Limo Driver pleads guilty to assault after brawl near Turkey’s embassy in Washington D.C.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two men pleaded guilty on Thursday to felony assault in a street brawl in May near the Turkish embassy in Washington during a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the U.S. Justice Department said.


Sinan Narin, 45, of McLean, Virginia, and Eyup Yildirim, 50, of Manchester, New Jersey each pleaded guilty to one count of assault in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.


Sentencing for the two is scheduled for March 15, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.


The May 16 clash between Turkish security personnel and demonstrators protesting against Erdogan’s government strained relations between Turkey and the United States. Eleven people were hurt. In June U.S. prosecutors charged a dozen Turkish security and police officers with assault.

Turkey blamed the brawl outside its ambassador’s residence on demonstrators linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party, while Washington’s police chief referred to it as a “brutal attack” on peaceful protesters.



According to the plea deals released by the Justice Department on Thursday, a pro-Erdogan crowd that day “outnumbered the protesters by at least two to one.”

Prosecutors said Narin, who was employed as a limousine driver and was not associated with Turkish security personnel, was captured on video kicking a protester who then suffered a concussion.

Yildirim was also captured on video kicking another protester, prosecutors said. That protester also suffered a concussion and needed five stitches. He is also not associated with Turkish security personnel, the Justice Department said.


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Washington praises Uzbekistan for high-security​ level of US Embassy in Tashkent

(MENAFN – Trend News Agency ) Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Dec. 25

By Diana Aliyeva – Trend:

Uzbek Interior Ministry hosted a meeting with a high ranking US security official, where security issues of the US Embassy in Tashkent were discussed, the ministry said in a message.

At the meeting, the US side expressed gratitude to Uzbekistan for the high level of security of representatives of the US embassy in Tashkent, ensured by the staff of the Separate Battalion for the Protection of Diplomatic Missions under the Uzbek Interior Ministry.

Lieutenant Colonel Erkin Marupov, head of office of the International Cooperation Department of the Uzbek Interior Ministry, Lieutenant Colonel Umidjon Atadjanov, commander of the Separate Battalion for the Protection of Diplomatic Missions under the Head Department of Security Guard and Patrol Service and Protection of Public Order of the Uzbek Interior Ministry, Lieutenant Colonel Askar Begmatov, Atadjanov’s deputy, as well as Captain Sardor Tulyaganov, inspector of the Head Department of Security Guard and Patrol Service and Protection of Public Order of the Uzbek Interior Ministry took part in the meeting.

At the meeting, the US side expressed satisfaction with the quality and promptness of the assistance of the Uzbek Interior Ministry in the investigation of the terrorist attack committed Oct. 31 in New York by a 29-year-old native of Tashkent.

During the meeting held in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and trust, other issues of mutual interest were also discussed.



Israel Embassy attack reveals security lapses

The investigation into the paint attack at the Israeli Embassy in Athens at 6 a.m. on Christmas Day has revealed lapses in security procedures, according to sources.

Kathimerini understands that at the moment of the attack by members of the anti-establishment group Rouvikonas in northern Athens, the two police guards on duty did nothing to stop or pursue the culprits apart from notifying police headquarters, as they are required to do in such situations.

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According to footage posted by Rouvikonas on an anti-establishment website, around 10 people wearing motorcycle helmets are seen running up to the embassy and throwing red paint on to the building’s facade, unhindered, before driving off on motorbikes.

The group has been linked to numerous acts of vandalism of public property, hospitals and state offices.

A Greek Police (ELAS) official told Kathimerini that the actions of the two guards “are being evaluated” while police union representatives defended the pair, saying that they acted in accordance to what is expected of them.

The investigation further revealed that there was no police car parked outside the building as stipulated in security plans designed to protect the embassy.

Another police source said that members of the group had been monitoring the movements of security officials and knew when the building would be most vulnerable.

“In the 52 seconds that the attack lasted we didn’t have enough time to respond,” the source told Kathimerini.

“[Rouvikonas] acts on the border of legality, but whenever it crosses [that line] it pays and it will pay in this case also,” said Alternate Public Order Minister Nikos Toskas, who called Israeli Ambassador to Greece Irit Ben-Abba on Tuesday to condemn the attack and pledge that every effort would be made to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

Meanwhile, the Popular Fighters Group – an extreme leftist group – claimed responsibility on Wednesday for the bombing on December 22 at an Athens courthouse.



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British Diplomat raped, strangled and dumped by the side of a motorway.

A female British diplomat has been found dead after being strangled in Beirut and officials are investigating whether she was sexually assaulted before the attack.

Rebecca Dykes, 30, was found dead on Saturday close to the Metn expressway, in Lebanon’s capital, reports Al Jadeed TV.

Police are tonight probing whether Ms Dykes, from London, had been raped before she was found dead.

Ms Dykes, a former public schoolgirl, started working for the government in 2010 and she had been at a bar in the centre of the city on Friday night before she was attacked after midnight.


It is believed she was abducted minutes after she left the bar.

Her body has reportedly been transferred to the Dahr al-Bashak Hospital for a post-mortem examination.

A security source said she was discovered with a ‘piece of string around her neck’.

Another official involved in the investigation said the crime did not appear to be ‘politically motivated’.

The Lebanese official said her body was found ‘on the side of the Emile Lahoud road’, just north of Beirut.

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A family spokesman said: ‘We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Rebecca. We are doing all we can to understand what happened.

‘We request that the media respect our privacy as we come together as a family at this very difficult time.’

Al Jadeed TV reports Ms Dykes had been raped and an official said investigators are probing whether she was sexually assaulted.

British Ambassador to Lebanon, Hugo Shorter, said: ‘The whole embassy is deeply shocked and saddened by this news.


‘Our thoughts are with Becky’s family, friends and colleagues for their tragic loss.

‘We are providing consular support to Becky’s family and working very closely with the Lebanese local authorities who are conducting the police investigation.’

Friends said she was flying home for Christmas Saturday.

Ms Dykes joined the Department for International Development and had been working as a programme and policy manager based in Lebanon since January.

Before she moved to Beirut she worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the Libya team as a policy manager. She had previously worked as an Iraq Research Analyst with the FCO.

The University of Manchester graduate also had a masters in International Security and Global Governance from Birkbeck, University of London.

She also spent four years teaching teenagers English in Hong Kong.

A spokesman for the Department for International Development where she worked said: ‘Our thoughts are with Becky’s family and friends at this very upsetting time.

‘There is now a police investigation and the FCO (Foreign Office) is providing consular support to Becky’s family and working with the local authorities.’

A Foreign Office spokesman added: ‘Following the death of a British woman in Beirut, we are providing support to the family.

‘We remain in close contact with local authorities. Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time.’


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Overflights, mapping fiber-optic networks, “strange activities.” Moscow’s West Coast spies were busy.


The first thing you need to understand about the building that, until very recently, housed the Russian Consulate in San Francisco — a city where topography is destiny, where wealth and power concentrate, quite literally, at the top — is its sense of elevation. Brick-fronted, sentinel-like, and six stories high, it sits on a hill in Pacific Heights, within one of the city’s toniest zip codes. This is a neighborhood that radiates a type of wealth, power, and prestige that long predates the current wave of nouveau riche tech millionaires, or the wave before that, or the one before that. It is old and solid and comfortable with its privilege; its denizens know they have a right to rule. Indeed, from Pacific Heights, one can simultaneously gaze out on the city, the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge — and, beyond, the vast, frigid Pacific.


The second thing you need to understand about the closure of Russia’s San Francisco consulate is that, after the Trump administration summarily announced on Aug. 31 that it would shutter the building 48 hours later, the news coverage that followed almost uniformly focused on two things: the dumbfounding heat (this city, cool and grey, is in California but not of it) and the black smoke wheezing from the consulate’s chimney, as employees rushed to burn up, one assumes, anything confidential or inculpatory.

People were right to look upward, toward the building’s roof, but their focus was misplaced: It was, in reality, the motley array of antennas and satellites and electronic transmittal devices dotting the rooftop — objects viewed with deep suspicion and consternation by U.S. intelligence community officials for decades — that tells the story of the Russian Consulate in San Francisco, not the ash drifting listlessly over the neighboring mansions.


I rushed to the consulate the day the closure announcement was made and watched the building sit impassively in the heat, while the media crews cooled off in the shade. A suspiciously large number of delivery vans were circling, and there was an unusual concentration of loiterers (in their cars, on computers; in biking gear, across the street) on an otherwise very quiet block. Pedestrians walked by, snapping photos on their iPhones.

San Francisco, it was clear, was now embroiled in the increasingly feverish diplomatic confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers. In July, Russian President Vladimir Putin had announced, in an interview on state-run television, that he was decreasing by 755 the total number of personnel working at U.S. diplomatic facilities in his country. Closing the San Francisco consulate (and two smaller diplomatic annexes) was the Trump administration’s retaliation for this move.

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Putin, for his part, claimed that he was merely responding to the Barack Obama administration’s December 2016 shuttering of two Russian recreational compounds on the East Coast; the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats, identified as spies, from the country (this list included four employees of the San Francisco consulate, including the building’s “chef”); and a new round of congressional sanctions. The Obama administration, of course, made these moves in retaliation for the unprecedented Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

But why the focus on San Francisco? Why not close one of Russia’s other three consulates, in New York, Seattle, or Houston? And why now?

The answer, I discovered, appears to revolve around an intensive, sustained, and mystifying pattern of espionage emanating from the San Francisco consulate. According to multiple former intelligence officials, while these “strange activities” were not limited to San Francisco or its environs, they originated far more frequently from the San Francisco consulate than any other Russian diplomatic facility in the United States, including the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. As one former intelligence source put it, suspected Russian spies were “doing peculiar things in places they shouldn’t be.” Russian officials in Washington failed to respond to multiple attempts via email and phone for comment.

In the course of reporting this story, I spoke to over half a dozen former high-level U.S. intelligence officials about the closure of the consulate. Some of these individuals, almost all of whom worked on counterintelligence in San Francisco, spoke on the record generally about Russian espionage in Northern California; extensive conversations with other former intelligence officials occurred on background, in order to discuss sensitive matters related to recent Russian activities in the Bay Area and beyond. These sources confirmed that the San Francisco consulate served a unique role in Russian intelligence-gathering operations in the United States, as an important, and perhaps unrivaled, hub for its technical collection efforts here. But, as I discovered, it was what these efforts entailed that is key to understanding why San Francisco — the oldest and most established Russian Consulate in the United States — was singled out for closure.

For many decades, U.S. officials have been keenly aware that, because of the consulate’s proximity to Silicon Valley, educational institutions such as Stanford and Berkeley, and the large number of nearby defense contractors and researchers — including two Energy Department-affiliated nuclear weapons laboratories — Russia has used San Francisco as a focal point for espionage activity. The modalities of Russian espionage in the Bay Area have historically been well known to U.S. counterintelligence personnel, who understand (at least generally) what the Russians will target and how they will try to achieve their objectives.

One former senior counterintelligence executive, for example, recalled the “disproportionate number” of science- and technology-focused Russian intelligence officers based in San Francisco, some of whom were experts in encryption and were tasked with identifying new developments in such technologies in Silicon Valley. A second former intelligence official noted the long-standing interest of Russian intelligence operatives in San Francisco in building relationships with local tech experts and venture capital firms. What has evolved, noted multiple former officials, is the intensity of Russian efforts. According to Kathleen Puckett, who spent two decades working on counterintelligence in the Bay Area, “there was more aggressiveness by the Russians in the 2000s than back in the 1980s.”

Starting roughly 10 years ago — and perhaps going even longer back, according to multiple former U.S. intelligence officials — something changed. Suspected Russian intelligence officers, often fully aware they were being surveilled by the FBI, began showcasing inexplicable and bizarre behaviors in remote, forlorn, or just seemingly random places.

It is highly likely, sources told me, that the consulate’s closure was linked to U.S. intelligence officials definitively proving long-held suspicions about the objectives of these Russian activities — or that officials could simply no longer countenance these extraordinarily aggressive intelligence-collection efforts and seized on the opportunity to disrupt them after Putin’s latest diplomatic salvo.

What seems clear is that when it came to Russian spying, San Francisco was at the very forefront of innovation.

Imagine driving up and over Mount Tamalpais, the iconic 2,500-foot peak located just north of San Francisco, then switch-backing precipitously through a redwood-studded ravine until, over the horizon, you spot a giant, shimmering, curvilinear beachfront. This is Stinson Beach, a 45-minute drive from the city. Now imagine that, standing out at the water’s edge, is a man in a suit — a man known to U.S. intelligence as a Russian intelligence officer. He has a small device in his hand. He stares out at the ocean for a few minutes, turns around, walks to his car, and leaves.

This account, confirmed to me by multiple former U.S. counterintelligence officials, is one example of a spate of such odd behaviors. Suspected Russian intelligence operatives — under diplomatic cover as well as travelers visiting the country — were also found idling in wheat fields and in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, among other places. Russia has a “long and successful record of using legal travelers” for intelligence-gathering purposes, Steven Hall, the CIA’s former chief of Russia operations, told me. “This ranges, for example, from someone who gets a visa to do a scholarly presentation to someone who says they want to visit Napa Valley on their vacation,” he said.

Some suspected Russian intelligence officers were found engaging in weird, repetitive behaviors in gas stations in dusky, arid burgs off Interstate 5, California’s main north-south artery. In one remarkably strange case, said one former intelligence official, two suspected Russian spies were surveilled pulling into a gas station. The driver stood next to his car, not purchasing any fuel. The passenger approached a tree, circling it a few times. Then they both got back into the car and drove away. Suspected Russian intelligence operatives would perform the same strange rituals multiple times at the same gas stations.

Multiple theories about these activities emerged. One was that the Russians were trying to confuse and overwhelm their FBI surveillance teams, in order to gauge just how extensive their coverage really was — in other words, to test the capacity of their counterspies. Another theory revolved around a long-standing communications technique among Russian spies, known as “burst transmissions,” wherein intelligence operatives transmit data to one another via short-wave radio communications. But for these, said another former intelligence official, you need a line of sight, and such transmissions are only effective at relatively short distances.

Many of these behaviors, however, didn’t seem to fit a mold. For one, the FBI couldn’t establish that these suspected Russian intelligence operatives — some of whom were spotted with little devices in their hands, others without — were engaging in any communications. But according to multiple sources, one recurrent and worrying feature of these activities was that they often happened to correspond to places where underground nodes connected the country’s fiber-optic cable network. (In a June articlePolitico’s Ali Watkins reported a few instances of these strange behaviors, tracing them back to the summer of 2016, as well as their potential connection to the fiber-optic network.)

Over time, multiple former intelligence officials told me, the FBI concluded that Russia was engaged in a massive, long-running, and continuous data-collection operation: a mission to comprehensively locate all of America’s underground communications nodes, and to map out and catalogue the points in the fiber-optic network where data were being transferred. They were “obviously trying to determine how sophisticated our intelligence network is,” said one former official, and these activities “helped them put the dots together.”

Sometimes, multiple former U.S. intelligence officials told me, Russian operatives appeared to be actively attempting to penetrate communications infrastructure — especially where undersea cables came ashore on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. They were “pretty sure” said a former intelligence official that, on at least one occasion on land, a Russian operative successfully broke into a data closet (a telecommunications and hardware storage center) as part of an attempt to penetrate one of these systems.

But what was “really unnerving,” said the former senior counterintelligence executive, was the Russians’ focus on communication nodes near military bases. According to multiple sources, U.S. officials eventually concluded that Moscow’s ultimate goal was to have the capacity to sever communications, paralyzing the U.S. military’s command and control systems, in case of a confrontation between the two powers. “If they can shut down our grid, and we go blind,” noted a former intelligence official, “they are closer to leveling the playing field,” because the United States is widely considered to possess superior command and control capabilities. When I described this purported effort to map out the fiber-optic network to Hall, the former senior CIA official, he seemed unfazed. “In the context of the Russians trying to conduct hybrid warfare in the United States, using cyber-types of tools,” he said, “none of what you described would surprise me.”

Multiple former intelligence officials also told me that U.S. officials were concerned that Russian intelligence operatives would provide these coordinates to deep-cover “illegals” — that is, Russian spies in the country under non-diplomatic cover (think of the Anna Chapman network) — or travelers, who might then carry out a sabotage campaign. There were also concerns that Russia could share these coordinates with other hostile foreign-intelligence services, such as a potential illegal Iranian network operating within the country.

As these strange activities persisted over the last decade, former intelligence officials told me, the FBI began to collate and compare surveillance reports from across the country, overlaying them with Russian flight paths occurring as part of the overt Treaty on Open Skies collection program.

The treaty, which entered into force in 2002, allows both the United States and Russia (and 32 other signatories) to conduct a limited number of unarmed surveillance and reconnaissance flights over each other’s territory per year. (According to the State Department, as of 2016 the United States had flown a total of 196 such flights over Russia, while Russia had flown 71 flights over the United States.) The methods of collection — video, photographic, infrared, and radar — are highly regulated and circumscribed, and the country whose territory is being flown over must approve the requested flight path. Flights are monitored in person by representatives of the host government. Afterward, upon request, the collected data must be shared with all treaty signatories. Open Skies was conceived, essentially, as an arms-control agreement: an attempt to decrease, through greater transparency, the uncertainties surrounding each great power’s array of military forces, which could lead to an erroneous nuclear exchange.

But U.S. intelligence officials began to notice a disturbing pattern vis-à-vis these “strange activities” and Open Skies: Suspected Russian operatives were appearing in places that had recently been, or were later, part of Russian flyovers. If these operatives were on the ground prior to the flight, U.S. officials suspected that they were likely helping shape coordinates for subsequent Open Skies missions, multiple former intelligence officials told me. If they appeared afterward, U.S. officials believed that the Russians had identified a potential object of interest (such as a fiber-optic node) and wanted in-person confirmation on what previously been identified during a flyover. There is simply “no substitute for someone literally going to locations and recording GPS coordinates,” said the former senior counterintelligence executive. “From 30,000 feet, you’re not necessarily going to have accuracy if you’re pinpointing a portal.”

Eventually, U.S intelligence officials hit on another series of correlations: Not only were suspected spies visiting the same places that Russian surveillance planes were flying over as part of their Open Skies missions, but they were also appearing directly beneath these planes, in real time, while these flights were ongoing. “The idea was that some kind of communication could have been taking place between the plane and guy on the ground,” one former intelligence official told me. “The hard part was to confirm exactly what they were doing.” (Foreign Policycould not verify whether U.S. officials were able to definitively establish if, or how, such communications indeed occurred.)

One theory, relayed to me by multiple sources, was that the Russians might have been using the flights as a communication platform — airplanes can act as a kind of cell tower, the former officials noted, receiving and transmitting data. If Moscow was concerned that U.S. counterintelligence was able to intercept encrypted data from secure communications facilities based in their diplomatic compounds, the Russians might have been seeking to bypass this possibility by secretly routing data through the passing airplanes. “If a U.S. monitor is watching three functions aboard an Open Skies flight,” worried one former intelligence official, “maybe the fourth function is covert — out of sight and out of mind of observers — and while the monitor is looking at these other functions, the transmission and receipt of data is occurring under their nose.”

If true, these actions by Russia would appear to violate the spirit of the Treaty on Open Skies, if not the letter itself. The treaty has strict restrictions on the types of collection that is permitted, and any covert ground-to-air communication or data transfer occurring between an aircraft and a suspected intelligence officer located below would seem to clearly contravene the agreement. This entire data-collection operation for the western United States, said one former senior counterintelligence executive, was being managed out of the San Francisco consulate.

Russia has aggressively exploited its diplomatic presence in San Francisco for decades, and the United States has historically responded in kind. In 1983, for instance, the State Department issued new guidelines forbidding Soviet diplomats and journalists from visiting Silicon Valley. In the Ronald Reagan era, the consulate figured prominently in a number of sordid cases featuring American turncoats — including those of Allen John Davies, a former Air Force sergeant who offered the Soviets information on a secret U.S. reconnaissance program, and Richard Miller, the first FBI agent ever to be convicted of espionage, who was sleeping with — and passing information to — a Soviet agent being run out of San Francisco. In 1986, 13 San Francisco-based Soviet diplomats, accused of spying, were expelled by the Reagan administration; soon after, the Soviets publicly accused the FBI of operating a sophisticated bugging system in San Francisco via a tunnel it had secretly bored under the consulate. (“Obviously” the building was bugged around this time, said Rick Smith, who worked on Russian counterintelligence for the FBI in San Francisco from 1972 to 1992.)

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Soviets’ interest in San Francisco “was primarily about economic, and not really political, intelligence,” said Oleg Kalugin, a former KGB major general who served as the deputy (and later acting) chief of the KGB station at the Soviet Embassy in Washington from 1975 to 1980. “The main priority of Russian intelligence at that point was industrial development, technological development, to get equal to the United States,” said Kalugin.

Quietly but unquestionably, San Francisco had become a locus of Russian spying. “In recent years,” states a 1984 UPI article, “there have been frequent reports that 50 or more spies report to the San Francisco consulate general.” In fact, wrote the San Jose Mercuryin 1985, “FBI officials believe Soviet spying on the West Coast is controlled” from this location. “Agents say the Soviets eavesdrop on the Silicon Valley from the roof of the consulate using sophisticated electronics made in the United States.”

The giveaway, even then, was the roof: covered with satellite dishes, antennae, and makeshift shacks, these devices pointed to a robust Russian signals-intelligence presence. (The shacks, which persisted until recently, one former intelligence official told me, were erected to conceal the shape of the transmission devices from U.S. intelligence agencies, which would occasionally conduct reconnaissance overhead.)

During that time, “there was nothing but antennas and signals” on the top of the building, recalled former FBI agent LaRae Quy, who spent nearly two decades working counterintelligence in San Francisco. “It was embarrassing that we would allow that to happen. But I guess that’s what the Russians did for us as well.” Quy, who retired in 2006, also told me that at least 50 percent of all San Francisco consulate personnel in the 1980s were full- or part-time spies.

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This focus on signals and technical intelligence persisted until much more recently, multiple former U.S. intelligence officials told me. “It was almost like everyone they had there was a technical guy, as opposed to a human-intelligence guy,” one former official recalled. “The way they protected those people — they were rarely out in the community. It was work, home, work, home. When they’d go out and about, to play hockey or to drink, they’d be in a group. It was hard to penetrate.” The same official also noted that San Francisco was integral to the discovery by U.S. intelligence of a new class of Russian “technical-type” intelligence officer, working for the rough Russian equivalent of the National Security Agency, before this organization was eventually folded by Putin back into the FSB. This group, which was not based at the consulate itself, was identified via its members’ travel patterns — they would visit the Bay Area frequently — and the types of individuals, all in high-tech development, with whom they sought contact. According to this former U.S. official, these Russian intelligence officers were particularly interested in discussing cryptology and the Next Generation Internet program.

But it was the consulate’s location — perched high atop that hill in Pacific Heights, with a direct line of sight out to the ocean — that likely determined the concentration of signals activity. Certain types of highly encrypted communications cannot be transmitted over long distances, and multiple sources told me that U.S. officials believed that Russian intelligence potentially took advantage of the consulate’s location to communicate with submarines, trawlers, or listening posts located in international waters off the Northern California coast. (Russian intelligence officers may also have been remotely transmitting data to spy stations offshore, multiple former intelligence officials told me, explaining the odd behaviors on Stinson Beach.) It is also “very possible,” said one former intelligence official, that the Russians were using the San Francisco consulate to monitor the movements, and perhaps communications, of the dozen or so U.S. nuclear-armed submarines that routinely patrol the Pacific from their base in Washington state.

All in all, said this same official, it was “very likely” that the consulate functioned for Russia as a classified communications hub for the entire western United States — and, perhaps, the entire western part of the hemisphere.

The closure of the San Francisco consulate cannot, of course, be decoupled from the political circumstances surrounding it. Because of the unique, and uniquely unsettling, history and attitude of U.S. President Donald Trump toward Russia — the one country treated with forbearance by a president who blithely aggrieves adversaries and allies alike — the administration’s actions in San Francisco were viewed with perplexity and suspicion by a number of the former intelligence officials with whom I spoke.

First, some note, there is the issue of retaliatory balance: In these kinds of diplomatic conflicts, there is an expectation of parity in terms of the damage you inflict on your antagonist. Putin’s move — to order a 755-person staff decrease among U.S. diplomatic mission employees in Russia — appeared far more aggressive than it actually was. The U.S. government employs hundreds of Russians (knowing full well that some may be spies) to help staff its diplomatic facilities in that country, and almost all the affected individuals under these cuts were Russian nationals, not U.S. diplomats or intelligence officials in Russia under diplomatic cover. The sting of this decision was further lessened by the fact that, as one source told me, U.S. intelligence officials have been pushing the State Department for years to decrease local staff in its diplomatic facilities in Russia because of ubiquitous concerns about espionage. Putin’s decision, then, was not without risks for Russian intelligence-gathering operations themselves. “The downside for the Russians is that [by ordering the staffing decrease] you’re the cutting number of potential informants,” noted Hall, the CIA’s former chief of Russia operations.

The outright shuttering of the San Francisco consulate by the Trump administration, then, seems to be a more severe countermeasure than the Russian actions that immediately precipitated it. The closure announcement, Hall said, was “great news, and long overdue.” Stephanie Douglas, who served as the FBI special agent in charge of the San Francisco Division from 2009 to 2012, characterized the administration’s decision as “incredibly aggressive and pretty stunning, honestly.” It was “a blow to the Russians to have this consulate close, in particular,” the former senior counterintelligence executive said. Another former intelligence official called it “unprecedented.” Compounding the mystery further has been Russia’s relatively muted response; a sign, this last former official speculated, that Putin may still be holding out hope for some kind of grand bargain with the Trump administration. “If they don’t react to closing of the San Francisco consulate,” wondered the former official, “what’s the payback they’re waiting for?”

The incongruities here are unsettling. On the one hand, Trump’s decision to shut down the San Francisco consulate was far more consequential and assertive than most realized at the time; on the other hand, there is no evidence — nor any good reason to believe, given his past proclivities — that Trump himself understood the gravity of his own move. “Based on my other interactions with West Wing officials, and the depth of their understanding on the issues in general, I would be very surprised personally if President Trump had any … comprehension of that at all,” said Jeffrey Edmonds, who served as the National Security Council’s director for Russia until April 2017.

Edmonds suggested the locus of the closure decision was likely the National Security Council’s Principals Committee — particularly Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis — and that the move was thereafter delivered to Trump as a fait accompli. “I’ve heard that, generally, when Tillerson and Mattis come to an agreement and present something to the president, he’s usually pretty on board with that,” Edmonds said.

This National Security Council-centered account was the most benign theory I heard. One former intelligence official offered that the consulate’s closure may be a signal from Trump to Robert Mueller, a way for the president to show the special counsel appointed to investigate election-year collusion with Moscow that his administration is not in thrall to Russian interests, financially or personally. A second former official speculated that the closure will be temporary and that after, say, a future terrorist attack in the United States, Moscow might ostentatiously offer to provide intelligence on the perpetrators, and the Trump administration — grateful for Russia’s cooperation and assistance — might then return the building to its erstwhile tenants.

These former U.S. officials were as united in their opinion about Russia’s long-term objectives as they were divided about Trump’s short-term intentions. Every former intelligence officer I spoke with for this story was confident that Russia will continue aggressive human-intelligence-gathering operations in the Bay Area, likely through individuals under non-official cover — say, via engineers or data scientists. “Silicon Valley loves Russian programmers,” remarked one former intelligence official.

The dynamics and methods they employ will necessarily change, these officials said, but San Francisco and Silicon Valley are simply too target-rich, too valuable, and too soft for them to cease activities here. The spy war will endure; the Russians will, over time, rebuild their networks, adjusting their activities to account for their lack of local diplomatic cover. Ultimately, the circumstances surrounding the closure of the San Francisco consulate are just one piece in a much larger, and far more shadowy, antagonism between the two nuclear superpowers. “The great game is upon us again,” one former intelligence official said to me. “San Francisco has always been a focal point for Russian interests. The work won’t stop.”



The Secret History of the Russian Consulate in San Francisco

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New Billion Dollar US Embassy in London. World’s Most Expensive Embassy complete with a Moat!

 At $1 billion, it is the most expensive embassy ever constructed. But its designers say the new American chancery on the Thames River marks a paradigm shift: The U.S. Embassy here will exude openness while hiding all the clever ways it defends itself from attack.


After decades of building American embassies that look brutalist or bland, like obvious fortresses, the soon-to-be-opened chancery in London is a crystalline cube, plopped down in the middle of a public park, without visible walls.

The building does not shout, “Spies work here!” or “Stand back!” even though this city has been subjected to terrorist attacks. Instead, the vibe is modernist museum, which also happens to issue visas and might have a few hidden bunkers somewhere.

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Instead of blast walls, there is a perimeter pond, with recycled-water waterfalls and deep trenches — and on the roof, arrays of solar panels that will produce enough juice to run the building and give extra watts back to the grid.

The building sports frosted- glass walkways, inspirational quotes from the Constitution, neon sculptures, reclaimed teak benches, Cornwall granite, its own subterranean wastewater treatment plant and a dozen gardens in the sky, one representing the flora of the American Midwest.

There’s also a pub, a gym, a post office and a posh Marine barracks, with millionaire views all the way to Westminster for the hard-working 19-year-old lance corporals.


One assumes there is a CIA station, but that was not on the tour.

The media were given a first look inside Wednesday — the embassy will open its doors Jan. 16 — and the early word from the British press was mostly positive.

The Evening Standard called the interiors “stunning,” and the Daily Mail said that rather than a slick and hard-edged high rise, the embassy exterior had a “soft and pillowy” feel — because of the plastic polymer veils that drape three sides of the building, enhancing its energy efficiency.

This is a far cry from earlier critiques.

Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, said in 2010 that the city expected “something a little bit more exciting.”

A critic at the Guardian newspaper that year called the pond “a moat” and reported that the two British members of the design jury tried to block the design because it was too boring.

Johnson confessed that he was a little wistful, though, because there is so much history at the old embassy and its location in Grosvenor Square.

The old embassy, a 1960 modernist gem by Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen, was sold to the real estate division of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, which has gobbled up high-profile London properties, including the Harrods department store. The plan is to turn it into a luxury hotel. The money from its sale, and of other U.S. properties in London, entirely funded the billion-dollar embassy.

The building was designed by the firm KieranTimberlake of Philadelphia.

James Timberlake said that the job specs for the building were 1,000 pages long.

His vision, complex and simple, was to create an embassy at once “welcoming and secure,” measuring a desire to express “transparency, openness, equality” against the need to “filter all and everything and everyone who enter.”

Timberlake envisioned a “crystalline cube” because a cube is “efficient and provocative.” He wanted “a radiant beacon,” iconic architecture with interiors “light-filled, airy, with great views,” that was also environmentally outstanding — the 518,000-square-foot, 12-story building will produce more energy than it uses, even after it cares for 800 staff and 1,000 daily visitors.

Londoners love to give nicknames to the city’s cutting-edge architecture. Here, the newest skyscrapers are known to all, for better or worse, as the Gherkin, Can of Ham, Cheese Grater and the Pringle — or what armchair critic and architectural traditionalist Prince Charles has dismissed as an “absurdist picnic table.”

After the design was announced years ago, Martin Linton, a then-member of Parliament for Battersea borough, said that it “looks a bit too much like a sugar cube.”

Too much? Sugar Cube ain’t bad.

Karla Adam contributed to this report.

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Greek Anarchist Group Attacks Saudi Embassy in Athens (video)

Members of the Rouvikonas anarchist group attacked the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Athens in the early hours of Thursday.

Video footage shows at least six assailants smashing windows with rocks.

In a statement, the group says that the attack was in response to Saudi Arabia’s oppressive regime and its role in the civil war in Yemen.


The group also criticizes the Greek government’s arms deal with the Saudi Kingdom.

Rouvikonas has claimed dozens of violent acts of vandalism and assaults against perceived targets, including state offices, financial agencies, media organizations and politicians.

In recent weeks, the group has scaled up its action, prompting critics of the government to suggest that authorities are turning a blind eye to Rouvikonas as members of the group are rarely arrested..


One of the Most Secure Motorcades in the World.

We delayed sharing this article for OPSEC Reasons. – But here it is.

This coming Sunday and Monday will mark the visit of US Vice President Mike Pence to Estonia. The security measures to be put in place for the visit of America’s number two are nearly equal to efforts made in September of 2014 when Barack Obama visited the country. The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) will bring in additional forces from nearly all prefectures.

Pence will land at Tallinn Airport on Sunday afternoon. Traffic on the nearby Tallinn-Tartu highway will be stopped for security reasons for the duration of the landing. From that moment, the vice president and the area around him are among the securest in the world. This requires constant effort from the entire security team and comes with a measure of inconvenience for civilians.

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The road from the airport to Swissotel Tallinn (in Tornimäe) will be closed for Pence’s motorcade between 12 and 2 p.m. The same will be done between the hotel and Toompea Hill between 5 and 7 p.m. as the president moves there and back.

Roads will once again be closed between Kadriorg and Tornimäe on Monday from 8.30 to 9.30 a.m. Next from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. from Kadriorg to the General Staff of the Defense Forces, and finally from 1 to 2 p.m. between the general staff and the airport. That will mark the end of Pence’s visit and life returning to normal.

It is no secret that a lot of US Secret Service equipment will arrive in Estonia by the time of the visit. Armored vehicles known as “The Beast”, security detail vehicles, firearms etc. The president’s motorcade will transport a number of formidably armed secret service agents. All in case something should happen. The motorcade will also be accompanied by helicopters and aircraft.

Once the presidential motorcade had to stop for a rather prosaic reason – the car known as “The Beast” got stuck on its underside. This happened in Ireland in 2011 when one person more than intended got into the car and caused it to ride too low.

Northern Prefect of the PPA Kristjan Jaani said this will not happen in Estonia. “The motorcade will not stop in Tallinn and will definitely get through everywhere – the same kind of vehicles have moved through Tallinn on several occasions,” Jaani said.

Security will be provided by the secret service and the Estonian police. The former’s agents have been working with police officers since last week. “It is understood that partners have their demands when it comes to the security of such persons. The entire operation will take place in cooperation based on active exchange of information,” Jaani said.

For example, the PPA started additional security checks at the Tallinn passenger port and airport yesterday, while inspections will become more frequent also on the Estonia-Latvia border from today. “We will not restore border control as we did during Obama’s visit; however, people crossing the border at Ikla for example are looking at a much more likely event of their car being stopped,” the prefect explained.

He said the police are looking for people matching a specific profile and vehicles that have a Schengen information system notation. “These people might include wanted criminals but also those sporting a criminal background and who are in the police’s sphere of interest. These are deterrence measures.

It is the task of the PPA to thoroughly check and safeguard all routes the vice president will take. We will also check buildings near where Pence will be stopping.

Because the vice president will spend the night in Tallinn, a perimeter will be created around the hotel that will only be penetrable by foot. Residents of Tornimäe 7 will be able to access their building  through a special access area. Vehicles parking in underground parking lots in the area will be subject to security checks.

The two-day visit will bring to Tallinn additional PPA operatives from all prefectures, with a total of more than 600 police officers in charge of security. Pence’s visit comes at a good time for the PPA as additional people have already been brought in for EU presidency events. The more active stage of the presidency ended on Monday.


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U.K. police hold training exercise to prepare for chemical attack on Israeli Embassy.

Emergency teams in bio suits descended on the Israeli embassy in a training exercise for a hazardous chemical attack.


A cordon was put in place and decontamination tents were erected at the back of the building in central London, yards from Kensington Palace.

Paramedics in full bio suits treated ‘casualties’, played by members of the Royal Military Police, who were put through decontamination showers.

Police, paramedics and fire crews all took part in the event on Sunday to test the emergency service reaction to an attack or accident involving a toxic substance.


Some 50 police reserves posed as “casualties affected by a noxious substance” and embassy staff, though no actual embassy workers were involved.

“It was an exercise involving the emergency services, and the reason they do it is to see how they can link up in such events, and if there is anything that can be improved in the future,” a spokesman for London’s Metropolitan Police said.

The London Fire Brigade took to Twitter to warn the public that they should not be alarmed and it was only a drill.

The head of the police parliamentary and diplomatic protection command said: “This was the first time we have been able to carry out a live exercise inside a foreign embassy and the experience and learning gained from this will be invaluable.”

He noted that it was an opportunity to prepare for dealing with chemical attacks.

“It also tested our joint response in dealing with a hazardous substance, which is important as it will help officers and staff be better prepared should we ever face this type of challenge for real,” he said.

However, he said that the event had been planned long in advance and was not related to Trump’s announcement or the ensuing protests.

“I must stress, however, that the exercise, which has been planned over several months, was not designed with any specific threat in mind, either in terms of the hazardous material element or the location,” he said.


Demonstrators & Security Forces Clash outside U.S. Embassy in Beirut.

JERUSALEM — Scores of Lebanese and Palestinian demonstrators have clashed with security forces outside the U.S. Embassy in Beirut over President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.


The protesters gathered hundreds of yards away from the embassy on Sunday, where they burned an effigy of Mr. Trump, U.S. and Israeli flags, as well as piles of garbage, sending plumes of smoke into the air. As they hurled stones, security forces responded with tear gas and water cannons.

Many demonstrators wore black and white scarves, BBC News reports. They chanted slogans decrying Mr. Trump.

The U.S. decision has ignited protests across the Middle East, where it is widely seen as a blatantly pro-Israel move that threatens the decades-old peace process.

Lebanon is home to 450,000 Palestinian refugees, nearly 10 percent of the population.

In Israel on Sunday, police said a security guard was stabbed near Jerusalem’s central bus station. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the guard was seriously wounded and his attacker arrested. The Magen David Adom medical service said a 30-year-old male suffered a stabbing wound in his upper body.

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The incident appeared to be the first attack since Mr. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In more than two years of intermittent attacks, Palestinians have killed more than 50 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British tourist in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks. Israeli forces have killed more than 260 Palestinians in that time, mostly attackers.

Earlier on Sunday, Israel’s prime minister said he is ready to defend Mr. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital against its European critics. Upon leaving on a diplomatic mission to Paris and Brussels late Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he “will present Israel’s truth without fear and with head held high.”

Mr. Trump’s announcement has triggered denunciations from around the world, even from close allies like France, that suggested he had needlessly stirred more conflict in an already volatile region.

An international consensus has long held that Jerusalem’s final status should be determined through negotiations. Israel claims the entire city as its unified capital, while the Palestinians want east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, to be the capital of their future state.

The Arab League condemned the U.S. decision overnight and said the U.S. could not be relied upon as a broker of peace in the Middle East, BBC News reports.

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14 Peacekeepers Killed and 40 wounded in DR Congo Attack.

8 December 2017 – At least 14 United Nations ‘blue helmets’ in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been killed and many more injured, in what the Secretary-GeneralAntónio Guterres described as the “worst attack” on UN peacekeepers in recent history.


Late Thursday, a MONUSCO (the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC) Company Operating Base at Semuliki in Beni territory, North Kivu, was attacked by suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) elements, resulting in a protracted fighting between the suspected armed group elements and MONUSCO and Armed Forces of the DRC, known by the French acronym, FARDC.

Late Thursday, a MONUSCO (the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC) Company Operating Base at Semuliki in Beni territory, North Kivu, was attacked by suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) elements, resulting in a protracted fighting between the suspected armed group elements and MONUSCO and Armed Forces of the DRC, known by the French acronym, FARDC.

These deliberate attacks against UN peacekeepers are unacceptable and constitute a war crime” said Secretary-General António Guterres, adding: “I condemn this attack unequivocally.”

Further, calling on the DRC authorities to investigate the incident and swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice, the UN chief stressed: “There must be no impunity for such assaults, here or anywhere else.”

In his remarks, he also said that the attack is another indication of the challenges faced by UN peacekeeping operations around the world and acknowledged the sacrifices made by troop contributing countries in the service of global peace.

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“These brave women and men are putting their lives on the line every day across the world to serve peace and to protect civilians,” he noted, offering condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed and a speedy recovery to those injured.

All of the peacekeeping troops killed in the brutal attack which reportedly lasted some three hours were from Tanzania. In addition, three members of the contingent are reported to be missing in action.

According to Ian Sinclair, the Director of the UN Operations and Crisis Centre (UNOCC), initial figures indicate that 53 peacekeepers been injured, of whom three critically, but the numbers could rise.

Members of the FARDC have also been killed and injured in the attack but numbers are yet to be confirmed, Mr. Sinclair told reporters at a news briefing at the UN Headquarters, in New York.

“Our reinforcements have arrived on the scene and a search is ongoing for the missing soldiers,” he said, noted that the wounded have been evacuated from the area, among whom some have been further evacuated to more advanced medical facilities in Goma, DRC.

“Further medical evacuation is possible for seriously injured,” he added.

The volatile North Kivu region, located in eastern DRC, has witnessed a number of attacks on UN peacekeeping forces. In October, two UN ‘blue helmets’ were killed and another 18 were injured their base was attacked by the ADF armed group.

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday said the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and would move its embassy there, upending decades of a diplomatic consensus over the status of the city pioneered by his predecessors.


Citing a 1995 law, the Jerusalem Embassy Act, compelling the president make the move absent national security risks, Trump said the time had come to recognize what everyone already knows to be true. “Jerusalem is the capital the Jewish people established in ancient times,” he said. “Today Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s government.”

“This is nothing more or less than a recognition of the reality,” he added.

He directed the State Department to begin preparing the move, which may take years as the government scopes out a location, hires architects and plans for what is sure to be a challenging security environment.

Trump made the announcement despite fierce backlash from America’s closest allies in recent days. European and Arab world leaders alike, including Britain, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the pope, said that he was recklessly challenging a delicate status quo over the city, in which the international community has insisted its future must be determined in direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians themselves.

Trump said that his move does not change his commitment to that negotiated settlement– and underscored his commitment by endorsing a two-state solution for the first time.

“We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians,” he said. “The United States would support a two state solution if agreed to by both sides.”

Trump said that his actions on Wednesday do not determine the “specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty” in the city, stating those would be “subject to final status negotiations between the parties.” The Israeli government says that Jerusalem is its undivided and eternal capital, while Palestinians insist that a peace agreement must deliver them a sovereign state with a capital of its own in the city’s eastern districts.

“We are not taking a position on any final status issues,” Trump said.

But the international community did not immediately interpret Trump’s moves in this way. Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, made remarks to the press shortly after Trump spoke urging calm, amid warnings from the State Department itself that violence may erupt following Trump’s announcement.

“Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be resolved in final status negotiations between the two parties,” Guterres stated. “In this moment of great tension, I want to make it clear there is no alternative to the two-state solution. There is no Plan B.”

France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, also called the decision “regrettable” and said the status of Jerusalem was not for one country to decide, but a matter of international security, of consensus and of law.

The administration’s closest allies in the Arab world, on which it based its upcoming Mideast peace initiative, strongly condemned the move. Egypt said it refused to recognize it and warned of grave consequences. Turkey threatened to sever ties to Israel, and the State Department’s office for embassy security warned of planned protests in all of its major cities.

Trump castigated past presidents as cowardly for failing to make the move earlier, “under the belief that delaying recognition of Jerusalem would advance the cause of peace.”

“The record is in,” he added: “After two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.”

“Old challenges demand new approaches. My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach,” Trump said in his announcement from the White House diplomatic reception room, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, who has pushed for the move. Pence will be visiting Israel later this month.

A senior White House official told The Jerusalem Post that Trump’s Middle East peace team, led by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt, was a consultative partner on the decision and fully supports the move.

“The peace team was fully aware of this and in the loop,” the official said. “Certain parties are going to react the way they need to react. We expect bumps along the way– but we believe there is an historic opportunity.”

Greenblatt wrote on Twitter that Trump’s speech was “courageous” effort to recognize the current and historic reality of the city’s status. His team is committed to pressing on, he continued, no matter how angrily parties react in the short term.

Members of Israel’s cabinet have praised the move as “destined” and “overdue.” And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video statement praising Trump’s action.

“We’re profoundly grateful to the president for the courageous and just decision,” Netanyahu said, calling the move one in furtherance of peace, “because there is no peace that does not include Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

“This decision reflects the presidents commitment to an ancient and enduring truth,” he added.

But the Palestinians have warned this marks a potentially fatal blow to Trump’s burgeoning peace initiative, and Hamas has called for a new intifada– a violent uprising– in response.

In a forceful speech, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected Trump’s claim that his move was actually a step towards peace– and said that, with his actions, the US had relinquished its historic role as broker.

“The US administration with this statement has chosen to go against all the international and bilateral agreements, and to ignore the international consensus,” Abbas said in a televised address. “The United States is withdrawing from the role it has played in the peace process.”

Abbas recounted Christian and Muslim history in the contested city, known in the Arab world as al-Quds, without acknowledging any Jewish history there.

“It’s an attempt to change our history, and it will not succeed,” he said. “It’s a Palestinian city– an Arab city, a Christian city and a Muslim city.”


Assassins enter upscale barbershop near US Consulate and Kill one man and injury five.

A customer was getting a hair cut while a man sat talking on a cellphone and other patrons lounged around in an upscale Juárez barbershop.


November 23 appeared to be a normal day at the the Navaja Man Cave barbershop before a young man entered with an assault rifle and opened fire, killing one man and wounding five others.

The attack was recorded on security camera video that the Chihuahua attorney general’s office released Friday when announcing the arrest of the alleged shooter. The El Paso Times has chosen not to publish the video online.

State investigators arrested the suspected trigger man, Manuel Arturo C.M., and Pedro M.M., who allegedly acted as a lookout during the attack.

Full names were not released by Mexican authorities in keeping with practices regarding naming crime suspects.

A bystander identified as Jesus Rodriguez Torres was killed, and five other men were wounded in the shooting, officials said.

A motive for the attack was not disclosed by authorities.

Navaja Man Cave features a bar, a pool table and other amenities. The shop is on the second floor of a retail building on Avenida Ejercito Nacional near Paseo De La Victoria street, not far from the U.S. Consulate in Juárez.

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Security cameras were recording as the alleged shooter exited a parked Mitsubishi Montero carrying what appears to be the rifle.

The time stamp on the video was 14:46 hours, or 2:46 p.m.

The shooter — wearing a red shirt, a blue vest and a Seattle Seahawks cap — went into the building accompanied by the alleged lookout, according to video images.

The video shows the shooter enter the shop and begin to fire as customers ducked for cover under tables and chairs. One customer managed to escape by scampering out the door behind the shooter.

The shooter stood by the door firing several shots before leaving and running down the stairs.

The Chihuahua attorney general’s office said investigators found the SUV allegedly used by the attackers and seized three rifles, including the one allegedly used in the attack, when they arrested the alleged lookout.

The alleged shooter was arrested in Chihuahua City, where he was hiding out, officials said.

A day after the attack, Juárez police arrested an alleged Mexicles gang member that police said was accused in the shooting. But no weapon was found. It now appears he was the wrong person.

The daytime shooting in an upscale business and occurred as murders have increased in Juárez.

There have been more than 675 homicides in Juárez this year, compared with 543 in all of 2016, according to news media tallies and data from the city’s Mesa de Seguridad y Justicia, or security and justice board.

The number of homicides is far less than during the drug cartel war years. Juárez had more than 3,300 murders in 2010.

Juárez authorities point out that security improvements continue, including the addition of 265 new police officers at an oath-of-office ceremony in late November.


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Iranian Embassy in Yemen Attacked and set Ablaze with 20 Embassy Staff Trapped Inside.

SANAA, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) — A fire ripped through the building of the Iranian embassy in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Sunday during clashes between the Houthis and loyalists of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a Xinhua reporter on the scene witnessed.


The fire broke out after being attacked by heavy weapons, but it remained unknow who were responsible for the attack.

A security official said that about 20 embassy’s staff members were trapped inside the building.

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The Houthis and supporters of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh had fought together since March 2015 the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia that supports the internationally-recognized government led by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

But clashes have erupted between the Houthi rebels and Saleh supporters in the past week, as Saleh signaled his willingness to open a “new page” in his relations with the Saudi-led coalition.


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Hamas threatens Intifada if Trump moves US Embassy to Jerusalem.


The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas which controls Gaza has called for a new “intifada” if Washington recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or moves its embassy to the disputed city.

Reports in Washington have suggested US President Donald Trump may on Monday fulfil a campaign pledge on the American embassy, which like all other foreign missions is currently located in the coastal city of Tel Aviv.

“We warn against such a move and call on the Palestinian people to revive the intifada if these unjust decisions on Jerusalem are adopted,” Hamas said in a statement.

Any decision to move its embassy there would be “a flagrant attack on the city by the American administration” and give Israel “a cover for continuing its crime of Judaising the city and emptying it of Palestinians,” it said.


The status of Jerusalem is a key issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Both Israelis and Palestinians claim the city as their capital and previous peace plans have stumbled over debates on whether, and how, to divide sovereignty or oversee holy sites.

The last Palestinian intifada, or uprising, which claimed the lives of some 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis, was sparked by right-wing opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s visit to the city’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound in 2000.

The Palestinian president’s office said on Friday that American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would “destroy the peace process”.

Since 1995 it has been US law that Washington’s embassy in Israel must be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as demanded by the Jewish state.

But every six months since the law was passed a succession of US presidents have signed a waiver to hold off on a switch which would enrage Palestinians and their Arab supporters.

Trump has signed the waiver once, and grudgingly, after vowing to Jewish-American supporters that he would be the president to finally make the switch permanent.

The next deadline comes on Monday, and some in Washington suggest that Trump is planning a speech on the issue next week, before his deputy Mike Pence heads to Jerusalem.


The White House has described reports he may refuse to sign the waiver as premature – but sources said they expect Trump to formally declare Jerusalem Israel’s capital.

The international community has never recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or its unilateral annexation of a band of territory around the city’s eastern sector, which it captured in the 1967 Six-Day war.

Two US Embassy Dogs Deported from Australia.

Two dogs living on a property owned by the US embassy in Australia’s capital will be deported after attacking two more people, the latest in a string of attacks linked to the animals since September last year.

The German shepherd dogs were seized by authorities in Canberra on Wednesday night following the latest attack on a 15-year-old girl and her father who were on their way to the teen’s high school formal.

In October, the same dogs escaped the property and attacked two women and a four-year-old girl, but investigations by ACT Domestic Animal Services had been slowed by diplomatic considerations.

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Neighbours said they had been raising concerns about the dogs with the embassy and ACT authorities for more than a year, following the mauling of a neighbour’s dog in 2016.

One of the dogs’ owners is understood to be a US diplomat, and was reportedly out of the country when the animals were seized.

An ACT government spokeswoman confirmed authorities attended the scene of the attack and impounded the dogs on Wednesday.

“The owners of the dogs are making arrangements to export [them] out of Australia and the two dogs will remain impounded at DAS until these arrangements are finalised,” she said.

The 15-year-old student is understood to have been visiting a friend at the house to prepare for her year 10 formal when she was attacked.

About 5pm her father arrived to collect his daughter and, when she returned to the house to collect her phone, the dogs shot out the front door.

A witness said they attacked her on the front step. As the girl lifted her formal dress to spare it from the dogs’ teeth and claws, the animals began biting her legs and backside.

Seeing the attack, the father ran to his daughter’s aid and was also set upon, receiving similar injuries to his legs and buttocks.

Shocked neighbours began screaming at the owners, who rushed out of the house to pull the dogs back inside.

Despite her injuries, the young woman attended her formal on Wednesday night, but both she and her father later received medical treatment for bites and deep bruising.

A neighbour said the attack was “very loud” and distressing, and rangers attended the scene soon after.

Both DFAT and the US embassy confirmed they were aware of the incident.

During the attacks in October, Canberra woman Livia Auer was also bitten on her legs and backside by one of the dogs. Less than an hour earlier, the dog attacked a woman and her four-year-old girl who had been playing out the front of their house.

No action had been taken against the dogs until Wednesday and Auer said authorities told her last month that investigations had hit a “roadblock” due to what she believed to be a claim of diplomatic immunity.

Foreign diplomats in Canberra are not compelled to cooperate with investigations by domestic animal services, and rangers had been unable to enter the property after the October attacks.

If the dogs are owned by a diplomat, the owner is entitled to immunity from Australia’s criminal and civil jurisdiction, DFAT confirmed.

Last month, the department denied such a claim of immunity had been made but said it was in contact with the AFP and the US embassy about the matter.

A spokeswoman said DFAT “regularly reminds” foreign diplomats that they are expected to respect Australia’s laws and regulations.

This week, authorities gained increased powers to seize dogs they deem dangerous following the passage of the ACT government’s new dangerous dog laws.

Auer, who has now launched legal action against the owners of the dogs, said she was relieved the German shepherds were no longer at the property as she had been living in fear of stepping out her front door for months.

On Thursday, she walked her assistance dog Peppa for the first time since the attack.


US & French embassies in Brazzaville step up security over Terror!

The US and French embassies in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, said Friday Congolese authorities had beefed up security at their buildings after receiving threats.

The French embassy on its website said “a message relating to possible attacks” had been received overnight Wednesday.

“The French embassy asked the Republic of Congo authorities for additional security presence at the main sites of French interest (in Congo), in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire,” it said.

“Units of the Congolese security forces were deployed in the early morning of Thursday, November 30. These measures are still being applied,” it said, thanking the authorities for their support.

The US embassy, on Facebook, said it had received a “security threat” on Thursday.

“We would like to thank the government of the Republic of Congo for their timely and efficient response to our request for additional security personnel,” the embassy said, adding that the US facility was “open for normal operations” on Friday.

On Thursday evening, Communications Minister Thierry Moungalla said “our security services were placed on an alert footing… after being informed that an imminent terrorist attack may be perpetrated against French and American interests in our country.”

A Congolese citizen aged in his thirties “and reportedly a Muslim” was arrested, he said in a statement which he read on public television.

There were no further details.

A major oil producer, the Republic of Congo is a former French colony that gained independence in 1960. The country’s post-colonial era has been marred by militia conflicts and civil wars, and nearly half of its population of 4.2 million live in poverty, according to World Bank figures.

The country is sometimes referred to as Congo-Brazzaville, to differentiate it from its far larger neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo.


State Department denies American in Uzbekistan experienced acoustic attack.

The State Department is denying reports that a worker at the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan experienced an acoustic attack similar to those affecting American diplomatic staff in Cuba, The Hill reports.

“We can confirm that there was no incident in Uzbekistan,” a State Department official told The Hill on Tuesday.

“The Department prioritizes the safety and welfare of its personnel and works vigilantly to ensure that members of its staff are protected worldwide,” the official added.

“We can confirm that no personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan have been diagnosed with the conditions that have been observed in Cuba.”

The statement comes after CBS News reported Tuesday that a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) officer and his wife reported what may have been a similar acoustic attack in September in Uzbekistan.

Such attacks have hit American personnel in Cuba. Victims from the Cuba attacks have described incidents in which they were targeted by sudden, glaring noise that officials believe led the diplomats to suffer sudden brain injuries including hearing loss and speech problems.

State Department Armored Car Rental Uzbekistan

CBS News cited sources familiar with the Uzbekistan incident, who claimed the couple flew out of Tashkent to be evaluated.

The U.S. government first acknowledged the Havana attacks in August, nine months after the injuries were first reported. The State Department immediately moved to expel two Cuban diplomats from the U.S. over safety concerns of American officials experiencing such symptoms.

Russia has denied any allegations of wrongdoing.

Uzbekistan, once a part of the Soviet Union, has kept a strong alliance with Russia even after it declared its independence in 1991 during the collapse of the USSR.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova in August denied the “absurd” allegations of Russian involvement in the attacks and said the Kremlin is willing to participate in any investigations into the matter.


Argentina sets annual memorial day for Israeli embassy bombing

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The Argentina Senate passed a law for an annual memorial day remembering the 1992 terror attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires.

The law passed unanimously by the upper house of parliament on Wednesday also calls for a week of events surrounding the March 17 day of remembrance to raise awareness about the consequences of global terrorism.

Embassy of Israel in Argentina Diplomat Armored

The car bombing on that day 25 years ago killed 29 and injured hundreds. The building was destroyed.

The new law establishes the “Day of Memory and Solidarity with the Victims of the Attack against the Embassy of Israel.”

It calls for activities in schools throughout the country coordinated by the Ministry of Education “to raise awareness about the consequences of international terrorism and in favor of peace and nonviolence.”

“Twenty-five years after such a terrible attack it is an ethical and social responsibility, an imperative against oblivion and a commitment to unity against international terrorism,” the legislation says, adding that “schools are a central place for the development of memory and to avoid falling into oblivion. We understand that in a convulsive time like the one in which we live at the international level, in which we read daily news about terrorist acts in different parts of the globe, this project acquires a key role in the defense of life, community ties and human rights.”

In June 2011, the Argentina parliament unanimously ruled that the relatives of victims of the attack would receive compensation from the state. Under that law, the families received $225,000 in the case of death, and $158,000 for dramatic and severe injuries, for a total of $40 million from the government.

Argentina also suffered a second terrorist attack, against the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, on July 18, 1994, which killed 85 and injured hundreds. The perpetrators of both crimes have never been caught.