Thursday, December 14, 2017

Islamic State threatens U.S. attacks over Jerusalem decision

CAIRO (Reuters) - Islamic State threatened attacks on U.S. soil in retaliation for the Trump administration's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, one of the group's social media accounts reported on Thursday without giving any details.

In a message on one of its accounts on the Telegram instant messaging service titled "Wait for us" and "ISIS in Manhattan", the group said it would carry out operations and showed images of New York's Times Square and what appeared to be an explosive bomb belt and detonator.

"We will do more ops in your land, until the final hour and we will burn you with the flames of war which you started in Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria and Afghan. Just you wait," it said.

"The recognition of your dog 'Trump' (sic) Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will make us recognize explosives as the capital of your country."

Washington triggered widespread anger and protests across the Arab world with its decision on Jerusalem. The disputed city is revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, and is home to Islam's third holiest site. It has been at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades.

Islamic State was driven out of its Iraqi and Syrian capitals this year and squeezed into a shrinking pocket of desert straddling the border between the two countries.

The forces fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria now expect a new phase of guerrilla warfare there. Militants including people claiming allegiance to Islamic State have carried out scores of deadly attacks in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the United States over the past two years.

Kim Jong-Un’s death squads ‘executed second most powerful man in North Korea

A TOP aide of Kim Jong-un, once described as the "second-most powerful man in North Korea", has disappeared from public life, sparking speculation he may have been executed by death squads.

General Hwang Pyong-so once held the most senior military position in the hermit state as a Vice-Marshall after the supreme leader.

But now he has been expelled from the party for "taking bribes" and not been seen since October.
His deputy Kim Wong-hong is said to have been banished to a prison camp.

The South Korean JoongAng Ilbo reported: “If Hwang was indeed kicked out of the Workers’ Party, it would practically mean the end of his political career, and possibly his life, though it is unknown whether or not he is still alive."

Last week Kim visited Korea’s most mystical mountain, Mount Paektu – something he typically does before ordering the death of his top brass.

He was also there in April 2015, just before executing former defence chief Hyon Yong-chol, and in November 2013, before disposing of his own uncle Jang Song-thaek among other top officials.

“Kim Jong-Un is following in his father’s footsteps in visiting the mountain at times of important decisions regarding the state,” a South Korean government insider said to Korea Joongang Daily.

South Korean spooks believe Hwang's demise was orchestrated by another of Kim's trusted advisers Choe Ryong Hae.

Hwang has been accused of having an "impure attitude" towards the ruling party, amid allegations of bribery.

Both Hwang and Choe came to South Korea during the Asian Games in 2014 - the highest such visit by North Korean officials to their rival neighbours.

Michael Madden, an expert on North Korean at Washington-based 38 North, said Kim Jong-un has not shied away from punishing leaders who could threaten his grip on power.

"Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong-so could not have continued in the capacity that he was operating in, without it coming back to bite him," he said.

Choe was subjected to political "reeducation" himself two years ago.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Japan air force drills with U.S. bombers, stealth fighters near Korean peninsula

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese F-15 fighters on Tuesday held drills with U.S. B1-B bombers, F-35 stealth aircraft and F-18 multirole combat jets above the East China Sea, south of the Korean peninsula, Japan’s Air Self Defence Force (ASDF) said.

The exercise was the largest in a series aimed at pressuring North Korea following its ballistic missile tests. The latest launch, on Nov. 29, featured a new missile type the North said could hit targets in the United States, such as Washington D.C.

“The drill was meant to bolster joint operations and raise combat skills,” the ASDF said in a statement.

Two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flew from Andersen Air Force Base on the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam, joined by six F-35s four F-18s and a tanker aircraft from U.S. bases in Japan.

The Japanese air force dispatched four F-15 jet fighters and a patrol aircraft.

North Korean defector describes forced abortion, said bodies fed to dogs in prison

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley held a meeting on the human rights situation in North Korea where one defector spoke about how she was forced to have an abortion following her repatriation from China.

The woman, Ji Hyeon-A, describes a harrowing scene of prison dogs eating dead bodies at her prison camp. She pleaded for the world to act.

The event was titled “The Terrifying experience of forcibly Repatriated North Korean women,” and was sponsored by the U.S. France, Japan, South Korea, Canada and the U.K.

Ji Hyeon-A was repatriated three times to North Korea after she was caught in China. She finally escaped to South Korea and spoke of her horrifying experiences.

She described how North Korean women who got pregnant in China were forced to have abortions.
“Pregnant women were forced into harsh labor all day,” she said. “At night, we heard pregnant mothers screaming and babies died without ever being able to see their mothers.”

North Korea does not allow for mixed-race babies, she said. At one detention center, she described how inmates starved to death. Their dead bodies, she said, were given to the guard dogs for food.

The third time Ji Hyeon-A got caught and sent back to North Korea she was three months pregnant. She tearfully described how she was forced to have an abortion without medication at a local police station.

“My first child passed away without ever seeing the world,” she said, “without any time for me to apologize.”

She finally reached South Korea in 2007 and has since been reunited with her mother, brother and her younger sister. She still has not heard news of her father.

Ji-Hyeon-A said that the North Korean soldier who recently escaped to South Korea “represents a dash toward freedom which is a dream of 25 million North Koreans.”

She said North Korea was “a terrifying prison and the Kim’s are carrying out a vast massacre and it takes a miracle to survive there.”

She criticized the Chinese government for sending North Koreans back to the regime, and urged the Chinese government to stop repatriating people back to the Hermit Kingdom, saying they know what will happen to them when they get there.

Ji-Hyeon-A urged the U.N. and world leaders to fight for North Korean defectors and especially those who are repatriated.

She recited a poem called “Is anyone there?” from a collection of poems she wrote.

“I am scared, is anyone there? I’m here in hell, is anyone there? I scream and yell but no one opens the door. Is anyone there? Please listen to our moans and listen to our pain. Is anyone there? People are dying, my friend is dying. I call out again and again but why don’t you answer. Is anyone there?

Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, Matthew Rycroft, praised Ji-Hyeon-A for speaking at the event, and said the crimes discussed, which included, “forced abortions, summary executions, hard labor, rape: those are conditions that amount to crimes against humanity,” he said.

Earlier in the day China had tried to stop a Security Council meeting convened by Japan on the human rights situation in North Korea. China only had the support of Russia and Bolivia and failed in its attempt to stop it from moving forward.

At the Security Council meeting, Haley said the full story of the North Korean people needed to be told.

“The regime is using that power to develop an unnecessary arsenal and support enormous conventional military forces that pose a grave risk to international peace and security,” she said. “Their menacing march towards nuclear weapons begins with the oppression and exploitation of ordinary North Korean people.”

Haley said the situation was made possible “through the export of workers abroad to earn hard currency and the use of forced labor at home, the regime uses its people to underwrite its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”

She said the Kim regime has imprisoned an estimated 100,000 people.

“The North Korean regime's system of guilt-by-association,” she said, “allows for up to three generations of family members to be imprisoned along with the accused.”

Here’s how to shut down the internet: Snip undersea fiber-optic cables

Hundreds of thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable lay on the ocean floors, a crucial part of the global internet’s backbone, and only rarely do ship anchors, undersea landslides or saboteurs disrupt them.

Still, a few voices now call for stronger global mechanisms and even military action to protect the cables against future malicious activity by states, saboteurs or extremists.

“The infrastructure that underpins the internet – these undersea cables – are clearly vulnerable,” said Rishi Sunak, a British member of Parliament and champion of more vigorous action to protect submarine networks. “They underpin pretty much everything that we do.”

Read more here:
Undersea cables conduct nearly 97 percent of all global communications, and every day an estimated $10 trillion in financial transfers and vast amounts of data pass through the seabed routes. Satellites, once crucial but now limited in speed and bandwidth, handle only a tiny percentage of global communications.

As reliance on the underwater cables soars, a growing list of countries – and even companies – have the expertise to deploy unmanned vehicles to ocean depths to access them.

“Nowadays, there are a lot of countries and companies that have the ability to send vehicles down to the sea floor and have them manipulate, install or take away undersea cables,” said Bryan Clark, a retired naval submariner and former Navy strategist who is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington think tank.

The optical strands inside the cables have extraordinary capacity to transmit data, millions of phone calls per fiber. The cables that house bundled fiber optics are no thicker than a human wrist.

Failures along cable routes are rare, numbering on average barely 200 a year along the estimated 650,000 miles of active international commercial cables laid along sea beds.

“It’s still vanishingly small when the amount of cable around the globe is considered,” said Keith Schofield, general manager of the International Cable Protection Committee, which has its headquarters in Lymington, England.

There are 428 known commercial fiber-optic cable routes worldwide. Many cables are laid parallel along heavily trafficked routes, like the U.S. to Britain, or through the Mediterranean and Red Sea toward India and the rest of Asia, and come ashore together. Florida has about 10 landing points for the two dozen or so cables that come ashore there.

Most problems occur close to landfall, not in the open ocean, and the majority involve nets from trawlers or damage by anchors, Schofield said.

But in recent years, a few incidents have drawn attention to sabotage and espionage.

In October 2015, U.S. authorities scrambled to monitor Russian submarine patrols and a high-tech Russian surface ship, the Yantar, in a corridor of the North Atlantic that hosts a cluster of undersea cables. The Yantar carried deep-sea submersibles and cable-cutting gear.

Read more here:
In an earlier incident, Egypt said in March 2013 that it had arrested three scuba divers who had tried to cut an undersea fiber optic cable in the Mediterranean off Alexandria that was a vital communications link between Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Egypt never explained who the three saboteurs worked for.

At one time, only the United States and the Soviet Union, now Russia, deployed submarines able to reach deep depths to manipulate fiber-optic cables. But deep-sea remotely powered vehicles are now widely available, putting the technology in more hands.

Read more here:
“All you need to do is give them a claw and sharp jaws and tell them to go down and clip the cable,” said Jim Hayes, president of the Fiber Optic Association, a nonprofit professional society based in Santa Monica, California.

Hayes said far simpler means can be found for those intent on damaging the cables, especially near the congested points where they make landfall.

“If you drag an anchor and start pulling with enough force, you can bend and kink the cable … and snap the fiber,” Hayes said.

Since the first submarine telegraphic cable was laid across the Atlantic in 1858, undersea cables have mostly been in private hands, left alone by governments and global bodies.

Read more here:

Iran Guards Commander Says Ready to Back Palestinian Forces

Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani says his nation is ready to support Palestinian forces in the Gaza Strip, days after the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Soleimani, commander of the Al Quds force, made the offer in a phone call late Monday with leaders of groups in Gaza, according to the Revolutionary Guard Corps’ website, Sepah News, which didn’t give details of the assistance proffered. Other forces in the region are ready to defend the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Soleimani also told the Gaza faction leaders, without identifying them. The mosque is Islam’s third-holiest shrine and a frequent flashpoint for tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinians claim Jerusalem’s eastern sector, where the mosque stands, as the capital of a future state, and they oppose the U.S. move. Hamas has called for another uprising against Israel in response, though so far protests have been limited.

Soleimani spoke a day after the head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, called on all “resistance” groups in the region to come up with a unified strategy to take back Jerusalem. Iran’s Quds force operates beyond the country’s borders and has fought Islamic State in Iraq and backed President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Iran also supports proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas that have warred with Israel.

In announcing his decision, Trump said the move would promote Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. Robert Gates, a U.S. defense secretary in the administrations of former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, disagreed.

Trump’s decision is “counter-productive to the administration’s own objectives,” Gates told Bloomberg News.

“There was a sense this administration really thought it had a shot at making some real progress,” he said in an interview in Dubai. This announcement “makes it much tougher to try and get any kind of political progress” between Israel and the Palestinians.

Gates concurred with European and Arab leaders who say it is liable to fuel more conflict in the Middle East. The international community doesn’t recognize Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, whose eastern sector Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

ISIS Makes New Threats Against New York City

ISIS supporters online linked today's Port Authority Bus Terminal explosion in New York to last week's administration recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in a new propaganda poster.
The poster also revives ISIS backers' holiday threats against Times Square, showing a hand holding an explosive device photoshopped over an image of the busy Broadway block.

"The recognition of your dog 'Trump' Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, will make us recognize explosives as the capital of your country," the message on the poster said.

ISIS supporters also cheered news of the attack on their Telegram channels.

ISIS' official Amaq news agency had not yet issued any claim for the attack, in which three commuters suffered minor injuries as a bomber partially detonated his explosives. Police arrested Akayed Ullah, a 27-year-old Bangladesh native and legal permanent resident who lives in Brooklyn, as he allegedly tried to set off the rest of a bomb attached to his body with Velcro and zip ties. Ullah, a former for-hire driver, suffered burns to his abdomen.

"Preliminary investigation at the scene indicates this male was wearing an improvised, low-tech explosive device attached to his body," NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said, refusing to elaborate on statements Ullah reportedly made to police indicating inspiration from ISIS. Police told CNN that Ullah said he was exacting revenge for the "incursion into Gaza."

In the past, ISIS has been critical of terrorists who got captured instead of dying or escaping from the scene, including Manhattan Halloween terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov. ISIS has also had difficultly containing their disappointment when their lone operatives don't kill anyone, such as last year's Ohio State ram-and-stab by Abdul Razak Ali Artan.

Terror groups, from well-known outlets to more obscure militant organizations, pounced on President Trump's decision to eventually move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, calling on supporters to wage jihad wherever they are in defense of the al-Aqsa Mosque.

Declaring "kiss our jihad" to "Zionist criminals" including the United States, al-Qaeda's branch in Lebanon said all Muslims should stand in armed resistance and "not accept compromise," adding "the nation of Islam has no choice but to liberate its land from the American-backed Israeli occupation" using "jihad with teeth" and "no iron except iron."

In a statement issued in Arabic and English, al-Qaeda's general command vowed that "America and those who live in America shall never even dream of peace until we experience it as a reality in Palestine."

The Pakistani Taliban declared in a statement that "this message is becoming clearer with each passing day like rising sun as all non-believers of the world became one against Islam and Muslims and attacking Muslims on the ground all over the world... we call on Muslims all over the world that they sympathise with Palestinian people and stand with them against non-believers."

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb called for "cleansing" the "abomination of the Jews" and called on Muslims "to support their brothers each according to his position and ability." Al-Mourabitoun in Africa called for "soldiers of God" to mobilize, while Al-Shabaab urged Muslims to financially support jihad.

New Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement today that DHS "is taking appropriate action to protect our people and our country in the wake of today’s attempted terrorist attack in New York City."

"We will continue to assist New York authorities with the response and investigation and we urge the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity," Nielsen said. "More broadly, the administration continues to adopt significant security measures to keep terrorists from entering our country and from recruiting within our borders. The enemy we face is persistent and adaptive. But they should know this: Americans will not be coerced by terrorism, and we will not allow it to become the new normal. We will fight back aggressively and bring terrorists to justice.”