Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group based mainly in Nigeria’s northern states, has overtaken ISIS as the world’s deadliest terror group, a report says.
Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group based mainly in Nigeria’s northern states, has overtaken ISIS as the world’s deadliest terror group, a report says.
Malala Yousafzai, 14, is in intensive care after being shot in the head in broad daylight on a school bus on Tuesday, in an assassination attempt that has appalled a country where thousands have died at the hands of Islamist extremists.
We wish to bring home a simple message: we refuse to bow before terror. We will fight, regardless of the cost
The attack took place in Mingora, the main town of the Swat valley in Pakistan’s northwest, where Malala had campaigned for the right to an education during a two-year Taliban insurgency which the army said it had crushed in 2009.
She faces a crucial 48 hours following surgery to remove the bullet lodged near her shoulder, where it moved after entering her head, in a military hospital in the northwestern city of Peshawar, where doctors described her condition as critical.
Preparations were made to fly her abroad, but a military source said she was too ill to travel.
Her uncle Saeed Ramzan said doctors told the family Malala was stable after the three-hour operation.
“But they said the next 48 hours are important and after that it will be decided whether she will be sent abroad or not,” he said at the family home in Mingora, which is under heavy police guard.
“We saw movement in her body today but she is still unconscious.”
President Hamid Karzai of neighbouring Afghanistan, where a fierce Taliban insurgency is raging, telephoned his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari to condemn the attack, according to a statement from the Pakistani government.
“Such incidents of barbarity strengthen national resolve to fight militants to the finish,” Mr Zardari told the Afghan president.
Doctors earlier confirmed the bullet had been removed from Malala’s shoulder and the Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, said she would remain in Peshawar until medics agreed she could be moved.
“Malala’s condition is improving after the surgery and doctors will keep her in a state of unconsciousness for two days,” Mr Malik said. “Every effort has been made to ensure that she does not suffer brain damage. But anything can happen in such a situation.”
There has been shock and revulsion in Pakistan, where schoolchildren across the country on Wednesday offered prayers for Malala’s recovery and small protests against the attack were held in Mingora, Islamabad and the eastern city of Lahore.
The powerful army chief General Ashfaq Kayani visited Malala on Wednesday and said it was time to “further unite and stand up to fight the propagators of such barbaric mindset and their sympathisers”.
“We wish to bring home a simple message: we refuse to bow before terror. We will fight, regardless of the cost, we will prevail inshallah [God willing],” he said.
The provincial government announced a 10 million rupee ($102,000) reward for information leading to the capture of Malala’s attackers, who escaped after the shooting.
Malala won international recognition for highlighting Taliban atrocities in Swat with a blog for the BBC three years ago, when the Islamist militants burned girls schools and terrorised the valley.
Her struggle resonated with tens of thousands of girls denied an education by Islamist militants across northwest Pakistan, where the government has been fighting local Taliban since 2007.”
“Living in Latin America, it seems, can be hazardous to your health. A combination of drugs, organised crime and governments that are, at times, ill-equipped to handle the challenge has proved to be lethal, leaving a trail of violence through cities up and down the Americas, from Brazil to Honduras to Mexico, according to a Mexican think tank, the Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice.
According to its rankings, the 10 cities with the world’s highest homicide rates are all in Latin America. Latin American municipalities make up 40 of the top 50 murder capitals, and it’s not until No. 21 (New Orleans) that a city outside Latin America makes an appearance. This comes with a caveat: the study only included cities for which statistics about homicides were available, which means cities facing bloody civil wars for which statistics are hard to come by – like Aleppo, Syria – won’t be on the list.
When Colombia cracked down on its notorious drug trade in the late 1980s, the traffic moved north to Mexico. But since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the drug cartels in 2006, the next stop for traffickers has been Honduras. Almost 80 per cent of the cocaine working its way up from South America to North America now stops in Honduras, bringing an onslaught of drug- and gang-related violence with it. Honduras’ homicide rate is currently the world’s highest and San Pedro Sula’s homicide rate is the highest in Honduras, at 159 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2011. By comparison, Detroit’s murder rate is a paltry 48 per 100,000 residents. Located in northwestern Honduras, San Pedro Sula is the country’s main industrial centre and second-largest city, after the capital. But lately, the city’s economic role has been largely overshadowed by violence. Examples of gruesome massacres abound, including one in a park last year that took the lives of four people, including a 22-year-old primary-school teacher.
This border town – a departure point for illegal drugs bound for the United States – has been a perennial contender on lists of the world’s most dangerous cities. Juarez earned its grim reputation as a result of a turf war between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels that killed more than 6000 people between 2008 and 2010, corrupted members of the police force and the government, and turned the city into a ghost town. This year, there have been signs that the violence is abating: While a single month during the drug war’s peak could produce a body count of more than 300 people, the first seven months of this year witnessed just 580 homicides, according to The Washington Post. Observers attribute the decline in bloodshed not to effective policing, but to the Sinaloa cartel’s triumph in the battle for control of the city. Still, with a rate of 148 homicides per 100,000 residents, Juarez is violent enough to secure the second spot on the murder capitals list.
Brazilian officials have sought to turn this former sugar-mill town and port city into a tourist destination based on its long, sandy coastline. Their efforts, however, have been hampered by a homicide rate of 135 murders per 100,000 residents. The authorities in Maceio – the capital of the northern Brazilian state of Alagoas – blame the rising violence (murder rates have soared 180 per cent over the past 10 years) on the growing presence of crack cocaine in the favelas around the city. Perhaps to keep tourist money flowing, officials also claim that most victims are drug users who are killed for failing to pay up on debts.
Once renowned for its beaches, high-rise hotels, and a nightclub scene that drew the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor – has not escaped the drug-related violence that has engulfed the rest of Mexico, and it is now the country’s second-most violent city, with 128 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Fighting for control of the southern state of Guerrero has led to shootouts on what were once the main drags in Acapulco’s resort area, while severed heads have been found in prominent locations around the city. Unsurprisingly, foreign tourism has suffered; the head of Guerrero’s travel agency association estimated in November 2010 that US and Canadian tourism had fallen 40 to 50 per cent in the span of a year. “We have to defend Acapulco to defend Mexico,” said Miguel Angel Hernandez, a police chief, in 2011. “Acapulco is Mexico. It’s a brand that sells.”
Made up of the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa and its twin city Comayaguela – has been engulfed by much of the same violent dynamics – drugs, gangs, inequality – as San Pedro Sula in the north. Death has become so commonplace here that the mayor this year began offering a free-of-charge burial service to the poor after he got tired of seeing so many bodies tied up in garbage bags. While gangs, corruption and poverty have long been present in Honduras, it’s the country’s new role as a major artery in the south-north drug-smuggling ecosystem that has escalated violence to a new level. A coup d’etat in 2009 left political chaos in its wake, which has only empowered drug traffickers; that same year, the country’s top anti-drug official was shot to death in his car in Tegucigalpa. Distrito Central now has 100 murders for every 100,000 residents.
The so-called malandros – gangs of young men who spar over turf and the right to push drugs – have made the Venezuelan capital a virtual war zone. In 2011, Caracas witnessed 3164 homicides – a staggering figure just shy of the total number of coalition fatalities in Afghanistan during the entire 10-year conflict in that country. Venezuelan officials have been accused of fudging murder statistics, and the actual number of homicides is likely much higher than the reported figure. To make matters worse, up to 90 per cent of murders in Venezuela go unsolved. It’s no surprise, then, that the rampant violence proved to be the primary issue in the Venezuelan presidential campaign with Henrique Capriles Radonski blasting President Hugo Chavez for failing to stem the bloodshed. (Since Chavez’s election in 1998, the murder rate in Venezuela has doubled.) Experts say that easy access to guns, a culture of violence among young men, and a lack of police and prosecutors have combined to create a perfect storm of lawlessness and a homicide rate of 99 murders per every 100,000 residents.
A victim of Mexico’s vicious drug war, the northern city of Torreon is now the scene of constant cartel-related killings as the country’s drug lords battle for control of lucrative trafficking routes to Mexico’s northern border. Last year, the city saw 88 homicides per every 100,000 residents. On a single Sunday afternoon in July, 10 people were killed in the city, five of whom were dismembered and two of whom were decapitated. And as the drug war has intensified, it has become increasingly difficult for normal citizens to escape the conflict.
Situated about 250 kilometres from Mexico’s border with Texas, the Mexican city of Chihuahua is a key transit point for cocaine heading toward the United States and, as a result, an important battleground for cartels interested in controlling drug-shipment routes. Violence in Chihuahua has become increasingly unhinged, reaching an average of 83 homicides per 100,000 residents. On April 15, for example, about 10 men dressed in tactical gear – complete with skull patches – stormed a bar and opened fire, killing 15 and wounding two, including two journalists. Nearly 50 journalists have been killed in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon came to power in 2006, and cartels increasingly target journalists who dare to report on the drug war.
In 2011, the sheer scale of Mexico’s drug war found perhaps its most gruesome expression in a series of mass graves unearthed by authorities in the northern city of Durango. Authorities came across one in the backyard of an upscale home and another on the lot of an abandoned auto shop. After the discovery of these so-called fosas, which contained 340 bodies in total, Durango residents began submitting DNA tests to determine whether relatives who had disappeared were among the victims. Discovery is one thing, but it is extremely unlikely that anyone will be brought to justice for these crimes. When asked about the investigation, a spokesman for the state prosecutor told a reporter, “Anybody who might have seen something will never talk out of fear.” When pressed about who owned the land where the bodies were found, he asked the reporter, “Do you want me to wake up alive tomorrow?” In 2011, the homicide rate in Durango reached 80 murders per every 100,000 residents.
With cocaine streaming in from Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, Belem has become a natural transit point for South American traffickers. The drug enters the city through the dense forests of the northern Amazon region by aeroplane or through the Amazon’s many tributaries by boat, after which it is then shipped to other Brazilian cities or across the Atlantic to Europe and North Africa. That makes Belem, where the homicide rate has hit 78 murders per every 100,000 residents, an attractive piece of real estate, and violence has increased there accordingly. The city also bears the downsides of Brazil’s rising prosperity. As the country has grown richer, its inhabitants have consumed more and more cocaine. The Financial Times has called this rise in cocaine consumption – Brazilians now snort or smoke some 18 per cent of the global supply – the “most worrying side-effect of the country’s recent consumer boom”.
Army spokesman Lt Eli Lazarus said the battle in Damaturu lasted several hours and 10 arrests were also made.
He said the militants killed included a senior commander known as one-eyed Bakaka.
Boko Haram is fighting to overthrow the government and impose Sharia law across Nigeria.
Attacks in central and northern Nigeria attributed to the group have killed an estimated 1,400 people since 2010.
In a statement, Lt Lazarus described “the notorious one-eyed Bakaka” as Boko Haram’s field commander in Damaturu and a close associate of the sect’s leader Abubakar Shekau.
However, the BBC’s Will Ross in Nigeria says it is not possible to verify the information.
Earlier, police reports said four suspected militants had been killed rather than 30.
However, human rights groups say army operations in northern Nigeria have also left many civilians dead and they complain that arrests are often indiscriminate.
In September the military said it had killed 35 suspected Boko Haram members in fierce gun battles in Damaturu. Scores of people were also arrested there in a door-to-door sweep of several neighbourhoods.”
“Syrian rebels have captured a number of positions on the country’s borders with Turkey and Iraq.
A senior Iraqi official said all the crossings on Syria‘s eastern frontier had been seized. At one point, two Turkish posts were also in rebel hands.
The push came a day after a bomb claimed the lives of three senior defence officials in Damascus.
At the UN, negotiations are under way on extending the mandate of the observer mission in Syria,
The mandate for the mission is due to expire on Friday.
There are almost 300 UN observers in Syria, but the mission suspended most of its monitoring activity in June, because of the risk from increasing violence.
The US says it might consider a final brief extension of the monitors work, but warned that it could not pin its policy on an unarmed mission.
The UK is said to be proposing an extension for a “final 30 days”.
As the situation in Syria becomes more unpredictable and violent, the diplomacy in New York is lagging behind events on the ground, says the BBC’s Laura Trevelyan at the UN.
The rebels, perhaps sensing that the regime was too preoccupied with the escalating battle for the capital, stormed all the posts on the Iraqi border, the BBC’s Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon says.
The major Abu Kamal crossing on the Euphrates river in the east was captured after a clash with government forces, opposition activists said.
More than 20 Syrian soldiers and their commander were killed when a remote army outpost in the far north-east was attacked, Associated Press news agency reported.
Iraq’s government, seen as sympathetic to President Bashar al-Assad, has threatened to shut its side of the border and one official told Reuters news agency that it was closing the Abu Kamal crossing.
On the frontier with Turkey, too, rebels were said to have taken control of two posts, at Bab al-Hawa and Jarablus.
Video from the Bab al-Hawa crossing in Idlib province soon emerged of rebels defacing a portrait of President Assad, but they later reportedly withdrew from the position.
For four days, rebels have been involved in clashes in areas of the capital as they push their “Damascus volcano” operation against Syrian armed forces.
Damascus-based activist Hassan describes how people are too afraid to venture outside
The deaths of three top security officials has led to a mobilisation of government troops in an attempt to drive the rebels out of the city.
The president’s brother-in-law, the defence minister and head of the government’s crisis team were killed by a bomb as they attended a meeting at the national security headquarters.
The first images of President Assad since the attack have appeared, largely ending rumours he might have been hurt.
The footage appeared to show Gen Fahd Jassim al-Furayj, chief of staff of the armed forces, being sworn into his new post as defence minister.
Tanks and armoured vehicles were reported to have moved into Qaboun on Thursday, close to the centre of Damascus.
There were heavy casualties, activists said, as a result of an army bombardment of Zamalka in the eastern outskirts of Damascus.
The mood inside the Security Council chamber was acrimonious after China and Russia vetoed the resolution. Britain’s ambassador accused the two nations of protecting a brutal regime by their actions. America’s ambassador said the council had failed utterly in the most important task on its agenda.
China’s ambassador denounced what he called an uneven resolution which placed pressure on one side, while Russia’s representative claimed the resolution would have opened the path to military involvement in Syria’s affairs.
Now negotiations are under way to try to extend the mandate of the UN monitoring mission in Syria which is due to expire on Friday.
The mission is supposed to monitor a ceasefire and support a political process – neither of which exist. So the UK is proposing a 30 day “final” extension.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the number of fatalities across the country on Thursday at 250.
The pace of events in Syria was in marked contrast to the diplomatic stalemate at the UN Security Council, where Russia and China vetoed a Western resolution calling for tougher sanctions on Damascus.
Under the Western-backed plan, the Damascus government would have been threatened with non-military sanctions under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter if it failed to move troops and heavy weapons from populated areas.
But the use of Chapter Seven paved the way for “external military involvement in Syrian domestic affairs”, Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin argued.
The UK, US and France said the UN had failed the people of Syria and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the use of the veto as “inexcusable and indefensible”.”
By Jonathan Beale Defence correspondent, BBC News
“It has been a long and expensive wait, but Britain has now been handed its first Joint Strike Fighter jet, also known as the F-35.
He says it is “the best warplane money can buy”. But it is an eye-watering sum – the current cost of each jet is more than £100m.
After watching Britain’s first F-35 take to the skies, Mr Hammond said “this is money well spent”.
He said it would give the RAF and Royal Navy “a world class fighting capability” with the ability to “project power” off the two new aircraft carriers now under construction, anywhere in the world.
So is it worth it? The UK is buying the short take-off and vertical landing variant – STOVL for short.
It is the heaviest and most expensive of the three versions of the plane, carrying fan propulsion system for its “jump jet” capability, which it needs to land on the Royal Navy’s new carriers.
The most obvious comparison is with the scrapped Harrier jet it is replacing.
The Harrier had a range of 300 nautical miles, for the F-35 it is 450 miles. While the Harrier could reach a speed of 650mph, the F-35 can fly much faster – more than 1,200mph.
The Harrier had no radar transparency or stealth capabilities, but the F-35 has both. Its acute angles and special coating make it difficult to detect on any enemy radar.
BAE Systems test pilot Peter Wilson said the F-35’s stealth technology is “worth its weight in gold”.
It means a pilot can enter and leave a war zone while staying safe.
In theory, it can also carry a heavier weapons load than the Harrier, although the F-35B “jump-jet” is the least capable of the three versions of the new plane.
But even with its cutting edge technologies, the F-35 has flown into a storm of criticism, particularly in the US where it has gained unwelcome notoriety as the most expensive equipment project ever undertaken by the Pentagon.
The US is spending around $400bn (£254bn) to buy 2,500 F-35s for the navy, air force and marine corps.
It is estimated that the total cost of buying, operating and maintaining the planes over the next 30 years will be $1tn.
Winslow T Wheeler, at the US Center for Defense Information said it was a “gigantic performance disappointment”. Not as stealthy as the F-22 for example.
He added: “It’s the counterintuitive problem of paying a huge amount of money thinking you’re getting a Lamborghini or Ferrari: You’re not, you’re getting a Yugo”
He was referring to the cheap, mass-produced cars made in the former Yugoslavia.
That may sound extreme, but even a more measured report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) highlighted serious problems including the management and development of more than 24 million lines of software code in the aircraft and faults with the helmet-mounted displays.
The GAO report warned that “most development flight testing, including the most challenging, still lies ahead”.
The F35 may be more like a thoroughbred race horse, but so far it has proved just as temperamental.
The F35 – which will be called the “Lightning II” by the RAF and Royal Navy – is still a long way off from being battle ready.
Though British pilots have already been involved in the test flying programme, they will not be flying the plane off UK bases or the two new aircraft carriers until 2018.
And it is still not clear how many planes the UK will buy.
The last Labour Government said the UK would buy 138 planes but Mr Hammond has so far committed to purchasing only 48.
That number, over time, is likely to increase – not least because British industry is heavily involved in the project.
The tail section of every plane is being made by BAE Systems. Overall the UK has a 15% share of the work, enough to sustain more than 20,000 jobs.
The hope at the Ministry of Defence is that, with time, the cost of the plane will come down and the technical problems will be resolved – and that, in the end, this will not go down in history as another expensive MoD mistake.”
Source: BBC News
I don’t know if this has happened to anyone else, but Google Now knows where I live. After 3 days on [Jelly Bean], I opened Google Now at work and it gave me time and directions to get back home. I thought it was cool and then I opened up Google Maps on my home computer. Lo and behold there is now a new, completely different looking icon where I live that is labeled home. I didn’t add it nor did I ever even search for directions back home. I’m not afraid of technology or anything, but that one was pretty odd.
Google Now figures out where a Reddit user lives
Now has access to a phone’s GPS information, i.e. location. As another Redditor points out, it makes sense that Google Now would figure out that “the area you [and your phone] spend 8 to 16 hours a night is your home.” Now will also figure out that the spot where you spend eight hours (or more, you workaholic) every day is your place of business.
What I wonder is how our little friend Now will interpret aberrant data. And when I say “aberrant,” I mean the twenty- and thirty-something Android users who spend a few nights each week away from their homes. Will Google Now realize that a particular spot is your “boo’s home” or “that regrettable one-night stand”?
Of course, little Now won’t have to deal with these aberrations as often as Siri will. According to OkCupid, iPhone users are more promiscuous than Android users, racking up twice as many sexual partners in their not-exactly-rigorous study.
If Now knowing where you are — and acting on it — creeps you out, you can find instructions for turnin.”
“The United States and Israel jointly developed the Flame computer virus that collected intelligence to help slow Iran’s nuclear program, The Washington Post has reported, citing anonymous Western officials.
The so-called Flame malware aimed to map Iran‘s computer networks and monitor computers of Iranian officials, the newspaper said. It was designed to provide intelligence to help in a cyber campaign against Iran’s nuclear program, involving the National Security Agency, the CIA and Israel’s military, the Post said.
The cyber campaign against Iran’s nuclear program has included the use of another computer virus called Stuxnet that caused malfunctions in Iran’s nuclear enrichment equipment, the newspaper said.
Current and former US and Western national security officials confirmed that the United States played a role in creating the Flame virus.
Since Flame was an intelligence “collection” virus rather than a cyberwarfare program to sabotage computer systems, it required less-stringent US legal and policy review than any US involvement in offensive cyberwarfare efforts, experts said.
The CIA, NSA, Pentagon, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.
Flame is the most complex computer spying program ever discovered.
Two leading computer security firms – Kaspersky Lab and Symantec Corp – have linked some of the software code in the Flame virus to the Stuxnet computer virus, which was widely believed to have been used by the United States and Israel to attack Iran’s nuclear program.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald.
“Five infantry battalions are to be withdrawn and 17 major units in total axed from the Army in its biggest overhaul for decades.
Troop levels are to be slashed by a fifth from 102,000 to 82,000, while the Territorial Army will be expanded to give a combined force of 120,000.
The 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, the 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, the 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, and the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh will all go in the shake-up.
A fifth, the 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland will be reduced to a public duties company to carry out public duties in Scotland.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond admitted in the Commons that the reforms would be “unwelcome” but insisted they would create a “balanced, capable and adaptable force” for the future.
“After inheriting a massive overspend from the last Government, we have had to make tough decisions to implement our vision of a formidable, adaptable and flexible armed forces,” he said.
“After a decade of enduring operations, we need to transform the Army and build a balanced, capable and adaptable force ready to face the future.
“Army 2020 will create a more flexible and agile Army. Unlike the past, it will be set on a firm foundation of men and material, well trained, well equipped and fully funded.”
He insisted: “The regimental system will remain the bedrock of the Army’s fighting future.”
As part of the changes, the Armoured Corps will be reduced by two units with the merger of the Queen’s Royal Lancers and the 9th/12th Royal Lancers and the 1st and 2nd Tank Regiments amalgamating.
There will also be reductions in the number of units in the Royal Artillery, the Royal Engineers, the Army Air Corps, the Royal Logistic Corps, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and the Royal Military Police.
The plan – known as Army 2020 – will see the military split into two, with a reaction force ready to respond to emergencies around the globe and an adaptable force capable of carrying out a range of tasks and commitments.
But the prospect of losing historic units has been the cause of intense anguish within the service.
The Daily Telegraph disclosed this week that one officer, Brigadier David Paterson of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, had written to the head of the Army expressing his bitter disappointment at plans to axe one of its two battalions.
In his letter to General Sir Peter Wall, Chief of the General Staff, Brig Paterson said the proposal “cannot be presented as the best or most sensible military option”.
Mr Hammond has acknowledged that the plans, drawn up by Lieutenant General Nick Carter, have involved some “difficult” decisions.
But he said that cuts could not be avoided, with the demands for strict financial discipline under the Government’s 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
For the plans to be successful, reductions in regular Army strength will need to be offset by increases in part-time reservists, with the Territorial Army doubling in numbers from 15,000 to 30,000.
As well as providing specialist capabilities – such as medics and intelligence – reservists would be used to reinforce infantry battalions on deployment.
They will be expected to shoulder a third of the burden of long-term operations.
The Army will also be required to make greater use of civilian contractors in areas such as logistics support in order to concentrate military capability on the frontline.
Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy told Sky News: “You can’t make cuts in the British army of this depth and at this speed without it having an impact on our ability to project power, our influence in the world and the ability of the British army to be deployed on a sustainable basis at points in the future.
“This isn’t without cost and without consequence. There will be an enormous blow to morale in the British army but there are also going to be consequences about what the army can do.”
Source : Sky news