Saturday, February 25, 2012

Al-Qaida claims responsibility for car bombing attack on Yemen's presidential palace

Yemeni security guards inspect the the road outside presidential
palace in Mukalla where a suicide bomber blew up a vehicle
killing 25 people. Photograph: -/AFP/Getty Images
SANAA, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- The Yemen-based al-Qaida wing claimed responsibility for a car bombing attack on the presidential palace in southeastern province of Hadramout on Saturday that left at least 32 Republican Guards killed, in a statement obtained by Xinhua.

"The Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) carried out the ' martyrdom' operation against the Republican Guards in Mukalla on Saturday in revenge for the continuing crimes by the government's elite forces," it said in the statement, hours after the suicide car bombing attack took place.

A local security official said the death toll from the suicide car bombing attack on the presidential palace in Hadramout's provincial capital city of Mukalla on Saturday rose to 32 and dozens of others were injured.

The suicide bomber is a Yemeni AQAP militant in Hadramout, the official said.

The car bomb went off at the gate of the presidential palace and was followed by heavy machine gunfire launched by the AQAP militants against Yemeni soldiers, according to the security official.

Hadramout province, about 794 km southeast of the capital Sanaa, has seen sporadic shoot-outs and motorbike attacks against intelligence officers for the past few months. The al-Qaida off- shoot had claimed responsibility for several of such deadly attacks.

The suicide bombing attack happened just several hours after President-elect Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took the constitutional oath at the parliament, after a landmark vote this week initiated in a Gulf-brokered power transfer deal.

Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh returned to Sanaa early Saturday after he finished medical treatment in the United States and he is expected to attend Hadi's inauguration scheduled for Feb. 27.

On the eve of the presidential polls, the AQAP released a statement claiming responsibility for several assassination attacks in January.

During the presidential polls on Tuesday, Yemen's southern regions witnessed severe clashes between security forces and pro- separatism militants which left seven people killed and 77 others injured.

Yemen's southern and eastern regions have recently been rocked by a string of suicide car bombings targeting government buildings and military officials. The authorities usually accuse the AQAP militants of committing the crimes.

Newly-elected President Hadi vowed to strengthen security and intelligence cooperation with the United States in combating the AQAP that threatened the daily oil shipping routes in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
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US Drone Crashes In Pakistan Tribal Region

A U.S. drone has crashed in Pakistan's North Waziristan region near the border with Afghanistan.

The unmanned aircraft crashed in the mountainous area of Machikhel late Saturday.

Taliban members have claimed they shot down the drone, but neither the U.S. nor the Pakistani government has confirmed that.

"A US drone crashed, apparently due to some technical fault," a military official in the northwestern city of Peshawar told AFP.
Security officials in the region confirmed the crash, saying it fell in the mountains.

The crash site has been surrounded by militants, one security official said, refusing to confirm claims by some Taliban that the drone was shot down by insurgents.
Militants had taken away parts of the wreckage, a security official said.

The United States uses drone strikes to target Taliban and al-Qaida militants inside Pakistan. The drone program is unpopular with the Pakistani people, who say it is a violation of sovereignty and a threat to civilians.
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Moroccan jihadist killed in Somalia airstrike

Moroccan jihadist Abu Ibrahim. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.

A Moroccan jihadist was among several Shabaab fighters, including other foreigners, who were killed in an airstrike in southern Somalia today.

In a web posting today, a jihadist forum member who also serves as an operative in Somalia said that Abu Ibrahim, who was also known as Hassan al Toor and Abu Qatada, was killed in an airstrike south of Mogadishu. The jihadist announced Abu Ibrahim's death in a statement that was released on the al Qaeda-linked Shumukh al-Islam forum and translated by the SITE Intelligence group.

While the jihadist forum member did not give an exact date for Abu Ibrahim's death, his statement indicates that Abu Ibrahim was killed in an airstrike that took place in the K60 area of the Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia (K60 is an area 60 kilometers south of Mogadishu near the coastal city of Merca).

"The knowledge [sic] knight dismounted his horse as a result of an airstrike in area of 60 in Lower Shabelle province..," the statement said.

Reports from Somalia said that several aircraft, thought to be helicopters, struck two vehicles traveling at night in the K60 area, killing four to six Shabaab operatives, including "foreigners."  
Mareeg Online claimed that a Kenyan known as Sheik Abukar Hajji Ahmed was among several Kenyans killed in the attack. The Internet jihadist said that Abu Ibrahim was killed along with two others, who were known as Abu Ahad al Muhajir and Abu Bakr a Ansari al Muhajir. The two men were likely foreigners, as Muhajir means "immigrant."

The jihadist also stated that Abu Ibrahim was killed after his "dream" of Shabaab merging with al Qaeda was realized.

"The Sheikh was keen to have al Qaeda take the helm of jihad in this land... The Sheikh departed after some of his dream came true, and there are still some things to be done
by those after him...," the Internet jihadist stated.

Shabaab officially merged with al Qaeda on Feb. 9 [see LWJ report, Shabaab formally joins al Qaeda]. Today's airstrike in K60 is the first reported in that area since the merger.

The jihadist claimed to personally know Abu Ibrahim, presumably from the jihadist web forums, and said that he had, along with al Qaeda leader Bilal al Berjawi, encouraged and helped Abu Ibrahim enter Somalia. The jihadist said he first met Abu Ibrahim in the Somali city of Baidoa. The city was controlled by Shabaab for the past three years before the terror group abandoned it just this week to advancing Somali and Ethiopian forces.

Abu Ibrahim attempted to join al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi prior to his death in June 2006. The jihadist claimed Abu Ibrahim "arrived in Turkey and then returned," but did not give the reasons for why he could not enter Iraq.

Read more:
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6 Afghan police die while defusing bomb

Foot patrol in Nawbor Village, Bala Murghab Di...
photo by  Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace - via Wikipedia
Afghanistan's Ministry of Defense says six Afghan soldiers have been killed and 16 others wounded while trying to defuse a roadside bomb.

The ministry says the soldiers died Saturday in Mukar district of Baghdis province in western Afghanistan. 

Deputy provincial governor Abdul Ghani Sabir confirming the incident said, based on the preliminary information the explosion took place as a result of an improvised explosive device which was brough inside the military base to be defused by the Afghan security forces.
Mr. Sabir further added, at least 10 people were killed and more than 15 others were injured following the incident.

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2 U.S. Advisers shot dead inside the Afghan interior ministry

KABUL, Afghanistan — A gunman killed two American advisers inside a heavily guarded government compound in Kabul on Saturday, officials said, as protests against the burning of copies of the Muslim holy book roiled the country for a fifth day.

U.S. officials said the assailant remained at large as neither an apology from President Obama nor gunfire from Afghan police could quench public outrage over what NATO insisted was an inadvertent desecration of the Quran.

Two Afghan officials said the ministry shooting did not involve any Afghans. They spoke anonymously to discuss a NATO incident. One of the officials noted that the shooting occurred inside a secure room at the ministry that Afghan staff do not have access to.

NATO confirmed that two service members were killed, but spokesman Lt. Col Jimmie Cummings said “initial reports say it was not a Western shooter.” He declined to provide further information.

A U.S. official in Washington confirmed that the two killed were American. The official spoke anonymously to discuss information that had not been publicly released.

“The assailant is unknown, and an aggressive search is underway to determine who is responsible,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said.
"All foreign military advisers pulled out of Afghan ministries in Kabul; all those outside Kabul told heighten awareness: ISAF directive"

ISAF Commander Condemns Attack on ISAF Personnel at GIRoA Ministry  

I condemn today's attack at the Afghan Ministry of Interior that killed two of our coalition officers, and my thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the brave individuals lost today," said Gen. John R. Allen, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force.

"We are investigating the crime and will pursue all leads to find the person responsible for this attack. The perpetrator of this attack is a coward whose actions will not go unanswered."

"For obvious force protection reasons, I have also taken immediate measures to recall all other ISAF personnel working in ministries in and around Kabul," continued Gen. Allen.

"We are committed to our partnership with the Government of Afghanistan to reach our common goal of a peaceful, stable and secure Afghanistan in the near future."
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Feb.25., 2012. - ISAF Joint Command Morning Operational Update

KABUL, Afghanistan (Feb. 25) – In Qarghah’i district, Laghman province, multiple insurgents were killed while placing improvised explosive devices Thursday.

Afghan and coalition security forces positively identified the insurgents and called in close air support assets to engage their position. After the strike, security forces confiscated heavy machine guns, firearms, and ammunition from the scene.

No civilians were harmed during the operation.

In other International Security Assistance Force news throughout Afghanistan:

An Afghan and coalition security force captured a Taliban facilitator during an operation in Nahr-e Saraj district, Helmand province, today. The facilitator purchased and transported weapons for use in attacks against coalition forces throughout Helmand province. One additional suspected insurgent was detained.

An Afghan-led and coalition-supported security force discovered a drug cache during an operation in Baghran district, Helmand province, Wednesday. The cache consisted of approximately 660 pounds (300 kilograms) of opium, 660 pounds (300 kilograms) of poppy seeds, 110 pounds (50 kilograms) of morphine base and two drug-processing vats. The security force also discovered several firearms during the operation. The drugs and weapons were destroyed on site without incident.

An Afghan and coalition security force captured a Taliban leader during an operation in Panjwa’i district, Kandahar province, today. The leader provided weapons and bomb-making materials to insurgents for use in attacks against Afghan forces in Kandahar City.

An Afghan and coalition security force captured a Taliban leader during an operation in Nawa-ye Barakzai district, Helmand province, today. The leader conducted roadside bomb attacks and supported suicide bombers throughout the district.

An Afghan and coalition security force conducted an operation in search of a Taliban facilitator in Khogyani district, Nangarhar province, today. The facilitator distributes explosives and other supplies to suicide bombers, and suspected of providing safe haven to insurgent fighters. Two suspected insurgents were also detained during the operation

An Afghan and coalition security force conducted an operation in search of a Haqqani network facilitator in Nadir Shah Kot district, Khost province, today. The facilitator is responsible for roadside bombings and organizes attacks against coalition installations throughout the district. During the operation, security forces detained two suspected insurgents and seized multiple firearms.
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R.I.P. - Sgt. Joshua A. Born, R.I.P. - Cpl. Timothy J. Conrad Jr.

DOD Identifies Army Casualties

            The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
 They died Feb. 23, in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when their unit came under small arms fire.  They were assigned to the 385th Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade (Airborne), XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Stewart, Ga.

            Killed were:

            Sgt. Joshua A. Born, 25, of Niceville, Fla., and

             Cpl. Timothy J. Conrad Jr., 22, of Roanoke, Va.

           For more information media may contact the Fort Stewart public affairs office at 912-435-9879.

Sgt. Joshua A. Born, 25, of Niceville, Fla., died Feb. 23,
in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered
when his unit came under small arms fire.

He was assigned to the 385th Military Police Battalion,
16th Military Police Brigade (Airborne),
XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Stewart, Ga.

Sgt. Born was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, Combat Action Badge and NATO Medal. He leaves his wife Megan, his parents and other family members.

Cpl. Timothy J. Conrad Jr., 22, of Roanoke, Va., died Feb. 23,
in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered
when his unit came under small arms fire.

He was assigned to the 385th Military Police Battalion,
16th Military Police Brigade (Airborne),
XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Stewart, Ga.

Sgt. Conrad was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, Combat Action Badge and NATO Medal. He leaves his wife, Holly and their 7 month old son, Bentley, his mother, Mikki Wray, father Tim Conrad Sr., sisters Alex Conrad and Amanda Meland and brother, Austin Wray.

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