Karzai says media misinterpreted comments on U.S. and Taliban
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai during news conference in Kabul.
March 25th, 2013
06:38 PM ET

Karzai says media misinterpreted comments on U.S. and Taliban

By Tom Cohen and Jason Hanna

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a previously unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Monday to repair strained relations with President Hamid Karzai as the American-led international force continues to prepare to end its combat mission next year.

Kerry's stop came on the same day that U.S. forces turned over control of a prison that has caused tension between the two nations, with Americans retaining a say on the handling of certain Taliban inmates.

The talks on Monday followed controversial comments by Karzai in recent weeks that seemed to accuse U.S. forces of working with the Taliban to kill Afghan civilians, a charge denied by U.S. officials.

Karzai's reported remarks caused outrage in Washington with some in Congress questioning why the United States should continue the war effort.

At a joint news conference after meeting Kerry, Karzai said he had been misinterpreted when quoted as alleging collusion between the Americans and the Taliban.

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Filed under: Security Brief
March 25th, 2013
06:26 PM ET

Terror figure yields valuable intel

By Carol Cratty

A former top leader of a Somali terror group, who also had ties to al Qaeda, secretly pleaded guilty in 2011 to federal charges and has provided the U.S. government with valuable intelligence information, the Justice Department said on Monday.

Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame was a leader of al-Shabaab in Somalia and arranged a weapons deal at one time with Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to court documents.

The U.S. military captured him at sea in April 2011 while he was traveling from Yemen to Somalia. He pleaded guilty in New York the following December to nine terrorism charges.

Among other things, Warsame admitted to conspiring to provide material support to al-Shabaab and al Qaeda's operation in the Arabian Peninsula, conspiracy to teach others how to make bombs, and receiving miltary-type training from a terrorist organization.

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Al-Shabaab • Intelligence • Security Brief • Somalia • Terrorism • Yemen
Kerry presses for end to Iran's shipments to Syria over Iraq
March 24th, 2013
05:43 PM ET

Kerry presses for end to Iran's shipments to Syria over Iraq

By Kevin Liptak

Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday in Baghdad that he pressed Iraq's leaders to take steps prohibiting Iranian planes from delivering arms to Syria's besieged government, which is battling rebels backed by financial support from the American government.

Iranian planes must fly through Iraq's airspace in order to reach Syria with deliveries of weapons and supplies. The flights are occurring almost daily, according to a senior State Department official accompanying Kerry on his stop in Baghdad.

"Anything that supports President Assad is problematic," Kerry told reporters, referring to Syria's leader. "And I made it very clear to the prime minister that the overflights from Iran are, in fact, helping to sustain President Assad and his regime."

Kerry's previously unannounced trip to Iraq came after he joined President Barack Obama on a trip to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan. This week marked the ten-year anniversary of the beginning of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, and the first time since 2009 that a U.S. secretary of state has visited the country. Obama last went to Iraq in April 2009.

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Filed under: Iran • Iraq • John Kerry • Security Brief • Syria
March 22nd, 2013
06:05 AM ET

Shooting at Quantico Marine base leaves 3 dead, including gunman

By Alison Harding and Shannon Travis, CNN

A shooting that prompted a lockdown for hours at a Marine base in Virginia ended with three dead early Friday, including the gunman, authorities said.

Sgt. Christopher Zahn said they were notified of the shooting at Marine Corps Base Quantico late Thursday.

One person was fatally shot, and the gunman barricaded himself not far from where the victim was found, he said.

Using a public address system, police announced a base lockdown as the shooter holed up in a room in barracks near the first incident.

Law enforcement officials from the base and Prince William County surrounded the area.

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Detainees' attorneys angered by cancellation of flights to Guantanamo
March 21st, 2013
07:22 PM ET

Detainees' attorneys angered by cancellation of flights to Guantanamo

By Mike Mount

The U.S. Navy has ordered commercial flights to the military base at Guantanamo, Cuba canceled because of a regulation that had been overlooked for years, outraging lawyers who use the flights to visit their clients at the detention facility.

The order comes as lawyers of detainees held at Guantanamo sent a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel complaining of tougher treatment of detainees by the base commander who arrived last summer. At least 25 suspected terrorists held at the detention facility are participating in a hunger strike, which lawyers say is a result of the treatment they are receiving.

Navy Capt. John Nettleton, the Naval Station Commanding Officer , notified the small airline, IBC Travel, in late February, according to military officials. The airline was directed to stop flying into Guantanamo by April 30th, but the airline said it would halt flights as of April 5th, according Navy officials.
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Filed under: Gitmo
March 21st, 2013
05:36 PM ET

FIRST ON CNN: US intel not seeing signs chemical weapons were used in Syria

By Barbara Starr

Initial U.S. intelligence suggests Syria did not use chemical weapons in a strike earlier this week, CNN has been told by U.S. officials.

The officials emphasized this is a preliminary conclusion and the investigation continues.

U.S. analysts are "leaning hard away" from the notion that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people, a military official directly familiar with the preliminary analysis tells CNN.

There are "multiple indicators" for this emerging conclusion, a second official said.

That official told CNN, "there are strong indications now that chemical weapons were not used by the regime in recent days."

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Guantanamo video device watches, but doesn't listen to privileged conversations
March 21st, 2013
02:16 AM ET

Guantanamo video device watches, but doesn't listen to privileged conversations

By Mike Mount and Larry Shaughnessy, CNN

A photo of a listening device in a room where attorneys met with terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay caused a stir this month, but a senior military official says it is a relic from the days when interrogations occurred in the facility.

A military judge hearing the case against the September 11, 2001, terror mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others ordered the photo released earlier this month.

The device baffled defense lawyers who speak with their Guantanamo clients in the room where the device, which looks like a smoke detector, was hanging.

One of the top military lawyers for the Gitmo detention facility said he looked into the matter and found no one was listening in on privileged conversations, The Miami Herald reported.

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Military takeover of lethal drone operations under consideration
The U.S. MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle has been used to take out key targets in the war on terror.
March 20th, 2013
11:32 PM ET

Military takeover of lethal drone operations under consideration

By Chris Lawrence and Barbara Starr

The Obama administration is considering shifting lethal drone operations run by the Central Intelligence Agency over to the military, U.S. officials tell CNN.

The proposal is under "serious consideration," one U.S. official said. The official said no final decision has been made, and that there is no specific time frame in place, but that the change is being considered "due to a desire for greater transparency in who is being targeted."

By law, the military is not able to act covertly the way the CIA can, and it must answer to Congress.

The Daily Beast website first reported on the potential shift.

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U.S. military considers its options in Syria
NATO has installed Patriot missile batteries in Turkey, near its border with Syria which Admiral Stavridis said could theoretically be used to shoot down Syrian aircraft.
March 20th, 2013
04:53 PM ET

U.S. military considers its options in Syria

By Chris Lawrence

Seven months ago, President Barack Obama warned the use of chemical weapons in Syria could bring direct U.S. involvement in that country's raging civil war. While the administration's interest in U.S. military involvement in Syria remains low, planners still have been preparing for the possibility U.S. forces would have to step in and neutralize Syria's military or safeguard chemical weapons stockpiles.

It's not a pretty picture, NATO commander Adm. James Stavridis said Tuesday, a day after unconfirmed reports emerged that chemical weapons may have been used.

"The Syrian situation continues to become worse and worse and worse," he said.

The mere possibility of U.S. involvement comes at a bad time for the military, which is preparing to ground some aircraft, scrap some naval deployments and cut back on training to meet budget cuts mandated by forced spending cuts that went into effect last month.
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March 20th, 2013
03:29 PM ET

FIRST ON CNN: Bounty on two Americans tied to Somali terror group

By Elise Labott

The State Department has put a multimillion-dollar bounty on the heads of two Americans who the United States claims belong to an al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, CNN has learned.

Posters and matchbooks in Somali and English emblazoned with the names and pictures of Omar Shafik Hammami and Jehad Serwan Mostafa tout rewards up to $5 million each for information leading to their arrest or conviction. Both men are on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists List.

Image on matchbox to be distributed as part of the Rewards for Justice program

The rewards are being offered through the State Department's Rewards for Justice Program.

Hammami and Mostafa are members of Al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, and "have made significant contributions to this terrorist organization's media and military activities," according to a State Department statement on the rewards, obtained by CNN. They are both are believed to be in Somalia and speak English, Arabic and Somali.

A senior FBI official said the United States has information that both men "had a persistent interest in targeting U.S. interests" and are "believed to be involved in planning attacks on U.S. persons or property." But it is unclear what specific attacks against Americans, even ones that have been thwarted, these men have taken part in. Officials said that information is classified.

Hammami, a 29-year-old Alabama native, moved to Somalia in 2006. The State Department claims he joined Al-Shabaab there and received training from Islamic militants, rising through the organization's ranks to command a contingent of foreign fighters. Officials say he was also a "propagandist" for the group, helping to recruit English-speaking youth through writings, rap songs and video statements. FULL POST

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