Images of Hezbollah ‘parading US armored vehicles’ emerge online, sparking controversy

Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, recognized as terrorist organization by the US, has been allegedly spotted parading a vast number of US-made military vehicles in Syria, triggering questions about how they ended up in the militants’ hands.

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The photos of Hezbollah’s military parade allegedly featuring US-made armored vehicles in the Syrian city of Qusayr published by media close to the organization raised questions the US State Department had to confront during a daily press briefing on Tuesday.

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“Our embassy in Beirut is working with the Lebanese armed forces to investigate the images circulating on social media purporting to show Hezbollah displaying US military equipment in Syria,” State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said.

She added that there was “no information on them [the images],” but the US would be “gravely concerned if equipment ended up in the hands of Hezbollah.”

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The US equipment on the photos appear to be the M113 armored personnel carriers that have been in service since 1960 and “are extremely common in the region,” Trudeau noted.

The State Department spokeswoman also noted that “the Lebanese military has publicly stated that the M113s depicted online in the Hezbollah military parade were never part of their equipment roster.”

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“The photos of vehicles circulated by media outlets were not taken from the army and do not belong to the military,” the Lebanese army said in a statement.

Hezbollah’s vehicles seen during the parade also showcase Russian tanks.

Charles Shoebridge, a security analyst and former UK counter-terrorism intelligence officer, in an interview with RT compared the M113 tank to the “Kalashnikov of the personnel carrier world,”adding that the Lebanese Army was the most probable source of the equipment.

“Certainly the finger would seem to point… at the Lebanese Army, because many of them [the APCs] were supplied to them,”Shoebridge said.

The large number of items of an identical type seen on the photos may suggest that there was “some kind of an organized transfer,” Shoebridge said.

READ MORE: Aiding terrorist group: German court convicts men who sent Ahrar Al-Sham $145,000 in supplies

This is not the first time the US weapons and pieces of military equipment allegedly end up in the wrong hands, with a number of reports saying that Al-Nusra and IS (Islamic State) had come into possession of American missiles and other types of weaponry intended for so-called moderate opposition groups in Iraq and Syria.

Moderate opposition militants tend to defect with the US weapons, join terrorist organizations and use it against the US troops, Shoebridge added.

“This policy of supplying rebel groups with sophisticated weaponry or any weaponry invariably seems to backfire,” he concluded.

Up to 80 Islamists planted in Europe readying for attack – Dutch counterterrorism official

Between 60 and 80 Islamic State operatives in Europe are preparing to carry out attacks, a Dutch counterterrorism official said, adding that the terror group is asking its militants to forgo traveling to Syria or Iraq and take the fight to Europe instead.

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The would-be fighters get messages from the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) group “asking them not to come to Syria and Iraq, but to prepare attacks in Europe,” Holland’s National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism Dick Schoof told AP.

The National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV) is a unit responsible for crisis management, counterterrorism, and cyber-security in the Netherlands.

While the number of “foreign terrorist fighters [from the EU]” hasn’t grown over the past six months this “does not mean that the potential threat of those who would have traveled is diminished,” Schoof warned.

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Data from the NCTV says that between 4,000 and 5,000 European “foreign terrorist fighters” are currently in Iraq and Syria.

At present, extremists are very scattered due to an increase in anti-IS military operations in Iraq and Syria, Schoof said, adding that this could very possibly lead to an increase in the number of refugees posing a danger to the EU.

“The chance of attack in the Netherlands is real,” added Schoof, while stressing “we have seen 294 terrorist fighters go overseas in Iraq and Syria and there are still 190 over there… And what happened in France and Brussels and Germany could happen to us.”

Schoof is not the first to note that Islamic State is now telling its fighters to stay at home and carry out attacks there. In October of this year, Belgian federal prosecutor spokesman Eric Van der Sypt said the same.

“Initially, Islamic State tried to recruit fighters [to] go to Iraq and Syria. [Now] IS is asking [them] to stay at home and sow death and destruction there,” he said.

Europe has recently been shaken by a series of violent attacks that have been carried out by militants from Islamic State. The biggest loss of life took place in November of 2015, when at least 130 people were killed in Paris.

In March, twin suicide bombings hit Zaventem Airport and Maelbeek metro station in Brussels, killing 31 people and injuring dozens more. The station is near the buildings housing the EU Commission and the Council of the European Union, as well as NATO headquarters.

At least 84 people were left dead by the Nice tragedy in France on July 14 of this year, when a truck driven by an IS sympathizer plowed through crowds during Bastille Day celebrations.

Earlier this year, IS called upon its followers to carry out attacks on both civilian and military targets in the US and Europe during the Muslim Ramadan celebrations which began in early June. Numerous reports coming from EU intelligence services have been warning that the group is planning to carry out attacks on hospitals, schools, and luxury resorts in France, Italy, and Spain.

Obama, EU leaders agree to keep anti-Russian sanctions over Ukraine

US President Barack Obama and EU leaders have agreed to keep anti-Russian sanctions in place for a further year over the situation in Ukraine.

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President Obama, who is on his final official visit to Europe, met with the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK on Friday.

Among the main topics on the agenda were extending sanctions against Russia, cooperation within the framework of NATO, the rise of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria, and possible new anti-Russian sanctions over Moscow’s actions in Syria.

Read more
Obama in Berlin: Russia is military superpower

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“The leaders agreed on the necessity of working collectively to move the transatlantic agenda forward, particularly on bringing stabilization to the Middle East and North Africa, as well as securing diplomatic resolution to the conflicts in Syria and eastern Ukraine,” the White House said in the statement.

READ MORE: Russian sanctions cost Italy €7bn and up to 200,000 jobs – Italian MP

“The leaders also affirmed the importance of continued cooperation through multilateral institutions, including NATO,” the White House added.

Sanctions won’t stop Russia from improving its dialogue and ties with other countries, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“We [Russia] have never initiated sanctions. These [sanctions] don’t prevent us from building dialogue and continuing the dialogue on matters that are of interest to us, to Russia,” Peskov said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and outgoing US President Obama are likely to talk informally on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific summit in the Peruvian capital of Lima, Peskov said on Friday.

“The two administrations have not agreed on any separate meetings, but we can assume that President Putin and President Obama will cross paths on the sidelines of the forum and will talk,” Peskov said.

READ MORE: EU’s dialogue with Russia should be ‘correct and pragmatic’ – Italian FM

Also on Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gave a speech at an event hosted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), where he said that Europe and the United States “are close economic and trade partners” and mentioned potential threats for the alliance.

“Russia, breaking international law. Turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East. The refugee and migration crisis. International terrorism. Hybrid warfare. And cyber-attacks,” said Stoltenberg, listing the perceived dangers.

France Party Leader Marine Le Pen “HILLARY CLINTON IS A DANGER TO WORLD PEACE”

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In an interview with RT, France’s French National Front party leader, Marine Le Pen, warned the world of the dangers ahead should Hillary be elected US President.

National Front party leader and 2017 French presidential frontrunner, Marine Le Pen, has not endorsed Donald Trump, but in an interview with RT her opinion regarding a Hillary Clinton Presidency, is as good as an endorsement for The Don.

For Le Pen, a Clinton Presidency would “not benefit” France, be “destructive” for Europe, and ultimately be a “danger to world peace.”

What could have Le Pen thinking such thoughts?

Maybe its Hillary’s diehard support for Bush’s Iraq war, or her husband’s dismantling of Yugoslavia and 72 day illegal bombing of Serbia.

Perhaps it’s Hillary’s mentor Madeleine Albright, who finds it necessary to kill 500,000 Iraqi children in the name of neo-liberal values. Maybe it’s gal pal Vitoria Nuland, and her neocon family ties, who oversaw the illegal coup in Ukraine and funded the civil war in East Ukraine.

Or maybe its Libya…who can forget Hillary’s Libya “success”.

“There is a candidate who appears a lot more dangerous for France than the others – that’s Hillary Clinton,” the head of the National Front told RT France in an exclusive interview. “I’m not American so I don’t need to make a choice. But…in the interests of France, Hillary Clinton is probably the worst choice out there.”

Le Pen sees the Democratic frontrunner as being so “dangerous” because of Clinton’s career as US Secretary of State, in which she worked “hand in hand with the full spectrum of American decisions” that eventually “plunged the world objectively into chaos.”

“I think if she was elected she would continue this policy, a destructive policy, a policy of conflict, a policy of imprisonment of Europe in blinded Atlanticism,” Le Pen said. “I think it’s a danger for world peace.”

British spies say ISIS leader escaped Mosul as Iraqi forces stormed city

The leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who urged his followers to “not retreat” from Mosul when faced with Iraqi forces, has fled the city himself, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has revealed.
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The terror leader’s reported escape comes after al-Baghdadi released an audio recording telling his followers to keep fighting until the bitter end to hold the city, which is Islamic State’s (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) last major foothold in Iraq.

Al-Baghdadi told his followers in Arabic to “make their blood flow like rivers.”

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Speaking in the House of Lords, Johnson, said: “It is a cruel irony that some of the intelligence we have, you may know, suggests that the gentleman in question has actually vacated the scene himself and is nonetheless using internet media to encourage people to take part in violence.”

It is believed that the IS leader may have fled using a series of underground tunnels that were uncovered by Iraqi forces. Johnson did not say where al-Baghdadi might be.

The foreign secretary assured MPs that IS would be driven out of Mosul, which has been governed by the terrorist group since June of 2014.

“The House can be sure that Daesh [IS] will be driven from Mosul, but this is the toughest task that Iraq’s security forces have yet encountered, and success will take time.”

Johnson warned that IS extremists were becoming increasingly violent as their defeat becomes inevitable.

“The terrorists have threatened to inflict a scorched earth campaign once the loss of Mosul becomes inevitable.

“Already, they have set oil wells ablaze and destroyed a sulphur plant south of the city, releasing clouds of noxious gas.

“Daesh’s vindictiveness in defeat may cause many of Mosul’s people to flee,” he warned.

US-backed coalition forces stormed across Mosul’s eastern border on Tuesday after two weeks of advancing through surrounding IS territory.

They have continued their push despite a pair of attempted car bomb attacks on their positions on Thursday.

Al-Baghdadi is the second most-wanted man in the world, after Al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri, and has a huge bounty of £8 million on his head.

ISIS using ‘tens of thousands’ as human shields in Mosul – UN

Terrorist group Islamic State has forced tens of thousands of people, mostly women and children, into Mosul from surrounding areas to serve as human shields, the UN human rights office has said. It comes as Shiite militias announced an imminent attack on the city.
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Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) is preparing for a major attack on its Iraqi stronghold by the Iraqi army and its allies, possibly including Shiite militias, Kurdish militias and Turkish forces, with the US-led coalition providing air support.

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Ahead of the impending attack, the terrorists have taken steps to deter the offensive, including launching raids on communications channels, setting fire to oil and chemicals sites, and abducting people from areas around Mosul.

On Wednesday alone, hardline Sunni militants killed at least 232 people around Mosul, who were resisting relocation, UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a news briefing

“Many of them who refused to comply were shot on the spot,” she said, citing reports corroborated by the UN that were “by no means comprehensive but indicative of violations.”

Mosul is Iraq’s second most populous city after the capital Baghdad. Located in a predominantly Sunni region in the north, it is estimated to have several million residents, even after IS purged non-Sunni minorities, killing them or forcing them to leave.

The offensive, first announced two weeks ago, is likely to take a heavy toll on the civilian population as the city will become an urban battleground. Humanitarian organizations called on the attacking forces to avoid targeting civilian infrastructure and to take care to minimize civilian casualties.

READ MORE: Pentagon claims 800-900 ISIS fighters dead in Mosul battle

The offensive is not yet at full scale, as the different parties involved seem unable to overcome a number of differences. The Iraqi government objects to Turkey’s presence on its soil, saying Turkish troops were not invited. Turkey does not want Shiite militias and Kurds to be part of the operation, saying they would be targeting Sunni and ethnic Turkoman civilians living in the region. Ankara also sees the Iraqi Kurds as allies of Turkish Kurdish insurgents.

As the stalling continues, the Shiite militias, collectively known as Hashid Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Forces, announced on Friday that they are launching an offensive on Mosul in “a few days or hours.”

Militia spokesman Ahmed al-Asadi said their forces would move in the direction of Tal Afar, a neighborhood about 55km west of Mosul. Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said on Wednesday that Turkish troops would “take measures” if the militias attack Tal Afar.

Clinton adviser wants US to intercept Iranian ships to help Saudi Arabia

Hillary Clinton’s campaign adviser, former CIA director Chris Morell – known for recommending killing Russians in Syria, and opposing the Iran nuclear agreement – has emerged with a new idea: forcibly boarding Iranian ships to help Saudi forces.
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The idea to escalate support for the Saudis by engaging in such open aggression against Iran was voiced by the Democrat during a speech given to Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s liberal think-tank, Center for American Progress (CAP), on Tuesday.

“Ships leave Iran on a regular basis carrying arms to the Houthis in Yemen,” he said, speaking on the Iran-aligned Shia rebels fighting the government there. “I would have no problem from a policy perspective of having the US Navy boarding their ships, and if there are weapons on them, to turn those ships around.”

These ideas, as well as the former CIA director’s supportive stance on waterboarding, may sound like something out of the Republican camp, but Morell is indeed with Clinton, and in the event of Clinton winning the election, he is poised to become a driving force in American foreign policy.

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He did, however, express some worry that forcibly boarding Iranian ships in foreign waters might pose some problems with regard to international law. But according to Morell, who has accused Iran of “malign behavior in the region,” taking things to the next level is exactly what is needed to “get the attention of our friends in the region to say the Americans are now serious about helping us deal with this problem.”

The Iran-aligned Houthi rebels captured Yemen’s government institutions and exiled President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi in 2014. The Americans believe him to be the country’s legitimate leader, and are in league with Saudi Arabia over expelling the rebels from Yemen.

Gulf countries then set about bombing Yemen in the spring of 2015, with no protests emanating from the Americans, who have engaged in active support. The death toll topped 4,000 in late October, as the Saudi-led coalition used tens of billions of dollars in US weapons aid – including laser-guided bombs and internationally-banned cluster bombs – creating a humanitarian catastrophe that has put millions of lives in danger.

One of the latest Saudi bombings hit a funeral hall and killed 140 people.

Washington, however, is careful not to brand the Houthis terrorists. Aside from enjoying a tenuous alliance with Iran, the Houthis have also been committed to fighting against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Qaeda is, after all, considered a terrorist group by Washington.

Podesta’s CAP released a fresh report last week, entitled ‘Leveraging US Power in the Middle East,’ calling for continued cooperation with the Gulf alliance and expanded action against Syria, which is allied with Iran in all of this. According to The Intercept, the report was received with open arms by UAE Ambassador to the US, Yousef al-Otaiba.

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The ambassador’s position has been that the US is not doing enough to help the Sunni monarchies expand their influence, adding that he would like to see Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, and Jordan enjoy renewed support from Washington, “to get the band back together,” as he put it, according to The Intercept.

The US has sold more than $20 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia in the past 18 months.

Morell, for his part, believes the Middle East conflict is not a struggle between Iran and the Gulf monarchies, but instead “a desire on behalf of the Iranians to be the hegemonic power in the region… and it is the Sunni Gulf states pushing back against that. That is what’s happening.”

In August, Morell told Charlie Rose in a PBS interview that Russia and Iran should suffer in Syria for their support of the government of Bashar Assad.

The former CIA director said: “What they need is to have the Russians and Iranians pay a little price. When we were in Iraq, the Iranians were giving weapons to the Shia militia, who were killing American soldiers, right? The Iranians were making us pay a price. We need to make the Iranians pay a price in Syria. We need to make the Russians pay a price.”

He suggested that the killing be done “covertly, so you don’t tell the world about it, you don’t stand up at the Pentagon and say ‘we did this.’ But you make sure they know it in Moscow and Tehran.”

In the same vein, he proposed US forces bombard Syrian government installations to “scare Assad.”