Libyan embassy reopens its doors in Washington
Libyan Ambassador Ali Aujali speaks at the reopening of the Libyan embassy on Wednesday. Photo: Jamie Crawford/CNN
August 17th, 2011
06:23 PM ET

Libyan embassy reopens its doors in Washington

By CNN National Security Producer Jamie Crawford

While it technically began operating last week, the Libyan Embassy in Washington was officially reopened Wednesday by its ambassador amid a crowd of proud Libyan-Americans waving flags and singing Libyan songs.

"This embassy will serve as a symbol of the new Libya here in the U.S.," Ambassador Ali Aujali said outside the Watergate building in Washington where the embassy is located. "We will work tirelessly not only to serve the needs of the Libyans studying, living and traveling in this country, but also to thank the United States government on behalf of the Libyan people everywhere for its continuing support for transition to a free and democratic nation."

The mission now represents the Transitional National Council (TNC), the rebel movement based in Benghazi, which the United States recognized as the rightful government of Libya on July 15.

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Filed under: Diplomacy • Gadhafi • Libya
Policing under threat of suicide bombers and IEDs
CNN/David Ariosto
August 17th, 2011
04:02 PM ET

Policing under threat of suicide bombers and IEDs

By CNN's David Ariosto in Kabul, Afghanistan

A pair of Oakley sunglasses wrap around the face of an Afghan police officer riding atop a well-armed patrol - perhaps among the more anecdotal indications of western influence in this central Asian capital.

His mirrored lenses reflect the back-end of a Ford Ranger pick-up truck, painted army green.

The two-truck convoy is packed with more than two dozen of his heavily armed comrades, a scantly-used term that smacks of Soviet influence that once bore down on this region.

The officers circle the city, reinforcing checkpoints that comprise what authorities have dubbed the "Ring of Steel," perhaps a term meant to inspire a sense of confidence within Kabul's inner capital.

But his job description is an unenviable one:  patrol the city, keep it safe and watch for suicide bombers.

"If you see a suicide attacker, you should try to arrest him," said Mohammad Ghalam, a police officer operating a nearby check-point. "But if you can't, you'll have to kill him quickly."

While the outside observer might consider that statement somewhat contradictory, Ghalam's words aptly reflect the duality of working as a civilian officer in a time of war.

Police trucks in the capital are commonly equipped with heavy machine guns. Those who man them - or even just sit behind the big guns - wear body armor, sling automatic weapons and are often clad in multi-pocketed apparel used to stuff spare cartridges.

Suicide attacks, gun-battles and roadside bombs are their daily threats.

"I think our biggest challenge comes from the VIPs who drive up (to police checkpoints)," said Ghalam. "They never want to have their vehicle searched."  FULL POST

Filed under: Security Brief
Homeland Security launches new ads for public awareness campaign
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano addresses a gathering at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Wednesday recounting security challenges since 9/11 Photo by Paul Courson
August 17th, 2011
03:24 PM ET

Homeland Security launches new ads for public awareness campaign

By CNN Producer Paul Courson

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano unveiled new television ads Wednesday for the public awareness campaign "If you see something, say something," as the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks nears.

"Today, we are stronger than we were on 9/11," Napolitano said, but added, "There are no guarantees in this world."

"What we can do is maximize our ability to prevent an attack from occurring, minimize the ability of such an attack having a large impact and increase our ability to respond."

Video of the new television ads was played during Napolitano's remarks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. One of them is set in a public transit station, where pedestrians watch as someone pulls a handbag from the trunk of a car and leaves it on a bench in the waiting area.


Filed under: 9/11 • Homeland Security • Living With Terror • Napolitano • Terrorism
Law enforcement alert warns of lone wolf threats
July 25, 2011 shows Anders Behring Breivik (L) leaving the courthouse in a police car in Oslo after the hearing to decide his further detention AFP/Getty Images
August 17th, 2011
03:05 PM ET

Law enforcement alert warns of lone wolf threats

By Carol Cratty
CNN Senior Producer

U.S. officials warn the threat posed by a lone gunman or a group with small arms is a serious concern to law enforcement.

A joint intelligence bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI cites the July attack in Norway as one very deadly example. Anders Behring Breivik allegedly shot and killed 69 people on the Norwegian island of Utoya. Authorities say earlier that day a vehicle bomb made by Breivik exploded in Oslo and killed eight people.

Syrian opposition working to unify, get its act together
Image grab from YouTube shows Syrian anti-government demonstrators in Idlib Photo From: AFP/Getty Images
August 17th, 2011
12:37 PM ET

Syrian opposition working to unify, get its act together

By CNN Senior State Department Producer Elise Labott

As international pressure against the Bashar al-Assad regime intensifies, the Syrian opposition says it has been taking steps to better organize its efforts.

Activists say Syria's disparate opposition groups within the country are working toward a unified front that includes classic opposition figures from all sects and backgrounds as well as representation from the two main opposition groups.

In an interview last week with CBS News, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton encouraged the opposition to get its act together. While praising the Syrian protesters risking their lives, Clinton said she has yet to see an organized opposition for the U.S. to deal with.

"There is a lot of sort of beginning sprouts of such an opposition," Clinton said. "But there's no address for the opposition. There is no place that any of us who wish to assist can go."

Pointing to political and religious divisions within Syria that make dealing with the opposition a challenge, Clinton said the U.S. was encouraging the opposition to "adopt the kind of unified agenda rooted in democratic change, inclusively. So if you're a Christian, if you're a Kurd, if you're a Druze, if you're an Alawite, if you're a Sunni, inside Syria there will be a place for you in the future."


August 17th, 2011
12:29 PM ET

"Numbered" is in the eye of the beholder

There was a 'I've heard this somewhere before'  ring to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's statement on Tuesday that "Gadhafi's days are numbered," as Time Battleland blog notes.

Here, courtesy of the Battleland gang, is a look at the Obama administration's  six months of insisting, the end is near:

"Gadhafi's days are numbered." – August 15, White House press secretary Jay Carney

"He's really running out of time." – July 20, Carney

"His days are numbered." – July 13, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

"The noose is tightening around him." – June 29, President Obama

"His days are numbered." – June 20, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland

"We do believe his days are numbered." – June 20, Carney

"His days are numbered." – June 16, Nuland

For the rest of the list, read the Battleland blog

Filed under: Gadhafi • Libya
August 17th, 2011
09:41 AM ET

Salafists defend right to be part of new Egypt democracy

From Lauren Bohn in Cairo, for CNN

EDITOR'S NOTE: Lauren Bohn is a multimedia journalist and Fulbright Scholar in Egypt. 

Mohammed Shoukrey didn’t always like leaving the doors open at Aziz Ballah, a Salafi educational and medical center in Cairo. To avoid “all the eyes,” the soft-spoken 33-year-old and general secretary of education for the center would sometimes park his car several blocks from the large building and walk to work.

“Before January, Mubarak’s guards were everywhere, students would have to sign attendance books, sheikhs would come to deliver lectures and then be arrested immediately after,” explains Shoukrey. “But now, we’re free. New Egypt has been good to us, but there are still some wrinkles.”

That might be an understatement. The emergence of Salafi groups has quickly become one of the most contentious (and to western observers worrying) aspects of Egypt’s revolution. They are accused of stoking sectarian strife against Egypt’s Christian minority and of plotting to undermine the country’s fledgling democracy. Their opponents fear they will hijack the revolution and will implement strict Islamic law through the ballot box.

The “S” word has become something of a catch-all term for any Muslim with a long beard, but Salafism is not a singular ideology or movement with one leader. Often identified in the West with terrorism, it’s more a label for a way of thinking guided by a strict interpretation of religious texts. Theirs is a conservative interpretation of Islam at odds with the young, secular protestors who first took to the streets demanding freedom and democracy. FULL POST

Filed under: Arab Spring • Egypt
August 17th, 2011
09:20 AM ET

Riding with Afghanistan's security force

A new report released this week raised fresh doubts about a key aspect of the US strategy in Afghanistan: building the Afghan security force.  In Kabul, CNN's David Ariosto headed out on patrol with members of the force to get a first hand look at the training and patrolling effort.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Hot Spot Dispatch
August 17th, 2011
07:40 AM ET

Osama bin Laden's doctor resurfaces

From Mohamed Fadel Fahmy in Cairo, For CNN

Ramzi Mahmoud Al Mowafi, the doctor of the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, escaped from a Cairo prison during the Egyptian revolution earlier this year and has resurfaced in the country's North Sinai area, an official said.  The revelation comes as Egypt cracks down on terror cells in Sinai.

"Al Mowafi, also known among his fellow Jihadists as the 'chemist,' escaped from a maximum security prison in Cairo on January 30 while serving a life sentence," Maj. Yaser Atia from Egyptian General Security told CNN Monday. According to prison records, Al Mowafi was sentenced to life for a "military case" - but more details were not immediately known.

Bin Laden's longtime personal doctor and an explosives expert, Al Mowafi was born in Egypt in 1952. He left for Afghanistan to join al Qaeda, according to the data listed in his prison records. FULL POST

Filed under: Al Qaeda • Egypt • Living With Terror