Friday, January 20, 2012

2 killed in twin blasts in NW Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- At least two people were killed and several others were injured in twin blasts Friday afternoon in Pakistan's northeastern Khyber tribal region, local media Dunya reported.

The first blast took place at about 4:00 p.m. local time when a roadside bomb exploded near a police vehicle in Bazgirah area of Khyber Agency, one of the seven volatile agencies along Pakistan- Afghan border where local militia and police forces are battling Taliban militants.

In the blast, seven policemen were injured. They were sent to local hospital later.

The second bomb exploded near a passenger vehicle in the mountainous Tirah Valley area of Khyber Agency at about 5:15 local time. Police confirmed that the explosion was caused by the detonation of a remote-controlled bomb.

At least two people were killed and several others were injured in the blast.

No group has claimed responsibility for either of the blast.

Earlier on Jan. 10, over 30 people were killed and 60 others injured in a blast that hit a taxi stand in Khyber Agency. The blast was later claimed by Pakistan Taliban.

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Somali, AU troops take rebel positions on outskirts of Mogadishu

The battle occurred in the Somali capital of M...
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MOGADISHU, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- Somali government forces backed by the African Union (AU) troops on Friday seized new positions of the Islamist Al Shabaab fighters on the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu, officials said.

The concerted attack gained ground on the northeastern suburbs of the capital, where Islamist fighters from the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab remained presence since defeated by the Somali and the AU forces in August 2011.

Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the AU peacekeeping troops in Somalia (AMISOM), said the joint forces took over key positions from the radical group. He said two of the AMISOM soldiers were injured in the fighting.

Somali government officials said the offensive will continue until the rebel fighters are cleared from the outskirts of the capital.

"We have taken new positions from the anti-peace elements and we will continue until we pacify the whole of Mogadishu," Abdelkarim Yusuf Aden, Somali military commander, told reporters.

Residents in areas retaken from the Islamist fighters welcome the Somali government troops and AU peacekeepers.

"We are pleased to see the Somali military forces come to our neighborhood and liberate us from the trouble makers. We are happy today," said Ali Mohumed, a resident in Huruwaa district.

The Somali military vows to drive the rebel forces out of the peripherals of Mogadishu, where they said the remnants of Islamist insurgents organized attacks inside the city.

The radical group lately carried bomb attacks in the capital since their withdrawal. bombings became less frequent afterwards.

The Somali capital has seen unprecedented improvement in security and most of the city's residents have returned to their homes after living three years in camps outside Mogadishu.

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Senior al Qaeda leader killed in recent drone strike: report

A senior al Qaeda operative who served as an aide to al Qaeda's external operations chief was killed in a drone strike last week, according to US officials. The report has not been confirmed.
Aslam Awan, a deputy to the leader of al Qaeda's external operations network, was killed in the Jan. 11 airstrike

A senior al Qaeda operative who served as an aide to al Qaeda's external operations chief was killed in a drone strike last week, according to US officials. The report has not been confirmed.

Aslam Awan, a deputy to the leader of al Qaeda's external operations network, was killed in the Jan. 11 airstrike in Miramshah, the main town in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, US officials told Reuters. The external operations network is a branch of al Qaeda's military council that is tasked with striking in the US, Europe, and areas outside of South Asia.

Awan is a Pakistani citizen who is also known as Abdullah Khorasani, US officials told Reuters. He is from Abbottabad, the same Pakistani city where Osama bin Laden was killed in May 2011 by US special operations forces. US officials did not disclose why they believe Awan was killed, and al Qaeda has not released a statement confirming his death.

The Jan. 11 strike targeted a compound on the outskirts of Miramshah; four "militants," including three "Arabs," were said to have been killed in the strike. The identity of the Arabs has not been disclosed. That strike ended a 55-day-long pause, the longest lull in strikes since the US ramped up attacks in Pakistan's tribal areas in August 2008.

The drone strikes had been put on hold after a clash between US and Pakistani forces along the Afghan border resulted in the deaths of 24 Pakistani troops. US officials told The Long War Journal on Dec. 12, however, that they would strike if a top-level al Qaeda leader was spotted.

The Jan. 11 strike was followed by another on Jan. 12, also near Miramshah, in which six more "militants," including "foreigners," a term used to describe Arab members of al Qaeda and Central Asian terrorists, were thought to have been killed. Pakistani intelligence officials said that Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, was killed in that strike, but offered little evidence to back up the claim. The Taliban have denied the reports.

Reuters said Awan was "a significant figure" in what US officials described as "the remaining core leadership of al Qaeda" based in Pakistan's tribal areas. Awan's boss, the external operations chief, has not been named but is said to be known by the CIA.

US officials have previously claimed that only two significant al Qaeda leaders - Ayman al Zawahiri, the emir, and Abu Yahya al Libi, a top leader - remain in Pakistan. But US intelligence officials who have spoken to The Long War Journal have said this analysis is deeply flawed, as al Qaeda has leveraged members of allied terror groups to fill leadership positions, and the terror group operates throughout Pakistan, not just in the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan where the drones are active.

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3 policemen killed by gunmen in southern Yemen

United Nations Security Council Resolution 924
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ADEN, Yemen, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- At least three policemen were killed Friday morning in an attack by unidentified gunmen on a security checkpoint in Yemen's southern port city of Aden, a police officer told Xinhua.

Masked attackers believed to be linked to al-Qaida attacked with automatic weapons a checkpoint of the security forces positioned in al-Mansoura district, killing at least three policemen, the police officer said on condition of anonymity.

"The security checkpoint located in an important area near the Aden Free Zone was rained with a barrage of gunshots by terrorists from various directions," the officer said.

Witnesses told Xinhua that a police vehicle was intentionally set on fire by the gunmen before they fled.

A series of such attacks against security and intelligence officials have taken place in Aden over the past eight months.

Clashes between the police forces and gunmen were heard elsewhere in Aden earlier in the day, but no casualty were reported, according to local residents.

Taking advantage of Yemen's unrest to bolster their presence in the country's southern and eastern regions, militants of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have been launching sporadic shoot- outs and motorbike attacks on security and intelligence officials during the past several months.


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R.I.P. - Cpl. Phillip D. McGeath

DOD Identifies Marine Casualty

             The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

              Cpl. Phillip D. McGeath, 25, Glendale, Ariz.., died Jan. 18 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

            For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the 2nd Marine Division public affairs office at 910-450-6575.

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12 militants killed in southern Helmand province

According to local authorities in southern Afghanistan, at least 12 armed militants were killed following armed clashes with the Afghan police forces in southern Helmand province.

The officials further added, the incident took place after a number of armed militants ambushed a police check post in Nawzad district of southern Helmand province.

Provincial police officials said, the clashes started around 4 am local time on Thursday and continued until 6 am.

Gen. Asmatullah Dawlatzai commander of 707 police commandment in south-western regions said, a Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Baqi was killed along with his 11 fighters during the clashes.

Gen. Dawlatzai further added, at least two Afghan police service members were killed and three others were injured during the clashes.

This is the first time Taliban militants ambush Afghan security forces during the recent months.

Local officials believe that the Taliban militants have lost their fighting capability and therefore can not engage Afghan security forces face to face and carries out guerilla attacks.

Nawzad district is located in northern regions of Helmand province where major military operations were launched to clean the area from the militants presence.

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Jan.20., 2012. - ISAF Joint Command Morning Operational Update

KABUL, Afghanistan (Jan. 20) – A combined Afghan and coalition security force conducted an operation in search of a Taliban leader in Achin district, Nangarhar province, today.

The leader, Khetab Gul, was responsible for a recent suicide car bomb attack in Nangarhar province. He also constructed roadside bombs, planned attacks and distributed bomb-making materials to insurgent fighters throughout the province.

During the operation, several armed insurgents barricaded themselves inside a building and fired at the security force. The security force responded to the immediate threat and returned fire, killing Khetab Gul and two additional insurgents.

The security force also confiscated several firearms during the operation.

In other International Security Assistance Force news throughout Afghanistan:

A combined Afghan and coalition security force captured a Taliban leader during an operation in Zharay district, Kandahar province, today. The leader distributed weapons, emplaced roadside bombs and led direct-fire attacks against Afghan forces. The security force seized 150 pounds (68 kilograms) of hashish and detained several suspected insurgents during the operation.

In Nad ’Ali district, Helmand province, a combined Afghan and coalition security force captured two Taliban leaders during an operation today. The first captured leader manufactured explosives for use in attacks against Afghan forces throughout Marjah and Nad’ Ali districts. The second captured leader distributed funds to insurgent groups in Helmand province.

A combined Afghan and coalition security force captured a Haqqani Network leader during an operation in Sabari district, Khost province, today. The leader planned roadside bomb attacks and procured weapons for insurgent fighters in Khost province. The security force seized multiple chest racks and weapons and detained several suspected insurgents during the operation.

A combined Afghan and coalition security force conducted an operation in search of a Taliban leader in Zurmat district, Paktiya province, today. The leader directs ambush and roadside bomb attacks throughout Zurmat district. During the operation, the security force was engaged by an individual using small arms fire. The security force responded to the immediate threat and returned fire, killing one insurgent. Multiple weapons were seized and two additional suspected insurgents were detained during the operation.

In Khost district, Khost province, an Afghan led and coalition supported security force conducted an operation in search of a Haqqani Network facilitator today. The facilitator distributes supplies to insurgents throughout the area and conducts attacks against Afghan forces using rockets and machine guns. The security force detained multiple suspected insurgents during the operation.
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ANA killed 4 ISAF soldier, wounded 16 (updated)

Hesa Duwum Kohistan District (in Orange)
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today morning in Tagab district of Kapisa,
Afghan Army soldier opens fire on French troops killing 4, wounding 16

The suspected shooter has been apprehended.

the official ISAF release said:
KABUL, Afghanistan – Four International Security Assistance Force service members were killed today in eastern Afghanistan by a member of the Afghan National Army.

The suspected shooter has been apprehended.

It is ISAF policy to defer casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday that France is suspending its training programs for Afghan troops after the killings, which he announced in a speech after the U.S.-led coalition said an Afghan soldier shot and killed four NATO troops.
Sarkozy said it was "unacceptable" that Afghan troops would attack French soldiers. He said French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe is heading to Afghanistan after the attack, which is among the most deadly for French forces in the 10 years they have been serving in the NATO-led international force in Afghanistan.

security source - on condition of anonymity - told AFP, the 16 wounded are French soldiers too.

French troops had surrounded their base in Kapisa and were not allowing any Afghan soldiers to approach, the shooter has been arrested by NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the source said.


more updates coming up later....
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Helicopter crashes in southern Afghanistan (updated)

KABUL, Afghanistan – Six International Security Assistance Force service members died following a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan Jan. 19.

The cause of the crash is under investigation, however initial reporting indicates there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash.

It is ISAF policy to defer casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities and more information will be released as appropriate.

ISAF Joint Command

update 1/20/2012.: 
Sources told Fox News the crash involved a U.S. Marine CH-53 Sea Stallion. A spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said six died in the crash, CNN reports. Neither the number nor the nationalities of those on board have been confirmed.
The helicopter crashed about midnight local time (2:30 p.m. ET) in Helmand province. The cause of the crash is not known.
Qari Yusuf Ahmadi who claims to speak for the Taliban outfit in talks with media via telephone from unknown location claimed " Taliban fighters shot down a Chinook helicopter of foreign troops on Thursday night in Zabir Kariz village which located between Zamindawar and Musa Qala districts."

ISAF still saying: "there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash"

The helicopter, a CH-53 Sea Stallion, went down in Helmand  province, one US official who asked not to be named told the AFP news agency.
The official confirmed the dead were members of the US military.


CH-53 squadron confirms 6 dead in Afghanistan

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more updates coming up later

R.I.P. - Spc. Keith D. Benson

DOD Identifies Army Casualty
             The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

            Spc. Keith D. Benson, 27, of Brockton, Mass., died Jan. 18, in Paktika province, Afghanistan.  The circumstances surrounding his death are currently under investigation.   He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade, Grafenwoehr, Germany.

            For more information related to this release, media may contact the U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs office at 011-49-6221-57-6685.

 He was serving as a combat medic with the U.S. Army
 In an email from Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations dated Thursday, Jan. 19, there will be a dignified transfer of Benson’s body upon its arrival at Dover Air Force Base Thursday night 8:45PM

Benson graduated from Norwood High in 2002.
Benson’s next-door neighbor, Alan Bouffard, said he was shocked to hear of the soldier’s death.
“I’m just so sorry. My heart goes out to the family,” Bouffard said. “He was a good kid. He didn’t get himself in trouble, he was friendly, and he had close relationships with all the members of his family.”
Bouffard said Benson took his work seriously, and already had plans for when he returned from serving in Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom.
“He was very interested in the work he was doing in the service (as a medic), and he was interested in becoming an EMT when he got out,” Bouffard said.
Others are remembering Benson on his Facebook page.
“The world has lost an amazing man who had a heart of gold,” wrote Kimberly Butters. “You were always there when I needed a break from reality, and you always could make me laugh when I was down. We reconnected a few months ago, yet I never told you how truly thankful I am for your friendship. I will miss you my friend, you take with you a piece of my heart.”
“It feels like only yesterday we were going to the 2001 Senior Prom, singing in Concert Choral, or just hanging out talking about life,” wrote Marybeth Rodriguez. “I thank you from the bottom of my heart for protecting our home.”
Gillooly Funeral Home in Norwood is handling Benson’s funeral arrangements.
According to Gillooly and Norwood’s Veterans Service Office, the family is not commenting at this time.
“The family is requesting privacy during this time of great loss and grief, and there will be no comments from this office,” the veterans office said in a statement Thursday.
Staff writer Brad Cole can be reached at 781-433-8339 or

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