Monday, March 19, 2012

Two kidnapped Brazilian tourists in Egypt's Sinai released

CAIRO, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Two Brazilian tourists and an Egyptian tour guide had been released early Monday after being kidnapped for nine hours in South Sinai by Bedouin gunmen, a security source told Xinhua.

The Egyptian military forces and local police tried to rescue the tourists and their guide who were taken as hostages during their way back from Saint Catherine monastery to Sharm el-Sheihk with the help of local Bedouin sheikhs, the source added.

This was the third kidnapping case in the area since February. Two Americans and three South Korean tourists were abducted by Bedouins in the area on Feb. 3 and Feb. 10 respectively. The kidnappers demanded the release of their relatives who were jailed for involvement in terrorist activities.

On Friday, Bedouins in North Sinai ended their eight consecutive days of siege of the camp of an international peacekeeping force after negotiations with the authorities for similar demands.
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Clashes in North Waziristan leave eight dead

MIRAMSHAH: At least eight people were killed and 15 others wounded in clashes between Pakistani troops and militants in the restive northwestern tribal belt, officials said Monday.

Four militants and one soldier were killed when militants stormed a security forces check point late Sunday in Miramshah, the main town of lawless North Waziristan tribal district bordering Afghanistan.
The military retaliated with an assault early Monday on suspected militant hide outs outside the town, but the attack left three civilians dead and 15 wounded, security officials said.

“Militants attacked our check point in Miramshah on Sunday evening and killed one soldier, we retaliated… and shot dead four militants,” a senior security official told AFP.

On Monday morning “we fired shells and destroyed five shops in Datakhel near Miramshah,” from where military convoys had recently come under attack, he said.

Two security officials confirmed the civilian deaths in Monday’s attack, but the military refused to do so.

“Three civilians were killed and 15 were injured when the security forces fired shells at the suspected militant hide outs,” one of the officials said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

from DAWN
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Somalia: Mortar Attack At Presidential Palace, Kills Six IDPs

Mogadishu — At least six people have been killed an five others injured after mortar shells were fired overnight on Somalia's presidential palace in the chaotic capital, Mogadishu, officials and witnesses said on Monday.

Sa'id Shire Warsame, a cameraman for Shabelle Media who lives near the hilltop palace, known as Villa Somalia says at least seven mortars have been fired overnight at the palace, but missed their target and slammed into a large IDP camp in Wardhiglay district where hundreds of internally displaced people are currently locating.

"Four people from one family were among the dead while the two others young girls, all IDPs after fired mortar barrages from hiding places in residential neighborhoods. The victimized ones were rushed to the hospitals in Mogadishu to get medical assistance," he added.

The deputy district commissioner of Wardhiglay for Somali government Mohammed Mohamud Mohammed confirmed to Shabelle Media the death and he stated that the situation in the area is tense after the security forces launched home-to home search.

No one has so far said it carried out the attack.

Somalia has been racked by violence for more than two decades and hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes, creating one of the world's worst humanitarian emergencies.

from allAfrica
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Nigeria: Police Recover Explosives, Ammunition From Impounded Golf Car

English: Map locator of Nigeria.
Bauchi state,Nigeria - Image via Wikipedia
Over 13 types of improvised explosive Devices [IEDs], four AK 47 Guns and 30 rounds of ammunition were recovered in a Golf Car impounded by soldiers last Wednesday at a check point in Alkaleri Local Government Area of Bauchi State.

State Police Public Relations Officer, Hassan Mohammed, who disclosed this to journalists, yesterday, said that the explosives were packaged in Turkey oil and milk tins respectively when the anti-bomb squads examined the confiscated vehicle.

He added that investigation was ongoing to fish out the fleeing culprits who tried to import the dangerous materials to the State capital so as to unleash terror on the people.

It would be recalled that last Wednesday, a Golf car loaded with locally made bombs with registration number AA158 was impounded by soldiers at a military check-point in Alkaleri Local Government of the State.

The incident was said to have occurred when occupants of the car opened the door and fled into bush as the security operatives were inspecting the boot.

Eye witnesses revealed that the soldiers wanted to open fire at the fleeing miscreants.

from allAfrica
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Several insurgents killed & detained in Afghan operations

According to Afghan interior ministry officials, at least 4 insurgents were killed and injured following Afghan national police operations across the country during the past 24 hours.

The officials further added, at least 11 insurgents were also detained during the military operations.

Afghan police forces conducted at least 4 military operations in conjunction with the Afghan national army, Afghan intelligence and NATO-led international coalition security forces, Afghan interior ministry officials added.

The operatins were conducted at Kabul, Helmand, Uruzgan and Khost provinces of Afghanistan.

Afghan security forces also seized some weapons, improvised explosive devices and ammunitions during the operations.

In separate military operations Afghan police forces seized 40 kilograms of explosives and 2 improvised explosive devices at kandahar and uruzgan provinces.

The suspected militants were also detained by Afghan security forces. Ati-government armed militant groups yet to comment regarding the operations.

In the meantime local officials in eastern Ghazni province announced Afghan security forces detained a Taliban insurgent along with some explosives and weapons in this province.

Provincial disciplinary forces chief Khwaja Sultan said, a militant was detained along with some improvised explosive devices, explosives, a police vehicle along with a motorcyle.

He also added, the militant was detained during a joint summer military operation conducted by Afghan police, Afghan intelligence and Afghan army.

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US withdrawal from Afghanistan: the plan for 2012, 2013, and 2014

A U.S. Army soldier with 1st Battalion, 32nd I...
Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew C. Moeller - via Wikipedia

In June 2011, President Obama announced that the US would begin withdrawing military forces from Afghanistan and transferring responsibility for security to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The US goal is to be substantially out of Afghanistan by 2014, with ANSF responsible for the entire country. The implementation plan for 2012 has been publicized over the past nine months and is recapped below. The plan for 2013 is now emerging; what is known is summarized here for the first time. The plan for 2014 is still speculative.

The plan for 2012
Starting this spring, the US will draw down its troops from the current 90,000 to 68,000 by October 2012. Essentially, the surge of US forces deployed to Afghanistan in early 2009 is being withdrawn.
As the withdrawal proceeds, the ANSF is expected to assume leadership for security operations in a large portion of the country. By the end of 2012, the areas of Afghan responsibility will contain about 50% of Afghan's population. This will become a significant test of ANSF capabilities, and will be an important indicator of the ANSF's ability to continue to expand its areas of responsibility into 2013.
The ANSF will reach its end state goal of 352,000 troops by October 2012 and then stop growing. Significant shortfalls in quality, organizational structure, and capability will still exist, however. The US will deploy a large contingent of military trainers and advisers to Afghanistan this summer to address these issues.

The plan for 2013
The plan for 2013 is currently being developed. The final version will be presented for approval at the NATO summit in Chicago in May. While still incomplete, portions of the plan have been disclosed or can be deduced. According to The Guardian, Obama described the next phase of the transition as follows: "This includes shifting to a support role next year, in 2013, in advance of Afghans taking full responsibility for security in 2014. We're going to complete this mission, and we're going to do it responsibly."
The most significant element of the plan is that US and ISAF forces will stop conducting combat operations in late 2013. The ANSF will then be responsible for executing all combat operations in Afghanistan.
Security responsibility for additional areas of Afghanistan will be transferred to the ANSF during 2013. Perhaps 75% of Afghan's population will be living in areas under ANSF security leadership by the end of 2013. These areas will include substantial portions of the northern, western, and southern regions. Due to the stronger Taliban organization in the eastern region, however, it is likely to lag behind.
The size of the ANSF will be maintained at 352,000 troops. US and ISAF mentoring and advising teams will concentrate on improving the quality of existing troops. Organizational development will focus on standing up support functions that are currently being performed by US and ISAF units.
The number of US troops to remain in Afghanistan during 2013 is still being decided, but it appears that three options are being considered. According to a New York Times report, the three options are:
  1. A drawdown from 68,000 to 58,000 troops by the end of 2012, with a further drawdown to between 38,000 and 48,000 by June 2013. This would be a continuation of the current policy of gradual drawdown. Obama has stated that he prefers a gradual drawdown. Therefore, this is the most likely option.

  2. Maintaining 68,000 troops through the end of 2013. This is the US military commanders' preferred option since it maintains US force levels through the summer fighting season in 2013. However, US military commanders had previously wanted to maintain 90,000 troops through the end of 2012, and that plan was rejected last year. So, maintaining 68,000 troops in 2013 is probably a less likely option.

  3. A large and rapid drawdown, perhaps to 20,000 troops, by the end of 2013. This would leave only Special Operations Forces, counterterrorism forces, military trainers, and some support and security staff in Afghanistan. This is Vice President Biden's preferred option. But this option also was considered and rejected for 2012. And Obama has stated that a rapid drawdown was not his preferred option, either. Therefore, this too is an unlikely option.
The plan for 2014
The plan for 2014 is much less clear. It will be highly dependent on the post-2014 plan, which is still in the early stages of negotiations with the Karzai administration. However, assuming a deal is reached, a 2014 plan is likely to include the following elements.
The US force level will drop to between 10,000 and 20,000 troops. They will consist of Special Forces, counterterrorism forces, and military training personnel. They will be deployed to a small number of bases around the country. US/ISAF troops will continue their training of ANSF soldiers. Counterterrorism forces will concentrate mostly on high-value targets.
The ANSF will be responsible for security operations for all of Afghanistan, including army and police functions. The ANSF will be maintained at 352,000 troops. It is possible, however, that plans will be put in place to begin cutting the number to 230,000 troops starting after 2014.

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Afghan intelligence curb deadly bombing plot in Balkh

Lotfullah Mashal
Afghan Intelligence (National Directorate for Security) on Sunday announced Afghan security forces curbed a deadly terrorist attack plot in northern Mazar-e-Sharif city.

Afghan NDS officials further added, a group of insurgents who wanted to storm the new ceremony and carry out suicide bomb attack to assassinate provincial governor Ata Mohammad Noor were arrested by Afghan intelligence forces.

A spokesman for the Afghan Intelligence (National Directorate for Security) Lotfullah Mashal while speaking during a press conference said, at least 6 insurgents including suicide bombers were detained following an operation by Afghan intelligence forces.

Mr. Mashal further added, the detained insurgents include Qari Gulab appointed district of Nahr-e-Shahi in northern Balkh province, Abdul Hai, Amanullah, Ezaullah, Mukhtar, Qari Abdul Salam and Qari Rahimullah, who wanted to plot and carry out suicide bomb attack during the new year (Nawoz) celebrations and assassinate the provincial governor for northern Balkh province Ata Mohammad Noor.

He also said, the insurgents were looking to attack the ISAF commandment in northern Mazar-e-Sharif city, Mazar-e-Sharif highway and Mazar-e-Sharif airport.

Afghan intelligence forces also seized at least 53 bags of explosives and other explosives, Lotfullah Mashal said.

Afghan NDS spokesman Lotfullah Mashal emphasized that suicide bombing and other insurgency attacks are being plotted outside the country.

The detained insurgents confessed to their crimes during the preliminary investigations, he said.

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