failed miserably, though few take personal responsibility.

The war continues today, now in its fifth year, with the death toll for Americans and Iraqis rising again -- yet Moyers points out, "the press has yet to come to terms with its role in enabling the Bush Administration to go to war on false pretenses."Among the few heroes of this devastating film are reporters with the Knight Ridder/McClatchy bureau in D.C. Tragically late, Walter Isaacson, who headed CNN, observes, "The people at Knight Ridder were calling the colonels and the lieutenants and the people in the CIA and finding out, you know, that the intelligence is not very good. We should've all been doing that."

At the close, Moyers mentions some of the chief proponents of the war who refused to speak to him for this program, including Thomas Friedman, Bill Kristol, Roger Ailes, Charles Krauthammer, Judith Miller, and William Safire.But Dan Rather, the former CBS anchor, admits, "I don't think there is any excuse for, you know, my performance and the performance of the press in general in the roll up to the war…We didn't dig enough. And we shouldn't have been fooled in this way." Bob Simon, who had strong doubts about evidence for war, was asked by Moyers if he pushed any of the top brass at CBS to "dig deeper," and he replies, "No, in all honesty, with a thousand mea culpas….nope, I don't think we followed up on this."

Instead he covered the marketing of the war in a "softer" way, explaining to Moyers: "I think we all felt from the beginning that to deal with a subject as explosive as this, we should keep it, in a way, almost light – if that doesn't seem ridiculous."Moyers replies: "Going to war, almost light."Walter Isaacson is pushed hard by Moyers and finally admits, "We didn't question our sources enough." But why? Isaacson notes there was "almost a patriotism police" after 9/11 and when the network showed civilian casualties it would get phone calls from advertisers and the administration and "big people in corporations were calling up and saying, 'You're being anti-American here.'"

Moyers then mentions that Isaacson had sent a memo to staff, leaked to the Washington Post, in which he declared, "It seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan" and ordered them to balance any such images with reminders of 9/11. Moyers also asserts that editors at the Panama City (Fla.) News-Herald received an order from above, "Do not use photos on Page 1A showing civilian casualties. Our sister paper has done so and received hundreds and hundreds of threatening emails."

Walter Pincus of the Washington Post explains that even at his paper reporters "do worry about sort of getting out ahead of something." But Moyers gives credit to Charles J. Hanley of The Associated Press for trying, in vain, to draw more attention to United Nations inspectors failing to find WMD in early 2003.

The disgraceful press reaction to Colin Powell's presentation at the United Nations seems like something out of Monty Python, with one key British report cited by Powell being nothing more than a student's thesis, downloaded from the Web -- with the student later threatening to charge U.S. officials with "plagiarism."

Phil Donahue recalls that he was told he could not feature war dissenters alone on his MSNBC talk show and always had to have "two conservatives for every liberal." Moyers resurrects a leaked NBC memo about Donahue's firing that claimed he "presents a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.

At the same time our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."Moyers also throws some stats around: In the year before the invasion William Safire (who predicted a "quick war" with Iraqis cheering their liberators) wrote "a total of 27 opinion pieces fanning the sparks of war."

The Washington Post carried at least 140 front-page stories in that same period making the administration's case for attack. In the six months leading to the invasion the Post would "editorialize in favor of the war at least 27 times."

Of the 414 Iraq stories broadcast on NBC, ABC and CBS nightly news in the six months before the war, almost all could be traced back to sources solely in the White House, Pentagon or State Dept., Moyers tells Russert, who offers no coherent reply. The program closes on a sad note, with Moyers pointing out that "so many of the advocates and apologists for the war are still flourishing in the media."

He then runs a pre-war clip of President Bush declaring, "We cannot wait for the final proof: the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

Then he explains: "The man who came up with it was Michael Gerson, President Bush's top speechwriter."

He has left the White House and has been hired by the Washington Post as a columnist."***Greg Mitchell's most recent column on Iraq: "Sorry We Shot Your Kid, But Here's $500"

Greg Mitchell (gmitchell@editorandpublisher.com) is editor and author of seven books on politics and history, including two for Random House, "The Campaign of the Century" and "Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady."
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Al-Qaeda seeks to expand its operations

Al-Qaeda is reaching out from its base in Pakistan to turn militant Islamist groups in the Middle East and Africa into franchises charged with intensifying attacks on western targets, according to European officials and terrorism specialists.

The development could see radical groups use al-Qaeda expertise to switch their attention from local targets to western interests in their countries and abroad. “For al-Qaeda, this is a force multiplier,” said a British official who follows terrorism.

One of the first signs of the development was an announcement on September 11 last year by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s number two, of a “merger” between al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and Algeria’s Salafist Group for Call and Combat, known by its French initials, GSPC.

Western officials expect to see a similar merger be­tween al-Qaeda and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a mainly exiled organisation devoted until now to the overthrow of Muammer Gadaffi, the Libyan leader.

They say there are signs that similar moves are under way in Lebanon, Syria and East Africa and that there is an effort to unite militant groups across north Africa.

The Algerian “merger” was followed by a series of attacks, culminating in two suicide bombings last week that killed 33 and wounded 220. It is too early to say whether last week’s attacks were influenced by al-Qaeda central, officials said. The targeting – including of the prime minister’s residence – was ambitious but traditional for the GSPC, analysts said. However, before these latest attacks, Algeria had suffered only one suicide bomb.

The effort by al-Qaeda to reach out to radical Islamist groups, which is still at an early stage, follows the rebuilding of al-Qaeda’s core in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan, near the Afghan border. Al-Qaeda was severely disrupted by US-led military action after its 2001 attacks on the US. But the central organisation appears to have reconstituted around about 20 senior figures in farms and compounds that also act as training camps, western officials say.

“AQ Central” has sophisticated target planners and expertise in poisons and explosives probably unavailable to local groups, officials say.

The Algerian group operates small training camps in northern Mali, attracting fighters from Algeria, Mauritania, Niger, Mali and Nigeria. UK officials say there is concern about the prospect of trained Nigerian jihadis entering the country among thousands of Nigerians who travel weekly to and from the UK.

According to Andrew Black, of the US Jamestown Institute, the training would equip jihadis for Iraq, from which they would return to the Maghreb with operational experience.

[bth: what is surprising is that this hasn't happened sooner.]

Report: Wolfowitz hyped up North Korean nuclear threat in 2002

The Raw Story Report: Wolfowitz hyped up North Korean nuclear threat in 2002: "The former Deputy Secretary of Defense who is now the embattled President of the World Bank has been charged by a nonproliferation policy expert with exaggerating North Korea's nuclear threat in 2002 as the US assessed intelligence on the Stalinist country"

Paul Kerr, an analyst at the Washington, DC-based Arms Control Association, pointed to reports that Paul Wolfowitz promoted exaggerated concerns about North Korea's attempts to produce highly enriched uranium for use in nuclear weapons.

The news came from the Nelson Report a private e-mail newsletter written by Chris Nelson, a specialist in East Asian politics, who had spoken with a variety of principal players in the US government.

"There was a bitter inter-agency fight over how to interpret the intelligence on all DPRK nuclear activity, but especially over the HEU situation," Nelson wrote.

He added that a person involved in US intelligence assements "personally witnessed the intervention of then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to produce a formal assessment on the hard-line extreme of the interpretive spectrum."

Nelson compared it to the generation of faulty evidence of Iraq's weapon of mass destruction threat, and noted that after the US alleged North Korea had an HEU program, the 1994 Agreed Framework set up to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program collapsed and International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors were kicked out of the country.

North Korea subsequently regained control of the separated plutonium at a reactor that had been under IAEA monitoring. It tested a nuclear weapon for the first time in 2006, apparently using that plutonium as the bomb's fuel, rather than the alleged uranium.

Kerr's full blog post can be found at Total Wonkerr
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After Tillman Death, Army Clamped Down

After Tillman Death, Army Clamped Down The Huffington Post: "SAN FRANCISCO — Within hours of Pat Tillman's death, the Army went into information-lockdown mode, cutting off phone and Internet connections at a base in Afghanistan, posting guards on a wounded platoon mate, and ordering a sergeant to burn Tillman's uniform."

New Army investigative documents reviewed by The Associated Press describe how the military sealed off information about Tillman's death from all but a small ring of soldiers. Officers quietly passed their suspicion of friendly fire up the chain to the highest ranks of the military, but the truth did not reach Tillman's family for five weeks.

The clampdown, and the misinformation issued by the military, lie at the heart of a burgeoning congressional investigation.

"We want to find out how this happened," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House oversight committee, which has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday. "Was it the result of incompetence, miscommunication or a deliberate strategy?"

It is also a central issue as the Army weighs punishments against nine officers, including four generals, faulted in the latest Pentagon report on the case of the NFL star-turned-soldier.

Gen. William Wallace, who oversees training for the Army, is to report on possible punishments. He told Acting Army Secretary Pete Geren this week that he was working as quickly as possible on recommendations, but could provide no timetable, Army spokesman Paul Boyce said.

In the meantime, promotions and awards have been suspended for the seven officers still in the Army, Boyce said.

It is well known by now that the circumstances of Tillman's April 22, 2004, death were kept from his family and the American public; the Army maintained he was cut down by enemy bullets in an ambush, even though many soldiers knew he was mistakenly killed by his own comrades. The nearly 1,100 pages of documents released last month at the conclusion of the Army Criminal Investigation Command's probe reveal the mechanics of how the Army contained the information.

For example, the day after Tillman died, Spc. Jade Lane lay in a hospital bed in Afghanistan, recovering from gunshot wounds inflicted by the same fellow Rangers who had shot at Tillman. Amid his shock and grief, Lane noticed guards were posted on him.

"I thought it was strange," Lane recalled. Later, he said, he learned the reason for their presence: The news media were sniffing around, and Lane's superiors "did not want anyone talking to us," he said.

Inside Forward Operating Base Salerno, near Khowst, Afghanistan, a soldier heard the dreaded call come across the radio: "KIAs." There were two killed in action, one allied Afghan fighter and one Army Ranger, identified only by his code name.

The soldier checked a roster and discovered the fallen American was Tillman. He rounded up four others and broke the news but withheld Tillman's name.

Had this soldier wanted to share the news outside the tactical operations center, it would have been difficult. "The phones and Internet had been cut off, to prevent anyone from talking about the incident," he told investigators.

Nearby on the same base, a staff sergeant was in his tent when a captain walked in and told him to burn Tillman's bloody clothing.

"He wanted me alone to burn what was in the bag to prevent security violations, leaks and rumors," the staff sergeant testified. The superior "put a lock on communications" in the tent, he testified. Other Army officers said this was probably a directive to the staff sergeant to keep the conversation to himself.

Then he left the staff sergeant to his work: placing Tillman's uniform, socks, gloves and body armor into a 55-gallon drum and burning them. Several soldiers and officers testified that the primary reason they destroyed the equipment was because it was becoming a "biohazard" and emitting a foul odor.

Several Army officers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan said pulling the plug on base phones and e-mail was routine after a soldier died. The practice was meant to ensure the family was notified through official channels, said Army Maj. Todd Breasseale, chief spokesman for ground forces in Iraq until last August.

But the truth was quickly becoming evident to a small group of soldiers with direct access to the evidence.

Two other sergeants who examined Tillman's vest noticed the bullet holes appeared to be from 5.56-caliber bullets _ signature American ammunition. An awful realization dawned on the sergeants, whose names, like those of others who testified in the investigation, were deleted from the recently released testimony.

"At this time was when I had realized Tillman may have been killed by friendly fire," one of them said.

The other sergeant, who was higher-ranking, told him to "keep quiet and let the investigators do their job," the subordinate sergeant testified. He was not to go "informing unit members that Spc. Tillman was killed by friendly fire."

This was the same reason top-ranking officers cited in trying to explain why they waited to tell the Tillman family: They wanted to have the definitive investigation results. Army regulations, however, dictate that the next of kin be informed of additional information about a service member's death as it becomes available.

Then-Col. James C. Nixon, Tillman's regimental commander, ordered an investigation but directed that the information gathered be shared with as few people as possible until the results were finalized, acting Defense Department Inspector General Thomas Gimble found in a separate probe also completed last month.

Nixon, now a brigadier general and director of operations at the Center for Special Operations at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, said that he was not aware of all regulations governing such a case, and that his missteps were unintentional.

Among the top brass at the Pentagon, Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger, a now-retired three-star general in charge of special operations, represented the Army at Tillman's memorial service almost two weeks after the soldier's death. "He decided to withhold notification from family members until all facts concerning the incident could be verified," Gimble found.

Kensinger denied that he knew on the day of the memorial service that friendly fire was suspected. But investigators dismissed his claim as not credible and Kensinger could be punished under military law for making false official statements.

Congressional investigators will try to determine how high up the chain of command the information lockdown went. The Army delivered several thousand pages of new documents on Thursday, military officials said.

Gen. John Abizaid, then chief of Central Command, in charge of all American forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, testified that he did not learn of the likelihood of friendly fire until sometime between May 6 and May 13 _ two or three weeks after Tillman died _ because he was traveling in the Middle East.

And a lieutenant colonel testified that he delayed briefing Central Command lawyers until more than a month after Tillman had died, in part because he feared leaks and did not want to be blamed as the source.

But Abizaid visited Afghanistan within a week of Tillman's death and spoke to Tillman's platoon leader, then-Lt. David Uthlaut. Uthlaut has testified he did not suspect friendly fire until later.

Abizaid's trip to Afghanistan was not examined by Gimble's investigators, according to spokesman Gary Comerford.

Abizaid had no immediate comment.

The new testimony and other documents do not identify who, if anyone, orchestrated the clampdown.

Nor do they address whether there was a concerted effort to conceal the truth about the best-known casualty in the war on terrorism.

Gimble said last month he found no evidence of such a cover-up. But when asked by a reporter whether he probed why the Army had not told the family in a timely fashion, Gimble said no.

One soldier carried a particularly heavy burden of secrecy.

Ranger Spc. Russell Baer had witnessed Rangers shooting at Rangers. Afterward, he was directed to travel from Afghanistan to the United States with his friend Kevin Tillman. But he was ordered not to tell Pat Tillman's brother and fellow Ranger that friendly fire was the likely cause of the former football player's death.

He kept the secret, fearing he did not know the whole story. But in a personal protest, Baer later went AWOL and was demoted as punishment.

"I lost respect for the people in charge of me," Baer testified in an earlier Tillman investigation. He had gleaned "part of the puzzle" of Tillman's death, but lamented that "I couldn't tell them about it."

Five investigations and three years later, that information gap is what's driving the congressional probe, which is also looking into misinformation surrounding the capture and rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch in Iraq.
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Friday, April 20, 2007

Factory Jobs: 3 Million Lost Since 2000

Factory Jobs: 3 Million Lost Since 2000: "WASHINGTON (AP) - Three weeks ago, Dawn Zimmer became a statistic. Laid off from her job assembling trucks at Freightliner's plant in Portland, Ore., she and 800 of her colleagues joined a long line of U.S. manufacturing workers who have lost jobs in recent years. A total of 3.2 million—one in six factory jobs—have disappeared since the start of 2000. "...

IraqSlogger: Amar al-Hakim Convoy Ambushed in Baghdad

IraqSlogger: Amar al-Hakim Convoy Ambushed in Baghdad: "Unidentified gunmen attacked a convoy carrying a group of Sunni scholars and Shi'ite cleric Ammar al-Hakim, son of SCIRI leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, while it travelled through al-Dora in southern Baghdad on Friday."

"Hakim and members of his accompanying delegation have not been hurt in the attack as the escorting guards fired back at the gunmen," a source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

The convoy was just returning from Najaf, where Hakim had invited the Sunni scholars--hailing from Kurdistan, Kirkuk, and Salah al-Din--to meet with Shia leaders, Grand Ayatollahs Ali al-Sistani, Mohammed Saed al-Hakim and Bashir al-Najafi.

"The convoy was attacked because it was an official-looking convoy, (the attack) was not targeting Ammar al-Hakim personally," Reuters reports a media official in Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim's office as saying.

AFP reports that an official from Hakim's office said four police escorts and two of Hakim's personal bodyguards were wounded in the attack.

[bth: how would Hakim's staff know the motivation of the attackers unless they were in contact?]

U.S. Robot Destroyed By Roadside Bomb in Iraq

The MEMRI Blog: "On April 18, 2007, the Salahaldin Al-Ayoubi Brigades posted on Islamist websites a 60-second film featuring a U.S. robot being blown up in Iraq. "

The film opens with footage of a robot examining a suspicious roadside object. The object, which was apparently booby-trapped, eventually explodes, completely destroying the robot. U.S. troops then appear on the scene, and collect the robot's remains.
Below is an image taken from the film:
Posted at: 2007-04-18

Reid to Bush: "This War Is Lost"

IraqSlogger: Reid to Bush: "This War Is Lost": "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told President Bush that the surge is failing and the war has been lost during a White House meeting with Congressional leaders on Wednesday."

"This is the message I took to the president," Reid told reporters in a press conference Thursday.

"Now I believe myself ... that this war is lost, and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday," Reid said, referring to Wednesday's bombings in Baghdad that killed close to 200 people.

"I know I was like the odd guy out yesterday at the White House, but at least I told him what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear," he added.

Yesterday's meeting was reportedly convened to hammer out differences on the pending defense spending legislation, but no compromise on the timeline was reached.

In Reid's view, the continuation of combat operations will not achieve success for US interests because "I believe the war at this stage can only be won diplomatically, politically and economically, and the president needs to come to that realization.”

Speaking in Tipp City, Ohio on Thursday, Bush told his audience, "I think it's a mistake for Congress to tell the military how to do its job," he said.

Bush reiterated his threat to veto any legislative measure that includes a date for withdrawal of US troops, explaining, "If you're a young commander on the ground, or an Iraqi soldier, and you've been tasked with a mission to help provide security for a city, and an enemy hears that you're leaving soon, it affects your capacity to do your job."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Iran making nuclear fuel in underground plant: IAEA 

Iran making nuclear fuel in underground plant: IAEA Top News Reuters.com: "VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran has begun making nuclear fuel in its underground uranium enrichment plant, the international atomic watchdog said on Wednesday, in a move by Tehran that raises the stakes in its showdown with world powers."

A confidential note by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also said Iran had started up more than 1,300 centrifuge machines in an accelerating campaign to lay a basis for "industrial scale" enrichment in the Natanz complex.

Iran has been steadily upping the ante in a standoff with the U.N. Security Council, which has demanded an enrichment halt over suspicions that Tehran's declared civilian nuclear fuel project is a cover for mastering the means to build atom bombs. ...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rise in roadside blasts probed

The Herald : News: FOREIGN: "THE Pentagon is to set up a task force to investigate why a £3bn investment in methods of defeating roadside bombs in Iraq has resulted in higher American casualties."

Deaths inflicted by improvised roadside devices (IEDs) jumped from 60% to 75% of service personnel falling victim to insurgent action between March and mid-April, despite the introduction of electronic countermeasures designed to block triggering signals.

The booby-traps are also responsible for about 60% of all British casualties, including more than 20 soldiers killed in lightly-armoured Snatch Land Rovers in southern Iraq.

The Senate committee responsible for military spending has expressed concern that the mixed military-industrial anti-bomb team has become secretive and unaccountable.

The Joint IED Defeat Organisation was set up three years ago to combat the rise in booby-trap ambushes. Pentagon officials are now questioning whether expensive hi-tech countermeasures can be the answer to an essentially low-tech problem.

The vast majority of IEDs are still made of old explosives salvaged from looted mortar bombs and artillery shells.

These are often planted in "daisy-chains" using half a dozen rounds to increase the destructive blast and set off using makeshift triggering mechanisms such as garage door remote controls and mobile phone signals.

Electronic jammers used by both US and British forces rely on blocking the frequency of the detonation signal. But it has to jam the exact frequency and is far from guaranteed.

Insurgents are also becoming more adept at hiding the bombs in animal carcasses or in painted polystyrene "rocks".

Retired US Army General Montgomery Meigs, head of the Defeat organisation, said: "In the end, the most effective means of preventing IED deaths is by going after the networks that fund, make and plant them."

Jam-Proof Insurgents? Doubtful

Danger Room - Wired News: "Have insurgents in Iraq managed to beat one of the most live-saving pieces of gear American troops can get? That's the provocative suggestion, made by Debka File. Luckily for U.S. servicemen -- and the whole American effort in Iraq -- the suggestion is almost certainly wrong, specialists in the field tell DANGER ROOM. "

Since the war began, thousands and thousands of American vehicles have been equipped with radio frequency jammers, which interrupt attempts to remotely-trigger a roadside bomb. The devices aren't foolproof -- they interfere with U.S. radios, and they're useless against an explosive set off by a detonation cord. But the electronic safety bubbles the devices provide trail only behind armor, bulletproof vests, and helmets in keeping U.S. forces safe.

Or do they? Debka (via these guys) says that:

Soon after they were fitted on US military vehicles and went into successful use, al Qaeda came up with a device capable of jamming and disarming [these] US electronic measures by radio signals. The Islamist terrorists thus escalated their challenge to the US military by introducing electronic warfare.

Their success has boosted the US and British death toll in Iraq. Of the 50 US and UK soldiers who died in Iraq in the first 9 days of April, 30 were killed by IEDs [improvised explosive devices]. Al Qaeda’s mystery device is believed by military experts to account for the soaring rate of effective roadside bomb hits on American vehicles, even those fitted with the new counter-measures.

Not bloody likely, says one currently deployed American radio specialist. "The level of sophistication the insurgents operate at doesn't map to the electronic chess game which 'jamming a jammer' implies," he tells DANGER ROOM. Debka's writers "are either mixing up their terminology, or being intentionally vague."

The more I think about it, the less sense it makes. Are they referring to some sort of device which nulls out the jamming signals? That's a tough sell. Radio-detonated IEDs usually use cell phones, walkie-talkies, or other consumer electronics. It's hard to imagine a one-size-fits all device that would work with *all* of those to counter jamming effects. The usual insurgent counter to IED jammers is to use non-wireless detonators. Another possibility is that they're talking about a dedicated radio detonator which uses some sort of anti-jamming techniques to mitigate the effects of jamming, perhaps a spread-spectrum receiver along the lines of DSSS, or simply using a frequency set which the IED jammers don't block. Simple frequency-hopping (like [the U.S. military radios, such as] SINCGARS or HAVE QUICK) probably wouldn't do the trick, but a more sophisticated spread-spectrum technique might.* Neither answer fits the description in the article.

In closing I don't buy it. It's either wrong outright or using the wrong terminology. Given the tone of the article, I suspect the former.
XXXX

* It's said that the IED jammers wipe out cell phones in their immediate vicinity. If the Iraqi cellphone infrastructure isn't analog or GSM, this implies that the IED jammers are able to overcome commercial spread-spectrum techniques.

This (kinda sorta) echoes a statement made last month by Islamic State in Iraq insurgent group, which claimed to have a "new electronic circuit that cannot be defeated by current jamming techniques."
Michael Puttre, the former editor of the Journal of Electronic Defense, concurs. Debka's "notion of disarming an anti-IED jammer doesn't make sense. You don't disarm a jammer. And you really can't drown out a jammer by broadcasting back at it. Besides, broadcasting on the same frequency of the jammer is doing the jammer's work for it."

I used to read Debka all the time. I even wrote about the site, once. But after a while, there were just too many stories that melted away, on further examination. This sure seems like one of them.
UPDATE: Back in early March, the Islamic State of Iraq insurgent group released a video in which it announced the development "of a new electronic device to target US minesweepers. The device is a newelectronic circuit that cannot be defeated by current jamming techniques," says IntelCenter.


I was under the impression that the "new" IED detonators that got around RF Jamming were IR based. Which would qualify as an electronic circuit that cannot be jammed by rf jammers.

Posted by: EricG Apr 12, 2007 12:36:11 PM
Or you could make a nice detonator that uses a directional antenna and when a jamming signal comes in front of it full-on you detonate the EFP.

Posted by: Nicholas Weaver Apr 12, 2007 12:40:19 PM
Yes but that still does not qualify as "a device capable of jamming and disarming [these] US electronic measures by radio signals." An IR trigger would merely operate outside it's wavelength capabilities and they state specifically that it uses radio signals.The Debka article is like saying that Iraq has designed a new rock slingshot that will jam and disarm an M4. The level of sophistication they imply when compared to their level of technology is ridiculous.

Posted by: Legion Prime Apr 12, 2007 12:49:51 PM
Simple. Change it from a passive to an active trigger. So long as it receives the signal not to explode, that's fine but when that signal fails to get through then there's obviously a jamming source nearby so you can switch to IR trigger for proximity.

This is not rocket science.

Posted by: Mike Apr 12, 2007 4:25:46 PM
Yes, I agree that it is quite simple to workaround. However I believe some are forgetting what the original article said. The suggestions on how they can workaround the jamming is so simple as to be irrelevant. They seem to be completely ignoring that the claim is not that they can work around the jamming but that they are countering the jamming and disabling the jamming devices. The point of my earlier comment and the entire article itself is that this claim is not really believable given the level of technology needed to accomplish what they claim to have done.

Posted by: Legion Prime Apr 12, 2007 6:14:34 PM

[put simply its likely a two stage activated security light bought almost anywhere in the world - including Home Depot - whereby the first switch is thrown by say the car driving into a driveway and the second switch is thrown by passive IR (when you get out of your car the light turns on). If the first switch is a loss of cell phone coverage and the second is a change in IR state caused by the vehicle driving by then the technology so bragged about by al Qaeda is really nothing more than a sophisticated outdoor lighting system wired to a radio or cell phone. A similar device can be found for electronic gate openers]

Insurgents in Iraq Claim They Can Beat U.S. Anti-IED Technology

The Blotter: "A new insurgent video mocks U.S. attempts to fight the attacks and claims insurgents managed to beat advanced technology used by the U.S. to detect the deadly explosives. "

A series of fierce and gruesome IED attacks against U.S. armored vehicles in Iraq is shown on the 25-minute video.

The new video, issued by a coalition of insurgent groups known as "The Islamic State of Iraq," is subtitled "The Fall and Decline of the U.S. Technology." The underlying message is that U.S. efforts to counter IED attacks are futile because the group claims its "engineers" managed to invent ways to face the newly developed techniques and devices by U.S. forces.

It begins by showing a masked man identified as a field commander talking about U.S. counter IED efforts before listing different types of U.S. vehicles, including the Buffalo, Cougar and RG-31 Nayala.

The video contains footage of alleged attacks against U.S. vehicles that are seen being blown up. In some instances, bodies are seen flying in the air amidst fire and smoke.

IEDs are responsible for 65 percent of American casualties in Iraq, according to retired Gen. Montgomery Meigs, who heads the counter-IED efforts in Iraq.

Meigs, who briefed reporters about the fight against IEDs yesterday, argued, however, that IED lethality has dropped, pointing out that the level of American casualties resulting from IED attacks has remained constant since 2004. To show the progress being made, Meigs said insurgents have to put four to five times as many IEDs as in June 2003 to cause one American casualty. The drop in lethality is due to the timely discovery of an IED leading to detonation or IEDs that just aren't as lethal.

The video ends by showing an old statement by al Qaeda's No. 2 man Ayman al Zawahri in which he challenges President Bush to send more U.S. troops to Iraq and claims the insurgents will win.

Gen. Meigs, whose Joint IED Defeat Organization has a budget of almost $6 billion in the last three years, admits the attacker always has the upper hand in this fight. There is no uparmor or body armor that can totally defeat an offensive weapon like the IED, he said. He added, however, that in the last six months the number of tips about IEDs has more than doubled.

Death rate for American forces in Iraq rises; total reaches 3,305

The Buffalo News: World & Nation: " BAGHDAD — Over the past six months, American troops have died in Iraq at the highest rate since the war began, an indication that the conflict is becoming increasingly dangerous for U.S. forces even after more than four years of fighting. "

From October 2006 through last month, 532 American soldiers were killed, the most during any six-month period of the war. March also marked the first time that the U.S. military suffered four straight months of 80 or more fatalities. April, with at least 58 service members killed through Monday, is on pace to be one of the deadliest months for American forces.

Senior American military officials attribute much of the increase to the Baghdad security crackdown, now in its third month. But the fatality rate was increasing even before a more aggressive strategy began moving U.S. troops from heavily fortified bases into neighborhood outposts throughout the capital, placing them at greater risk of roadside bombings and small-arms attacks.

Since October, officials said, insurgents have been employing more-sophisticated devices, with the most lethal results coming in Baghdad. Nearly 38 percent of military deaths since October have occurred in the capital, compared with 29 percent over the previous 12 months, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count (http://icasualties.org), an independent, U.S.-based Web site that monitors military and civilian casualties.

At the same time, insurgents are leaving Baghdad to escape the crackdown, and in recent weeks, U.S. and Iraqi troops have launched major operations outside the capital. Some of the heaviest fighting has occurred in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, where 44 American service members have died so far this year — more than in the previous 22 months combined.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the U.S. military’s chief spokesman in Iraq, said last week that commanders had feared that the new strategy would bring greater casualties.

Meanwhile, the military announced the deaths of seven more American troops — three soldiers in Baghdad and two Marines in Anbar province on Monday and two soldiers in Fallujah on Saturday. The deaths brought the total number of American military fatalities in Iraq to 3,305, according to icasualties.org.

In the past, U.S. fatalities had a tendency to spike in months of heavy combat, then drop to lower levels in subsequent months. April 2004 and November 2004 were the deadliest months of the war for American forces, due mostly to intense combat in Anbar province.

But those high death tolls quickly dropped; for example, the death toll in April 2004 was 135 but fell to 42 two months later. The November 2004 toll was 137 but dropped to 58 in February 2005 and 35 the following month.

The past several months, however, have brought the longest period of sustained heavy casualties since U.S. troops entered Iraq in March 2003. December saw 112 soldiers die, the most since November 2004, and the subsequent three months registered 83, 80 and 81 fatalities, respectively.

Under the new security plan, Baghdad has supplanted Anbar as the deadliest region for American forces. Of the 58 deaths so far in April, 34 have occurred in the capital. The figures include all deaths, not just those that the military says occurred because of hostile action.

[bth: barring an escallation we will see 1000 KIA per year or about 2000 dead and about 14000 more wounded before Bush leaves office.]

Two area men charged as Hussein spies

Two area men charged as Hussein spies: "Two Detroit-area men have been charged with spying for Saddam Hussein’s intelligence service, supplying the executed dictator’s regime with information about its enemies in the United States, according to federal court documents unsealed today."

Ghazi Al-Awadi, 78, of Dearborn, allegedly told the Iraqi Intelligence Service in 1997 that he killed his son-in-law because the man belonged to an anti-Hussein political party, court documents said.

Najib Shemami, 59, of Sterling Heights, allegedly provided Iraqi intelligence with information about Iraqi expatriates who might be called upon to guide U.S. troops during the invasion of Iraq and potential political candidates for the new government.The charges were based on Iraqi intelligence documents captured by U.S. forces in Iraq.

The men are believed to be the first Detroit-area residents to be charged on the basis of such documents, which were authenticated by former members of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.On Monday, a federal jury in Chicago convicted Sami Latchin, 59, of Des Plaines, Ill., of working as an Iraqi sleeper agent, spying on Iraqi dissidents in the United States. He is facing a possible 40-year prison sentence.

“Espionage is a federal crime that strikes at the heart of our nation’s security,” U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy said today in Detroit.Iraqi Americans said the charges, if true, are serious.

“If they cooperated with Saddam Hussein, as you are telling me, they have to be punished,” said Dr. Jacoub Mansour, a West Bloomfield physician and former president of the Chaldean Federation of America.Based on the charges, he said, the men may have supplied information that may have led to the persecution and deaths of people in Iraq.

Al-Awadi’s lawyer, Deputy Federal Defender Richard Helfrick, declined to comment. Shemami’s lawyer, Juan Mateo of Detroit, said: “I’ve known the family for many years now. They are a hardworking Chaldean family that, in my opinion, would never do anything to hurt the United States.”

Both men are charged with conspiring to act as agents of a foreign government without the approval of the attorney general, and acting as an agent for a foreign government. Shemami also is charged with violating the U.S. International Emergency Powers Act and making false statements to the FBI.

The most serious charge against Shemami, violating the emergency powers act, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The most serious charge against Al-Awadi, acting as a foreign agent, carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Scheer freed both men on $10,000 bonds following brief appearances Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit. He ordered both men to surrender their passports. Both men are U.S. citizens. Shemami is married, has nine children, has lived in the United States for about 40 years and is disabled, Mateo said.

Al-Awadi, who lives alone in an apartment and appeared frail and hard of hearing during today's court hearing, has been in the United States since 1974, court records said. He has seven children and lives on Social Security.

In 1996, he was paroled from the Michigan Department of Corrections after serving six years of a 5- to 15-year sentence for manslaughter in the stabbing of his son-in-law, Imad Muttar, in Dearborn.

The captured documents said Al-Awadi, code named Ghassan, met with Iraqi officials in 1997, offered to cooperate and said he had killed his son-in-law for belonging to the Al-Da’wa Party in the United States.

The documents said he provided information about a retired Iraqi physician who was planning to flee to the United States and his nephew, a major general in Iraq, who allegedly was put under surveillance as a result of Al-Awadi’s information.When the FBI interview him in 2006, he denied working as an Iraqi agent, court documents said, adding that he had gone overseas in 1997, 2001 and 2002 to visit family members. Contact DAVID ASHENFELTER at dashenfelter@freepress.com.

Iraq's Shiite political fissures widen | csmonitor.com

Iraq's Shiite political fissures widen csmonitor.com: "BAGHDAD - Monday's departure of six government cabinet ministers from the Iraqi government will indeed erode support for American-backed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The ministers represented radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, on whom Mr. Maliki relied to take the top government post in Iraq. "

But the withdrawal of the Sadrists – who left in protest over the prime minister's refusal to set a date for the departure of US troops – highlights more troubling developments: widening fissures within the country's ruling coalition and a brewing Shiite fight for supremacy that threatens to unravel the leading political coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA).

"The fragmentation of the Shiites, and the fights that are taking place, are much more serious than what gets talked about publicly," says Hosham Dawod, a Paris-based Iraqi academic and author.

To win these fights – that have on occasion taken the form of armed confrontation and threaten to do so again – leading Shiite political figures are rallying popular support by clutching on big emotional causes.

In the case of Mr. Sadr, it's taking on the US military presence. For the rival Fadhila Islamic party, it's confronting Iranian influence and meddling. And for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) led by the influential Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, it's purging all remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime.

Adding further complications is Iran's suspected support for both politics and violence, the role of the powerful tribes in this struggle especially in the south, and the emergence of well-armed Shiite splinter groups, some of which thrive on extortion and protection money.

The stakes are immense. The political battle is about control. Each Shiite party wants power in Baghdad, the so-called mid-Euphrates provinces, Najaf and Karbala, which are home to Shiite Islam's holiest sites, and the southern province Basra with its vital oil resources and maritime facilities.

"The only thing that [the parties] agree on is remaining in power and confronting one another. There is a negative meeting point, and that's not enough to build a government," says Mr. Dawod.

More than two years since their ascent to the helm for the first time in Iraq's modern history, Shiites have proven that the UIA is little more than a pragmatic marriage of convenience. So far, they have failed to transcend differences and reach out to the country's other communities, mainly the embattled Sunni Arabs.

"There is a great failure by the government," says Dawod. "And unfortunately, because of the situation in Iraq now, this failure does not lead to an alternative government coming to power but more chaos."

But Faleh Jabar, another Iraq expert, says he believes Maliki, who is under tremendous pressure from Washington to deliver on a number of benchmarks that are primarily aimed at promoting reconciliation and resuscitating the economy, may survive the withdrawal of the Sadrists. They held six cabinet posts: health, transport, agriculture, tourism, civil society, and provincial affairs.

"It's possible if the Kurds and [SCIRI] go on supporting him," says Mr. Jabar, director of the Beirut-based Iraqi Institute for Strategic Studies. "And if the Sunnis feel that Maliki is dealing with security in a fair-handed manner."

Jabar explains that more Sunnis could gravitate toward Maliki if they genuinely feel that he is targeting militias implicated in sectarian killing, namely Sadr's Mahdi Army.

Sadrist lawmaker Nassar al-Rubaie said in an interview Tuesday that the movement has no intention of quitting parliament altogether. He reiterated what he announced on Sadr's behalf the day before: the main reasons for leaving the government were "the heightened sectarianism in running the country's affairs" and Maliki's refusal on the timetable for US withdrawal.

In a statement Tuesday, Maliki thanked the Sadrists for their stance on sectarianism but reminded them that they were contradicting what they had previously agreed to as part of the UIA's political program, which says no timetable would be announced before Iraqi forces were fully ready to take on security responsibilities.

Among the worst sectarian offenders have been the Sadrist-controlled ministries of health and transport.

Both stand accused of operating death squads. Many of Maliki's allies and the US had pushed him in December to reshuffle the government to push out the Sadrists after they boycotted both the government and parliament for two months before returning in February.

But beyond the political jostling, analysts say, the ultimate fate of the Maliki government may depend on the outcome of the fight for power unfolding on the ground. "There is a real war going on between Shiites in Basra, Diwaniyah, Karbala, and Najaf, and it's a mess," says Jabar.

He says Sadr's move Monday, as well as recent demonstrations, was simply a reaction to moves to dismantle his military capabilities, an effort being pursued cautiously by US forces, with the backing of Sadr's nemesis Hakim, who controls his own paramilitary group, the Badr Brigades.

In fact, several sources confirm now that a national police unit loyal to Badr was drafted from the city of Hilla into the deadly battles in Diwaniyah earlier this month between elements of Sadr's Mahdi Army and US and Iraqi forces.

Elsewhere, Shiite violence has erupted in even more unpredictable ways. The Interior Ministry said over the weekend that a bombing Saturday at a bus station in Karbala near sacred shrines that killed at least 50 people was the work of "renegade local elements and the Warriors of Heaven cult."

The government had accused fighters from the same cult of cooperating with Al Qaeda in January to unleash havoc in Najaf to fulfill a messianic vision. This prompted a fight between alleged members of this cult and US and Iraqi troops.

While the story of the cult may be plausible, Dawod says it may have been a theory promoted by the government to mask a bitter local fight.

IraqSlogger: Iraqi Papers Wed: High Treason

IraqSlogger: Iraqi Papers Wed: High Treason: "Az-Zaman led the news today with a dramatic revelation: a “prominent parliamentarian” may be deeply implicated in the bombing that occurred in the Iraqi parliament last week"

The newspaper said that the evidence from “preliminary investigations” point to a “prominent parliamentarian” as the main culprit in the attack.

Az-Zaman did not reveal the identity of the deputy in question, but said that it received the tip from a source in the “security committee” that is investigating the attack. The committee is made up of both Iraqi and US investigators.

However, the newspaper indicated (elsewhere, in the same issue) that the chair of the Sunni Tawafuc bloc, 'Adnan al-Dulaimi, will be “stripped from his parliamentary immunity soon,” but did not indicate the reason.

It is possible, however, that the two events are not connected, several Iraqi politicians had demanded that Dulaimi be investigated for possible ties with insurgents, and for some of his past statements that were deemed to “incite violence against Iraqis.”

The other important theme in today’s news relates to the fate of the Iraqi government after Muqtada al-Sadr withdrew his ministers from the cabinet. ...

Pentagon Unveils Changes to Troop Care

Pentagon Unveils Changes to Troop Care The Huffington Post: "WASHINGTON — Under criticism for poor treatment of injured soldiers, the Pentagon announced new measures Tuesday to provide more health screenings, improve its record-keeping system and simplify an unwieldy disability claims system."

Testifying before a House panel, Michael Dominguez, principal deputy undersecretary of defense, and Major Gen. Gale Pollock, the Army's acting surgeon general, acknowledged a need for major changes in the outpatient treatment of wounded soldiers and veterans.

They expressed confidence in a new leadership team overseeing Walter Reed Army Medical Center following disclosures of shoddy treatment in February and urged lawmakers to be patient.

"We believe we have the right people and the right mechanisms in place to make sure that all soldiers who are in a transitional status _ our warriors in transition _ are managed with care and compassion, and that they and their families are receiving the care they so justly deserve," Pollock told a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee.

The new initiatives come following a blistering report last week by an independent review group co-chaired by former Army Secretaries John O. "Jack" Marsh and Togo D. West that found money woes and Pentagon neglect were to blame for many of the problems at Walter Reed.

Concluding that Pentagon officials should have known about problems but chose to ignore them, the panel ordered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for a quick infusion of funds, a new "center of excellence" for brain injury cases as well as an overhaul of the disability claims system, which critics say shortchanges injured soldiers.

On Tuesday, Pollock and Dominguez said they had already begun implementing changes even as they awaited the findings of several investigations under way by presidential commissions, task forces and congressional committees.

They included:

_Creation of a working group of senior military leaders to speed disability determinations and work to eliminate inconsistency.

_Testing systems to facilitate sharing of inpatient records electronically with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Injured troops and veterans have complained of long wait times, multiple visits and lost paperwork as they moved from military hospitals to the VA's vast network.

_Conducting additional health screenings for service members three to six months after they return home. The aim is to catch medical conditions that might not immediately be apparent, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

Pollock also said the Army was taking steps to speed up follow-up medical appointments as a result of its probe of 11 other military hospitals around the country to determine whether problems existed. That recently completed review, which has yet to be released, found "outstanding rehabilitative work being done given available resources" but urged efforts to reduce bureaucracy, Pollock said.

Meanwhile, the Army also has begun investigating complaints involving medical care made to its new toll-free number set up to identify problems. Last week, officials also trained 23 soldiers to help guide service members through the disability claims system.

"There is ample evidence that warriors are receiving quality health care and are satisfied with efforts," Pollock said.

During the hearing, Marsh and West urged quick action on many of the independent review group's recommendations.

Noting that many of the outpatient problems emerged due to poor government planning for the influx of soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, they said scores of troops and veterans were now fighting unacceptable delays and red tape every day.

"It's creating enormous problems," Marsh said, "and I suspect the systemic problems in evidence at Walter Reed we're going to find in other places. Please, I beg of you, have the commitment and fiscal awareness to see through changes."

Since the disclosures in February, three top Pentagon officials have been forced to step down _ former Army Secretary Francis Harvey, as well as Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman and Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the two previous commanders at Walter Reed.

Later this week, a presidential task force chaired by VA Secretary Jim Nicholson was expected to release findings on changes needed to help reduce delays and backlogs. A separate bipartisan commission chaired by former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., and former Health and Human Secretary Donna Shalala also is investigating ways to improve care and is scheduled to make recommendations by late July.

[bth: the influx and overload has been apparent to even the most dull of observers since Nov. 2004 at Walter Reed. ... The failure to integrate computer systems between the VA and the DOD is not a big project technically, my company has built interfaces to both. The problem is political. Namely the DOD blocks the VA because it is afraid the VA will take over the DOD mailorder pharmacy program.... The failure to repair leaking roofs and broken shipping doors that let rats in was pure negligence by the military leadership and the congressmen that regularly visited that facility.... The need for an active and dedicated brain trauma center has been apparent to all but the most adled for 3 years. There is a direct link between concussions, brain injury from IED shock waves and PTSD. It isn't the only cause of PTSD but it is clearly linked in many cases - around 2/3rds of those at Walter Reed.]
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