North Korea threatens ‘physical response’ to U.S. military exerciseSTORY HIGHLIGHTS
- A North Korean government spokesman says the joint exercise is a “grave threat”
- Clinton: Peaceful resolution is only possible if North Korea changes its behavior
- The military exercise is scheduled to begin Sunday
- About 8,000 military personnel from the U.S. and South Korea will participate
Hanoi, Vietnam (CNN) — North Korea vowed Friday that there would be a “physical response” in reaction to the planned joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea.
“There will be a physical response against the threat imposed by the United States militarily,” North Korea spokesman Ri Tong Il told reporters outside the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting.
About 8,000 military personnel from the United States and South Korea are scheduled to participate in joint military exercises beginning this weekend.
Earlier Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sharply criticized North Korea in prepared remarks at the meeting.
“Peaceful resolution of the issues on the Korean Peninsula will be possible only if North Korea fundamentally changes its behavior,” she said.
Clinton said North Korea was responsible for the March attack on South Korea’s Cheonan warship, which killed 46 South Korean sailors.
An international investigation blamed North Korea for the sinking, an assertion the North has denied. Earlier this month, the United Nations formally condemned the sinking of the ship, but did not specifically name North Korea.
But Clinton was clear in her condemnation Friday.
“Here in Asia, an isolated and belligerent North Korea has embarked on a campaign of provocative, dangerous behavior,” she said.
Ri described the planned U.S.-South Korea joint military exercise as “another example of a hostile policy” against North Korea.
“It is a grave threat to the Korean peninsula and also to the region of Asia as a whole,” he said.
He said the exercise was against North Korea’s sovereignty and security.
The military exercise, dubbed “Invincible Spirit,” is scheduled to run from July 25 to July 28. In addition to the 8,000 personnel involved, military officials say it will include 20 ships and submarines and about 200 aircraft.
“The purpose of this readiness exercise is to highlight Alliance resolve to face any threat North Korea may pose,” the Combined Alliance Joint Naval and Air Exercises said said in a statement announcing the military exercises Tuesday.
Gen. Han Min-koo, chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Tuesday’s statement that the exercises will show the military’s readiness and resolve.
“We stand fully prepared to respond militarily to any further North Korean provocation,” he said.
CNN’s Elise Labott contributed to this report.
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — Taliban militants beheaded six Afghan police officers during a raid in northern Baghlan province, officials said Wednesday.
The militants had attacked a school, clinic and the district governor’s office in Dahanah-e Ghori.
They overran a police checkpoint and killed the six police officers, according to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Munshi Abdul Majid, the governor of Baghlan.
In all, eight police officers were at the checkpoint, Munshi said. They defended themselves for two hours during the skirmish before the beheadings.
The grisly incident occurred Tuesday in a province that had until recently been largely spared from violence and on the same day that participants at an international donors conference in Kabul agreed that Afghan forces should take over security for the troubled nation by 2014.
“This incident once again demonstrates the brutal, barbaric and senseless acts committed by the Taliban,” said Col. Rafael Torres, an ISAF spokesman.
“We remain committed to serving alongside our Afghan partners to improve security and development for all Afghans.”
On Wednesday, another international coalition forces service member died in a bombing in southern Afghanistan, an ISAF statement said.
My point stands, we cannot and should not turn and run from Afghanistan. It still harbors countless terrorists and presents a major challenge to any hope of a safe and sustainable Middle East. Much of the money, direction, and influence of these savage attacks trickle from Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan. Pakistan, a nation with a significant fundamentalist presence, a government on the brink, and a large nuclear arsenal.
Crude pouring out after pipeline blast; at least 1 firefighter dead
Jiang He / AP
In this photo released by Greenpeace, a firefighter submerged in thick oil during an attempt to fix an underwater pump is brought ashore by his colleagues in Dalian, China on Tuesday.
BEIJING — China rushed to keep an oil spill from reaching international waters, while an environmental group tried to assess if the country’s largest reported spill was worse than has been disclosed.
Crude oil started pouring into the Yellow Sea off a busy northeastern port after a pipeline exploded late last week, sparking a massive 15-hour fire. The government says the slick has spread across a 70-square-mile stretch of ocean.
The cause of the blast was still not clear Wednesday. The pipeline is owned by China National Petroleum Corp., Asia’s biggest oil and gas producer by volume.
Jiang He / AP
Workers pull a struggling colleague to safety in the Chinese port of Dalian, Liaoning province.
Images of 100-foot-high flames shooting up near part of China’s strategic oil reserves drew the immediate attention of President Hu Jintao and other top leaders. Now the challenge is cleaning up the greasy brown plume floating off the shores of Dalian, once named China’s most livable city.
The environmental group, Greenpeace China, shot several photographs at the scene Tuesday before their team was forced to leave. They showed oil-slicked rocky beaches, a man covered in thick black sludge up to his cheekbones, and workers carrying a colleague covered in oil away from the scene.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency reported a 25-year-old firefighter, Zhang Liang, drowned Tuesday after a large wave pushed him into the sea amid the clean up. Another man who also fell in was rescued. It was not immediately clear if either were the ones shown in the Greenpeace photos.
Activists said it was too early to tell what impact the pollution might have on marine life.
Officials told Xinhua they did not yet know how much oil had leaked, but China Central Television reported no more pollution, including oil and firefighting chemicals, had entered the sea Tuesday. It was not clear how far the spill was from China’s closest neighbor in the region, North Korea.
Dalian’s vice mayor, Dai Yulin, told Xinhua 40 specialized oil-control boats would be on the scene along with hundreds of fishing boats. Oil-eating bacteria were also being used in the cleanup.
“Our priority is to collect the spilled oil within five days to reduce the possibility of contaminating international waters,” he said.
But an official with the State Oceanic Administration has warned the spill will be difficult to clean up even in twice that amount of time.
The Dalian port is China’s second largest for crude oil imports, and last week’s spill appears to be the country’s largest in recent memory.
“In terms of what is known to the public, this is definitely the biggest,” said Yang Ailun, spokeswoman for Greenpeace China.
“Government and business leaders have been telling the media that there’s no environmental impact. From Greenpeace’s perspective, that’s very irresponsible,” she added. “It’s too early to tell. Oil is still floating around.”
While the Chinese public has not seized on the accident as its own version of the massive BP spill in the United States, warnings over the country’s increasing dependence on oil were clear.
The International Energy Agency said Tuesday that China has overtaken the United States as the world’s largest energy consumer, using the equivalent of 2.252 billion tons of oil last year. China immediately questioned the calculation.
Feisal Omar / Reuters-CorbisMembers of al-Shabaab Islamist rebel group in Mogadishu in January
At first glance, the images of overturned tables and blood-soaked walls seemed to tell a familiar story. The setting—Kampala, the laid-back capital of Uganda, during the World Cup championship last week—was new, but the lesson of the latest global terrorist bombings was by now routine: jihadi groups are ruthless, unpredictable, and prone to metastasize. Chaotic backwaters in the Horn of Africa can spawn threats just as dangerous as those in the Middle East and South Asia. The newest addition to the global most-wanted list: Al-Shabab (“the Youth”), a murderous clique of Somali militants who claimed last week’s bombings as their first act of terrorism outside their own country’s borders.
American policymakers have long been following the growth of Al-Shabab. The State Department designated the group a terrorist organization in 2008, and in recent years U.S. investigators have watched with alarm as a stream of Somali-American youngsters have gone missing, apparently to fight alongside the militants in Mogadishu. Yet a paradox lies at the heart of Al-Shabab’s newfound notoriety. Even as the group’s global profile has risen, the militants are less popular and less effective at home than they’ve ever been. “The local jihad is no longer working in their favor,” says Rashid Abdi of the International Crisis Group. “They have lost the political momentum.” The Uganda attacks, he says, “are probably a sign of desperation.”
The organization wasn’t always so isolated inside Somalia. Its leadership initially emerged from the ranks of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a popular network of local Islamists that tried to restore some measure of order to Somalia after years of warlord rule. The ICU ran schools and other social services, winning the affections of impoverished Somalis. The group’s stature rose further in the eyes of locals in late 2006, when Ethiopian troops, encouraged by the Bush administration, invaded Somalia in an effort to oust the Islamists. Al-Shabab and a number of other fundamentalist factions were hailed by ordinary Somalis as freedom fighters as they battled the invading Ethiopians.
But when the Ethiopian military finally pulled out last year, Al-Shabab’s support waned and Islamist factions began to quarrel among themselves. More moderate elements of the former ICU grew wary of the group’s hardline positions. As Al-Shabab extremists carved out enclaves of control south of Mogadishu, they imposed their own harsh—and wildly unpopular—brand of justice. Adulterers were stoned to death. Other Somalis had their limbs hacked off. Hardline commanders—some of them Arabs and other foreigners—began calling the shots. In December last year, a suicide bomber killed dozens of Somalis at a graduation ceremony for medical and engineering students in Mogadishu, a cynical act of terrorism that infuriated many Somalis.
Top Terrorists at Large. View the photo gallery.
Al-Shabab’s decision to bomb foreign targets was probably taken reluctantly. Somalis depend heavily on more than 1 million expats to send home remittances, which are estimated at roughly $1 billion a year. The militants, too, rely on expats in Africa and elsewhere to funnel money and weapons to Al-Shabab fighters inside the country. Attacks like those in Uganda, which killed more than 70 civilians, are likely to result in xenophobic retaliation against Somalis living abroad, perhaps alienating those people from Al-Shabab’s radical cause. The bombings could also spur Somalia’s neighbors to crack down on Al-Shabab’s supply lines.
But Al-Shabab must have calculated that the potential benefits outweighed the risks. On the surface, last week’s attacks seemed to be an attempt to frighten Ugandans into pulling their peacekeeping troops out of Somalia. (Ugandan soldiers are part of the African Union force that helps protect the transitional government.) But Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia expert at Davidson College, says the opposite may be true. The militants may be aiming to provoke wider international involvement in Somalia that “could inadvertently drive Somalis back into the Shabab’s arms.” In the view of the militants, the “best opportunity to regain popularity locally” may be to “regionalize the conflict,” says Menkhaus.
Pinpoint strikes targeting Al-Shabab’s leadership could be an effective way to hit back. Yet Menkhaus and other analysts believe it’s important for Somalia’s neighbors—and U.S. policymakers—to avoid overreacting. Al-Shabab “will benefit from an indiscriminate response,” says one Western observer with long experience in Somalia who did not want to be named discussing the volatile political situation.
A better approach may be to encourage the transitional government, led by Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, to broaden its support. Ahmed and his backers could use this opportunity to quietly reach out to Al-Shabab’s erstwhile allies among other Somali opposition groups. Many street fighters are just teenagers who could be bought off, and even some old-guard commanders are probably resentful of Al Qaeda–linked foreigners who have become more influential.
Unfortunately, Ahmed is not popular either. He is widely viewed as a stooge of foreign powers, and his government is “deeply incompetent and corrupt,” says Abdi Samatar, a professor at the University of Minnesota. “The Somalis have lost faith in it.” Moreover, the president’s troops control little territory outside his own palace. In this sense, anyway, Somalia’s tragedy is a familiar story after all.
With Mark Hosenball in Washington
Federal policemen and explosive experts work at the site of a car-bomb attack in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on July 16, 2010
Monday, Jul. 19, 2010
After Car Bomb, Mexico Braces for an Even Deadlier Drug War
A 2009 episode of the award-winning TV drama Breaking Bad depicts a scene in Mexico’s bullet-ridden border town of Ciudad Juárez: police are lured to a location to find an informant’s severed head stuck on a turtle, which itself turns out to be a booby trap that explodes, killing and maiming the law enforcers after they approach it. Seasoned correspondents of the real drug war in Mexico thought the sequence was an over-the-top depiction of gang tactics — until last week.
In the real Ciudad Juárez on Thursday, July 15, gangsters kidnapped a man, dressed him in a police uniform, shot him and dumped him bleeding on a downtown street. A cameraman happened to film what happened after federal police and paramedics got close. The video shows medics bent over the dumped man, checking for vital signs. Suddenly a bang rings out, and the image shakes vigorously as the cameraman runs for his life. The gangsters had used a cell phone to detonate 22 lb. of C-4 explosives packed into a nearby car. A minute later, the camera turns back around to reveal the remains of a burning car, smoke over screaming victims and charred corpses. Three people, including a federal police officer, were killed, and several others injured. (See the siege of Ciudad Juárez.)
Mexico’s drug war has become so brutal that nothing seems off-limits to the criminal imagination. It is as if rival cartels are competing for ever more shocking methods of execution. First, killers beheaded two policemen in April 2006. The following September, a gang threw five severed craniums onto a disco dance floor. In 2008, a rival cartel decapitated 12 victims, filmed the craniums and uploaded the video to the Internet. The same year, gangsters threw grenades into a crowd of revelers celebrating Independence Day, killing eight. Now there are the corpse decoy and car bomb. (See how the drug war may become Mexico’s Iraq.)
Mexican officials blamed the Juárez incident on La Linea, a gang that kills and enforces for the local drug-smuggling cartel. The bomb, they say, was reprisal for the arrest of alleged La Linea commander Jesus Acosta, a.k.a. El 35. Federal police had released an interrogation video in which Acosta describes La Linea’s tactics. It was the latest of several videos of captured cartel members describing how they allegedly set up murders and carved limbs and heads off victims. Critics accuse the police of obtaining the videos through torture; they also say the videos fail to provide clear evidence and may serve only to provoke gangsters to retaliate.
“A car bomb on our southern border is a wake-up call to how sophisticated and ruthless these guys have become,” says a U.S. law-enforcement official involved in combating Mexican cartels. “We are dealing with narco-insurgents.” Set off by a cell phone rather than a fuse, the car bomb is called a “command-detonated device,” the official explains, akin to many IEDs used in Iraq. The bomb could have been made from improvised materials bought in stores, although it may have had parts cannibalized from military equipment, he says. (See photos of the drug wars in Culiacán.)
American agents have been concerned for some time about military weapons and explosives falling into the hands of Mexican cartels. A report by the U.S. Bomb Data Center obtained by TIME describes how in February 2009 Mexican gangsters stole a large quantity of explosives and detonators from a site owned by a Texan manufacturer in the Mexican state of Durango. There were 15 to 20 assailants “armed with guns and machine guns, face cover and similar military wear” who overpowered security, the report said. “This incident has the potential for giving rise to further explosives-related incidents in the region.”
Firefights and massacres are now weekly occurrences in Mexico. On Sunday, July 18, gunmen interrupted a late-night party in the city of Torreón, shooting dead 18 people. So far, barely seven months into the year, officials have reported 7,048 drug-related killings, making 2010 likely to top the 9,635 such murders recorded in 2009. But even for Mexicans numbed to the relentless reports of bloodshed, the Ciudad Juárez car bomb sparked shock and fear. While such tactics have long been used in Iraq and Colombia, this was the first effective car-bomb strike against police in Mexico. It has had a terrifying effect on Juárez and the rest of the country, simply because bombs are more likely to kill bystanders uninvolved in the drug wars. In a bad year, the potential for more carnage just got worse.
Gunmen Kill 17, Wound 18 in Mexico Party Massacre
It should have already been abundantly clear that if the Federal government truly has to stand up, take aggressive actions, and ensure our national security. The continued vicious attacks in Mexico, kidnappings in Arizona, violence erupting along the border, continue to emphasize the unambiguous threat Mexican drugs cartels present to our country. President Obama has already demanded the deployment of several thousand National Guard troops to the US-Mexican border. This is a step; but a deficient one at that. Heightened recruitment of border patrol agents, supplementing border patrol with closer to 8,000 National Guard troops, and deploying the highest technology along our border with Mexico are essential from stemming the violence that has overrun Mexico and already began to wreak havoc in the United States.
Gunmen stormed a party in northern Mexico on Sunday and massacred 17 people, authorities said.
PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico — Gunmen stormed a party in northern Mexico on Sunday and massacred 17 people, authorities said.
The gunmen arrived at the party in Torreon in several cars and opened fire without saying a word, the Coahuila state Attorney General’s Office said in statement. At least 18 people were wounded.
Several of the victims were young and some were women, but their identities and ages had not yet been determined.
Investigators had no suspects or information on a possible motive.
Police found more than 120 bullet casings at the scene, most of them from .223 caliber weapons.
Coahuila is among several northern states that has seen a spike in drug-related violence that authorities attribute to a fight between the Gulf cartel and its former enforcers, known as the Zetas.
In May, gunmen killed eight people at a bar in Torreon. Later that month, a television station and the offices of a local newspaper came under fire. A pregnant woman was wounded in the attack on the offices of Noticias de El Sol de la Laguna.
Across northern Mexico, there have been increasing reports of mass shootings at parties, bars and rehab clinics.
In the worst such massacre this year, gunmen raided a drug rehab center in the northern city of Chihuahua and killed 19 people. In January, gunmen barged into a private party in the border city of Ciudad Juarez and killed 15, many of them high school or university students.
Relatives say it was a case of mistaken identity, while state officials claim someone at the party was targeted, although they have not said who it was.
The massacre in Torreon came three days after the first successful car bombing by drug cartels introduced a new threat in Mexico’s raging drug war.
Drug gang members detonated the bomb after luring federal police and paramedics to the scene in Ciudad Juarez by shooting a bound man dressed in police uniform and calling in a false report of a wounded officer. Three people were killed, including a federal officer and a private doctor who had rushed to the scene to help.
Officials say 24,800 people have been killed in drug gang violence since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in December 2006, deploying soldiers and federal police to fight traffickers in their strongholds.
The government attributes much of the rise in violence to infighting among drug gangs whose leadership has been splintered after the arrest of kingpins.
I’m going to strike the next person in the shin that I hear use the word “timetable.” Consider yourself warned.
Of course, if you’re a lady, I will not strike you. Instead, I will merely hand you an untraceable cell phone with Mel Gibson on the other end of the line.
Listen, I’m a liberal. I’m “anti-war”, but I am also practical. Putting timetables on things and demanding our troops return home now it both wholly unreasonable and disturbingly shortsighted. No this isn’t a pride thing about “winning” the war. It’s a matter of ensuring the safety of the world against these animals that HAD couched their hatred against the West but have shown their true colors as anti-anyone-who’s-not-an-Islamist-fundamentalist-savages. Yes, America should seek greater international collaboration to combat terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan, and across the globe. We should not have to, and cannot, do it alone. But, with that said, we cannot pack up and run. For if we do, we will have left two nations with zero chance of order and democracy and left the world a more dangerous place than it was on September 10, 2001.
Anti-al-Qaida Sunni group attacked as they collected their paychecks
BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber targeting army soldiers and members of a government-backed militia lining up to receive their paychecks killed at least 43 people and wounded 46 on Sunday, Iraqi officials said.
Violence has dropped dramatically in Iraq in the past two years, but members of the security forces remain the target of repeated attacks blamed on militants trying to destabilize the country as the United States moves ahead with plans to reduce its forces.
The Sunday morning bombing outside a military base happened as members of the anti-al-Qaida Sunni group, known as Sons of Iraq or Sahwa, lined up to receive paychecks in the mostly Sunni district of Radwaniya southwest of Baghdad.
At least six of the dead were Iraqi soldiers, 34 were Sahwa members and three were accountants, according to hospital and police officials. At least 13 of the wounded were Iraqi Army soldiers, four were accountants and the rest were believed to be Sahwa members, the officials said.
A military official at the base where the attack took place said the explosion was the work of one suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The area was immediately closed off, and Iraqi helicopters could be seen flying over the site.
The Sahwa fighters have played a key role in the reduction of violence in Iraq since they first rose up against their former al-Qaida allies in late 2006, joining the U.S. military and government forces in the fight against the terror group.
More than four months after an inconclusive parliamentary election in March, Iraq has no government as politicians bicker over who will lead it. The impasse has raised fears that militants will exploit the political vacuum to re-ignite sectarian violence that brought Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007.
The attacks against the security forces and the Sahwa are especially worrying because they come at a time when the number of U.S. troops in Iraq is dropping and Iraq’s nascent security forces are taking over security in the country. All U.S. combat units are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of next month and the last American soldier by the end of next year.
Sunday’s bombing was the deadliest against Iraq’s security forces in months.
Insurgents have used an array of attacks to intimidate and kill security forces, such as drive-by shootings, bombs attached to the undercarriage of vehicles and bombing houses where security forces live.
But Sunday’s attack was more reminiscent of the type insurgents used to discourage people from joining the security forces.
- NEW: Crews are trying to reach a second car that may have two people inside
- It is unclear whether authorities knew the trapped person’s identity or condition
- State, county and city workers are working cautiously to avoid secondary collapses
CNN’s Rick Martin contributed to this report.
(CNN) — Rescuers scrambled early Saturday to reach a person trapped in a car in the rubble of a collapsed New Jersey parking garage, nearly a day after the structure crumbled, authorities said.
Search-and-rescue crews were also trying to reach a second vehicle that may have one or two people inside, CNNRadio affiliate 1010 WINS-AM reported from the scene in Hackensack, New Jersey.
Surveillance cameras showed both cars were moving at the time of the collapse, reporter Steve Sandberg said.
Crews have been able to snake a camera through the rubble to the first car but the severity of that person’s injuries and their identity was still unclear, he said.
That car is caught in rubble one floor below what would have been the top level of the garage, Lt. Stephen Lindner of the Hackensack Fire Department told reporters Friday.
Search teams have not been able to reach the second car with a camera, Sandberg said.
The garage collapsed shortly before 11 a.m. Friday. Lindner said three stories of the underground parking structure “pancaked,” one on top of the next.
State, county, and city workers were working cautiously to avoid secondary collapses. They are digging by hand, at times allowing heavy equipment to remove larger pieces of debris, Sandberg said.
Engineers were assessing the structural integrity of the apartments near the parking structure. Those living in the apartment building adjacent to the garage were not allowed to stay there Friday night, Lindner said.
The apartment buildings house mostly senior citizens, Sandberg said, so there is added concern about the condition of those trapped.
Chris Baldo, who lives on the first floor of the building, said the collapse felt like an earthquake. He said he could see the entire collapse from his balcony, adding that his first-floor apartment “looked like it was the fourth floor” by the time the dust settled.
Officials warn the air is unsafe because of chemical fumes
BEIJING — An oil pipeline at a busy Chinese port exploded, causing a massive fire that burned for 15 hours before being put out Saturday.
State-run media said the pipeline blew up Friday evening and more than 2,000 firefighters worked overnight to control flames and further blasts on a second pipeline.
China Central Television showed flames raging among tanks at the port in the northern city of Dalian, and state media described flames of about 100 feet high.
The cause of the initial blast was not clear. The Xinhua News Agency said it happened after a tanker uploaded oil at the port. It said the tanker left safely.
A spokesman with the city’s firefighting brigade said sporadic sparks could still be seen at the site Saturday morning, Xinhua reported. China National Radio said officials were considering the evacuation of about 600 homes nearby, but no-one was reported killed.
Dalian’s secretary general Xu Guochen told a news conference Saturday morning that firefighters had turned off valves on all oil tanks at the site.
Xu said the flames gave off gas containing sulfur and aromatic hydrocarbon that were not fatally toxic, Xinhua reported. Xu did not take questions.
Environmental protection officials told China National Radio that the scene remained unsafe because of chemicals in the air.
The pipelines are owned by China National Petroleum Corp., which is Asia’s biggest oil and gas producer by volume.
The state-owned company did not immediately comment. Phones at its Beijing headquarters rang unanswered, and while the company website showed updates Saturday, there was no mention of the fire.
Telephones at the offices of the Dalian city government, the city’s Communist Party propaganda department and the city firefighting team rang unanswered.
Racists ignorantly point fingers at the “different”
Because of misplaced fury and frustration
I am going to keep this as simple and to the point as I can. I understand some who may read this, like the clown who made a racist remark denigrating black people in a prior post, may be unable to follow. I will make ten (10) points, and you can direct your cross burning my way if you wish.
Here I go again… Pissing off another group of people…
Slide your hood up so you can see, take these notes, study them, and gain some necessary knowledge:
All the best,
-Evan B. Trowbridge