Sunday, September 17, 2017
Hundreds of soldiers have been deployed at strategic sites across Britain’s streets following the Parsons Green terror attack which saw an Improvised Explosive Device detonated on a London underground tube.
Soldiers have been sent out onto the streets in a bid to free up police time to allow officers to hunt the suspects behind the attack on the District line train which left at least 29 people injured.
Theresa May raised the terror threat level to critical in the wake of the bomb, meaning another attack is imminent.
The home-made bomb, which apparently failed to detonate properly, was the fifth major terror attack in Britain this year and was claimed by the Islamic State.
The militants have claimed other attacks in the UK this year, including two in London and one at a pop concert in Manchester.
The attack at Parsons Green tube station prompted the Government to take the rare step of deploying soldiers.
Mrs May said in a statement: ”For this period, military personnel will replace police officers on guard duties at certain protected sites.
“The public will see more armed police on the transport network and on our streets providing extra protection. This is a proportionate and sensible step which will provide extra reassurance and protection while the investigation progresses.”
The bomb struck as passengers were travelling to the centre of the capital.
Some suffered burns and others were injured in a stampede to escape from the station, one of the above-ground stops on the underground network.
Health officials said nobody was thought to be in a serious condition.
Pictures taken at the scene showed a charred white plastic bucket in a Lidl shopping bag on the floor of a carriage with wires coming out of the top.
Ola Fayankinnu, who was on the train, said: “I was on the second carriage from the back. I just heard a kind of ‘whoosh’. I looked up and saw the whole carriage engulfed in flames making its way towards me.
“There were phones, hats, bags all over the place and when I looked back I saw a bag with flames.”
The UK’s most senior counter-terrorism officer Mark Rowley said late on Friday that the investigation was progressing well.
He said: ”We are chasing down suspects.
”Hundreds of police officers are pursuing numerous lines of enquiry, trawling through hours of CCTV footage and speaking to witnesses.”
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
August meeting with US officials grew heated when H.R. McMaster rejected Israel's Hezbollah concerns, denied it was a terror group.
A new bombshell report alleges that a meeting between high-level Israeli officials and their American counterparts last month deteriorated when National Security Adviser H.R McMaster brushed off Israel's concerns about Hezbollah, at one point backing up an aide who denied that Hezbollah is a terror organization.
According to the report on Channel 10 and PJ Media, McMaster yelled at Israeli officials, and denied that the Iran-backed militia is a terrorist group.
Israeli had sent a high-level delegation to meet with their American counterparts on August 27, in order to discuss the looming threat by the Hezbollah terror group. Israel is worried that the militia is becoming entrenched on its Syrian border, and were incensed with McMaster brought along NSC Senior Director on Counter-Terrorism Mustafa Javed Ali, even asking her to leave the room when she denied that Hezbollah is a terror group.
McMaster also repeatedly brushed off Israel's concerns about Hezbollah, at one point yelling at the Israeli delegation, which included Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence head Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, and Zohar Palti, who heads the Defense Ministry's political-security department.
McMaster has come under fire from pro-Israel groups who claim that he is anti-Israel. McMaster reportedly opposed Netanyahu joining Trump at his Western Wall visit earlier this year, and refrained from saying whether he considers Judaism's holiest site as part of Israel. He also purged top officials at the National Security Council who he considered too hawkish on Iran, and lobbied Trump not to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
However, top Israeli officials have come to his defense. Former Israeli National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror wrote in July that the attacks against McMaster were "an offense against the truth, against basic decency and against the best interests of Israel as we see them.”
Israel considers Hezbollah one of its biggest threats. This past week, the IDF Northern Corps held its biggest drill in 20 years to practice fighting the group, which is believed to posses 150,000 missiles and advanced weapons.
Monday, September 11, 2017
Hamza bin Laden isn’t just being prepared for a leadership role in his father’s organization. He’s now the figure best placed to reunify the global jihadi movement.
This article was first published in CTC Sentinel, the flagship publication of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.
This article was first published in CTC Sentinel, the flagship publication of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.
One day in early November 2001, on a hillside south of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden bade farewell to three of his young sons. In the shade of an olive tree, he handed each boy a misbaha—a set of prayer beads symbolizing the 99 names of God in classical Arabic—and instructed them to keep the faith. The scene was an emotional one. “It was as if we pulled out our livers and left them there,” one of the boys would later recall in a letter to his father. Having taken his leave, bin Laden disappeared into the mountains, bound for a familiar redoubt known as the Black Cave, or Tora Bora in the local Pashto dialect.
The three boys who received the prayer beads that day would face three very different destinies. One, Bakr (also known as Ladin), would distance himself from al-Qaeda, both geographically and ideologically. Another, Khalid, would die protecting his father at their compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011. The third, Hamza, would vanish for years before reemerging in 2015 as the most likely candidate to reunite a fractured jihadi movement and lead al-Qaeda to a future still more violent than its past.
Groomed to Lead
Despite al-Qaeda’s generally dim view of women, it appears that Osama bin Laden respected and valued each of his wives. But he was surely familiar with the Qur’an’s warning that, “Try as you may, you cannot treat all your wives impartially.” It was well known that bin Laden had a favorite. This was Hamza bin Laden’s mother, Khairia Sabar, a child psychologist from the respected al-Hindi family of Saudi Arabia. The pair had been introduced when Saad, one of bin Laden’s sons by his first wife, Najwa al-Ghanem, had attended Khairia’s clinic to receive therapy for a mental disorder. Khairia was single, in her mid-30s, and in fragile health—an unpropitious situation for a woman in a conservative kingdom where teenage brides are far from uncommon. Bin Laden, by contrast, was seven years younger, the son of a billionaire, and already making a name for himself as a fundraiser for the mujahideen struggle against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Moreover, by this time, bin Laden already had two wives. But Najwa, the first of them, encouraged him to pursue Khairia, believing that having someone with her training permanently on hand would help her son Saad and his brothers and sisters, some of whom also suffered from developmental disorders.
Not surprisingly given Khairia’s age and state of health, she and bin Laden struggled to conceive. Over the first three years of their marriage, as bin Laden moved back and forth between Saudi Arabia and the theater of war in Afghanistan, she endured miscarriage after miscarriage. During this time, bin Laden added a fourth wife to the family—another highly educated Saudi woman, Siham Sabar. Then, in 1989, both Siham and Khairia bore him sons. Siham’s was called Khalid, a name that in Arabic means “eternal.” Khairia’s boy was named Hamza, meaning “steadfast.” Thenceforward, in accordance with ancient Arab custom, Khairia became known by the honorific Umm Hamza, the Mother of Hamza. The boy would remain her only child by bin Laden, but that fact has by no means diminished either Hamza’s importance or Khairia’s.
In 1991, reeling from a series of bloody embarrassments in Afghanistan and dismayed by the Saudi government’s increasing hostility toward him, bin Laden moved al-Qaeda’s base of operations to Sudan, just across the Red Sea from his home city of Jeddah. Among bin Laden’s inner circle of top lieutenants and their families, Umm Hamza soon developed a reputation for level-headedness and wise counsel. As bin Laden’s longtime bodyguard Abu Jandal put it, she was “respected by absolutely everyone.” In Sudan, Khairia set up an informal school to teach the wives and children of al-Qaeda members about Islamic theology, gave advice on religious matters, and from time to time even offered marriage counseling. At a time when al-Qaeda could easily have disintegrated under the weight of its forced exile and bin Laden’s growing fear of arrest or assassination, Khairia’s calm and optimistic influence played an important role in holding the organization together.
Hamza was seven years old when the regime of Omar Bashir finally caved to international pressure and expelled al-Qaeda from Sudan. bin Laden and his entourage decamped to Afghanistan, where they were offered safe haven first by local warlords and subsequently by the Taliban movement, which overran most of the country within a few months of bin Laden’s arrival. Al-Qaeda’s new hosts gave bin Laden the choice of several desirable residences, including a former royal palace. Characteristically, however, he chose instead a base in the mountains near Jalalabad consisting of concrete huts lacking power, water, and in many cases even doors. bin Laden eventually moved to Tarnak Farms, a camp complex outside Kandahar with almost as little in the way of creature comforts. Not everyone relishes this kind of austerity; while bin Laden was still in Sudan, his second wife, Khadija Sharif, had divorced him, citing the hardships of life in a militant camp. His first wife, Najwa, would finally leave him on the eve of 9/11. But Khairia and Siham—the mothers of Hamza and Khalid, respectively—were ready to go through significant privations for their husband, and both would be with him at the very end.
The Tehran Years
In Afghanistan, Hamza emerged as one of bin Laden’s favorite sons. Still not yet a teenager, he appeared in propaganda videos alongside his father, underwent assault training with al-Qaeda fighters, and preached fiery sermons in a young boy’s helium voice. In December 2000, aged 11, Hamza was chosen to recite a poem at the wedding of his 15-year-old brother, Mohammed. His assured performance transfixed the other guests; bin Laden family members would talk about it, and even have dreams about it, for years to come.
But already, Hamza’s time with his father was drawing to a close. On September 10, 2001, anticipating the backlash that would follow his latest and most outrageous assault on the United States, bin Laden ordered his wives and their younger children out of his Kandahar compound—a conspicuous target and one that had been bombed before—to seek shelter in Jalalabad, 350 miles northeast. There, al-Qaeda’s propagandists shot one last video featuring Hamza, in which the boy can be seen reciting a poem praising the bravery of Kabul’s Taliban defenders and handling wreckage claimed to be from a downed U.S. helicopter.
The video was, of course, a travesty. The Taliban, far from mounting a stalwart defense, were already being routed up and down the country, and the helicopter wreck, certainly not American, was most likely that of a Soviet gunship shot down before Hamza was born, probably with surface-to-air missiles supplied by the United States. As bin Laden made ready to ride south for his last stand at Tora Bora, he ordered his family east, over the border into Pakistan. This decision made sense. Al-Qaeda had found shelter there during and immediately after the war against the Soviets, and operatives like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had long lived with impunity in Pakistani mega-cities like Karachi.
But 9/11 had changed this picture along with everything else. General Pervez Musharraf responded to the attacks by turning Pakistan into an enthusiastic supporter of the United States’ efforts against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Faced with a rapidly narrowing range of risky options, al-Qaeda decided that its people, including bin Laden’s family, should leave Pakistan and seek refuge in the neighboring country of Iran.
The world’s foremost Shi`a stronghold may seem an odd destination for an organization populated by Sunni extremists, men who pepper their public utterances with slurs against Shi`a Muslims, calling them “rejectionists” and “apostates.” But in the fall of 2001, with support for the United States at an all-time high, Iran suddenly became the one place in the Muslim world where America’s writ could be counted upon not to run.
Inside Iran, Saif al-`Adl, a wily Egyptian ex-soldier who had been a pivotal figure in al-Qaeda since its inception, oversaw a secret network of safe houses. In the beginning, it seemed as if al-Qaeda had found at least temporary sanctuary. But Hamza nevertheless chafed against the constraints of this life in the shadows. In July 2002, he wrote a poem to his father, bemoaning the “spheres of danger everywhere I look” and asking, “What has happened for us to be chased by danger?” In his response, bin Laden did not sugar-coat matters for his 12-year-old son. “I can see only a very steep path ahead,” he wrote. “A decade has gone by in vagrancy and travel, and here we are in our tragedy… for how long will real men be in short supply?”
Further hardship lurked just over the horizon. For if Hamza and his family thought they had evaded detection, they were wrong. In fact, it seems that Iranian intelligence knew of al-Qaeda’s presence on the Islamic Republic’s soil right from the start. Around April 2003, the al-Qaeda members in Iran realized they were being watched and began to take steps to thwart Tehran’s monitoring. Fearing that al-Qaeda might slip through their fingers, the authorities initiated a dragnet that pulled in practically every al-Qaeda operative and family member in the country.
For the next few years, Hamza and his mother were held at a succession of military facilities in the Tehran area, some cramped and dingy, others spacious and relatively comfortable, but always separated from the outside world by high walls, razor wire, and surveillance cameras. Despite their tribulations, Khairia remained adamant that her son should receive the best possible education under the circumstances. Her own pedagogic efforts continued, and to supplement these, she solicited a group of bin Laden’s top lieutenants being held in the same facility, including al-`Adl, to educate Hamza in Qur’anic study, Islamic jurisprudence, and the hadith(alleged deeds and sayings of the prophet). Hamza is said to have become learned in each of these subjects.
Hamza matured in other ways, too. While still in captivity, he married the daughter of one of his teachers, the longtime al-Qaeda military commander Abu Mohammed al-Masri. Hamza’s new wife soon gave birth to a son and a daughter, whom they named respectively Usama and Khairia. Hamza told the elder bin Laden that “God created [my children] to serve you.” And he longed to rejoin his father. “How many times, from the depths of my heart, I wished to be beside you,” Hamza wrote in 2009. “I remember every smile that you smiled at me, every word that you spoke to me, every look that you gave me.”
Neither captivity nor fatherhood could dim the desire to follow in his father’s footsteps, which Hamza had shown from a precociously early age. On the contrary, as time went on, he grew ever more desperate to re-enter the fray. His greatest frustration, he told his father in a letter smuggled out to Abbottabad, was that “the mujahidin legions have marched and I have not joined them.” But bin Laden was determined to ensure a different destiny for his favorite son.
With so many senior al-Qaeda members in custody, Iran possessed huge leverage over bin Laden’s organization. By 2010, however, al-Qaeda had acquired a bargaining chip of its own in the shape of a captive Iranian diplomat sold to them as a hostage by Pakistani tribal elements. With the Haqqani Network acting as go-between, a prisoner swap was arranged. In August 2010, at the beginning of Ramadan, Hamza was released along with his mother, wife, and children. Two of his older brothers, Uthman and Mohammed, soon followed along with their own families. All those released made their way to Waziristan, where a sizable al-Qaeda contingent lived under the protection of various Pakistani militant groups.
The bin Laden family was spread across several countries. Abdullah, Usama’s eldest son, was living a “quiet life” as a businessman in Saudi Arabia. Another son, Ladin, previously imprisoned in Iran, had gone to stay with his grandmother’s side of family in Syria. Another, Omar, lived in Qatar for a time before moving to Saudi Arabia. bin Laden therefore had a number of possible places to send family members freed from Iran. He wanted his sons Uthman and Mohammed to stay in Pakistan, provided a “safe place” could be found for them. His initial plan on hearing of Hamza’s release was to try to have him sent to Qatar. Given that Hamza had been imprisoned in Iran from around the age of 14, it would be “difficult [for the United States or other countries] to indict him and to ask Qatar to extradite him.” Moreover, in Qatar, the home of Al-Jazeera, Hamza would enjoy relative freedom of speech, which he could exploit in order to act as a spokesperson for bin Laden’s brand of Islam, to “spread the jihadi doctrine and refute the wrong and the suspicions raised around jihad.” But Mahmud, bin Laden’s Libyan chief of staff—also known as Atiyya Abdul Rahman—balked at the idea of Qatar as a destination, on the basis that the small Gulf state, a U.S. ally, would hand Hamza over to the Americans. Ultimately, as will be seen, bin Laden followed Mahmud’s advice; but the suggestion that Hamza should act as a mouthpiece for jihadi dogma indicates that, despite their long separation, the father had more than an inkling of his son’s rhetorical abilities.
In Abbottabad, five hundred miles northeast of al-Qaeda’s Waziristan powerbase, bin Laden already had one grown son with him—Khalid, the son of his fourth wife, Siham, born in the same year as Hamza. Khalid served as the compound’s resident handyman and plumber. He also kept a cow he had bought from a local farmer and, like all of the men around bin Laden, was prepared to defend his father with deadly force. Khalid was useful to have around, to be sure, but hardly suited for leadership. Now, however, three more adult sons hid in Waziristan, awaiting their father’s call: Uthman, aged 27, Mohammed, 25, and Hamza, just 21. bin Laden made his choice. He ordered Uthman and Mohammed to go to Peshawar, 100 miles from their father. Khalid was to do the same, having been betrothed to a girl whose family lived there. But Hamza was to come to Abbottabad as soon as he could safely do so. As Khairia told him in a letter, “The father … asks God that he will benefit from you … He has prepared a lot of work for you.”
For a while, the portents seemed encouraging. Siham, Khalid’s mother, told Hamza of a “very good” dream in which “you were conducting Adhan [the Muslim call to prayer] from atop a very high building, in the same voice in which you said, ‘Stay strong my father, for heaven awaits us and victory is ours if God permits.’” This was a reference to the poem that Hamza had recited at his brother Mohammed’s wedding more than a decade previously.
As ever, security was the overriding factor, and bin Laden had already lost one son in Waziristan. Saad, a decade older than Hamza, had been imprisoned in Iran alongside his brothers, but by mid-August 2008, he had been set free (or had escaped, depending on which account one believes). Like Hamza, he made his way to Waziristan. Saad, characteristically, grew restless, perhaps as a result of the mental problems treated by Khairia back in Jeddah. Whatever the cause, Saad apparently behaved recklessly, showed his face once too often in public, and sometime in the first half of 2009, was killed by a U.S. missile. Mahmud, bin Laden’s chief of staff, told his commander in a letter that “Saad died—peace be upon him—because he was impatient.”
“We pray to God to have mercy on Saad,” bin Laden wrote. “And may He reward us with a substitute.”
For Hamza, Mahmud had nothing but praise. “He is very sweet and good,” he told bin Laden. “I see in him wisdom and politeness. He does not want to be treated with favoritism because he is the son of ‘someone.’”
Eager as he was for Hamza to join him, bin Laden was not going to allow the younger son to meet the same fate as the elder. He therefore issued operatives in Waziristan with strict instructions to keep Hamza indoors unless absolutely necessary and insisted on personally vetting the man assigned to guard his son. Under these strictures, which Mahmud likened to a “prison,” Hamza—usually as patient and level-headed as his mother—began to exhibit some of Saad’s petulance. Bin Laden relented a little, allowing Hamza to undergo shooting practice.
Bin Laden agonized over the decision to bring his son to his side. On the one hand, Hamza was the heir presumptive—the son of his favorite wife, charismatic and well-liked. He could be a great help to the organization. On the other hand, bin Laden’s own security situation, already precarious to begin with, had recently become yet more delicate, for the two Pakistani brothers who protected him and his family were dangerously close to burning out from stress. One of them, Ahmed, had contracted a serious illness that bin Laden feared might relapse at any time. They could hold out, bin Laden estimated, at most another few months. bin Laden needed to find replacements for the brothers as soon as possible, but his requirements were exacting. In order to blend in, the new protectors would need to be Pakistanis, fluent in local dialects. To avoid raising suspicions about the unusual size of the compound, they would need to have large families. And, of course, they would need to be absolutely trustworthy and relentlessly committed to the cause.
Mahmud would have his work cut out fulfilling such a tall order. In the meantime, however, bin Laden finally decided, despite the obvious danger, to have Hamza join him. By early April 2011, Mahmud had hatched a plan to make it happen. Hamza, with his wife and children, traveled south, through the badlands of Baluchistan. This was a roundabout route, to be sure, but it was safer than heading directly toward Abbottabad over the Khyber mountain passes. Once in Baluchistan, the plan was for Hamza’s party to rendezvous with Azmarai, one of al-Qaeda’s most seasoned and trusted fixers. Azmarai would arrange forward passage through Karachi and then by air or train to Peshawar. There, Hamza would meet another al-Qaeda operative who would send him on to Abbottabad when the time was right. To ease his brother through the inevitable checkpoints along the way, Khalid lent Hamza his fake ID and driver’s license. By late April 2011, plans were afoot, and Hamza waited only for a cloudy sky to speed him on his way. But it was not to be. Within a few weeks, his father was dead.
Hamza may have avoided death or capture in Abbottabad by weeks or even days. His brother Khalid was not so lucky; he died wielding an assault weapon in a futile attempt to defend his father against the superior numbers, tactics, and technology of the U.S. Navy SEALs. Hamza’s mother, Khairia, was taken into Pakistani custody in the early hours of May 2, 2011. Around a year later, she, Umm Khalid, and a dozen other bin Laden family members were deported to Saudi Arabia, where they live to this day in a compound outside Jeddah under what their lawyer describes as “very tight restrictions and security arrangements made by the Kingdom’s authorities,” including a ban on speaking publicly about their time in Pakistan.
Over the next four years, while Ayman al-Zawahiri took over as permanent emir of al-Qaeda, Syria and Iraq descended into barbarism, and the Islamic State spun out of al-Qaeda’s orbit, Hamza bin Laden remained silent. Then, out of the blue, in an audio message released in August 2015, al-Zawahiri introduced “a lion from the den of al-Qaeda”—a play on the name Usama, which means “lion” in Arabic. The next voice on the tape was that of Hamza.56 He hailed the “martyrdom” of his father and his brother Khalid; praised al-Qaeda’s leaders in Syria, Yemen, and North Africa; lauded the attacks on Fort Hood and the Boston Marathon; and called for jihadis to “[t]ake the battlefield from Kabul, Baghdad, and Gaza to Washington, London, Paris, and Tel Aviv.”
Further statements appeared in May, July, and August 2016, prompting the U.S. State Department in January 2017 to place Hamza on its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Two more messages then emerged in May 2017.
The theme of encouraging attacks on Jewish and Western interests is one to which Hamza has returned again and again in his messages. For example, the first of his May 2017 statements is entitled “Advice for Martyrdom-Seekers in the West.” Over footage of the aftermath of the Fort Hood massacre, a television reconstruction of events leading up to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and images connected with other attacks, Hamza encouraged jihadis all over the world to “Sell your soul cheaply for the pleasure of [God]” and urged them to read Inspire magazine, the online publication of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) that taught the Boston bombers how to turn a pressure cooker into a weapon. A caption in the video montage encourages “stabbing with knives and using vehicles and trucks” as an alternative to guns and bombs.
Strikingly, Hamza directs followers not to travel to theaters of war within the Muslim world, but instead to attack targets in the West and Russia. “Perhaps you are longing for emigration,” he says. “Perhaps you yearn for sacrifice in the battlefields. Know that inflicting punishment on Jews and Crusaders where you are is more vexing and severe for the enemy.” He urges “martyrs” that “the message you intend to convey through your blessed operation must be explained unequivocally in the media” and suggests talking points to align these explanations with al-Qaeda’s own propaganda.
In the same statement, Hamza sets up a hierarchy of targets to be attacked, starting with those who “transgress” against Islam (such as the editors of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo), followed by Jewish interests, the United States, other NATO member states, and, lastly, Russia. It is noteworthy that Hamza accords attacks on Jewish interests a higher priority than those against Americans, whereas Osama bin Laden in his 1998 fatwa relating to “Jihad against Jews and Crusaders” depicted them as coequal targets. This hierarchy may reflect Hamza’s renewed emphasis on the Palestinian cause, dramatically stated in the title of his May 2016 statement, “Jerusalem Is a Bride and Our Blood Is Her Dowry.” However, this should not be taken as evidence that al-Qaeda is about to begin attacking Israel directly. It should be recalled that Osama bin Laden himself was quite cynical about the matter, admitting privately to his lieutenants that al-Qaeda’s rhetoric about Palestine was no more than “noise” designed to drum up popular support in the Arab world.
In two of his statements, Hamza, like his father before him, urges regime change in Saudi Arabia. The first, released in August 2016, bemoans AQAP’s ouster the previous April from Mukalla in Yemen, alleging that it was accomplished “with direct American participation.”63 (In fact, Mukalla was liberated by a Saudi-led coalition of Arab forces.) The second statement was released during U.S. President Donald Trump’s state visit to Saudi Arabia in May 2017, although Hamza does not mention the trip in the text itself. In the latter statement, Hamza reiterates his call for the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy, claiming that the House of Saud has been doing the bidding of foreigners ever since the Kingdom’s founder, Ibn Saud, received British aid during World War I.
Hamza’s messages frequently repeat, almost word-for-word, sentences uttered by the elder bin Laden during al-Qaeda’s heyday in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This tendency can be heard, for example, in Hamza’s diatribes on the Palestinian Territories, on what he calls the “occupation” of Saudi Arabia, and on the idea that the United States is “stealing” the wealth of the Muslim world. (President Trump, no doubt unwittingly, played into the last of these narrative strands on his visit to Saudi Arabia, when he thanked King Salman for his “massive investment in America, its industry, and its jobs” and boasted of a new arms deal that would transfer a further $110 billion to U.S. companies.) Hamza even makes an effort to sound like his father, intoning his words with the same quiet intensity.
In his first statement, Hamza speaks of “following my father” by pledging allegiance to the leader of the Taliban. This is noteworthy in itself; whereas al-Qaeda’s other senior leaders pledge bayat to the emir of the organization (currently al-Zawahiri) who then swears fealty to the Taliban on behalf of al-Qaeda as a whole, Hamza gives his bayat directly to the Taliban leader, suggesting that, as the heir to bin Laden, he belongs to a higher class. Other aspects of the statements confirm the impression that Hamza is being elevated to leadership. In his earlier messages, al-Qaeda’s media arm referred to Hamza as a “Brother Mujahid,” a rank-and-file designation. But beginning with his two statements released in May 2017, the organization has started calling him “Sheikh,” a title reserved for its topmost brass.
None of Hamza’s messages have been accompanied by pictures of the man himself. In fact, the most recent known images are still those of Hamza sifting through helicopter wreckage in the weeks following 9/11, when he was just 12 years old; today, he would be 27 or 28. For a recent episode of 60 Minutes, CBS News commissioned a forensic artist, Stephen Mancusi, to take images of Hamza in his boyhood and subject them to an age-progression technique. The resulting portrait is of a young man who looks unsettlingly like his father around the same age, when he was raising money for the Afghan struggle against the Soviets. Another clue to Hamza’s appearance may come from the fact that he seems to have borrowed his half-brother Khalid’s Pakistani ID card for the abortive journey from Waziristan to Abbottabad. Khalid, as depicted in grisly photographs of his corpse lying on the stone floor of the Abbottabad house, shared his father’s long, thin nose and full lips. If Hamza does indeed resemble his father, and is willing in due time to show his face, no doubt the likeness will prove an asset in rallying jihadi support around al-Qaeda.
When Hamza’s first statement came out in August 2015, confidence in al-Zawahiri had reached an all-time low. It had just emerged that Mullah Omar had died in 2013, a year before al-Zawahiri had renewed al-Qaeda’s bayat to the Taliban leader. In other words, either al-Zawahiri had been unaware of Omar’s death—in which case he was too far out of the loop to lead—or he had known about it all along and had intentionally sworn allegiance to a dead man—a grave sin in al-Qaeda’s brand of Islam. This revelation brought dismay and ridicule from jihadis all over the world, at a time when the Islamic State was still capturing all the headlines and attracting the lion’s share of recruits. Raising the profile of the heir to bin Laden was thus an inspired move on the part of al-Zawahiri and the other al-Qaeda top brass. But Hamza’s return will have far broader and longer-term repercussions.
Future Standard Bearer of Global Jihad?
As the Islamic State continues to crumble, many of its adherents will be looking for new banners under which to fight. They are unlikely to pledge allegiance to al-Zawahiri, whom they see as an interloper unworthy of bin Laden’s legacy. It would be an understatement to say that al-Zawahiri lacks the charisma of his predecessor. Moreover, as an Egyptian, he will always struggle to inspire loyalty among other Arabs, especially those from the Arabian Peninsula.
Hamza, by contrast, suffers from none of these handicaps. His family pedigree, not to mention his dynastic marriage to the daughter of an al-Qaeda charter member, automatically entitles him to respect from every jihadi who follows bin Laden’s ideology, which includes every Islamic State fighter. As a Saudi descended from prominent families on both his father’s and his mother’s side, he is well-placed to pull in large donations from patrons in the Gulf, particularly at a time when sectarian fervor is running high in Saudi Arabia. It is significant in this regard that Hamza has returned to his father’s rhetoric castigating the House of Saud. As with bin Laden’s 1996 declaration of jihad, this is not just a political message; it is designed to inspire potential donors.
One final aspect of Hamza’s messages is noteworthy here. Unlike other leading al-Qaeda figures, he has never once explicitly criticized the Islamic State. True, he bemoans “strife” between the various groups fighting in Iraq and Syria and calls repeatedly for unity among jihadis to face down what he describes as a “unified enemy” of “Crusaders, Jews, Alawites, rejectionists, and apostate mercenaries.” But he carefully avoids naming the self-styled caliphate or its leaders. The Islamic State, for its part, reciprocates the favor; even as its propaganda castigates al-Zawahiri as a traitor to the cause, it never directly references Hamza. It is significant, too, that many Islamic State supporters who denounce “al-Zawahiri’s al-Qaeda” nevertheless profess admiration for Osama bin Laden. This is the best evidence that Hamza could be a unifying figure.
It is true that Hamza has never fought on the frontlines—something of which, as is seen in his letters to his father from captivity, he himself is painfully aware. This distinguishes him from the elder bin Laden, whose warrior myth was built on his exploits against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. But it is not as much of a weakness as might be thought. Hamza is not coming out of thin air; he is the favorite son of the most famous jihadi in history. And in a culture where leadership typically descends through a bloodline, pedigree trumps experience. Moreover, while Hamza has not actually fought, he has been featured in al-Qaeda propaganda from a very young age, in videos that depict him as having been very close to his father. Perhaps most importantly of all, Hamza clearly has al-Qaeda’s senior leadership behind him. During his Iranian captivity, Hamza received training from some of al-Qaeda’s top operatives, including al-`Adl and al-Masri. Both of these men are now reportedly free and presumably available to give Hamza their counsel, something bin Laden himself lacked during the last nine years of his life.
Hamza’s ascendancy comes at a moment when al-Qaeda affiliates are growing in resources and influence across the Islamic world. Al-Nusra, the Syrian franchise now nominally subsumed into Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, may have more than 20,000 militants under its command. AQAP controls or has a presence in large swathes of Yemen’s coastline and highway network. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb recently concluded a merger with several other factions, creating a jihadi conglomerate whose constituent groups collectively carried out over 250 attacks in 2016 alone. However, since AQAP’s threats against U.S. embassies in 2013, these franchises have apparently not sought to use their power to mount attacks against the West. While al-Zawahiri has mostly limited himself to threatening the United States rhetorically, if Hamza takes the reins, there is reason to think that could change, given that his messages repeatedly call for more attacks on American soil, praising previous atrocities like the Fort Hood massacre and the Boston Marathon bombing. As has been seen, Hamza has turned to his father’s well-worn anti-American rhetoric, accusing the United States of “occupying” the Arabian Peninsula and “stealing” Muslim wealth.
Many factors suggest that Hamza could be a highly effective leader: his family pedigree, his dynastic marriage, his longstanding jihadi fervor and obvious charisma, and his closeness to al-Qaeda’s most senior operatives. It remains to be seen how, exactly, the organization will make use of him, but it is clear that his star is on the rise. That should worry policymakers in the West as well as in the Muslim world.
This article is adapted in part from the author’s most recent book, Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of Bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State, which was published earlier this year by W. W. Norton & Company. The version published by The Daily Beast does not include citations. These can be viewed in the original version published by CTC Sentinel.
Friday, September 8, 2017
This is nothing new. Al-Qaeda has long considered the contamination of food as a jihad mass murder tactic.
And it has happened at least twice in Britain:
UK: Shop-owners sold chocolate cake sprinkled with human faeces
UK: Muslim who sprayed food with feces and urine can’t be deported
Food jihad? Muslim woman puts needles in meat in Canada
“ISIS tells its fanatics to poison food in Western supermarkets after testing the method on its prisoners in Iraq,” by Sara Malm, MailOnline, September 6, 2017:
Islamic State leaders are reportedly asking its followers to carry out terror attacks by poisoning food in Western supermarkets.
ISIS fanatics could be targeting British and U.S. shops after the terror group perfected their methods using Iraqi prisoners as ‘human guinea pigs’.
The details of the ‘food poison tests’ were uncovered in Mosul, Iraq, after the city was liberated from ISIS earlier this year.
It is now feared that the ways of contaminating food could be used on a larger scale in attacks on the West, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.
It would not be the first time ISIS followers have sought to spread terror and death by using everyday objects as weapons….
font: BY ROBERT SPENCER
Syrian opposition media named Israel as responsible for air strikes over Syria before dawn Thursday, Sept. 7 - in particular the attack which targeted the Scientific Studies Researchers Center, or Centre D'Etudes et de Recherches Scientifiques (CERS), at Masyaf, 38km west of Hama in central Syria.
This facility has overseen the government’s chemical warfare and missile programs since the 1970s. Casualties were reported in this attack. The reports were accompanied by photos showing high flames from an explosion, although there were no signs that it took place at the Masyaf plant.
DEBKAfile’s military sources note that the Masyaf plant lies 70km southeast of the Russian Khmeimim air base in Latakia, which also houses advanced S-400 air defense missiles.
There was no official word on the attack until later Thursday, when the Syrian government charged that a military position near Masyef was struck by Israeli warplanes and missiles and two of its soldiers were killed.
On Aug. 24, the German Algemeiner cited a confidential UN report confirming that two North Korean shipments were intercepted in the past six months on their way to Syria, with reason to believe that their cargo was part of a Korea Mining Developing Trading Corp. (KOMID) contract with Syria. KOMID is Pyongyang’s primary exporter of prohibited chemical, missile engines and conventional arms. It was blacklisted by the UN Security Council in 2009 along with its two representatives in Syria.
The UN report, according to the German newspaper, did not name the two nations which intercepted the North Korean shipments or specify their contents. According to other sources, North Korean engineers or technicians were employed at the Syrian CERS plant, which the UN experts had reported as cooperating with KOMID in previous transfers of prohibited items. It is not known whether they were working on a Syrian project or an outsourced North Korean program.
A major precedent was exposed exactly a decade ago by an earlier Israeli attack, which destroyed a Syrian nuclear plant built by North Korea on Sept. 7, 2007. That plant, hit while still under destruction, was destined to produce plutonium for the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran.
If it is confirmed that the target of the latest air strike was the Syrian research center at Masyaf, which was the recipient of the North Korean shipments, Israel would automatically be suspected of a repeat operation. However, the United States would also have a strong interest in conducting a strike.
After the US Tomahawk attack on the Syrian Sharyat air base on April 7, punishment for the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons that killed 90 people in Idlib, US President Donald Trump vowed that never again would Syria be permitted to wage chemical warfare against its citizens. The US has diectly accused the CERS facility of helping to develop the sarin gas used in that attack.
DEBKAfile's analysts suggest that since the confidential UN report strongly indicates that Syria and North Korea have long collaborated in the development of chemical and other prohibited weapons of mass destruction, the Trump administration would have more than one justification for going after the Syrian CERS facility. Indeed, with all eyes on the highly inflammable tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, the US would have found it more convenient to get at Kim Jong-un through his back-door partner, rather than going for a direct military attack.
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
45 years ago today 11 Israeli Olympic team members were taken hostage and murdered, along with a German police officer, by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September during the Olympic Games held in Munich.
Today we mourn them and remember - terror is never the solution.
May they rest in peace.
Read more: http://bit.ly/2gGRDLR
Thursday, August 17, 2017
How has North Korea managed to make such astounding progress with its long-range missile programme over the last two years? Here, Michael Elleman shares the first solid evidence that North Korea has acquired a high-performance liquid-propellant engine from illicit networks in Russia and Ukraine.
North Korea’s missile programme has made astounding strides over the past two years. An arsenal that had been based on short- and medium-range missiles along with an intermediate-range Musudan that repeatedly failed flight tests, has suddenly been supplemented by two new missiles: the intermediate-range Hwasong-12 and the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Hwasong-14. No other country has transitioned from a medium-range capability to an ICBM in such a short time. What explains this rapid progression? The answer is simple. North Korea has acquired a high-performance liquid-propellant engine (LPE) from a foreign source.
Available evidence clearly indicates that the LPE is based on the Soviet RD-250 family of engines, and has been modified to operate as the boosting force for the Hwasong-12 and -14. An unknown number of these engines were probably acquired though illicit channels operating in Russia and/or Ukraine. North Korea’s need for an alternative to the failing Musudan and the recent appearance of the RD-250 engine along with other evidence, suggests the transfers occurred within the past two years.
Tests reveal recent technical gains.
North Korea ground tested a large LPE in September 2016, which it claimed could generate 80 tonnes’ thrust. The same LPE was again ground tested in March 2017. This test included four smaller, steering engines. On 14 May 2017, with Kim Jong-un overseeing test preparations, North Korea launched a new intermediate-range ballistic missile, the Hwasong-12. The single-stage missile flew on a very steep trajectory, reaching a peak altitude of over 2,000km. If the Hwasong-12 had used a normal flight path, it would have travelled between 4,000 and 4,500km, placing Guam, just 3,400km away, within range.
The success of the Hwasong-12 flight in May gave North Korean engineers the confidence needed to pursue a more ambitious goal: the initial flight testing of a two-stage missile capable of reaching the continental United States. Less than two months after the Hwasong-12 test, the two-stage Hwasong-14 was launched on 4 July. A second Hwasong-14 was tested on 28 July. The Hwasong-14 launches flew on very steep flight paths, with the first shot reaching an apogee of 2,700km. The second test peaked at about 3,800km.
North Korea’s announced results were independently confirmed by the Republic of Korea, Japan and US. In both tests, the mock warheads plummeted towards the East Sea, 900–1,000km from the launch point. If flown on a trajectory that maximises range instead of peak altitude, the two missiles would have reached about 7,000km and 9,000km respectively, well exceeding the 5,500km minimum distance for a system to be categorised as an ICBM.
The dimensions and visible features of the Hwasong-12 indicate an overall mass of between 24,000 and 25,000kg. The Hwasong-12’s acceleration at lift-off, as determined by the launch video aired by KCNA, is about 8.5 to 9.0m/s2. Assuming North Korea did not manipulate the launch video, the thrust generated by the Hwasong-12’s complete engine assembly is between 45 and 47 tonnes’ thrust; the main engine contributes between 39 to 41 tonnes’ force, and the auxiliary engines about 6 tonnes’ force. The Hwasong-14 has an estimated mass of 33,000–34,000kg, and an initial acceleration rate of about 4–4.5m/s2, resulting in a total thrust of 46–48 tonnes’ force.
Identifying the new LPE and its origins
The origins of the new engine (see Figures 1 and 2) are difficult to determine with certainty. However, a process of elimination sharply narrows the possibilities.
There is no evidence to suggest that North Korea successfully designed and developed the LPE indigenously. Even if, after importing Scud and Nodong engines, North Korea had mastered the production of clones, which remains debateable, this does not mean that it could design, develop and manufacture a large LPE from scratch, especially one that uses higher-performance propellants and generates 40 tonnes’ thrust.
Figure 1: The liquid-propellant engines ground tested in September 2016 and March 2017 appear to be the same, though only the second ground test and the Hwasong-12 flight test operate with four auxiliary or vernier engines, which steer the missile.
Claims that the LPE is a North Korean product would be more believable if the country’s experts had in the recent past developed and tested a series of smaller, less powerful engines, but there are no reports of such activities. Indeed, prior to the Hwasong-12 and -14 flights, every liquid-fuelled missile launched by North Korea – all of the Scuds and Nodongs, even the Musudan – was powered by an engine developed and originally produced by the Russian enterprise named for A.M. Isayev; the Scud, Nodong and R-27 (from which the Musudan is derived) missiles were designed and originally produced by the Russian concern named after V.P. Makeyev. It is, therefore, far more likely that the Hwasong-12 and -14 are powered by an LPE imported from an established missile power.
If this engine was imported, most potential sources can be eliminated because the external features, propellant combination and performance profile of the LPE in question are unique. The engine tested by North Korea does not physically resemble any LPE manufactured by the US, France, China, Japan, India or Iran. Nor do any of these countries produce an engine that uses storable propellants and generates the thrust delivered by the Hwasong-12 and -14 LPE. This leaves the former Soviet Union as the most likely source.
Figure 2: The three missiles tested by North Korea are powered by the same engine complex, with one main engine and four steering engines.
Given North Korea’s reliance to date on technologies originating with the Isayev and Makeyev enterprises, one might suspect one or both as the probable supplier. However, neither enterprise has been associated with an engine that matches the performance of LPE used by Hwasong-12 and -14.
An exhaustive search of engines produced by other manufacturers in the former Soviet Union yields a couple of possibilities, all of which are associated with the Russian enterprise named after V.P. Glushko, now known as Energomash. The RD-217, RD-225 and RD-250 engine families use high-energy, storable-liquid propellants similar to those employed by engines tested by North Korea. Neither the RD-217 nor RD-225 have external features matching those of North Korea’s new engine. The RD-250 is the only match.
Figure 3: The RD-250 engine consists of a pair of combustion chambers fed by a single turbopump. Each chamber produces about 394k Newtons of thrust, or about 40 tonnes’ force, when relying on UDMH as the fuel, and N2O4 as the oxidiser. The RD-250’s nozzle also features a cooling tube and a compliance ring that resemble those found on the engines tested by North Korea. The small engine with its nozzle pointed upward and displayed in the foreground is not associated with the RD-250 engine.
The RD-250 engine is normally configured as a pair of combustion chambers, which receive propellant from a single turbopump, as shown in Figure 3. When operated in tandem, the two chambers generate roughly 78–80 tonnes’ thrust. This level of thrust is similar to the claims North Korea made when the first ground test was conducted and publicised in September 2016.
It gradually became clear, however, that the Hwasong-12 and -14 used single-chamber engines. Note, for example, that Pyongyang claimed that a new pump design was used for the September ground test. This makes sense, because operating the RD-250 as a single chamber LPE would necessitate a new or modified turbopump. Having no demonstrated experience modifying or developing large LPE turbopumps, Pyongyang’s engineers would have been hard pressed to make the modifications themselves. Rather, the technical skills needed to modify the existing RD-250 turbopump, or fashioning a new one capable of feeding propellant to a single chamber would reside with experts with a rich history of working with the RD-250. Such expertise is available at Russia’s Energomash concern and Ukraine’s KB Yuzhnoye. One has to conclude that the modified engines were made in those factories.
The alternative hypothesis, that Russian/Ukraine engineers were employed in North Korea is less likely, given the absence of any known production facility in North Korea for such engines. In addition, Western experts who visited KB Yuzhnoye Ukraine within the past year told the author that a single-chamber version was on display at a nearby university and that a local engineer boasted about producing it.
Why single-chamber engines were transferred rather than the more powerful double-chamber original versions is unclear. One possible hypothesis is that the exporters, for whatever reason, exercised restraint in what they were willing to transfer to North Korea. Combined with a second stage, however, the single-chamber RD-250 engine is powerful enough to send an ICBM to cities on the American West Coast at least.
The RD-250 was originally designed by the Glushko enterprise of Russia, and produced and incorporated into the first stage of the R-36 (SS-9) ICBM and the Tsiklon-2 satellite launcher by KB Yuzhnoye of Ukraine. The Tsiklon-2 carrier rocket lofted its first satellite into orbit in 1969, with the last of 106 launches occurring in 2006. While Yuzhnoye was responsible for producing the Tsiklon-2 rocket, Russian entities launched the satellite. The relationship survived the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 primarily because of long-standing institutional linkages, and the commercial interests of both enterprises and countries. However, despite the Tsiklon-2’s unsurpassed reliability record, Russia stopped purchasing the Yuzhnoye rocket in 2006 in favour of an indigenous system. Yuzhnoye’s repeated attempts to market the rocket and related technologies to other potential customers, including Boeing and Brazil, yielded little. The once vaunted KB Yuzhnoye has been near financial collapse since roughly 2015.
The total number of RD-250 engines fabricated in Russia and Ukraine is not known. However, there are almost certainly hundreds, if not more, of spares stored at KB Yuzhnoye’s facilities and at warehouses in Russia where the Tsiklon-2 was used. Spares may also exist at one or more of Energomash’s many facilities spread across Russia. Because the RD-250 is no longer employed by operational missiles or launchers, facilities warehousing the obsolete LPEs are probably loosely guarded. A small team of disgruntled employees or underpaid guards at any one of the storage sites, and with access to the LPEs, could be enticed to steal a few dozen engines by one of the many illicit arms dealers, criminal networks, or transnational smugglers operating in the former Soviet Union. The engines (less than two metres tall and one metre wide) can be flown or, more likely, transported by train through Russia to North Korea.
Pyongyang has many connections in Russia, including with the illicit network that funnelled Scud, Nodong and R-27 (Musudan) hardware to North Korea in the 1980s and 1990s. United Nations sanctions imposed on Pyongyang have likely strengthened the Kim regime’s ties to these criminal networks. North Korean agents seeking missile technology are also known to operate in Ukraine. In 2012, for example, two North Korean nationals were arrested and convicted by Ukrainian authorities for attempting to procure missile hardware from Yuzhnoye. Today, Yuzhnoye’s facilities lie close to the front lines of the Russian-controlled secessionist territory. Clearly, there is no shortage of potential routes through which North Korea might have acquired the few dozen RD-250 engines that would be needed for an ICBM programme.
How did North Korea acquire the RD-250 engine?
When and from where RD-250 engines may have been shipped to North Korea is difficult to determine. It is possible the transfers occurred in the 1990s, when North Korea was actively procuring Scud- and Nodong-related hardware, as well as R-27 technology and its Isayev 4D10 engine. But this seems unlikely for three reasons.
Firstly, the network North Korea relied on in the 1990s focused on products originating from Russia’s Makeyev and Isayev enterprises. Energomash and Yuzhnoye had limited connections to Makeyev or Isayev; indeed, they were rival enterprises competing for contracts as the Soviet Union crumbled. It is, therefore, a stretch to assume the illicit channels Pyongyang was using in the 1990s had access to products manufactured or used at either Yuzhnoye or Energomash two decades ago.
Secondly, until recently, North Korea appeared to focus on exploiting R-27 hardware for its long-range missile ambitions. Pyongyang’s first intermediate-range missile, the Musudan, which was first displayed in a 2010 parade, is derived from the R-27 technology acquired in the 1990s. Moreover, until the Hwasong-12 launch in March 2017, Pyongyang’s design concepts for a prospective ICBM featured a first stage powered by a cluster of two Isayev 4D10 LPEs. Photographs taken while Kim Jong-un toured a missile plant in March 2016 captured the back end of an ICBM prototype that appeared to house a pair of 4D10 engines, not a single RD-250 LPE. A month later, Kim attended the ground test featuring a cluster of two 4D10 engines operating in tandem, a clear indication that North Korea’s future ICBM would rely on this configuration. There is no evidence during this period to suggest that North Korea was developing a missile based on the RD-250 engine.
Thirdly, the Isayev 4D10 engine, which relies on staged combustion, is a complicated closed-cycle system that is integrated within the missile’s fuel tank. If the open-cycle, externally mounted RD-250 engine had been available in 2015, engineers would have likely preferred to use it to power a new long-range missile, as it shares many features with the engines North Korea has worked with for decades.
However, when North Korean specialists began flight testing the Musudan in 2016, the missile repeatedly failed soon after ignition. Only one flight test is believed to have been successful. The cause of the string of failures cannot be determined from media reports. That many failed very early in flight suggests that problems with either the engine itself, or the unique ‘submerged’ configuration of the engine, were responsible. If this was the case, North Korea’s engineers may have recognised that they could not easily overcome the challenges. This might explain why the Musudan has not been tested since 2016.
The maiden appearance of the modified RD-250 in September 2016 roughly coincides with North Korea’s decision to halt Musudan testing. It is reasonable to speculate that Kim’s engineers knew the Musudan presented grim or insurmountable technical challenges, which prompted a search for an alternative. If North Korea began its quest to identify and procure a new LPE in 2016, the start of the search would have occurred in the same year Yuzhnoye was experiencing the full impact of its financial shortfalls. This is not to suggest that the Ukrainian government was involved, and not necessarily Yuzhnoye executives. Workers at Yuzhnoye facilities in Dnipropetrovsk and Pavlograd were likely the first ones to suffer the consequences of the economic misfortunes, leaving them susceptible to exploitation by unscrupulous traders, arms dealers and transnational criminals operating in Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere.
North Korea’s ICBM still a work in progress
Acquisition of the modified RD-250 engine enabled North Korea to bypass the failing Musudan development effort and begin work on creating an ICBM sooner than previously expected. The Hwasong-14, however, is not yet an operationally viable system. Additional flight tests are needed to assess the missile’s navigation and guidance capabilities, overall performance under operational conditions and its reliability. Empirical data derived from tests to validate the efficacy of warhead re-entry technologies is also needed. Pyongyang could elect to deploy the Hwasong-14 as early as 2018, after only a handful of additional test launches, but at the risk of fielding a missile with marginal reliability. The risks could be reduced over time by continuing flight trials after the missile is assigned to combat units.
Further, the Hwasong-14 employs an underpowered second stage, which could limit Kim Jong-un to threatening only those American cities situated along the Pacific Coast. Arguably, Pyongyang will want a more powerful ICBM, one that can target the entire US mainland. The modified RD-250 engine can be clustered to provide a basis for an improved ICBM, but development of a new missile will require time.
It is not too late for the US and its allies, along with China and perhaps Russia, to negotiate an agreement that bans future missile testing, and effectively prevents North Korea from perfecting its capacity to terrorise America with nuclear weapons. But the window of opportunity will soon close, so diplomatic action must be taken immediately.
Font: By Michael Elleman
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
14 August 2017 – The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali today confirmed the death of a national soldier and one UN peacekeeper in an attack by non-identified gunmen.
“We mourn the loss of a United Nations peacekeeper killed in Mali earlier this morning while serving with our UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) following at attack by armed assailants to a MINUSMA camp in the town of Douenza,” MINUSMA said in a note on social media.
A second UN peacekeeper was injured in the attack, the Mission added.
“Today, around 5:30 am, the MINUSMA camps in Douenza, Mopti region, have been the target of an attack coordinated by unidentified gunmen,” the UN Mission said in a statement in French.
“A first group of assailants fired at a MINUSMA camp from an adjacent hill. In reaction, the Malian armed forces, established in the vicinity of the camp, retaliated. A second group walking on foot to the other MINUSMA camp opened fire. The peacekeepers have responded and two assailants have been killed,” the UN Mission added.
It noted that MINUSMA condemned in the strongest terms “this revolting terrorist attack.”
The Mission reiterated its determination to continue to fulfill its responsibilities “in support of Mali and its people in order to contribute to the achievement of lasting peace and stability.”
India’s likely sale to Vietnam of a short-range, supersonic anti-ship missile will open up a new conflict in an already tense situation with China, an analyst said.Vietnam will receive the BrahMos which is considered one of the most effective and lethal anti-ship missiles in the world, with speeds reaching Mach 2.8 to 3.0.
About half of China’s worldwide arms exports go to one country — Pakistan, for the primary reason of ‘containing India,’ ” said Hoover Institution Fellow and Geostrategy-Direct correspondent Maochun Miles Yu in a Facebook post.
“Now India is playing the same game by arming one of China’s arch enemies, Vietnam.”
Russia, which co-produces the BrahMos with India, is said to have given its nod of approval on the sale.
“The Chinese government has major objections about Vietnam getting these missiles for its navy,” said analyst Larkins Dsouza, founder of Defense Aviation.“China sees India selling BrahMos to Vietnam as an act of belligerence and interference in the South China Sea dispute.”
But, Dsouza added, “China seems to be overlooking the fact that it sells a great deal of weapons to Pakistan, a country that has been in a gridlock with India for decades. All indications now point to the fact that New Delhi has overcome its reservations and fears about annoying China.”
The BrahMos can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land. It was developed jointly by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia. Vietnam is said to be looking to use the missile in its Kilo-class submarines.
The missile is heavily based on the Russian P-800 Oniks cruise missile and other similar sea-skimming Russian cruise missile technology, Dsouza said.
A hypersonic version of the missile, the BrahMos-II, is also currently under development with speeds up to Mach 7. It could be ready for testing some time this year, Dsouza said.
Meanwhile, Japan and India “are set to strengthen security ties with the U.S., with the prospect of bolstering their trilateral security cooperation,” Dsouza said. “It is very significant for Japan, India and the U.S. to ensure the security of the vast Pacific and Indian Oceans. Japan has suggested that the three countries start organizing regular high-level meetings, and the Indian Defense Minister, Manohar Parrikar, will consider the proposal.”
Thursday, August 10, 2017
|A U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jet lands on the runway at the Osan U.S. Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Thursday. (Hong Ki-won/Yonhap via AP)|
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea has announced a detailed plan to launch a salvo of ballistic missiles toward the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, a major military hub and home to U.S. bombers. If carried out, it would be the North’s most provocative missile launch to date.
The announcement Thursday warned that the North is finalizing a plan to fire four of its Hwasong-12 missiles over Japan and into waters around the tiny island, which hosts 7,000 U.S. military personnel on two main bases and has a population of 160,000.
Japan and South Korea vowed a strong reaction if the North were to go through with the plan.
It said the plan, which involves the missiles hitting waters 19 to 25 miles from the island, could be sent to leader Kim Jong Un for approval within a week or so. It would be up to Kim whether the move is actually carried out.
It is unclear whether — or exactly why — North Korea would risk firing missiles so close to U.S. territory. Such a launch would almost compel the United States to attempt an intercept and possibly generate further escalation.
North Korea, no stranger to bluffing, frequently uses extremely bellicose rhetoric with warnings of military action to keep its adversaries on their heels. It generally couches its threats with language stating it will not attack the United States unless it has been attacked first or has determined an attack is imminent.
But the statement raised worries amid threats from both sides.
Following reports that U.S. intelligence suggests the North might be able to pair a nuclear warhead with a missile capable of reaching targets on the United States mainland, Trump warned North Korea that “it faces retaliation with fire and fury unlike any the world has seen before.”
Pyongyang, meanwhile, has been louder in its complaints against a new and tough round of sanctions imposed by the United Nations, with strong U.S. backing, and Washington’s use of Guam as a staging ground for its stealth bombers, which could be used to attack North Korea and are a particularly sore point with the ruling regime in Pyongyang.
Its reported plan is extremely specific, suggesting it is actually plotting a launch.
The report said the Hwasong-12 rockets would fly over Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi prefectures in Japan and travel “1,065 seconds before hitting the waters 30 to 40 kilometers away from Guam.” It said the Korean People’s Army Strategic Force will finalize the plan by mid-August, present it to Kim Jong Un and “wait for his order.”
“We keep closely watching the speech and behavior of the U.S.,” it said.
Such a move would not merely be a test launch, but a demonstration of military capabilities that could easily lead to severe consequences.
South Korea’s military responded by saying North Korea will face a “stern and strong” response from Washington and Seoul. Taking it a step further, Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told parliament a missile attack on the U.S. territory would be a Japanese national emergency because it would threaten Japan’s existence as a nation.
If North Korea were to actually carry it out — even if it aimed at hitting the waters off Guam and not the island itself — that would clearly pose a potential threat to U.S. territory and put the United States in a much more complicated situation than it has been during previous missile launches.
Guam lies about 2,100 miles from the Korean Peninsula, and it’s extremely unlikely Kim’s government would risk annihilation with a pre-emptive attack on U.S. citizens. It’s also unclear how reliable North Korea’s missiles would be against such a distant target, but no one was writing off the danger completely.
Washington has been testing its missile defenses in response to the North’s stepped-up development, and the current escalation of tensions could lead to pressure for the U.S. military to try to shoot down the North’s missiles in mid-flight if they are heading toward Guam.
That would likely open up a set of very major problems, including the possibility of both a very high-profile failure or a miscalculation of Washington’s intentions and a more deadly pre-emptive strike by the North — which has missiles able to hit Tokyo and conventional weapons that could devastate South Korea’s capital of Seoul.
The Hwasong-12, which was revealed for the first time at a military parade in April, is an intermediate-range ballistic missile that is believed to have a radius of more than 2,300 miles. It can be fired from mobile launchers, making it hard to detect and destroy on the ground.
By launching a salvo of four, the North would be attempting to make it harder for the U.S. to intercept all of the incoming missiles. Its stated flight path over Japan is also very aggressive — it has recently tried to avoid flying over neighboring countries by shooting its missiles up at a very high angle to land in the ocean.
Washington, meanwhile, has been giving out mixed signals about its intentions.
While Trump was threatening annihilation and boasting from the New Jersey golf resort where he’s vacationing that he has made the U.S. nuclear arsenal “far stronger and more powerful than ever before,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to calm the sense of crisis.
“Americans should sleep well at night,” Tillerson told reporters. “Nothing that I have seen and nothing that I know of would indicate that the situation has dramatically changed in the last 24 hours.”
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
TURKEY'S President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is attempting to get hold of an atomic bomb in a plot to build up the nation's weapons, an expert has claimed.
With tensions threatening to reach breaking point between the US and North Korea it has emerged Turkey could be trying to build up its weaponry as relations with the EU reach a new low.
In a worrying claim, an expert has warned Turkey is the next country looking to expand its arsenal to include atomic bombs.
Abdullah Bozkurt, a government-critical Turkish journalist, has dramatically revealed what he called 'secret plans’ for Ankara to acquire the ultimate weapon.
Despite Turkey having the second largest-Nato army, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presiding over 40,000 soldiers, Mr Bozkurt said his ambitions were far greater.
He stated there were plans for Ankara to expand, and a "secret plan to acquire weapons of mass destruction - including an atomic bomb for deterrence."
Influential advisors close to the President and a group of officials in the government’s inner circle are said to have discussed acquiring an A-bomb, Mr Bozkurt said.
He outlined recent meetings with Russia and Japan, signalling a move away from NATO.
Mr Bozkurt said the talks focussed on the construction of two nuclear power plants in Turkey, arousing his suspicions.
And his fears seem to be bolstered by Turkish expert Aykan Erdemir, of the US Thinktank Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Mr Erdemir, a former member of the Turkish parliament, said: "Erdogan has a strong desire to turn Turkey into a nuclear power, but doesn't have the capacity."
But he outlined obstacles to Mr Erdogan’s perceived plans.
A little over a year on from a failed coup, which saw hundreds killed and heralded the dawn of a crackdown of public sector workers, Mr Erdemir said the Turkey’s ability to get the project off the ground was compromised.
Despite teething problems, he identified popular demand for the country to be nuclear armed.
He said: "Turkey lacks financial resources and personnel for such an expensive and high-tech project.
"The government-friendly media often exaggerates the strength of the military to increase morale in Turkey."
And continuing the purge of the armed forces beginning after the putsch, Mr Erdogan has fired 160 of the 324 generals of the Turkish army in the past few months.
He has also culled thousands of soldiers from high ranking positions.
Mr Erdemir believes Mr Erdogan is rooting out any dissidents and anyone who would not back his nuclear dream.
The worrying claims coming out of Turkey come as Ankara finds itself embroiled in a political spat with the EU, particularly Berlin.
The bitter row has seen relations steadily deteriorate, with Mr Erdogan saying in April the EU “a continent that is rotting in every which way”.
Recently Berlin issued new travel warnings for tourists visiting the country, and foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said he could no longer guarantee investment in Turkey following accusations made by Mr Erdogan.
The President accused German companies of colluding with the man he views as his political enemy - and who he suspects was behind the failed coup last year - Fethullah Gülen.
And in a painful move for Ankara, Mr Gabriel added he would discuss with other EU leaders the prospect of reviewing pre-accession funds being offered.
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