Suspicious package destroyed outside Boston, Bomb squad detonates it given wires, tubing; incident disrupted commute
(Reuters) BOSTON – Police detonated a suspicious package near a public transportation hub just north of
Boston Wednesday morning.
Authorities strung wires around the package that was resting on a steel beam under Interstate 93 before blowing it up,
Boston’s WBZ radio reported. It was not immediately clear what the package contained or who placed it there.
“It still looked suspicious due to some wires and tubing around it. They decided to detonate it,” Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority spokesman Joe Pesaturo said on New England Cable News television.
A section of highway north of
Boston and a busy public transportation hub just outside of the city were shut down, delaying thousands of passengers on area subways, buses and highways.
BERLIN (AFP) –
Germany has ordered the arrest of 13 people behind the alleged CIA-backed kidnapping of a Lebanese-born German national, in one of the best-known cases of US “renditions” of terror suspects. The prosecutor’s office in Munich, southern
Germany, said in a statement that the city’s administrative court had issued the arrest warrants against people believed to be CIA agents on suspicion of abduction and grievous bodily harm.German authorities are probing allegations by Khaled el-Masri that he was abducted by US agents in the Macedonian capital Skopje on New Year’s Eve 2003 and flown to a prison in Afghanistan for interrogation before he was released five months later in
Albania.Masri, a 43-year-old unemployed car salesman, has said he was drugged, questioned and tortured while imprisoned.The case raised tensions when US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited
Germany in December 2005 at the height of a controversy over the CIA’s strategy of “rendition” — flying terror suspects through European states to detention in third countries where they risk being tortured.After the meeting with Rice, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Masri’s case “was accepted as a mistake by the
US government”, although US officials later suggested her remark was the result of a misunderstanding.Reports have indicated that US agents confused Masri with a terror suspect with a similar name who was linked to the attacks of September 11, 2001.The Munich prosecutor’s office said it had received in December 2005 from Masri’s lawyer a list of names of people on board the plane that took Masri to
Afghanistan. The list originated from a Spanish journalist citing the country’s Civil Guard.The agents are believed to have taken off from the airport in Palma de Mallorca, picked up Masri in Macedonia and taken him to
Afghanistan.In 2006, Spanish and Italian authorities provided further information about the flights, the prosecutor’s office said.“These findings, as well as other information uncovered in the probe, led to the strong suspicion that these 13 identifiable people were involved in the abduction of Masri,” the office said in a statement.“According to the information we have, the suspects listed in the arrest warrants are believed to be so-called code names of CIA agents. The investigation will now focus on learning the actual names of the suspects.”Public broadcaster NDR had reported earlier that most of the CIA employees sought lived in North Carolina in the
United States.NDR noted that the German arrest warrants were not valid in the
United States and that US authorities had refused to cooperate with the investigation.If the suspects were to travel to the European Union, however, they could be arrested.NDR said Spanish authorities had learned the identities of all 13 agents on board and had copies of some of their passports.Although all of the names were believed to be aliases, NDR said it was possible, using other data, to learn their real identities.The report said three of the suspects worked for Aero Contractors, believed to be the CIA’s secret airline. Beyond the criminal investigation, the German parliament has launched a probe into Masri’s case that has heard witnesses including Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his predecessor Joschka Fischer. Masri has said he was questioned in
Afghanistan by a German investigator. Steinmeier has insisted the German authorities were only informed of Masri’s abduction in June 2004, after he had been released in
Albania by his captors. Masri is also pursuing a 75,000-dollar compensation claim against the CIA in US courts. His is one of the most high-profile cases of the “extraordinary renditions” undertaken by the CIA as part of US anti-terror efforts, though Italy is conducting a similar investigation into the kidnapping of an Egyptian imam in
Milan. A European parliamentary committee approved a report last week saying that 13 EU countries were involved in renditions to secret detention camps. The arrest warrants come amid a controversy over the German government’s alleged refusal to help a German-born Turk who was held at the US lock-up for terror suspects in
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for four and a half years before being released in August without charge.
BEIJING, Jan 31 (Reuters) – North Korea will feel compelled to announce plans for another nuclear test if a financial row with Washington is not settled, a source said on Wednesday as the latest talks wound up with no signs of a breakthrough. U.S. Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Daniel Glaser, after meeting North Korean officials in
Beijing on the financial dispute, described discussions as “painstaking.” The U.S. Treasury has accused North Korea of using
Macau’s Banco Delta Asia to launder earnings from counterfeit U.S. dollars and drug trafficking. But a source close to the North Korean government said Pyongyang felt
Washington lacked evidence of wrongdoing and wanted a quick solution. North Korea was likely to express its frustration when it comes to six-party talks, aimed at dismantling its nuclear programmes, scheduled for Feb. 8 in
Beijing, the source said. “If the United States does not resolve it,
North Korea will have no choice but to announce at the six-party talks that it plans to conduct another test,” the source told Reuters after being briefed by a North Korean official. The last session of talks grouping the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and host China was held in December — two months after
Pyongyang dramatically raised the stakes by holding its first nuclear test. It yielded no breakthrough. The December session snagged over Pyongyang’s complaints about the U.S. financial crackdown that led to
Macau freezing $24 million in North Korean accounts. Glaser told reporters he was sure
North Korea was up to no good at the Macau bank. “We’ve been vindicated with respect to our concerns,” he said. But he said the latest talks, following negotiations in December, had yielded hopes of a settlement. The negotiators had discussed almost 50 account holders in the Macau bank, he said. “We got some information that was very helpful to us,” Glaser said, adding there was hope “to start moving forward and trying to bring some resolution to this matter.” There would be more financial talks, but no date has been set, Glaser said, adding that
U.S. concerns went well beyond the Macau bank. EFFORT REQUIRED China‘s envoy to the six-party talks, Wu Dawei, told reporters that the next session could be relatively short, apparently placing an onus on negotiators, including
North Korea’s, to reach a deal this time. “I hope the meeting can complete its talks in three to four days,” Wu said. The success of the talks, he said, “requires efforts of all parties.” But U.S. officials have held out little hope of a quick resolution to the financial dispute, and Russia and
South Korea also cautioned against expectations of a breakthrough. “I think there is almost no chance of finding concrete, significant agreements during these talks,”
Russia’s Alexander Losyukov, a deputy foreign minister, told Interfax news agency. The Beijing-based source described the
U.S. financial curbs as a “huge insult” to a sovereign country. “If the United States does not resolve it, North Korea would be a ‘sinner’ taking part in the six-party talks … North Korea would have no face and could not be on equal footing with the other parties at the six-party talks. “The United States has no evidence, just like it had no evidence
Iraq had weapons of mass destruction,” the source said. In Washington, the State Department said the
U.S. view was that the financial dispute was separate from the six-way talks. “The financial discussions are not being held as part of six party talks and they are not related to issues of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” spokesman Tom Casey told reporters. The North Korean Embassy in
Beijing declined to comment. The Chinese Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment. (Additional reporting by Chris Buckley in Beijing, Jack Kim in Seoul, George Nishiyama in Tokyo and Maria Golovnina in
(AP) CARACAS, Venezuela –
Venezuela plans to obtain air defense missiles to guard strategic sites such as oil refineries and major bridges against any air strike, a top military adviser to President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday.
Gen. Alberto Muller said Venezuela is looking to buy surface-to-air missile systems from
Russia or another country to defend “strategic points in the country.”
“They are for air defense,” Muller told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “They are not for attacking anybody.”
Chavez, a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, has repeatedly warned against a possible U.S. invasion, and his government is bolstering military defenses in
Venezuela, one of the world’s largest oil exporters. American officials insist they have no such military plans, but Chavez insists Venezuelans must be ready just in case.
Russia‘s Interfax-Military News Agency reported Tuesday that between 10 and 12 Tor-M1 missile systems could be supplied to the South American country.
Chavez said last August that Venezuela planned to install an advanced air-defense system with missiles capable of shooting down approaching enemy warplanes, and said his military was looking at systems produced by Russia, Belarus and
John Pike, a defense analyst at GlobalSecurity.org, a think tank based in
Alexandria, Va., said such systems usually have a limited range and are not meant for offensive purposes.“Typically, a surface-to-air missile, if it’s a fixed defense system, is going to have a range of several miles. It might have a range of a couple dozen miles, but that’s about it,” Pike said.The Tor-M1 system consists of eight missiles mounted on a launch vehicle. The system can identify up to 48 targets and fire at two targets simultaneously at a height of up to 20,000 feet.Other military deals by Venezuela already have concerned U.S. officials, who see the left-leaning Chavez as a threat to stability in
Houston Chronicle) The first defendant tried in the so-called Houston Taliban case was found guilty today of unlawful possession of a firearm.Shiraz Syed Qazi, 26, waived his right to a jury trial, opting for a decision from U.S. District Court Judge Lee Rosenthal. The trial lasted 15 minutes.Federal public defender Brent Newton, who is representing Qazi, said he plans to appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.Qazi and three other men arrested last year are accused of material support of terrorism by training to fight with the Taliban against U.S.-led forces.He is scheduled for sentencing May 17.His cousin, Adnan Mirza, is charged with conspiracy to defraud the
United States and three illegal firearms possession charges. Mirza, a 30-year-old
Community College student, is scheduled for trial in June.Also charged is Kobie Williams, 33, who pleaded guilty late last year to a conspiracy charge. Williams admitted to paramilitary training and making financial contributions to the Taliban. The
University engineering technician and
Houston-Downtown student is scheduled for sentencing in May.Syed Maaz Shah, a 19-year-old
Dallas student, is charged with two weapons violations. His trial is set for March.
(BBC News) Venezuela’s assembly is holding an extraordinary session in the main
Caracas which is expected to grant special powers to the president. If passed, Hugo Chavez will be able to rule by decree for the next 18 months. His planned reforms would affect the energy sector, telecommunications, the economy and defence, among others. Mr Chavez has said the legislation will transform the country into a socialist society. Opponents describe the new law as an abuse of power. Commanding position It is expected that President Chavez will, in effect, nationalise the oil and gas industries, taking a majority share in their ownership. That would involve companies like Exxon, BP and Chevron. It is not certain what, if any, form of compensation those companies might receive. Mr Chavez has popular support after his re-election victory last year, the assembly is on his side after the opposition boycotted parliamentary elections in 2005, and
Venezuela is reaping huge revenues from high oil prices. He wants to scrap presidential term limits and rewrite the constitution to build what he calls “socialism for the 21st Century”. Officials say he has no intention of turning
Venezuela into a communist state, arguing that freedom of speech and religion will all be safe. But the
US has again been critical of his leadership. John Negroponte told a hearing to confirm his position as the new deputy secretary of state that Mr Chavez has not been a “constructive force in the hemisphere”. “He has been trying to export his kind of radical populism and I think that his behaviour is threatening to democracies in the region,” Mr Negroponte said.
MOSCOW (AFP) – North Korea’s nuclear weapons capability poses a threat to Russian interests, the chief Russian negotiator at international talks with
Pyongyang has said.“If the absence of a nuclear weapon on the Korean peninsula is in our interests, and one of the countries located there declares that it has become a nuclear power, it means that our interests are put under threat,” Alexander Losyukov was quoted as saying Wednesday by the Interfax news agency.Losyukov, who is due in Beijing for six-nation talks on February 8 over
North Korea’s nuclear programme, said that the process was not yielding the results the international community wanted.“I will not publicly judge how far this work has gone with North Korea, but the fact that they are not going in the direction that
Russia and other negotiating partners would like is obvious,” he said, Interfax reported.On Monday, Losyukov had expressed “cautious optimism,” saying that “simply the agreement to hold a new round shows that encouraging signs have appeared regarding the movement of different participants’ positions.”The last round of talks in China in December ended in deadlock after Pyongyang demanded the lifting of
US sanctions imposed for alleged money laundering and counterfeiting.The talks, which also include the United States, Japan and South Korea, have been on and off since 2003, but gained new urgency when
North Korea conducted an atomic test in October last year.
(The Sun) EVIL Muslim terrorists were to kidnap a British soldier on UK streets and force him to plead with Tony Blair for his life in return for a pull-out of troops from
Iraq, The Sun can reveal.
The soldier would have been filmed begging the PM to withdraw from Iraq and
Afghanistan in a sick propaganda stunt. Army sources said the target was a British Muslim soldier in his 20s.
He would eventually be beheaded on film in a sick mirror of the torture and savage killing of British hostage Ken Bigley if Mr Blair refused.
Senior security sources say the plot would have put the most unbearable blackmail pressure on the Premier to act.
It would also have sent shockwaves through the entire British Armed Forces – putting the fear of God into every man and woman in uniform on or off duty.
The fact that the arrests were made in
Birmingham could suggest that soldiers recovering from wounds in military hospitals there might have been targeted. To see the latest pictures from today’s anti-terror operation click on the slideshow below. But sources say they cannot be sure of this – and are also investigating leads that a serviceman could have been picked up by the kidnappers anywhere on the mainland.One well-placed source said: “This plot represents a staggering change of tactic.
“We have all been braced for more mainland bombs which claim many lives and cause turmoil and widespread public fear.
“This would have taken things to a new dimension. The pressure on the PM would have been unimagineable.
“And there would have been a knock-on effect in terms of military morale.”
Britain’s service personnel take security precautions when off duty in and around their barracks and married quarters.
But in recent years it has become common practice for them to live off their bases in normal houses along side civilians.
The demise of the IRA threat on mainland
Britain means they have been allowed to be more relaxed.
Now there will be increased security measures imposed on all servicemen and women to be on their guard.
The cunning plot represents a huge change in tactics by al Qaeda and its supporters.
It proves beyond doubt that terrorist cells are active in mainland
Britain – just as MI5 boss Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller warned before Christmas.
And it demonstrates how sophisticated the al Qaeda cells in our midst have become.
They understand the power and importance of the media and the influence it can bring around the world on governments.
The kidnap and subsequent killing of engineer Mr Bigley two-and-a-half years ago was watched around the globe.
It paralysed Labour’s annual conference as the PM waited to hear news of the hostage’s fate.
Iran kicks off 10 days of celebrations on Thursday marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, with officials promising the unveiling of a major advance in its controversial nuclear drive. The festivities known as the “Decade of Fajr” (Dawn) culminate on February 11, the date 28 years ago when the US-backed Shah’s regime fell to revolutionaries led by the late supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has already said he will announce “good news” about the development of the nation’s nuclear programme during the anniversary celebrations.
Iran has defied the international community and vowed to press on with its nuclear work despite a UN resolution in December imposing sanctions over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. Enrichment is the focus of Western fears that Tehran is seeking to build nuclear weapons as the process can make the fissile core of an atom bomb as well as nuclear fuel.
Iran, OPEC’s second largest oil exporter, insists it has the right to nuclear technology as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and that its programme is purely designed to generate energy. The “Decade of Fajr” begins at 9:33 (0603 GMT) on Thursday, the exact time Khomeini landed at Tehran airport, making a triumphant return from exile in
France greeted by massive crowds of fervent supporters. As the clock strikes that minute, school and churches bells will toll, train and ship horns will be sounded and factory sirens wail. Flowers will also be laid at Khomeini’s shrine in southern Tehran in the main cemetery where many of
Iran’s war dead are buried. Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani,
Iran’s former president and the current head of its powerful arbitration body, will make a speech at the shrine, which marks the spot where Khomenei told throngs of his revolutionary supporters about the creation of an Islamic regime.
Iran‘s outspoken populist president is then expected to make a speech on February 11 in the captial’s main Azadi (Freedom) square, where a 100-strong orchestra will play a “nuclear symphony”. “Iranian people, with faith in God, wisdom and resistance, will defend their inalienable rights… and celebrate the realization of their peaceful nuclear rights during Fajr,” Ahmadinejad said Wednesday. “The country’s overall policies are decided by the supreme leader and the government has to apply them. The president, who heads the executive power, announces our nuclear position,” said Ahmadinejad, who has faced increasing domestic criticism over his handling of the nuclear issue. In December, deputy foreign minister Mehdi Mostafavi was quoted as saying that the first phase of production of nuclear fuel for industrial needs would commence during Fajr.
Iran is planning to increase its enrichment capacity by installing 3,000 centrifuges, the machines which enrich uranium, at an underground facility in Natanz. It is already running two pilot cascades of 164-centrifuges each in Natanz, allowing for an enrichment capacity that is currently low and research-oriented. However, there have been conflicting reports about whether the extra centrifuges have already been installed. Iranian leaders have so far have not shown any intention of yielding to demands of UN resolution 1737 and suspending enrichment despite a call by UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei for a “timeout” in the showdown.
Iran could however face more sanctions after February 21 when ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is due to submit a report on its compliance to the UN Security Council.
U.K. announces 9th arrest in alleged terror plot,Plot reportedly involved abduction and ‘Iraq-style’ execution of serviceman
BIRMINGHAM, England – Counterterrorism police arrested nine men in an alleged kidnapping plot Wednesday — a plan that reportedly involved torturing and beheading a British Muslim soldier and broadcasting the killing on the Internet.A ninth person was arrested just before police briefed reporters. The first group of arrests took place in the morning.“The threat of terrorism has been growing over the years,” David Shaw, of the West Midlands Police, said in announcing the arrest.Birmingham has been the site of several major terror raids in the past two years, including a plot uncovered in the summer that involved several suspects planning to use liquid explosives to blow up as many as 10 flights between Britain and the
United States.The alleged plot was to involve the kidnapping of a British serviceman in
Britain, a government contact connected with security services told NBC News on condition of anonymity.Media reports, citing unnamed sources, said police and MI5,
Britain’s domestic spy service, had stopped a “major” terrorist plot in the latter stages of planning, or near fruition.Sky TV, which said it knew the target’s identity, a man in his 20s, quoted sources as saying the intent was to mimic the abductions and beheadings of Westerners carried out by militants in Iraq and post a video of the killing on the Internet.Such a murder would be similar to the fate of Briton Ken Bigley, who was kidnapped and later beheaded by al-Qaida’s then-leader in
Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in 2004, as well as other hostages.The official who spoke to NBC News could not confirm the Sky TV report, but said the plot was being called an “Iraqi style” operation which had led people to surmise what might happen. “This is big because it’s different,” he said, adding that he believed video was going to be an element.“If they (the plotters) were going to kidnap someone, in their world there is no point unless you have publicity around it. Every event they do has to have a public element to it,” he said.Late night raids
Officers raided several homes beginning at 4 a.m. in a predominantly Pakistani neighborhood in
Birmingham.Detectives said the suspected conspirators were held on “suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.”The arrest operation was led by the Midlands Counterterrorism unit, supported by West Midlands Police and
London’s Metropolitan Police.A number of streets were sealed off in
Birmingham, Britain’s second largest city and one of its most ethnically diverse, including a large Muslim population.Last week, police arrested five people in terrorism investigations in the English cities of Manchester and
Halifax.Rizwan Ditta, 29, and Mohammed Dilal, 26, of
Halifax were later charged with possession of information of use to terrorists.Three men arrested by Greater Manchester Police remain in custody but have not been charged.
Last year the head of MI5 said that about 30 terrorism plots were being worked on and agents were monitoring around 1,600 suspects.‘Real and serious’ terrorist threat
“This operation is a reminder of the real and serious nature of the terrorist threat we face,” the Home Office said Wednesday.On July 7, 2005, Britain suffered its worst peacetime attack by militants when four British Muslims blew themselves up on
London’s transport system, killing 52 people.In August last year, detectives said they had foiled a suspected plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners bound for the
United States using liquid explosives.
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