BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Colombia is investigating a possible plot to assassinate President Ivan Duque that may involve Venezuelan nationals arrested while carrying “weapons of war,” according to a top official.
Without providing evidence or any further details, Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes posted a 90-second video on Twitter Saturday night that said Colombia’s intelligence services had been hearing chatter about alleged plans to kill Mr. Duque, a conservative.
He said the recent arrests of three Venezuelans who had assault weapons in their possession had heightened the authorities’ concern.
“With immense concern and the utmost condemnation, I want to inform the international community that, in effect, for the past several months intelligence investigations have been taking place about possible attacks on the president’s life,” Mr. Holmes said in the video.
The video did not say whether the authorities had verified the existence of a conspiracy.
Blu Radio reported that the Venezuelans, who were arrested in the cities of Valledupar and Barranquilla this month, had in their possession an assault rifle with a telescopic scope, as well as an Uzi, ammunition and stun grenade.
Blu, citing unidentified sources, said any plot would have likely had the support of armed Colombian leftist rebels or drug-trafficking organizations, and would have been timed to coincide next month with the start of the second term of President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela.
There was no immediate reaction from Venezuela’s government.
In his video, Mr. Holmes appealed to Colombians to share any information that could affect the president’s safety. He expressed appreciation for the cooperation of unidentified foreign intelligence agencies for helping to protect the Colombian president.
Mr. Duque, 42, who took office in August, has been leading a diplomatic effort in Latin America to isolate Venezuela’s socialist government as Mr. Maduro looks set to cement his hold on power amid a devastating economic crisis that has spurred millions of Venezuelans to flee to neighboring countries to escape widespread food and medicine shortages and hyperinflation.
The Colombian leader has been a strong critic of the socialist government of Mr. Maduro, whom he has called a “dictator.”
The two neighboring countries have had tense relations for years, with soldiers and helicopters from the Bolivarian National Guard of Venezuela regularly crossing the porous border into Colombia.
Colombia, the United States and other governments have said that Mr. Maduro’s election victory in May, amid an opposition boycott and allegations of vote-rigging, was illegitimate.
They have urged the embattled leader to call new elections in which all of his opponents, several of whom have been exiled or banned from holding office, be allowed to run.
Mr. Maduro has been ratcheting up his rhetoric against Colombia in recent weeks, accusing his neighbor of plotting with the United States to violently oust him from power. He accused Colombia of helping “terrorists” after an attempted armed drone attack in August. Colombia has denied the accusations.
In a notable rebuke in September, five Latin American countries and Canada urged the International Criminal Court to consider prosecuting senior officials in Venezuela for extensive human rights abuses, the first time that member nations had referred another member to the tribunal.
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Afghan officials said on Tuesday that a suicide bomber struck a compound of Pakistani Baloch insurgents in southern Kandahar, killing and injuring several militants.
Zia Durrani, a spokesman for the Kandahar police chief, told the BBC Pashto radio that at least two people were killed and three others injured in the attack in Ayno Mina area in Kandahar, bordering Balochistan. Durrani did not offer comments on the nationality.
Section of the Afghan media reported that those killed and injured belonged to a family of Baloch militants.
Pakistani official sources, however, said that five Baloch insurgents were killed in the attack.
Sources said the bomber attacked the residence of Baloch Liberation Army’s commander and head of Majeed Brigade Aslam Achu at around 4pm. As a result seven persons, including Aslam Achu, was killed and three others were injured, the official sources said.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack. They said Aslam Achu was mastermind of the attacks on a Chinese consulate in Karachi and a bus carrying Chinese in Dalbadin area of Balochistan.
Three gunmen tried to attack the Chinese consulate in Karachi on November 23, killing two police guards and a father and his son, who were there to get visa. The outlawed BLA had claimed responsibility for the attack. On August 11, a suicide bomber had struck a bus carrying a team, including Chinese engineers, working on the Saindak Copper-Gold Mine project near Dalbandin, injuring three Chinese and two locals.
Suicide attackers storm Libyan foreign ministry in Tripoli, killing at least three. ISIS claims responsibility.
Diplomatic Security Sit-Rep 12/28/2018B
DAR Note: Our Trusted source on the Ground in Tripoli has reported that the current situation in Libya is worse than it has been since 2014. Tribal Clashes and are approaching a full-scale civil war. A terrorist element is also engaged in an active campaign to discourage all foreign powers from having a presence or influence inside of Libya. Most nations have already withdrawn from the country.
Suicide attackers on Tuesday stormed the Libyan foreign ministry in the capital Tripoli, killing at least three people including a senior civil servant, the authorities said, according to AFP.
21 other people were wounded in what authorities said was a suicide attack carried out by “terrorists”.
A car bomb exploded near the ministry, prompting security forces to rush to the scene, said special forces spokesman Tarak al-Dawass.
A suicide bomber then blew himself up on the second floor of the building while a second attacker died when a suitcase he was carrying exploded, he added.
A third assailant, who was unarmed and wearing a bulletproof vest, was killed by security forces outside, said Dawass.
The Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group later claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Reuters.
The group said in its propaganda news agency, Amaq, that three of its members carried out the attack.
Foreign Minister Tahar Siala said one of the dead was senior diplomat Ibrahim al-Shaibi who headed a department in his ministry.
Libya has been rocked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi, with two rival authorities and multiple militias vying for control of the oil-rich country.
Forces loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) regained control of Sirte in December 2016 after eight months of deadly fighting.
Since then, some jihadists have returned to the desert in an attempt to regroup and reorganize.
Last year, the Libyan jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia, which is accused by Washington of the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed the ambassador and three other Americans, announced its “dissolution”.
Ansar al-Sharia is one of the jihadist groups that sprung up in Benghazi in the chaos following the death of Qaddafi. Members of the group overran the city in 2014 and later declared authority over the coastal city of Darna.
Most of Ansar al-Sharia’s members have defected to ISIS in recent years.
The government of Albania has ejected Iranian agents alleged to have plotted terrorist attacks in the country, including targeting Israelis.
“I commend PM Edi Rama’s expulsion of two Iranian agents who plotted terrorist attacks in Albania,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted. “European nations have thwarted three Iranian plots this year alone. The world must stand together to sanction Iran’s regime until it changes its destructive behavior.”
The foiled plot is related to Iranians, who planned to attack a World Cup soccer match between Albania and Israel in 2016.
One of the two Iranian agents expelled was the Islamic Republic’s ambassador to Albania.
“Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania just expelled the Iranian ambassador, signaling to Iran’s leaders that their support for terrorism will not be tolerated,” National Security Advisor John Bolton wrote on his Twitter feed. “We stand with PM Rama and the Albanian people as they stand up to Iran’s reckless behavior in Europe and across the globe.”
The expulsion of the two Iranian agents on Wednesday follows the arrest of Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat in the Vienna embassy who is believed to have launched a plot to blow up a meeting of Iranian dissidents in Paris in June. The German government arrested Assadi in Bavaria.
In October, France’s government said Iran’s ministry of intelligence was behind the plot to bomb the rally of Iranian opposition groups in Paris.
The rally in Paris was attended by US President Donald Trump’s attorney and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. Former US House speaker Newt Gingrich was also present.
In November, Denmark accused Iran’s intelligence agency of planning to murder an exiled leader of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA), groups fighting for a separate territory in Iran. “We are dealing with an Iranian intelligence agency planning an attack on Danish soil. Obviously, we can’t and won’t accept that,” said Finn Borch Andersen, the head of Danish intelligence.
Sweden extradited a Norwegian national of Iranian background to Denmark in connection with the foiled plot against the ASMLA leader.
The Danes pulled their ambassador out of Iran but he returned in November.
The Danish government pushed the EU for sanctions against Iran, but the EU has refused to take action.
The Netherlands expelled two Iranian diplomats, according to a Reuters report in July. “We can confirm that the Netherlands has expelled two persons accredited to the Iranian embassy,” a spokesperson for Dutch intelligence said. “We will not provide any further information.”
In a daylight shoot-out in Karachi on Friday, Pakistani security forces thwarted an attack apparently aimed at the Chinese Consul General in the southern coastal city. Sind police official Amir Sheikh told The Media Line that three gunmen, two police officers and two civilians were killed during an hour-long gunfight, the police contingent led by a female officer. According to Sheikh, the attackers first opened fire at a check point, then detonated hand grenades and set three vehicles on fire. The Chinese diplomats and other consular staff were safely evacuated to a safe house.
Deputy Inspector General Javeed Alam Odho of the Karachi police told The Media Line that one of the three dead attackers who wore a suicide vest was gunned down by a police sniper and the others died in the gun battle.
Peer Muhammed, Senior Superintendent of the Karachi police revealed to The Media Line that the responding police contingent was headed by Assistant Superintendent of Police Suhai Aziz Talput, a female officer who was the first official on the scene and “successfully managed to engage the terrorists” who, armed with automatic weapons, hand grenades and suicide vests, arrived in a vehicle and opened fire in the heavily-guarded area that has schools and upscale restaurants.
The outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army tweeted responsibility for the deadly attack after which Twitter suspended its account.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has condemned the attack and ordered a complete inquiry into the incident and has ordered that elements behind the incident must be exposed. In his tweet, Imran Khan said that the failed attack against the Chinese Consulate was clearly the reaction to unprecedented trade agreements that resulted from his recent trip to China. He said the attack was intended to scare Chinese investors and undermine.
Sind Province Police officials reported recovering a significant amount of explosives, weapons, ammunition, dried fruits and medicines, which is being interpreted as indications that the attackers had planned to take hostages but apparently were unable to do so because of the speed of the police response which denied the gunmen access to the compound and continued to engage until elite army rangers arrived at the scene.
Assistant superintendent Aziz has been recommended to become the first woman police officer to receive the “Father of the Nation Police Medal.”
Speaking to The Media Line, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman and son of former prime minister Mrs. Benazir Bhutto, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, praised Suhai Aziz in his tweet and said that “The reprehensible terrorist attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi was thwarted by the courageous fight put up by our Sindh police led by the courageous Suhai Aziz. In an exclusive interview with The Media Line, Aziz said she rushed to the scene as soon as she heard about the attack. “I managed the manpower, I called for the armed personnel carrier, the fire brigade, ambulances; and I informed my senior officers. I then made the environment favorable to the assault teams.”
Aziz, who told TML she was drawn to the job in part “because of the adrenalin, and the satisfaction,” has been in this position before. In 2017, she defused a bomb discovered at Mehriman University in the city of Jamshoro.
She related that her family wanted her to become a chartered accountant but she felt the job to be very dull as it had no social value and decided to appear for the Central Superior Services examination and passed on her first try.
At the age of 25, Suhai Aziz Talpur became the first woman from the lower Sinds to join the police.
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All the staff inside the consulate are safe, China said. The government condemned the attack on its mission and the foreign ministry in Beijing called for extra measures to protect Chinese citizens in Pakistan.
“At the same time we mourn the deaths of the Pakistani police and think of their families at this time,” a spokesman said.
But the spokesman was keen to praise Pakistani security forces for its efforts to protect the consulate.
A separatist group, the Balochistan Liberation Army, said it had carried out the attack. It is one of a number of separatist groups operating in the province, which has seen a long-running nationalist insurgency.
“We have been seeing the Chinese as an oppressor, along with Pakistani forces,” a spokesman for the group told the AFP news agency.
Over the years, construction projects and Chinese workers in Balochistan have been repeatedly targeted by militants. Most recently, a suicide bombing in August injured a number of Chinese engineers.
So far, none of the incidents has been large enough in scale to really threaten the viability of Chinese investment in the country. But this is one of the most prominent attacks to date.
Officials told the BBC’s Stephen McDonell in Beijing they were confident the Pakistani government was able to manage the security situation to guarantee Chinese investment.
In the middle of a hard day, Pakistan’s remarkable women rise to be the silver lining. So proud of SSP Suhai Aziz Talpur, the woman who fearlessly spearheaded the vanguard of the successful police operation against terrorists at Chinese consulate.
Suhai Talpur joined the police force after passing the country’s civil services exam in 2013, according to local media.
“When my parents decided to enroll me at a school, most of our relatives started taunting my family. So much so, that my family had to leave our village and move to a nearby town,” she is quoted as telling The Express Tribune.
What is China doing in Balochistan?
By Secunder Kermani, BBC Pakistan correspondent, Islamabad
Balochistan is a sparsely populated region and has remained Pakistan’s most impoverished area despite being rich in gas and coal reserves, as well as copper and gold.
Baloch nationalists have long accused the central government of exploitation, and denying the province its due rights.
The area is at the heart of an ambitious Chinese project, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The corridor is a string of huge investments by China in Pakistani infrastructure, which aim to link its western Xinjiang province with the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar in Balochistan, as part of the One Belt, One Road initiative.
China has poured billions into Pakistan, and thousands of Chinese nationals visit the country to work on CPEC projects or other business ventures. Pakistan is keen to ensure nothing happens to jeopardize that and Chinese workers are closely guarded.
The assault on the consulate is particularly significant because it took place in Karachi, the commercial capital of Pakistan, rather than in the remote province where the militants are based.
The incident will deeply concern authorities who have described the Chinese funding as a “game-changer”.
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Thirty-five years ago, two suicide bombers killed 241 American and 58 French military personnel, as well as six civilians, in Beirut, Lebanon. The attack marked the largest single-day loss for US servicemen since the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive.
playU.S. Marines with the School of Infantry-East Color Guard stand at parade rest during a wreath laying ceremony on the anniversary of the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon on Camp Geiger, N.C., Oct. 23, 2015.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by SOI-East Combat Camera Cpl. Andrew Kuppers/ Released)
Thirty-five years ago, two suicide bombers killed 241 American and 58 French military personnel, as well as six civilians, in Beirut, Lebanon. The incident marked the largest single-day loss for the US military since the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive.
The horrific Oct. 23, 1983 attack on the multinational peacekeepers, an attack purportedly perpetrated by the Iranian-funded terrorist organization Hezbollah, was especially devastating for the US Marine Corps, which lost 220 service members. The Corps had not suffered such a loss since in one day since Iwo Jima. Eighteen US Navy sailors and three Army soldiers were also killed in the Beirut barracks bombing, and dozens of others were injured.
The deadly blast, characterized by the FBI as the largest non-nuclear explosion they’d ever seen, came just a few months after the April 18, 1983 bombing of the US Embassy in Lebanon, where an extremist killed 63 people, including 17 Americans.
In 1982, the US decided, at the request of the Lebanese government, to send US troops to Lebanon to serve as peacekeepers in the bloody Lebanese Civil War between warring Muslim and Christian factions. The 24th Marine Amphibious Unit stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina was deployed to Beirut in the spring of 1983.
US forces, along with their French and Italian counterparts, achieved some initial success in Lebanon, but the Muslim factions in the country began to turn their aggression toward the foreign troops.
playLance Corporal David Chapman of Pennsylvania, right, fires from his sandbagged bunker position at Beirut’s International Airport
At 6:22 a.m. on Oct. 23, 1983, a truck laden with thousands of pounds of explosives slammed into the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine headquarters at the airport in Beirut.
playThe explosion of the Marine Corps building in Beirut, Lebanon, created a large cloud of smoke that was visible from miles away.
(Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort)
The driver, said to be a Iranian national, detonated the explosives, collapsing the four-story barracks.
playRescue workers remove the body of a U.S. Marine from the rubble of the Marine Battalion headquarters at Beirut airport.
American troops were buried in the rubble. “Bodies were lying around all over,” one rescuer reportedly said at the time, “Other people were trapped under the concrete. I could hear them screaming: ‘Get us out. Don’t leave us.’ I just started digging, picking men out.”
playA U.S. Marine looks around as he is pulled from the wreckage of the Marine headquarters near Beirut airport.
The attack claimed the lives of 220 Marines, making it the worst single-day loss for the service in nearly four decades.
playU.S. Marines carry their dead comrades away from the four-story command center that was destroyed in a bomb blast.
(AP Photo/Asaad Jeradeh)
Minutes after the first attack, another suicide bomber hit the French barracks a couple of miles away. French troops managed to kill the driver, but the bomb exploded a few moments later, bringing down the nine-story building.
playA wounded French soldier is attended to by a doctor after he was injured in a huge car bomb attack at a building housing members of the French contingent of the peacekeeping forces in Beirut.
“There are no words to properly express our outrage and I think the outrage of all Americans at the despicable act,” President Ronald Reagan said in response.
playPresident Ronald Reagan condemned the Beirut bombing.
A memorial was built at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and dedicated on Oct. 23, 1986. The names of the fallen, as well as the inscription, “They came in peace,” are written on the memorial.
playThe memorial at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune honors the US service members killed in the Beirut barracks bombings.
(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Jackeline Perez Rivera)
Memorial services are held annually to remember those who were lost, as well as the cost of freedom.
playA Marine color guard stands in front of the Beirut Memorial in Jacksonville, N.C., during the Beirut Memorial Ceremony Oct. 23, 2014.
(US Marine Corps/Cpl. James Smith)
“I think we all kind of grew up that day because we knew the world had changed,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said Tuesday, “It changed the way we saw the world. It changed the way we looked at threats. It changed the way we trained. It changed the way we operated – and those lessons learned carried through the rest of our time as Marines. And that impact of Beirut still shapes us today.”
playU.S. Marines with the Official Marine Corps Color Guard march on the colors during the Beirut Memorial Parade at Marine Barracks Washington, Washington, D.C., Oct. 23, 2017.
(A journalist being killed and dismembered… We thought this was another Mexico story….)
(ISTANBUL) — Turkish media close to the president published images Wednesday of what it described as a 15-member “assassination squad” allegedly sent to target Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and of a black van later traveling from the Saudi consulate, where he went missing, to the consul’s home.
The release of the photographs and video raises pressure on Saudi Arabia a week after Khashoggi disappeared during a visit to the consulate. Turkish officials fear that the team killed the writer, who was critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The kingdom has called the allegations “baseless,” but has not provided any evidence that Khashoggi left the consulate and did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
News channel 24 aired the video, suggesting that Khashoggi was inside of the black Mercedes Vito, which resembled one parked outside of the consulate when the writer walked in on Oct. 2. The channel said the van then drove some 1.2 miles to the consul’s home, where it parked inside a garage.
The Sabah newspaper, which is similarly close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, published images of what it referred to as the “assassination squad” apparently taken at passport control. It said they checked into two hotels in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and left later that day.
Khashoggi had written a series of columns for the Washington Post that were critical of Saudi Arabia’s assertive Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has led a widely publicized drive to reform the Sunni monarchy but has also presided over the arrests of activists and businessmen.
On Wednesday, the Post published a column by Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. She acknowledged the writer first visited the consulate on Sept. 28 “despite being somewhat concerned that he could be in danger.” He later returned Oct. 2 after being promised needed paperwork so the two could be married.
A surveillance video image surfaced Tuesday showing Khashoggi walking into the consulate in Istanbul’s upscale 4th Levent neighborhood. No evidence of him leaving the consulate has been made public, but Turkish officials also have yet to provide evidence he was kidnapped or killed.
“At this time, I implore President Trump and first lady Melania Trump to help shed light on Jamal’s disappearance,” Cengiz wrote. “I also urge Saudi Arabia, especially King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to show the same level of sensitivity and release CCTV footage from the consulate.”
She added: “Although this incident could potentially fuel a political crisis between the two nations, let us not lose sight of the human aspect of what happened.”
Khashoggi had sought to become a U.S. citizen after living in self-imposed exile since last year, fearing repercussions for his criticism of the prince, Cengiz wrote.
Trump, who took his first overseas trip as U.S. president to the kingdom and whose son-in-law Jared Kushner has close ties to Prince Mohammed, said Tuesday he had not yet talked to the Saudis about Khashoggi, “but I will be at some point,” without elaborating.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Tuesday that Saudi authorities have notified Ankara that they were “open to cooperation” and would allow the consulate building to be searched. It’s unclear when such a search would take place.
Embassies and consulates under the Vienna Convention are technically foreign soil and must be protected by host nations. Saudi Arabia may have agreed to the search in order to reassure its Western allies and the international community.
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Washington being Washington, the expectation is that books born in this city should focus on matters of high policy. On that front, Prudence Bushnell’s account of the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya—and that of its counterpart in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania—on Aug. 7, 1998, does not disappoint. Indeed, her book, Terrorism, Betrayal, and Resilience: My Story of the 1998 U.S. Embassy Bombings, raises important questions about how the Washington policy establishment missed the clues that might have allowed it to foresee, and possibly prevent, those twin tragedies and asks whether a serious inquiry into those events might have avoided an even greater horror—that of 9/11.
But, Washington being Washington, many times books about policy are dry, academic treatises, as often written to showcase an author’s intellectual and analytical prowess as they are to advance an idea. The books in this category are often bloodless. To the extent actual people are featured, they mostly fall into that elite category of policymakers. If other people are discussed at all, it is often not as individuals but as nameless and faceless collectivities—the Afghans, the Europeans, the Africans. To her credit, this is not the book Bushnell, who was U.S. ambassador to Kenya at the time of the bombings, chose to write, a story about an incident that changed her life and should have changed U.S. foreign policy.
Indeed, Bushnell’s account is, first and foremost, about people. Part I begins, appropriately, not with the policymakers at all but with those whose lives were impacted by their decisions and lack of foresight. Principal among this group were the employees, American and Kenyan, who staffed the Nairobi embassy the day a truck bomb drove up alongside it and set off its deadly cargo. This piece of Bushnell’s book is a moving story of individual suffering and loss but also of small and large acts of courage, heroism, and, as the title denotes, resilience. It describes how a community torn apart by a vicious act of terrorism pulled itself back together to grieve for the colleagues who were killed and to help heal the physical and psychological wounds of the many more who had suffered. Further, it documents their efforts to tend to the enormous losses suffered by the larger Kenyan community—more than 200 people killed and an estimated 5,000 injured—all the while pursuing their official duties. This part of Bushnell’s tale is a story about dedicated public servants based far from America’s borders who rarely receive the attention or appreciation they deserve and whose sacrifices on behalf of the country are rarely explained or understood.
What makes this book compelling and unusual is how Bushnell’s modest and restrained writing reveals the example she herself set of leadership and courage. Interwoven with the larger narrative is her personal story, beginning with her growing up in a foreign service family. (Her father, as typical of the era, was the foreign service officer, her mother, a homemaker.) That family bred in her a commitment to public service, Bushnell writes, and nurtured the principles and values, as well as the personal strength that came from them, that led me to ask her to work with me in the years prior to her ambassadorship, first as the deputy chief of mission in Dakar, Senegal, and later as my principal deputy in the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs. They also formed the foundations of Bushnell’s adult ethical leadership. Those principles and values are on full display in the description of Bushnell’s steady stewardship of her embassy community, both before and after the bombing. They are most evident in her determined efforts, in the months leading up to the bombings, to call Washington’s attention to her embassy’s extreme vulnerability to just such an attack, efforts that earned her admonishments from senior State Department officials for “overloading circuits” and asking for what seemed to Washington not just impossible but unnecessary. Still, she persisted. That same principled leadership was again in evidence in the horrible aftermath of the bombing, when, putting aside her own physical and psychological injuries, she summoned the strength to give both comfort and direction to her shaken embassy team while firmly asserting control over the legions of responders from Washington, whose sudden arrival often brought more distress than help.
Lest this sound like more memoir than policy narrative, the book always brings readers back to policy. In Part II of her book, Bushnell describes the many people—among them, Michael Scheuer, the director of the CIA’s Alec Station, charged with gathering intelligence on Osama bin Laden; his counterpart at the FBI, John O’Neill; and Richard Clarke, who directed counterterrorism efforts at the National Security Council—who, however well-intentioned, had opportunities to foresee and prevent what happened on that fateful August day but who failed. Bushnell documents that history with meticulous and relentless detail: She describes how in the 1980s, U.S. support for jihadi insurgents fighting a Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan sowed the seeds of al Qaeda and radical Islamist groups like it and explains how the failure to analyze and understand the roots of Islamist extremism led the United States to act in ways that spawned further radicalization, as well as how, once the Soviets had been forced out of Afghanistan, these radical groups turned their ire against the United States.
Drawing on official and journalistic reports, Bushnell recounts how affiliates of those groups found their way to the United States itself and how—despite surveillance from U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies—they went on to plot and execute a series of fatal attacks against U.S. interests: the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, the October 1993 attack on U.S. forces in Somalia, and eventually the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. To help us understand how this was possible, she ably describes how officials in Washington, mired in bureaucratic turf battles and trapped in organizational stovepipes, failed to share the information that might have allowed them to connect the dots. That same dysfunction prevented essential information from being shared with Bushnell and her team in Nairobi, which may have enabled them to prepare for, and if possible avoid, the disaster. Only later, and largely through the mainstream press, did Bushnell learn that the CIA and the FBI had been amassing information about potential threats to the Nairobi embassy. “I had no idea that the FBI had known about al-Qaeda and had been tracking bin Laden ever since the investigation into the 1993 World Trade Center bombing,” she writes.
In effect, in Part II of her book, Bushnell has written the report that the U.S. government never wrote, the report that the special State Department Accountability Review Board convened in the aftermath of the bombings should have written but did not.
Bushnell has written the report that the U.S. government never wrote, the report that the special State Department Accountability Review Board convened in the aftermath of the bombings should have written but did not.
In so doing, she has raised some tough questions: How was it possible for bin Laden’s associates to plan and execute terrorist acts against the United States, even as they were known to and under the surveillance of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies? Why, in the aftermath of one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in U.S. history, did Washington not convene a full-scale inquiry into the events leading up to the bombings? And, had it done so, would the information uncovered—both about the enemies confronted and the weaknesses in its own institutions—have enabled it to avert the tragedy of 9/11?
Here, Bushnell quotes from the 9/11 Commission Report itself: “The tragedy of the embassy bombings provided an opportunity for a full examination, across the government, of the national security threat that Bin Ladin posed. Such an examination could have made clear to all that issues were at stake that was much larger than the domestic politics of the moment.”
“A gripping diplomatic thriller that tells the harrowing saga of the 1998 bombing of Embassy Nairobi. Ambassador Bushnell’s first-person account provides lessons of leadership, crisis management, and policy acumen. The tale dramatically illustrates the terrorism danger diplomats confront daily.”—Ambassador Robert E. Gribbin III (Ret.)
(Ambassador Robert E. Gribbin III (Ret.) 2018-03-02)
“Ambassador Prudence Bushnell is a true professional with the toughness, grit, courage, and compassion that marks the kind of superb leader you want in charge during a crisis. I witnessed her remarkable composure, even when personally injured, and her take-command leadership style. This book is important for many reasons. It vividly presents a profile in courage; an understanding rarely appreciated about our foreign service men and women working in difficult assignments; a set of valuable lessons learned; and a case study in leadership during crisis. Every American should read this book.”—Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
(Anthony C. Zinni 2018-03-01)
“With heroes and villains aplenty, this riveting cold tale of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kenya has startling relevance. As today’s State Department struggles to survive a gutting by its own government, Prudence Bushnell reminds us just how important and dangerous the job of diplomacy can be.”—Rheta Grimsley Johnson, syndicated columnist and author of Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana
(Rheta Grimsley Johnson 2018-03-01)
“Prudence Bushnell’s name is not household familiar—but it should be. She was at the center of one of the most infamous terrorist attacks on American people and property in history. And she was a woman in the highest ranks of the State Department when such a thing was rare. She tells her story with integrity and intelligence—and gives lessons on leadership based on life experience.”—Barbara Kellerman, James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School
(Barbara Kellerman 2018-07-30)
“For all readers, Ambassador Bushnell’s searing account of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings provides profound lessons in leadership. She demonstrates time and again her deep commitment to the safety and mission of the people she led. Her willingness to battle paralyzing bureaucracy, both before and after the bombings, exhibits her decency and humanity in the midst of the chaos and evil that the Embassy experienced. She devoted much of her career to improving leadership at the Department of State. She is a role model for future leaders.”—Chris Kojm, director of the Leadership, Ethics, & Practice Initiative, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University
Prudence Bushnell is an American diplomat who has held a series of leadership positions with the U.S. Department of State, including deputy assistant secretary for African Affairs, ambassador to the republics of Kenya and Guatemala, and dean of the Leadership and Management School at the Foreign Service Institute. She is retired from the Foreign Service and founder of the Levitt Leadership Institute at Hamilton College in New York. She has earned numerous awards for her leadership and diplomacy, including three honorary doctoral degrees. For more information on the author visit prudencebushnell.com.
Prudence Bushnell was serving as United States Ambassador to Kenya in 1998 when al-Qaeda detonated a car bomb outside the embassy, killing over 200 people. In this memoir, Bushnell examines her actions during and after the attack. She also looks at the history leading up to the attacks, weaving in her own experiences in the State Department, as she attempts to piece together how they happened and how little the U.S. has grown form the experience. The same cannot be said for Bushnell, who candidly includes passages on her own emotional growth following the bombing. This book covers a lot of ground, but Bushnell is a more than capable guide, bouncing easily between the personal and policy sections.
One of the great strengths of this book resides in the fact that Prudence Bushnell is a diplomat, not a politician. Her recollections are sharp, insightful, and, most interestingly, critical. She has no problem examining the failures of the Clinton administration in funding embassy security, nor future administrations’ similar issues. Her frustrations with airing these concerns only to be met with silence is palpable. Similar sections also highlight the problems in Washington surrounding its continued approach to terrorism
In a lesser work, these moments might feel self-serving, but Bushnell carefully backs up her analysis with facts and experience. After all, her security vulnerability predictions proved correct after the bombing attack. Moreover, many of the grievances discussed later in the book about current State Department action, particularly funding, are still evolving, making this a troubling (though necessary) read.
While the bombing always remains at least in the periphery throughout this book, it’s not always the sole focus. Bushnell had a long career with the State Department, and it’s fascinating reading about her experiences maneuvering in such a male-dominated environment, and there’s a lot to be noted here about leadership. It’s insightful and provides a glimpse of how her worldview has developed and how it served her in her career. As well, the sections on serving in Rwanda and her post-retirement private sector careers are standouts.
Bushnell highlights a lot of problems the U.S. has navigating on the world stage. Much of this is disheartening and concerning. However, without spoiler, she ends this book with one of the most inspiring and optimistic passages I’ve ever read and is the real essence of this entire work.
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The U.S. has officially blamed Iran for recent attacks near Washington’s diplomatic presence in Iraq, where the two powers have competed for influence in the latest venue of a decades-long feud sparked by an embassy hostage crisis.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Wednesday that “Iran is the origin of the current threat to Americans in Iraq” and was “to blame for the attacks against our mission in Basra and our embassy in Baghdad,” adding that his department’s “intelligence in this regard is solid.” Iran has the support of a number of semi-official Shiite Muslim militias across Iraq, and Pompeo cited “repeated incidents of indirect fire from elements of those militias” against the two U.S. sites in a Friday statement announcing the closure of the consulate general in the southern city of Basra.
Iran, whose own consulate general in Basra was burned down last month, has rejected these charges. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Qasemi said Saturday that “the ridiculous justification [provided by Americans] for the closure of the U.S. Consulate General in Basra, which came after weeks of propaganda and false allegations against Iran and the Iraqi forces, is a suspicious move aimed at evading responsibility and pinning the blame on others responsibility and pinning the blame on others”
As unrest once again grips Iraq, the ripples of a long-standing dispute between the U.S. and Iran has again highlighted a history of both countries targeting one another’s diplomats.
Poisoned relations between the U.S. and Iran began in 1979. Prior to that, Iran was under the rule of the pro-West Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the U.S. stepped in to protect British oil interests when Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh challenged the monarch’s absolute power and tried to nationalize the energy sector. With Mossadegh deposed and imprisoned in a 1953 CIA-sponsored coup, Pahlavi went on to rule for another quarter of a century before he himself was forced to flee the Islamic Revolution, which brought the current revolutionary Shiite Muslim government into power.
Upset over Western meddling in Iranian affairs and demanding that an ill Pahlavi be extradited to face justice at home, supporters of the new clerical administration overran the U.S. Embassy and held 52 U.S. diplomats and citizens hostage. A U.S. Army attempt to rescue the detainees by force ended in failure when a helicopter crashed into a transport aircraft, killing eight soldiers. An Iranian civilian was also killed when U.S. forces bombed the truck he was riding in.
The hostages were ultimately released on the day of President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981 following extensive negotiations. Although the U.S. would go on to secretly sell arms to Iran while also supporting Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War, relations between Washington and Tehran were effectively squashed. Their relationship further deteriorated with growing Iranian support for foreign Shiite Muslim movements such as the Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah in Lebanon, both of whom have been blamed for the 1983 U.S. Embassy bombing in Beirut—an attack that killed up to 63 people, including 17 U.S. officials and soldiers.
The U.S. officially embargoed Iranian trade in 1995 and these sanctions expanded as Iran embarked on a nuclear program, which Tehran always maintained was solely for peaceful purposes. Though Iran was a bitter opponent of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, it also backed Shiite Muslim insurgents targeting U.S. troops after the 2003 invasion that toppled him as it expanded ties with the new majority-Shiite Muslim administration in Baghdad. In January 2007, the U.S. raided the Iranian Liaison Office in Erbil, the capital of northern Iraq’s Kurdish Autonomous Region, accusing five staff members of being agents of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and detaining them.
The local Kurdish government, which had ties to both the U.S. and Iran, vouched for the individuals and prevented the U.S. from detaining other individuals at Erbil’s airport. The five liaison office employees were ultimately released two and a half years later in 2009 as part of the U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, which sought to establish a framework for the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq.
Diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran remained largely frozen until President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani began negotiations to lift international sanctions in exchange for Iran agreeing to considerably restrict its nuclear activities. A multinational accord endorsed by both parties, along with China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.K., was announced in June 2015.
President Donald Trump, however, has accused Iran of using unfrozen funds to further destabilize the region via support for paramilitary movements and the development of ballistic missiles. Capitalizing on conservative outrage toward the nuclear deal, he demanded that the terms be renegotiated, something that Iran has refused to consider. Even as both the U.S. and Iran devoted assets toward battling the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), relations again declined rapidly and Trump announced that he would leave the nuclear agreement in May.
The Trump administration has continued to press the international community to isolate Iran, even without the support of European allies and major powers China and Russia. The U.S. has increasingly aligned its position with that of longtime Iranian foes Israel and Saudi Arabia, which itself severed ties with the Islamic Republic after protestors responded to the kingdom’s execution of an influential Shiite Muslim cleric by torching Riyadh’s embassy in Tehran in early 2016.
MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Three people were killed in a suicide car bombing by Islamist group al Shabaab which hit a European Union armoured convoy in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Monday, police and an emergency service worker said.
The blast struck the convoy around 12:10 PM local time on Industrial Road, a major thoroughfare in the heart of the city.
“We carried two dead locals and four others injured,” Abdikadir Abdirahman of AMIN Ambulance Services told Reuters.
Police said the bomber had also died in the blast.
A Reuters witness saw men towing their damaged vehicle after the explosion hit its rear end. The armoured vehicles had Italian and EU flags on them.
The al Shabaab group, which frequently carries out attacks in the Horn of Africa country, claimed responsibility.
The Italian military said a convoy of five vehicles returning from a training activity had been attacked but that no one was wounded or killed.
“The vehicle, with four soldiers on board, was slightly damaged and able to return to the base,” it said.
Al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab wants to topple Somalia’s Western-backed central government and impose its own rule based on its strict interpretation of Islam’s sharia law.
The European Union is one of the major sources of funding for the African Union-mandated peace-keeping force AMISOM which helps defend Somalia’s central government against the Islamists.
Somalia has been engulfed by violence and lawlessness since the early 1990s after the toppling of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
Additional reporting Steve Scherer in Rome; writing by Elias Biryabarema; editing by William Maclean, Ed Osmond
BERLIN — An Iranian diplomat is suspected of involvement in a bomb plot against an Iranian opposition rally in France. Assadollah Assadi was charged in Germany on Wednesday with activity as a foreign agent and conspiracy to commit murder.
Assadi, a Vienna-based diplomat, is suspected of contracting a couple in Belgium to attack an annual meeting of an exiled Iranian opposition group in Villepinte, near Paris, German federal prosecutors said.
He allegedly gave the Antwerp-based couple a device containing 500 grams of the explosive TATP during a meeting in Luxembourg in late June, prosecutors said in a written statement.
Assadi was detained earlier this month near the German city of Aschaffenburg on a European warrant after the couple with Iranian roots was stopped in Belgium and authorities reported finding powerful explosives in their car.
In their statement, German prosecutors allege that Assadi, who has been registered as a diplomat at the Iranian Embassy in Vienna since 2014, was a member of the Iranian intelligence service “Ministry of Intelligence and Security,” whose tasks “primarily include the intensive observation and combatting of opposition groups inside and outside of Iran.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of using its embassies to plot extremist attacks in Europe and warned Tehran that its actions have “a real high cost” after it threatened to disrupt Mideast oil supplies.
“Just this past week there were Iranians arrested in Europe who were preparing to conduct a terror plot in Paris, France. We have seen this malign behavior in Europe,” Pompeo said Tuesday in an interview with Sky News Arabia during a short trip to the United Arab Emirates.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has called the allegations of a foiled extremist plot a ploy.
Belgian authorities also accuse Assadi of being part of the alleged plot reportedly aimed at setting off explosives at a huge annual rally of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq group, or MEK, in neighboring France, and want him extradited.
German prosecutors said their investigation wouldn’t hinder Belgium’s extradition request for the suspect.
Meanwhile, an Iranian who resides in Belgium and was detained in France agreed on Wednesday to be turned over to Belgian authorities, who had issued a European arrest warrant, a French judicial official told the Associated Press.
The suspect, identified as Mehrdad Arefani, 54, will be handed over within 10 days, and go before an investigating magistrate there, according to the official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly in an ongoing case and asked not to be identified.
The MEK is an exiled Iranian opposition group based near Paris with some members, in particular, in Albania. The formerly armed group was removed from European Union and U.S. terrorism lists several years ago after denouncing violence and getting western politicians to lobby on its behalf.
Translated by Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: El País
By: Javier Garza Ramos, Torreón, Coahuila.
June 18, 2018
The bullet that killed Fernando Purón Johnston , PRI candidate for federal deputy in Piedras Negras, Coahuila on Friday, June 8, was the same one used six days earlier, on June 2, that killed Pamela Terán Pineda, candidate for councilor El Juchitán , Oaxaca, and Juana Maldonado Infante, candidate for local deputy in Jopala, Puebla .
The same bullet was used the next day, on Saturday June 9, which wounded Rosely Magaña, candidate for councilor in Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, who died 72 hours later. And it was the same bullet that killed Alejandro Chávez, candidate for mayor of Taretan, Michoacán on Thursday, June 14th.
This same bullet has killed 44 pre-candidates and candidates for election and other 70 officials and political figures in this election process. No ballistic proof is needed to sustain the claim, just follow the path of the bullet of impunity.
Fernando Purón Johnston, PRI Candidate and former Mayor of Piedras Negras, Coahuila
The person who ordered Purón’s murder probably knew that nothing was going to happen to him, because nothing happened to Terán’s murderer , and he knew that Salado’s murderer had nothing happen to him and so goes back in time the long thread of impunity.
I get the impression that we already saw this movie. The sequence of candidates killed in the current electoral process in Mexico is very similar to the list of dozens of journalists killed in Mexico in the last decade. A succession of crimes that alarm at first, but have become normalized.
Candidates and journalists are two high-risk groups in Mexico. Of course, they are not the only ones, they are only two subgroups of rampant unabated violence that last year averaged 20 victims a day and of which there is no end in sight.
While the motive of each murder is particular, in the case of journalists and candidates, a common thread unites them in that the victims may have touched powerful interests that prefer to use violence to end threats because they live in a country with a broken rule of law. Violence is a cheap, fast and easy remedy to perceived threats to institutions.
Throughout this succession of crimes there are those who warn about the gestation of an epidemic but their voices are drowned because nothing ever happens, until a high-profile case arrives that causes greater impact, which raises the volume of the complaints, although the increasing demand for sentencing does not end up solving anything.
The “strong condemnation” that we hear from the authorities is just a placebo that shows its inefficiency. Worse yet, when those high-profile cases are registered in the highest spheres of authority, after having ignored dozens of other cases, things are only likely to get worse.
Fernando Purón was the highest-profile candidate killed in the current electoral process, as he was the first candidate to hold a federal election position, while the previous candidates had been candidates for local positions in small municipalities.
Secretary of Labor Roberto Campa
His death was the first that merited the presence of a member of the cabinet of President Enrique Peña Nieto at the funeral. The Secretary of Labor, Roberto Campa, traveled to Piedras Negras as the presidential representative, but also with the same common promises to deliver justice.
Something similar happened with the case of Javier Valdez, the highest profile journalist killed in Mexico in recent years.
Javier Valdez, award winning and internationally known Journalist and Author of several books
A year ago, when Javier Valdez was gunned down in Culiacán, Peña Nieto spoke for the first time about the murder of a journalist, after having ignored 35 previous crimes committed during his six-year term . The president brought together the security cabinet and the governors, issued instructions to strengthen the protection of journalists and promised that the killing would not go unpunished.
A year later, two of the three men who attacked Valdez on May 15, 2017 have been detained, but accused only of the material authorship of the crime, because until now the intellectual authors enjoy the same impunity enjoyed by those responsible for dozens of previous murders.
It is easy to conclude that if the murder of a nationally and internationally recognized journalist provoked the reaction of the same President of the Republic but the crime still goes unpunished, anyone who is thinking of killing a lesser-known journalist than Javier Valdez can reasonably think he or she will get away with it.
In fact, there were already some who thought about it: in 2017 six more journalists were killed after Javier Valdez and at least four so far in 2018.
Mexican Citizens take to the streets to demand Justice and Freedom of the Press after their beloved brave truth-telling journalists continue to be murdered.
That is why Roberto Campa’s presence at Purón’s funeral involves a challenge in itself: if the murder of a candidate that merited this level of attention is unpunished the fate of others is already cast.
The impunity in the homicide of Purón also carries another risk because it threatens to throw overboard the pacification that the State of Coahuila has had in the last years and in particular the northern zone of the state, in Piedras Negras, ie, where Purón was mayor from 2014 to 2017, a period in which state and federal operatives managed to dismantle the power of Los Zetas, who waged a reign of terror in the area during the previous decade .
The infamous prison near Piedras Negras, Coahuila that Los Zetas turned into a Base of Operations and many call a death camp. The death toll will probably never be known.
Unlike previous municipal administrations, that of Purón did not succumb to the control of Los Zetas. That had been one of the focal points of his speech and it is now one of the lines of investigation into his murder.
It was during the years that Purón was mayor when Piedras Negras managed to overcome the trauma of the massacres and disappearances that have been documented with horrifying detail by El Colegio de México, the government of Coahuila and the Executive Commission for Victim Assistance.
Piedras Negras has made such a remarkable recovery that in the latest surveys of urban security by the National Institute of Geography and Statistics, Piedras Negras appeared among the cities with a better perception of security, data that resulted from the mayoral work of the now dead candidate.
Just a week ago, Pablo Ferri published in this newspaper the chronicle of a trip through Coahuila that ended precisely in Piedras Negras. Noting the horror of recent years, the story also showed a semblance of quiet normalcy within political campaigns.
Two days after the text was published, the story completely changed to one that we already know all too well.
Authorities issue arrest warrants in the murder of candidate Purón..his widow announces pregnancy
Chivis Martinez for Borderland Beat ,,,Big thanks to mi Amiga Lacy
Ignacio, ‘El Putrambula’, served as director of public security in Tenosique, Tabasco, and has more than 81 complaints of homicide, kidnapping, torture, abuse of authority.
Purón was 112th candidate murdered in the past 14 months of Mexico’s bloody election campaign
The young widow announced through her personal Facebook account and confirmed it later in an exclusive interview with Periódico Zócalo. “I feel a lot of happiness, I am eight weeks pregnant and I know in this way that Fernando is giving me the strength to keep going despite his absence,” she said.
This is the second child of Villarreal and her husband, who was killed minutes after leaving a political debate on Friday June 8th. Puron, was running for deputy, (similar to a congressman) of the 11th district of Coahuila.
“Since Fernando became the father of María Constanza, I could see how his life changed, and with the anticipation of our second child, we were very excited, we were already making many plans, like decorating a second room, (… ) I have at the same time nostalgia, but it fills me with illusion to know that a part of Fernando grows inside me,” she said.
In a news conference yesterday, authorities announced they have issued arrest warrants for two men believed to be the authors of the murder, not necessarily the trigger-man.
The names were not revealed yesterday but later revealed by Governor Miguel Riquelme, along with a wanted poster.
The wanted men are brothers Erick and Ignacio Arámbula Viveros, there is a 10 million MP reward offered.
Ignacio was director of public security in Tabasco
Erick was part of the Equitation team of the Secretariat of National Defense (Sena), and even participated in the Pan-American Games in Guadalajara. Ignacio, ‘El Putrambula’, served as director of public security in Tenosique, Tabasco, and has more than 81 complaints of homicide, kidnapping, torture, abuse of authority. They are from Michoacan.
This kidnapping attributed to Ignacio was caught on video….
From video notes:
2011: The kidnapping of Gino Gritilli by the then chief of public security of tabasco, Ignacio Arambula Viveros. All involved are policemen and are hooded. “A dozen of municipal police officers and the corrupt, legalized professional criminal (a former lieutenant, former military chef) Ignacio Arambula Viveros (el putrambula), director of public security in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mex.”
During his candidacy Puron highlighted how Los Zaetas cartel were “ran out of Piedras Negras” and mentioned the same during the debate. Puron was a popular mayor of Piedras Negras before running for the federal office seat. Piedras Negras is a border city adjacent to Eagle Pass Texas
As the US embassy moves to Jerusalem amid high security, history teaches that US diplomatic missions can become targets.
For many in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond, Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is anything but diplomatic.
It risks alienating important partners in the region and disqualifying Washington as a neutral broker to negotiate peace in the region. Already, it has contributed to Palestinian anger, as seen in the current protests on the border between Gaza and Israel, with deadly results.
Benghazi 2012: This Stars and Stripes flag was found after the attack on the US diplomatic mission (Reuters)
Yet if history has taught anything, it is that Trump, a self-styled expert dealmaker, may end up getting more than he bargained for.
When disaster does strike, American prestige and policy can suffer with high-flying political careers dashed
American diplomatic missions in the Middle East and North Africa, as the representatives of the country in the region, can become lightning rods for anti-US sentiment, sometimes resulting in death and destruction.
And when disaster does strike, the reverberations can be felt worldwide, with American prestige and policy suffering and high-flying political careers dashed.
Tehran 1924: Lynching heralds martial law
Any discussion of US diplomacy and Iran triggers recollections of the 1979 crisis and the Islamic Revolution. Yet US diplomats had fallen victim to events in the region long before Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini rose to power.
In 1924, Robert Whitney Imbrie, a major in the US army, was the American vice-consul in Tehran. A spy-adventurer, his pre-foreign service exploits included successfully bringing a live gorilla from the Congo to New York and volunteering for the French army’s ambulance service during World War One.
Before taking his position at the US embassy in Iran, Imbrie gained a reputation as a hot-headed, fearless and vehemently anti-Bolshevik American agent, once using his walking stick to beat the head of the Soviet secret police department in Petrograd.
Ironically, Imbrie spent much of his working life undermining what he regarded as godless Soviets – but it was religious fanatics who were to determine his fate.
In July of that year, he took a carriage to inspect an angry crowd of anti-Bahai protesters in the center of Tehran. The protesters were gathered around a well that was rumored to have miraculous healing powers. But now the Bahais, a religious minority, had been accused of poisoning the font.
Imbrie approached, carrying a camera to take photographs for the National Geographic Society and accompanied by his bodyguard, a burly oilfield worker.
But soon he drew attention from the crowd, some of who accused him of being a Bahai.
He was attacked, badly beaten and rushed to a nearby hospital, where the mob then forced their way into the operating theatre and killed him.
Understandably, Imbrie’s death was a source of tension between Tehran and Washington, which demanded justice. Eventually, a soldier and two teenagers were found, accused and executed.
The incident also cast doubt on the safety of foreigners in Iran, as US newspapers fretted about security and religious fanaticism in the region.
The New York Times wrote that Iranian authorities should “cease to resort to appeals to the fanatical instincts which permeate not only the mob but also a large proportion of the intelligentsia” and urged Tehran to better protect foreigners in future.
This it did, when Iranian Prime Minister Reza Khan declared martial law, using the crisis to consolidate his power before eventually assuming the Iranian throne.
WAK Fraser, the British military attache at the time, noted how “the event gave him … the excuse for declaring martial law and a censorship of the press… Numerous arrests have been made, chiefly political opponents of the prime minister.”
Imbrie was buried with full honors in Arlington National Cemetery. But his death had opened a new chapter in Iranian politics.
Tehran 1979: Hostages and revolution
Fifty-five years later, a second crisis involving American diplomats heralded another significant shift in US-Iranian relations.
In early 1979, the US embassy in Tehran was a long, two-story redbrick building standing on an avenue in central Tehran, the scene of intense US-Iranian cooperation which neither government expected to be broken.
The US embassy is stormed by Iranian students in Tehran in 1979 (Wiki)
Popularly likened to an American high school in appearance, the mission was known as “Henderson High”, a reference to Loy Henderson, its first US ambassador.
“It was like any other embassy, except the relationship of the United States and Iran was very close,” says Iranian-American historian Shaul Bakhash at George Mason University in Virginia.
“The shah worked closely with the Americans on diplomatic issues, on regional security, on the sharing of intelligence.”
But all that changed in February 1979, when Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran and son of Reza Khan, was deposed by the Islamic Revolution.
At first, Washington managed to uphold an uneasy relationship with the new Iranian government, despite the revolutionary fervor in Tehran.
But when the US granted Reza Shah asylum in May of that year, the hardliners had all the reason they needed to target the embassy.
‘It was a precise, planned political move that was designed to drive a wedge between the Iranian and American governments’
– Shaul Bakhash, academic
A group of students stormed the building on 4 November, taking 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage and parading them blindfolded and bound in front of television cameras.
“I was in Iran at the time and I must say the images were electrifying,” Bakhash said. “It was a precise, planned political move that was designed to drive a wedge between the Iranian and American governments.”
The hostage crisis, which lasted 444 days, was the death of President Jimmy Carter’s administration. His downfall was fuelled by the failure of Operation Eagle Claw, an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the hostages in April 1980, which resulted in the deaths of eight US service personnel in the desert southeast of Tehran.
The release of the hostages in January 1981 was regarded as an early victory for Carter’s successor Ronald Reagan, who was sworn in as president just minutes before they were freed.
But the crisis was catastrophic for US-Iranian relations, which have never recovered and are currently at a new low following the rejection by US President Donald Trump of the Iran nuclear deal.
Today the Tehran embassy – popularly known as the “den of espionage” in Iran – is a museum, standing as a monument to a shattered relationship.
Murals and posters criticising American and Israeli “arrogance” cover the walls, while various encryption devices and communication equipment are displayed behind glass screens, proof the Iranians say of Washington’s meddling overseas.
“For the Iranians it showed that the United States could be beaten,” says Bakhash.
Beirut 1983: Bombed into retrenchment
In early 1983, the US embassy in Lebanon was nothing if not picturesque, nestled as it was next to the American University of Beirut’s leafy campus and boasting vistas of the Mediterranean.
Journalist Kai Bird, who lived in the mission as a child, says: “The Beirut embassy was right on the corniche, a lovely venue. Any Lebanese, any American could just walk right into the embassy, say hello to the marine guards, state their business and get an appointment to see somebody.”
A bulldozer demolishes the bombed-out US embassy in Beirut in 1983 (Reuters).
Such openness in 2018 is unimaginable, as a visit to any US mission across the world will prove, in part due to the devastating suicide bombing in Beirut that took 63 lives and changed the American diplomacy forever.
In April 1983, Lebanon was eight years into a bloody civil war, which would eventually leave an estimated 150,000 dead and not end till 1990.
On the 18th of that month, a truck loaded with explosives drove into the US embassy and detonated.
Packing more than 900 kg of explosives, the truck bomb tore apart the embassy’s entire facade, as the explosion shattered windows across west Beirut.
Seventeen Americans, 32 Lebanese employees of the embassy and 14 passersby and visitors were killed, including some of the CIA’s top agents.
Beirut in 1983 was to be the opening salvo in a new type of warfare with which the United States still battles today
It was to be the opening salvo in a new type of warfare with which the United States still battles today. Likely directed by Iranian intelligence, the attack was carried out by Islamic Jihad, a militant group that later grew into Hezbollah.
It was also the first of several attacks on the US in the city. In October 1983, two truck bombs targeted at an international peacekeeping force killed more than 300 people, including 241 US peacekeepers. And in September 1984, 24 people were killed by a car bomb attack on the US embassy annex in east Beirut.
The attacks drew strong rhetoric and promise to see the mission through from then-US President Reagan. But by February 1984 the American military presence in Lebanon began to be drawn down, with the British, French and Italian forces following suit.
“There’d never been a military-scale attack on a US embassy before and I think it inaugurated a new form of warfare. It changed the whole landscape of US diplomacy – literally, the architecture changed.”
In an attempt to avoid a repetition of such a disaster, US embassies and missions worldwide now sit behind layer upon layer of security.
Many invariably resemble fortresses, set in isolated locations and sat behind thick walls, high fences and dozens of cameras. The former US embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square, for example, was constructed during the 1950s. Security increased over the decades, until the area on one side of the residential square was cordoned off. The new embassy, in Vauxhall, opened in December 2017, is on open ground and surrounded by a semi-moat.
But such security has its disadvantages. “Since 1983, the average diplomat is extremely isolated, and it’s very hard for them to develop friendships and contacts with local journalists,” says Bird
“So that’s had a very real impact on the daily routine and life of the average American diplomat. It’s terrible and it sends completely the wrong message. It sends a message to the average person in Lebanon or Egypt or Nepal or India that you can’t approach America, that we Americans are fearful.”
Benghazi 2012: The lingering legacy
Missions in Tripoli, Kuwait City, Jeddah, Damascus, Sanaa, Istanbul, Cairo and Tunis have all witnessed bombs, assaults or riots. A suicide bombing in Ankara in 2013, which killed one person, is just one of the more recent examples.
An armed man in the US consulate compound in Benghazi in September 2012 (AFP)
But none has had quite the political reverberations in recent years as the attack on the US temporary mission facility in Benghazi on 11 September 2012, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
In 2012, Libya was emerging as splintered and unstable country after the uprising and NATO operation that toppled long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi the previous year.
Benghazi had been the cradle of the revolution against Gaddafi’s regime. Stevens was in the city promoting democracy and American friendship, as the US considered making its presence in the eastern Libyan city permanent. It was to cost him his life.
On the 11th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, the militant group Ansar al-Sharia staged an assault on the US mission.
Coming at the compound from all angles, the militants broke through the security using heavy weapons, RPGs and grenades. Once inside, the assailants started a fire, filling the Americans’ hiding place with smoke. Stevens managed to escape the building and was taken to a nearby hospital, but eventually died of smoke inhalation.
The unexpected attack and the diplomat’s death shocked America: according to David Des Roches at the National Defense University, it was also a wakeup call for US policy in Libya.
“It showed that the country had descended into something that was sub-national,” says Des Roches.
“Right now, when people look at Libya, it’s basically divided along the lines the Emperor Constantine divided it at the time of the Roman Empire.”
But Benghazi’s more enduring legacy was, perhaps, seen not in Libya but 8,000km away in the White House.
The attack sparked a lengthy inquiry, and exposed then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of an external email server – a scandal that plagued her 2016 run for the presidency.
“In her memoirs secretary Clinton attributes her defeat to the fact that additional emails were unearthed just five days before the election,” says Des Roches. “Well, we only found out that those emails existed because of the inquiries into Benghazi.
So if you take Secretary Clinton’s analysis, if not for Benghazi [then] she would be president today.”
Going by the same logic, Donald Trump would not be sat behind a desk in the Oval Office – and Washington would not have decided to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“We are concerned about several elements in the Mexican election; the first is the assassination of candidates,” OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro said. | Photo: @Almagro_OEA2015
A spike in assassinations in the run-up to Mexico’s regional and national elections is “absolutely unacceptable,” the Organization of American States (OAS) warned on Friday, March 16.
“It is an average of one murder of a candidate every four or five days: that is a margin of violence absolutely unacceptable in an electoral process, we are very worried,” said OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro.
Mexico’s next president – as well as numerous senators, federal deputies, governors and mayors – will be contested in July when millions of voters head to the polls.
“We are concerned about several elements in the Mexican election: the first is the assassination of candidates and political leaders in the country,” Almagro said during a conference at the Casa America in Madrid.
On Friday morning, news of the murder of Gustavo MartinGomez Alvarez, a mayoral candidate with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), reached the department of Puebla.
Local media is reporting that Gomez Alvarez was eating breakfast in Metlatoyuca at about 11:30 a.m. when a group of men drove up and shot him six times. The death is being investigated by the Puebla Public Prosecutor’s Office as a homicide.
Earlier this month, mayoral candidates Homero Bravo Espino, with the Mexican Democratic Party (PRD), and Aaron Varela Martinez, with the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), were both shot dead.
Antonia Jaimes Moctezuma (PRD) and Dulce Nayeli Rebaja Pedro(Institutional Revolutionary Party), both precandidates for local elections inChilapa, Guerrero, were killed on Feb. 21 and Feb. 25 respectively. Rebaja was also head of Indigenous and Afro-Mexican Affairs for the state of
According to the PRD’s estimate, about 12 members of the party have been assassinated since the beginning of the election campaign in September.
Local media report that at least 54 pre-candidates from various parties have been murdered during the same period, while 83 have been assaulted.
Since 2006, more than 100 mayors have been killed, according to a report by theNational Association of Mayors.
The OAS plans to send observers to the July elections in an attempt to safeguard electoral transparency.
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An explosion wounded several security guards of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah but left him unharmed during a visit to the Gaza Strip to open a public-works facility there.
The blast on Tuesday happened shortly after Hamdallah’s convoy passed through the Israeli-controlled Erez checkpoint, known to Palestinians as Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza, an Al Jazeera correspondent at the scene reported.
Hamdallah, who heads the Palestinian Authority government based in Ramallah in the West Bank, appeared on live television following the incident at the inauguration of a wastewater-treatment plant in Hamas-run Gaza.
Shortly afterwards, he returned to Ramallah where he gave a brief address outside his office.
He said seven of his guards were wounded in the attack and they were being treated in hospitals across Ramallah.
“It [the attack] does not represent patriotism. It is a cowardly act that does not represent our people, nor does it represent the people of Gaza,” Hamdallah said.
Majed Faraj, the Palestinian Authority intelligence chief, was part of the convoy.
Fatah, the West Bank-based political party to which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas belongs, called the incident a “terrorist attack” and blamed it on Hamas.
“This attack is an attempt to kill all reconciliation efforts. It is a dangerous step aimed at spreading disorder and fighting among our people,” Munir al-Jaghoub, who heads Fatah‘s information department at the Office of Mobilisation and Organisation, said.
“We demand that Hamas expedite its investigation. The developments have proven that Hamas has completely failed in providing security in Gaza, just as it has failed in providing a decent life for our people in the strip.”
Hamas and Fatah, the two main Palestinian political parties, signed a reconciliation agreement in October 2017, ending a decade of division that saw two parallel governments operating in Gaza and the West Bank, respectively.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Iyad al-Buzom, Gaza’s interior ministry spokesman, said the act of placing blame “has a political dimension”.
“Here in Gaza, we take all the security precautions to welcome all the convoys and delegations and particularly the prime minister as he entered Gaza,” he said.
“Several suspects were arrested a short while ago”, and an investigation “to find out who was behind the explosion” is under way, Buzom added.
The agreement to form a unity government was signed in the Egyptian capital Cairo on October 13, but efforts to implement the deal have faced obstacles.
Mustafa Ibrahim, a Gaza-based political analyst, said there are “several sides who are benefiting from this explosion”.
“We will hear Fatah saying that some members of Hamas do not want reconciliation, and likewise, we will hear Hamas saying this could have been a fabricated attack by Fatah’s security services,” Ibrahim told Al Jazeera.
“The ones who will pay the price are the Palestinian people themselves. The Palestinian Authority may impose more punitive measures against the Gaza Strip, and it is imperative that Hamas captures those behind the attack as soon as possible.
“This explosion will have repercussions for the people in Gaza.”
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, condemned the attack and said in a Twitter post those behind it seek to “undermine” reconciliation.
Also commenting on the incident, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Twitter Gazans need “a real government that will provide basic services”.
Nauert’s remarks came as the White House held a conference on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which has been under a land, sea, and naval blockade for more than a decade.
However, Palestinian officials were not expected to attend the conference. Earlier this week the PA rejected the White House’s invitation saying the issue in Gaza was “political par excellence”.
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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.
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.