Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Al Qaeda affiliate and Turaeg rebels merge, create breakaway state in Mali

The secular rebel group of Saharan Tuareg tribesmen known as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) has agreed to merge with the al Qaeda-supported Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) Islamist rebel group. The new entity has declared the creation of an autonomous state in northern Mali, the Islamic Republic of Azawad.

Joe Burgess/The New York Times
After the signing of the accord on May 26, "Colonel" Bouna Ag Attayoub, an MNLA commander in Timbuktu, told the BBC that "[t]he Islamic Republic of Azawad is now an independent sovereign state." The declaration of the breakaway state and the merger of the secular Tuareg rebel movement with the al Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine have deepened the ongoing political and security crisis facing Mali since a coup shook the central government on March 22.

"The Koran will be a source of the laws of the state," said Moussa Ag Acharatoumane, an MNLA spokesman, according to The Telegraph. "But we will apply the things we want and leave aside those we don't. It will not be a strict application of the law." The signing of the accord, which took place in the northern area of Gao and was accompanied by celebratory gunfire, followed last week's brazen seizure of a key Malian military armory by suspected Ansar Dine gunmen in the same area of Gao.

Regional security sources confirmed the attack and seizure of the arms depot, adding that Islamists linked with al Qaeda in Mali are now "more armed than the combined armies of Mali and Burkina Faso," AFP reported. Burkina Faso borders Mali to the east. Islamist rebels are now in the process of implementing sharia law in various urban areas of northern Mali, including Timbuktu.

Mali's northern regions of Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu have been under the de facto jurisdiction of Tuareg rebels and Ansar Dine since April 1. The Islamist group Ansar Dine had first opposed the MNLA's previous declaration of an independent state in April, preferring to maintain its stance to enforce sharia throughout all of Mali. Similarly, the MNLA had for some time resisted the Islamist views of Ansar Dine and preferred to remain secular. The recently announced merger of MNLA with Ansar Dine and the creation of the Islamic Republic of Azawad have apparently laid to rest the mutual distrust between the groups, at least for now.

Meanwhile, officials in Mali's transitional administration have strongly rejected the merger and partition of the north, and Mali's Communications Minister Hamadoun Toure demanded that "other countries should help Mali tackle al Qaeda in the region," according to the BBC.

The MNLA has fought to make Mali's northern Azawad region, roughly the size of France, into a separate state since Mali's independence from colonial rule in 1960. The Ansar Dine movement is affiliated with al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM), and is determined to implement sharia law across all of Mali.

In mid-April, three senior Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb leaders were spotted in northern Mali after the government lost control of the region. Abu Zeid, Mukhtar Belmukhtar, and Yahya Abu al Hammam reportedly met with Tuareg leader Iyad Ag Ghaly in Timbuktu. Hammam is said to have been named the leader of Islamist forces in Timbuktu.

Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/05/turaeg_rebels_and_al.php#ixzz1wGNhfQQG
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U.S. drone strike kills 7 al-Qaida militants in southeast Yemen

SANAA/ADEN, May 28 (Xinhua) -- At least seven members of the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch were killed on Monday when a U.S. drone strike bombed their pick-up truck in the southeastern province of Hadramout, a security official told Xinhua.

The U.S. drone fired two missiles on a pick-up truck in Mayfa area west of Mukalla, the provincial capital of Hadramout, killing a local leader of the al-Qaida terrorist group and six others, the local security official said on condition of anonymity.

The al-Qaida leader was passing through a desert road and heading for a meeting in a compound located in the suburbs of the coastal city Mukalla, the official said.

The al-Qaida leader was on the Yemeni government's most wanted list for involvement in carrying out several attacks against domestic facilities in Hadramout province and other southern provinces, the official said.

Witnesses told Xinhua anonymously that "just a few minutes following a powerful explosion that shook the ground, we rushed immediately to the bombing scene and saw a destroyed vehicle and seven bodies scattered at the place."

Earlier in the day, a U.S. drone strike also killed three al- Qaida militants when it pounded a convoy in the city of Radaa in central Yemen, but two al-Qaida leaders in the car survived, according to a government official.

"Qayid al-Dhahab, his brother Nabil and two of their bodyguards were slightly wounded in the airstrike that targeted their convoy while travelling from the area of Manasih to al-Himmah near the town of Radda in al-Bayda," the official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

Qayid and Nabil command a branch of the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Radda after the Yemeni intelligence services last February killed their brother Sheikh Tariq al-Dhahab, who was the chief of the al-Qaida group there.

Al-Bayda province, some 170 km southeast of the capital Sanaa, has witnessed in the past months a remarkable progress by the Yemeni government against the militants of the AQAP, known locally as Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of the Islamic Law).

Hundreds of militants from the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch are attempting to expand their foothold and take control over the county's southern regions where the central authority has almost no presence.

The United States has strongly supported Yemen in the fight against al-Qaida with drone attacks, killing a number of senior al- Qaida members.

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18 militants killed in army operation in NW Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, May 29 (Xinhua) -- At least 18 militants were killed and several others injured in two separate operations carried out by the Pakistan army in the country's northwest tribal regions of Khyber and Orakzai on Tuesday, local media reported.

The local Urdu TV channel Dunya said that the first operation was launched on Tuesday morning when troops backed with gunship helicopters pounded at least three militants' hideouts in the Mamozai area of Orakzai Agency, a semi-autonomous tribal area in northwest Pakistan.

Altogether 14 militants were killed and several others injured during the operation. No loss of life was reported on the side of security forces.

Later, in another military operation, troops killed four militants and injured four others in the Tirah Valley area of Khyber agency, a tribal area sharing common border with Afghanistan from its northern side.

The tribal area of Pakistan is a restive zone where clashes between troops and militants take place frequently. The Pakistan army is striving hard to clear the area from the hold of militants while the militants are combating with full force to retain their influence in the area.

In this warfare hundreds of people have lost their lives and thousands became homeless.

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Roadside bomb kills 4 Yemeni soldiers

ADEN, Yemen, May 29 (Xinhua) -- At least four Yemeni soldiers were killed on Tuesday by a roadside bombing on the eastern outskirts of the southern port city Aden, a security official said.

The roadside bomb exploded early Tuesday, hitting a military patrol near the al-Alam checkpoint on the eastern outskirts of Aden, killing at least four soldiers, the local security official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

The military patrol was near the security checkpoint of al-Alam that monitors the major highway connecting Aden to the city of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, the security official said.

Just a few hours after the bombing, army forces blocked the main road linking Zinjibar to Aden, he added.

On Monday evening, at least seven members of the Yemen-based al- Qaida branch were killed when a U.S.drone strike bombed their pick- up truck in the southeastern province of Hadramout, a security official told Xinhua.

Hundreds of militants from the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch, locally known as Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), are attempting to expand their foothold and take control over the county's southern regions where central authority has almost no presence.

The Yemeni armed forces, backed by U.S.military advisers, have recently increased assaults against al-Qaida bastions in southern regions, as part of an offensive to uproot the terrorists from areas they overran during the one-year political turmoil in Yemen.

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R.I.P. - Spc.Vilmar Galarza Hernandez

DOD Identifies Army Casualty

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

             Spc.Vilmar Galarza Hernandez, 21, of Salinas, Calif., died May. 26 in Zharay, Kandahar  province, Afghanistan, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.  He was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

             For more information please contact the I Corps public affairs office at 253-370-9861.

from abclocal.go.com
by Karina Rusk:

Army Spc. Vilmar Galarza Hernandez - picture: via Facebook
Here in the Bay Area there is another somber reminder of just what Memorial Day is all about. One of the latest fallen soldiers is from Salinas. The US Department of Defense announced on Monday that 21-year-old Spc. Vilmar Galarza, died in Afghanistan this weekend.
He was a devoted son and soldier serving in Operation Enduring Freedom. Earlier on Monday at a memorial in Salinas there was a ceremony which included the reading of 78 Monterey County soldiers killed in Vietnam and 7 killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, there is one more.
Photos on Galarza's Facebook page show his radiant smile and as his friends will tell you, he proudly served his country.
"Vilmar was very proud of serving his country. He was doing what he loved," said Florencio Gonzalez, a friend.
Galarza graduated from Salinas's Everett Alvarez High School in 2008. The 21-year-old soldier died on Saturday. The Department of Defense says enemy forces attacked Galarza's unit with an IED in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan. His remains arrived at Dover Air Force Base.
The mayor of Salinas heard about the tragedy just after he attended an annual Memorial Day service on Monday. Galarza's death marks the eighth service member from Monterey County to have died in Iraq or Afghanistan.
"The purpose of the ceremony is to remind us for it to be that living, that real, that present is a particularly painful reminder," said Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue.
Galarza's parents live in a Salinas apartment where the home's door and windows express their pride with Army stickers that read "Proud parent of a soldier" and "My son is in the U.S. Army." Inside their home, their walls are covered with photos and the scholastic achievements of their children. There a plaques for perfect attendance for Galarza and his sister who also serves in the military.
On Monday the family was out of town to receive the body of their eldest child.
"His family is having a hard time believing that he's gone. He was a very loved son," said Gonzalez.
A defense spokesperson said they weren't prepared to release any additional information about Galarza's service, such as when he entered the military or if any of his fellow soldiers were killed or injured in the attack.


more photos: http://www.ksbw.com/news/central-california/salinas/-/5738906/14244048/-/tkd5cg/-/index.html
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Afghan insurgents target safest province Bamiyan

Districts of Bamyan.
Districts of Bamyan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
KABUL: Insurgents have stepped up attacks in the area thought to be Afghanistan’s safest, the rugged central province of Bamiyan, moving into the region in a bid to undermine security ahead of the end-2014 exit from the country of most foreign combat troops.   

Around 20 Taliban fighters from neighboring Baghlan province have crossed into Bamiyan and launched attacks in several districts, Bamiyan Police Chief General Juma Guldi Yardem told Reuters on Tuesday.

“They usually plant roadside bombs, lead attacks on security checkpoints and some have even launched suicide attacks on some government offices,” Yardem said.

Bamiyan was a focus of world attention in March 2001 when Afghanistan’s former Taliban government destroyed two colossal sandstone Buddhas carved into cliffs, targeting the 1,700 year-old statues with tank and anti-aircraft guns, as well as dynamite, because they were un-Islamic.

The province, where most people belong to the Hazara ethnic group, opposed to the Pashtun-dominated Taliban, is located in the Hindu Kush mountains around 240 km (150 miles) northwest of Kabul, and had been thought to be one of the country’s safest areas.

Though infrequent bombings and sporadic attacks have taken place, the government had been working on making the province a centre for tourism, albeit in limited form, with security provided by Afghan police and a small number of soldiers from New Zealand.

It is home also to the Bande Amir chain of lakes, whose deep blue waters are fenced by sheer limestone cliffs.

Yardem said the insurgents, who he claimed had been trained in Pakistan, attacked a police checkpoint in Kohmard district in April, and also laid roadside bombs targeting civilians.

“The insurgents are attempting these attacks in Bamiyan to create fear and panic among people, and make a safe province insecure,” he said.

Bamiyan was one of the first provinces to be handed over to Afghan security forces in July 2011, with around 1,000 lightly armed Afghan police and intelligence forces based there, but no Afghan soldiers.

“As soon as they find a security vacuum, they step up attacks,” Yardem said. “It’s obviously affecting Bamiyan’s security.”

He said he was asking the Afghan interior ministry and security forces in neighboring Baghlan to step up offensive operations against the insurgents, because if attacks were to continue there would be insufficient police officers to guard Bamiyan.

Abdul Rahman Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said security in the province was still comparatively good. European skiers even held an international competition in the area in March, taking advantage of heavy winter snows.

“Bamiyan is safe and secure, but there are some exceptions,” Ahmadi said.

New Zealand’s government earlier this month said soldiers from that country would leave Afghanistan in 2013, a year earlier that planned, because of security improvements in Bamiyan, with a team ready to assess security in the next few weeks.

Violence has surged across Afghanistan since the Taliban began its yearly summer offensive in April, vowing to target Afghan government and security forces, as well as the 130,000 foreign troops in the country.

from DAWN
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R.I.P. - Hospitalman Eric D. Warren

DOD Identifies Navy Casualty

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

             Hospitalman Eric D. Warren, of Shawnee, Okla., died May 26 of wounds received in action due to an improvised explosive device blast in Sangin District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, 1st Marine Division (Forward), I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), Camp Lejeune, N.C.

             For more information media may contact the 2nd Marine Division Public Affairs Office at 910-450-6575.
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R.I.P. - Captain Stephen James Healey

Captain Stephen Healey (picture: via MOD)
Captain Stephen James Healey killed in Afghanistan

A Military Operations news article

27 May 12

It is with sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Captain Stephen James Healey, from 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, was killed in Afghanistan yesterday, Saturday 26 May 2012.

Captain Healey commanded the Combined Force Burma reconnaissance platoon and, whilst conducting a vehicle patrol in the north of the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province, his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. He was given immediate first aid before being flown to the military hospital at Camp Bastion where, sadly, his death was confirmed.

Captain Stephen James Healey
Captain Stephen Healey (picture: via MOD)
Captain Healey was born on 19 September 1982 in Cardiff. On leaving school he became a semi-professional footballer; playing for a number of clubs in the South Wales area including an apprenticeship with Swansea City. He continued to play whilst completing a degree in Sports Science at Swansea University. He joined the Army in 2007 and was commissioned into the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh in 2008.
In 2009 he was awarded a Mention in Dispatches for his actions on Op HERRICK 11 as the Officer Commanding 4 Platoon, B Company. In 2011 he was selected to command the reconnaissance platoon and led their Op HERRICK 16 deployment. He deployed to Afghanistan on 9 March 2012, where he took over responsibility at Checkpoint Langar as part of Combined Force Burma.
Captain Healey leaves behind his father John, mother Kerry, brother Simon and girlfriend Thea.

Read more at MOD.UK website: http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/MilitaryOperations/CaptainStephenJamesHealeyKilledInAfghanistan.htm

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5 ANA soldiers killed, 7 injured in attacks

KABUL (PAN): Five Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers were killed and seven others injured over the past 24 hours across the country, said the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

A MoD statement said two ANA soldiers were killed and seven others injured in a roadside bomb blasts and gun attacks in the Kish-i-Kohna district of western Herat province.

While three other soldiers killed in the Barmal district of southeastern Paktika province.

However, the ministry did not reveal the health conditions of the injured soldiers.

from Pajhwok
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16 armed insurgents killed, 1 wounded and 23 others arrested by ANP

Publish Date: May 29, 2012
16 armed insurgents killed, one wounded and 23 others arrested by Afghan National Police

During the past 24 hours, Afghan National Police, Afghan National Army, NDS and Coalition Forces launched 10 joint clearance operations in Kabul, Helmand, Kandahar, Sarpul, Baghlan, Logar, Maidan Wardak, Paktiya and Farah provinces.

As a result of these operations, 16 armed insurgents were killed, one wounded and 23 others were arrested by Afghan National Police.
Also, during these operations, Afghan National Police discovered and confiscated two PKM machine guns, one rocket launcher, five AK-47 assault rifles with 13 magazines, two different type of weapons, four radio handsets, 13 heavy rounds, 3155 light rounds, 16 different types of mines, two hand grenades, 149 kilograms of explosive materials, two motorbikes and two vehicles.
The 101 Kabul Zone National Police detained six individuals accused of theft and using fake documents in the 6th, 9th, 10th and 13th Districts of Kabul-City.
Working together, we can defeat criminals and create a safer more prosperous future.
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2 suicide bombers killed, 3 injured in Nangarhar province

Jalalabad District is located in the north-wes...
 Nangarhar Province. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
According to local authorities in eastern Nangahar province at least 5 suicide bombers were killed or injured following an explosion on Jalalabad-Tokham highway on Tuesday morning.

The officials further added the incident took place around 9:30 am local time after a driven by suicide bombers went off.

District chief for Mohmand Dara Noor Agha Kamran confirming the report said a number of militants were killed or injured following the explosion.

Mr. Kamran further added the incident took place after the suicide bombers detonated the explosives inside the vehicle after it caused mechanical problems.

He also said at least 2 suicide bombers were killed and 3 others were injured following the explosion, and were taken to Ghani Khel hospital.

Dr. Gul Rahman at Ghani Khel hospital said the health conditions of those injured following the explosion are critical and more than 70% of their bodies were burnt during the incident.

Anti-government armed militant groups yet to comment regarding the incident.

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Missile attack injures seven in eastern Ghazni province

English: Map of the districts of Ghazni provin...
English: Map of the districts of Ghazni province of Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
According to local authorities in eastern Ghazni province at least 3 people were injured following missile attack in this province early Tuesday morning.

The officials further added at least two missiles were fired by militants which hit near a mosque and Plan-3 areas of eastern Ghazni city.

Provincial security chief Gen. Mohammad Hussain said the missiles were fired by Taliban militants early Tuesday morning from western regions of Ghazni city.

In the meantime provincial hospital chief Baz Mohammad Hemat said at least 7 people were taken to the hospital and are in better health condition.

Gen. Baz Mohammad Hussain said the individuals who were injured following the attack were the local residents.

No group including the Taliban militants have so far claimed responsibility behind the attack.

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May 29., 2012. - ISAF Joint Command Morning Operational Update

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan and coalition security force conducted an operation to detain a Haqqani leader in Gomal district, Paktika province, today.

The leader conducts roadside bombings and other attacks against Afghan and coalition security forces in Sarobi district. He also coordinates the movement of insurgents and weapons throughout the region.

Two armed insurgents attempted to fire on the Afghan and coalition troops as they approached the leader’s suspected location. The security force returned fire, killing the insurgents. The security force recovered multiple AK-47s and magazines with ammunition and a post-incident assessment confirmed that no civilians were harmed during the operation.

In other International Security Assistance Force news throughout Afghanistan:


Afghan forces, supported by coalition troops, conducted a search operation in Tarin Kot district, Uruzgan province, Saturday. Acting on a tip, the combined patrol searched a suspicious area and recovered 10 rocket-propelled grenades, eight fuel cells, 50 machine gun rounds and a rifle. One suspected insurgent was detained and the seized materials were confiscated to be destroyed.


In Khugyani district, Nangarhar province, an Afghan and coalition security force conducted an operation to detain a Taliban leader today. The leader plans and coordinates roadside bombings and other attacks against Afghan and coalition troops throughout the district. He also provides the insurgents under his control with weapons, ammunition and improvised explosive devices. The security force detained one insurgent as a result of the operation. The force also seized a rocket-propelled grenade launcher with rockets, several grenades, sniper ammunition and illegal narcotics.

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Senior al-Qaida leader killed in Kunar province Sunday

Districts of Kunar.
Districts of Kunar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan and coalition forces confirmed that a security operation conducted Sunday resulted in the deaths of Sakhr al-Taifi, a Saudi al-Qaida leader, and one additional al-Qaida terrorist in Watahpur district, Kunar province.

Sakhr al-Taifi, also known as Musthaq and Nasim, was al-Qaida’s second highest leader in Afghanistan, responsible for commanding foreign insurgents, in addition to directing attacks against coalition and Afghan forces.

He frequently traveled between Afghanistan and Pakistan, carrying out commands from senior al-Qaida leadership. He also supplied weapons and equipment to eastern insurgents and managed the illegal transport of insurgent fighters into Afghanistan.

After positively identifying Sakhr al-Taifi and one additional al-Qaida terrorist, and ensuring no civilians were in the area, the security force engaged the targets with a precision airstrike. A follow-on assessment of the area determined no civilian property was damaged and no civilians were harmed.

ISAF Joint Command

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