Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • U.S. says Nigeria should do more to combat Islamist Boko Haram

    The united States, in talks with Nigeria, says that Nigeria cannot fully achieve its potential as a stable regional leader until the country successfully overcome the challenge of the Islamic insurgency of Boko Haram and secure peace and protection for all its citizens in all regions. In 2012, the United States provided $647 million in bilateral foreign assistance to Nigeria.

  • Pentagon not likely to attack Syria’s chemical weapons depots

    Administration officials say that the coming U.S. military strike against Syria – and it may be launched as early as tomorrow, Thursday – will aim not to change the regime, but to punish the Assad regime for using chemical weapons, and “deter and degrade” the ability of the regime to launch chemical weapons in the future. The attack will not be focused on chemical weapons storage sites, as American officials fear that such an attack may release clouds of toxic clouds into the air, possibly causing humanitarian and environmental disaster. Israeli intelligence analysts disagree, pointing out that the components of the chemical weapons are stored separately and assembled when an order is given – meaning that a strike on a chemical weapon storage facility will not trigger a chemical reaction. Whether or not Israel has been able to persuade the United States on this issue remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: if Assad decides to retaliate against Israel in the wake of an American strike on Syria, Israel will not hesitate to attack these storage facilities.

  • Cruise missile-only strikes have mixed record of success

    If the United States limits its operation in Syria to cruise missile strikes, the operation will resemble similar attacks in the past – for example, cruise missile attacks in Afghanistan, Sudan, and Iraq in 1998. Cruise missile-only operations have had at best a mixed record of success. Experts note that Tomahawk missile strikes are politically and psychologically significant, but typically have a limited tactical effect.

  • New technology improves IED detection

    Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, are homemade bombs that can both injure and kill civilians and service members. One solution to the problem of IEDs is to find them before they explode by detecting the chemicals used in the explosives. Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have developed a technology, using silicon to fabricate a sensor that may revolutionize the way trace chemical detection is conducted

  • U.S., allies prepare military strikes against Syria

    Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday said that the use by the Assad regime of chemical weapons in attacks on civilians last Wednesday was undeniable. He said the Obama administration would hold the Syrian government accountable for this “cowardly crime” and “moral obscenity.” U.S. political and military leaders have been holding around-the-clock discussions with allies about a coordinated military attack on Syrian regime facilities. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Turkey said there was no need to seek a UN Security Council approval of military action against Syria, and that none will be sought. Administration lawyers have been crafting legal justifications for an intervention without UN approval that could be based on findings that Assad used chemical weapons and created a major humanitarian crisis. The U.S. Navy has moved more ships to the eastern Mediterranean, and activity has been stepped up in Britain’s air base in Cyprus.

  • Israel offers proof of Assad regime’s responsibility for chemical weapons attack

    Israeli sources said that the IDF’s sigint unit, Unit 8200 – which, among other intelligence operations, routinely eavesdrops on communications among military and political leaders in Syria — has recordings of senior Syrian political and military officials discussing the timing and scope of the chemical attack last Wednesday against civilians in rebel-held areas. Israeli intelligence sources have also identified the Syrian military unit which fired the chemical weapons: the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division of the Syrian Army, a division under the command of the Syrian president’s brother, Maher Assad.

  • U.K. newspapers complain government "conflating terrorism and journalism"

    The U.K. government, relying on the Terrorism Act 2000, has recently taken actions against several newspapers, culminating the 18 August detention at Heathrow Airport of David Miranda. Miranda is the companion of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian’s journalist who broke the Snowden story, and the security services believed Miranda, a Brazilian, was transporting Snowden-related material with him. He was detained and questioned for nine hours.

  • U.K. newspapers complain government "conflating terrorism and journalism"

    The U.K. government, relying on the Terrorism Act 2000, has recently taken actions against several newspapers, culminating the 18 August detention at Heathrow Airport of David Miranda. Miranda is the companion of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian’s journalist who broke the Snowden story, and the security services believed Miranda, a Brazilian, was transporting Snowden-related material with him. He was detained and questioned for nine hours.

  • Boob bombs: breast implants suicide bomb a threat to aviation

    Security checks at Heathrow Airport have been beefed up this past week following “credible” intelligence that al Qaeda operatives may use a new method to attack airlines flying out of London: explosives concealed in breast implants. This would not the first time Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) chief bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, has sought to use the human body as a hiding place for explosives. In September 2009, al-Asiri sent his younger brother on a suicide mission in Saudi Arabia. He built a bomb which could fit in his brother’s anal cavity, and sent him to kill the Saudi deputy interior minister, who at the time was in charge of hunting down al Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia. The worry about medically implanted explosives has already led airports to use behavioral analysis to augment detection methods already in use to screen people. Body scanners are good at identifying things outside the body but not inside.

  • As many as 1,400 killed in a suspected chemical attack in Syria (updated)

    Rebel sources say the number of dead in a Syrian army chemical weapons attack, which targeted a dozen villages in a rebel-held area east of Damascus, has reached 1,400. The Syrian government admitted launching a major military offensive against rebels in the area – both rebels and government sources say it is the largest military operation since the beginning of the war — but strongly rejected the allegations about chemical weapons use by the Syrian army. The Israeli defense minister, in the first official Israeli reaction, confirms the Syrian military used chemical weapons. Chemical weapons experts say there are two other possibilities: the Syrian regime may have used crowd-dispersal chemicals in higher-than-usual concentration, causing death among people trapped in bunkers and shelters; or the army may have used fuel-air bombs in bombing Sunny residential areas. Such bombs, also called thermobaric explosives, rely on oxygen from the surrounding air, unlike most conventional explosives which consist of a fuel-oxidizer premix.

  • New understanding of key step in anthrax infection

    Scientists advance A new hypothesis concerning a crucial step in the anthrax infection process. The research teams have explored the behavior of the toxins that rapidly overwhelm the body as the often-fatal disease progresses. Their findings suggest a new possible mechanism by which anthrax bacteria deliver the protein molecules that poison victims. Anthrax is easily weaponized; the findings could help lead to a more effective cure.

  • Conflicting readings of possible chemical weapons use in Syria

    Rebel sources say the number of dead in a Syrian army chemical weapons attack, which targeted a dozen villages in a rebel-held area east of Damascus, is between 750 and 1,300. They say it is not possible to offer precise numbers because some areas are not yet accessible. The Syrian government strongly rejected the allegations about chemical weapons use by the Syrian army. The Israeli defense minister, in the first official Israeli reaction, confirms the Syrian military used chemical weapons. Chemical weapons experts say there are two other possibilities: the Syrian regime may have used crowd-dispersal chemicals in higher-than-usual concentration, causing death among people trapped in bunkers and shelters; or the army may have used fuel-air bombs in bombing Sunny residential areas. Such bombs, also called thermobaric explosives, rely on oxygen from the surrounding air, unlike most conventional explosives which consist of a fuel-oxidizer premix.

  • Reports: hundreds killed in chemical weapons attack east of Damascus

    Syrian rebels say at least 750 people were killed in attacks on villages in rebel-held areas in the Ghouta region east of Damascus. News agencies quote medical personnel who confirmed that hundreds of victims treated in hospitals and make-shift first-aid stations were suffering from symptoms associated with chemical weapons attack. Syrian government officials deny that regime forces used chemical weapons. The Arab League called for immediate investigation, and the U.K. said it would bring the reports to the UN Security Council today.

  • Rapid response, imaging of injuries aided Boston Marathon bombing victims

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bombing survivors have the highest incidence of injury to soft tissue and musculoskeletal systems with the most extreme injury being traumatic amputation, which is reported in up to 3 percent of cases. The Boston Marathon bombings resulted in three fatalities and 264 casualties, with the most severe injuries involving lower extremities of those located closest to the blasts. Blast injuries within civilian populations are rare in the United States, so when they do occur they challenge the medical community rapidly to respond to concurrent evaluation and treatment of many victims.

  • Suburban Chicago police cancels anti-terrorism training course after complaints

    The police at the city of Lombard, Illinois, has cancelled a class on counterterrorism after the Chicago branch of a Muslim advocacy group complained that the Florida-based instructor and his teachings were blatantly anti-Muslim. The instructor has faced similar criticism in Florida. The course was to be taught through the North East Multi-Regional Training group, which trains Illinois police and corrections employees. The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board said it was reviewing the course – titled “Islamic Awareness as a Counter-Terrorist Strategy” – and the materials used in it. The board said that instructor’s qualifications will also be reviewed.