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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

'Hoax Devices' Found At Several Boston Locations

BOSTON -- Four "hoax devices" were found at several Boston locations Wednesday, hours after officials detonated a suspicious package on an elevated structure above the Sullivan Square Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority station.

The additional packages were found at the Boston University Bridge, the Longfellow Bridge and near the intersection of Stuart and Columbus streets. A device described by officials as a pipe bomb was found in the basement of the Tufts New England Medical Center at 185 Harrison Ave.

A spokesman for the Boston Police Department said that all of the packages appeared to be similar.
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"Our device was not an active device. We are still treating the area as a crime scene. There were no injuries. Everyone was evacuated properly, and everyone now back to their locations," Tufts New England Medical Center's Brooke Hynes said.

Mayor Tom Menino said that all of the packages found posed no danger, but the incidents remained under investigation. Storrow Drive eastbound was shut down for a brief time, and the MBTA suspended service on the Red Line and planned to bus afternoon commuters between Kendall and Park Street stations.

Earlier Wednesday, the state police bomb squad was called and detonated the package in Sullivan Square just before 10 a.m. Officials said it contained an electronic circuit board with some components that were "consistent with an improvised explosive device," but they said it had no explosives. They determined that the device was not dangerous, but destroyed it as a precaution.

"We determined that this device, in particular, was not explosive," said MBTA Lt. Sal Venturelli.

He said MBTA police were told about the package by a transit passenger who spotted it on a column that supports Interstate 93. The parcel was located on an elevated structure above the bus way and below I-93 in the Charlestown section of Boston at about 8 a.m.

"This is a perfect example of our passengers taking part in Homeland Security," Venturelli said.

An investigation will be conducted into how the package got there and when, he said.

Train service on the Orange Line between Sullivan Square and Wellington stations was suspended in both directions. No injuries were reported.

The northbound side of I-93 was closed, causing significant traffic backups. Motorists were not allowed to access the highway near Sullivan Square coming up from the south.

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Terror Inquiry Turns to Tax Law


The Justice Department is investigating possible criminal tax-law violations by a Boston private-equity firm that manages hundreds of millions of dollars for Muslim investors in Europe and the Middle East and is affiliated with a Swiss investment group U.S. authorities suspect of financing Islamic extremists.

Federal prosecutors disclosed a grand-jury probe of Overland Capital Group Inc. in filings last week with U.S. District Court in Boston. While the Boston grand jury is examining suspected tax evasion related to complex investment structures, the case is being handled by a prosecutor from the Justice Department's counterterrorism division, the filing states.

In the years since the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. counterterrorism agencies have been stymied in several attempts to bring terrorism cases against wealthy individuals from the Middle East. Some prosecutors have pushed the government to use tax laws as a more effective approach, a method famously employed against gangster Al Capone in 1931.

Overland, which doesn't disclose its ownership, says on its Web site that it has made more than $1.5 billion in U.S. investments for its clients, largely in real estate, since its founding in October 2001.

Legal records say Overland is controlled by a Geneva-based financial group known as Dar Al-Maal Al-Islami Trust, which was founded by a senior member of the royal family of Saudi Arabia. The U.S. government is treating the companies as related: The Justice Department is examining "acts and practices" of Overland and a DMI subsidiary "that implicate potential violation of the Internal Revenue Code," the filing states.

DMI is the hub of a network of banks and investment funds across Europe and the Middle East that cater to Muslims interested in strictly following Quranic principles, such as a ban on collecting interest. Some DMI affiliates came under scrutiny by U.S. counterterrorism agencies in the mid-1990s for suspected connections to extremists, government records show.

In general, the U.S. and other Western governments are investigating whether terrorist groups are able to move money with help from sympathizers in the Islamic-banking movement. Intelligence and law-enforcement officials say they are concerned the industry's often-opaque practices lend themselves to money laundering and other financial crimes.

DMI officials have said the company has no involvement with terrorists or extremists. "We have never had any relationship with these kinds of people," said Mouaouia Mokhtari, DMI's director of corporate affairs. None of DMI's officials have ever been charged with terror-related offenses.

Overland Chief Executive James Godec didn't respond to requests for comment. An Overland spokesman had no comment.

While Mr. Mokhtari said there is no relationship between DMI and Overland, he said, "DMI has sister companies, and those sister companies have retained Overland occasionally as investment advisers."

DMI and Overland are partners in a joint venture in Bahrain, and numerous corporate filings in the U.S. name DMI's chief executive as the president of various Overland-backed investment ventures.

Corporate and bank records show Overland has borrowed large sums from a DMI subsidiary, the Bahamas-registered Islamic Investment Co. of the Gulf Ltd. Legal records also describe DMI as an indirect 60% shareholder in Overland. Two former Overland employees also claim in a civil lawsuit that Overland is owned or controlled by DMI.

Overland identifies potential real-estate investments in the U.S., such as luxury condominiums and apartments, according to its Web site. Its investments include a stake in 30 rental units atop the Four Seasons Hotel in Houston. It then arranges for its clients to participate in these deals.

The nature of the tax inquiry isn't explained in the government's filings. But Overland's foreign backers have structured many of their U.S. investments through a network of shell companies in offshore tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, according to corporate and legal records.

Using such offshore companies, investors can structure their U.S. investments as loans instead of equity. That offers potential tax benefits because interest income to foreign investors is taxed far more lightly than profits from an equity investment. Such arrangements are legal, but only if they aren't primarily intended to circumvent Internal Revenue Service rules.

Dar Al-Maal Al-Islami (Arabic for "Islamic House of Finance") was founded in the early 1980s by Saudi Prince Mohammed Al-Faisal Al-Saud, a pioneer in so-called Islamic banking. Senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an international fundamentalist group, have held positions at various DMI affiliates, according to corporate records.

The Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in the 1920s, is the ideological inspiration for the terrorist groups al Qaeda and Hamas, but it now says it has renounced violence.

A DMI affiliate called Faisal Private Bank (Switzerland) SA, formerly known as Faisal Finance, has been named in two major terrorism probes. In one of these, the Justice Department alleges that Faisal Finance wired $665,000 to the account of a top Hamas leader, Mousa Abu Marzouk. (The source of those funds hasn't been disclosed.)

In the same prosecution, the Justice Department alleges that in 1993, a Saudi businessman used Faisal Finance to transfer $30,000 to an alleged Hamas leader in Chicago named Muhammad Salah, who is currently on trial in Chicago on terrorism-related conspiracy charges. The same Saudi businessman, Yassin Qadi, also used Faisal Finance for a $1.25 million transfer to an alleged al Qaeda front company in 1998, according to legal and bank records.

Faisal Finance hasn't been charged with any crimes, but shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Qadi was named a "Specially Designated Terrorist" by the Treasury Department for alleged support of al Qaeda. Mr. Qadi has denied financing terrorists. Another Faisal Finance client, al Qaeda leader Mamduh Mahmud Salim, was convicted of conspiring to kill American citizens and is now in federal prison.

DMI and Faisal Finance are defendants in civil litigation in the southern district of New York brought by families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, who claim they funded al Qaeda. The firms have denied any involvement with terrorism.

A copy of the Justice Department filing was made available to The Wall Street Journal by Geoffrey Harper, a lawyer for a former Overland employee, Laird Fairchild. Mr. Harper said his client has provided information to the grand jury. Mr. Fairchild and another former Overland employee are in a legal dispute with Overland and DMI, claiming wrongful dismissal.


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U.S. Judge okays terror victims' lawsuit against Arab Bank

A Federal Court Judge in Brooklyn on Tuesday approved a lawsuit filed by victims of terror against the Arab Bank for alleged business links with terrorist organizations.

Judge Nina Gershon accepted the feasibility of the joint claim filed by 1,600 people living in Israel, the U.S. and other countries who were hurt in terrorist attacks orchestrated by some of the bank's clients.

In their lawsuit, complainants claimed the Arab Bank's Manhattan branch was used to channel funds to Hamas and other Palestinian militants.

Gershon rejected the bank's claim that it had done no harm by providing banking services to Hamas, citing a 1995 U.S. ruling which classified Hamas as a terrorist organization.

The Arab Bank is owned by Jordanian and Saudi interest groups. Its headquarters are in Amman, Jordan and it operates some 400 branches in 25 countries around the world.

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US strike group transits Suez Canal

A US Navy strike group led by the assault ship USS Bataan steamed through the Suez Canal on Tuesday on its way to join the buildup of American forces in the Middle East.

The Bataan, which entered Egyptian waters Monday, spent the night at the Mediterranean harbor of Port Said and was expected to leave the Egyptian part of the Red Sea later Tuesday, a Suez Canal official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The seven-vessel Bataan group includes 2,200 US Marines and sailors, helicopters and Harrier fighter jets, the Navy said in Bahrain.

The US Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, will be overseeing around 50 warships in the Mideast after the arrival of the Bataan and an American aircraft carrier group in February, said US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Brown.

The Fifth Fleet normally commands a fleet of about 45 ships, about a third of them from US-allied navies, Brown said.

The Navy is in the midst of a regional buildup, with the group of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis on its way as well as 21,500 US soldiers being sent to Iraq. The carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is already in the region.

The United States has not had two carriers in the Mideast since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Bataan will join a second amphibious assault ship, the USS Boxer, which was on port visit in Dubai on Tuesday.

Brown said the Pentagon recently extended the tour of duty of the Boxer's US Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is in Iraq.

The Bataan is on a routine six-month deployment to the region to conduct "maritime security operations" which includes boarding and searching ships suspected of carrying terrorists or nuclear components to Iran, the Navy said.


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Putin tells Russia security service to battle racism

President Vladimir Putin told Russia's main spy agency on Wednesday to halt the spread of extremism and racism in Russia ahead of this year's elections.

"It is not only important to ensure the rule of law and order, but also to safeguard society from attempts to inject extremist and racist ideas", Putin told senior officials of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in a speech. (Reuters)

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London, 31 Jan. (AKI) - Police arrested eight people in dawn raids on Wednesday in Birmingham, central England, in a nationwide counter-terrorism operation. The suspects were reportedly arrested under the Terrorism Act on "suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism." The operation was led by the Midlands counter-terrorism unit, supported by the Met police and West Midlands Police. A number of houses in Birmingham were being searched by police after the raids, reports said.

Britain is on its second-highest threat level - severe - which means security forces believe a terror attack is highly likely.

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Ukraine Denies Reports Of Missile Cooperation With US

Kiev: Ukraine's defense minister did not discuss possible cooperation with the United States in missile technologies and anti-missile defense systems, the ministry said Tuesday. Some media sources published statements earlier made by Sergei Markov, the director of Moscow's Political Research Institute, saying Ukraine's defense minister had approached the United States to discuss possible missile cooperation.

"The statement does not correspond to reality," the ministry said. "There were no statements on behalf of Defense Minister Anatoly Hrytsenko on initiatives for cooperation between Ukraine and the United States in the sphere of missile technologies and anti missile defense systems."

Ukraine's prime minister, speaking at a news conference in the Western Ukrainian city of Lviv, said the United States had never proposed that Ukraine deploy an anti-missile defense system on its territory.

"I haven't heard of such an issue. As far as I know, it doesn't exist," Viktor Yanukovych said.

Washington officially proposed placing a radar network in the Czech Republic two weeks ago, and announced plans last week to start formal talks with Poland on the deployment of anti-ballistic missile systems on its territory.

Moscow has strongly opposed the deployment of an anti-missile shield in its former backyard in Central Europe, describing the plans as a threat to Russia's national security.

The U.S. has repeatedly argued that defenses in Europe could intercept possible intercontinental ballistic missiles from 'rogue' regimes, such as Iran and North Korea.

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Iran involvement suspected in Karbala compound attack

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Pentagon is investigating whether a recent attack on a military compound in Karbala was carried out by Iranians or Iranian-trained operatives, two officials from separate U.S. government agencies said.

"People are looking at it seriously," one of the officials said.

That official added the Iranian connection was a leading theory in the investigation into the January 20 attack that killed five soldiers.

The second official said: "We believe it's possible the executors of the attack were Iranian or Iranian-trained."

Five U.S. soldiers were abducted and killed in the sophisticated attack by men wearing U.S.-style uniforms, according to U.S. military reports. (Watch how attackers got into the compound Video)

Both officials stressed the Iranian-involvement theory is a preliminary view, and there is no final conclusion. They agreed this possibility is being looked at because of the sophistication of the attack and the level of coordination.

"This was beyond what we have seen militias or foreign fighters do," the second official said.

The investigation has led some officials to conclude the attack was an "inside job" -- that people inside the compound helped the attackers enter unstopped.

Investigators are looking particularly at how the attackers got U.S.-style military uniforms and SUVs similar to those used by U.S. troops. (Watch what could happen if the U.S. opts to strike Iran Video)

"'Who was behind it all?' was the fundamental question," the first official said.

The U.S. military on Friday confirmed accounts that the soldiers had been abducted and driven away from their compound. The military had said in a January 20 press release only that "five U.S. soldiers were killed and three wounded while repelling the attack."

Some Iraqis speculate that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps carried out the attack in retaliation for the capture by U.S. forces of five of its members in Irbil, Iraq, on January 11, according to a Time.com article published Tuesday. (Read the articleexternal link)

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has a reputation for taking harsh and unrelenting revenge on its enemies, the Time.com article says.

The five Iranians are still in U.S. custody.

The U.S.-led coalition has said a preliminary investigation found links between the detainees and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which has provided funds, weapons, bomb technology and training to extremist groups in Iraq.

The Bush administration has authorized U.S. forces to kill or capture Iranian agents plotting attacks in Iraq, a U.S. national security official said Friday.

"If Iran escalates its military actions in Iraq to the detriment of our troops and/or innocent Iraqi people, we will respond firmly," Bush said Monday in an interview with National Public Radio.

During a hearing Tuesday, some U.S. senators expressed concern over the Bush administration's position against directly engaging Iran and Syria diplomatically in an effort to reduce violence in Iraq, contrary to recommendations issued in December by the Iraq Study Group.

"What I think many of us are concerned about is that we stumble into active hostilities with Iran without having aggressively pursued diplomatic approaches," Democratic Sen. Barack Obama said. (Full story)
Violence targets Shiite pilgrims

Meanwhile Tuesday, a string of attacks on Shiite pilgrims in Iraq and a mortar strike on a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad killed at least 48 people and wounded more than 100.

The violence comes on the final day of Ashura, when Shiite Muslims mark the seventh-century martyrdom of the Imam Hussein, the Prophet Mohammed's grandson. (Watch why rising Shiite power raises concerns Video)

People filled the streets of Karbala, the Shiite holy city south of Baghdad, to commemorate Ashura.

The violence was farther north in Baghdad and Diyala province.

Two major attacks occurred Tuesday in Diyala, a religiously and ethnically mixed province northeast of Baghdad.

In Balad Ruz, about 50 miles northeast of Baghdad, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the main gate of the Ali al-Akbar mosque, killing at least 19 people and wounding 54, said police in Baquba, the provincial capital.

In Khanaqin, about 100 miles northeast of Baghdad, a roadside bomb exploded among a group of Shiite pilgrims. At least 11 were killed and 33 wounded, police said.

As many as 1.5 million Shiite pilgrims who couldn't get to Karbala for the holy day trekked instead to Baghdad's Kadhimiya district, site of the Musa al-Kadhim shrine.

In southwestern Baghdad's Amil neighborhood, two cars filled with gunmen opened fire around midday on a minibus of pilgrims believed headed to Kadhimiya. Seven people were killed and seven wounded, according to the Interior Ministry.

Also, nine people were wounded in a mortar attack in the district, police said.

Earlier, a mortar round hit a Shiite mosque in northern Baghdad, killing one person and wounding two.

The U.S. military late Tuesday said U.S. aircraft shot at an insurgent mortar team firing in the direction of the Musa al-Kadhim shrine at midafternoon. It was not known whether there were casualties.

Later in the day, 10 people were killed and 16 wounded when 10 mortar rounds were fired at the Adhamiya district, a Sunni neighborhood in northern Baghdad, police said.

The bodies of eight people thought to be victims of sectarian violence were found throughout Baghdad on Tuesday.
Other developments

# In Sukariya in Salaheddin province, police seized 59 people in anti-terror raids, including three senior leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq and a Libyan, a provincial security official told CNN. He added that two suspected insurgents and a police officer were killed in the raids.

# Iraq is at a "precarious juncture" after nearly four years of war, outgoing intelligence director John Negroponte said Tuesday. Negroponte, nominated to become deputy secretary of state, said a long-awaited national intelligence estimate on Iraq will be sent to Congress by Monday. And Adm. William Fallon, Bush's pick to lead U.S. forces in the Middle East, warned that "time is short" to reverse the course of the Iraq war. (Full story)

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Cairo, 30 Jan. (AKI) - Egyptian media magnate Naguib Sawiris has launched a satellite television network for youths called 'O tv' to start broadcasting on Wednesday. "It will be a television for young people, without religious or loud content," Sawiris was quoted as saying on Tuesday in the independent daily Al Masri Al Yom. "Egypt's presence on the satellite platform consists of three or four channels maximum so I thought I could fill this gap with a company which I hope will show good results soon," he said.

The network will broadcast entertainment and music programmes on Egypt.

"We want to report on the good and bad qualities of Egyptian society but without being vulgar nor superficial. The aim is to attract the public's attention onto itself and to make people reflect on who they are," he said.

The promotional campaign of the network broadcast on the 'O tv' channel, whose red logo is similar to that of mobile phone provider Vodafone of which Sawiris holds the rights in Egypt, consists of footage in which men and women are interviewed on the habits and tastes of Egyptians.

"Recently, television in Egypt has enjoyed more freedom and, though it's not enough, it's better than nothing," Sawiris said.

If 'O tv' proves to be successful, the local media reported that the network also plans to launch a music, cultural and cinema channel. Some reports also mentioned that a 24-hour news channel could be launched by the media magnate soon.

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Islamabad, 30 Jan. (AKI/DAWN) - The detained former official of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and activist with the Coordinator Defence of Human Rights Council (DHRC), Khalid Khawaja, has said that he was a victim of state terrorism, as he was booked under baseless charges. The former close aide of Osama bin Laden was picked up by police on Friday on charges of inciting people against the government. His family said on Friday that they did not know about his whereabouts. On Saturday a judge remanded Khawaja in police custody for three days to investigate the charge.

Khawaja was brought to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) on Monday for a medical check-up.

He was stated to be suffering from some heart disease and was discharged from the hospital after undergoing an ECG test.

Speaking to reporters at the hospital, Khawaja urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to take notice of his arrest on what he called baseless charges. He complained that his family members were not being allowed to meet him in the lockup. He alleged that police had seized his medicines.

Khalid Khawaja was a senior official of ISI when it was fuelling jihadi resistance movements against the Soviets in Afghanistan. After being forced to retire from the Pakistan Air Force and the ISI on the instructions of former military dicatator General Zia ul-Haq, he went to Afghanistan and fought with Osama bin Laden.

A retired Pakistan Air Force squadron leader, Khawaja is currently the chief coodinator of the Islamic Centre for Research and Defence of Human Rights, an organisation which campaigns on the behalf of relatives of terrorism suspects who have "disappeared".

According to a senior security official, Khawaja was taken into custody for playing a "negative" role as coordinator during the indirect negotiations between the Pakistani government and the religious clergy or ulema to resolve the issue of the demolition of unauthorized mosques in Islamabad.

He was also vigorously pursuing the case of the missing people at different forums and was seen in all anti-government demonstrations held in Islamabad during the recent past. Khawaja told reporters that if he was a criminal then why did the local administration use him as coordinator to resolve their confrontation with ulema.

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Tehran, 25 Jan. (AKI) - One of Iran's top nuclear scientists, Ardeshir Hassanpour, a professor at the university of Shiraz, has died under mysterious circumstances. Hassanpour's death was announced by Iranian state television, a week late, on Thursday. No reason was given for his death. The scientist was proclaimed the best scientist in the military field in the Islamic Republic in 2003. Hassanpour directed the centre for nuclear electromagnetic studies he had founded in 2005.

He had also co-founded the center for atomic research in Isfahan, the most important in the country, Iranian state television reported.

Last year, Ardeshir Hassanpour was awarded Iran's most prestigious scientific award, the Kharazmi prize.

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Intelligence problem in Gaza

The suicide bombing in Eilat yesterday will not lead to a large military operation in the Gaza Strip.

The suicide bomber came from Gaza via Sinai, but current events in Gaza are so complex that Israel will think twice before getting mixed up in them. In other words, the internecine Palestinian conflict is now Gaza's best bulwark against any Israeli operation. When Fatah and Hamas are so good at killing each other, why should Israel intervene and spur them to close ranks against the common enemy?

The organization responsible for the attack, Islamic Jihad, tried to bring the struggle against Israel back to the agenda, but with little success. Six Palestinians were killed in Gaza yesterday, twice as many as the number of Israelis killed in the suicide bombing.
The attack in Eilat, a town the second intifada spared until now, raised fears of renewed Palestinian terrorism. Nine months had passed without any suicide bombing within the Green Line. And in all of 2006, there were only two, in which 11 Israelis were killed.

However, Palestinian terror has not gone away. There are groups, like the Jihad and Fatah "rogues" in Nablus, who have never stopped attempting to send suicide bombers. The combination of good intelligence, improved coordination between the IDF and Shin Bet, and the separation fence stopped them.

In addition, beginning with the tahdia, the unofficial cease-fire of January 2005, Hamas has held off - albeit apparently temporarily - from sending suicide bombers into Israel.

Yesterday's attack demonstrated again the unbearable ease of crossing the Egyptian border. Drug and arms smugglers and traffickers cross it without hindrance, why not suicide bombers?

Southern Command officers yesterday spoke about plans to build a fence and deploy observation devices along the border. But they too know that this latest bombing will at most result in an improvement to the protection of Eilat. In Israel, the financial investment is directly proportional to the number of fatalities. In response to three fatalities, the state will not spend NIS 3 billion to build a fence on the Egyptian border.

In addition to the porous boundary with Egptian, Israel's intelligence in the Gaza Strip is growing weaker. Relatives of the suicide bomber, who was from Beit Lahiya, said he had spoken of his plan for a suicide bombing last week. This could not have happened in Nablus. No suicide bomber in the West Bank would have risked babbling, knowing that the Shin Bet would be onto him immediately. The terrorists in Gaza feel relatively safe, as do Gilad Shalit's kidnappers, who have been evading Israeli intelligence for more than six months. Without a military presence, the Strip is slipping from the scrutiny of Israeli intelligence.

Yesterday's bombing also shows that the Islamic Jihad wishes to take advantage of the Palestinian political vacuum. Quite a few Palestinians see the Jihad's terror as a saner option than the mutual killing between Fatah and Hamas.

At present, though, there are no signs that the internecine fighting is abating - it has recently overflowed from the Jebalya refugee camp to central neighborhoods in Gaza City. Egypt and Saudi Arabia's mediation efforts seem pathetic. While the leadership of both organizations responded to Egpt's call for a cease-fire and a joint summit in Mecca, the militants continued fighting in the streets.

Any agreement on a Palestinian unity regime now looks remote. Of more concern to Israelis, so does any deal for the return of Shalit.


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Africa: Different Paths to Success and Failure

By Douglass Farah

The designation of two South Africans for suspected ties to al Qaeda is the latest public evidence of the radical Islamist pipeline that runs through the heart of sub-Saharan Africa.

The U.S. military and part of the Intelligence Community are slowly focusing on the spreading threat there. As my friend Victor Comras noted on the Counterterrorism Blog, obtaining this designation package has been a long and ardous process, with little support from South Africa or the United Nations. Here is another interesting article on the Imam involved.

But what is just as interesting as the stories of possible Islamist penetrations are those of the Islamists’ possible failures. The Project for the Research of Islamist Movements portrays al Qaeda’s efforts to mobilize jihadist fighters to Darfur as long on effort and short on results, despite the obvious interest of Osama bin Laden and other core al Qaeda leaders to raising up an Islamist force to fight there.

An April 23, 2006, audiotape of bin Laden, broadcast on al Jazeera TV, called on the “mujahadeen and their supporters, especially in Sudan and the Arabian Peninsula, to prepare for a long war against the Crusader plunderers of Western Sudan,” and said the goal of the fight was not to “defend the Kharoum government but to defend Islam, its lands and its people.”

Following the statement, jihadist web sites published articles directed to “all Those who Wish to Reach Darfur,” and “From Here Stretches the Way to Darfur.” On Sept. 29, 2006, Ayman Zawahiri released a video criticizing the possible deployment of an international peace-keeping force and calling on his audience to “defend your land and your honor from the Crusader’s aggression, which is now hiding behind the masks of the United Nations…Nothing will protect you but a jihadi popular war led by the mujahadeen.”

But almost nothing seems to have come of these exhortations and pleas. While a few minor training camps may be used by al Qaeda-affliliated groups, there has been little noticeable response to the pleas to open the new front. Many of us (myself included) focus on the seeming success of the Islamists. But this seems to have been a rather abject failure.

The question is why, and the PRISM piece, to my mind, does not answer the question satisfactorily. It ascribes the failure to the anger Hasan al Turabi, bin Laden’s benefactor when the al Qaeda leader lived in Sudan, for recent “liberal” statements that angered fundamentalists. It also credits the Sudanese government with seeing the dangers of having an al Qaeda affiliated insurgency in Darfur.

This seems to me to be, at best, a partial set of reasons. The deeper reasons why so few heeded the call must be studied seriously in order to begin to understand what jihadi appeals draw support among what groups. If that can be understood, then how to counter those appeals can be better understood.

Perhaps bin Laden simply misread the situation in Darfur, where the slaughter by Muslims of other Muslims may have alienated much of the potential African recruiting base. Maybe there are cultural factors, or language factors that caused the message to fall flat.

There is not enough knowledge within most of the IC to be able to really look at what works and what doesn’t inside Islamist circles. There is a real opportunity to, I think, slow down the cancer if one can understand why some healthy cells successfully fight it off and others succumb.


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Suspected Al-Qaeda leader in Turkey detained in raid: report

ISTANBUL (AFP) - A man suspected of running Al-Qaeda's operations in Turkey was among 48 people detained in nationwide raids earlier this week, the Anatolia news agency has reported

Identified only as Ekrem K., the man was allegedly communicating with Al-Qaeda cells abroad and trained new recruits, the report said.

Police were also looking for another man who is suspected of establishing contact with Al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan, the report added.

Monday's nationwide crackdown was launched in seven provinces upon intelligence that local Al-Qaeda cells were preparing to carry out attacks in major cities.

Twenty-three people were taken into custody in the central province of Konya, while 17 others were detained in Istanbul.

The remaining suspects were captured in the northwestern provinces of Kocaeli and Bursa, the western provinces of Izmir and Afyonkarahisar and southeastern Mardin.

A Turkish cell of Al-Qaeda is blamed for four suicide bombings in Istanbul -- at two synagogues, the British consulate and a British-owned bank -- in November 2003, which claimed 63 lives, left hundreds injured and caused massive destruction.

Seventy-three people, among them two Syrians, are currently on trial for the attacks.

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How the 'axis' seeks the killer missile

By Bill Gertz

North Korea and Iran are cooperating in developing long-range missiles, the deputy director of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency said yesterday.

Army Brig. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly said during a speech that North Korea test fired a long-range Taepodong missile in July, and Iran is working on a space launcher that would help develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could hit the U.S.
"Not only North Korea, but Iran has shown some significant developments in their [own] missile systems," Gen. O'Reilly said in a speech to the George C. Marshall Institute.
"They are working in concert with the North Koreans," he said. "They have made a claim that they are working towards developing a space launch capability, which also would give them an ICBM capability."
The Pentagon believes Iran has a "new intermediate-range ballistic missile or space launch vehicle [SLV] in development," a Missile Defense Agency briefing slide stated.
The Iranians are "likely to develop an ICBM/SLV [and] could have an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S. before 2015," according to the briefing chart.
One of the new missiles would be solid-fueled, making it capable of being launched rapidly, and have a range of 1,240 miles, enough to hit targets throughout Europe from Iran.
The speech marked the first time the Pentagon publicly disclosed the missile cooperation between Pyongyang and Tehran.
The North Koreans test fired a Taepodong-2 on July 4 but the missile failed 40 seconds after launch, Gen. O'Reilly said. The two-stage version has a range of 6,200 miles and the three-stage version can travel 9,300 miles.
"But the indications are clear that they are continuing to strive to expand their ballistic missile capability," he said.
The U.S. missile defense system was made operational before the North Korean tests and the forces involved "performed very well," Gen. O'Reilly said. Another briefing chart used during the speech stated that if the Taepodong-2 had threatened the United States, "we are confident the ballistic missile defense system would have operated as designed."
Another briefing chart revealed for the first time that North Korea is developing a new intermediate-range missile with a range of about 2,000 miles that was described as "a qualitative improvement in performance" from earlier missile systems. North Korea's July tests -- seven missiles were fired -- included two 806-mile range Nodong missiles, he said.
Gen. O'Reilly said the U.S. missile defense system, which includes a network of long-, medium- and short-range interceptors and sensors, is designed to counter missiles from "rogue states" targeted at the U.S., its allies and forces overseas.
The system can defend against short-range Iranian missile attacks against Saudi Arabia and North Korean strikes on Japan, as well as an Iranian missile strike on London or North Korean missile attacks on the United States, an MDA briefing slide stated.
North Korea uses its missiles as "geopolitical leverage" over the United States and its allies and also to raise money by selling them abroad, Gen. O'Reilly said. Iran is building missiles for "both asymmetric threats and conventional threats" to U.S. and allied forces, he noted.
Gen. O'Reilly also stated that Hezbollah's short-range rockets and missiles, used in last year's fighting in Lebanon, were a threat to Israeli forces and that more than 4,500 were fired.
"They had small ball bearings, about 300, in their warhead, and they were very effective at shutting down a lot of the maneuvering capability of the Israeli army and also shutting down over 70 percent of the commerce in northern Israel during that period of time," he said. "And that was significant from both non-state actors and other countries that have committed to using rockets as terror weapons."
Asked whether the Pentagon can counter China's anti-satellite weapon, which was tested recently, Gen. O'Reilly said countering space weapons currently is not a mission for the Missile Defense Agency but could be done.
"We have tremendous kinematic capability with our missiles; we have the sensors and the battle management, so that work would be straightforward if we were ... given that guidance and mandate to do," he said.
The Pentagon also is developing a "multiple kill vehicle" that will greatly boost the power of current interceptors by adding more non-explosive warheads that can hit 10 or more enemy warheads from a single booster, he said.
The current missile interceptors deployed at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California can protect the United States from North Korean missiles and afford "partial protection" from Middle Eastern missiles. Upgraded defenses will provide full defense from both North Korean and Middle Eastern missiles, Gen. O'Reilly said.
By 2011, the Pentagon plans to have up to 44 interceptors deployed in the United States and the first 10 interceptors in Europe; a large radar in Europe; 18 Aegis missile defense ships; 48 ground-based THAAD interceptors; two new surveillance and tracking satellites; and a battle management and integrated global fire system for the Middle East and Southwest Asian missile threats.

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Shell, Repsol sign agreement on Iranian gas

European oil companies Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Repsol YPF SA have signed a preliminary agreement with Iran's state oil company on developing gas fields in the Persian Gulf, a Shell spokeswoman said.

"We've signed an upstream service agreement as part of our work to assess the feasibility of the project" known as South Pars, Sarah Smallhorn said Monday.

Smallhorn said the agreement, signed with National Iranian Oil Co. Saturday, follows a framework agreement the companies signed in 2004, but the final go-ahead for the project was not expected for another year - an apparent delay, since Shell said in February 2006 it then expected final approval in about a year.

The United States and its allies have been pressuring banks and oil companies to pull out of oil and gas projects in Iran, due to Teheran's pursuit of nuclear technology for what it says are nonmilitary purposes. Some analysts believe oil companies may ultimately have to choose between doing business with the US or Iran.


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US offers reward for Philippines bombing suspect

The US government has announced a US$50,000 (€38,000) reward for information leading to the capture of a "despicable terrorist" allegedly involved in a series of deadly bomb attacks in the southern Philippines.

Filipino terror operative Abdul Basit Usman has links with the al-Qaida-allied group Jemaah Islamiyah, and had a hand in a series of recent bombings in the southern Mindanao region, including an attack in October that killed eight people, the US Embassy said Tuesday.

"It is time to bring this despicable terrorist to justice," the embassy said.

Washington has offered huge bounties for the capture of several Filipino terror operatives, most of them belonging to the Abu Sayyaf, a small but brutal group allied with al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah and included on the US list of terrorist groups.


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Muslims 'about to take over Europe'

Islam could soon be the dominant force in a Europe which, in the name of political correctness, has abdicated the battle for cultural and religious control, Prof. Bernard Lewis, the world-renowned Middle Eastern and Islamic scholar, said on Sunday.

The Muslims "seem to be about to take over Europe," Lewis said at a special briefing with the editorial staff of The Jerusalem Post. Asked what this meant for the continent's Jews, he responded, "The outlook for the Jewish communities of Europe is dim." Soon, he warned, the only pertinent question regarding Europe's future would be, "Will it be an Islamized Europe or Europeanized Islam?" The growing sway of Islam in Europe was of particular concern given the rising support within the Islamic world for extremist and terrorist movements, said Lewis.

Lewis, whose numerous books include the recent What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East, and The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror, would set no timetable for this drastic shift in Europe, instead focusing on the process, which he said would be assisted by "immigration and democracy." Instead of fighting the threat, he elaborated, Europeans had given up.

"Europeans are losing their own loyalties and their own self-confidence," he said. "They have no respect for their own culture." Europeans had "surrendered" on every issue with regard to Islam in a mood of "self-abasement," "political correctness" and "multi-culturalism," said Lewis, who was born in London to middle-class Jewish parents but has long lived in the United States.

The threat of extremist Islam goes far beyond Europe, Lewis stressed, turning to the potential impact of Iran going nuclear under its current regime.

The Cold War philosophy of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), which prevented the former Soviet Union and the United States from using the nuclear weapons they had targeted at each other, would not apply to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran, said Lewis.

"For him, Mutual Assured Destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement," said Lewis of Ahmadinejad. "We know already that they [Iran's ruling ayatollahs] do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers. We have seen it again and again. If they kill large numbers of their own people, they are doing them a favor. They are giving them a quick, free pass to heaven. I find all that very alarming," said Lewis.

Lewis acknowledged that Ahmadinejad had made the notion of Iran having the right to acquire a nuclear capability an issue of national pride, and that this should be borne in mind in trying to thwart Teheran's nuclear drive. "One should try to make it clear at all stages that the objection is not Iran having [a nuclear weapon] but to the regime that governs Iran having it," said Lewis.

This idea already had support among those Iranians who, on the one hand, believed that their country has a right to possess such a capability but, on the other, feared it being acquired by a government that they do not support.

Israel and the West should work to strengthen moderate forces within the Iranian population, he urged, via an aggressive propaganda campaign including the use of television and radio programs.

"All the evidence is that the regime is extremely unpopular with their own people," he said. "I am told that the Israeli daily [radio] program in Persian is widely listened to all over Iran with rapt attention." Israel and the West should also be looking to reach out to moderate forces within the Arab world, which are equally alarmed by the spread of extremism in their midst, said Lewis. "The Arab governments understand that Israel is not their biggest problem," said Lewis.

Here too, he said, Israeli media had a positive effect in the region, particularly in Jordan, where Israeli programs were broadcast and were widely watched. Jordanians "get the message of how a free society works. As one fellow put it, it is amazing to watch these great and famous people banging the table and screaming at each other. Even more striking is the fact that Arabs can denounce the Israeli government on Israeli television. That has an impact." Lewis also highlighted the Washington-based Syrian Reform Party, whose leader Farid Ghadry openly admires Israel.

Regarding the summer's war against Hizbullah, Lewis warned that a second such conflict could break out in the near future.

He quoted a Christian Lebanese friend saying soon after the fighting ended that "Israel has lost the war, but Hizbullah has not won" because many people in Lebanon were blaming Hizbullah for bringing conflict to their country. Now, though, he added, it was his sense that Hizbullah had "gained some ground since then."


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Russian envoy to meet Georgian president

TBILISI, Georgia - Russia's newly returned ambassador to Georgia met with the foreign minister on Tuesday, as the two countries moved to improve ties badly strained when Georgia briefly detained four Russian military officers it accused of spying.

Ambassador Valery Kovalenko, who was back in Tbilisi four months after Moscow recalled him, said he would present his credentials to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on Wednesday.

He said he and Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili discussed conflicts on Georgian territory that have Russia "greatly" worried.

The Georgian leader has tried to resolve lingering conflicts with two breakaway regions, which have cultivated support from Russia, and bring them under control. He frequently accuses Russia of encouraging the separatists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia recalled its ambassador in September, cut air and other transport links and cracked down on Georgian migrants in Russia amid the spying scandal. Georgia did not recall its envoy to Moscow.

Last week, news that a Russian man allegedly tried to sell highly enriched uranium to Georgian secret services while on their territory threatened to further complicate bilateral relations.

Moscow has watched warily as Saakashvili has sought to pull Georgia out of Russia's orbit and forge closer ties to the West.

Russia's state natural gas monopoly dramatically raised prices for Georgia this year, drawing accusations from Tbilisi that the move was politically motivated.

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Nigerian militants free 125 inmates in police station attack

LAGOS (AFP) - Nigerian separatist militants released 125 inmates when they stormed a police station in Port Harcourt in an attack to free their leader that claimed at least two lives, police said Tuesday.

"Heavily armed men raided our station and freed some 125 inmates" during Sunday's raid in the capital of the southern Rivers State, the administrative hub of the oil industry, state police spokeswoman Ireju Barasua told AFP.

Some 50 fighters from the most high-profile separatist group in the region, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), attacked in the afternoon to free one of their top commanders, George Sobomabo.

Sobomabo had been arrested earlier Sunday and taken to the police station under heavy escort.

"He was held until the arrival of around 50 of our fighters armed with submachine guns, grenades and assault weapons," MEND claimed in an e-mail statement.

Police said two bystanders were killed in an exchange of fire between security forces and rebel gunmen during the attack, but the local press said up to five people had been killed and many others injured.

MEND, which says it wants a greater share of Nigeria's multi-billion-dollar oil wealth to go to the inhabitants of the Niger Delta, the region that actually produces the oil, has until now mostly confined its activities to kidnapping workers from foreign oil firms.

The people of the delta complain that while their region generates 95 percent of Nigeria's foreign currency earnings, they have little to show for this in terms of development or living standards.

There has been a sharp increase in kidnappings and attacks on oil installations over the past year. In 2006 alone, more than 60 foreigners, mostly oil workers, were kidnapped, and dozens of Nigerians were killed by militants and bandits.

Some 40 expatriate workers are currently being held hostage in the swamps of the restive region by armed men.

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US Missile Defense in Europe to Counter Rogue States

US DoD: WASHINGTON: Missile defense assets the United States is planning to base in Eastern Europe will be aimed at countering threats posed by rogue nations, such as Iran, and will not pose a threat to allies in the region, a senior defense official said here yesterday.

The Defense Department announced Jan. 19 that it was beginning bilateral negotiations with Poland and the Czech Republic to host long-range ground-based interceptors and a missile defense radar on their territories.

The concept of locating missile defense assets in Europe goes back to 2002, when DoD decided to extend coverage to allies, friends and deployed forces in the region and to enhance the defense of the United States, Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry A. "Trey" Obering III, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said in a teleconference with reporters. DoD began putting money for this missile defense in its 2006 and 2007 budget requests to begin the analysis and early work to prepare sites for these assets, he explained.

“The sites are intended to be part of an integrated, layered system that we have been deploying since 2004,” Obering said. “They are geared toward and are directed toward rogue-nation capabilities, obviously not sophisticated ballistic missile fleets such as the Russians have, but are geared toward what we consider to be the rogue-nation threat, as is our ballistic missile defense system that we've been deploying.”

Obering acknowledged that Iran does not yet have long-range, intercontinental ballistic missile capability, but he said it is still the largest threat in the region because it is clearly working to achieve those capabilities. U.S. officials have learned from the past, such as when North Korea launched the Taepo Dong 1 in 1998, just months after experts had predicted it would be years before that country had long-range capabilities, he said.

“We want to have this in place by the 2011-2012 timeframe, because we think the Iranians, for example, shortly thereafter will be able to have a long-range capability -- not one that they've demonstrated today or necessarily tomorrow, but again you're talking about several years from now, and so it's prudent for us to be thinking about that now and begin to build toward that so that we're in a position that we can do something about it in that timeframe,” he said.

The United States wants to proceed quickly in staging the missile defense capabilities in Europe, but the timeline is subject to negotiations with Poland and the Czech Republic, Brian Green, deputy assistant secretary of defense for forces policy, said in the teleconference. Obering added that all three countries are motivated by the same factor, which is building a common capability to defend against emerging threats.

Each country has three or four acceptable locations that are under negotiation, Obering said. If approved, the interceptor site will employ about 200 people, and the radar site will need contractors to maintain the equipment and the site. Both locations would also require force-protection personnel, he said.

The physical locations will remain the sovereign territory of the host nation, Green said, but the United States will have operational control of the bases. All U.S. personnel will be required to abide by the laws of the host nation, he added.

Emphasizing that these sites will not threaten U.S. allies in the region, Obering said that the U.S. interceptors will not even be capable of catching Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles. He said he has traveled to Moscow to talk with Russian leaders and briefed the NATO-Russia Council about the program.
“We will continue to work closely with the Russians and continue to work closely with our NATO allies and our European allies to make sure that they understand what the technical and the program capabilities are of these missiles,” Obering said.

The United States is not asking for any funding from the host nations or other European nations for the missile sites, Obering said. This decision was made in the interest of speeding the process, he explained.

“We did not want to have to worry about any kind of long, protracted negotiation with respect to funding support to get this started, because, as I said earlier, we believe that there is a compelling reason to begin to do this because of what we see emerging with respect to the threat,” he said.

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Venezuela Plans to Buy Anti-Missile Systems from Russia

MosNews: The government of Venezuela plans to buy anti-missile systems from Russia, local media reported quoting the country’s Defense Minister Raul Baduel. The cost of the deal to acquire Tor-M1 rockets is estimated at $290 million.

Tor M1 is the only system in the world, which is capable of detecting and tracking up to 48 targets and engaging two of them simultaneously.

Venezuela’s military authorities plan to use this system in combination with Chinese radars and 24 military aircraft that this South American country will buy from Russia. MosNews has reported last July that Moscow and Caracas reached an agreement for delivery of Russian Su-30MK2 fighter jets. Earlier Russia has supplied Venezuela with 100,000 of Kalashnikov rifles and even agreed to sell the license for their production.

The U.S. is unhappy about Russian sales of modern military equipment to Venezuela. The White House has already slapped military embargo on Venezuela, because it greatly dislikes the country’s populist leader Huga Chavez. Chavez is convinced that the U.S. plans to invade Venezuela to acquire control over oil production in the country.

Venezuela’s decision to acquire Tor-M1 anti-missile systems comes soon after completion of a similar deal, in which Russia sold Tor-M1 to Iran. The total sum of the contract equaled $1.4 billion, it is the largest military deal to date between Russia and Iran. The sale of anti-missile systems to Iran has prompted strong criticism from the United States.

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US offers advanced missile system to India

NEW DELHI: The US is offering India one of the world's most formidable shipboard missile systems that has the potential of being integrated with the country's indigenous missiles.

There was "some interest" in the Indian defence establishment in the Aegis system but neither has the US made an offer nor has India made any formal request for it, says Royce Caplinger, managing director of Lockheed Martin India, whose US parent manufactures the system.

"I am sure though that if you ask for it, you will get it," India Strategic defence magazine quotes him as saying.

The feelers to sell the Aegis are obviously part of the US government's agenda to help India become what the State Department called in its May 2005 policy statement "a global power."

Apparently, it is also part of the steps that are systematically being taken - like the civil nuclear deal - to draw New Delhi closer to Washington.

Aegis is named after the shield of mythological Greek god Zeus. Its sale, like of most military systems, is governed through government-to-government deals under Foreign Military Sales (FMS) or other US programmes. It appears, though, that Lockheed Martin, the world's biggest military vendor, has informal clearance to showcase the system to India.

The integrated combat system can track more than 100 missiles through its supercomputers and engage them according to priority, depending upon their velocity and height, including the sea-skimming attackers.

It is designed for multi-pronged, simultaneous warfare to engage and strike targets in the air, on sea, on the surface, as also sub-surface. Aegis has also been successful in half a dozen tests to intercept ballistic missile targets outside the earth's atmosphere.

Caplinger said Aegis had been successively modified and upgraded in technology over the years and that it was "the most advanced shipboard system" in the world to counter a variety of threats, including from aircraft and ballistic missiles.

Asked if it could be integrated with India's indigenous missiles, including the India-Russian BrahMos, he replied: "Theoretically yes." It could even be matched with the new anti-missile missile that India recently tested, "but that would depend entirely on the Indian scientists and India's requirements."

"The MK 41 Vertical Launching System (that is integrated into the Aegis system) is not currently configured to integrate the BrahMos or Agni, but it can be adapted," Caplinger added.

The fact that the Aegis system could manage vertical launch of missiles was important, particularly as the Indian Navy had a long-term plan to build several ships equipped with the facility to meet its projected requirements.

Its sophisticated SPY-I phased array radar and high-speed supercomputers read each oncoming threat 360 degrees, prioritize them according to their threat value, and then automatically launch appropriate missiles to neutralize them.

The latest version of the system is called Aegis BMD 3.6. In June 2006, it successfully intercepted even the separating warhead of a target missile in a test at the Pacific Missile Range Facility.

The system's command and decision-making core is notable. Its computers differentiate between missiles, debris, and friendly aerial vehicles - and attack only what needs to be attacked.

Thus far, Aegis has only been sold to close US allies, Spain, Japan, South Korea, Norway and Australia. It is deployed on 69 US destroyers and cruisers and is being added on 17 more destroyers.

Thus, it is the mainstay "total weapon system" of the US Navy. According to Caplinger, Aegis was a very powerful system and would give an edge like no other to the Indian Navy.

The Aegis programme was launched in 1969 due to the changing nature of warfare that required transition from guns to missiles.

In 1967, a Soviet-built missile had sunk an Israeli destroyer in the Arab-Israeli war while in 1982, Argentina successfully used an Exocet missile to sink a Royal Navy frigate during the Falklands conflict. In 1988, when two Iranian vessels fired on US ships, the US Navy had used Harpoon missiles to neutralise them.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Internet Security Company Cracks Special Jihadist Software

By Andrew Cochran

CT Blog posting from Jim Melnick, iDefense Intelligence Team, VeriSign, Inc.

On January 1, 2007, the pro-terrorist group, "Global Islamic Media Front" (GIMF) announced the "imminent release" of what they called "the first Islamic computer program for secure exchange on the Internet." Some Western websites that track online terrorist activity reported on the GIMF announcement, but it has otherwise not received any serious media attention. iDefense/VeriSign has since found a copy of this program, "Mujahedine Secrets," on a pro-terrorist Arabic language forum and has begun analyzing its capabilities and assessing what its impact will be. Earlier this week we announced this to our client base, which includes numerous key elements of the U.S. government. We are continuing to discover new aspects about the software, which we believe is bound to spread quickly in the online pro-terrorist world. As far as is known, none of this new information has been announced publicly anywhere else other than among the pro-terrorists themselves.

The "Mujahedine Secrets" encryption program offers terrorists and their sympathizers several key features, some of which are common features of PGP programs that are currently available elsewhere as well as other features that appear to be new. Technical analysis is ongoing and will be assessed in future iDefense reporting. Most importantly, this program is an executable application that does not need to be installed onto a PC and can be used with a USB drive. According to iDefense Middle East analyst Andretta Summerville, "the program's 'portability' as an application (not requiring installation) will become an increasingly desirable feature, especially considering the high use of Internet cafés worldwide by pro-terrorist Islamic extremists." The use of the 'Mujahedine Secrets' on a portable USB drive will offer additional anonymity to those who use the program, which may make it increasingly difficult or even impossible for investigators to track down the source of activity further than the Internet café itself.

Due to the strong "marketing" campaign of the program by the Global Islamic Media Front in Arabic-language forums, specifically on hacker and pro-terrorist forums, "Mujahedine Secrets" is likely to reach a broad audience of pro-terrorist supporters online and Arabic-speaking hackers. The PDF file included with the software assists non-English speaking users in the application's operation. This, unfortunately, could greatly impact the threat landscape of pro-terrorist communications worldwide, since it will make it easier and more comfortable for those Arabic speakers who may have been wary of using English-based encryption programs to use a program developed by "their own" people. According to a statement within the Arabic PDF file, this is a code that they have been developing for years. iDefense/VeriSign is continuing to assess what the impact will be with this new software - both as to its technical characteristics as well as how it will be greeted in the pro-terrorist online world. Requests for follow-on information on this development or information on how to obtain iDefense products can be sent to: di@idefense.com. Jim Melnick, Director of Threat Intelligence, iDefense/VeriSign, Inc.

Jim Melnick is director of threat intelligence for iDefense, the security intelligence arm of VeriSign, Inc., which operates the systems that manage the ".com" and ".net" domains. (Note: VeriSign is a client of GAGE LLC)

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You are undie surveillance

OFFICIALS are bracing themselves for a storm of public outrage over their controversial X-ray cameras scheme.

As part of the most shocking extension of Big Brother powers ever planned here, lenses in lampposts would snap “naked” pictures of passers-by to trap terror suspects.

The proposal is contained in leaked documents drawn up by the Home Office and presented to PM Tony Blair’s working group on Security, Crime and Justice.

But the prospect of the State snooping on individuals’ most private parts is certain to spark national fury.

And officials are battling to find a way of dealing with that reaction.

A January 17 memo seen by The Sun discusses the cameras, which can see through clothes.

It says “detection of weapons and explosives will become easier” and says cameras could be deployed in street furniture.

It adds: “Some technologies used in airports have already been used as part of police operations looking for drugs and weapons in nightclubs. These and others could be developed for a much more widespread use in public spaces.

“Street furniture could routinely house detection systems that would indicate the likely presence of a gun, for example.”

But the document goes on to reveal fears at the public reaction.

Officials have agreed one solution would be to allow only women to monitor female subjects — although they admit this would be “very problematic” in crowds.

The memo says: “The social acceptability of routine intrusive detection measures and the operational response required in the event of an alarm are likely to be limiting factors.

“Privacy is an issue because the machines see through clothing.”

Beside cameras, officials are also considering systems known as millimetre wave imaging and THz imaging and spectroscopy.

All are routinely used in airports and other secure places to detect explosives and weapons in luggage and on people.

Air passengers are now chosen at random for full X-ray examinations — and must agree to it.

Technology could also be used to halt theft, with fingerprint scanners fitted to many items.

Elsewhere, tagged offenders could be sent electronic pulses to remind them not to re-offend.

Cops would also get the power to build a database of everyone in the land. Three-dimensional CCTV pictures would be coupled with records of people’s mobile phones and even their travel cards to get details of their movements and habits.

Facial recognition systems to help track individuals’ movements are also being considered.

The Sun

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New textbooks put space between Taiwan and China

TAIPEI (Reuters) - New high school textbooks that drop phrases linking China and Taiwan as one country have reached Taiwan's classrooms, the publisher said on Monday.

The changes could spark a strong reaction from Beijing, which has viewed self-ruled Taiwan as sovereign territory since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and has vowed to bring the island back under mainland rule, by force if necessary.

In one change, Sun Yat-sen, father of the revolution that toppled China's last emperor in 1911, is no longer referred to as "father of the nation."

Sun founded the Nationalist Party, which ran China until 1949 and is now Taiwan's major opposition party.

"There were some phrases that have been found objectionable and we wanted to make them more neutral," said Lan Shun-teh, director-general of the National Institute of Compilation and Translation, which publishes texts for the government.

Other changes included substituting "China" for "my country," "this country" or "the mainland."

Taiwan citizens and political groups remain divided on the island's identity, with some considering it a nation and others pushing for its reunification with China once it embraces democracy.

Xu Shiquan, vice president of the National Society of Taiwan Studies in Beijing, described the latest revisions as "part of Taiwan's move to erase China, to separate sovereignty."

"But to do that is not useful," he said. "History isn't something you can change."

A spokesman for Taiwan's People First Party, a minor party known for its close China ties, called for the education minister to resign because of the textbook changes.


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Five shot dead in Thailand's restive Muslim south

YALA, Thailand (AFP) - Five people were shot dead and another person was injured in attacks by suspected Islamic militants in Thailand's insurgency-torn southern provinces, according to police.

A 33-year-old Muslim was gunned down in a drive-by shooting late Sunday as he rode a motorcycle to his home in Yala, one of three Muslim-majority provinces bordering Malaysia, police said.

In neighbouring Pattani province, a 46-year-old Buddhist man was also killed in a drive-by shooting late Sunday.

Meanwhile, two Buddhist couples were shot after insurgents opened fire on a home in Songkhla province, near Yala. Three people were killed, and the fourth was seriously injured, police said.

Despite peace-building initiatives by Thailand's government, installed after a coup four months ago, violence in the three southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat has spiralled in recent months.

More than 1,800 people have been killed in three years of unrest in this region, which was an autonomous Malay sultanate until Thailand annexed it more than a century ago.


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NATO ready for "all eventualities" in Kosovo

BRUSSELS, Jan 29 (Reuters) - NATO's 17,000-strong Kosovo peace force is on alert for potential violence as the United Nations prepares to reveal plans for the future of the breakaway Serb province, the alliance's chief said on Monday.

U.N. special envoy Martti Ahtisaari is due on Friday to go to Belgrade and Pristina to present long-awaited proposals expected to grant virtual independence to the majority Albanian province.

The NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) has sought to keep the peace there for eight years since the alliance drove out Serb forces accused of ethnic cleansing, and is geared up for new tensions triggered by the Ahtisaari report.

"KFOR is prepared for all eventualities," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters after a meeting Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski.

"Let nobody in Kosovo have any illusions that they should test KFOR ... That goes for the majority and the minority," he said, referring to tense relations between the U.N.-administered province's 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority and local Serbs.

NATO forces were caught by surprise in 2004 when 19 people were killed during a bout of rioting by ethnic Albanian mobs who burned Serb homes and U.N. vehicles.

Alliance diplomats fear the political limbo after last week's inconclusive Serb elections could delay a settlement on Kosovo, setting off tensions just as the United Nations proceeds with a delicate handover of authority to the European Union.

"The NATO allies support the proposals President Ahtisaari is going to present to the parties on February 2," said de Hoop Scheffer.

"We support his timelines. And I think it is important that all nations and countries in the region do the same."

The EU is preparing to take over responsibility for policing the province and wants to launch a rule of law mission of up to 1,500 personnel by mid-year -- always assuming Kosovo's status is settled by a U.N. resolution by then.

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Four Russian troops killed in Chechnya - Interfax

MOSCOW, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Four Russian servicemen and one Chechen rebel were killed on Monday in clashes in the southern region of Chechnya, media reported.

Interfax news agency said a group of Russian soldiers came under fire during a special operation against militants in a forest in Chechnya's Gudermes region.

The town of Gudermes is home to the headquarters of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's Moscow-backed prime minister and leader of a powerful personal militia force.

Russia has fought two wars against separatist fighters in Chechnya since 1994 but despite continued violence there it says it has regained control of the war-town region.

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Istanbul, 29 Jan. (AKI) - Turkish police on Monday arrested some 50 people suspected of being linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist network during morning raids in five cities - Istanbul, Konya, Izmir and Gebze. Investigators believe that two men picked up in Gebze were preparing to travel to Afghanistan and Chechnya to join jihadis there. A gun and documents were seized by police when they arrested three suspects in Izmir.

The bulk of the arrests took place in Konya were 25 men have been detained and in Istanbul where 16 men are now in custody.

Police said the raids are fruit of a year-and-a-half of intelligence gathering. They said more people may be detained.

Last week authorities announced the arrest of a lawyer - identified only with the initials M.T. - who they alleged is al-Qaeda's chief operator in Turkey. The man has been charged with heading a banned organisation, distributing propaganda for the organisataion via the Internet, producing and owning explosives and bombs. If convicted he faces up to 38 years in prison.

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Russia awaits US explanation on military buildup in Mideast-FM

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti): Moscow expects the United States to explain its growing military presence in the Middle East, Russia's foreign minister said Saturday.

"I have not seen any change in Washington's rather assertive tone," Sergei Lavrov said. "It continues, as [the U.S.] continues to build its military presence in the region."

Lavrov will travel to Washington early next month to attend a ministerial meeting of four international mediators in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

At the Washington meeting, the UN will be represented by the organization's new secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, while Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, which currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency, will represent the 27-nation bloc.

The latest Mideast Quartet ministerial meeting took place on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly session in New York in September 2006.

The participants expressed their support for efforts by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to form a national unity government and urged radical Islamist movement Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence, and implement the 2003 "roadmap" peace plan, which provides for a two-state solution to the Mideast conflict.

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Russia's party barred from polls

BBC: One of Russia's leading liberal political parties, Yabloko, has been banned from local elections in the second biggest city, St Petersburg.

The city's electoral commission said too many signatures supporting the party's candidates had been invalid.

Yabloko said the commission's decision was an attempt to muzzle the voice of the opposition to the pro-Kremlin municipal council.

It said it would appeal. The elections are due to be held on 11 March.

St Petersburg's electoral commission said nearly 12% of signatures backing Yabloko's candidates had been declared invalid - more than the maximum 10% allowed.

"This provides grounds for refusing to register the Yabloko list," the commission's deputy head Dmitriy Krasnyanskiy was quoted as saying by Russia's Interfax news agency.

Yabloko said the move was politically-motivated.

"The electoral commission took revenge on us because we are in opposition to the authorities," the head of Yabloko's branch in St Petersburg told Reuters news agency.

Yabloko has lost most of its influence since Vladimir Putin became president in 2000.

The municipal elections in Russia are seen by some analysts as a rehearsal for parliamentary polls in December.

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Israel to buy thousands of US smart bombs

ISRAEL intends to buy thousands of advanced "smart" bombs from the US which the Jewish state first used during the Lebanon war.

According to the English-language Jerusalem Post newspaper, the Israeli army will purchase $US100 million ($129 million) worth of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) - low-cost kits produced by Boeing that turn free-fall bombs into guided "smart" munitions.

During last year's month-long war in Lebanon, Israel received an emergency aerial shipment of the munitions from the United States, which raised an international uproar after one of the cargo planes landed in an airport in Scotland against safety and security regulations.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

2 Killed in U.S. Embassy Car in Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Gunmen carjacked a U.S. Embassy vehicle on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital Saturday, killing two women in the car, police said.

Francis Munyambu, Nairobi's deputy provisional police officer, said the men were armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and had carjacked another vehicle recently.

"They escaped with the American embassy vehicle, which has not been recovered," he said.

Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi did not immediately answer calls for comment.

The shooting happened in Kinoo, about 12 miles outside Nairobi.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Nuclear blackmarket stirring back into life

LAST January, a Russian man with sunken cheeks and a wispy moustache entered Georgia and travelled to Tbilisi by car. In two plastic bags in his leather jacket, Georgian officials say, he carried 100 grams of uranium so refined that it could fuel an atomic bomb.

Oleg Khinsagov had come to meet a buyer who he believed would pay him $US1 million. The buyer would then deliver the material to a Muslim man from "a serious organisation", officials say.

The uranium was a sample, and the deal a test. If all went smoothly, the Russian had boasted, he would sell a far larger cache stored in his flat back home in Vladikavkaz, in neighbouring southern Russia: two or three kilograms, which in expert hands is enough to make a small bomb.

The buyer, it turned out, was a Georgian agent. Alerted to Khinsagov's ambitions by spies in South Ossetia, Georgian officials arrested him and confiscated his merchandise. After a secret trial, the smuggler was sentenced to 8½ years in prison.

The case has alarmed Georgian officials who thought they had suppressed the nuclear blackmarket that developed in the 1990s, after the Soviet Union collapsed. Until now, the details of the case have remained secret. But an examination of the episode, and a similar one in 2003, suggests the region's political instability and rampant corruption continue to provide a fertile breeding ground for illicit commerce in atomic materials.

Illegal trade - not just in atomic goods but everything from stolen cars to furs to counterfeit $US100 bills - thrives in Georgia, where tiny separatist regions have broken away to become lawless criminal havens.

Most worrisome, experts say, is the atomic material. In large enough quantities, it could solve the terrorist's biggest challenge in making a nuclear weapon: obtaining the fuel. The uranium seized in 2003 and 2006 had been enriched to nearly 90 per cent U-235. Too small an amount to make a bomb, but the ideal purity level for doing so.

In both cases the individuals arrested testified they had obtained the uranium through a web of Russian contacts and middlemen of various nationalities. This appears to be corroborated by a US Government laboratory analysis of the 2006 material.

Officials in Georgia, locked in a cold war with Moscow, say the cases underscore their concerns over borders, security and the fate of the breakaway regions.

Georgia's chief nuclear investigator, Archil Pavlenishvili, recalled how the Russian Government had co-operated in the early stages of the 2003 investigation. However, in 2006 it had hardly helped at all. He said the Georgians informed the Russian embassy of Khinsagov's detention, and offered to let diplomats speak to him. But the Russians never responded.

The Russian Interior Ministry and intelligence service did not respond to requests for comment.

Murat Dzhoyev, the Foreign Minister of South Ossetia, one of the separatist regions in Georgia, denied any nuclear smuggling had taken place in his region.

"As concerns their claims that contraband, or moreover, the laughable claim that nuclear materials are going through South Ossetia, that's just funny," he said. "I hope not a single serious person in the world takes this seriously."

Yesterday the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna was expected to make its first official announcement on the 2006 case.

The old Soviet empire had a vast network of nuclear facilities. After its break-up, as managers abandoned plants and security fell apart, the West grew alarmed as many cases of atomic smuggling came to light.

Since 2000, however, the former Soviet republics have set up new security precautions, often financed by the US. Washington, for instance, provided thousands of hand-held devices meant to detect radiation, and planned to spend a total of $US570 million to install small and large radiation detectors. The threat seemed to recede.

"People said, 'Hey, the situation's improved'," said William Potter, an authority on nuclear smuggling at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. The seizures in Georgia, he said, suggest something else: that the trade may "have gone under the radar".

The smuggler in the first case, an Armenian named Garik Dadayan, was arrested on June 26, 2003 in the border village of Sadakhlo. He was carrying a tea box that held 170 grams of highly enriched uranium. Georgian officials say the uranium had come from Novosibirsk, in Siberia, the site of a big Russian nuclear complex.

Investigators confirmed that before his trip into Georgia, Dadayan had travelled twice by rail from Moscow to Novosibirsk.

The smuggler told officials that he intended to sell the material to a Turkish middleman named Teimur Sadik; its ultimate destination, he said Sadik had told him, was "a Muslim man".

Dadayan was handed over to the Armenian Government, tried and sentenced to 2½ years. Sadik, Georgian authorities say, is now in the custody of the Turkish secret services.

The New York Times

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India and Russia Sign Four Documents to Give a Boost to Military Cooperation

The Defence Cooperation between India and Russia got a further boost when four different documents were signed here today between the two countries at the conclusion of the Sixth Meeting of the India - Russia Inter Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC). The Meeting was co-chaired by the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony and the visiting Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Russia Mr. Sergey Borisovich Ivanov.

The first agreement is on License Production and Technical Documents for the RD 33 series 3 Aero Engines; the second one is the general contract for RD 33 series 3 Aero engines and associated products. The two sides also signed a Protocol of intent for the joint development and production of multi-role Transport Aircraft and the Protocol of the Sixth India-Russia Inter Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation.

The Sixth Inter-Governmental Commission meeting witnessed the strategic depth of India -Russia defence relations widening to encompass non-defence strategic areas such as information technology and space research.

In his opening remarks, the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony said that Indo-Russian Defence Cooperation is inter-dependent and mutually beneficial. He said this has graduated from a simple buyer - seller relationship to joint research, development and production. Referring to the Indo-Russian joint venture BrahMos, Shri Antony said that India would like to have more such joint efforts in the years to come.

The Defence Minister said that both sides are in advanced stage of negotiations in the joint development and production of multi-role transport aircraft and fifth generation fighter aircraft. Shri Antony said "necessary measures are being taken to expeditiously finalise the respective inter-governmental agreement in this regard".

Shri Antony said Russia is the only country with whom we have an institutionalised mechanism at the level of defence ministers to monitor our military technical cooperation. He said the India-Russia Intergovernmental commission is an effective set up to monitor the progress and give directions for the development of the military technical cooperation. The Minister expressed happiness that the meetings under this Inter-governmental commission have been held under the revised format where the sub-groups, working groups and the inter-governmental commission met in a spaced manner with a view to discuss and resolve various issues at appropriate levels.

Referring to the institutionalised mechanism to monitor execution of military technical cooperation programmes, the Minister stressed the need to monitor the timely implementation of the decisions being taken in these meetings. In this regard he suggested that both sides could work out a mechanism where all concerned - the enterprises, government agencies and the user could join together.

Referring to the next round of joint naval exercises in Russian waters which are scheduled in April this year, Shri Antony said while we have traveled far ahead in our military technical cooperation, there is a need to develop professional military-to-military cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries. This includes exchange of each other’s expertise, training cooperation, joint-exercises etc. He said the term of the 1996 Agreement exclusively covering military to military cooperation has expired and we could consider signing a fresh Agreement duly taking into account the present day requirements. There is also need to impart a greater degree of strategic security dialogue between the officials of our Ministries of Defence and between the Service personnel of the Armed Forces of the two sides.

The Defence Minister said current issues of mutual concern such as international terrorism, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and timely delivery of assistance and rehabilitation during and after major natural disasters, are areas where we could have greater exchange of ideas. This would be to the mutual benefit of our countries and with an improved professional military-to-military cooperation. Shri Antony said problems arising in military technical cooperation could also be addressed in an effective manner.

Shri Antony said India's ties with the Russian Federation are time tested and based on continuity, trust and mutual understanding. There is a national consensus in the two countries on the need to preserve and strengthen the fundamentals of India-Russia relations and they are unaffected by political developments in either country. The Defence Minister said "we share common concern in the fight against global terrorism and in ensuring peace and stability in our respective regions". Shri Antony recalled the Declaration on Strategic Partnership between India and the Russian Federation signed during the visit of President Putin in the year 2000 which lays down the contours of India-Russia relations in the 21st century and elevates them to a new level.

Earlier in the day, the Russian Deputy Prime Minister and the Defence Minister Mr. S B Ivanov laid wreath at Amar Jawan Jyoti. He was given a ceremonial Guard of Honour on his arrival at Ministry of Defence.

The next meeting of the IRIGC - MTC will be held in Moscow this year.

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Iran Deems Risk Of US Attack Very Weak

Tehran (AFP): Iran's top national security official, Ali Larijani, assessed as "very weak" Thursday the possibility of a pre-emptive US strike on his country's nuclear facilities. "The possibility of this is very weak and it's more a matter of psychological warfare," the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Larijani as saying.

However, Iran is always ready to confront threats."

Earlier this month, US President George W. Bush ordered a second US aircraft carrier battle group to the Gulf and announced the deployment of Patriot anti-missile missiles to the region.

Washington was the most outspoken champion on the Security Council of its adoption of the first ever UN sanctions against Iran over its refusal to heed calls for a suspension of its uranium enrichment programme.

Iran insists that its nuclear activities are aimed solely at producing power for civilian needs, but the United States backs its Israeli ally in accusing the Islamic republic of covertly seeking to develop an atomic bomb.

Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar issued a similar message of defiance, vowing that Iran would repulse any strike, of whatever size.

"The Islamic republic's armed forces are in a state of complete readiness and are monitoring everything in order to give a crushing response to even the smallest aggression or threat," the ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.

"I advise Mr Bush and his advisors to be rational and think about their own nation's interest."

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U.S. Army Awards NGC Integrated DoD Biometrics System-of-Systems Enterprise Solution Contract

Northrop Grumman Corporation has been awarded a contract by the General Services Administration, Federal Systems Integration and Management Center, for the U.S. Army PEO-EIS, to provide an integrated Department of Defense (DoD) biometrics system-of-systems enterprise solution that will integrate their worldwide biometrics efforts.

The contract is valued at approximately $75 million to Northrop Grumman\'s Information Technology (IT) sector.

This contract is significant to Northrop Grumman due to the growing importance of biometrics in winning the global war on terrorism. This biometrics system will be the DoD\'s biometric repository for all identification types, linking to the intelligence community and civilian agencies, all in a focused effort to address the war on terrorism.

Under the terms of the contract, Northrop Grumman will provide program management, systems engineering and support for the automated biometric identification system. The company will also design, develop and field an enterprise solution that will include the central biometric repository, and also the tactical identification collection, enrollment and verification, allowing for near real-time retain, capture, or release data to be sent to the warfighter.

This effort will support the DoD biometric mission by operating and enhancing a biometric identification repository, associated search and retrieval services, and interfaces with existing and planned DoD and interagency biometrics systems. The Northrop Grumman solution will interface with collection systems, intelligence systems, and other biometric repositories already deployed. This solution is multi-modal, to include finger, face, iris and palm identification.

Northrop Grumman will add approximately 50 new jobs to support this contract with a majority of the positions located in West Virginia. Work on the contract will be performed in West Virginia, Fort Belvoir, Va., and Iraq.

Northrop Grumman\'s teammates on this contract include Ideal Innovations Inc., Arlington, Va.; L-1 Identity Solutions, Inc., Stamford, Conn.; and NEW-BOLD Enterprises, Inc., Fairmont, W.Va.

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SAIC Awarded Contract to Provide IT Support to Navy Personnel Command

Science Applications International Corporation today announced it won a single award, cost-plus-award-fee contract to provide information technology support services for Manpower, Personnel, Training, and Education (MPT&E) for the Navy Personnel Command in Millington, Tenn.

The contract has a one-year base term, four one-year options, and a total value of $52.9 million if all options are exercised. Through the contract, SAIC will provide an array of IT services including service-oriented architecture, Web-enabled applications development, and disaster recovery and continuity of operations.

"For nearly a decade, we\'ve been supporting the evolution of the Navy\'s mission," said Randy Cash, SAIC\'s senior vice president and general manager of the Enterprise Solutions Business Unit. "We look forward to continuing our long-standing relationship with MPT&E by providing seamless continuity of IT services, and helping tackle future challenges for this vitally important customer."

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Northrop Grumman Completes Acquisition of Essex Corporation

Northrop Grumman Corporation announced today that it has completed the acquisition of Essex Corporation, having acquired 100 percent of the shares of Essex common stock for $24 per share. The cash transaction is valued at approximately $580 million, which includes the assumption of Essex\'s debt.

Essex provides signal processing services and products and advanced optoelectronic imaging for U.S. government intelligence and defense customers. It will operate as a business unit within Northrop Grumman\'s Mission Systems sector.

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L-3 Communications' CyTerra Receives $40M Order From US Army for New Handheld Mine Detectors

L-3 Communications announced today that its CyTerra (L-3 CyTerra) subsidiary has received a follow-on order from the U.S. Army valued at more than $40 million for several thousand AN/PSS-14 advanced mine detection systems, plus accessories. The purchase is the second order placed by the U.S. Army under a ten year, full rate production contract for up to 17,000 units with an anticipated value in excess of $300 million. The initial order, announced in August 2006, was for more than $24 million of AN/PSS-14 systems and accessories.

Unlike earlier generations of mine detectors that relied on metal detection alone, the AN/PSS-14 - developed by L-3 CyTerra under the U.S. Army Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System (HSTAMIDS) program - combines highly sensitive metal detection with ground-penetrating radar and advanced data fusion algorithms, all in a rugged, compact system. This unique combination of technologies represents a major advancement in detection capabilities and enables the AN/PSS-14 to accurately differentiate deadly landmines from harmless metal debris.

As U.S. troops continue to operate in some of the world\'s most heavily mined regions, the AN/PSS-14 significantly improves the speed and safety of mine clearance operations performed by U.S. forces, and dramatically enhances their ability to readily locate both metallic and low-metallic anti-personnel and anti-tank mines buried in all types of soil and terrain. To date, L-3 CyTerra has delivered more than 3,000 AN/PSS-14 mine detecting sets to the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps under this and other contracts.

"Mine detection and clearance remains a complex and high-risk challenge for our military," noted Craig Coy, President and Chief Operating Officer of the L-3 Homeland Security Group. "The scope of this contract and the accelerated rate at which the U.S. Army deploys the AN/PSS-14 signifies the trust they have in our technology. We\'re very proud to be a direct contributor to the demining efforts of the U.S. Armed Forces engaged in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world."

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Dangers Increasing in 21st Century, Chertoff Says

The world would face an irreversible change for the worse if terrorists are able to acquire weapons of mass destruction, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said today (see GSN, Dec. 29, 2006).

“What we face in the 21st century is the ability of even a single individual , and certainly a group, to leverage technology in a way to cause a type of destruction and a magnitude of destruction that would have been unthinkable a century ago,” he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “And that is only going to get worse.

“You can’t put the genie back in the bottle once a weapon of mass destruction or a nuclear bomb gets into the hands of a terrorist,” Chertoff said. “You are not going to be able to reclaim that and it is going to transform the way in which we live” (Associated Press/New York Times, Jan. 25).

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Chavez: U.S. ambassador could be tossed out

Venezuelan president warns envoy over comments on nationalizing firms

CARACAS, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez warned the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela on Thursday that he could be asked to leave the country for saying U.S. companies and investors must receive a fair price for their shares of Venezuela's largest telephone company when it is nationalized.

"If you continue meddling in Venezuela's affairs, first of all, you are violating the Geneva agreements and getting yourself involved in a serious violation and could ... be declared a persona non grata and would have to leave the country," Chavez said in response to comments made by William Brownfield.

Earlier Thursday, Brownfield told local Union Radio the planned takeover of CA Nacional de Telefonos, or CANTV, should proceed "in a transparent, legal manner" and that Venezuela's government must offer "fair and quick compensation to the people who are affected or the owners."
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"These are the only obligations that a government has when it decides to nationalize an industry," he added.

Virginia-based Verizon Communications Inc. holds the largest minority share of CANTV, which was privatized in 1991. The takeover jeopardizes an agreement by Verizon to sell its 28.5 percent stake in CANTV to a joint venture of America Movil and Telefonos de Mexico SA, controlled by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

The sale had been awaiting Venezuelan government regulatory approval.

Chavez, a self-proclaimed "revolutionary" who is steering Venezuela toward socialism, has said he wants an immediate state takeover of the telephone company and will not pay shareholders the market value.

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