Posts Tagged ‘special forces’

East Libya Elite Force of Khalifa Haftar Refuses International Criminal Court Order To Arrest Mahmoud al-Werfalli For Possible War Crimes

August 16, 2017

BENGHAZI, Libya — An elite forces unit linked to the army that controls much of eastern Libya has snubbed international efforts to bring to justice one of its senior officers for allegedly executing dozens of prisoners.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant on Tuesday for Mahmoud al-Werfalli, a commander in the Special Forces of Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).

Image result for Mahmoud al-Werfalli, photos

Mahmoud al-Werfalli

The accusations against him relate to incidents in and near Benghazi in spring and early summer, towards the end of a three-year LNA campaign against Islamists and other opponents in Libya’s second city.

Videos circulated on social media appear to show Werfalli executing or overseeing the execution of masked and handcuffed prisoners

“The Special Forces strongly reject the arrest warrant,” spokesman Milad Al-Zwai said.

Zwai said the ICC should instead focus on arresting “those who killed and displaced men, women and children, and the people who meted out torture and killing and destruction.”

“We will continue our struggle against this oppressive faction,” he said without further explanation. His statement mentioned neither the videos nor the accusations against Werfalli.

In May, Werfalli announced his resignation from the Special Forces, but this was rejected by the unit’s top commander. The following month a U.N. panel of experts reported he was involved in running secret detention centers outside Benghazi.

The LNA has previously said it would investigate war crimes allegations in eastern Libya, where it is the main military force.

The Special Forces is an elite unit nominally under LNA control that joined the Benghazi campaign in its early stages.

Since announcing victory in the campaign in July, the LNA has extended its presence in the center and south of the divided country as it has vied for control with forces linked to the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and other rivals.

GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and Haftar last month committed to a conditional ceasefire and to work towards holding elections next spring in talks brokered by France.

Several previous attempts at peace deals have been scuttled by internal divisions between the myriad of competing armed groups that have emerged in oil-producing Libya since rebels toppled strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

In July, the United Nations said it was deeply concerned that people detained by the LNA might be at risk of torture or summary execution.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said she “will not hesitate to bring new cases” in Libya, where evidence dictates.

(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli; Writing by Ahmed Elumami, additional reporting and editing by Aidan Lewis; editing by John Stonestreet)

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Philippines says foreign fighters part of Islamic State ‘invasion’ — Amid simmering disbelief — “Beware of manufactured evidence.”

May 26, 2017

Reuters

Fri May 26, 2017 | 2:35am EDT

By Romeo Ranoco and Neil Jerome Morales | MARAWI CITY/DAVAO, PHILIPPINES

Indonesians and Malaysians were among foreign Jihadists battling the military after laying siege to a southern Philippine city, the government said on Friday, in a rare admission of what it said was an Islamic State “invasion”.

The army has deployed attack helicopters and special forces to drive rebels of the Islamic State-linked Maute group out of Marawi City and Malaysians and Indonesians and other foreigners were among six guerrillas killed on Thursday.

The announcement elevates the threat of what experts and the military say are moves by Islamic State to exploit the poverty and lawlessness of predominantly Muslim Mindanao island to establish a base for extremists from Southeast Asia and beyond.

“What’s happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens,” Solicitor General Jose Calida told a news conference.

“It has transmogrified into invasion by foreign terrorists, who heeded the call of the ISIS to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq and Syria,” he said, using the acronym for Islamic State.

Image may contain: 3 people, outdoor

Government soldiers on military vehicles patrol after a continued assault on fighters from the Maute group who have taken over large parts of Marawi city, southern Philippines May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

President Rodrigo Duterte has delivered on his threat to impose martial law on Mindanao, the country’s second-largest island, to stop the spread of radical Islam. He has been pleading with Mindanao governors and religious leaders to work with the government to keep extremists at bay.

Duterte recently warned that Islamic State fighters driven from Iraq and Syria would end up in the southern Philippines and his country was at risk of “contamination”.

The Maute, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, held its positions on bridges and buildings on Friday as ground troops launched early morning offensives to flush out the remaining gunmen after unrest that has killed 11 soldiers and 31 militants.

The White House on Thursday said it backed the Philippines in its fight against “cowardly terrorists”.

Few of Marawi’s 200,000 inhabitants remained after militants ran amok, seizing and torching schools, a college and a hospital. They freed more than 100 prisoners and took a priest and churchgoers hostage at the city’s cathedral.

‘NOT REAL MUSLIMS’

Convoys of vehicles packed with evacuees and protected by heavily armed soldiers streamed into nearby Iligan City. One Christian resident, Mark Angelou Siega, described how students fled amid fears rebels would take over their university campus.

“We were preparing for exams and we could hear the gunfire and bombs,” he told Reuters.

“We were so scared and so were our Muslim brothers and sisters. We were sure they would get to us.

“These terrorists are not real Muslims.”

Solicitor general Calida said the Maute group and Islamic State had a dream to create their own “ISIS province” in Mindanao and the government was not the only target of their aggression.

“People they consider as infidels, whether Christians or Muslims, are also targets,” he said. “What it worrisome is that the ISIS has radicalized a number of Filipino Muslim youth.”

Duterte has dealt with separatist unrest during his 22 years as mayor of Davao, Mindanao’s biggest city, but the rise of the Maute and signs that it has ties to another network, the Abu Sayyaf, present one of the biggest challenges of a presidency won on promises to restore law and order.

Philippine intelligence indicates the two groups from different parts of Mindanao are connected, through Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of a radical faction of Abu Sayyaf.

He was the target of Tuesday’s failed raid by troops on Maute hideout in Marawi and Calida said Islamic State had declared Hapilon its “emir” in the Philippines.

Abu Sayyaf is notorious for piracy and kidnappings and beheading captives, among them Westerners. Though less known, the Maute group has proven itself a fierce battlefield opponent for the military with its ability to sustain days of air and artillery bombardments and regroup after incurring heavy losses.

Duterte started warning of a spread of radicalism last year after a bombing in Davao City in September killed 14 people and wounded dozens. The Maute was also blamed for a failed bombing near the U.S. embassy in Manila in November.

(Additional reporting by Tom Allard in ILIGAN and Enrico dela Cruz in MANILA; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Former Philippine military and intel officers have told Peace and Freedom that it is unclear how many and how dedicated these foreign fighters may be, if any. They suspect some tricky work by the Duterte administration and believe that when more outside media arrives “a more clear light will be shed upon the truth.”

“Beware of manufactured evidence,” a retired Philippine general told us.

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US-backed Syria force advances against IS in Tabqa

April 30, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces stand on the Tabqa dam partially recaptured during their drive on the Islamic State group’s stronghold in nearby Raqa

BEIRUT (AFP) – A US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance is advancing against the Islamic State group in the key town of Tabqa near the jihadist bastion of Raqa in northern Syria, a monitor said Sunday.

The Syrian Democratic Forces now control at least 40 percent of the town of Tabqa, and more than half of its heart, the Old City, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said fighting was continuing in the town on Sunday morning.

The SDF entered Tabqa on Monday as part of their offensive against Raqa, IS’s de facto Syrian capital.

Supported by US-led coalition air strikes and special forces advisers, the SDF surrounded Tabqa in early April.

The town sits on a strategic supply route about 55 kilometres (34 miles) west of Raqa, and served as an important IS command base, housing the group’s main prison.

It is also adjacent to the Tabqa dam, another important strategic prize which remains under IS control.

The assault on Tabqa began in late March when SDF forces and their US-led coalition allies were airlifted behind IS lines.

The city was home to around 240,000 residents before 2011, and more than 80,000 people have fled to it from other parts of the country.

IS has put up fierce resistance, including using weaponised drones, a tactic the group perfected in neighbouring Iraq.

The group is also fighting street-to-street and using suicide attackers and car bombs to slow the SDF’s advance, according to the Observatory.

The assault on Raqa, dubbed “Wrath of the Euphrates,” was launched in November and has seen SDF fighters capture large swathes of countryside around the city.

More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the country’s war began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Partners Recaptured Six Districts of Eastern Mosul — “Inflicting heavy losses on militant fighters”

November 4, 2016

Fri Nov 4, 2016 | 6:32am EDT

Reuters

Iraqi security forces launch a rocket towards Islamic State militants during clashes at the frontline in Ali Rash village, southeast of Mosul, Iraq, November 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
By Michael Georgy and Babak Dehghanpisheh | ALI RASH/ERBIL, IRAQ

Iraqi special forces recaptured six districts of eastern Mosul on Friday, a military statement said, expanding the army’s foothold in the Islamic State stronghold a day after its leader told his jihadist followers there could be no retreat.

An officer in the elite Counter Terrorism Service said CTS troops launched a major operation against the militants, who are now almost surrounded in their last major urban redoubt in Iraq.

CTS special forces took over the neighborhoods of Malayeen, Samah, Khadra, Karkukli, Quds and Karama, the statement said, inflicting heavy losses on the militant fighters and raising the Iraqi flag over buildings.

One special forces officer told Reuters the CTS units may try to push all the way to the Tigris river, which runs through the center of Mosul.

Iraqi television footage from the east of the city showed grey smoke rising, and a Reuters reporter in the village of Ali Rash, 7 km (4 miles) to the south east, heard helicopter gunships and cannon fire. Volleys of automatic rifle fire, possibly from the militants, were also audible.

A senior officer in the village said Iraqi troops had also taken two thirds of another Mosul district, Intisar, in the same eastern section of the city.

Islamic State fighters “are trying to get away”, Lieutenant-General Qassem Jassim Nazzal told Reuters.

In a sign of the fierce resistance which soldiers have encountered since entering the city on Monday, Nazzal said they blew up six bomb-laden cars, killed two suicide bombers, and killed 30 other people.

In the village of Ali Rash, retaken by Iraqi forces sweeping toward Mosul from the south and the east, the bloated and blackened bodies of three Islamic State fighters, dressed in khaki trousers and military boots, were left out in the open.

“They’re criminals, let the dogs eat them,” another officer said.

SPECIAL FORCES

Iraqi regular troops and special forces, Shi’ite militias, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and other groups backed by U.S.-led air strikes launched their campaign to retake Mosul nearly three weeks ago.

Winning back the city would crush the Iraqi half of a cross-border caliphate declared by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from a Mosul mosque two years ago.

Islamic State also holds large parts of neighboring Syria, but Mosul is by far the largest city under control of the ultra-hardline militants in either country, and the campaign to retake it is the most complex in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion which toppled Saddam Hussein and unleashed a decade of turmoil.

In a speech released on Thursday Baghdadi – whose whereabouts are unknown – said there could be no retreat in a “total war” against the forces arrayed against Islamic State, telling fighters they must remain loyal to their commanders.

Mosul is still home to nearly 1.5 million people, who risk being caught up in brutal urban warfare. The United Nations has warned of a potential humanitarian crisis and a refugee exodus, although Iraqi officials say Islamic State is holding the civilian population as human shields.

The United Nations says 22,000 people have been displaced since the start of the Mosul campaign. That figure excludes thousands from outlying villages forced to head back to Mosul by retreating Islamic State fighters who used them as human shields.

ROCKET LAUNCHERS

Mosul residents, speaking to Reuters by telephone, said Islamic State fighters were deploying artillery and rocket launchers in and near residential areas.

Some were hidden in trees near the Wahda district in the south, while others were deployed on the rooftops of houses taken over by the militants in the Ghizlani district close to Mosul airport, they said.

“We saw Daesh (Islamic State) fighters installing a heavy anti-aircraft machine gun alongside a rocket launchpad, and mortars as well,” one Mosul resident said.

People in southern and eastern neighborhoods reported on Thursday night that their houses had been shaken by artillery and rocket barrages launched from their districts toward the advancing troops.

As well as the Islamic State resistance in Mosul itself, the militants have launched diversionary attacks across the country since the start of the offensive.

In the town of Shirqat, about 100 km (60 miles) south of Mosul, militants stormed a mosque and several houses early on Friday, a local police officer said, killing seven soldiers and fighters from the Shi’ite Popular Mobilisation force.

The insurgents crossed from the eastern bank of the Tigris into the town at 3 a.m., taking over al-Baaja mosque and fanning out into alleyways. Security forces imposed a curfew and said reinforcements from the Popular Mobilisation, or Hashid Shaabi, forces were being sent to the town.

In their drive toward Mosul, Iraqi troops and Kurdish peshmerga fighters have closed in from the north, from the eastern Nineveh plains and up the Tigris from the south.

The Hashid Shaabi forces of mainly Shi’ite militias joined the campaign on Saturday, launching an offensive to cut off the west.

A Hashid spokesman said they had made progress but had not completely closed off the western flank, and their fighters had seen some cars leaving Mosul on Thursday.

(Additional reporting by Stephen Kalin in Erbil and Saif Hameed in Baghdad; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Tom Heneghan and Giles Elgood)

Kurds launch ‘large-scale’ offensive near Mosul, Iraq

October 20, 2016

AFP

A member of the Iraqi forces stands on an armoured vehicle as smoke billows from the Qayyarah area, some 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul. AFP Photo

BBC News

Kurdish fighters say they have launched a large-scale operation east and north of Mosul, as an offensive to oust so-called Islamic State (IS) militants from the Iraqi city continues.

The Kurds say the operation aims to tighten the noose around the militants’ last major stronghold in Iraq.

The Iraqi army has been moving from the south, and special forces have now joined the offensive.

There are signs that IS leaders have fled Mosul, the US military says.

There are thought to be up to 5,000 IS fighters still in the city.

The Kurdish fighters said their operation was on three fronts, and followed recent gains by both the Kurds and the Iraqi security forces in the area.

Mosul — People flee during clashes between Iraqi security forces and Isis in Mosul on Wednesday, October 19, 2016. Photograph by AP

“The objectives are to clear a number of nearby villages and secure control of strategic areas to further restrict Isil’s [IS] movements,” the statement said.

Image copyrightTWITTER
‘Victories made in blood’ – By Orla Guerin, BBC News, outside Mosul

Under cover of darkness we joined a long convoy of vehicles setting out from a Kurdish base on Bashiq Mountain, about 15km (9 miles) from Mosul.

We snaked towards areas under IS control, along a route that had been checked for roadside bombs. There were hundreds of pick-up trucks with troops and some with vehicle-mounted machine guns. Along the way we saw some American special forces.

The aim is to clear the town of Bashiqa and 20 surrounding villages, most of which are deserted apart from IS. The offensive includes some veteran Kurdish fighters, who previously fought against Saddam Hussein.

Before leaving the base senior commander Shex Jaffar Shex Mustafa told us they were ill equipped for the battle, and did not even have enough body armour. “All of our victories are made by our blood,” he said.

The general in charge urged his men to go slowly, to avoid casualties. “We hope to survive this battle,” one fighter told me, “but we are facing an enemy that hopes to die.”

Meanwhile, Iraqi special forces joined the offensive on Thursday with a pre-dawn advance on the nearby town of Bartalla, Iraqi Maj-Gen Maan al-Saadi was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

They were being supported by air strikes carried out by a US-led coalition.

Earlier, Gen Gary Volesky said: “We’ve seen movement out of Mosul; we’ve got indications that leaders have left.”

But the American general did not specify who had fled, nor did he say where they had gone.

The whereabouts of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are unknown. Some reports say he is in Mosul, but others say he has fled the northern Iraqi city.

Map showing areas of control in Iraqi city of Mosul

It is possible that any fighters leaving the city had simply been going to man front line areas, which still lie beyond the outskirts, the BBC’s Middle East analyst Alan Johnston says.

Nobody has any doubt that a hardcore of IS militants will stay in the city and fight for it, perhaps very fiercely indeed, our correspondent adds.

Gen Volesky, who heads the land component of the US-led coalition fighting IS, said that foreign fighters were likely to form the bulk of the force who would hold out.

An Iraqi soldier holds a rifle as smoke billows from the Qayyarah area,

Iraqi forces are advancing on Mosul from the south. AFP photo

A man takes a selfie in front of flames south of Mosul

Despite gains for Iraq and its allies progress is likely to be slow. AFP

The British charity Save the Children says 5,000 people from the conflict area have fled to a refugee camp over the border in Syria in the last 10 days, with another 1,000 waiting at the border.

Camps are being built in the south, east and north of Mosul in preparation for a flood of people fleeing the city. The UN says it expects at least 200,000 in the coming weeks.

Up to 1.5 million civilians are thought to still be in Mosul, with those inside reporting that IS was preventing them from leaving and that they were running out of basic supplies.

Iraqi forces fire shells on a village near Mosul

IS fighters are reportedly putting up stiff resistance. AFP photo

Smoke is seen in this satellite image of the city of Mosul in Iraq

Satellite images show burning tyres along a road leading to Mosul. STRATFOR, ALLSOURCE ANALYSIS, DIGITAL GLOBE

Mosul has been in the hands of IS since 2014 and is the militants’ last major Iraqi stronghold.

The offensive to retake it began on Monday, with the advancing forces seizing a number of villages on the city’s outskirts ahead of a final push into the city.

But progress is expected to be slow, with IS fighters appearing to be putting up stiff resistance in places.

There are warnings the group could use human shields or chemical weapons.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37709970

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BAGHDAD (AFP) – A wide array of Iraqi and international forces are involved in the fight to retake Mosul from the Islamic State jihadist group, which overran the country’s second city in 2014.Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the launch of the much-awaited operation on Monday and anti-IS forces have already retaken several villages and significant swathes of land from the jihadists.

These are the main forces that are operating in the wider Mosul theatre or may do so. Not all will play a role in the fighting inside the city:

– Islamic State group –

Heavily armed jihadists who have had years to prepare their defences in Mosul, which IS seized before sweeping through cities and towns to the south in 2014.

Iraqi forces have since regained significant ground, and Mosul is the last city the jihadists hold in the country.

– Counter-terrorism service –

Iraq’s elite force which have spearheaded most key battles against IS. But constant reliance on these troops over the past two years has taken a toll.

– Army –

The Iraqi army has begun playing a more successful role in operations against the jihadists since it was revitalised by US-led training after several of its divisions collapsed during the IS offensive two years ago.

– Police –

Includes special forces units, paramilitary federal police and provincial police. Many Iraqi police forces have played roles more akin to those of soldiers in the war against IS.

– US-led coalition –

A US-led international alliance is carrying out air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria, and providing training, arms and equipment to forces opposing the jihadists.

There are more than 7,500 coalition military personnel deployed in Iraq, over half of them from the United States.

Most are in advisory or training roles, but special forces soldiers who have fought the jihadists on the ground have been deployed and coalition forces near Mosul have also targeted IS with artillery.

– Kurdish forces –

The peshmerga are the armed forces of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region. They nominally answer to the federal government but in practice operate independently, battling IS along a long front in the country’s north.

Forces from Iran’s Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK) are embedded in some peshmerga operations. It is separate from other Iranian Kurdish rebels groups that have also been active on the Iraqi side of the border such as the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK).

– Hashed al-Shaabi –

An umbrella organisation created in 2014, which includes a dizzying array of paramilitary forces who vary widely in skill and in the degree to which they are actually under government control.

The main groups are Iranian-backed Shiite militias, including Ketaeb Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Badr. The Hashed has played a major role in the anti-IS fight in Iraq but forces within it have also carried out abuses.

It includes recently trained Sunni tribal forces sometimes referred to as “tribal mobilisation” or “national mobilisation”.

– Iranian advisers –

Iranian forces have provided advice and other assistance, including funding for various militias fighting IS in Iraq.

Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards foreign operations wing, has been repeatedly pictured in Iraq during the war.

Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

– Turkish troops –

Deployed at a base near Mosul from which they have carried out artillery strikes against IS. Turkish troops are also present inside Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.

The federal government has demanded their withdrawal, with the prime minister vowing that they will not take part in the operation to recapture Mosul, but Turkey has declined to do so.

Bangladesh: Special Forces Raid Suspected Militant Hideouts, Killing 4 Islamist Extremists

October 8, 2016

AFP

Police have conducted a series of raids on suspected militant hideouts since extremists stormed a posh Dhaka cafe in July and slaughtered 22. AFP photo

DHAKA (AFP) – Bangladeshi forces killed four suspected Islamist extremists during raids near Dhaka Saturday, security officials said, the latest clashes in the country’s ongoing crackdown on militants.

Police have conducted a series of raids on suspected militant hideouts since extremists stormed a posh Dhaka cafe in July and slaughtered 22 mostly foreign hostages.

The elite Rapid Action Battalion launched two separate operations Saturday after being tipped off about the presence of Islamist extremists in a building in Gazipur, just outside Dhaka, and a three-storey structure in the northern district of Tangail.

“Two extremists were shot dead during a gunfight with the RAB in Gazipur. Weapons and explosives have been recovered,” RAB spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan told AFP.

Two more suspected extremists were killed after RAB forces raided another building in Tangail, local RAB chief Mohiuddin Faruqe told AFP.

“They fired at our officers suddenly as we raided their hideout. We fired back and two extremists were shot dead,” he said, adding that two RAB officers were also injured during the raid.

The RAB did not elaborate on the operations and there was no immediate comment about what group the gunmen were affiliated with.

Private television broadcaster Jamuna TV said the RAB launched the raid in Gazipur after receiving intelligence that the “Dhaka coordinator” of the banned Islamist extremist group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) was at the hideout.

It remained unclear whether the extremist leader was among the dead.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the July 1 attack on the upscale cafe in Dhaka, posting pictures of the attackers holding IS flags online.

However, Bangladesh officials have rejected the claims, saying the JMB led by a Canadian citizen of Bangladesh origin, Tamim Chowdhury, was responsible for the massacre.

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In August police shot Chowdhury dead along with two of his associates after they stormed an extremist hideout in Narayanganj city near Dhaka.

Since the cafe carnage, Bangladeshi security forces have killed at least 32 suspected Islamist militants, including a US citizen of Bangladesh descent.

Long dormant after their top leaders were executed in March 2007, the JMB has recently regrouped with young, university-educated extremists taking the helm.

Bangladesh has been reeling from a deadly wave of attacks in the last three years, including on foreigners, rights activists and members of the country’s religious minorities.

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Munich shooter was a ‘demented individual with no political motive’ — Investigation Continues But No Known Ties to the Islamic State

July 23, 2016
  • AFP

© Sven Hoppe / dpa / AFP | A policeman stands guard at the Marienplatz square in Munich, southern Germany, on July 22, 2016.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-07-23

The teenage gunman who killed nine people in a shooting spree in Munich, Germany on Friday was obsessed with mass shootings and had no known links to the Islamic State group, according to city police.

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Police chief Hubertus Andrae told a press conference on Saturday “no evidence” of links to the Islamic State (IS) group has been found in the home and room of the Munich shooting suspect. He said the killing was “a classic act by a deranged person”, adding that the suspect had been obsessed with articles and a book on police operations ”following attacks by mentally disturbed people”.

The shooter was a “demented individual with no political motive”, added the Munich prosecutor’s spokesman, Thomas Steinkraus-Koch, during this same press conference.

The investigation established that the 18-year-old dual Iranian-German citizen, who was born and raised in Munich, was armed with 9mm Glock pistol and shot 300 rounds during the shooting. He then shot himself in the head.


German newspaper Bild, July 23, 2016 — Reporting “Bloodbath in Munich.”

The Munich prosecutor’s spokesman also said the suspect – whose name has been withheld for the time being – had been followed by a psychiatrist and had no criminal record.

Friday evening’s attack at the Olympia shopping mall left 27 people injured, of whom 10 are in a critical condition. Three of the victims were from Kosovo.

 

Previous reports on Munich mall attack:

 Axe Attack on Train:
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Munich Terror Attack Is Over After At Least Nine People Killed — Third attack on civilians in Western Europe in eight days — No immediate evidence of an Islamist motive

July 23, 2016
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Reuters

Sat Jul 23, 2016 1:53am EDT

An 18-year-old German-Iranian gunman who apparently acted alone opened fire near a busy shopping mall in Munich on Friday evening, killing at least nine people in the third attack on civilians in Western Europe in eight days.

The pistol-wielding attacker, identified by Munich Police Chief Hubertus Andrae as a dual national from Munich, was later found dead of a suspected self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Authorities said it was too early to say whether it was a terrorist attack, and said they had no immediate evidence of an Islamist motive.

Special force police officers stand guard at an entrance of the main train station, following a shooting rampage at the Olympia shopping mall in Munich.
REUTERS/MICHAEL DALDER

Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to meet her chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, and Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and a host of intelligence officials on Saturday to review the incident.

Police, citing witnesses, had initially said they were looking for up to three suspects and were treating the incident as a suspected terrorist attack.

But authorities told a news conference early on Saturday the shooter was believed to have staged the attack alone, opening fire in a fast food restaurant before moving to the mall.

Andrae said authorities did not see similarities to an attack in southern Germany last Monday in which an axe-wielding 17-year-old asylum-seeker killed five people in an incident claimed by the Islamic State group.

Andrae said it was premature to say whether the Friday incident was a terrorist attack, as French President Francois Hollande said, or the work of a deranged person.

Police said they were investigating a video in which the gunman is seen and heard exchanging racial slurs and profanities with another man. “We are trying to determine who said what,” a police spokesman said.

There was no known motive for the shooting in Germany’s third largest city, which went into lockdown with transport halted and highways sealed off immediately after the attack.

U.S. intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said initial reports from their German counterparts indicated no apparent link between the shooter and Islamic State or other militant groups.

It was the third major act of violence against civilians in Europe in eight days. Previous attacks in France and Germany were claimed by Islamic State.

At least 16 people, including several children, were in hospital and three were in critical condition, Andrae said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but supporters of Islamic State celebrated on social media.

“The Islamic state is expanding in Europe,” read one tweet.

The gunman, whose body was found on a side street near the mall, was not identified but Andrae said he was not previously known to police.

Police commandos, armed with night vision equipment and dogs, raided an apartment in the Munich neighborhood of Maxvorstadt early on Saturday where the German newspaper Bild said the gunman lived with his parents.

“He lived right next to me,” Bild quoted a neighbor as saying. “A friend of mine went to school with him and said he was rather a quiet guy. He recognized him from the videos from the scene.”

The men had notified police about their suspicion three hours before the police raid.

RELATED VIDEO

A police spokesman said police did not release names of suspects, even if they were killed, due to privacy concerns.

ANNIVERSARY

The mall is next to the stadium where the Palestinian militant group Black September took 11 Israeli athletes hostage and later killed them during the 1972 Olympic Games.

Friday’s incident snarled traffic as authorities blocked highways, closed the main railway station, and shut down public transport.

A police spokesman initially said up to three gunmen were on the run after the shooting. The Bavarian capital was placed under a state of emergency as police hunted for them and special forces were deployed.

Two individuals were seen driving quickly away from the scene, but they were later cleared of any wrongdoing, the police chief said.

Nearly three hours after the shooting, authorities found a body about 1 km (0.6 miles) from the scene that was later determined to be the gunman.

German radio station Bayerischer Rundfunk said the man had a red backpack similar to one used by a gunman seen at a McDonald’s restaurant where the attack reportedly began. It said police were using a robot to investigate the backpack.

German news magazine Focus said the man had shot himself in the head.

Friday was also the fifth anniversary of the massacre in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people. Breivik is a hero for far-right militants in Europe and America.

Thousands of people had been crowding the streets and squares in Munich’s city center on Friday for a beer festival.

“There were a few people who came running towards us who were screaming and in panic. But mostly it was surprisingly calm,” said Elena Hakes, wearing a blue traditional dress, who had been with a friend in the Odeonsplatz square.

The incidents in Germany follow an attack in Nice, France, in which a Tunisian drove a truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day, killing 84. Islamic State claimed responsibility.

The Munich assault was also reminiscent of militant attacks in a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2013, and in Mumbai, India, in 2008.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende said on Twitter: “Horrible killings in Munich. Taking place on the same day as we mourn & remember the appalling terror that hit Norway so hard five years ago.”

(Additional reporting by Michelle Martin, Joseph Nasr, Tina Bellon, Andrea Shalal, Christina Amann; Writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Tom Brown, Robert Birsel)

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Erdogan says his government is in control after bloody coup attempt in Turkey — At least 60 killed

July 16, 2016

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July 16 at 12:07 AM

Turkey’s government said it was restoring order Saturday after renegade army soldiers staged an attempted coup, wreaking havoc in several Turkish cities and plunging the already troubled country into a new era of uncertainty.

Addressing a big crowd of supporters gathered in Istanbul shortly after dawn, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government was now fully in control following a night of bloodshed that saw Turkey, a major NATO member and key U.S. ally, spin briefly out of control.

“This government, brought to power by the people, is in charge,” he said, as the crowd roared: “Turkey is proud of you.”

“I am here, I am with you and I want you to know this,” Erdogan said.

Hours earlier, branches of the police and army had fought pitched battles for control of major government buildings in the capital, Ankara, as protesters swarmed onto the streets to confront the tanks rumbling into their cities. Helicopters flown by coup supporters fired on government buildings and into the crowds gathering to challenge the attempt to overthrow Turkey’s government, in the most significant challenge to the country’s stability in decades.

At least 60 people were killed in the violence in Ankara, including a lawmaker who died when the parliament was bombed by a helicopter, Turkish officials said.The State run Anadolu news agency said 754 members of the armed forces had been arrested. A Turkish official said 29 colonels and five generals had been removed from their posts.

Gruesome video footage posted on social media showed tanks crushing protesters who tried to block their path, bloodied bodies strewn on the streets of Ankara and helicopters firing into civilian crowds, raising fears that the toll could be higher.

By the early hours of Saturday morning, Turkish officials said the government had managed to claw back control from the coup plotters, whose identity and profile remained unclear. A Turkish warplane shot down a helicopter carrying some of the coup leaders, the officials said, and the state broadcaster, which had been silent for several hours after it was overrun by soldiers, was back on the air.

Istanbul Ataturk Airport reopened after being closed for hours, and officials said the national airline had resumed flights.

Erdogan, who was visiting the coastal resort of Marmaris when the coup began, had flown to the airport and emerged to greet the thousands of cheering, flag-
waving supporters who had descended on the facility to eject the coup participants.

“A minority group within the armed forces targeted the integrity of our country,” Erdogan told reporters at a news conference broadcast live on state television. “This latest action is an action of treason, and they will have to pay heavily for that. This is a government that has been elected by the people.”

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim issued orders early Saturday to the military aircraft pilots still loyal to the government to take to the skies to shoot down any remaining planes flying on behalf of the coup plotters, who appeared to include a sizable proportion of the air force.

“The situation is largely in control,” Yildirim told Turkey’s NTV television channel. “All commanders are in charge. The people have taken steps to address this threat.”

“We expect the situation to end by the morning,” added a senior Turkish official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share sensitive information.

But with reports that gunfire and explosions were still being heard on the streets of Istanbul and Ankara well into the morning, it was far from clear whether the worst crisis in Turkey in decades had been resolved.

Soldiers subsequently overran the offices of several major media organizations, including CNN Turk, which went off the air.

The unrest raised fears that Turkey could be destined for a prolonged period of civil strife that would reverberate across an already bloodstained and chaotic region.

The splits within the security forces and the chaotic scenes on the streets revealed a society polarized between supporters and opponents of the deeply controversial Erdogan, whose autocratic behavior has alienated some segments of Turkish society but who remains hugely popular among his core constituents.

With the main opposition parties making statements condemning the coup attempt, and most of the important branches of the military and security services rallying to the government’s side, it did not appear that the renegades had widespread support.

The upheaval began Friday evening when tanks and other armored vehicles appeared on bridges across the Bosporous in Istanbul and F-16s began streaking through the skies.

Shortly afterward, an anchor with the state television broadcaster read a statement purportedly from the Turkish military saying it had taken control of the country, citing concerns about the increasingly autocratic behavior of Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party.

[Turkey’s increasingly desperate predicament poses real dangers]

“The Turkish Armed Forces, in accordance with the constitution, have seized management of the country to reinstate democracy, human rights, and freedom, and to ensure public order, which has deteriorated,” the statement said.

Erdogan, whose party won a comfortable majority in elections last year, then appealed to his supporters to take to the streets to protest the coup. He spoke to the nation using the FaceTime app on the phone of a Turkish TV anchor.

Many thousands responded, with protesters gathering in venues including Istanbul’s central Taksim Square and outside Erdogan’s palace in Ankara. Mobile phone videos uploaded to social-media sites showed scenes in which people scrambled over tanks to try to block their path and soldiers opening fire on some of the crowds.

Turkish officials blamed the coup attempt on a small group of disgruntled military officers loyal to the movement of a U.S.-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who maintains a network of adherents across Turkey and has long challenged Erdogan’s hold on power. The officers were destined to lose their jobs in August during a military reshuffle, said the Turkish official.

The Gulenist movement denied involvement, however, and amid the confusion, it was impossible to confirm who was behind the attempt to topple the government.
Erdogan has made many enemies in the 13 years he has run Turkey, first as prime minister and then, since 2014, as president, including within the military. Hundreds of officers have been imprisoned by his government, some of them accused of coup-plotting, and it had been widely thought that his crackdown on dissent had dispelled the risk of coups in the once coup-prone country.

These latest coup plotters included members of the air force and gendarmerie, and at least 130 have been arrested, according to the Turkish official. Among them were 13 officers who tried to force their way into the presidential palace, the official said.

Sly reported from Irbil, Iraq. Ishaan Tharoor in Washington, Carol Morello in Moscow and Menekse Tokyay in Ankara contributed to this report.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/turkeys-prime-minister-says-military-attempted-coup-against-government/2016/07/15/1709b04a-4ac6-11e6-8dac-0c6e4accc5b1_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_turkey-desktoponly-blurb%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

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Turkey: Erdogan Returns to Istanbul as Coup Attempt Fails — Military Will Be “Cleansed” — 29 colonels and five generals already arrested

July 16, 2016
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Reuters

Sat Jul 16, 2016 12:42am EDT

An attempted Turkish military coup appeared to crumble in the early hours of Saturday after crowds answered President Tayyip Erdogan’s call to take to the streets to support him.

Erdogan, who had been holidaying on the southwest coast when the coup was launched by a faction in the armed forces, flew into Istanbul before dawn on Saturday and was shown on TV appearing among a crowd of supporters outside Ataturk Airport.

The uprising was an “act of treason”, and those responsible would pay a heavy price, he later told reporters at a hastily arranged news conference. Arrests of officers were under way, and it would go higher up the ranks, culminating in the cleansing of the military, he said.

Soldiers took control of the airport soon after Erdogan had landed, Reuters witnesses said. A senior official later said the soldiers were loyal to the government.

Rebel soldiers who had taken control of military aircraft were still firing from the air early on Saturday and fighter jets had been scrambled to intercept them, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said, underscoring the chaotic situation.

Gunfire and explosions rocked both the main city Istanbul and capital Ankara in a chaotic night after soldiers took up positions in both cities and ordered state television to read out a statement declaring they had taken power.

A senior official said 42 people had been killed in the violence in Ankara alone, most of them civilians. More deaths were also reported in Istanbul.

Early on Saturday, Reuters journalists saw around 30 pro-coup soldiers surrender their weapons after being surrounded by armed police in Istanbul’s central Taksim square.

They were taken away in police vans as a fighter jet repeatedly screeched overhead at low altitude, causing a boom that shook surrounding buildings and shattered windows.

A successful overthrow of Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003, would have marked one of the biggest shifts in the Middle East in years, transforming one of the most important U.S. allies while war rages on its border. A failed coup attempt could still destabilise a pivotal country.

Before returning to Istanbul, Erdogan appeared in a video call to the studio of the Turkish sister channel of CNN, where an announcer held up a mobile phone to the camera to show him. He called on Turks to take to the streets to defend his government and said the coup plotters would pay a heavy price.

LAWMAKERS IN HIDING

By the early hours of Saturday, lawmakers were still hiding in shelters inside the parliament building in Ankara, which was being fired on by tanks. Smoke rose up from nearby, Reuters witnesses said. An opposition MP told Reuters parliament was hit three times and that people had been wounded.

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Turkey detains 336 people nationwide in connection with coup attempt – minister

A Turkish military commander said fighter jets had shot down a helicopter used by the coup plotters over Ankara. State-run Anadolu news agency said 17 police were killed at special forces headquarters there.

Momentum turned against the coup plotters as the night wore on. Crowds defied orders to stay indoors, gathering at major squares in Istanbul and Ankara, waving flags and chanting.

“We have a prime minister, we have a chief of command, we’re not going to leave this country to degenerates,” shouted one man, as groups of government supporters climbed onto a tank near Ataturk airport.

Erdogan and other officials blamed the attempted coup on followers of Fethullah Gulen, an influential cleric in self-imposed exile in the United States who once supported Erdogan but became a nemesis.

The pro-Gulen Alliance for Shared Values said it condemned any military intervention in domestic politics.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he phoned the Turkish foreign minister and emphasised “absolute support for Turkey’s democratically elected, civilian government and democratic institutions”.

The coup began with warplanes and helicopters roaring over Ankara and troops moving in to seal off the bridges over the Bosphorus Strait that links Europe and Asia in Istanbul.

RELATED VIDEO

Authorities had shut the strait to tanker traffic, shipping agent GAC said.

Reuters reporters saw a helicopter open fire in Ankara. Anadolu said military helicopters had fired on the headquarters of the intelligence agency.

SOCIAL MEDIA CUT OFF

Airports were shut and access to internet social media sites was cut off in the first hours of the coup attempt.

Soldiers took control of TRT state television, which announced a countrywide curfew and martial law. An announcer read a statement on the orders of the military that accused the government of eroding the democratic and secular rule of law. Turkey would be run by a “peace council” that would ensure the safety of the population, the statement said.

TRT went off the air shortly afterwards. It resumed broadcasting in the early hours of Saturday.

Anadolu said the chief of Turkey’s military staff was among people taken “hostage” in the capital Ankara but Prime Minister Yildirim later said he was back in control.

The coup had appeared strong early on Friday evening. A senior EU source monitoring the situation said: “It looks like a relatively well-orchestrated coup by a significant body of the military, not just a few colonels … They control several strategic points in Istanbul.”

One European diplomat was dining with the Turkish ambassador to a European capital when guests were interrupted by the pinging of urgent news on their mobile phones.

“This is clearly not some tinpot little coup. The Turkish ambassador was clearly shocked and is taking it very seriously,” the diplomat told Reuters as the dinner party broke up. “However it looks in the morning, this will have massive implications for Turkey. This has not come out of nowhere.”

Turkey, a NATO member with the second biggest military in the Western alliance, is one of the most important allies of the United States in the fight against the Islamic State militant group, which seized swaths of neighbouring Iraq and Syria.

The Pentagon said there was no impact on operations against Islamic State from the U.S. air base at Incirlik in Turkey.

Turkey is also one of the main backers of opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country’s civil war, host to 2.7 million Syrian refugees and launchpad last year for the biggest influx of migrants to Europe since World War Two.

Celebratory gunfire erupted in Syria’s capital Damascus after the army claimed to have toppled Erdogan. People took to the streets to celebrate there and in other government-held cities.

Turkey has been at war with Kurdish separatists and has suffered numerous bombing and shooting attacks this year, including an attack two weeks ago by Islamists at Ataturk airport that killed more than 40 people.

After serving as prime minister from 2003, Erdogan was elected president in 2014 with plans to alter the constitution to give the previously ceremonial presidency far greater executive powers.

Turkey has enjoyed an economic boom during his time in office and has dramatically expanded its influence across the region. However, opponents say his rule has become increasingly authoritarian.

His AK Party, with roots in Islamism, has long had a strained relationship with the military and nationalists in a state that was founded on secularist principles after World War One. The military has a history of mounting coups to defend secularism, but has not seized power directly since 1980.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Ayla Jean Yackley, Nick Tattersall, David Dolan, Akin Aytekin, Tulay Karadeniz, Can Sezer, Gulsen Solaker, Ece Toksabay, Murad Sezer, Ercan Gurses, Nevzat Devranoglu, Dasha Afanasieva, Birsen Altayli and Orhan Coskun; Writing by Peter Graff and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Catherine Evans, Mary Milliken and Paul Tait)

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From Wire Services

Reports from Turkey say 29 colonels and five generals have been removed from their military posts.

A total of 754 members of the armed forces have been detained following the attempted coup.

A group of rebels continue to fight and are believed to still have control of some military helicopters.