A law enforcement official confirms that members of the Westboro Baptist Church, known for its controversial practice of picketing military funerals, participated in training for law enforcement officials at Quantico Marine Base in Virginia. The sessions were discontinued this spring after Tom Browne, Assistant Director for the FBI, voiced strong opposition to bringing the group to a military facility.
Members of Westboro were "respectful" when they were on the base and did not cause any disruption, according to the official. He adds, "It wasn't the purpose to give them another outlet to vent their views. It was more academic."
The Pentagon says the message below– from Defense Secretary Gates on his last full day in office– is going out today to "all U.S. military personnel, active and reserve, around the world"
TO THE MEN AND WOMEN OF THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES: TOMORROW, 30 JUNE 2011, I WILL RETIRE AS SECRETARY OF DEFENSE. IT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST HONOR OF MY LIFE TO SERVE AND TO LEAD YOU FOR THE PAST FOUR AND A HALF YEARS.
ALL OF THAT TIME WE HAVE BEEN ENGAGED IN TWO WARS AND COUNTLESS OTHER OPERATIONS. IT HAS BEEN A DIFFICULT TIME FOR YOU AND FOR YOUR FAMILIES, FROM LONG AND REPEATED DEPLOYMENTS FOR THOSE IN ALL FOUR SERVICES - AND THE ASSOCIATED LONG SEPARATIONS FROM LOVED ONES - TO THE ANGUISH OF THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE LOST FRIENDS AND FAMILY IN COMBAT OR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE SUFFERED VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE WOUNDS OF WAR YOURSELVES. BUT YOUR DEDICATION, COURAGE AND SKILL HAVE KEPT AMERICA SAFE EVEN WHILE BRINGING THE WAR IN IRAQ TO A SUCCESSFUL CONCLUSION AND, I BELIEVE, AT LAST TURNING THE TIDE IN AFGHANISTAN. YOUR COUNTRYMEN OWE YOU THEIR FREEDOM AND THEIR SECURITY. THEY SLEEP SAFELY AT NIGHT AND PURSUE THEIR DREAMS DURING THE DAY BECAUSE YOU STAND THE WATCH AND PROTECT THEM.
A Kabul-based official with direct access to security information tells CNN it’s believed the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel was NOT the work of the Taliban but rather the Haqqani network, a longstanding group of terrorists loyal to the warlord Siraq Haqqani.
The Haqqanis have staged many spectacular attacks in Kabul in recent years and have the longstanding goal of trying to destabilize the Karzai government.
The official said “confidence is high” in the information it was the Haqqanis. “Human intelligence and technical information is providing that assessment” this official said.
The official also confirmed that all attackers wore suicide belts–the first one detonated at whatever entrance the attackers came in and the others then rushed in.
The attackers, nine in all, were from the Haqqani network. They came into Afghanistan from Pakistan.
The former governor of Afghanistan's Central Bank told CNN Tuesday that "credible information from credible sources" led to his resignation and subsequent flight to the United Stated - claiming he feared retribution for his investigation of a corruption scandal that involved high-level officials in the Afghan government.
Abul Qadeer Fitrat said he called for a "public and transparent open prosecution" of Kabul Bank, which allegedly extended fraudulent loans to well-connected businessmen, ministers, and even relatives of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
"I wanted to insist on a prosecution of those who are extremely powerful, and who are well connected to high political authorities of Afghanistan," Fitrat told CNN's Chris Lawrence. "I wanted public prosecution under the eyes of the international community."
The bank, Afghanistan's largest private financial institution, suffered a run by its depositors last September after the central bank replaced senior managers amid allegations of corruption surrounding more than $900 million in loans, many of them interest-free and made without proper documentation, no collateral or repayment plans, to shareholders including Karzai's brother, Mahmoud, and Muhammed Qasim Fahim, the first vice president. The recipients allegedly used the loans to finance lavish lifestyles outside of Afghanistan.
"All six attackers have been killed and the situation is secure," Interior Minister Bismullah Khan said Wednesday.
Two police were wounded in the attack, he said. "There may have been other casualties," he added.
A spokesman for the ISAF international military force tells CNN about 20 or so Afghan soldiers who cleared the roof of Kabul's Intercontinential hotel are going from room to room of the hotel. “That could take hours,” said the spokesman Maj. Tim James.
Maj. James said there are a small number of ISAF “mentors” working with the Afghan soldiers at the hotel.
There are no reports of any injuries or deaths among the Afghan or ISAF troops, James said.
He said three gunmen on the roof were killed; one other was killed at the beginning of the attack.
All the Inter-Continental Hotel attackers have been killed, Afghanistan's interior ministry said early Wednesday.
Earlier, two ISAF helicopters (type and nationality unknown) attacked the enemy on the roof of the Kabul Intercontinental Hotel, according to Maj. Tim James, spokesman for ISAF in Kabul.
Maj. James said at least 20 Afghan soldiers worked their way from the ground up through the hotel and onto the roof.
Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers attacked Kabul's Hotel Inter-Continental in a carefully orchestrated attack that began Tuesday night and continued into Wednesday.
About four hours after the attack began, International Security Assistance Force helicopters fired at insurgents on the roof, killing as many as three of the gunmen, ISAF spokesman Maj. Tim James told CNN.
In addition, at least 20 Afghan forces had entered the hotel and were working their way up floor by floor, he said.
Two of the approximately six would-be suicide attackers whose attack on the hotel began at 10 p.m. Tuesday were shot dead by police; another detonated his explosives and two were still resisting from the top levels of the hotel, said Afghan Lt. Gen. Mohammad Ayoub Salangi, the city's chief of police, shortly before the ISAF spokesman told of the helicopter attack on the roof. FULL POST
There is "no specific or credible information" terror groups are planning to attack the United States during the summer holiday season but law enforcement agencies should remain vigilant, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security say in an intelligence bulletin.
The death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden could spur lone offenders to try an attack on a holiday like July Fourth to "increase the symbolic impact," they say.
In the intelligence bulletin, dated Monday and obtained by CNN, federal officials note that as recently as February 2010 al Qaeda was interested in striking U.S. targets on symbolic dates such as the July Fourth holiday. That information was discovered in the cache of materials seized by U.S. Navy SEALs during their May raid of bin Laden's house in Pakistan.
There is no information the al Qaeda goal led to the development of actual plots against the United States, and it is unclear how many al Qaeda members or other terrorists shared that aspiration, the bulletin says. FULL POST
From CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr
CNN has learned that U.S. military aircraft conducted a strike near Kismayo in southern Somalia last week as part of new secret joint Pentagon and CIA war against a terrorist group the U.S. believes is targeting Europe and the United States.
The U.S. hit a stronghold of al Shabaab, a Somali-based al Qaeda affiliate now in the U.S. crosshairs.
U.S. military and CIA personnel have gone to Somalia in recent months, gathering intelligence and meeting key Somali contacts, according to two U.S. officials. The White House believes that al Shabaab and al Qaeda are now hand in glove.
Watch the video above for more from CNN's Barbara Starr about the strike