Saturday, May 07, 2011

More and more I think the fight for Libya hinges on access to refined fuels

Libyan Forces Strike Fuel Supply in Rebel-Held City - NYTimes.com
MISURATA, Libya — Military forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi struck the fuel terminal of this rebel-controlled city early Saturday with ground-to-ground rockets, igniting a fire that threatened the city’s fuel supply.
Enlarge This Image
Bryan Denton for The New York Times

The main oil storage facility in Misurata burned on Saturday after a rocket attack by pro-Qaddafi forces.

The barrage struck shortly after midnight, when rockets began landing and exploding in several areas of the terminal, officials there said.

At least one rocket hit a set of three mammoth tanks, which ruptured and burst into a fireball. The fire settled into a leaping blaze that towered overheard, visible for miles. Its glow illuminated the eastern section of the city throughout the night. Residents woke to a thick, drifting cloud of black smoke.

A most excellent interview worth the watch

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A very important interview on the ramifications of torture

Friday, May 06, 2011

German majority disapproves of Osama killing, poll shows

German majority disapproves of Osama killing, poll shows - Monsters and Critics
Hamburg - A majority of Germans disapprove of the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, with only 42 per cent conceding that the United States had a right to kill him, a poll for ARD public television showed Thursday.

The poll found 52 per cent were of the view that the United States ought to have arrested Osama bin Laden and delivered him to the International Criminal Court for trial.

The poll followed days of criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said Monday she was 'happy' the al-Qaeda leader was dead.

ARD said only 28 per cent believed his death was a reason to be happy, whereas 64 per cent said happiness at his death was inappropriate.

Asked if the danger to the world from terrorism had grown or receded, 51 per cent said the danger was higher after the killing and 45 per cent said it was unchanged. Some 79 per cent said they expected terrorist attacks to happen in Germany.

ARD commissioned the survey Monday and Tuesday of 1,001 voting age Germans from the Infratest Dimap polling company.

- bth: I find these numbers surprising

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Hard for ISI to raid a house in 2003 that wasn't built before 2004

US troops took away ‘Osama’s son’ | Newspaper | DAWN.COM
...Asked why they had not checked out a building so close a major military facility the ISI said that the compound had actually been raided when the house was under construction in 2003 when the authorities believed an Al Qaeda operative Abu Faraj Al Libbi was there. On that occasion he escaped.

But since then the house had not been on their radar. However, a satellite image of the site of the compound taken in 2004 shows no sign of any construction work....

Report: Bin Laden compound once used by ISI

Intelligence Report: Osama bin Laden compound once used by Pakistani intelligence agency ISI | abc7chicago.com
...At one time, the fortress was used as a safe house by Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, known as ISI, according to the Gulf News in Dubai.

As the I-Team reported Tuesday night, the Pakistani Intelligence service is the same organization that Chicago terrorist David Coleman Headley says coordinated his training and assignments. Headley has pleaded guilty to helping plot the 2008 terrorist massacre on Mumbai, India....

--- bth: there seem to be some factual contradictions.  If the house was built in 2005, how was it used as a safe house prior to that?  Also of not, the contractor that built the compound has been arrested.

India could benefit from US-Pakistan strains

India could benefit from US-Pakistan strains
Washington: The US military assault that killed Osama bin Laden at his hideaway in Pakistan will inevitably alter Washington`s approach to Islamabad -- and India may stand to gain.

President Barack Obama has vowed the United States will keep working with Pakistan, which he called an essential partner in the fig ht against al Qaeda and its allies including the Afghan Taliban.

But with bin Laden`s death fuelling doubts about the viability of the US-Pakistan relationship -- and removing the original reason for American military involvement in Afghanistan -- Washington`s primary focus may shift back to New Delhi as the region`s economic and political heavyweight.

"This will further encourage closer US-Indian collaboration, intelligence sharing and cooperation, and finding ways to work with India to address regional stability issues writ large," said Karl Inderfurth, a former assistant Secretary of State for South Asian affairs under the Clinton administration now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies....

-- bth: so is the end result of all this that India and the US become closer and Pakistan and China firm up alliances.

Pak blasts US for mission ‘kill Osama’, warns India too

Pak blasts US for mission ‘kill Osama’, warns India too
Islamabad: In an apparent bid to save face over the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir on Thursday lashed out at America for not consulting Islamabad ahead of the military operation that led to al Qaeda chief’s death.

Pakistan named India as well, while warning US against any further covert operation on Pakistani territory, saying this would lead to a "terrible catastrophe".

CIA director Leon Panetta, who had personally commanded operation Gerinimo had made it pointedly clear that the Obama administration “did not” inform Pakistan about the covert operation because of fears that the details would be leaked.

Admitting that the US assault that killed Osama bin Laden did achieve "important results", Bashir said, “This cannot be taken as a rule."

"There should be no doubt that Pakistan has a capacity to ensure its own defence," he said.

He also commented on the recent remarks by India’s Army and Air Force chiefs that if needed, they are capable of US-like operation to catch hold of those wanted for 26/11.

"Any other country that would ever act on assumption that it has the right to unilateralism of any sort will find, as far as Pak is concerned, that it has made a basic mistake," Bashir warned.

He added: "We see a lot of bravado in our region... from the military, air force, which state that this can be repeated.”

"We feel that sort of misadventure or miscalculation will result in a catastrophe."

’Global intelligence failure’

Responding to CIA chief Leon Panetta`s comment that Pakistan had been either "involved or incompetent" over Osama’s issue, Bashir said the issue was being looked into.

Bashir dismissed the accusation that Pakistan was involved but said the aspect of incompetence "was being looked into".

If it was an intelligence failure, he said, then Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had already said that it was global intelligence failure....

--- bth: So it appears to me that the Paki government is now concerned that India might make a similar raid against state sponsored terrorists on Pakistani soil.  I think this is a real concern for them.

US military's history of backtracking on initial reports

US military's history of backtracking on initial reports | World news | The Guardian
The discrepancies in Washington's description of the death of Osama bin Laden are not the first that have forced the US military to clarify information or backtrack on it. Nor is this the first time it has had to admit that the facts, as they were initially presented, were patently incorrect.

In 2003, Private Jessica Lynch, a 19-year-old US army clerk from Palestine, West Virginia, became a poster girl for the Iraq invasion.

Despite being badly wounded when her company came under attack near the town of Nasiriyah in March that year, the soldier kept her finger on the trigger of her gun until her ammunition ran out. Nor did her pluck exhaust itself there: Lynch also survived abuse and interrogation at the hands of local hospital staff until she was rescued by US special forcesafter a fierce firefight.

The only problem with the official account is that it was untrue. In fact, Lynch's gun jammed and she did not fire a shot; Iraqi hospital staff treated her kindly and tried to return her to US forces; and, there was no need for a raid by army rangers and navy seals as the Iraqi military had fled the day before. Nor, contrary to initial reports, had she been shot or stabbed – her injuries had been caused after her truck was hit and crashed.

The rescue operation – which was filmed – was described by one doctor as "like a Hollywood film. They cried, 'Go, go, go', with guns and blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show – an action movie like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan, with jumping and shouting, breaking down doors."

Giving evidence at a congressional hearing four years later, Lynch said: "I am still confused as to why they chose to lie and tried to make me a legend when the real heroics of my fellow soldiers that day were, in fact, legendary … [The] bottom line is the American people are capable of determining their own ideals of heroes, and they don't need to be told elaborate tales."

Nor was Lynch's an isolated case. In 2002, moved by the devastation of 9/11, Pat Tillman gave up a lucrative career in American football to enlist in the US army. His selfless decision was hailed by President Bush, and, when Tillman was killed in Afghanistan in April 2004, the footballer-turned-soldier was held up as the epitome of American heroism. The Pentagon described him as a war hero, and he was posthumously awarded the silver star and the purple heart.

Despite the initial suggestion that he died "in the line of devastating enemy fire", he was killed by his own side. His family was not told the truth about how he died until five weeks after his memorial service was broadcast on national TV.

In a biography published two years ago, it was claimed Tillman regarded his president as a cowboy who had led the country into an illegal and unjust war in Iraq. Tillman had noted in his diary his suspicion that the rescue of Jessica Lynch was "a media blitz".

Until the killing of the al-Qaida chief, the most recent inaccurate account of a high-profile incident came last October, with the botched mission to free the kidnapped British aid worker Linda Norgrove.

Members of Seal Team 6 – the special forces unit that killed Bin Laden – were sent to rescue Norgrove from eastern Afghanistan but one of them accidentally killed her by throwing a fragmentation grenade close to where she was sheltering.

The seal did not own up to what happened, and initial reports suggested she had been killed when an insurgent detonated his suicide bomb vest. When the mission's commanding officer reviewed surveillance videos he saw an explosion after one of the seals threw something in Norgrove's direction.

General David Petraeus, the commander of the Nato-led campaign in Afghanistan, announced that finding out how Norgrove died was his "personal priority", and a number of the seals involved in the failed rescue were disciplined.

-- bth: The Guardian is right on here.  It pisses me off when British papers so more journalism than American mega media outlets.  Here is an example of someone just sitting down and thinking through what has been happening.   So with OBL, now after a spectacular raid, we are going to botch up the whole affair.  Its like the Pentagon and the White House can't shoot straight when it comes to managing information and the message.

The need for pictures of OBL for the outside world

Obama Says He Won’t Release Bin Laden Photos - NYTimes.com
...“The whole purpose of sending our troops into the compound, rather than an aerial bombardment, was to obtain indisputable evidence of Bin Laden’s death,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “The best way to protect and defend our interests overseas is to prove that fact to the rest of the world.”

-- bth: sometimes Lindsey Graham makes sense.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Mussolini Execution Photos April 1945 - A parallel to today's discussion about Osama bin Laden?



These were photos of Mussolini's body after his execution on April 29, 1945. The world can and has handled such things as OBL's photos. Mussolini was hung from an Esso gas station as shown here near where partisans had been executed by him previously. It should be noted that in 1946 his body was stolen by neo-fascists and later recovered. Putting OBL out to sea makes a lot of sense given historical precedence.

So OBL had an underground chamber?

Osama bin Laden dead: bin Laden lived next door to senior Pakistan Army major - Telegraph
...The local land registrar, said the plot had been bought in 2005 by a Arshad Khan, a Pashtun from Charsadda, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, for around $100,000 and building had begun soon after. It had been bought from several villagers. Labourers told them their new neighbours had built underground chambers in the basement, while the building became known as the 'Waziristan Haveli' because of the association between Pashtuns and militant Islam....

-- bth: this is the first I've read of this though it isn't surprising.  I hope our guys found it.

Nightwatch partial commentary on the raid.

NightWatch 20110503 - KGS
Al Qaida-US: Ten hard drives, five computers and more than 100 storage devices, including discs, DVDs and thumb drives, were taken from the compound where bin Laden was hiding, a senior U.S. official said on 3 May. The U.S. administration received three sets of photos, including images of bin Laden's body at a hangar after he was taken to Afghanistan; this photo provided the most recognizable image of his face, the official said. There were also photos of bin Laden's burial at sea on the USS Carl Vinson -- both before and after the shroud was put on -- and of the raid itself, including pictures of the two deceased brothers and one of bin Laden's dead sons of approximately 18 years of age as well as of the inside of the compound.

Comment: Syed Saleem Shahzad made four points. The al Qaida leaders anticipated the death of bin Laden for years and made preparations by decentralizing operations and forming a leadership committee to elect a new leader in the even of bin Laden's demise.

Secondly, al Qaida leaders deliberately kept bin Laden separated from his deputy Zawahiri. Zawahiri has been the operational leader of al Qaida for the past six years.

Third, because of the loss of computer files, all plans for future operations will now be stopped. Contacts and financial donors would be high priority exploitation items, after plans in progress. The computer files should prove highly embarrassing and compromising to many people in many countries, with any luck at all.

Finally, the alternative narrative of Pakistani support is the one that the Pakistani Taliban believe. It has made them more determined than ever to topple the government in Islamabad, but now with more support from Afghan Taliban than before.

Taliban threaten US, Pakistan over Osama

Taliban threaten US, Pakistan over Osama - GEO.tv
Updated at: 1558 PST, Monday, May 02, 2011
PESHAWAR: Pakistan's main Taliban faction on Monday threatened to attack Pakistan and the United States after the US confirmed that Osama bin Laden had been killed near the Pakistani capital.

"If he has been martyred, we will avenge his death and launch attacks against American and Pakistani governments and their security forces," spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"These people are in fact the enemies of Islam," he added.

The Taliban spokesman said the militia had not itself managed to confirm bin Laden's death, which was announced by US President Barack Obama.

"If he has become a martyr, it is a great victory for us because martyrdom is the aim of all of us." (AFP)

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Massive Intelligence Haul

Spies Comb bin Laden Intelligence Haul - WSJ.com
he minute U.S. troops reached Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, they set in motion not just the takedown of the world's most-wanted terrorist, but also the largest potential intelligence coup of the post-9/11 era.

Putting into action a specially designed Sensitive-Site Exploitation plan, the Navy Seals who conducted the raid carried off five computers, 10 hard drives and more than 100 storage devices, such as DVDs and removable flash drives, U.S. officials said.

The intelligence find is a jolt to bin Laden's network that could force its terror operatives to move into areas or initiate communications that make them ...

Bill Roggio makes the case for - Pakistani complicity in sheltering Osama bin Laden is evident


As the details of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden begin to
emerge, one thing is clear: the powers that be in Pakistan - its
military and intelligence services - must have known for some time where
the terror leader was hiding from the US and the rest of the Coalition.
Below are some of the key indicators that explain how Pakistan is
complicit in sheltering bin Laden.



The location:



Abbottabad is not a remote area in Pakistan's tribal regions. The
city lies just 30 miles north of the Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan,
and its sister city, Rawalpindi, which serves as the headquarters and
garrison city of Pakistan's powerful military. Abbottabad is located in
the settled district with the same name in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province,
far from the tribal areas. The Afghan-Pakistani border is 125 miles to
the west. The city has a hospital and an airport.



Abbotabad also hosts the headquarters of a Pakistani Army division.
Bin Laden's mansion is said to be located in an affluent area of the
city, where numerous retired military and intelligence officials reside.
And the mansion is said to be only a few hundred yards away from an
Army military academy.



The mansion:



The mansion in which bin Laden and family members were sheltered
wasn't located on the outskirts of Abbottabad, tucked away from prying
eyes. The mansion was located in the heart of the city. It is said to
have cost more than $1 million dollars to build, and was reportedly
constructed in 2005. The mansion has been described as a fortress, with
15-foot-high outer walls, and seven-foot-high walls on the terraces. A
complex such as this would clearly have caught the eye of Pakistani
officials.



The intel and the raid:



The US has been aware of the location of bin Laden's mansion since
last summer. It is next to impossible to believe that while US
intelligence was aware of the location of bin Laden's hideout,
Pakistan's intelligence services, with their vast links to terrorist
groups, were not. The US' intelligence on the mansion was so good that
it built a mock-up of the location, and the assault force of SEALs
trained at it for weeks to hone their skills.



The fact that the US kept the Pakistani government, military, and
intelligence services out of the loop shows that the US believed it
could not trust Pakistan to participate in the operation. According to
reports, as well as my own sources, the Pakistanis were not informed
that an operation targeting bin Laden was being executed until it was
well underway. And even then, Pakistan was not made aware of the
location of the raid and was told to not get in the way of the US
operation. If the US was confident that Pakistan was sincere about
aiding in the capture or killing of bin Laden, it would have been easier
and far less risky to have Pakistani forces carry out the operation in
conjunction with US military and CIA personnel.



A Pakistani official's statements on the raid make it clear that Pakistan knew where bin Laden was, but did not act. In an interview with CNN,
Wajid Hasan, Pakistan's high commissioner to the Untied Kingdom,
actually said that Pakistan was "monitoring" bin Laden's location but
the US beat Pakistan to the punch and launched the raid.



"We were monitoring him and the Americans were monitoring him," Hasan
said. "But the Americans got to knowing where he was first and that is
why they struck at him precisely."



Later in the interview, Hasan said that "Pakistan had been keeping certain areas monitored, and it knew where he was."



So, according to Hasan, Pakistani officials knew of bin Laden's
location, and yet they never launched a raid to detain or kill bin
Laden. Somehow, the US was able to outmaneuver the Pakistani security
forces on their own turf.



Osama's confidence in his security



While it is next to impossible to know the calculations made by bin
Laden to shelter in a Pakistani city, it isn't a stretch to say that he
was confident enough to live in Abbottabad for an extended period of
time because he felt that he, and his family, would be safe. Since his
ouster from Sudan in 1996, bin Laden has been wary about entrusting his
personal security to states. Yet he had to believe that there was little
to no risk in sheltering in a city with a heavy military presence in a
compound that gave all indications it housed a very important person.
Bin Laden or his handlers had to be confident that the mansion would not
be disturbed by Pakistan's military and intelligence services. And to
be confident, they must have had assurances that bin Laden would not be
touched by Pakistani security forces.


Pakistani Taliban threaten Pakistani state after Osama bin Laden's death - Longwar

Pakistani Taliban threaten Pakistani state after Osama bin Laden's death - Threat Matrix
The Pakistani Taliban have put the Pakistani state at the top of their hit list after US special operations and CIA forces killed Osama bin Laden at a fortified mansion in Abbottabad. From Reuters:

"Now Pakistani rulers, President Zardari and the army will be our first targets. America will be our second target," Ihsanullah Ihsan, a spokesman for Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location....

-- bth: so it looks like to Pak Taliban hold Pakistan's government responsible for getting OBL.  Curious.

Alma Hart at 911 Memorial on Boston Common with 911 Families May 2 2011 following OBLs death

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Monday, May 02, 2011

Al Qaeda on the ropes? Little Arab outrage over Osama bin Laden's death.

Al Qaeda on the ropes? Little Arab outrage over Osama bin Laden's death. - CSMonitor.com
Moreover, on Facebook, movement organizers implored followers not to “raise pictures or banners or mention bin Laden” in a manner that could be exploited by the Saleh regime.

As the news of bin Laden’s death sank in across the Arab world, anti-US demonstrations popped up in a few places, and at least one leader, Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh, mourned the Al Qaeda leader as an “Arab holy warrior.”
Little outcry in Arab world

But there was no mass outpouring of bin Laden sympathy in countries such as Egypt and Yemen, which are deeply involved in the sweeping regional effort for change known as the Arab Spring. The lack of Arab fury over bin Laden’s demise – and the continuing focus on change through peaceful protest – is a sure sign to some regional analysts that bin Laden’s appeal had long since faded. His death may have simply been the coup de grĂ¢ce, they add.

Bin Laden’s death “comes at a time when Al Qaeda’s narrative is already very much in doubt in the Arab world,” says Martin Indyk, vice president and director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

“Its narrative was that violence was the way to redeem Arab and honor and dignity,” he said in a conference call with reporters Monday. “But Osama bin Laden and his violence didn’t succeed in unseating anybody.”

A Few Thoughts on the Moment

I just finished a radio interview regarding Osama Bin Laden's demise and these interviews help clarify thoughts and conflicted emotions.

First, OBL's death is a major milestone on what has been a very long and winding road of war. While I'd prefer to see his head on a pike in Time Square, I'm satisfied to know he was dumped into the ocean. This country has fought for so long without strategy it forgot what victory was. I think this is a major victory for us. Earlier yesterday I was looking at a photo from around 2000 of our son John who was killed in Iraq at the World Trace Center and I see all that innocence lost because of this one man and his evil believers.

Second, I think it is ironic and important to note that OBL was living in luxury within sight of a major Pakistani military academy in a posh suburb while Pashtun Taliban hump over Afghan mountains in terrible conditions to fight the Afghan government and the US. This deceiver uses children as suicide bombers. One wonders what connection OBL had in his luxury mansion in a military retirement town with the schemes of the ISI. On the other hand our helicopters entered controlled airspace so the Pakistani government must be split on the issue. Were we offered a trade of OBL for a commitment to leave Afghanistan if Pakistan cleaned up its own house? That is a deal I might seriously consider.

Third, this war is not over. We are likely to have the highest casualties ever in Afghanistan during 2011. Omar and others still roam at will. Also we will likely see retaliatory terrorism from al Qaeda and even Qaddafi. Living in fear of terrorism is the reality of our time. But Americans knew the costs and have been willing to take the risks to see OBL dead. It is both necessary and just.

Osama bin Laden's death may not be the end of the war on terror, but it is certainly marks the beginning of the end of this long and costly conflict.

Analysts: Defense spending dip due to budget standoff

Analysts: Defense spending dip due to budget standoff - TheHill.com
A decline in defense spending during the first quarter of the year is directly linked to lawmakers’ inability to pass a 2011 Pentagon spending measure until April, defense analysts said.

Defense spending dropped by 11.7 percent, even without major declines in annual Pentagon spending and while the U.S. military is involved in three wars.

“This is mostly because of the continuing resolutions slowing things down,” said Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The Commerce Department on Thursday said gross domestic product increased at a 1.8 percent rate in the first three months of 2011. That is down from a 3.1 percent pace in the last quarter of last year.

The main causes were higher food and gas prices, the department said...

--- bth: this was due to the simple fact that program managers did not release their funds.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

John D. Hart at World Trade Center



So much good taken from this world.
John D. Hart KIA 10-18-03 Purple Heart, Bronze Star

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Osama Bin Laden Dead

I look at a picture on my desk of John, my son, at the World Trade Center a few years before 911 and I think of how much Osama Bin Laden has taken from this good Earth.

Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Note battle for supply lines on Libya's western border and apparent destruction of British and Italian diplomatic residences in Tripoli

Libya Live Blog - May 1 | Al Jazeera Blogs
4:24pm

The UK has expelled the Libyan ambassador, giving him just 24 hours to leave the country.

Meanwhile, the British foreign office says it's heard reports that the British residence in Tripoli has been destroyed.

It said that "such actions, if confirmed, would be deplorable as the Gaddafi regime has a duty to protect diplomatic missions. This would be yet another breach of Gaddafi’s international obligations”.
4:21pm



A number of Gaddafi's troops have tried to break through the border crossing into Tunisia, in an attempt to control the area.

Al Jazeera is also hearing reports that Gaddafi's men are attacking the opposition held town of Zintan.

Our correspondent, Anita McNaught. is reporting from the Tunisia-Libya border and said she has heard Grad rockets for the past half hour.

Rebel forces seem to know the territory very well here, and as long as they occupy the higher ground, they appear to have the upper hand."


3:35pm

Reuters, citing a witness, reports smoke rising from the Italian embassy building in the Libyan capital.

"I am across the road from the Italian embassy. I can see smoke still coming out of the embassy. It was on fire," the
witness said by phone. "There is no one there now, just a security car to stop other people coming."
3:15pm

Battles appear to be raging in several cities across Libya.

Al Jazeera is hearing reports that a large convoy of Gaddafi military vehicles entered two towns just outside the city of Ajdabiya. But NATO then apparently moved in with air strikes.

Further west, near the western border with Tunisia is where gunbattles are reportedly going on between government troops and anti-Gaddafi forces.

This spot has been the source of regular skirmishes and is a vital supply line.

3:00pm

Celebrations erupted in the eastern city of Benghazi upon news that a NATO airstrike killed the youngest son of Gaddafi, but not everyone is convinced....

--- bth: I think that the fuel supply embargo on MQ is about to yield results assuming rebels can continue to break supply lines from Tunisia and that naval blockade of Tripoli remains effective for a few weeks more.

Role of Syrian secret police

Deraa: A city under a dark siege - Features - Al Jazeera English
...In a written account to an Al Jazeera reporter on Wednesday a relative of Ousama el Heraki, who was killed by security forces during a protest last Friday in Herak, a village close to Deraa, described how the funeral procession for Heraki the following day had descended into bloodshed after Syrian security opened fire on both the mourners and the army.

"There is a large military checkpoint between Herak and Mleyha, with sandbags and machine guns, the same as Deraa. When the funeral procession came close to the checkpoint we were chanting ‘The people want to topple this regime’ and ‘The people and army are one hand."

At this point Heraki's cousin, who is in his late 20s, said he saw a group of men break off from the main funeral procession and take off their jackets to reveal military uniforms.

"They stood among the soldiers and started swearing at protestors, saying 'Bashar is going to be your ruler forever and he'll step on your necks with his boot.' So the people got angry and started swearing back. Then we heard someone open fire on us. We do not know where it was coming from."

The natural reaction of the crowd was to surge forward, into the checkpoint. The mourners began fighting with the soldiers, desperate to escape to safety.

"As that happened some soldiers also got shot," said Heraki's relative. "Definitely the shots did not come from our side. When the other soldiers saw that some of their men had been killed they opened fire. At that moment I did not know who was shooting at who. It was complete chaos."

During the five-week uprising in Syria, the use of snipers to fire on unarmed crowds has been documented in the coastal cities of Banias, Jabla and Lattakia, in the central industrial city of Homs and in towns close to Damascus, Harasta, Daraya and Duma.

"The secret police are shooting at civilians and sometimes at soldiers. Then they withdraw and leave just the army and the protestors," said Heraki's relative.

"Before Monday the [regular] army had nothing to do with shooting people. Demonstrations used to pass by the army but they did nothing. Even when I was stopped at a checkpoint they always treated me with respect. I really hope the army are not involved now with what is going on in Deraa, this big crime."...

Israeli 'tunnel rats' to fight Hezbollah

Israeli 'tunnel rats' to fight Hezbollah
Tel Aviv, Israel (UPI) Apr 28, 2011
Israel's military is reported to have built a underground complex to train troops how to be Vietnam-style "tunnel rats" and go after Hezbollah in its elaborate bunker system across southern Lebanon should the shooting starts again.

The Hebrew-language Maariv daily reported this week that two of its reporters and a camera crew were allowed to inspect the "subterranean city" built in northern Israel "to train for an imminent war" against Hezbollah.

The newspaper quoted an unidentified "military commander" as saying the complex was fashioned on the labyrinth of tunnels constructed by the Viet Cong at Cu Chi, northeast of Saigon, during the Vietnam War.

That complex of tunnels stretched for more than 100 miles 40 feet below the ground, on as many as three or four levels. They contained hospitals, arsenals, meeting rooms, sleeping quarters and kitchens.

The objective of the Israeli training program is to fight Hezbollah in its hidden bunkers, where it deploys rocket launchers aimed at Israel and stores its weapons.

The Israelis learned in the 34-day war it fought with Hezbollah in July and August 2006 that these concealed underground missile sites were impervious to airstrikes.

After success in hitting missile sites in northeastern Lebanon during the opening hours of that conflict, Israeli forces were unable to stop Hezbollah from firing nearly 4,000 rockets into northern Israel, including the port city of Haifa.

Since that war, in which Hezbollah's guerrillas fought the Israeli military to an embarrassing standstill, the Iranian-backed Shiite movement has constructed even more elaborate defense lines of bunker and tunnel complexes....

This includes a countrywide fiber-optic communications system that cannot be electronically penetrated.