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Pakistani Ex-Diplomat Charged with Plotting Consulate Attacks on US and Israeli Consulates.

Diplomatic Security SitRep:02/23/2018

cropped-diplomatic-security-situation-report.jpgCHENNAI: Former Pakistani diplomat Amir Zubair Siddiqui plotted to attack the US Consulate in Chennai, Israeli Consulate in Bengaluru, Eastern Naval Command HQ in Visakhapatnam and ports across the country, according to a charge-sheet filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the Poonamallee Special Court on Thursday.

The chargesheet named Amir Zubair Siddiqui, who was then visa counsellor at the Pakistan High Commission in Colombo.

Interestingly, Siddiqui was arrested for allegedly conspiring to attack vital establishments in India and was quietly withdrawn even before the NIA’s request under Mutual Assistance Legal Treaty (MLAT) reached Colombo.

The NIA filed supplementary charge-sheet against Amir Zubair Siddiqui and his aides Balasubramanian and Noorudeen under various sections of the Unlawful Activity Act 1967 and IPC for their involvement in conspiracy for waging war against the Government of India, causing explosion in the US Consulate in Chennai and at various places in South India, said the official statement.

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The 4,000-page supplementary charge-sheet filed in the Special Court for Terror Cases at Poonamallee near here said that the terror plot came to light after the NIA police personnel arrested an ISI agent Mohammed Zakir Hussain (37) through the ‘Q’ Branch of the Tamil Nadu police in 2013. The reason was that he was gathering details about vital installations in Tamil Nadu and sent photographs to Siddique.
Hussain used his counterparts Sivabalan and Mohammad Salim to circulate fake currency in the state. During questioning, Hussain also confessed that he had also used Rafeeque (29) to pump in fake Indian currency in the state.

NIA sources said, “Hussain had met Siddiqui in Colombo on a few occasions and was instructed to collect information about defence establishments, movement of arms and ammunition to the Indian Army and arrange fake passports and visa for two Pakistan nationals to enter India” “Siddiqui was not named in the charge-sheet initially because we did not have proper evidences before. Now that we have strong evidence to prove his involvement in the terror plot, a supplementary charge-sheet was filed,” the police said.

Gathering details and photographs
The 4,000-page supplementary charge-sheet filed in the Special Court for Terror Cases at Poonamallee near here said that the terror plot came to light after the NIA police personnel arrested an ISI agent Mohammed Zakir Hussain (37) through the ‘Q’ Branch of the Tamil Nadu police in 2013. The reason was that he was gathering details about vital installations in Tamil Nadu and sent photographs to Siddique.



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Former Ambassador recalls attack on U.S. Consulate in Jeddah

A former U.S. ambassador spoke about the ethical challenges of serving in the U.S. Foreign Service at the Elliott School of International Affairs Tuesday.

Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, who is also a GW alumna, served as the U.S. Ambassador to Malta from 2012 to 2016. The event was hosted by the Elliott School’s new Leadership, Ethics and Practice Initiative, which delves into issues of ethics on an international level.

During her time with the foreign service, Abercrombie-Winstanley was stationed at posts in Iraq, Indonesia, Egypt and Israel. She later served as Consul General in Saudi Arabia, before her appointment as ambassador during the former President Barack Obama’s administration. She shared stories from her experiences abroad with students in the Elliott School.

Here are some highlights from the event:

1. Ethical decision-making

Abercrombie-Winstanley discussed five anecdotes from her career when ethics played a big role in her decision-making process, ranging from rules regarding expensive gifts to reporting affairs between an ambassador and one of his subordinates.

But she said the toughest call to make was when her regional security officer suggested that staff and workers coming from Jordan, Pakistan, India and the Philippines not be allowed to come into the building without first passing through a metal detector.

Abercrombie-Winstanley said she was hesitant to divide the consulate staff because Americans wouldn’t have to go through the same security checks.

“The local staff, most of them had been with the consulate for 20, 30 years,” she said. “All of us were under threat. All of us were in danger as we came through that gate.”

To solve the dilemma, Abercrombie-Winstanley said she came up with a compromise that everyone would walk through the metal detector.

2. Handling an attack on the U.S. Consulate General

Islamist militants attacked the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah in 2004, killing nine people during Abercrombie-Winstanley’s tenure as the Consul General. She said she faced many challenges as a leader both during and after the attack.

During the four hours the consulate was under attack, Abercrombie-Winstanley said her priorities were to account for staff and try to get help from Saudi officials. Despite sharing a wall with the Saudi National Guard, she said it took security forces an “inordinate” amount of time to arrive at the consulate to deal with the situation.

“The worst part of that day was then going to the widows and extending condolences. And, of course, I had to do it,” she said. “The ambassador went with me for a couple, but most of them I did on my own.”


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3. Sexual harassment in the field of diplomacy

The former ambassador also spoke about her personal experiences with sexual assault and harassment during her long career in the foreign service.

She discussed how it can feel “demoralizing” when someone in power makes advances and the intense psychological impact that sexual harassment can have on a person’s self-confidence.

She talked about harassment she faced during a trip to Ireland when she was serving as the Director for Legislative Affairs at the National Security Council.

“It was the head of the delegation that I was talking about the peace process with,” she said. “We’d agreed to have dinner and, in short, he’s trying to kiss me.”

Abercrombie-Winstanley said it was during this time that the Monica Lewinsky scandal was all over the news and she was among a generation of women who still felt like they were living in a “man’s world.”

“It didn’t occur to me to accept or do anything I didn’t want to do, but it also didn’t occur to me to tell someone looking for redress,” she said. “I did not think that was possible.”

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Embassy Guard recalls long, deadly night defending U.S. Embassy in Saigon in 1968

Diplomatic Security SitRep Flashback: 1968 Saigon Embassy Offensive

Harper Embassy Medal

Viet Cong bullets pinged off the Cold Spring Granite in the lobby of the new U.S. Embassy in Saigon.

It was Jan. 31, 1968, and 20-year-old Sgt. Ronald Harper, a Central Minnesota native, could hear the voices of enemy combatants seeking to break into the building with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 assault rifles.

Dust and smoke filled the air that first night of the Tet Offensive, a key moment in the Vietnam War marked by Viet Cong attacks throughout U.S.-backed South Vietnam.

Five Americans and 19 of 20 Viet Cong guerrillas died in the fight at the Embassy. Harper earned a Bronze Star for his service. Harper Bronze Star

Historians describe the Embassy attack and entire Tet Offensive as a turning point in favor of the North Vietnamese and against America. It showed the war was far from over. Amid growing anti-war sentiment, President Lyndon B. Johnson just two months later would call for talks to end the war and announce he would not seek re-election.

Now, 50 years after that attack, Harper runs his own business, Quality Appliance & TV Center, in Waite Park.He thinks regularly of that long night in Vietnam.

He remembers the comfort of a mid-fight cigarette provided by the Embassy’s Vietnamese night watchman after Harper pulled him from the fray. And he remembers the Americans who died at the Embassy.

“When my son went to Iraq (in 2009), it was on my mind daily,” Harper said, choking up.

The veteran, now 70, went on to have nine children with his wife, Cathy. The son who served in Iraq, Harper said, “he’ll be my successor at the store.”

Harper Saigon Flag

Harper smiles easily as he talks about his work, family, and life in the military and after it. He grew up in Cambridge, an hour east of St. Cloud and an hour north of the Twin Cities.

Harper joined the Marines in 1965. His friend came to visit for Harper’s birthday and suggested they enlist together.

Harper then became part of the elite Marine Security Guard, whose members have guarded U.S. Embassies worldwide for 70 years. Harper chose the Vietnam Embassy amid the war.

“I felt it was my duty,” Harper said. “I was always very patriotic. It was in my heart all my life. I loved my country. I still do.”

He held the keys to the Embassy in Saigon on Jan. 31, 1968 — 50 years ago come Wednesday. He was delivering a round of coffees to fellow servicemen on the night shift, and he was caught a few hundred yards away when Viet Cong soldiers blew through an exterior wall. 220px-Embassy_LZs

“The sky just lit up in a big explosion,” Harper said.

Harper made it back to the Embassy to lock the doors, thanks to two military police officers. They fought and died there.

Harper first secured the rear doors. At the front, teak doors, he pulled in the Vietnamese staffer. A rocket injured the other Marine security guard who was bleeding profusely.

“I wrapped him up like a mummy, but I couldn’t get him to be quiet,” Harper said. He could hear Viet Cong fighters within 10 feet.

Instructions came and Harper was ordered to double-check the doors. Harper found the watchman in the lobby and pulled him back again.

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The guard offered Harper a cigarette then, a relief for the Marine who didn’t bring his own smokes that night. Harper wasn’t even supposed to work that shift because a doctor had treated him for lung-tissue inflammation called pleurisy the day prior.

The fight continued for hours outside the Embassy, and Harper kept four civilians safe in the building.

“You’re tense,” Harper said of the six-hour skirmish. “You didn’t know what was going to happen in the next minute.” Harper Saigon Front Page


Daylight brought the “best feeling” after Harper listened to fire all night. After 8 a.m., American forces broke through the front gate and opened fire again, Harper said.

“Here I am safe, and now they’re shooting at me,” he said with a laugh.

Harper didn’t go to bed for two days after the attack, he said. He was in shock and had some shrapnel injuries he didn’t notice at first. “The adrenaline was so high.”

The Tet Offensive prolonged his stay in Vietnam by three months. And it marked a shift in the war.

John Decker, an associate archivist at Stearns History Museum, lived through that change and served as a Navy Hospital corpsman in Japan from 1970 to 1972.

“It changed what people thought of the war,” Decker said. “We came back and we weren’t really welcomed.”

In the whole of the Vietnam war, Stearns County military casualties reached about 37.

Decker lost friends, classmates and two cousins. “We miss every one of those guys,” he said.

The U.S. lost over 16,000 troops in 1968, Decker said.

In mid-1968 Harper’s term in Vietnam ended. He went on to guard the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.

When he returned to Central Minnesota, Harper worked in retail then opened his appliance store. That was 40 years ago.

Looking back on his service in Vietnam, Harper feels the U.S. did the right thing.

“I was in a different part of the world than the guys in the field. I didn’t meet a Vietnamese person I didn’t like. And I didn’t meet a Vietnamese person who didn’t like me,” Harper said. “In my mind, they were worth fighting for.”

Nora G. Hertel: 320-255-8746 and on Twitter @nghertel

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Motorcycle Gunmen Attack Israeli Embassy in Athens.

Israeli embassy in Athens Attacked by gunmen.
Israeli embassy in Athens Attacked by gunmen.

Greek authorities are said to be investigating a gunfire attack on the Israeli embassy in Athens, which took place in the wee hours of Friday.

Police have cordoned off a major road outside the Athens embassy, while forensic experts in white protective clothes were searching the area, reports AP. No one has been reported injured or dead so far.

Shots were reportedly fired from a motorcycle passing in front of the embassy, which is located on the corner of a busy highway, according to the police.

Moments later, two other persons on a second motorcycle reportedly participated in the attack that took place at 3:20 am local time.

The AFP reports that early evidence suggested a Kalashnikov assault rifle was used. Greece’s anti-terrorist squad will examine the bullet casings found in the scene to assess if the pre-dawn attack had any resemblance to other terrorist attacks in the past.

Friday’s attack comes just two days after a Palestinian official died in the West Bank after a confrontation with Israeli soldiers.

It can be noted that Greece has strongly been condemning Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza and many protests have been held in Athens in support of the Palestinians. In recent years, far-left groups in the county have targeted vehicles of embassy officials.

In 2007, a rocket was fired at the US embassy in Athens while the residence of the German ambassador in Athens has been attacked twice with assault rifles in 2013 and 1999.



Western Embassies in Egypt Close Amid ISIL Terror Threats.

British Embassy in Cairo.
British Embassy in Cairo.

CAIRO — Western embassies, amid threat of an Al Qaida-aligned attack, have been suspending operations in Egypt.

At least two Western embassies have closed while others were restricting operations in Cairo. In a 24-hour period, Britain and Canada said they were closing their embassies for security reasons.

“Public services at the British embassy are currently suspended,” British ambassador John Casson said on Dec. 8. “We have taken this decision to ensure the security of the embassy and our staff.”

Neither Casson nor other diplomats provided details of the security threat. Over the last two months, Al Qaida and Islamic State of Iraq and Levant issued a series of warnings against Western embassies and schools in the Middle East.

“There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attacks globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria,” the British Foreign Office said. “You should be vigilant at this time.”

On Dec. 8, Canada said it was closing its embassy in Cairo for security reasons. Diplomats said it was unclear when the embassy would reopen.

“The ability to provide consular services may occasionally be limited for short periods due to unsettled security conditions,” the Canadian embassy said.

The Australian embassy in Cairo has warned nationals of insurgency attacks in Egypt. The embassy, which has not closed, said targets could include tourist and government sites.

“Terrorist attacks could occur at anytime, anywhere in Egypt, including in tourist areas,” the Australian embassy said on Dec. 6. “Some past attacks have coincided with local holiday weekends.”

The U.S. embassy, the largest in the city, has remained open in Cairo. But the embassy has warned staffers to stay close to home amid clashes between security forces and the Muslim Brotherhood.

“In light of the heightened tensions and recent attacks on Westerners in the region, the U.S. embassy has recommended that its staff carefully scrutinize their personal movements and consider staying close to their residences and neighborhoods over the coming period,” the U.S. embassy said on Dec. 4.



Tunisia Ambassador’s Secretary Kidnapped in Libya

Members of the coast battalion of the Libya Shield Force Western Brigade man a checkpoint in the western suburbs of the city of Tripoli

The secretary to the Tunisian ambassador in Libya has been kidnapped, the foreign ministry in Tunis said on Saturday.

According to an embassy source, the incident occurred on Friday when the kidnappers forced Mohamed bin Sheikh into their vehicle, which had stopped his car in the Ain Zara suburb of eastern Tripoli.

The ministry said it was in contact with Libyan authorities to obtain more information and to step up efforts to secure Sheikh’s release.

Tunisia was urging Libyan authorities “to ensure the protection of all employees and agents of diplomatic missions and consulates in Libya,” it said.

Libya has been struggling to establish security since its 2011 armed revolt which overthrew longtime leader Muammar Qaddafi.

With the country awash with weapons, the authorities have struggled to integrate militias into a regular army or police force.



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Two killed in suicide attack outside Iranian consulate in Pakistan

Two security guards wee killed in an attack on the Iranian consulate.
Two security guards wee killed in an attack on the Iranian consulate.

 PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – Two security guards were killed and more than a dozen people wounded on Monday in a suicide bombing outside the Iranian consulate in Peshawar in northwest Pakistan, police said.

 The attack was in an area housing offices of foreign diplomatic missions and non-governmental organizations in the sprawling city on the Afghan border.

“It was a suicide blast. A man walked up to the checkpost outside the foreign mission after parking his car nearby. The man blew himself up when he was stopped by security men,” a local police officer told Reuters.
 The wounded were taken to hospital where the condition of five was serious.
A spokesman for Pakistani jihadist Mast Gul, once acclaimed in Pakistan for his role fighting Indian rule in Kashmir, claimed responsibility. The group is affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban, who are fighting to topple the government.
              “We sent a suicide bomber to target the Iranian consulate and Iranians inside the building,” the spokesman said.
              “They unfortunately remained safe.
              “We will continue to target Iranian installations and the Shi’a community everywhere,” he added.
              Iran is Pakistan’s predominantly Shi’ite Muslim neighbor to the west. Radical Sunni militants frequently attacks Shi’ite targets   and mosques in Pakistan, describing minority Shi’ites as infidels to be exterminated.
Shi’ite Pakistani pilgrims are often attacked as they travel across the country to visit holy Shi’ite sites in Iran.
The attack on the Iranian consulate came as the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tries to engage the Taliban in peace talks. Negotiations broke down this month after a string of attacks and counter-attacks by both sides.
 (Reporting by Jibran Ahmed; Writing by Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by Maria Golovnina and Andrew Roche)

Motar Fire and Car Bomb Reported Near French Embassy in Yemen.


SANAA — A mortar shell was fired overnight in the direction of the French embassy in Yemen, while a car bomb exploded metres away in Sanaa’s diplomatic quarter, a police source said Monday.

“The two attacks happened after midnight. There were no victims,” the source said.

The shell fell by a concrete block, installed for security reasons on a road leading to the embassy, he added.

That blast came shortly after a car exploded on the nearby main road.

“The shell landed about thirty metres (yards) from the wall of the French embassy,” while the car “was parked halfway between the embassy and the residence of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in the capital?s diplomatic district of Hadda, the same source said.

Those explosions came shortly after two devices went off in a minibus parked in the centre of Sanaa not far from the defence ministry, also causing no casualties, a military source said.

Such violent acts have increased in Yemen where Shiite Huthi rebels have been pushing out from the mountains of the far north to areas closer to Sanaa to expand their hoped-for autonomous unit in a promised federal Yemen.

That prospect of a federal Yemen was originally mooted as a way to address grievances of the formerly independent south, where tensions are high as secessionist violence rises.

Al-Qaeda militants have also seized foreigners in the poor country which is undergoing a difficult transition since nationwide Arab Spring protests that forced Saleh to step down in February 2012 after 33 years in power.

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Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Survives Vehicle Attack


Libya’s deputy prime minister survived unhurt after gunmen fired on his car in Tripoli on Wednesday in an attack reflecting the violent chaos plaguing the North African nation two years after Muammar Gaddafi’s fall.

The Libyan government is struggling to contain dozens of unruly militias, former rebel brigades and militants who kept their guns after the NATO-backed revolt against Gaddafi in 2011.

Deputy Prime Minister Sadiq Abdulkarim said he had been attacked on his way from the Interior Ministry to the General National Congress assembly. He is also interim Interior Minister since the previous minister quit several months ago.

“I tell those who did it that Libya is bigger than you and Libya’s men will not be threatened by bullets, guns or rockets,” Abdulkarim said a two-minute statement on television.

The state news agency said he had not been wounded in the attack. Abdulkarim, who appeared healthy in his television appearance, said he had returned to work afterwards.

The identity of the attackers was unclear, an Interior Ministry official said.

Libya’s difficulties in asserting state authority worry Western powers which fear that violence in the OPEC country could spill over to its North African neighbors.

Parts of Libya are already effectively under the control of militias, armed tribesmen and Islamist militant groups.

Libya’s fledgling army and police, still in training, are no match for the militias that fought in the anti-Gaddafi uprising. The government has tried to co-opt them with state jobs but they often remain loyal to their commanders or local regions.

Security has deteriorated in recent months. More than 40 people were killed in fighting between rival groups and residents in Tripoli in October. Car bombs and assassinations have become part of daily life in the eastern city of Benghazi.

An armed blockade of three major eastern ports by a group demanding a greater share of oil wealth and more regional autonomy has choked off 600,000 barrels per day of oil exports.

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s government faces a budget crunch due to the blockade, now in its sixth month. Oil exports, Libya’s lifeline, have more than halved during the dispute.

Russian Diplomat and Wife Stabbed in South Sudan


 Russian diplomat and his wife were stabbed in Sudan’s capital on Tuesday by a man enraged by the death of his brother in strife-torn Central African Republic, Khartoum police said.

The attacker wounded the consul general and his wife, mistakenly believing they were from a nation that had sent troops to his home country, the force said in a statement.

Both were in a stable condition, it added.

Central African Republic, which borders Sudan, descended into chaos in March after a mostly Muslim rebel coalition, Seleka, marched into the capital, unleashing a wave of killings and looting.

Its former colonial ruler France has sent in troops to defend its citizens and back up African peacekeepers trying to contain the violence. The European Union has also promised to send in soldiers, but Russia has no troops on the ground.

The attacker told officers who arrested and questioned him that his brother had been killed “by forces from the one of the European countries,” the police said.

“There was no motive other than revenge for the death of the brother,” the police statement read.

The duty officer at Russia’s embassy in Khartoum said he could not comment and the Russian Foreign Ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.


Car Bomb Targets French Embassy in Tripoli

The French Embassy in Libya was attacked and two embassy guards injured.
The French Embassy in Libya was attacked and two embassy guards injured.

TRIPOLI, Libya — A car bomb targeted the French Embassy in the Libyan capital Tuesday, wounding two French guards and a Libyan teenager and underscoring the central government’s inability to stop the oil-rich North African nation’s slide toward deepening lawlessness.

There have been several attacks on diplomatic missions in Benghazi, but Tuesday’s was the first in Tripoli since the civil war ended with Moammar Gadhafi’s death. On Sept. 11, four Americans — including the U.S. Ambassador in Libya Chris Stevens — were killed when militants attacked the U.S. diplomatic mission in the eastern city.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack on the French Embassy in Tripoli, but many blamed either Islamic extremists avenging France’s military intervention in Mali or militias seeking to send a message that they’re winning the struggle for control and that cracking down on them only backfires.

French President Francois Hollande denounced the attack as an assault not only on France but all countries engaged in the fight against terrorism.

“France expects the Libyan authorities to shed the fullest light on this unacceptable act, so that the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice,” Hollande said in a statement from Paris.

Two years after the country’s civil war, Libya is struggling to maintain security, build a unified army and rein in militias, which include rebels who fought to oust Gadhafi in 2011 and have refused to lay down their arms.

Prime Minister Ali Zidan and his defense and interior ministers have been increasingly cracking down on some militias in the capital. Zidan also has reached out to France and other countries for training and technical aid in building the country’s security forces from scratch.

On the one hand, the Libyan government heavily depends on security provided by commanders of powerful militias, with top Libyan leaders dubbing some “legitimate” forces while others like Ansar al-Shariah are labeled as outlaws.

However, both categories of militias often act with impunity, running their own prison cells, making arrests and taking confessions in total absence of state control and oversight. They at the same time enjoy steady and lavish salaries and rewards.

“The Number One party benefiting from these attacks is the militias and the extremists. Whenever we take a step forward, an attack by these groups drags us back,” said lawmaker Tawfiq Breik, from the liberal-leaning National Forces Alliance bloc in parliament.

“The message to the outside world is that Libya is slipping into terrorism. The goal is to empty the capital of foreign and diplomatic missions like Benghazi. The big loser is the Libya people, if no decisive measures are taken.”

Libyans have been staging protests and sit-ins demanding that authorities label all militias illegal. The protesters want militia commanders and their fighters to integrate into the Libyan army as individuals. If they integrate into the army as groups, they say the fighters will maintain their loyalty to their militia commanders.

The assault will increase pressure already mounting on the country’s top army chief Maj. Gen. Youssef al-Mangoush who is blamed for Libya’s failure to take any concrete steps to build its army, allowing the militias to expand.

France is a major ally of the Libyan government and the assault on the embassy in Tripoli was seen to many Libyans as equal in its impact as the killing of Stevens, who aided Libyans during the war.

French officials, meanwhile, have expressed concerns about the possibility of greater instability in Libya, where they believe at least some rebel fighters from Mali fled following France’s military onslaught to dislodge al-Qaida-linked militants who controlled the vast north of the West African country for months.

Last week, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, threatened to seek revenge against all countries taking part in the war in Mali, warning that no one who “participated in this ferocious attack” will be safe. It called on “all Muslims to target France and its interests and subjects inside and outside France until it withdraws the last soldier from the land of the Muslims and lifts its support of rulers of the region.” That threat came as part of a question and answer session on AQIM’s new Twitter account.

Several diplomats, relief agencies and churches have come under attack and scores of Libyan security officials have been assassinated in the post-Gadhafi turmoil. In most cases, the government fails to nail down culprits or make arrests, either because of fear of counterattacks or the lack of capabilities to carry out a proper investigation.

The lawlessness has prompted the U.S., Britain and other Western countries to close their missions in Benghazi and call on their nationals to evacuate the city.

In the latest attack, the explosives-laden car was detonated just outside the embassy building in Tripoli’s upscale al-Andalus neighborhood early in the morning, before any of the embassy staff had arrived inside the diplomatic mission, two Libyan security officials said.

The strong explosion wounded two French guards and set a fire at the embassy entrance that engulfed some of the offices inside, the officials said. A Libyan girl, who was having breakfast in a nearby house, was also hurt from the blast, Deputy Prime Minister Awad al-Barassi said on his official Facebook page.

Two cars parked outside the embassy caught fire and two other nearby buildings were also damaged, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Firefighters rushed to the scene of the attack as smoke billowed into the sky. Video from the scene showed charred walls on surrounding houses.

The officials said the motives for the attack were not immediately clear. The Libyan government condemned the attack and said in a statement posted on its official website that it “rejects such actions, which are directly targeting Libya’s security and stability.”

At Hollande’s request, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was to travel to Tripoli later Tuesday to assess the situation and bring home the two wounded French guards.

Ahead of his flight, Fabius said “this bombing was intended to kill, but France will not bend.” He added that France was reinforcing security throughout the Mideast and the Sahel region of Africa.

French institutions in Tripoli, including schools and cultural centers, were ordered to immediately suspend their activities.

France, along with Britain, took a leading role in the NATO-led air campaign against Gadhafi’s forces.

Hollande’s predecessor, President Nicolas Sarkozy, was hailed by many in Libya for France’s role, and Paris has sought to maintain close economic and political contacts with the new leadership in Tripoli.

The attack site was later cordoned off, with heavy national guard and army units with armored vehicles surrounding the area. Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Awad al-Barassi and Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz visited the site.

Libyan Saqr al-Qarifi, whose house is adjacent to the French Embassy, said the explosion woke him up around 7 a.m.

“I heard a loud boom and immediately after that, windows were shattered and parts of my house were damaged,” he said.

US Embassy in Kabul Attacked on Christmas.

The US Embassy in Afghanistan was attacked on Christmas day.
The US Embassy in Afghanistan was attacked on Christmas day.

A Taliban attack Christmas Day struck the United States Embassy in Kabul early Wednesday morning, forcing embassy workers and American diplomats to underground bunkers to shield themselves from the blast. The pair of rockets that were fired at the embassy were accompanied by two other rockets that hit other parts of Kabul. No casualties were reported, but three Afghan police officers were wounded when they attempted to defuse one of the rockets after it failed to detonate on impact.

A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, quickly made a statement on behalf of the group, saying that the Taliban attack was coordinated against the U.S. embassy. The Taliban, on Mujahid’s Twitter feed, claimed that the four rockets fired at various parts of the city “inflicted heavy casualties.” Official reports claim otherwise, with no deaths and only a few wounded.

Shortly afterwards Mujahid retracted his statement, saying “The magnitude of the (Taliban) attack and the scope of the losses have yet to be determined,” a serious contrast between his confident statement hours earlier.

While at first glance it seems as though the Taliban attack on Christmas Day holds some sort of significance, observers say that the holiday is hardly recognized in Afghanistan, where there are little to no Christians. Often the Taliban use prominent Islamic holidays to set off large scale attacks to grab headlines across the Middle East.

Officials are looking now to assess damage to the Embassy, and it is unclear whether or not there is a breach in any of the fortified walls. Embassy workers were cleared to leave their bunkers only two hours after the early morning attack to return to their stations.

Rocket attacks in Afghanistan have been relatively rare in recent years, and often they are random and misguided. Such an attack aimed at the presidential palace in 2009 was meant to disrupt the presidential election held in Afghanistan. Instead, the rockets landed in the “general vicinity” of the presidential palace, causing little damage or harm.

“Sneak” bombs have usually been the Taliban’s M.O., inflicting more damage and causing bodily harm. Such an attack on Wednesday targeted a group of police officers in Pul-i-Alam, the capital of Logar Province, south of Kabul. Six policemen were killed in the attack, the first attack in the area in a month and a half.

This attack follows the recent death of a prominent Taliban leader in Kandahar province by the Afghan National Army. The senior Taliban leader, Mullah Noor Mohammad, was said to be the target of an ambush by Afghan forces.

In the ambush Afghan forces were able to seize valuable information from the compound where Mohammad has been hiding out, as well as ammunition, weapons, and communication devices.

Recent in-fighting in the Taliban over leadership has also marred the worldwide terrorist organization. Following a drone strike that killed Hakimullah Meshud, a beloved figure in the Taliban, talks have been growing between rivaling factions for control over the group.

The Christmas Day Taliban attack on the Embassy may have gone without any casualties or serious damage, but officials are saying security will be increased in light of the events.

By John Amaruso Sources: New York Times Indian Express Khaama



Yemen Attack Fears Close UN offices but Embassies Remain Open

People visit the scene of the attack on the Yemeni defence ministry that took place on December 5, following the funeral of victims of the attack in the capital Sanaa on December 9, 2013. AFP PHOTO/ MOHAMMED HUWAIS
People visit the scene of the attack on the Yemeni defence ministry that took place on December 5, following the funeral of victims of the attack in the capital Sanaa on December 9, 2013. AFP PHOTO/ MOHAMMED HUWAIS

SANAA: The United Nations  closed its offices in the Yemeni  capital on Thursday over fears of possible car bomb attacks but Western  embassies remained open.

Most shops in Sanaa  were shuttered and little traffic ventured  out onto the streets as rumours swirled among the city’s residents of the risk  of an imminent attack.

The American and Turkish schools were also closed.

Security forces have been on high alert in the capital since a brazen  daylight attack on the defence ministry’s sprawling headquarters on December 5  killed 56 people, among them expatriate medical staff.

Information gleaned during the investigation into that attack, which was  claimed by Al-Qaeda, led to the discovery of two cars packed with explosives and  a massive search for five more suspected to be still inside Sanaa.

A UN source said Wednesday that a warning from Yemeni authorities of a  possible attack in Hada, the south  Sanaa neighbourhood where UN offices are  located, had triggered the closure order.

“Staff of the UN mission and UN agencies  have received instructions not to  turn up for work on Thursday,” the source said.

The source said it was a “precautionary measure following advice from Yemeni  security authorities”. The guidance warned of the “risk of possible acts of  terrorism in certain places, particularly in Hada.”

But a senior Yemeni security official said no warning had been issued through  authorised channels and dismissed the alleged guidance given to the UN as part  of “a campaign of rumours aimed at spreading fear in the country.”

Western embassy  security chiefs met with Yemeni  officials on Wednesday and no attack warnings were issued,” the official told  AFP, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The US embassy  said it remained open and referred all  questions about security to the Yemeni government.

The British and French embassies were also operating normally.

In August, a security alert originating in Yemen  prompted an unprecedented closure of  American embassies across and beyond the Middle East, which was mirrored by the  British and French missions in Sanaa.

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Armored Vehicle Saves Yemen Presidential Advisor during Assassination Attempt

Meanwhile, gunman managed to shoot dead two senior Yemeni officers in separate ambushes on their cars on Sunday, security sources said.
Meanwhile, gunman managed to shoot dead two senior Yemeni officers in separate ambushes on their cars on Sunday, security sources said.

An adviser to Yemen’s president has survived an assassination attempt, the country’s government said.

An unidentified sniper fired shots with a weapon equipped with a silencer on Sunday at Yassin Said Noman’s car, according to the official Saba news agency.

The incident happened when the vehicle was driving through the capital Sanaa, but the bullet did not hit Noman as the car was armoured, the agency reported.

The attack was the third attempt to kill Noman, who is vice president of the National Dialogue Conference and secretary general of the Socialist Party.

“Targetting such a well-known political personality and important national figure is targetting the move towards reform that Yemen is currently undergoing,” the agency quoted the government as saying.

Other attacks

Meanwhile, gunman managed to shoot dead two senior Yemeni officers in separate ambushes on their cars on Sunday, security sources said. 

Brigadier General Saddam Hussein al-Dhahri, the head of security of the presidential palace, was killed by an attacker from a passing car as the victim left work in the southern Yemeni city of Taiz, a security source told the Reuters news agency.

In a separate incident, Police Colonel Abdullah Gaithallah was killed in the southern province of al-Baida by gunmen who ambushed his car.

It was not immediately known who the gunman were, but Yemeni officials have blamed a string of similar killings of police and military officers on armed rebels affiliated to al-Qaeda.

Violence is common in Yemen, where an interim government is facing southern secessionists and northern Houthi rebels in addition to the al-Qaeda-linked fighters who are seeking to overthrow the government and impose Islamic law. 



23 Killed in Attack Against Iranian Embassy in Beirut.

Civil Defence personnel extinguish a fire on cars at the site of the explosions near the Iranian embassy in Beirut

BEIRUT (Alliance News) – Twenty-four people were killed Tuesday in a twin suicide bombing on the Iranian embassy in Beirut that an al-Qaeda-linked group said was carried out in retaliation for the Lebanese Hezbollah militia’s involvement in Syria’s civil war.

The attack by bombers on a motorcycle and in a car occurred in a largely Shiite area in southern Beirut that is home to Hezbollah members and Iranian diplomats. More than 146 people were injured.

The toll was expected to rise because many of the wounded were in critical condition, Lebanese Health Minister Ali Hassan al-Khalil said.

“The assault on the Iranian embassy in Beirut was a double martyrdom operation carried out by two heroes of the Sunni people in Lebanon,” said a Twitter post by Sheikh Sirajeddine Zuraiqat, a spiritual leader of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades, which claimed responsibility for the attack.

Zuraiqat, who was jailed in Lebanon over his links to al-Qaeda and was released a year ago, said attacks would continue until the withdrawal from Syria of Iran-backed Hezbollah fighters supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against largely Sunni rebels.

He also demanded the release of the group’s prisoners from Lebanese prisons.

The first of Tuesday’s two blasts occurred when an embassy guard shot a motorcyclist wearing an explosives belt who tried to force his way into the embassy compound, a Lebanese security officer said.

The second blast took place 40 meters away from the embassy entrance, said the official, who asked not to be named.

Video footage posted on Lebanese news websites showed charred cars and bloodied bodies on the main street outside the embassy. Several buildings were damaged, and the street was covered with glass and debris.

Among the dead was cultural envoy Ibrahim Ansari, Iranian Ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television.

Sources close to the Iranian embassy also said Iranian security guards were among the dead and wounded.

The bombing was the third this year in areas of Beirut controlled by Hezbollah, whose decision to send militiamen to Syria to fight against Sunni rebels armed by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states has prompted sectarian bloodshed in Lebanon.

A bombing in southern Beirut in August killed 22 people while a July blast there injured 53.

Supporters and opponents of al-Assad have fought deadly street clashes, mainly in the northern city of Tripoli, where a twin bombing in a largely Sunni area in August killed about 43 people.

Hezbollah admitted this year that it had sent fighters to Syria, and the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, vowed this month to keep them there as long as needed.

Tuesday’s attack was the latest sign that Syria’s civil war, which started in early 2011 with peaceful street protests, could spark a wider conflict in the Middle East, where Iran and Saudi Arabia compete for influence.

Lebanon has been without a government since caretaker premier Najib Mikati resigned in March because of deepening divisions on several domestic issues and the crisis in Syria.

Tuesday’s bombing was “strongly” condemned by the UN Security Council, which called it a “heinous crime” against the people and government of Iran.

The Iranian embassy said it would receive condolences for the Lebanese and Iranian victims of the bombing on Wednesday and Thursday.



Robber sneaks into John Kerry’s garage and breaks into his bodyguard’s car.

A robber was spotted breaking into a car  belonging to one of John Kerry’s bodyguards, which was parked at the Secretary  of State’s Georgetown home last night.

In a major security breach for Mr Kerry, a  white male was said to have broken into a detached garage on the property at  about 10pm before gaining access to the car.

Mr Kerry was on official business in Rome at  the time, but the break in is sure to be an embarrassment for the team of  bodyguards tasked with keeping outsiders at a safe distance.

A source told Fox 5 that the white male was spotted  breaking into a detached garage behind the $4.7 million home in the exclusive  Georgetown neighborhood where John F Kennedy used to have a home. 

The trespasser reportedly then broke into a  Ford Expedition belonging to a security guard, which was parked at the 23-room  townhouse.

According to his official schedule Mr Kerry  was at a dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome, Italy,  at the time of the break in.

Washington DC police are investigating the  incident, but reports so far suggest nothing was taken.

The three-storey townhouse has been owned by  Mr Kerry’s wife since 1971, when she moved to Washington with her first husband,  Heinz heir John, who died in a plane crash in 1991.

It is not the first time people have been  able to get close to Mr Kerry’s many luxury homes. At the start of September his  $6.9 million Beacon Hill home in Boston was surrounded by anti-war protesters,  who banged on his front door and windows.

In July, police also arrested a 29-year-old  man who was spotted taking photos of the Secretary of State’s Boston home. 

Mr Kerry’s office has not yet commented on  the break in.



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Dutch Diplomat Attacked in Russia


Protester gather near the Dutch Embassy after the attack.
Protester gather near the Dutch Embassy after the attack.

A senior diplomat at the Dutch embassy in Moscow has been beaten up in his flat,
days after a spat involving a Russian official in The Hague.

The diplomat, named by Russian media as Onno Elderenbosch, was reportedly tied up by men posing as electricians.

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said the diplomat had been lightly wounded. He added that he had summoned the Russian ambassador.

Mr Timmermans apologised last week after a Russian diplomat was arrested.

Dmitri Borodin was held for several hours on suspicion of mistreating his two young children, prompting President Vladimir Putin to demand the Dutch apology.

Protests were held outside the Dutch embassy in response to the arrest.

After an investigation, the Dutch foreign minister conceded that police had breached the rules on diplomatic immunity.

Writing on his Facebook page late on Tuesday, Mr Timmermans said the Dutch diplomat, whom he did not name, had been mistreated by two intruders.

“Our people must be able to work there safely and I want the assurance that the Russian authorities also take their responsibility on that point,” he said.


According to Russian TV, Moscow police confirmed that the deputy head of the Dutch embassy had been attacked.

When Mr Elderenbosch, 66, had returned home he found the lift was not working and two men in uniform were inspecting the fuse box, the report said. When he opened his door, he was then attacked.

The motive for the attack is not clear.

Russian reports said that Mr Elderenbosch was tied up and beaten, and that the attackers daubed a heart on a mirror in lipstick with the letters LGBT. The letters are an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries were already strained before Mr Borodin’s arrest.

The Netherlands launched legal action to free 30 people from several countries who were detained in Russia after a Dutch-flagged ship belonging to environmental group Greenpeace, the Arctic Sunrise, was boarded over a protest on a Russian oil rig in the Arctic.

The activists and journalists on board have been charged with piracy.

Rebels Kidnap Libya’s Prime Minister

Gunmen from a former rebel faction kidnapped Libya’s prime minister on Thursday in reprisal for the government’s role in the U.S. capture of a top al Qaeda suspect.

Two years after a revolution ended the 42-year rule of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya is in turmoil, with its vulnerable central government and nascent armed forces struggling to contain rival tribal militias and Islamist militants who control parts of the country.

The militia, which had been hired by the government to provide security in Tripoli, said it “arrested” Ali Zeidan after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed Libya’s role in the weekend capture in the city of Abu Anas al-Liby.

“His arrest comes after … (Kerry) said the Libyan government was aware of the operation,” a spokesman for the group, known as the Operations Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries, told Reuters.

Zeidan is in “good health and will be treated well as a Libyan citizen,” and is being held at the Interior Ministry’s anti-crime department, an official with the department told the state news agency.

The Libyan government in a statement confirmed the premier was taken at dawn to “an unknown place for unknown reasons.”

The prime minister was taken from the Corinthia Hotel, where many diplomats and top government officials live. It is regarded as one of the most secure places in Tripoli.

The kidnapping raises the stakes in the unruly OPEC nation, where the regional factions are also seeking control over its oil wealth, which provides Libya with the vast bulk of government revenues.

Brent oil prices rose on the news.

“Everybody is watching this… We still haven’t seen any disruption to supply from Libya, so we don’t expect a spike in prices,” said Ken Hasegawa, a commodity sales manager at Newedge Japan.

A mix of striking workers, militias and political activists have blocked Libya’s oilfields and ports for more than two months, according to Oil Minister Abdelbari Arusi, resulting in over $5 billion of lost revenues.

He said on October 2 that oil exports could return to full capacity in days once the strikes ended.

Repsol and Eni, involved in western Libya, have seen output largely restored since fields reopened last month. But companies invested in eastern Libya are entering a third month of closures at several important export terminals.

Oil companies have become more wary of North Africa after an attack in January on the Amenas gas plant in neighboring Algeria, a top gas supplier to Europe and an oil-producing OPEC member.


U.S. special forces on Saturday seized Nazih al-Ragye, known by his alias Abu Anas al-Liby – a Libyan suspected in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Liby is being held on a Navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea.

The U.S. State Department was looking into the reports of Zeidan’s kidnapping and was “in close touch with senior U.S. and Libyan officials on the ground,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in Brunei, where Kerry is on an official visit.

The Operations Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries had been affiliated with the Interior Ministry which assigned them to provide security in the capital as part of a program to reintegrate former fighters.

Guards at the Hotel said there were no shots fired or clashes during the incident.

Al-Arabiya television channel quoted Libya’s justice minister as saying that Zeidan had been “kidnapped” and showed what it said were video stills of Zeidan frowning and wearing a grey shirt undone at the collar surrounded by several men in civilian clothes pressing closely around him.

Zeidan said on Tuesday Libyans accused of crimes should be tried at home, but that the raid to capture Liby would not harm U.S. ties – trying preserve relations with a major ally without provoking a backlash from Islamist militants.

But the raid angered militant groups, including one blamed for the assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in 2012, who called for revenge attacks on strategic targets including gas export pipelines, planes and ships, as well as for the kidnappings of Americans in the capital.