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9 FORMER GITMO DETAINEES RETURN TO BATTLEFIELD IN LAST 6 MONTHS

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Nine Former Gitmo Detainees Return to Battle in Last Six Months

 

http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/03/05/nine_former_gitmo_detainees_return_to_battle_in_last_six_months/

 

Between July and January, nine former inmates of the American prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, returned to the battlefield to carry out terror attacks or join insurgencies around the world, according to a new report by the U.S. intelligence community.

The report, an assessment of recidivism rates at the prison that was first reported by Vice, presents a macro view of the rate at which detainees at the controversial detention facility  have returned to battle after their release. In total, 100 of the 603 individuals released from Guantánamo are confirmed to have once more picked up arms to engage in either insurgent or terrorist activity, amounting to a recidivism rate of 17.9 percent. Of those 100, 17 are dead, 27 are in custody, and 56 remain free. Another 74 individuals are suspected but not confirmed to have returned to the fight.

The new study was compiled by the Director of National Intelligence, in collaboration with the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. It defines “terrorist” or “insurgent” activity as “planning terrorist operations, conducting a terrorist or insurgent attack against coalition or host-nation forces or civilians, conducting a suicide bombing, financing terrorist operations, recruiting others for terrorist operations, arranging for movement of individuals involved in terrorist operations, etc.”

Its release comes amid a continuing debate about whether to close the prison. Large segments of the American population oppose doing so, even though it’s continued operation has been used as a recruitment tool by terrorist organizations and widely condemned by U.S. allies and human rights group alike. The prospect that a released prisoner might once more pick up arms against the United States now hangs over the effort to shut the facility.

Last month, U.S. forces in Afghanistan killed a former Guantánamo detainee and former Taliban commander who had been operating as a war lord in southern Afghanistan and had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. The militant, Mullah Abdul Rauf, was released from Guantánamo in 2007.

The nine individuals who most recently returned to the battlefield were all released during the George W. Bush administration, and in recent years the U.S. government has had more success in dissuading those released from the prison to not pick up arms once more. During the Bush administration, Guantánamo had a recidivism rate of 20.7 percent, with 110 of 532 individuals released returning to battle. During the Obama administration, six individuals, of 115 released, have returned to battle, for a recidivism rate of 5.2 percent.

Even as the Obama administration has pushed down the recidivism rate, Wednesday’s report serves as a vivid reminder of its failure to shut the prison. President Barack Obama came to office promising to shutter the facility, and two days after taking office, he signed a series of executive orders aimed at doing just that.

But six years after Obama took office, the prison remains open. His effort to close Guantánamo was dealt a fatal blow by Congress in 2010, when the body severely restricted the transfer of prisoners held there to the United States. But critics of the White House also argue that the administration has done little to seek a compromise with Congress and find a long-term solution for dealing with the prisoners that remain on the island prison.

The Obama administration has released far fewer prisoners from Guantánamo, and critics of the White House argue that the administration has done a poor, slow job implementing the president’s guidelines for reviewing the cases of those considered for release. The administration’s efforts to lower the number of prisoners at Guantánamo has focused on finding countries to which they can be transferred. In January, five detaineeswere sent to Oman and Estonia. As of March 2, there were 122 inmates at Guantánamo, according to Human Rights First, an advocacy group.

New evidence of former detainees returning to the battlefield — regardless of how few and which president released them — will make the flailing Obama effort even harder.

IS YEMEN BECOMING THE NEXT SYRIA?

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http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/03/06/is-yemen-becoming-the-next-syria/

 

Battle lines are being drawn in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country and the Middle East’s latest candidate for state failure. If, as looks increasingly probable, open warfare breaks out soon, it will only be made worse by the contest for regional supremacy between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both powers have proven eager to arm groups they believe they can control, despite the legacy this destructive rivalry has already wrought in Syria and Iraq. And if the story is repeated in Yemen, what began as a manageable power struggle between rival factions could descend into a brutal and increasingly sectarian civil war that would tear the country apart.

A debilitating conflict has been increasingly likely since the Houthis, a Zaydi Shia militia, seized control of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, last September with the help of other northern tribes and — it is becoming increasingly apparent — Iran. After fleeing the capital in February, Yemen’s beleaguered president,Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, withdrew a letter of resignation he had issued under duress. He is now planning a new cabinet in Aden, a once-bustling southern port city, in effect forming a government-in-exile inside Yemen itself. (In the photo, a man stands guard during a rally celebrating the Houthis’ seizure of key government sites in Sanaa in September 2014.)

The ascendance of the Houthis has not gone unnoticed in Riyadh. The Saudis failed to defeat them in a series of 2009 skirmishes and see them as a dangerous Iranian proxy vying for control of a vulnerable neighboring country. On Feb. 26, a Hadi aide told Reuters that, in a sign of support for the president, the Saudi ambassador to Yemen had arrived in Aden to resume his duties. The next day the UAE announced that it would also send its ambassador to Aden. Rumors are rife that Yemen’s neighbors are preparing to underwrite Hadi’s new government. The Gulf states have little faith in Hadi, who surrendered the capital to the Houthis without much of a fight. But if he is now willing to go on the offensive, his neighbors will back him with cash and arms. He and his emerging coalition of tribesmen, separatists, and, more than likely, Islamic militants, will be the Gulf states’ counter against the Houthis.

The Houthis know what is coming and seem to be ready for it. In a Feb. 26 speech, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, the group’s leader, launched a blistering attack on Hadi, Saudi Arabia and the U.S., accusing them of collaborating to turn Yemen into a puppet regime. It’s ironic that the Houthis, long accused of being backed by Iran, denounce their rivals as foreign puppets; especially because, if war does break out, their only hope of defeating a Saudi-backed coalition will be to lean even more heavily on Iranian support. On March 2, the government of Iran announced a deal with the Houthis to begin twice-daily flights to Sanaa, providing a vital lifeline for the group, and undoubtedly riling the Saudis even further.

It won’t be the first time that the Riyadh — and Washington — have inadvertently strengthened Houthi-Iranian ties. The Saudis and, to a lesser extent, the United States, backed the violent campaign led by Yemen’s previous president Ali Abdullah Saleh against the Houthis, turning them, in the crucible of war, from a religious revivalist movement into a powerful militia. The U.S. continued providing Saleh with weapons and training to fight al Qaeda despite evidence that he was throwing these resources into his war with the Houthis.

Nor is meddling by the Gulf states and Washington in Yemen a recent development. Saudi Arabia has a long history of intermittently backing different factions in Yemen, and Washington’s prioritization of its security interests over such trifles as democratization or rule of law helped secure Saleh’s last decade in power before he was undone by his own autocratic tendencies in a 2011 uprising. “[The Americans and the Gulf states] can hardly claim that the Iranians are undoing the stability they have fostered in Yemen, or blame the Houthis for looking elsewhere for support, can they?” a local analyst in Sanaa grumbled to me recently.

There’s a frightening possibility that the lessons of the past — of Iraq, Libya, and Syria — have not been learned. Iran and the Gulf states are more than happy to treat Yemen as a proxy battleground regardless of the outcome, and it’s entirely possible that the U.S. and other Western powers will back the Gulf states once they have gone to war. If a war breaks out along sectarian lines, it will not be because that is where historical divisions have lain in Yemen; it will be because the war’s foreign funders are inflaming previously unimportant divisions. This would not be the inevitable outcome of longstanding rivalries, but a tragic self-fulfilling prophecy.

It’s all too easy to see a country like Yemen as inherently divided along lines of ideology, be it Sunni versus Shiite, separatist versus unionist, or democrat versus authoritarian. It’s also tempting to fall into the misleading trap of seeing the country’s various factions as out-and-out proxies for the regional superpowers, malleable to the will of Riyadh or Tehran. But these are misleading oversimplifications. In fact — as I wrote recently in a Chatham House paper — the conflict in Yemen is driven by local issues and competition for resources rather than regional or ideological rivalries. Outside influence has historically been limited to attempts at exploiting — and exacerbating — these tensions.

Yemenis, who are pragmatists rather than ideologues at heart, usually exploit outsiders’ agendas to serve their own interests, rather than the reverse. Before the Houthi takeover of Sanaa, Hadi had done little to stem the tide of their advance — but this did not stop him from exploiting Saudi fears to secure several billion dollars of financing. The Houthis probably came to rely on Iran only because no one else was willing to come to their aid. Saleh was a master of the art of manipulating U.S. and Saudi fears over al Qaeda and the Houthis to bolster his own position. But again and again they have stopped short of devastating all-out war.

Thus far Yemen has — to its great fortune — ranked low on the order of priorities for regional powers. External support has been enough only to sustain smaller internal conflicts, not to create lasting war. But now, as the region’s two major powers goad each other into action, the amount of resources poured into Yemen will grow, as will the rhetoric, and the stakes, involved. Pragmatism will take a back seat to an increasingly existential struggle, one which Iran and the Gulf states will be no more capable of controlling than in Iraq, Syria and Libya. As we have seen elsewhere in the region, once this cycle has begun it is very hard to bring it to an end. Putting the lid back on Pandora’s box is easier.

Yemenis are proud of their longstanding culture of charmingly chaotic coexistence. My driver in Sanaa, a gentle man in his early fifties, has told me many times of how, until the early years of the new millennium, he rarely gave thought to where he went to pray, or who he spoke to on the street. A mosque was a mosque, Islam was Islam, and Yemenis were Yemenis. If the country goes to war in earnest, such memories will fade fast. What did not work in Iraq, in Libya, and in Syria will not work in Yemen. Sadly, that is unlikely to stop the usual suspects — Saudi Arabia, its Gulf neighbors, Iran, Russia and, yes, the United States — from giving one last whirl.

GOLD SMUGGLING NORTH KOREAN DIPLOMAT PROVIDES GLIMPSE AT CRIMINAL EMPIRE

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KIM JONG-UN

 

http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/03/06/gold-smuggling-north-korean-diplomat-provides-glimpse-at-criminal-empire/

 

Shut off from the global financial system and under heavy sanctions, North Korea operates a vast system of illicit enterprise, ferrying precious metals, drugs, and weapons around the world. One might be forgiven for confusing this state with a mafia organization.

In operating its criminal empire, North Korea has a distinct leg up over its competitors: diplomatic immunity. By using the legal privileges afforded to a state, North Korea has made its government the principal instrument of amafia organization whose essential purpose is to enrich and protect the ruling Kim family. On Friday, the latest evidence of this enterprise surfaced from below the murky waters of the North Korean state when one of its diplomats was arrested at the airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh, trying to smuggle $1.4 million worth of a gold into the country. Given his diplomatic status, he was released.

As he was carrying a combination of gold bars and jewelry, it doesn’t take an investigative genius to figure out this diplomat’s plot. Son Young Nam, the first secretary of the North Korean Embassy in Dhaka, arrived in Dhaka from Singapore carrying a briefcase filled with the precious metal in question. He was arrested after customs officials asked to search his hand luggage, and he refused. Singapore, of course, is a major port city, one easily serviced by North Korea’s considerable merchant marine. Dhaka is home to a major gold market, where the mineral would likely have been sold and entered the global market.

(Once it enters the market, the gold is so hard to track that some American companies have admitted that North Korean precious metals have turned up in their products, in violation of U.S. sanctions.)

The plot is a testament to the Kim family’s strategy both for staying in power and enriching itself at the expense of the country’s citizenry. Endowed with a considerable wealth in natural resources, gold smuggling serves as a major source of revenue for the country. North Korea reportedly has about 2,000 tons of gold reserves and produces 12 tons of the stuff annually. Most of that gold is reportedly smuggled across North Korea’s northern border and combined with higher purity Chinese gold. Such sales provide the Kim family with key sources of hard currency to finance their activities and those of their government, as the country’s currency, the won, is all but worthless.

As with all stories about North Korea, it is important to note that the total lack of transparency and access to the country makes writing about it something like an educated guessing game. A puzzle but appears here and there — but as they accumulate, one can begin to draw a fuller picture of the regime’s activities.

Key to understanding North Korea’s criminal activities abroad is shadowy group known as Bureau 39, whose principal responsibility is providing hard currency to the ruling family. Set up by Kim Jong Il during the 1970s to finance his rise to power, Office 39 deals in counterfeiting currency, drug smuggling, arms sales, and, yes, sales of gold, according to defector accounts. Bureau 39 is said to generate somewhere between $500 and $1 billion in revenue annually.

The sale of knock-off cigarettes are something of a specialty, as is counterfeiting U.S. dollars. In the mid-2000s, the Secret Service became obsessed with halting the production of so-called North Korean “supernotes,” counterfeit dollars that were so good that the Secret Service that the agency’s own experts had trouble telling real from fake. The U.S. government has said that some $50 million of these supernotes entered circulation, but independent experts have said that Pyongyang could have made as much as $2 billion in counterfeit dollars.

Stepped up financial sanctions and widespread media attention reportedly led the North Korean government to curtail its counterfeiting activities. But given the Kim’s family continued isolation and need for hard currency, it is more likely that Bureau 39 has simply shifted its attention elsewhere.

Friday’s arrest is probably indicative of that effort and shows how the regime can shift and adjust the enterprise as needed. If a diplomat such as Son makes two trips a month to Singapore to pick up a shipment of gold bars, he might reasonably net about $30 million a year, depending on the discount at which he sells the material.

And Son is but one cog in the machinery of the North Korean mafia state. Elsewhere in the world, North Korea has been reported to be selling state-manufactured methamphetamine. North Korea was reported to have helped build a Syrian nuclear reactor destroyed by Israel in 2007. Last year, a North Korean weapons shipment from Cuba was intercepted in the Panama Canal.

All that business adds up.

THE CHILD SOLDIERS FIGHTING BOKO HARAM

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To combat Boko Haram, village militias in northern Nigeria have been employing kids
in the fight against the insurgents.

 

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/07/the-child-soldiers-fighting-boko-haram.html

 

At 14 years old, Aliko should have been in a school classroom—instead, he was handed a gun. Recruited by the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a pro-government self-defense militia operating in Nigeria’s northeastern city of Maiduguri, he had a simple choice: Fight Boko Haram or be killed by them.Forced to protect his community from terrorists, Aliko is on the verge of having his youth snatched away. Before the insurgency in northeastern Nigeria, he was a schoolboy. Today he is a no-nonsense kid responsible for the arrest of dozens of insurgents. During an interview with Aliko in October, he admitted he had been involved in the arrest of several suspected Boko Haram fighters. One night, he said, he tied two people together and held them for hours before handing them over to the military the next morning.Though Aliko and his colleagues in the CJTF may have recevied deserved accolades from the Nigerian government for their brave efforts in the fight against terror in Maiduguri, many Nigerians believe that for children involved in this effort, a generation is gradually being lost.

Top-level CJTF members admit that children make up nearly a quarter of the more than 10,000-strong self-defense forces fighting Boko Haram. The CJTF justifies its use of child soldiers as a necessity following increasing attacks by Boko Haram. ‘‘The insurgents are many in number, and we need as many people as we can to fight them,” says Bukkar, a senior member of the self-defense militia. ‘‘These kids have lots of energy and are very important in this fight.”

“We’ve lost our kids to the war,” says Shettima Kunduli, a local leader in Maiduguri. “Our young ones are no longer children, they are commanders who despite their brave efforts have lost their childhood, their education, and maybe their future.”

Since the insurgency began in 2009, hundreds of children have been victims of forcible conscription. A recent report (PDF) by a research and advocacy group, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, says both Boko Haram and the CJTF both forcibly recruit children into their folds. According to a recent estimate, children now make up about 40 percent of the Boko Haram’s 60,000 troops. For Boko Haram, who kill with impunity, the use of child warriors needs no justification.

The war itself has also killed and injured hundreds of kids and has left many of them homeless as well. As parents are lost in the fighting, more and more children are without families and homes. Without anyone to turn to for protection and assistance, children roam around to find things to do in order to survive.

With no other means to secure a living, many orphans have joined the recruitment of armed vigilantes. The militia life has become more attractive to the children, who see a possible future of survival with their fellow soldiers, as well as the possibility to keep their communities safe.

Across northeastern Nigeria, aid workers have warned that child conscription may be on the rise. Yusuf Mohammed, a Maiduguri resident and a social worker, admits: “Those who recruit child soldiers feel more comfortable working with them than with adults. They come cheap, are extremely loyal, and can be easily controlled. Unlike adults, it is easy to brainwash children and intimidate them.”

Children also face more difficulties getting access to basic services such as healthcare, food, and shelter. At the height of the conflict in the region, a high number of deaths of children were caused by bacterial infection. Children suffer from lack of clean water and can quickly be infected with bacteria, creating a constant threat to their lives. In Borno State, an outbreak of cholera was declared in September. In under a month, there have been 4,500 cases and 70 deaths from the disease in the capital Maiduguri, where the number of cases continues to rise.

Because of the insurgency, many health facilities have been forced to close down, leaving children unable to get necessary treatment. Where there are health facilities available, children are often not considered a priority. They have become the most vulnerable victims of the five-year unrest.

For a poor kid like Aliko, who once enjoyed playing around his compound and studying after school with his peers, returning to that life—if and when the war ends—won’t be easy. While he is an obedient boy, eager to please, to the people of Maiduguri, he is now a soldier and will become a danger to other kids. Most of his former colleagues at the junior secondary school where he dropped out no longer see him as a friend to associate with, and his neighbors are scared of letting him get too close to kids in the compound.

OPERACION GARGOLA: El Chapo Capturado

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Published on Feb 25, 2014

Aqui todos los detalles de la persecucion,escape y captura del capo mas buscado en el mundo,la detencion de Joaquin ”El Chapo” Guzman el pasado sabado 22 de Febrero de 2014 en Mazatlan Sinaloa Mexico.