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India may use nuclear option first to pre-empt attack: expert

WASHINGTON: There is increasing evidence that India could launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike to prevent Pakistan from using the option first, says an expert.“India will not allow Pakistan to go first. And that India’s opening salvo may not be conventional strikes trying to pick off just Nasr batteries in the theatre,” VipinNarang, an Indian-origin nuclear strategist from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), told a seminar in Washington. Nasr is a vehicle that Pakistan uses for carrying its tactical battlefield nuclear warheads.India would launch “a full ‘comprehensive counterforce strike’ that attempts to completely disarm Pakistan of its nuclear weapons,” DrNarang said. He explained that policy-makers in New Delhi decided to go for the nuclear option to ensure that “India does not have to engage in iterative tit-for-tat exchanges and expose its own cities to nuclear destruction”.MrNarang said he was not basing assessment on fringe extreme voices such as those of Bharat Karnad or retired Indian Army officers frustrated by the lack of resolve they believe their government had shown in multiple provocations. This assessment, he said, was based on what he learned from no less than a former Strategic Forces Command C-in-C Lt Gen B.S. Nagal and from the highly respected and influential former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon.

“We may be witnessing … a ‘decoupling’ of Indian nuclear strategy between China and Pakistan. The force requirements India needs to credibly threaten assured retaliation against China may allow it to pursue more aggressive strategies  such as escalation dominance or a ‘splendid first strike’ against Pakistan,” DrNarang said.  The MIT expert argued that the conventional wisdom that a nuclear war in South Asia could start with a terrorist attack from Pakistan may no longer be valid.

‘Courtesy Dawn News’

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ISIS Gunmen Attack Afghan Military Hospital Dressed as Doctors,  Killed 49

Four Attackers Forced Their Way In, Shooting Staff and Patients, March 08, 2017:  Four ISIS gunmen, disguised as doctors, broke into the Afghan military hospital in the capital city of Kabul, blowing up a gate and forcing their way in, before opening fire on staff and patients alike, leaving a huge casualty toll.Exact reports said that  49 killed and 63 wounded. The Taliban was quick to condemn the attack, and to disavow any involvement. ISIS later confirmed it was their fighters who carried out the attack.This is the latest in a growing series of recent attacks around Kabul, but marks the first time ISIS forces have directly attacked security forces in one of the incidents, with previous capital attacks involving infiltration of secure sites and carrying out high-profile bombings. While Afghan officials naturally condemned the move as ISIS sinking to a new low, the real story is that even a military hospital is not defended enough to prevent such an attack, as despite the gunmen wearing disguises, they bombed the gate, which clearly would give a signal that they weren’t proper doctors.

Afghan Taliban capture crucial town of Sangin

23 Mar, 2016: The Taliban have captured the crucial south Afghan district of Sangin after a year-long battle, officials say. Government forces say they have made a tactical retreat from the centre of Sangin. A spokesman for Helmand’s governor confirmed the district police and governor’s headquarters were now in militant hands.Almost a quarter of British troops killed during the UK’s combat mission in Afghanistan died defending Sangin .Hundreds of members of the Afghan security forces died there in recent fighting.Separately, at least nine local policemen were killed in an “insider” attack in Kunduz in the north area. A guard who officials say was linked to the Taliban reportedly gave access to insurgents at a security checkpoint located on the Kunduz-Kabul highway. The attackers took weapons and ammunition with them.

Why Sangin matters

Sangin is a rich production centre for opium in Helmand province. Helmand is a major centre of the Taliban insurgency and borders Pakistan Of the 456 UK military deaths in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2015, almost a quarter were in and around Sangin.

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The world faces the largest humanitarian crisis since the UN was founded in 1945

The world faces the largest humanitarian crisis since the UN was founded in 1945, with more than 20 million people in four countries facing starvation and famine, the UN humanitarian chief has said. Stephen O’Brien told the UN Security Council that “without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death” and “many more will suffer and die from disease.”He urged an immediate injection of funds for Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northeast Nigeria plus safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid “to avert a catastrophe.”“To be precise,” O’Brien said, “we need $4.4 billion (£3.6bn) by July.”Without a major infusion of money, he said, children will be stunted by severe malnutrition and won’t be able to go to school, gains in economic development will be reversed and “livelihoods, futures and hope will be lost.”UN and food organisations define famine as when more than 30 per cent of children under age 5 suffer from acute malnutrition and mortality rates are two or more deaths per 10,000 people every day, among other criteria. “Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations,” O’Brien said. “Now, more than 20 million people across four countries face starvation and famine.”

O’Brien said the largest humanitarian crisis is in Yemen where two thirds of the population  18.8 million people  need aid and more than seven million people are hungry and don’t know where their next meal will come from. “That is three million people more than in January,” he said. The UN humanitarian chief also visited South Sudan, the world’s newest nation which has been ravaged by a three-year civil war, and said “the situation is worse than it has ever been.”“The famine in South Sudan is man-made,” he said. “Parties to the conflict are parties to the famine  as are those not intervening to make the violence stop.”

SYRIA WAR DEATH TOLL HITS 321,000  WITH FURTHER 145,000 MISSING: MONITOR

BY JACK MOORE :The war in Syria has left more than 465,000 people dead or missing, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported. The U.K.-based monitoring group, which uses a network of sources on the ground in Syria, said that 321,000 people, including 96,000 civilians, had died as a result of the conflict since it began six tears ago. A further 145,000 are reported missing.The war began with anti-government protests calling for greater democracy on March 15, 2011. It has obliterated Syria’s population, leaving more than half of the country’s pre-war population internally or externally displaced, and has given rise to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), chemical warfare, starvation, torture and executions .SOHR said the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the deaths of 83,500 civilians. It said the regime had killed more than 27,500 people in airstrikes alone, and 14,600 through torture. Reports of summary executions in Aleppo, which the regime Rebels, who mostly use shelling against the regime and allied forces, have been responsible for the deaths of 7,000 civilians, the monitor said. ISIS, which still retains control of the eastern city of Raqqa and much of the eastern province of DeirEzzor, has killed more than 3,700 civilians. The U.S.-led coalition has killed 920 civilians and Turkey more than 500 civilians, SOHR said.

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Syria fires missiles at Israeli jets following airstrikes

Syria said it launched anti-aircraft missiles against Israeli warplanes in Israeli-controlled territory early on Friday, following a series of Israeli airstrikes inside Syria a rare military exchange between the two hostile Mideast neighbors that was confirmed by both countries. The Israeli military said its warplanes struck several targets in Syria and were back in Israeli-controlled airspace when several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria toward the Israeli jets. Israeli aerial defense systems intercepted one of the missiles, the army said, but did not elaborate. It would not say whether any other missiles struck Israeli-held territory, but it said the safety of Israeli civilians and the safety of the Israeli aircraft “were not compromised.”

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Airstrike on school kills 33 near Raqqa in Syria: monitor

By Reuters – March 23, 2017

An air strike that hit a school sheltering displaced people near the Islamic-State held Syrian city of Raqqa killed at least 33 people, a group that monitors the war said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it believed the strike was carried out by the US-led coalition forces fighting Islamic State in the area.Observatory activists counted at least 33 bodies at the site near the village of al-Mansoura, west of Raqqa, Observatory Director Rami Abdulrahman told Reuters. The air strike took place on Monday night, he said.

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US admits it conducted Mosul air strike ‘at location’ where ‘200’ civilians died

Over the weekend the US Pentagon has admitted to another air strike in Mosul, which is believed to have killed more than 200 civilians including women and children. It has been described as a “humanitarian disaster” by Iraqi Vice President Osama Nujaifi, and United Nations officials said they were “profoundly concerned” by the attack. The Pentagon released a statement, saying it had targeted Isis fighters and equipment “at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties”.“The coalition respects human life, which is why we are assisting our Iraqi partner forces in their effort to liberate their lands from ISIS brutality.”If the US is found to be responsible, it will be the deadliest such attack in three years. The Pentagon has admitted to killing 220 civilians in Iraq and Syria since mid-2014, yet independent monitoring groups such as Airwars.org in London say the number could be closer to 3,000.

Suicide Bombings Kill at Least 30 at Tikrit Wedding

by Jason Ditz, March 08, 2017 :- A pair of suicide bombings tore through a wedding today in the Iraqi village of Hajaj, on the outskirts of Tikrit. The two bombers wearing suicide belts killed at least 30 people, and wounded 26 others. There has been no claim of responsibility. Iraqi security forces responded by imposing a wider curfew around the region, saying they fear additional attacks. Though two bombers were reported in the incident, some media outlets suggested there were four attackers on the scene, raising fear some remain at large. Immediate speculation was that ISIS was behind that attack, though ISIS is usually pretty quick to claim credit for such incidents, and the conspicuous lack of any claims has everyone uncertain exactly what is going on.ISIS controlled Tikrit for some time, and lost most of the city to Iraqi troops in April of 2015. After the loss of the city, ISIS retained forces in the surrounding area for months, but now isn’t believed to control any significant territory anymore.

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Iraq’s parliament bans Kurdish flag in Kirkuk

Iraq’s parliament has rejected a decision to raise the Kurdistan flag alongside the Iraqi flag on public buildings and institutions in Kirkuk city. Iraqi MPs voted in favour of displaying only the Iraqi flag on Kirkuk’s buildings on Saturday, in a session attended by 186 members of the 328-seat parliament .Hasan Turan, an MP for Kirkuk province, told the Anadolu news agency that Kurdish politicians walked out before the vote could take place.Earlier in the week, the semi-autonomous Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC) voted in favour of raising the Kurdistan Regional Government’s flag (KRG) alongside Iraqi national flag on public buildings in the city. However, that vote was vetoed by most Arab and Turkmen members of the KPC. The issue comes at a time when KRG leader MassoudBarzani has made several remarks on holding a possible referendum on independence.

Kurdish news agency Rudaw reported that members of the KPC are determined to embark on a project aimed at merging Kirkuk with the Kurdistan region’s administration.”We have collected 22 signatures to renew that demand and present it to the concerned parties in the Kurdistan Region so that they act on it,” Ibrahim Khalil, a Kurdish member of the Council told Rudaw.”It is our rightful and constitutional right.”Kirkuk lies in an oil-rich and ethnically mixed part of Iraq. Control over the city is contested by Kurdish and Iraqi authorities.Kurdish forces took over the city in 2014 when the Iraqi army fled during ISIL’s summer offensive in northern Iraq.

The city is home to Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and Assyrians, as well as tens of thousands of people fleeing ISIL and Shia militias from other areas of Iraq.

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US Has ‘Lost Its Senses’ Claiming Kurds Aren’t Terrorists

Erdogan: No One Has a Right to Doubt YPG Are Terrorists

by Jason Ditz,

Turkish officials are reacting with outrage  after a tweet from US Central Command saying that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition which is almost exclusively made up of members of the Kurdish YPG, denied any affiliation or ties with the banned PKK, a terrorist organization in Turkey. Turkey’s government spokesman Ibrahim Kalin accused Centcom of having “lost its senses” in making the claim, while Turkey’s Ambassador to the United States speculated that Kurdish hackers had somehow hacked Centcom’s Twitter account to post the statement.The US has long backed the YPG against ISIS, arguing that the group, the military wing of the PYD, is distinct from the PKK. Turkey has long insisted they, and virtually all Kurdish groups, are all one and the same, and are all a terrorist organization on part with ISIS.President Erdogan went on to issue a statement warning the US that “no one has a right” to express doubt about the YPG’s affiliation with the PKK. Turkey has been complaining about US support for the Kurds virtually since the beginning of their involvement in Syria on this argument.

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UK Parliament attack:

four dead including police officer in major terrorist incident

Islamic State claims British parliament attack

22 MARCH 2017: – Mark Rowley, the head of counter-terrorism at the Met, said a police officer had been killed and his attacker shot. Two other people died after a vehicle drove at speed, mowing down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge near parliament at about 2.40pm on Wednesday 22 March, 2017.The vehicle came to a halt on the pavement, up against railings to the north of New Palace Yard, the green space adjacent to Big Ben, opposite an entrance to Westminster tube station.A man with a knife was then seen running through the gates of the Palace of Westminster, across New Palace Yard and stabbing a police officer. The Guardian understands that the police officer died. The attacker continued his rampage, targeting a second officer, according to witnesses, but was shot by police as he approached the second officer clutching his knife.

Did Khalid Masood have any previous convictions? Scotland Yard said he was a violent criminal convicted of multiple offences spanning 20 years.His offences included assaults, grievous bodily harm, possession of offensive weapons and public order offences.He had not been convicted for any terrorism offences, according to Home Secretary Amber Rudd. His first conviction was in November 1983 for criminal damage and his last conviction was in December 2003 for possession of a knife.

Metropolitan Police said Masood was not the subject of any current investigations and there was no prior intelligence about his intent to mount a terrorist attack.

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Countdown Brexit Kick Off

It’s On: Britain’s Countdown ToBrexit Set To Begin

It’s official: Britain will have just two years to complete negotiations with the European Union until it must withdraw from the bloc through a “Brexit.”Prime Minister Theresa May made history Tuesday evening as she penned a divorce letter from the U.K. to the EU, setting Britain on an unprecedented course to forgo its decades-long membership in Europe’s political and economic union.Sir Tim Barrow, the British ambassador to the EU, will personally deliver the landmark letter to Brussels leaders on Wednesday morning, officially launching the separation process by invoking Article 50…

Article 50 letter hand delivered to European Union by British ambassador, initiating two-year countdown to EU exit.This assessment, he said, was based on what he learned from no less than a former Strategic Forces Command C-in-C Lt Gen B.S. Nagal and from the highly respected and influential former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon.“We may be witnessing … a ‘decoupling’ of Indian nuclear strategy between China and Pakistan. The force requirements India needs to credibly threaten assured retaliation against China may allow it to pursue more aggressive strategies  such as escalation dominance or a ‘splendid first strike’ against Pakistan,” DrNarang said.

The MIT expert argued that the conventional wisdom that a nuclear war in South Asia could start with a terrorist attack from Pakistan may no longer be valid.The conventional wisdom envisages that a strong Indian reaction to a terrorist attack from Pakistan would lead to Islamabad using its tactical nuclear weapons to slow down the Indian offensive, DrNarang explained.“India then promises what most presume is massive counter-value retaliation against Pakistani cities, leaving aside how credible or incredible that might be. This is how nuclear first use would unfold in South Asia,” he added. But Dr Narang argued that this “conventional wisdom” might not be true any longer.Speaking at the Carnegie International Nuclear Conference in Washington on Monday, he said that India was willing to reverse its stated no-first-use policy if it feared a nuclear attack was imminent. But a pre-emptive Indian strike, however, would target Pakistan’s nuclear installations, not urban centres, he added.

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Ukraine munitions blasts prompt mass evacuations

23 March, 2017: Some 20,000 people are being evacuated after a series of explosions at a massive arms depot in eastern Ukraine described by officials as sabotage. The base in Balakliya, near Kharkiv, is around 100km (60 miles) from fighting against Russian-backed separatists. The dump is used to store thousands of tonnes of ammunition including missiles and artillery weapons. Rescue teams are overseeing a huge evacuation effort for people living in the city and nearby villages.The total area of the dump spans more than 350 hectares, the military says .WikiLeaks Releases Docs Detailing Mass CIA Hacking

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CIA Created ‘Thousands’ of Viruses,. Other Malware

by Jason Ditz

Newly released by WikiLeaks is a collection of CIA documents referred to as “Vault 7,” detailing the CIA’s hacking and surveillance technology development. The current release spans “Year 0” of the program, with several more years of documents expected to be released. Officially called “Weeping Angel,” the program sought 0-day exploits in myriad technology, including not just computers and routers, but things like smartphones and even Smart TVs, with documents showing the CIA could make a Samsung-branded TV go into a “fake-off” mode, where it would appear to be turned off, but its microphone was active and the CIA could listen in to everything happening.The same was true of the phones targeted, with the CIA having what is said to be a large cache of exploits against both Apple and Android-based phones, exploits they carefully kept guarded from the manufacturers of the phones so that the flaws were never properly repaired. The phone breaches were focused in part on having an OS-level exploit that would render security features in encrypted applications useless, Also among the efforts, the CIA was trying to hack into cars, with an eye toward gaining remote control over cars anywhere in the world, leading to speculation that the cars would be made to “assassinate” the drivers in an undetectable manner.The CIA hid its discoveries not just from companies that might fix them, but also from the rest of the US government, meaning they knowingly let cabinet members, Congress and other top officials use knowingly vulnerable technology for secure purposes rather than reveal what they’d discovered. The plan is described by some as an effort by the CIA to create its own NSA within the agency, only with even less oversight to the program. Ironically, it appears this NSA ended up producing its own Edward Snowden, as another whistleblower has come forward to uncover the CIA’s misdeeds, and to start another national dialogue on government surveillance. It will be interesting, as the rest of the documents from later years come out, to see how much of the CIA’s operations were targeted against Americans, as of course the CIA is expressly forbidden from spying on Americans. It will also be interested to see the political reaction, as this program appears to have operated largely during President Obama’s time in office, meaning Democrats will likely be defensive about it. The Trump Administration, at the same time, is likely to be furious at any big leak, as they’ve been struggling with such leaks recently.

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US urges China to take ‘action’ against North Korea

WASHINGTON:  President Donald Trump warned in an interview published Sunday that the United States is prepared to act unilaterally to deal with North Korea’s nuclear program if China proves unwilling to help.“Well, if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times of London. Trump’s comments come ahead of his meeting  with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the US president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.Tensions have risen sharply as North Korea has stepped up ballistic missile tests and amid boasts by leader Kim Jong-un that his country was in the final stages of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile. “China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t,” Trump told the Financial Times. “If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone.”In a separate interview, US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the United States is looking to China to take action against North Korea.“The only country that can stop North Korea is China and they know that,” Haley told ABC’s “This Week” in an interview broadcast on Sunday. “We’re going to continue to put pressure on China to have action.”The Mar-a-Lago meeting will be the two leaders’ first face-to-face encounter. Trump predicted a “very difficult” summit with Xi, noting the disputes over trade policy between the world’s two most powerful nations and leading economies. But Haley emphasized that at the Florida meeting “the most important conversation will be how we’re going to be dealing with the nonproliferation of North Korea.”

28th Arab Summit concludes 30 March, 2017

Arab League summit concludes with declaration focused on Syrian crisis.The annual Arab League summit held in the Dead Sea region in Jordan ended Wednesday with a declaration that focused on the Syrian crisis and fighting terror.The one-day meeting was attended by 18 Arab leaders, while King Mohamed VI of Morocco failed to show up for unannounced reasons. The 15-point speech of the Amman declaration focused mainly on Syrian and Palestinian issues, and terror.According to the declaration, Arab countries would continue to seek a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis and continue to support the countries hosting Syrian refugees.

Since the war in Syria erupted in March 2011, more than 250,000 victims have been killed, according to the UN. The Syrian Center for Policy Research puts the death toll at more than 470,000. On Iraq, the declaration said the country’s stability and territorial integrity were the basic cornerstones of Arab national security.Arab countries gave full support for neutralizing terror groups and to recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul from Daesh.Iraqi forces have driven Daesh fighters from most of eastern Mosul as part of a wide-ranging offensive launched in October to retake the city the terror group overran in 2014. Backed by a US-led air coalition, Iraqi forces in February began fresh operations aimed at purging Daesh from the rest of the city.

The declaration also supports the restart of stalled peace talks between Israel and Palestine on a two-state solution based on 1967 borders.The statement said relocating of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was unacceptable.Peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian collapsed in April 2014 due to Israel’s refusal to release a group of Palestinian political prisoners despite promises to do so.All attempts to revive negotiations between the two sides have since failed due mainly to Israel’s insistence on continued settlement construction on occupied territories.Settlement activity has been on the rise since US President Donald Trump took office in January — thousands more have been approved in three separate plans. Approximately 500,000 Israelis now live in more than 100 Jewish-only settlements built since Israel occupied the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967.The Palestinians want these areas — along with the Gaza Strip — for the a future Palestinian state.Jordan offered to host this year’s Arab summit after Yemen was unable to do so due to the ongoing conflict there.The last Arab League summit was hosted by Mauritania last June.Conflicts in Libya and Yemen were also mentioned in the declaration.

Death toll 254 and counting as Colombia reels under mudslides

Devastating mudslides in the Colombian town of Mocoa killed at least 254 people, 43 of them children, President Juan Manuel Santos said, in yet another sharp rise in the death toll. Mr. Santos, who travelled to the southern town to personally oversee relief operations, warned the toll could keep climbing. “Unfortunately, these are still preliminary figures,” he wrote on Twitter. “We offer our prayers for all of them. We send our condolences and the entire country’s sympathies to their families.”We shall overcome. Mr. Santos declared an emergency to speed up aid operations. “The rain fell on Mocoa with an intensity and force that was without precedent and devastating,” Mr. Santos said. “It rained in two hours what falls in a month in Bogota.” Mr. Santos also said they would launch a health and vaccination campaign in the city to prevent an outbreak of disease.“Mocoa needs to rise up from this blow,” he said. “And it will.”

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