Posts Tagged ‘propaganda’

Isis: UN study finds foreign fighters in Syria ‘lack basic understanding of Islam’ — Why They Fight

August 5, 2017

Research shows economic factors and ‘lack of meaning’ in life makes warzone attractive

By Lizzie Dearden Home Affairs Correspondent

The Independent

Young men who leave their homes to fight for terrorist groups in Syria mainly come from disadvantaged backgrounds, have low levels of education and “lack any basic understanding of the true meaning of jihad or even the Islamic faith”, according to a new report.

A study for the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism found that despite claiming to protect Muslims, most of the returned fighters were “novices” in their religion and some did not know how to pray properly.

“Most saw their religion in terms of justice and injustice rather than in terms of piety and spirituality,” said the authors of the report, which was based on interviews with 43 people from 12 countries.

They found that a typical fighter “is most likely to be male, young and disadvantaged economically, educationally, and in terms of the labour market”.

“He is also more likely than not to come from a marginalised background, both socially and politically,” the reported added.

“Most were unemployed, or underemployed, and/or said that their life lacked meaning.”

Three quarters of those interviewed reached Syria but subsequently decided to leave, while others were intercepted by authorities in their own country or stopped en route.

Thousands of British Muslims gather to denounce Isis and call for ‘peaceful caliphate’

Despite an appeal to all UN member states, the authors expressed regret that only seven countries agreed to participate in the study – three from the EU and four from the Middle East and North Africa.

Professor Hamed el-Said, of Manchester Metropolitan University, and terrorism expert Richard Barrett met most of the returnees in prison or under the watchful eye of security services.

The majority of interviewed fighters, who attempted to join groups including Isis, al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and jihadi Ahrar al-Sham, came from large and dysfunctional families in deprived parts of cities where they were “isolated from mainstream social, economic and political activity”.

“Religious belief seems to have played a minimal role in the motivation of this sample,” the report found, saying economic factors had become more important as terrorist groups promised wages, homes and even wives.

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Western foreign fighters studied by the CTC by country (CTC)

The findings supported previous research using leaked Isis documents, which showed that most recruits profess to have only a “basic” knowledge of Sharia law, and warnings of a growing “crime-terror nexus” seeing violent criminals travel to Syria in the hope of “redemption”.

Following the declaration of the so-called Islamic State in 2014, the group produced a huge amount of propaganda seeking to attract Muslims with the promise of life free of supposed Western oppression, lived in comfort and peace.

Rose-tinted videos sought to present a utopian existence, showing smiling militants engaging in activities like bee-keeping, farming and even pizza-making as Western fighters used Twitter to broadcast images of palatial homes, swimming pools and expensive cars provided by the “caliphate”.

The UN report said the propaganda exerted a powerful pull on young men who feel they have little prospects at home, especially when combined with perceived grievances and a wish to protect Sunni Muslims in areas of Syria targeted by Bashar al-Assad’s government.

“For some, this sense of brotherhood was reinforced by a sense of religious obligation,” it said.

“The respondents of this survey claimed they did not go to Syria with the intention of becoming a terrorist, nor did they return with that purpose in mind.”

Despite the role of propaganda sparking a global crackdown on extremist online activity, the report found that among surveyed fighters, the internet played “a far less significant role as an independent source of radicalisation than is generally assumed, and certainly a far less significant role than real life contact”.

The authors found that would-be jihadis went online to confirm and strengthen ideas that were already taking root, adding: “The internet then played a key role in reinforcing a decision that had in part been taken already.”

Far more important was friendship circles and social networks formed around mosques, prisons, schools, universities, neighbourhoods or the workplace – a conclusion supported by the high number of known British militants who were part of radical networks or left the country with friends and relatives.

The UN report said identity politics played a key role in radicalisation, warning of “significant policy implications” arising from perceived injustice and discrimination.

It added: “Bad governance, especially disregard for the rule of law, discriminatory social policies, political exclusion of certain communities…harassment by the security authorities, and confiscation of passports or other identity documents, all contribute to feelings of despair, resentment, and animosity towards the government and provide fertile ground for the terrorist recruiter.”

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Mehdi Hassan, also known as Abu Dujana, is one of many British fighters who joined Isis with friends – in his case the ‘Britani Brigade Bangladeshi Bad Boys’, who have all been killed (Twitter)

Although their accounts are highly unreliable, several imprisoned former Isis members have blamed the security services for their radicalisation.

Harry Sarfo, a German-born militant who grew up in the UK and joined Isis for three months in 2015, told The Independent his experience of police raids and harassment from the local community after he fell under suspicion as an extremist drove him to Syria.

“My friend kept on telling me: ‘This is what you get for being Muslim in the West, especially Germany. You are black and Muslim, your wife is covered, what do you expect? They think you are a bloody terrorist. You should go and live in the Islamic State, where every Muslims’ rights are protected. Life for you here is over,” he recalled. “At the time, everything he said made sense.”

Similar concerns have been raised about the Government’s controversial Prevent strategy, which is viewed by some to be divisive and discriminatory, while Isis itself has been attempting to capitalise on air strikes on its territory by publishing graphic images of dead children alongside calls for global terror attacks.

As Isis has been pushed back in Iraq and Syria, routes to its territories have shut down and the group’s calls have largely switched from calling on supporters to travel to the “caliphate”, to inciting attacks in their home countries across the West.

Some analysts say the failure of Isis’ state project will dent its lure to potential recruits, although the fighters in the UN’s sample found themselves “disillusioned” by the group even at its peak.

The report said they left Syria because of their “genuine disappointment in and disenfranchisement by the terrorist organisation they joined”, feeling alienated by the group and local Syrians, the deaths of friends or calls by loved ones to come home.

They authors hope  the research will help countries around the world to improve counter-extremism programmes that prevent people from considering joining Isis and other terrorist groups, as well as safely reintegrating those returning from the group’s shrinking territories.

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Harry Sarfo is imprisoned in Germany, where he is under a new investigation for taking part in a mass execution

With an estimated 25,000 foreign fighters from more than 100 countries travelling to Syria, concern has been mounting over a potential influx of jihadis as Isis loses territory including its de-facto capital of Raqqa.

The city is completely sealed off and under heavy bombardment by the US-led coalition, and Isis is known to kill anyone caught attempting to defect, leading analysts to expect the number of recruits managing escape to be small.

“Not all returnees present the same degree of threat,” the UN report found, warning against treating all former fighters as high risk and “thereby radicalising those who are low threat through unwarranted persecution.”

​Prof el-Said and Mr Barrett argued that some ex-terrorists could become powerful voices against the groups they once joined, adding: “Governments will need to screen their returnees to identify the more dangerous among them as well as to select credible and trustworthy individuals who could counter recruitment narratives.”

Isis is currently intensifying its efforts to discredit defectors and featured Sarfo in a recent propaganda magazine decrying “fools who strayed” and spread “lies and falsehoods”.

While returned foreign fighters have been among Europe’s deadliest terrorists, including the “super cell” that carried out the Paris and Brussels attacks – the threat from supporters of the group who have been prevented from realising their desire to travel to Syria is increasing.

London Bridge ringleader Khuram Butt, Norway church attacker Abdel-Malik Petitjean and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who shot a Canadian soldier dead outside the country’s war memorial, are among failed foreign fighters who chose to launch attacks on home soil instead.

“It is important at least not to underestimate the motivations and determination of those who failed to make it to Syria,” the report concluded.

“There is little room for complacency, but while the risk presented by returning foreign terrorist fighters is a real one, it should not be exaggerated.

“A practical, effective and proportionate response should start from a sound understanding of the root causes of the problem.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/isis-islamic-state-foreign-fighters-syria-recruits-lack-basic-understanding-of-islam-radicalisation-a7877706.html

Russia used Facebook to try to spy on Macron campaign – sources

July 27, 2017

Reuters

By Joseph Menn

July 27, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Russian intelligence agents attempted to spy on President Emmanuel Macron’s election campaign earlier this year by creating phony Facebook personas, according to a U.S. congressman and two other people briefed on the effort.

About two dozen Facebook accounts were created to conduct surveillance on Macron campaign officials and others close to the centrist former financier as he sought to defeat far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and other opponents in the two-round election, the sources said. Macron won in a landslide in May.

Facebook said in April it had taken action against fake accounts that were spreading misinformation about the French election. But the effort to infiltrate the social networks of Macron officials has not previously been reported.

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Russia has repeatedly denied interfering in the French election by hacking and leaking emails and documents. U.S. intelligence agencies told Reuters in May that hackers with connections to the Russian government were involved, but they did not have conclusive evidence that the Kremlin ordered the hacking.

Facebook confirmed to Reuters that it had detected spying accounts in France and deactivated them. It credited a combination of improved automated detection and stepped-up human efforts to find sophisticated attacks.

Company officials briefed congressional committee members and staff, among others, about their findings. People involved in the conversations also said the number of Facebook accounts suspended in France for promoting propaganda or spam – much of it related to the election – had climbed to 70,000, a big jump from the 30,000 account closures the company disclosed in April.

Facebook did not dispute the figure.

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Seeking Friends of Friends

The spying campaign included Russian agents posing as friends of friends of Macron associates and trying to glean personal information from them, according to the U.S. congressman and two others briefed on the matter.

Facebook employees noticed the efforts during the first round of the presidential election and traced them to tools used in the past by Russia’s GRU military intelligence unit, said the people, who spoke on condition they not be named because they were discussing sensitive government and private intelligence.

Facebook told American officials that it did not believe the spies burrowed deep enough to get the targets to download malicious software or give away their login information, which they believe may have been the goal of the operation.

The same GRU unit, dubbed Fancy Bear or APT 28 in the cybersecurity industry, has been blamed for hacking the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 U.S. presidential election and many other political targets. The GRU did not respond to a request for comment.

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Fancy Bear

Email accounts belonging to Macron campaign officials were hacked and their contents dumped online in the final days of the runoff between Macron and Le Pen.

French law enforcement and intelligence officials have not publicly accused anyone of the campaign attacks.

Mounir Mahjoubi, who was digital director of Macron’s political movement, En Marche, and is now a junior minister for digital issues in his government, told Reuters in May that some security experts blamed the GRU specifically, though they had no proof.

Mahjoubi and En Marche declined to comment.

There are few publicly known examples of sophisticated social media spying efforts. In 2015, Britain’s domestic security service, MI5, warned that hostile powers were using LinkedIn to connect with and try to recruit government workers.

The social media and networking companies themselves rarely comment on such operations when discovered.

Facebook, facing mounting pressure from governments around the world to control “fake news’ and propaganda on the service, took a step toward openness with a report in April on what it termed “information operations.”

The bulk of that document discussed so-called influence operations, which included “amplifier” accounts that spread links to slanted or false news stories in order to influence public opinion.

Reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Michel Rose in Paris and Jack Stubbs in Moscow.; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Ross Colvin

Xi Jinping and Putin join forces to halt North Korean crisis — “May have misjudged what is necessary to satisfy Trump”

July 5, 2017

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, meeting in Moscow, reiterate their own proposal for a freeze in North Korean missile tests and a matching one on US and South Korean military drills and for dialogue to resume

By Stuart Lau and Zhenhua Lu

The South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 July, 2017, 2:07pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 July, 2017, 4:29pm

The presidents of China and Russia called on North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile programmes and also urged the US and South Korea to halt large-scale military drills, as they sought to quell rising tensions over the Korean peninsula.

 The joint call came as Chinese President Xi Jinping met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow late on Tuesday, hours after Pyongyang said it had successfully launched for the first time an intercontinental ballistic missile, and ahead of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany on Friday.

“We believe that the world is turbulent, local conflicts are emerging constantly, and issues such as the Korean peninsula problem and the Syrian question remain very complex,” Russia Today television reported Xi as saying after the meeting, the third between the two presidents this year.

Putin added his voice to the call for calm, offering the two countries’ own solution.

“We have agreed to promote our joint initiative, based on Russian step-by-step Korean settlement plan and Chinese ideas to simultaneously freeze North Korean nuclear and missile activities, and US and South Korean joint military drills,” RT quoted him as saying.

 Russian President Vladimir Putin (front) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Moscow on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

A separate joint statement by the foreign ministers of China and Russia criticised North Korea’s test launch as “unacceptable” and a grave violation of UN Security Council resolutions. The missile, a Hwasong-14, has a minimum range of 5,600km and would be capable of hitting the US state of Alaska.

The statement said that military means to solve the issue should not become an option. Instead, the UN resolutions should be fully implemented, North Korea’s reasonable concerns should be respected, and all countries should make efforts to make the resumption of dialogue possible.

 Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Russia’s Vladimir Putin at a signing ceremony in the Kremlin during Xi’s latest visit to Moscow. Photo: AFP

The UN Security Council, of which China holds the presidency this month, will hold an emergency meeting later on Wednesday.

Beijing and Moscow also used their joint statement to call on Washington to immediately halt deployment of its THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea, a move Washington has said is necessary because of the North Korean missile threat.

“It’s discouraging that the Chinese (and Russians) are still calling for ‘restraint by all sides’, despite the fact that their client state, North Korea, has cast aside all restraint and is sprinting for the finish line in demonstrating a nuclear-armed ICBM capability,” said Daniel Russel, formerly Washington’s top diplomat for East Asia, now diplomat in residence at the Asia Society Policy Institute.

US President Donald Trump meanwhile responded to the latest North Korean missile launch in a Twitter post: “Hard to believe South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

 A US missile test launch in South Korea, in response to North Korea’s firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Photo: AFP

Trump is set to meet Xi, as well as Putin for the first time since he assumed office, on the sidelines of the G20 summit. The US has been pressing China to do more to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambition by leveraging its economic ties with the nation.

“The most important and urgent issue [between US and China] is still North Korea, and I think the Chinese have misjudged what is necessary to satisfy Trump and keep US-China on a positive, co-operative trajectory,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

China will “have to address US concerns through deeds not just words,” she said.

Additional reporting by Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2101359/chinese-and-russian-presidents-urge-peaceful-solution

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N. Korea Propaganda Revels in ICBM: A Look at What It Means — Plus ‘Self-Restraint’ Is Only Thing Stopping War in Korea, U.S. General Says

July 5, 2017

SEOUL, South Korea — A “brilliant victory” and “thrilling” success, North Korea’s grinning leader crowed of his country’s first test of a long-range ballistic missile. The “final phase” in a confrontation with America, Kim Jong Un called it. Part of a coming stream of “‘gift packages’ to the Yankees” in the form of more weapons tests.

You can feel the self-satisfied, self-aggrandizing bliss as North Korean state media revels in what it clearly sees as a historic moment — and a golden chance to boost the dictator and his military.

In some respects, the accomplishment this week is as big a deal as the breathless descriptions. But, as ever with North Korea, there are some important reasons to be skeptical.

People in the North Korean countryside still go without food. It’s still a third-world economy, with massive corruption and rampant human rights abuses. It is hated, feared, mocked and sanctioned by its neighbors. And several years of development and tests still lie ahead before its intercontinental ballistic missile — the North calls the nascent version it test-fired on Tuesday the Hwasong-14 — will actually work.

Yet despite all of this, after decades of single-minded determination, a tiny, impoverished country stands on the threshold of completing a long-coveted goal that only the United States, Russia and a handful of others have accomplished: building nuclear-armed ICBMs.

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, seated, watched the launch of the missile, in an image from North Korea’s KRT.

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, seated, watched the launch of the missile, in an image from North Korea’s KRT. PHOTO: /ASSOCIATED PRESS

A look at North Korea’s delighted propaganda, and what it might mean:

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“GIFT PACKAGES”

THE PROPAGANDA: “Respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un,” with a “broad smile on his face,” urged his scientists to continue to “frequently send big and small ‘gift packages’ to the Yankees as ever so that they would not feel weary.”

WHAT IT MIGHT MEAN: Pyongyang, with this part boast, part threat, is likely promising more missile and nuclear tests.

It’s a show of defiance, sure — such tests are banned by the U.N. — but it also reveals something important, and less flattering, about the North: More tests signal weakness.

Before it can actually back up its bluster, it needs repeated tests to build a single ICBM that can reach North America, let alone an arsenal of them.

Same goes for nuclear bombs.

Some analysts believe North Korea can arm its short-range missiles with nuclear warheads already. But there’s more doubt about whether Pyongyang can build a warhead that can fit on a long-range missile.

Each new test puts the North closer to its goal. But it also signals that it is not there yet.

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“BRILLIANT VICTORY”

PROPAGANDA: North Korea said that it had scored a “brilliant victory” and “great success” by launching an ICBM that can carry a “large-sized” nuclear warhead. Kim praised his scientists for “thrillingly succeeding at one try in even the test-launch of Hwasong-14 capable of striking the U.S. mainland this time.” The weapon’s guidance, stability, structural and “active-flight stages” systems were all “confirmed.”

WHAT IT MIGHT MEAN: The North did succeed, in a way, by getting the missile to fly in a highly lofted arc and splash down in the Sea of Japan. Washington, Seoul and Tokyo all confirmed this as the North’s best effort to date.

It’s also true that if not stopped, North Korea appears only a matter of years away from building a working ICBM.

But there are big reasons to doubt North Korea’s claim of complete success “at one try.”

These include whether the North has mastered the technology for a re-entry vehicle crucial for returning a warhead to the atmosphere from space so it can hit its intended target. And whether North Korea can build a warhead small enough to fit on a long-range missile.

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“FINAL PHASE”

THE PROPAGANDA: Kim “stressed that the protracted showdown with the U.S. imperialists has reached its final phase, and it is the time for the (North) to demonstrate its mettle to the U.S.”

WHAT IT MIGHT MEAN: This sounds like a threat, and North Korea has, without doubt, been demonstrating its mettle for years, ignoring repeated U.S. warnings not to test nukes and missiles and threatening to strike targets in the United States.

Such propaganda helps domestically by boosting Kim Jong Un as a titan bestriding the world stage. It also causes fear in America, South Korea and Japan.

“Final phase” may also be a way of trying to keep North Korea’s elites from getting complacent as the nuclear standoff nears 30 years.

There’s a glimmer of truth in the phrase, too.

If the goal has always been a nuclear-armed ICBM, then the first smooth test of a nascent version of that weapon could indeed mark a “final phase” of sorts.

What’s less certain is whether this phase will end with violence, some sort of negotiated nuclear freeze of simply more years of frustration and North Korean weapons progress.

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‘Self-Restraint’ Is Only Thing Stopping War in Korea, U.S. General Says

SEOUL, South Korea — The top American general in South Korea said Wednesday that self-restraint was all that kept the United States and South Korea from going to war with North Korea, as the South’s defense minister indicated that the North’s first intercontinental ballistic missile had the potential to reach Hawaii.

The unusually blunt warning, from Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the commander of American troops based in Seoul, came a day after North Korea said it successfully tested the Hwasong-14, its first intercontinental ballistic missile.

Washington and its allies confirmed that the weapon was an ICBM and condemned the test as a violation of United Nations resolutions and a dangerous escalation of tensions.

Although doubt remained whether North Korea had cleared all the technical hurdles to make the Hwasong-14 a fully functional ICBM, the launching prompted the United States and South Korea to conduct a rare joint missile exercise off the east coast of South Korea on Wednesday. The drill involved firing an undisclosed number of ballistic missiles into the sea.

“Self restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war,” said General Brooks, referring to the 1953 cease-fire that halted but never officially ended the Korean War. “As this alliance missile live-fire shows, we are able to change our choice when so ordered by our alliance national leaders.

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North Korea says Donald Trump’s policies are akin to ‘Nazism in the 21st century’ — Calls America First policies ‘racist’

June 27, 2017

NORTH Korea has likened US President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler in its latest diatribe amid high tensions over Pyongyang’s military ambitions and ahead of a visit to Washington by the South’s new leader.

The latest attack came a week after nuclear-armed Pyongyang called Trump a “lunatic” as tensions rose following the death of US student Otto Warmbier, who was detained for 18 months in the North and then evacuated in a coma.

An editorial on the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) dialled the hostile rhetoric up higher, slamming Trump’s key policies as being akin to “Nazism in the 21st century.”

REVEALED: White House fears over new chemical attack

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump bid farewell to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the South Lawn of the White House. Picture: AFP

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump bid farewell to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the South Lawn of the White House. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

Trump declared at his inauguration in January that “From this moment on, it’s going to be America first.”

KCNA said: “The ‘American-first principle’… advocates the world domination by recourse to military means just as was the case with Hitler’s concept of world occupation.” Trump was “following Hitler’s dictatorial politics” to divide others into two categories, “friends and foes” to justify “suppression”, it added.

The North habitually denounces its enemies in colourful terms in its propaganda, but comparisons to the instigator of World War II and architect of the Holocaust are unusual even by its own standards.

Adolf Hitler during the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936. Picture: Getty

Adolf Hitler during the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images

The Trump administration is pushing for stronger sanctions against the North over its nuclear and missile programmes and KCNA accused it of blocking medical supplies in what it said was “an unethical and inhumane act, far exceeding the degree of Hitler’s blockade of Leningrad”.

The nearly 900-day siege of the Russian city during World War II left millions dead.

Tackling threats from the isolated North is expected to be at the top of the agenda during this week’s Washington summit between Trump and newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-In.

A string of atomic and missile tests by Pyongyang — and threats of military action by Washington — have ratcheted up tensions on the peninsula.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspecting a test of the surface-to-surface medium long-range strategic ballistic missile Hwasong-10 at an undisclosed location in North Korea. Picture: AFP

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspecting a test of the surface-to-surface medium long-range strategic ballistic missile Hwasong-10 at an undisclosed location in North Korea. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

Warmbier’s death added to the strains, with Trump slamming the “brutal regime” of the North’s young leader Kim Jong-Un.

“The Trump way of thinking that the whole world may be sacrificed just for the better living of the US, has put even its allies and stooges in a pretty fix,” KCNA added.

The North has often used bombastic and sometimes racist and sexist rhetoric to slam other world leaders for actions that displeased the regime.

Pyongyang compared former US president Barack Obama to a monkey after he supported the 2014 cinematic release of “The Interview”, a Hollywood comedy mocking the North Korean leadership.

It once called the former South Korean president Park Geun-Hye a “crazy old bitch” and a “female prostitute” who belonged to the “pimp” Obama.

http://www.news.com.au/world/north-korea-says-donald-trumps-policies-are-akin-to-nazism-in-the-21st-century/news-story/ce4f3cb7b196acb20542d58176ebb0cd

Russia To Target U.S. and Coalition Aircraft Over Syria

June 19, 2017

Russia steps up rhetoric after U.S. fighter shoots down Syrian government jet

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June 19, 2017 10:33 a.m. ET

MOSCOW—Russia escalated tensions with the United States Monday, promising to actively track U.S. and coalition aircraft over Syria with air defense systems and warplanes, the country’s defense ministry said.

In a statement released Monday, the Russian military said it would treat U.S. and coalition operating west of the Euphrates Rivers as “aerial targets,” but stopped short of threatening a shootdown.

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Russia warns US-led coalition over downing of Syrian jet

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Defence ministry says planes flying west of Euphrates will be treated as targets and that it has suspended safety agreement with US

A US navy F/A-18 Super Hornet
The Pentagon confirmed that a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet had shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday. Photograph: US DoD handout/EPA

Russia’s defence ministry has said it will treat any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river in Syria as a potential target, after the US military shot down a Syrian air force jet on Sunday.

The ministry also said it was suspending a safety agreement with Washington designed to prevent collisions and dangerous incidents in Syrian airspace.

According to the Pentagon the Syrian jet in question had dropped bombs near US partner forces involved in the fight to wrest Raqqa from Islamic State (Isis) control. It was the first such US attack on a Syrian air force plane since the start of the country’s civil war six years ago.

In an apparent attempt at deescalation, Viktor Ozerov, the chairman of the defence and security committee at the upper chamber of Russian parliament, described the defence ministry’s statement as a warning. “I’m sure that because of this neither the US nor anyone else will take any actions to threaten our aircraft,” he told the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency. “That’s why there’s no threat of direct confrontation between Russia and American aircraft.”

Ozerov said Russia will be tracking the coalition’s jets, not shooting them down, but he added that “a threat for those jets may appear only if they take action that pose a threat to Russian aircraft”.

The deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said the US strike “has to be seen as a continuation of America’s line to disregard the norms of international law.

“What is this if not an act of aggression? It is, if you like, help to those terrorists that the US is fighting against, declaring they are carrying out an anti-terrorism policy.”

The Russian response increases the risk of an inadvertent air fight breaking out between US and Russian warplanes in the skies above Syria.

The US military confirmed that a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet had shot down a Syrian SU-22 on Sunday. The US said the Syrian jet had dropped bombs near Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters who are aligned with US forces in the fight against Isis. Damascus said its plane had been on anti-Isis mission.

Col John Thomas, a spokesman for US Central Command, said there were no US forces in the immediate vicinity of the Syrian attack but that the SDF was under threat for more than two hours.

The growing risk of a direct confrontation between the US and Russia follows a decision by Donald Trump to grant his military chiefs untrammelled control of US military strategy in Syria.

Tensions have also been bubbling between Washington and Moscow over efforts to dislodge Isis from its Raqqa stronghold.

Russia, a staunch supporter of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has been pressing the US to make the removal of Isis a joint land and air operation, but discussions over Syria’s long-term political future appear to have ground to a halt, leaving the US military to operate in a political vacuum.

The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters working alongside western special forces, said it would take action to defend itself from Syrian warplanes if attacks continued.

The Trump administration has promised to improve arms supplies to the SDF after it concluded that it was the force most capable of freeing Raqqa from Isis.

In a sign of how complex the Syrian peace process has become, Russian-sponsored peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, are scheduled to resume on the same day – 10 July – as talks convened by the UN in Geneva.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced the date on Monday in the knowledge that it would coincide with the UN schedule. He also said that the UN’s Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, would take part.

A spokesman for de Mistura said “the subject is currently being discussed”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/19/russia-target-us-led-coalition-warplanes-over-syria

Russia halts US aviation cooperation over downing of Syrian jet

June 19, 2017

AFP, Reuters and The Associated Press

© Omar haj kadour, AFP | A Syrian army jet fires rockets over the village of Rahbet Khattab in Hama province on March 23, 2017.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-06-19

The Russian defence ministry said Monday that it was halting aviation cooperation with the United States after the US downed a Syrian government warplane on Sunday, a move one Russian official described as a clear “act of aggression”.

The Russian defence ministry said it was halting cooperation with Washington within the framework of the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring Air Safety in Syria, effective immediately. It also accused the United States of not using the proper communication channels before shooting down the Syrian army jet.

“The command of the coalition forces did not use the established communication channel for preventing incidents in Syrian airspace,” the ministry said, adding that Moscow “ends cooperation with the American side from June 19”.

Moreover, any coalition aircraft flying to the west of the Euphrates will be treated as targets, the defence ministry said.

“Any flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, discovered west of the Euphrates river will be tracked as aerial targets by Russia’s air defences on and above ground.”

URGENT: Russian military halts Syria sky incident prevention interactions with US as of June 19 – Moscow https://on.rt.com/8f9g pic.twitter.com/w27zQsyy5y

RT

@RT_comCoalition’s airborne objects in Russian Air Force’s Syria missions areas to be tracked as targets – Moscow https://on.rt.com/8f9g  pic.twitter.com/PHqYQjI6Yo

Voir l'image sur Twitter

Russia previously suspended the memorandum of understanding on air safety in April to protest against US airstrikes launched in response to a suspected chemical attack.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, on Monday firmly condemned the United States for shooting down the Syrian plane, calling it an “act of aggression”.

“This strike has to be seen as a continuation of America’s line to disregard the norms of international law,” Ryabkov told journalists in Moscow on Monday, the TASS news agency reported. “What is this if not an act of aggression?”

Ryabkov said the Kremlin had also warned the United States not to use force against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime Moscow ally.

A Syrian jet plane

The incident marked the first time an American fighter jet had taken down a Syrian warplane, which Washington accused of attacking US-backed fighters.

The tensions come as the US-led coalition and allied fighters battle to evict the Islamic State (IS) group from its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

>> Read more: MSF says 10,000 Syrians flee Raqqa as battle for the city nears

The Syrian jet was shot down after regime forces engaged fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance battling IS jihadists with US support, in an area close to Raqqa. The American F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down the Syrian SU-22 around 7pm as it “dropped bombs near SDF fighters” south of the town of Tabqa, the coalition said in a statement.

It said that several hours earlier, regime forces had attacked the SDF in another town near Tabqa, wounding several and driving the SDF from the town.

The coalition said the Syrian warplane had been shot down “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defence of Coalition partnered forces”.

Syria’s army disputed the account, saying its plane was hit while “conducting a mission against the terrorist Islamic State group”.

It warned of “the grave consequences of this flagrant aggression”.

International imbroglio

The SDF entered Raqqa for the first time earlier this month and now holds four neighbourhoods in the east and west of the city.

In a further escalation of military action in Syria, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it launched a series of missiles into Syria on Sunday in revenge for deadly attacks on its capital that were claimed by the Islamic State group. It said the missiles were “in retaliation” for a June 7 attack on the parliament complex and the shrine of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that killed 17 people.

Assad has focused his forces further east, to the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor, which is largely under IS group control and where government forces are besieged in part of the provincial capital.

Outside of coalition operations, US forces have only once directly targeted the regime – when Washington launched air strikes against an airbase it said was the launchpad for an alleged chemical attack that killed more than 80 civilians in April.

The Kremlin denounced those US strikes as an “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law”.

Syria’s war began in March 2011 with anti-government protests but has since spiralled into a complex and bloody conflict that has killed more than 320,000 people and become a proxy war for regional powers as well as ensnaring the United States and Russia.

Interfax reported that Ryabkov and the US under secretary of state, Thomas Shannon, would meet in St Petersburg on June 23 to discuss persistent tensions in bilateral ties.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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The Syrian SU-22 fighter bomber was shot down by an American F18 Super Hornet after it had dropped bombs near the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces north of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil)-held city of Raqqa in northern Syria.

The US, which has special forces troops in the area, had earlier sent a warning to the Syrian military to stop targeting the forces and called on Russia to rein in its ally, but they were ignored.

Russia, which intervened militarily to back the Syrian regime in 2015,on Monday condemned the US action, saying it flouted international law.

“It is, if you like, help to those terrorists that the US is fighting against, declaring they are carrying out an anti-terrorism policy,” Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said, adding it was a “dangerous escalation”.

 Image may contain: airplane

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said: “It is hard for me to choose any other words but these: if you [the US] can’t help you should at least not interfere. As your ‘efforts’ once again do nothing but help the militants.

“You are fighting the wrong party: it is not the Syrian army that perpetrates terror attacks in European capital cities.”

See the whole report:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/18/us-forces-shoot-syrian-jet-first-time-move-described-self-defence/

Related:

 

Russian diplomat: U.S. downing of Syrian warplane is ‘support of terrorists’: TASS

June 19, 2017

Image may contain: airplane

Moscow sees the downing of a Syrian government warplane by the United States as an “act of aggression and support of terrorists”, TASS news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Monday.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov)

Related:

The truth is, the U.S. has communicated with Russia and Syria many times not to fly in a threatening manner in certain areas. The consequences of Syria’s Russian-supported actions are clear. Russia’s answer is more fake news and propaganda. Peace and Freedom Editor

Swedish security service says extremist views on the rise — People with sympathies for radical Islam outnumber all other groups — Historic challenge to governments

June 16, 2017

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Swedish security service SAPO says the number of people in Sweden with extremist views has grown to several thousands, mainly among people with sympathies for radical Islam.

Its head, Anders Thornberg, says “we have never seen anything like it” and propaganda from the Islamic State group was a key factor.

He says the figure was in the hundreds a few years ago, adding it was “a historic challenge with extremist environments growing.”

Thornberg told Sweden’s news agency TT Friday that SAPO gets about 6,000 pieces of intelligence every month, up from 2,000 five years ago. He didn’t go into specifics.

Sweden’s threat assessment remains three on a five-level scale. On April 7, the driver of stolen truck killed five pedestrians and injured 14 in central Stockholm.

‘We’re following you’: Sweden's security service trolls citizens with sarcastic first tweet

Putin accuses BBC of supporting opposition leader Navalny

June 15, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attends a court hearing in Moscow on March 30, 2017
MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday responded to a question from a BBC reporter on opposition leader Alexei Navalny by accusing the British broadcaster of supporting the Kremlin critic.”When I heard you were from the BBC, I didn’t doubt for a moment you would ask precisely that question because it’s in a certain sense propaganda of the people whom you support,” Putin said answering a question about whether he sees Navalny as a political competitor following nationwide protests organised by the opposition leader.

Navalny has been sentenced to 30 days behind bars after being detained Monday on his way to a protest in Moscow against government corruption, where hundreds were arrested in the city centre.

“Any form of protest, including demonstrations, should remain in the framework of the law,” Putin said. “Those who violate the law must answer for these violations.”

“It’s one thing to organise protests, and another to use these protests as an instrument for provocations and exacerbating the situation for self-promotion,” Putin said, without mentioning Navalny by name in his customary manner.

“This is done not to improve the situation in the country, not to solve people’s problems, but to solve one’s own problems that have to do with self-publicity.”

Navalny has organised protests on March 26 and June 12 after airing a film alleging that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev commands vast personal wealth through a network of foundations, which was viewed over 23 million times and re-ignited the opposition’s anti-corruption message.

The 41-year-old lawyer has announced his intention to stand for president against Putin in 2018, though Putin himself has dodged questions whether he will run for what would be his fourth historic term.

Putin was speaking to journalists after his annual marathon phone-in with Russian citizens, during which he said that judging by the public’s questions sent to the studio, government corruption is “not a priority.”