China's top military officer visiting U.S. military installations
May 7th, 2012
05:20 PM ET

China's top military officer visiting U.S. military installations

By Chris Lawrence

The Pentagon welcomed on Monday the highest-ranking Chinese military official to visit the United States in nearly a decade: China's minister of national defense, Gen. Liang Guanglie.

He met with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in a continuing effort by the Pentagon to understand China's rapid military expansion and build a relationship with the Asian giant.

After the meeting the two announced that later this year Panetta would be travelling to China and the U.S. and Chinese militaries will be conducting a joint anti-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden.

"We'd like to have a better understanding of the purpose of the Chinese military modernization program," a senior U.S. defense official said. "We want to better understand why China is investing in a very robust and rapid military modernization program, given that when we look around the region we see an area of the world at peace."

The official spoke to reporters about the visit on the condition no name was used.
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BREAKING: Terror plot directed at airliner thwarted
Suspected al Qaeda bomb expert Ibrahim Hassan al Asiri of Yemen.
May 7th, 2012
05:06 PM ET

BREAKING: Terror plot directed at airliner thwarted

By Pam Benson

U.S., Yemeni and other intelligence agencies broke up a plot to bomb a U.S. airliner around the anniversary of the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, a U.S. counterrrorism official said Monday, although a second U.S. counterrorism official said that the threat was not timed to coincide with the death of the al Qaeda leader.

The plot was discovered before it threatened any Americans, and no airliners were put at risk, the official said. A non-metallic explosive device similar to the one used in the failed attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound jet in 2009 was recovered, the official said. Both devices were associated with Ibrahim Hassan al Asiri, the official said.

And a Yemeni official told CNN that his government was made aware of a possible attack tied to the anniversary. The target was not specific, the official said, and the alert went out to the United States and other partners in the war on terror.

The White House said President Barack Obama was told about the plot in April, and the attempt "underscores the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism here and abroad."

CNN's Elise Labott and Jessica Yellin contributed to this report.

FULL COVERAGE HERE


Filed under: AQAP • Ibrahim al-Asiri • Security Brief • Yemen
F-22 maker launches Twitter defense over recent negative reports
May 7th, 2012
10:45 AM ET

F-22 maker launches Twitter defense over recent negative reports

Lockheed Martin has launched an offensive to combat complaints from pilots who have refused to fly its F-22s over concerns about oxygen deprivation while in the cockpit, reports CNN's This Just In page.

The company took its campaign to the skies – er, Twitter – to try to combat growing negative publicity about its Raptors.

The Air Force has been looking into about a dozen unexplained incidents related to hypoxia, or oxygen deficiency, with pilots but has been unable to pinpoint the cause, Air Combat Command has said.

Read about the PR pushback on This Just In


Filed under: Defense Spending
U.S. officials confirm release of senior Taliban
May 7th, 2012
06:43 AM ET

U.S. officials confirm release of senior Taliban

By Nick Paton Walsh

Up to 20 high-level insurgent prisoners have been released from NATO custody in Afghanistan over the past two years in an effort to boost peace negotiations with the Taliban in various regions of the country, according to U.S. officials.

The insurgents, held at the jointly-run NATO-Afghan detention facility of Parwan, are considered "bad guys," said one U.S. official who did not want to be identified discussing a sensitive issue. Their release was undertaken, the official said, often at the request of the Afghan government. In all cases, they were assessed as unlikely to rejoin the insurgency.

The official added that the Taliban detainees had been in the maximum security Parwan detention center “for a reason” – but that NATO "does not release anyone when there is a high likelihood they will rejoin the insurgency." The official said he was aware of only two releases in the last nine months. FULL POST

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Diplomacy • ISAF • Military • NATO • Taliban
May 7th, 2012
03:51 AM ET

U.S. citizen abducted in Pakistan asks Obama to meet al Qaeda demands

By the CNN Wire Staff

A 70-year-old U.S. citizen kidnapped in Pakistan last year has made an emotional plea to President Barack Obama to meet al Qaeda's demands in order to save his life, according to a video released on several Islamist websites Sunday.

"My life is in your hands, Mr. President," Warren Weinstein said in the video. "If you accept the demands, I live. If you don't accept the demands, then I die."

Weinstein, a development consultant, was abducted in August from his home in the city of Lahore. In December, al Qaeda claimed responsibility for his capture.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of the terror network, listed eight demands that he said, if met, would result in Weinstein's release. The demands related to issues in the Middle East, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Read the full CNN.com story here.

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Al-Zawahiri • Terrorism
New pirate prison in Somalia aims to relieve international overload
May 7th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

New pirate prison in Somalia aims to relieve international overload

By Mike Mount

Somali pirates captured on the high seas and prosecuted in other countries are now being transferred to a new prison in Somalia. It's a significant change for countries combating piracy but are seeing their own jail systems overwhelmed as the U.S. and other countries continue to catch and turn over pirates to countries willing to prosecute them.

The prison, located in the self-governed northern part of Somalia, accepted its first detainees at the end of March, according to U.S. State Department officials. The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime is paying for the transport and the prison facility, according to U.S. State Department officials.

The first prisoners were transferred from the tiny island nation of Seychelles, located off the east coast of Africa, where small facilities have been quickly overcrowded. The new prison is in Hargeisa, the capital of the self-governed breakaway enclave of Somaliland. The region declared its independence in 1991 and has remained relatively violence-free and self-sustaining, unlike the southern part of the country. Somaliland's government will run the facility.

FULL POST

May 7th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Israeli political heavyweights publicly spar over Iran policy

By Guy Azriel

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak lashed out against former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and two former heads of Israeli security services who publicly criticized the policy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government on Iran.

In excerpts of an interview published last week, Barak told the Israeli daily Israel Hayom that Olmert, together with Meir Dagan, former head of the Israeli Mossad, and former head of internal security Yuval Diskin, were working for the benefit of the Iranian government.

"It isn't hard to see who does this serve," Barak said.

Barak expressed anger over what he sees as efforts to derail the government's campaign to increase international pressure on the Iranian regime to suspend its nuclear ambitions.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Iran • Israel
May 7th, 2012
01:18 AM ET

Killing of al Qaeda leader in Yemen evidence of new U.S.-Yemeni offensive

by Tim Lister 

The death of Fahd al Quso, a senior al Qaeda figure in Yemen, comes as the Yemeni military and the CIA step up their campaigns to degrade what's often called al Qaeda's most dangerous affiliate.

Al Quso, 37, was killed in a drone strike Sunday in a remote part of one of Yemen's most lawless provinces.

His “martydom,” along with the death of another unnamed militant, was confirmed by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Al Quso is the most prominent casualty yet of an offensive against al Qaeda ordered by Yemen's new President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and supported by a broader U.S. drone campaign.

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Terrorism • Yemen
Bin Laden documents: Competing vision of al Qaeda’s top two
May 7th, 2012
01:16 AM ET

Bin Laden documents: Competing vision of al Qaeda’s top two

By Paul Cruickshank, CNN Terrorism Analyst

For years they were the double act at the top of al Qaeda: the charismatic Saudi who projected aloofness while he micro-managed, and his cunning but divisive Egyptian deputy, whose prolific video output made him the public face of the network in the years after 9/11.

They had forged an alliance between their two groups, and settled into a symbiotic partnership in the Jihadist melting pot of Peshawar in the late 1980s, and in the following decade the Sudan and Taliban-run Afghanistan. Those who spent time in their company say the two men were genuinely close and enjoyed an easy and often jocular repartee. When Osama bin Laden walked into a room, Ayman al Zawahiri was often at his side, deferential and courteous – a quite calculated but also genuine show of respect – and a metaphor for his relationship with the Saudi.

For there was also fierce ambition in the Egyptian, and some different ideas about where al Qaeda’s priorities should lie, which the Abbottabad documents suggest caused a number of disagreements in the years after 9/11, with implications, given Zawahiri’s accession as leader, for the future course of the terrorist network.

FULL POST