Pentagon Trained Troops Led by Officer Accused In Colombian Massacre

Pentagon Trained Troops Led by Officer Accused In Colombian Massacre

WASHINGTON, D.C. March 30, 2000 — Pentagon officials, under pressure to investigate alleged links between elite U.S. military trainers and Colombian forces implicated in a 1997 civilian massacre, have confirmed that they trained soldiers commanded by the officer accused of masterminding the attack.

With a $1.6 billion counternarcotics aid package for Colombia making its way through the U.S. Congress, there is increased scrutiny over whether U.S. military assistance has been or could be turned against Colombian civilians in that country’s decades-long civil war.

In November 1997, Congress enacted the “Leahy amendment,” prohibiting assistance to any foreign military unit if there is “credible evidence that such unit has committed gross violations of human rights.”

Four months earlier, 49 residents of Mapiripán, a village in the coca-growing region of southeastern Colombia, were killed over a five-day period by suspected paramilitary forces allegedly operating under the direction of Colombian Army Col. Lino Sánchez and Carlos Castaño, leader of Colombia’s right-wing paramilitary forces. Colombian prosecutors have formally accused Sánchez and Castaño of being the “intellectual authors” of the massacre.

Sánchez and two other Colombian army officers are in prison, awaiting trial on charges in connection with the massacre. Castaño, Colombia’s most notorious rightist paramilitary leader accused of numerous civilian atrocities and drug trafficking, remains at large.

A Pentagon official, speaking on condition that he not be identified, confirmed that Sánchez was commander of the 2nd Mobile Brigade, which received training by U.S. Special Forces at a river base about 80 kilometers from Mapiripán. The Defense Department has said it is investigating further to determine whether Sánchez himself was trained by U.S. Special Forces.

The Bogotá daily El Espectador reported on Feb. 27 that Sánchez’s 2nd Mobile Brigade received U.S. Special Forces training in June 1997 while he was planning the Mapiripán massacre. The newspaper said the goal of the attack was to turn over control of the guerrilla-held Mapiripán, in a region that produces about 30 percent of the worlds coca, to paramilitary forces, which have ties to the Colombian army.

A report by Colombia’s Counternarcotics Police Intelligence Office, cited by the newspaper, said Sánchez first engineered a plan on June 21 to introduce paramilitary forces into the region, using U.S. spraying of coca crops as a cover, in order to “teach the guerrillas a lesson.”

The El Espectador investigation was based on a review of 4,500 pages of Colombian government documents on the Mapiripán massacre by reporter Ignacio Gómez, who is also a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. It has prompted inquiries on Capitol Hill, where Congress is debating an aid package that would train and equip Colombian army counternarcotics battalions and provide money for more than 60 helicopters for army and police forces.

Human rights groups are worried that the military aid might be used against Colombian civilians. Robert E. White, former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador and Paraguay and president of the Center for International Policy, warned in a Feb. 8 commentary in The Washington Post that the aid package “puts us in league with a Colombian military that has longstanding ties to the drug-dealing, barbaric paramilitaries that commit more than 75 percent of the human rights violations” in Colombia.

“Obviously our people do not teach torture. They do not teach massacres. They teach human rights in every single class,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations Brian Sheridan told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations two days after the El Espectador report. “As to the massacre, or alleged massacre and its proximity to or juxtapositioning to the training activity, that is something that we will have to look at very carefully.”

In a Dec. 22, 1999, letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a member of the Senates Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and author of the Leahy amendment, Sheridan listed nine training exercises between U.S. and Colombian soldiers between June and August 1997. Specifically, he said, U.S. soldiers from the 7th Special Forces Group, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., trained Colombian troops at the Barrancón river base from May 14 to June 23, 1997. Barrancón, an island in the Guaviare River, is a U.S. Special Forces training site that is a 10-minute drive from a Colombian army base and airfield at San José del Guaviare, from which U.S. government and contract personnel conduct counternarcotics operations. According to El Espectador, the paramilitaries were allowed to land at that airbase in mid-July en route to Mapiripán.

Sheridan said the “Green Berets” finished their training of Colombian troops at “the Barrancón Special Forces School” on June 23, 1997. Pentagon officials say they do not know whether Sánchez’s 2nd Mobile Brigade participated in that training, and Clyde Howard, an official in Sheridan’s office, said the Pentagon was under no obligation to investigate because the Leahy amendment was not law at the time of the massacre.

Sheridan confirmed that Sánchez’s 2nd Mobile Brigade received “riverine interdiction and land warfare” training one month after the massacre from Aug. 18 to Sept. 18, 1997.

U.S. Special Forces from Fort Bragg were in Colombia from May 22 to July 22, 1997, according to a 1998 Defense Department report. But Sheridan’s office said only the two exercises specified in the Leahy letter involved training at Barrancón.

“There are discrepancies about what our military trainers were doing at Barrancón, and whether they were there at the time of the Mapiripán massacre nearby. These discrepancies need to be clarified,” Leahy said in a statement to Gómez.

Documents reviewed by El Espectador indicate that American military personnel were at Barrancón for a graduation ceremony for U.S.-trained Colombian forces on July 20-22, 1997. A prosecutor from Colombia’s Attorney Generals office, who investigated the Mapiripán massacre two days after it ended, was denied a helicopter to reach the village on July 22 because it was being used to transport military personnel based at the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, the documents show.

U.S. officials have acknowledged seeing unusual military activity in and around the San José airfield near Barrancón before the massacre. Barbara Larkin, the State Department’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs, said in a March 30, 1998, letter to Leahy that Colombian army troops from the 2nd Mobile Brigade and the 7th Brigade were present in the area at the time. The State Department told Leahy “that U.S. personnel involved in counternarcotics programs at San Jose [del Guaviare] remember seeing an unusual number of Army personnel at the airport on the day in question.”

The investigation by the Colombian federal prosecutors office showed that on July 12, two civilian airplanes, an Antonov and a DC-3, landed at the San José del Guaviare airfield near Barrancón, where Sánchez had an office, El Espectador reported. The planes carried 15 paramilitary operatives loyal to Castaño, armed with machetes and knives, several tons of supplies, and leaflets addressed “To the People of the Guaviare,” warning them to cease their cooperation with the guerrillas.

The Castaño paramilitaries were joined by others, and the force totaled about 100 men by the time it reached Mapiripán, about a two-hour drive to the northeast. El Espectador, citing the prosecutors report, said two paramilitary soldiers also crossed the Guaviare River in stolen boats past a Colombian marine infantry base checkpoint attached to the Barrancón facility. U.S. Navy Seabees built the marine base in 1994, and the U.S. Navy continues to train Colombian forces there. The boats then met up with the rest of the paramilitary force across the river from Mapiripán. At no time did Colombian civilian or military authorities challenge the paramilitary forces, the newspaper said, even though such groups are illegal in Colombia.

At dawn on July 15, 1997, the paramilitary forces surrounded Mapiripán, and their siege of terror and torture lasted until July 20, when the International Committee of the Red Cross dispatched a plane to the village.  Today, Mapiripán is a virtual ghost town.

Read the Report: The Risks of U.S. Aid: U.S. Special Forces trained human rights violators in Colombia (El Espectador, Colombia)
ICIJ researcher Rupa Patel contributed to this report.

Revealed: The secrets of Colombia’s murderous Castaño brothers

Revealed: The secrets of Colombia’s murderous Castaño brothers

When their father was killed by Marxist guerrillas, Fidel, Carlos and Vicente Castaño swore revenge. Nearly 30 years and 140,000 victims later, their legacy of violence lives on. Jeremy McDermott, who has followed the brothers’ trail of terror across Colombia for more than a decade, reveals the secrets of the country’s most feared criminal family

Carlos Castano, right, the leader of a  right-wing paramilitary group with some of his men in northern Colombia in 2001

Carlos Castano, right, with some of his men in northern Colombia in 2001 Photo: AP
3:09PM GMT 07 Nov 2008

I have been queuing outside Itagui prison on the outskirts of Medellín every other Saturday. Housed inside the maximum-security prison in Colombia’s Antioquia province are some of the world’s most prolific mass murderers and drug lords.

Each weekend I come here to try to see a man who blends both of those criminal ‘qualities’. Hebert Veloza was the right-hand man and chief assassin to Vicente Castaño, one of three brothers who built up Colombia’s illegal paramilitary army, the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), that in 2006 demobilised more than 30,000 fighters.

Investigations into the bloodbath that the AUC unleashed across Colombia is still under investigation, but the list of victims exceeds 140,000. Hebert Veloza has admitted to personally carrying out 1,000 of them.

Despite the best efforts of the prison service to block access, I managed to get on Veloza’s list of friends allowed to visit him.

Veloza, 41, is a little man with spindly legs, intense eyes and a hooked nose – hence the nickname, which he hates, of ‘Chickenface’.

The alias he prefers is ‘Hernan Hernandez’ or ‘HH’. You would not look twice at HH if you passed him in the street. His victims seldom noticed him coming either. But HH is one of the few people still alive prepared to talk about the Castaños.

For 11 years, I have been reporting on the AUC, following a trail of murders and massacres that has stretched across the country. HH is the key to unlocking the story never before fully told: the story not only of the AUC, but of Colombia’s most brutal criminal family, the Castaños.

There was little remarkable about the Castaños in 1980. Jesus Castaño had 12 children, eight boys and four girls, employing the usual peasant tradition of breeding enough cheap labour to work the land.

Jesus ran a tight ship and was very strict with his children, who rose before dawn to milk the cows. They had to pay for their own schooling by selling cheese and milk in the town of Amalfi in the northern province of Antioquia, where they lived.

On September 18, 1981, Jesus Castaño was kidnapped by Marxist guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) and a ransom of 50 million pesos was demanded.

The Farc, born in 1964 when liberal guerillas from the previous chapter of the Colombian civil war embraced Communism, at this stage used kidnap for ransom and extortion as its primary sources of income.

The net worth of the whole Castaño clan was 10 million pesos and Fidel, the eldest son, then 32, was able through charm and intimidation to scratch together six million. (The Farc later admitted that the ransom figure was a miscalculation, and one for which they were to pay dearly.)

According to Carlos Castaño, in an interview he gave to a writer, German Castro Caycedo, in 1996, Fidel told the guerrilla who came to collect the ransom, ‘Believe me, I collected all the money possible and I have no way of getting any more.’

When the rebel pointed out that he was 44 million pesos short, Fidel’s soon-to-become notorious temper got the better of him. ‘If I could get more money,’ he said, ‘it would be only to fight you.’

Jesus Castaño was tied to a tree, savagely beaten and left to die. His children vowed revenge.

‘What came from this was hatred,’ Carlos said, ‘a hatred that could not be banished. We decided to fight the guerrillas. But we did not realise the magnitude of the enemy and what we had embarked the entire family on. [Until then] I had never fired a shot.’

Fidel and Carlos, then just 16, presented themselves to the local army unit, who were engaged in a constant battle against the Farc. For a year they helped lead the military through guerrilla areas. Then in 1982 sources told them that a Farc guerrilla, Conrado Ramirez, was in the nearby town of Segovia. Fidel alerted the authorities, but Ramirez was released for lack of evidence. As Ramirez left his hotel the next day, Fidel killed him.

Soon afterwards, the Castaños set up their first vigilante group, named after Fidel’s farm: ‘Las Tangas’. The killers became known as ‘Los Tangeros’. Fidel, always in the front line of the fighting, never hesitating to kill, was given the nickname ‘Rambo’ by his troops.

His crusade against the Farc blazed its way through the province of Cordoba in north-west Colombia, where he was backed by local ranchers, businessmen and elements of the army, all fearful of the Marxist guerrillas who extorted and kidnapped with impunity. He also became involved in anything that could turn a buck: gold-mining, land prospecting, even the purchase of art, for which he had a good eye.

His business acumen was helped by his skill with a gun and his willingness to use it. It was perhaps inevitable that Fidel would become involved in what by the mid-1980s was the most lucrative business in Latin America: cocaine.

The world centre of the cocaine trade at the time was Medellín, Colombia’s second-largest city. The pioneer in that trade was Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria. A chubby former small-time criminal – as a teenager Escobar would steal tombstones and sell them to Panamanian smugglers – he built up the Medellín Cartel to the extent that, by 1990, it was the most powerful crime syndicate in the world. However, in the late 1980s, the cartel was having problems getting a sufficient supply of coca base to process into cocaine. At this stage, Colombia was only a minor grower of the coca bush, far behind Peru and Bolivia.

Somehow, Fidel was drawn into Escobar’s orbit, and was soon dispatched to Bolivia to sort out supply for the Medellín Cartel, enhancing Fidel’s reputation further and turning Escobar into one of the richest men in the world.

By now a key member of the cartel, Fidel was also building up a small fortune and a fiefdom in the northern province of Cordoba, buying up the best land and killing any guerrillas foolish enough to stumble into his path.

His brother Carlos was also running around Medellín, a city he loved, partying and occasionally carrying out killings for Fidel and the Medellín Cartel. Another brother, Vicente, was sent to Los Angeles by Fidel, where he handled the distribution end of the Castaños’ drug business.

As Escobar’s fame grew, so did pressure from the United States to do something about him. By 1989 the cartel controlled four-fifths of the world’s cocaine, with an estimated annual revenue of $30 billion. Forbes magazine listed Escobar as the world’s seventh-richest man. In 1990 the US demanded that Colombia sign a bilateral extradition treaty. It became the top political issue in Colombia; Escobar challenged the state to a war over his extradition, with his motto: ‘Better a tomb in Colombia than a prison cell in the US.’ He blew up airliners, killed dozens of judges, bribed government officials and offered bounties on the heads of every policeman killed.

His campaign of terror and bribery worked, and in 1991 extradition was prohibited by a constitutional assembly. The government then negotiated with Escobar and, in an extraordinary compromise, allowed him to build his own prison on the outskirts of Medellín, a facility that became known as the Cathedral, where he was to spend the next five years on the condition that he avoided extradition. Its splendour put five-star hotels to shame.

In June 1991 Escobar moved into the Cathedral with a number of his key lieutenants. With many members of the organisation still on the outside, Escobar continued to run his empire from his golden cage. He was, however, unhappy that some in his cartel were doing business without paying him his share.

Escobar summoned three prominent members of the cartel, Fernando Galeano, Gerardo Moncada and Fidel Castaño, to the Cathedral. Fidel didn’t go, either because he saw the writing on the wall or because he was busy on his estates in Cordoba. It proved to be a good decision: Escobar accused Galeano and Moncada of hiding money from him and, as he often did with subordinates who crossed him, murdered them both personally. He then sent his assassins, the ‘sicarios’, to wipe out their organisations.

The government had turned a blind eye to Escobar’s drug activities, but were not prepared to tolerate the murders of Galeano and Moncada while he was supposedly serving a jail sentence, and plans were made to transfer him to a more traditional prison. When Escobar found out, in July 1992, he simply walked out of the Cathedral. The soldiers guarding the perimeter were on his payroll, too.

An elite task force, the Search Block, was set up by the government to hunt for Escobar, aided by America’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and US Special Forces. Also on his tail was Fidel who, on hearing of the Cathedral murders, vowed to destroy Escobar. Using money from Escobar’s rivals, the Cali Cartel, Fidel set up an organisation called the Pepes (People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar). Working with the security forces and, it is rumoured, the DEA, Fidel set about proving he could be even more brutal than Escobar. For every bomb Escobar set off, Fidel set off two, targeting Escobar’s properties. One car bomb narrowly missed killing Escobar’s children, partly deafening the drugs lord’s daughter, Manuela. Fidel also went after Escobar’s supporters, lawyers and anyone who might help him. Slowly Escobar’s support base disappeared.

Carlos Castaño claimed to have had a major role in bringing down Escobar. As well as conducting some of the killings, he has admitted to running the Pepes intelligence network. ‘I set up an office in Medellín where all the people against Escobar delivered information. I would ensure it reached the Search Block,’ he said in the 1996 interview.

The Pepes campaign was brutally effective. When Pablo Escobar was finally killed, by a police sniper on a rooftop in Medellín in December 1993, he had just one bodyguard left alongside him.

With Escobar dead, the PEPES dissolved and Fidel and Carlos went back to Cordoba – and their war against the Farc rebels who had killed their father, and other left-wing insurgent groups, such as the Popular Liberation Army (EPL) and National Liberation Army (ELN).

Fidel had stopped his drug-running activities – he had more than enough money to fund his crusade against the guerrillas. But Vicente, still in the US, had no intention of cutting his ties to the drugs trade. He invested all he had in a big load of cocaine, no doubt obtained through his brother’s cartel contacts, but, disastrously for Vicente, it was lost en route to the US. Vicente was forced to return, penniless, to Colombia. According to HH, this was a defining moment for Vicente, who had always lived in the shadow of his brothers.

Vicente suffered from a pronounced stutter and had none of the charisma of Fidel and Carlos, both of whom were natural leaders and warriors.

‘Vicente was always obsessed with money,’ HH told me, ‘even when he had more than anyone could ever spend.’

But his fortunes were about to change. On January 6, 1994, Fidel was shot through the heart in a clash with Farc guerrillas. He had charged a 10-strong rebel patrol with just four of his own men. According to Carlos, who later buried him, he was dead before he hit the ground.

Carlos was the natural heir to the ‘Tangeros’. In his book, My Confession, written for him by the journalist Mauricio Aranguren Molina, he said, ‘With Fidel, expansion was slow. I preferred to attack here, move, then attack in a different place.’

Carlos invaded the Farc stronghold of Uraba, a rich banana-growing area near the border with Panama. He had seen Fidel murder his way across Cordoba with the backing of local politicians and businessmen, tired of extortion and kidnapping. The cries for help coming from Uraba were even louder.

Carlos saw himself not just as the leader of a crusade, but its ideologue. He wanted to build a political and military movement, but he needed someone to assume control of finances and logistics, someone with an eye for detail. He turned to Vicente, and in 1994 set up the Self-Defence Forces of Colombia of Cordoba and Uraba, the ‘Accu’ in its Spanish initials, a right-wing vigilante force. Vicente solved his liquidity problems by taking over most of Fidel’s land and businesses.

In Vicente’s only interview, granted to the Colombia news magazine Semana in June 2005, he insisted that he was the mastermind behind the paramilitaries – the brains – while his little brother Carlos was just the mouth, something no other source supports.

‘When Fidel disappeared,’ Vicente said, ‘Carlos continued with Fidel’s group and began to form self-defence forces. But after a year, he did not know how to continue. He called me in a state of total desperation and asked me to take the reins.’

HH confirmed to me that the Accu was built up by three men: Carlos, Vicente and Carlos Garcia – alias ‘Rodrigo’ or ’00′ – a former army officer and Fidel’s right-hand man. He said that each was the leader in their chosen field: Carlos political, Vicente finances and Rodrigo military. Over the years I spoke many times to Rodrigo, who said that Vicente played a key role in the paramilitaries, but insisted that Carlos was always the leader.

(Three days after our last interview, in May 2004, Rodrigo was murdered by a rival, with help from Vicente.) The Accu used the tactics that Fidel had developed, which were perfected by Carlos: attacking the Farc’s support base by killing all those believed to have rebel sympathies. The more horrific the killings, the better: no virus spreads faster or infects more quickly than fear.

‘In one of the first operations under Fidel, the guerrillas killed four of us,’ Carlos said. ‘That day, we saw that we were not going to be able to fight them in the mountains as they were better fighters than us. So we began killing all those that came to the town. We began to kill those who brought food, medicine, alcohol and prostitutes to the camps.’

The key strategy, to ‘clear’ territory of the rebels’ presence, was to terrify the population into denying the Farc even a glass of water, killing those with even suspected links. It was the classic counter­insurgent concept of draining the water to kill the fish. As the Accu moved into Uraba, the corpses began to appear in the streets of towns throughout the region. The killings had begun.

By the end of 1996, the Accu had done the impossible: driven the rebels out of Uraba. Invitations were pouring in from Farc-held areas across the country for the Castaños to mobilise their paramilitary army. The idea of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) was born – a new nationwide federation of right-wing vigilante groups dedicated to fighting the rebels. In 1997 it became a reality, with Carlos as its head.

Wave after wave of new recruits were trained by Rodrigo in the Accu’s central camp, the ‘Sacred Heart’, in northern Antioquia, and dispatched to set up new AUC units across the country. Vicente was in charge of selecting their destinations and logistical support. While Carlos saw the AUC as the way to end the guerrilla scourge in Colombia, and even dreamt of a political career, Vicente saw it as the vehicle to immense wealth. He began selling AUC franchises to drugs traffickers across Colombia. They paid millions to become members, as well as a $50 tax on every kilo of cocaine they moved. The AUC became a Who’s Who of drugs trafficking. Vicente needed a point man, someone fearless and reliable who would travel the country setting up cells and ‘claiming’ territory for the AUC. He chose Hebert Veloza: HH.

I met Carlos Castaño on January 13, 2002, after months of negotiations, sending messages through middlemen across the country: priests, businessmen and known paramilitary sympathisers. The Farc still had a 16,000sq mile safe haven and was at the height of its power, with 16,000 members, supported by international groups such as the Provisional IRA. It was running drugs to Mexico’s cartels and Brazilian drug lords and its income was estimated to be as high as $1 billion a year. Carlos felt he still had his work cut out for him.

In a rendezvous worthy of Le Carré, I was picked up from an upscale shopping centre in Medellín by a man carrying a rolled-up issue of the local paper, El Colombiano. Hours later, I was dropped off on a track in the mountains and guided to the training camp of the Sacred Heart.

Shaven-headed recruits, carrying wooden rifles, were being ordered to pick up every single leaf on the ground, a challenging exercise as we were in the middle of a dense wood. Night fell and then from the distance came the sound of hooves on the dirt track and out of the darkness rode Carlos Castaño, a rifle strapped to his saddle.

He greeted me like an old friend, coffee was served and he began to speak, hardly waiting for the questions. For two hours he talked, on topics ranging from Colombia to Israel, psychology to political doctrine. For a man with a basic education, Carlos Castaño was remarkably well-read. His most earnest wish was to go to university and study political science. While his mind raced, his fingers drummed on the table-top and his feet tapped. He could not sit still. I asked whether he would agree that, since he started his crusade in revenge for the death of his innocent father, he had arguably created a thousand guerrilla Castaños with his endless killings of civilians, often conducted in front of the victims’ families.

‘Look,’ he said, using his jungle hat to keep the mosquitoes at bay.

‘I know that war begets war, violence begets violence, but I have only ever acted in self-defence. We do not kill civilians. The guerrillas take off their uniforms when the fight is going against them. They hide among the civil population. A huge percentage of our troops are guerrilla deserters. They tell us who their former comrades were. We know who we are killing.’

The massacre of El Salado, in the province of Bolivar by the Caribbean Coast was just one of hundreds ordered by Carlos. It was Thursday February 17, 2000, and 300 heavily armed and uniformed AUC swept into town. They had five Farc deserters with them to act as guides and point out members of the population who had rebel sympathies. A small group of guerrillas in the hills tried to counterattack but were easily beaten back by the AUC’s machine guns.

The first to die was Luis Pablo Redondo, the village teacher, one of the most respected men in the community. The paramilitaries accused him of being a rebel sympathiser. The villagers were forced to look on as he was beaten savagely, his ears cut off. He was stabbed, slowly and deliberately, dozens of times between his ribs, no wound fatal. He was then suffocated with a black plastic bag. One girl, aged five at the time, now 13, has not spoken a word since that day. Another, Nayibis Contreras, a pretty 16-year-old, was dragged by her hair through the dirt streets to the central plaza where in the evenings the locals would come to sit and chat. She was strung up on the only tree in the square, in front of the Catholic church, before being gutted by a bayonet; her crime was to have been the girlfriend of a known guerrilla.

In the first few hours, 19 peasants were killed, their throats cut.

The prettier girls were raped. ‘While some were killing, others played pipes, drums and violins,’ said one AUC leader, Uber Enrique Bánquez, alias ‘Juancho Dique’, when he testified before the courts. Some of the more recent paramilitary recruits, he said, begged him for the chance to kill someone, before the victims ran out.

By the time darkness fell, 38 people had been killed in El Salado, and another 28 in the countryside nearby. Once the AUC were gone the security forces, elements of which had been complicit in the massacre, arrived on the scene, in time to see the community burying its dead.

The relationship between Carlos and Vicente was becoming increasingly strained, with Carlos rapidly losing control of his divided organisation which, thanks to Vicente, had been taken over by drugs traffickers. In May 2001 Carlos resigned his leadership. By 2002 the AUC had spread across the country into at least 20 of Colombia’s 27 provinces, its presence strongest where the coca was most densely sown. Vicente was sending troops to control three key aspects of the drugs trade: the crops, the movement corridors within the country and the departure points for exportation. Again, his trusted lieutenant to oversee this strategy was HH, although HH claims he did not then understand what Vicente was doing.

‘I was always Vicente’s man, I always acted on his orders,’ HH told me. ‘But I made some grave mistakes, ordered by him. I helped him kill his brother.’

At the end of 2003, Alvaro Uribe became president of Colombia. Uribe hated the Farc, who had killed his father, an alleged drugs trafficker, during a botched kidnapping attempt; and he has long been associated with the AUC, although no direct connection has even been proved. The AUC thought that he was the man with whom they could negotiate and that it was time to cut a deal, Carlos in particular.

The drugs traffickers in the organisation thought that they could negotiate immunity from extradition to the US and retire to enjoy their ill-gotten gains. A unilateral ceasefire was ordered and negotiations with the government began.

Now aged 38, Carlos wanted out. He was in touch with US agencies, allegedly exploring the possibilities of turning himself in. He wanted to disappear with his wife, Kenia, and look after his daughter, Rosa Maria, who had been born with an incurable disease and needed special treatment.

The AUC commanders, the vast majority of them wanted in the US to face drugs-trafficking charges, were afraid of what Carlos could tell US agencies and wanted him silenced. Vicente was told he would have to kill his brother. If he did not, the AUC would kill him anyway – and Vicente would be buried in the same shallow grave.

On April 16, 2004, the head of Vicente’s security, Jesús Ignacio Roldán, alias ‘Monoleche’, gathered 30 trusted men together, many supplied by HH, who knew of the plan. They drove to Antioquia, where Carlos lived. He was in a local restaurant, where he often connected to the internet. Carlos’s bodyguards thought nothing when Monoleche pulled up. As he approached, he opened up with automatic fire. Carlos fought back from within the restaurant until he ran out of bullets.

Finally, he was overpowered and brought face to face with Monoleche.

‘Who ordered this?’ Carlos asked.

‘El Profe,’ Monoleche replied, using the alias for Vicente. Before Carlos could make a comment, Monoleche fired 12 9mm rounds into his body. Monoleche, also currently held in Itagui prison, would later confess to the killing.

By November 2006, the peace negotiations with the AUC had reached a critical juncture. Thirty thousand paramilitaries had demobilised, but commanders were often seen shopping in the most exclusive malls, eating in the best restaurants. The families of their victims and NGOs complained bitterly, and President Uribe ordered the AUC high command to turn themselves in. Vicente had always refused to even consider spending a single day in prison. He withdrew from the peace process, and HH, as always, followed him.

Vicente began to plan how to punish the government for what he saw as a betrayal. His plan was to kidnap the families of senior politicians, even foreign diplomats.

According to intelligence sources, Vicente sent HH to canvass support and gather a war chest for the operations: each AUC commander was asked to donate $250,000. But only two paramilitary commanders signed up to Vicente’s scheme. HH himself was not keen, and told Vicente as much. Vicente replied angrily that anyone who was not with him was against him.

On March 11, 2007, four men arrived at one of Vicente’s estates near the town of Nechi, in Antioquia. After overpowering Vicente’s guards, they murdered the last of the Castaño criminal dynasty. Vicente’s body was chopped up with machetes and put inside old tyres, which were then burnt. The ashes were thrown into the River Nechi. The orders were to leave no trace, the way Vicente tried to conduct his life. Many believe that the killing was orchestrated by HH, who knew Vicente’s movements and would have had the contacts to effect an inside job, but he continues to deny it.

Today, the AUC no longer exists. Without the Castaños there was no AUC. Most of the AUC high command are in prison. In May this year, 15 were extradited to the US. HH has not yet been sentenced, and has an extradition warrant pending. New paramilitary groups have sprung up, dedicated wholly to the drugs trade and, in many cases, allied to the left-wing guerrillas they were once sworn to destroy.

The country’s civil conflict is entering its 45th year and has so far driven four million Colombians from their homes and left hundreds of thousands more dead. The Farc, meanwhile, has been much humbled by President Uribe’s US-backed government. Its top leaders have been killed, desertion is rife and the rebels have been forced back into their mountain and jungle strongholds. Many analysts believe that the Castaños and their brutal war against the Farc paved the war for the government to beat back the rebels.

But the story is not necessarily over. There are some who believe that Vicente is not dead; that, in a stroke of genius, he faked his murder and is now living in Panama. In April this year, Vicente’s first wife had her car stolen in Medellín. A source in Colombia’s underworld told me that she made a call and, within five hours, the vehicle was returned. ‘That kind of power does not come from the dead,’ said the source.

The police file on José Vicente Castaño remains open and his capture remains a top priority. The authorities do admit, however, that the trail has gone cold. As cold as the grave.

Pentagon Trained Troops Led by Officer Accused In Colombian Massacre

 

Pentagon Trained Troops Led by Officer Accused In Colombian Massacre

By Frank Smyth and Maud S. Beelman
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists,
The Center for Public Integrity

(Washington, 30 March) Pentagon officials, under pressure to investigate
alleged links between elite U.S. military trainers and Colombian forces
implicated in a 1997 civilian massacre, have confirmed that they trained
soldiers commanded by the officer accused of masterminding the attack.

With a $1.6 billion counternarcotics aid package for Colombia making its way
through the U.S. Congress, there is increased scrutiny over whether U.S.
military assistance has been or could be turned against Colombian civilians
in that country’s decades-long civil war.

In November 1997, Congress enacted the “Leahy amendment,” prohibiting
assistance to any foreign military unit if there is “credible evidence that
such unit has committed gross violations of human rights.”

Four months earlier, 49 residents of Mapiripán, a village in the coca-growing
region of southeastern Colombia, were killed over a five-day period by
suspected paramilitary forces allegedly operating under the direction of
Colombian Army Col. Lino Sánchez and Carlos Castaño, leader of Colombia’s
right-wing paramilitary forces. Colombian prosecutors have formally accused
Sánchez and Castaño of being the “intellectual authors” of the massacre.

Sánchez and two other Colombian army officers are in prison, awaiting trial
on charges in connection with the massacre. Castaño, Colombia’s most
notorious rightist paramilitary leader accused of numerous civilian
atrocities and drug trafficking, remains at large.

A Pentagon official, speaking on condition that he not be identified,
confirmed that Sánchez was commander of the 2nd Mobile Brigade, which
received training by U.S. Special Forces at a river base about 80 kilometers
from Mapiripán. The Defense Department has said it is investigating further
to determine whether Sánchez himself was trained by U.S. Special Forces.

The Bogotá daily El Espectador reported on Feb. 27 that Sánchez’s 2nd Mobile
Brigade received U.S. Special Forces training in June 1997 while he was
planning the Mapiripán massacre. The newspaper said the goal of the attack
was to turn over control of the guerrilla-held Mapiripán, in a region that
produces about 30 percent of the world’s coca, to paramilitary forces, which
have ties to the Colombian army.

‘Teach Guerillas a Lesson’

A report by Colombia’s Counternarcotics Police Intelligence Office, cited by
the newspaper, said Sánchez first engineered a plan on June 21 to introduce
paramilitary forces into the region, using U.S. spraying of coca crops as a
cover, in order to “teach the guerrillas a lesson.”

The El Espectador investigation was based on a review of 4,500 pages of
Colombian government documents on the Mapiripán massacre by reporter Ignacio
Gómez, who is also a member of the International Consortium of Investigative
Journalists. It has prompted inquiries on Capitol Hill, where Congress is
debating an aid package that would train and equip Colombian army
counternarcotics battalions and provide money for more than 60 helicopters
for army and police forces.

Human rights groups are worried that the military aid might be used against
Colombian civilians. Robert E. White, former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador
and Paraguay and president of the Center for International Policy, warned in
a Feb. 8 commentary in The Washington Post that the aid package “puts us in
league with a Colombian military that has longstanding ties to the
drug-dealing, barbaric paramilitaries that commit more than 75 percent of the
human rights violations” in Colombia.

“Obviously our people do not teach torture. They do not teach massacres. They
teach human rights in every single class,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for
Special Operations Brian Sheridan told the House Appropriations Subcommittee
on Foreign Operations two days after the El Espectador report. “As to the
massacre, or alleged massacre and its proximity to or juxtapositioning to the
training activity, that is something that we will have to look at very
carefully.”

Nine Training Exercise

In a Dec. 22, 1999, letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a member of the
Senate’s Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and author of the
Leahy amendment, Sheridan listed nine training exercises between U.S. and
Colombian soldiers between June and August 1997. Specifically, he said, U.S.
soldiers from the 7th Special Forces Group, based at Fort Bragg, N.C.,
trained Colombian troops at the Barrancón river base from May 14 to June 23,
1997. Barrancón, an island in the Guaviare River, is a U.S. Special Forces
training site that is a 10-minute drive from a Colombian army base and
airfield at San José del Guaviare, from which U.S. government and contract
personnel conduct counternarcotics operations. According to El Espectador,
the paramilitaries were allowed to land at that airbase in mid-July en route
to Mapiripán.

Sheridan said the “Green Berets” finished their training of Colombian troops
at “the Barrancón Special Forces School” on June 23, 1997. Pentagon officials
say they do not know whether Sánchez’s 2nd Mobile Brigade participated in
that training, and Clyde Howard, an official in Sheridan’s office, said the
Pentagon was under no obligation to investigate because the Leahy amendment
was not law at the time of the massacre.

Sheridan confirmed that Sánchez’s 2nd Mobile Brigade received “riverine
interdiction and land warfare” training one month after the massacre – from
Aug. 18 to Sept. 18, 1997.

U.S. Special Forces from Fort Bragg were in Colombia from May 22 to July 22,
1997, according to a 1998 Defense Department report. But Sheridan’s office
said only the two exercises specified in the Leahy letter involved training
at Barrancón.

“There are discrepancies about what our military trainers were doing at
Barrancón, and whether they were there at the time of the Mapiripán massacre
nearby. These discrepancies need to be clarified,” Leahy said in a statement
to Gómez.

Documents reviewed by El Espectador indicate that American military personnel
were at Barrancón for a graduation ceremony for U.S.-trained Colombian forces
on July 20-22, 1997. A prosecutor from Colombia’s Attorney General’s office,
who investigated the Mapiripán massacre two days after it ended, was denied a
helicopter to reach the village on July 22 because it was being used to
transport military personnel based at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, the
documents show.

Acknowledge Unusual Activity

U.S. officials have acknowledged seeing unusual military activity in and
around the San José airfield near Barrancón before the massacre. Barbara
Larkin, the State Department’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs,
said in a March 30, 1998, letter to Leahy that Colombian army troops from the
2nd Mobile Brigade and the 7th Brigade were present in the area at the time.
The State Department told Leahy “that U.S. personnel involved in
counternarcotics programs at San Jose [del Guaviare] remember seeing an
unusual number of Army personnel at the airport on the day in question.”

The investigation by the Colombian federal prosecutor’s office showed that on
July 12, two civilian airplanes, an Antonov and a DC-3, landed at the San
José del Guaviare airfield near Barrancón, where Sánchez had an office, El
Espectador reported. The planes carried 15 paramilitary operatives loyal to
Castaño, armed with machetes and knives, several tons of supplies, and
leaflets addressed “To the People of the Guaviare,” warning them to cease
their cooperation with the guerrillas.

The Castaño paramilitaries were joined by others, and the force totaled about
100 men by the time it reached Mapiripán, about a two-hour drive to the
northeast. El Espectador, citing the prosecutor’s report, said two
paramilitary soldiers also crossed the Guaviare River in stolen boats past a
Colombian marine infantry base checkpoint attached to the Barrancón facility.
U.S. Navy Seabees built the marine base in 1994, and the U.S. Navy continues
to train Colombian forces there. The boats then met up with the rest of the
paramilitary force across the river from Mapiripán. At no time did Colombian
civilian or military authorities challenge the paramilitary forces, the
newspaper said, even though such groups are illegal in Colombia.

At dawn on July 15, 1997, the paramilitary forces surrounded Mapiripán, and
their siege of terror and torture lasted until July 20, when the
International Committee of the Red Cross dispatched a plane to the village.

Today, Mapiripán is a virtual ghost town.

Demobilizing Colombia’s Paramilitary Killers Without Sacrificing Victims’ Rights

[The current state of Colombia is perilous beyond belief, thanks to the ravages of her former American lover upon the country's legal system.  It is not just that the process for demobilizing the illegal militant groups cannot be accomplished without some sort of amnesty program, which necessarily overlooks the rights of their former victims, the deal to hold 1,000 leaders responsible for the crimes of tens of thousands of other soldiers with bloody hands gives blanket protection to most of the lower ranks, and everyone knows that it is the grunts who carry-out the dirty work.  The deal to protect most of the paramilitaries was a deal to protect the govt. itself, since the paramilitaries did not operate out of the sphere of government control.  They were there killing those who fought against the govt.

By rights, all the paramilitary groups should be declared criminal organizations and the members treated accordingly, but that will not happen in Colombia.  America cannot allow such honesty from a long-term client state.  The new threat is that disgruntled paramilitaries will join criminal gangs if their past is not erased, just like the thousands of Colombian lives that they have erased.  The unraveling of this conundrum promises us some great future entertainment, as the intrigues increase and the corporate American worm squirms at the thought of being exposed.]

New law prevents disclosure of demobilized are evidence in legal proceedings

Jaime Perez Munévar

CONGRESS A presidential approval passed the project that the Government would resolve the legal status of some 30 000 demobilized paramilitaries and guerrillas. The Democratic Polo described it as an act of “forgive and forget.”

Thursday 16 December 2010

In record time, just 15 days, Congress gave the Government the formula to resolve the legal limbo and former guerrillas exparas ceilings to which, by decision of the Constitutional Court, could not shelter the figure of the principle of opportunity.

The new law, which aims to meet the commitments made to individual or collective demobilization, establishes a new covenant between the government and former combatants.

The latter, if they have not committed crimes against humanity, must sign a new agreement with the Government to enforce the rights that victims have to know the truth. “

From being tried for conspiracy to commit aggravated demobilized should contribute to the reconstruction of historical memory by clarifying the context in which each part, the formation of organized groups outside the law to which he belonged and general on all the facts or actions that have knowledge regarding their participation in the group.

That to comply with the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court warned in a recent ruling that the principle of opportunity for demobilized violated the rights of victims.

However, the demobilized must submit this information to a non-judicial. Under the new law, the National Commission for Reparation and Reconciliation will be responsible for receiving it.

But what a sector of Congress questioned with concern was a kind of fine print of this law, which states that the demobilized information not be used as evidence for legal proceedings against third parties.

So the caucus of the Democratic Pole, both Senate and House of Representatives, opposed the project, and said that if exparas information and ex-guerrillas would not serve as evidence the same as saying that the State give up to investigate possible crimes of those individuals or public servants who were promoted or colluding with illegal groups.

“This is an act of forgiving and forgetting,” said Rep. Talero Germain Navas. “The government says it wants peace and justice, but this law says is that if the state finds out who committed crimes will have to remain silent.”

The representative of Alba Luz Pinilla Polo went further. “This is a law of impunity.”

The presenter of the bill in the House of Representatives, where they had the last debate of the initiative, Carlos Edward Osorio (The U), said the reason for this kind of clause is that it is non-judicial mechanisms “does not seek another thing to realize the national reconciliation processes, which do not preclude the reception of truth in judicial proceedings. “

The ‘bulldozer Santos’

On the day of Wednesday, this project surti the two debates that detracted from both the House of Representatives and the Senate. In both companies the bed of the ‘National Unity’ was flatter than ever.

Even the Interior Minister Germain Vargas Lleras, asked the representatives to the House to approve the project without taking into account the proposals that had been included, three in total, and all of them authored by the Polo Democrático.

That led to the discomfort of the bed of the party, who got to discuss these observations but were beaten ruthlessly. The passage of this bill had the support of 100 MPs against eight of the Pole.

The so-called law that will resolve the legal limbo and former guerrillas exparas ceilings will sanction of the president Juan Manuel Santos. And when I do hereby suspended the arrest warrants were for aggravated conspiracy against nearly a thousand demobilized.

The only item included at the last minute is what gives the government powers to determine what would be demobilized from the benefits of this law, if they violate the commitments made at the time of demobilization, and are not re-offending and meet with the programs of reintegration into civil society.

Proof That Michael Moore Is Either a Tool Or a Fool

Michael Moore ha sido un duro crítico de la cultura estadounidense y de sus gobiernos.
Michael Moore has been a harsh critic of American culture and their governments.


CABLEGATE In a column, filmmaker and journalist explains why donate $ 20 000 for the release of Julian Assange. “Now that Big Brother is being watched by us,” he says.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

The journalist Michael Moore, who has worked to uncover abuses and vices of the United States, wrote a column in the Huffington Post in which he explains why donate $ 20,000 to post bail for the release of Julian Assange, the Wikileaks creator.

Moore is the major producer of documentaries that have hit the nail on the head in several of the problems of government or American culture, such as Bowling for ColumbineSickoFahrenheit 9 / 11 , among others.

Moore said it had offered its site to accommodate the contents of the Wikileaks cables to keep “alive and thriving, as it continues its work to denounce the crimes that have been forged in secret and carried out in our name and with money from our taxes. “

“They took us to war in Iraq with a lie. Hundreds of thousands have died. Imagine if the men who planned this war crime in 2002 would have had to face a Wikileaks. Probably would not have been able to carry it out. The only reason they thought they could get away with it was because he had a cloak of secrecy guaranteed. This guarantee has been torn from them, and I hope you never are able to operate in secret again, “says Moore.

However, the journalist complains of persecution that has been aggressive Assange and website.

And remember that Senator Joe Lieberman said Wikileaks “violated espionage laws,” that George Packer, the New Yorker , called Assange “sensible and megalomaniacal,” the former candidate Sarah Palin vice said it was “a bloody anti-American agent in their hands “whom we must continue” with the same urgency to pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, “the Republican Mary Matalin says” he is a psychopath, a sociopath … He is a terrorist. “

“Indeed it is!” Adds Moore. “It exists to terrorize the liars and warmongers who have brought ruin to our nation and others. Perhaps the next war will not be easy because the roles are reversed and now that Big Brother is being watched … for us. “

Moore asks readers to imagine if existuido Wikileaks had 10 years ago

“Check out this photo. That Mr. Bush is about to receive a “secret” document on August 6, 2001. This is the headline: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S..” And in these pages is written that the FBI had found “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings.”Bush decided to ignore and he went fishing the next four weeks, “he says.

“But if this document had been leaked, how would have reacted? What could be done by Congress or the military? Would not it have a higher probability that someone, somewhere, had done something, if everyone knew that Bin Laden’s attack with hijacked airplanes was imminent? “He says.

Eventually the journalist and filmmaker says Wikileaks deserves “our thanks for throwing a huge light on this.”

“Openness, transparency – these are some of the few weapons that citizens have to protect the powerful and corrupt,” he argues.

“Wikileaks may cause unintended harm to diplomatic negotiations and U.S. interests in the world?Maybe. But that’s the price you pay when you and your government take us to war based on a lie. His punishment for misbehaving is that someone has to turn all the lights in the room so we can see what you’re doing. You simply can not trust. So every cable, every email you write is now fair game. Sorry, but you brought this on yourself that. Nobody can hide from the truth now. No one can outline the next Big Lie, not knowing who may be exposed. “

“Wikileaks, God bless them, they will save lives as a result of their actions. And any of you to join me in supporting them is making a real act of patriotism, “he concludes.

China offers 25 % profit, 5% Royalty on Reko Dik

China offers 25 % profit, 5% Royalty on Reko Dik


QUETTA: Economically it will be in interest and benefit of China if it transports Afghani gold and copper to Beijing and international markets through Gwadar Port. Sources in Balochistan Government told APP on Wednesday that Chinese government was interested in making Gwadar Port fully functional as it would help it shift Afghani gold and copper to Beijing and international markets in a easy and economical manner. They said China had invested about US $ 03 billion in gold and copper mining projects in Afghanistan. “If China transports this gold and copper to Beijing through Afghanistan, it will have to bear heavy expenses while its transportation will take long time,” they added. The sources added if China uses Gwadar Port for the purpose, it could shift the gold and copper to China and international markets economically and in short time. To a question, they said due to its indifferent attitude, the Singaporean operator could not make Gwadar Port operational. “Despite offers, we did not hand over the control of Gwadar Port to Abu-Dhabi Port Authority keeping in view the Chinese origin of the Singaporean firm, we have pinned hope that it will make it completely functional which is in China’s interest. Unfortunately, the Singaporean company neither fulfilled its agreement nor met the requirements,” the sources said. They claimed that China was keen in taking control of Gwadar Port and Reko Dik gold and copper mining projects of Balochistan. “Chinese firm has submitted counter proposal that if mining contract of Reko Dik project is handed over to MCC (Chinese Metallurgical Company), it would give Balochistan government 25% share in the income besides 05% royalty. MCC also offered that it would construct roads besides setting up a power plant at Reko Dik,” they added. The official sources said that Balochistan Government could ink agreement with the Chinese company on Reko Dik if it includes transfer of Chinese technology on mining to the province besides giving it status of a decision making member of the board of directors. To a question, they said China would have to construct berths at Gwadar Port upto 25 from present 5 if it takes charge of the port. Replying to another query, they said Chinese company has started production of Lead and Zinc from Duddar Lead and Zink project located in Lasbela district in the province. They noted that according to Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package and 18th Amendment in the Constitution, all mines and minerals except oil and gas are in provincial domain. They said Chinese and other companies working on mines and mineral projects in the province would have to sign new agreements with the Government of Balochistan in 2011. They stressed that Balochistan government would give the contract of mining of gold, copper, lead and Zinc at Duddar, Reko Dik, Saindak and others if it includes transfer of technology, status of member of board of directors, maximum share from income, status of accounts internationally and Balochistan government’s access to these accounts. They highlighted there was large quantity of Lead in Khuzdar district in Balochistan and the contract could be given to the company which accepts conditions put up by the provincial government. The official sources clarified that in 2011, the Balochistan government would not accept 50% share of MCC and remaining 50% of Saindak Metals in Gold and Copper project. New agreement with new conditions would have to be inked, they added. They also demanded 50% share in income of Duddar project to the Balochistan government.-APP

BNP accuses FC of running Balochistan’s state affairs

BNP accuses FC of running Balochistan’s state affairs

Staff Report

QUETTA: The Balochistan National Party (BNP) has accused the Frontier Corps of running the state affairs in Baolchistan.

BNP Information Secretary Agha Hassan Baloch levelled this allegation while addressing a news conference at a hunger strike camp set up by the BNP to protest against the registration of cases against its leader, non-recovery of missing Balochs and alleged military operation in several parts of Balochistan.

Baloch said that some 40 political opponents, including 16 BNP activists and leaders, were killed during the past four months in order to eliminate the political forces, who were struggling for their national rights.

He said that the BNP had set up hunger strike camps in Naushki, Sibi, Chagai, Kharan, Khuzdar, Dera Murad Jamali, Naseerabad, and other districts to protest against the registration of case against Ayub Gichki whose two sons were gunned down by some unidentified people in Turbat. He alleged that FC had stormed the house of Gichki and killed five people.

ISI blows cover of CIA man in Islamabad

ISI blows cover of CIA man in Islamabad

Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN

Long-time US “ally” Pakistan has broken the spy world’s unwritten compact by publicly identifying the CIA Station Chief in Islamabad in an act that has sent ripples through the American espionage community, including the famed Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

CIA Station Chiefs are typically undercover spies whose covert presence in US embassies is sometimes known to friendly host governments ; but they are seldom recognized by name.

However, in a brazen blowing of cover, reportedly at the instance of a disaffected section of the Pakistani spy agency ISI, a Pakistani citizen from North Waziristan who lost family members in a US drone attack has filed a criminal complaint in an Islamabad police station against an American individual named Jonathan Banks, saying he is the CIA Station Chief in Islamabad who is coordinating the drone attacks.

According to Karim Khan, a resident of Mir Ali Tehsil of North Waziristan, he lost his brother, Asif Iqbal, a teacher in a secondary school, his son Zahinullah Khan, and Khaliq Dar, a mason, in a drone attack on December 31, 2009. Khan, the Daily Times reported, alleged that Banks, who was residing at the US embassy in the Diplomatic Enclave , and has a business visa, was the CIA chief in Pakistan and controlled the drone attacks through Global Positioning System.

The US administration — much less the CIA — does not acknowledge the existence of “Station Chiefs,” a term that is still current, unlike its Cold War counterpart, the “KGB Resident.” But their continuation is common knowledge in intelligence circles, although they often function undercover, sometimes not even using their real names.

While some station chiefs are seldom seen, others are more public . For instance, the CIA Station Chief in Kabul is often referred to by his nickname “Spider,” and is often in the company of Afghan president Hamid Karzai, functioning both as his bodyguard and his confidante . Milt Bearden, the most famous CIA Station Chief in Islamabad during the US-backed Afghan war on the Soviet Union, was named only after the conflict ended . But the purported falling out between Washington and Islamabad at the height of the war on terror has had its fall-out in the spy world.

Putin Compares Khodorkovsky’s 8-Year Sentence to Bernie Madoff’s 150-Years

Russia’s Putin: Khodorkovsky ‘should sit in jail’

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MOSCOW – Russia’s prime minister says the crimes of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s have been proven, and a “thief should sit in jail.”

Khodorkovsky is serving an eight-year sentence after being convicted of tax fraud and is awaiting the verdict in a second trial that could keep him in prison for many more years.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s comments during a call-in show Thursday will likely be seen as additional pressure on the judge to find Khodorkovsky guilty.

Putin said Khodorkovsky’s present punishment is more “liberal” than the 150-year prison sentence handed down in the U.S. to disgraced financier Bernard Madoff.

Madoff admitted cheating thousands of people, charities, and institutional investors. Losses are estimated at around $20 billion.


Italian court ups sentences for 23 CIA agents

Italian court ups sentences for 23 CIA agents

A moment of a hearing at the Milan's court, Italy

A moment of a hearing at the Milan’s court, Italy

ROME : An Italian court on Wednesday upped the sentences for 23 CIA agents convicted in absentia of abducting an Egyptian imam in one of the biggest cases against the US “extraordinary rendition” programme.

The 23 CIA agents, originally sentenced in November 2009 to five to eight years in prison, had their sentences increased to seven to nine years on appeal in what one of the defence lawyers described as a “shocking blow” for the US.

They were also ordered to pay 1.5 million euros (2.0 million dollars) in damages to the imam and his wife for the 2003 abduction.

Washington has refused to extradite the agents, who all remain at liberty but now risk arrest if they travel to Europe.

Osama Mustafa Hassan, a radical Islamist opposition figure better known as Abu Omar, was snatched from a street in Milan in 2003 in an operation coordinated by the CIA and the Italian military intelligence agency SISMI.

Abu Omar, who enjoyed political asylum in Italy, was then allegedly taken to the Aviano US air base in northeastern Italy, then flown to a US base in Germany, and on to Cairo, where he says he was tortured.

Among the defendants sentenced on Wednesday was Bob Seldon Lady, former head of the CIA station in Milan, whose sentence was increased to nine years from eight. The other 22 agents had their sentences upped from five to seven years.

Guido Meroni, a defence lawyer for six of the 23 agents, said he believed the sentences had been increased because the court had rejected the mitigating circumstances that had led to the original judgement.

“The judges had originally ruled they had just been following orders, but it seems the court of appeals didn’t agree,” he told AFP.

“I am surprised, I didn’t think the sentences would be increased. Of course we will take it to the supreme court,” he added.

The court also acquitted the then head of Italian military intelligence, Nicolo Pollari, and his assistant Marco Mancini, because producing evidence against them would have violated state secrecy rules.

In an earlier hearing on Wednesday, the court ordered a re-trial for three other CIA officers, including the then CIA chief for Italy Jeffrey Castelli, because of irregularities in the appeal procedures.

In the first trial they had benefited from diplomatic immunity and had been acquitted.

Their lawyer, Alessia Sorgato, said she was “pleased” that the court had acknowledged the “irregularities” surrounding their case, but said the court had taken a hard line against the other agents.

“It’s a shocking blow for the Americans,” she said.

The “extraordinary rendition” programme was launched in 2003 by then US president George W. Bush and saw scores of suspects returned to their home countries, some of which were known to use torture.

Abu Omar’s US captors failed to take many standard precautions, notably speaking openly on cell phones, leaving investigators to suspect they had cleared their intentions with Italian intelligence.

- AFP /ls

 

No Rapture, Israelis Are Khazars, False Preachers–This Sounds Like My Kind of Church!

Is Modern-Day Israel in Bible Prophecy? Are Modern-day Jews of Abraham Seed?

Millions expect Israel to play a major role in God’s future plan for earth. Could they all be wrong? Is there a conspiracy to deceive God’s people? What is the Biblical evidence concerning modern day Israel?

Many people today consider the restoration of the Jewish nation in Palestine to be a direct and dramatic fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth, a phenomenal best seller of the last few decades, and Jerry Jenkins and Tim Lahaye’s Lift Behind, along with Bishop T.D. Jakes declares that the end of the world will come within the lifetime of the generation that saw the founding of the Israeli state in 1948, hereby applying the words of Jesus: “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Matthew 24:34)

Coupled with this fascination with Israel is a novel teaching regarding the return of Jesus, called the “secret rapture.” These books and many other speaks for many today who expect God secretly to take the “church” to heaven prior to the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple on its old site where the sacred Muslim shrine, the Dome of the Rock, now stands. According to this position, after the “church” is “raptured” to heaven, there will be seven years of the worst period of famine, bloodshed, and pestilence ever experienced by man. During this great tribulation the focus will be on God’s dealings with the Jews, who are again given the responsibility for the evangelization of the world.

According to secret-rapture preachers, the battle of Armageddon will climax the end of the seven-year tribulation as the nations of the earth take sides over the future of Israel. When mankind teeters on the brink of incinerating the world, Jesus will return gloriously and save man from self-extinction. At that time Jesus will set up a literal one-thousand-year reign on earth with Jerusalem functioning as the spiritual capital of the world.

Most evangelical periodicals and pulpits teach this view today, and to those who do not know better, it might appear that this prophetic scenario, known as pretribulationism, has been the traditional teaching of the Christian church since New Testament days. Nothing is further from the truth. Be not deceived.. Did the architects of the creation of modern day Israel have any thing to do with the development of the rapture theory? Where did the Rapture theology originate? Is the crisis in the Middle East and the war in the Iraq have anything to do with the erroneous rapture theory?

Is there a master conspiracy at work?

According to dispensationalists John Hagee, Jack van Impe, Ken Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, John Walvoord, Grant Jefferies, Tim Lahaye, Benny Hinn, Clarence Larkin, H. Caldwell, TD Jakes and others who teach and preach about the Rapture, Israel has two dispensations, or time periods, in which they functions as God’s special instrument of salvation. Between these two periods of time comes the dispensation of the “church”. The church received a heavenly reward at the time of the rapture, while Israel received an earthly reward at the end of the tribulation.

There is no support in the New Testament for such an erroneous view.

The chief reason why the modern state of Israel has no prophetic significance is that after the Jews as a body rejected Jesus as the Messiah, God gave to the Christian church the special privileges, responsibilities, and prerogatives once assigned to the ancient Jews. No longer were the Jews to be His special people with a prophetic destiny.

Rom.2:28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; vs.29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

All the promises of a glorious kingdom on earth once given through the Jewish prophets to the Jewish people became void because the Jewish people as a nation did not fulfill the conditions of these prophecies. Failing to receive the glory that could have been Israel’s is probably the saddest story in literature. Placed at the crossroads of the ancient world, God furnished them with every facility for becoming the greatest nation on the earth. God wanted to reward Israel with every physical and spiritual blessing as they put into practice the clear-cut principles that He had graciously taught them through His prophets (Deuteronomy 7, 8, 28).

The Old Testament records the sad story of how the vineyard of Israel produced, not the mature fruit of a Christ-like character, but “wild grapes,” a misinterpretation and perversion of what the God of Israel was really like. “What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?” (Isaiah 5:4 RSV).

Even when the Jewish nation was suffering the bitter consequences of disobedience during the Babylonian captivity, God mercifully promised that a restored Israel was possible and that there was yet time to recover its special role as His representative on earth – if it would honor His law and submit to His principles. Even then the Jews could have become, if faithful, the head and not the tail, in matters physical and spiritual; all nations would have looked upon Jerusalem as not only the center of wisdom but also the spiritual capital of the world (see Isaiah 45:14; 60:1 – 11).

When the Jews returned to Palestine after the Babylonian captivity, the promises given to Abraham and expanded through the writings of Moses and other prophets would have been fulfilled; the whole earth would have been alerted for the first advent of Christ, even as the way is being prepared for His second coming today.

Missed Their Last Opportunity.

These Old Testament prophecies that picture Israel dwelling in peace and prosperity, with all nations beating a path to her doors, could have been fulfilled 2000 years ago if they had indeed prepared the world for the first coming of Jesus (see Zechariah 8:14). But instead of fulfilling their greatest assignment they missed their last opportunity, and Jesus their Lord finally had to pronounce with irrevocable judgement: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not Behold your house is forsaken and desolate” (Matthew 23:37, 38 RSV).

Those who regard the establishment of the modern state of Israel as a fulfillment of those Old Testament prophecies overlook the fact that these promises were made either prior to their release from Babylonian captivity or during the rebuilding days soon after their return. God would have fulfilled these promises if Israel had been faithful and obedient to the conditions on which the promises were made.

Although God promised a “second chance” to Israel after their failure leading up to the Babylonian captivity, He promised no “third chance” to them after their final rejection when their Lord Himself “came to his own home, and his own people received him not” (John 1:11 RSV)
But God did not give up, even though Israel as a nation had failed Him. Although corporate Israel no longer was to function as God’s special agent, the individual Jews who received and obeyed Jesus Christ would constitute the new organization through which He would now work.
Paul describes this remarkable transition in Romans 9 to 11, where he appeals to individual Jews (such as himself) to respond to God through Jesus, join those Gentiles who have found in Him the solution to their anxious, sinful condition, and together arouse the world to the simple fact that God wants to make an end to sin and its misery by setting up His eternal kingdom composed of those who have found in Jesus the promised Saviour.

Those who preach and teach this erroneous Rapture doctrine are purposely misleading multitudes. This doctrine was created by the Jesuits as an anti-reformation and anti-protestant tool to divert attention away from the Catholic and the Pope whom the reformers had identify as the anti-Christ in Revelation. Those who teach and preach the rapture theory are proxies and agents for the Kabbalists and those who want to establish a New World Order (NWO). The Rapture theory has more to do with politics than theology, more to do with mans involvement in world affairs than Gods involvement, more about Zionism than the people of Zion.

 

THE KHAZAR EMPIRE AND ITS HERITAGE
Arthur Koestler

…but that does not alter the fact that the large majority of surviving Jews in the world is of Eastern European — and thus perhaps mainly of Khazar — origin. If so, this would mean that their ancestors came not from the Jordan but from the Volga, not from Canaan but from the Caucasus, once believed to be the cradle of the Aryan race; and that genetically they are more closely related to the Hun, Uigur “ 

This book traces the history of the ancient Khazar Empire, a major but almost forgotten power in Eastern Europe, which in the Dark Ages became converted to Judaism. Khazaria was finally wiped out by the forces of Genghis Khan, but evidence indicates that the Khazars themselves migrated to Poland and formed the cradle of Western Jewry…

The Khazars’ sway extended from the Black Sea to the Caspian, from the Caucasus to the Volga, and they were instrumental in stopping the Muslim onslaught against Byzantium, the eastern jaw of the gigantic pincer movement that in the West swept across northern Africa and into Spain.

In the second part of this book, “The Heritage,” Mr. Koestler speculates about the ultimate faith of the Khazars and their impact on the racial composition and social heritage of modern Jewry. He produces a large body of meticulously detailed research in support of a theory that sounds all the more convincing for the restraint with which it is advanced. Yet should this theory be confirmed, the term “anti-Semitism” would become void of meaning, since, as Mr. Koestler writes, it is based “on a misapprehension shared by both the killers and their victims. The story of the Khazar Empire, as it slowly emerges from the past, begins to look like the most cruel hoax which history has ever perpetrated.”

Thanks to Wiki Document Dumps All Google Searches Are Polluted

Even custom searches before the dump took place have nothing but “According to Wikileaks cables…”

This is the reason for the Wiki-trash—to so pollute the Internet that it becomes useless for potential research.

Google search by date

PAGE 4

    • ex: 5/23/2004
    • Sorted by relevance



Dec 31, 2007–Dec 31, 2009

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FBI’s terror sting tactics questioned

[What is a national law enforcement bureau to do when asked to wage a defensive war against a non-existent enemy?  There is no international terrorist organization, "Islamist," Communist, or otherwise, and everybody in govt. understands that.  It is the American people who believe in this mythical beast; it is the FBI's job to make sure they go on believing in the fairy tale.  There are pockets of pissed-off individuals who hate us all over the world, but there is no coordination between these groups of America haters.  If the entire govt. is involved in a massive deception operation to mislead the American people, then the FBI is just doing its job by building fake bombs and finding patsies to take the credit for them.]

FBI’s terror sting tactics questioned

By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
Antonio Martinez was suddenly suspicious.

In the midst of planning a spectacular car bomb attack on a military recruiting center in a Marylandsuburb, the 21-year-old construction worker also known as Muhammad Hussain learned that the FBI had infiltrated the planning of a similar, but unrelated, attack in Portland, Ore., federal court documents allege.

The Portland sting operation resulted in the arrest of a Somali-born suspect on federal charges. Martinez worried that one of his new confederates in the Maryland scheme also might be a government agent, federal prosecutors and the FBI say in the court documents.

“Who is this brother?” Martinez demanded, according to a transcript filed in court documents. He was referring to the seemingly well-connected partner — the man with professed access to firearms and explosives who had joined the operation just days before. “I’m not falling for no b.s.”

Martinez, charged last week with attempted murder and the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, had every reason to be suspicious. The “Afghanibrother,” court documents say, was indeed an undercover FBI agent whose intense courtship of the terror suspect reflected a key strategy in the government’s effort to thwart new attacks against the United States.

When terrorist hijackers struck on Sept. 11, 2001, the federal government had few contacts among international terror informants and little intelligence about global terrorism. Now, government investigators increasingly are resorting to a controversial tactic that has netted alleged plotters in Dallas, Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago.

But the simultaneous, months-long operations in Portland and suburban Baltimore are raising new questions about whether the government is going too far in trying to identify potentially dangerous operatives, prompting a debate about whether investigators are entrapping suspects who lack the genuine desire or ability to carry out the plots. In both cases, government informants first identified the suspects on the Internet and then undercover agents engaged them in elaborate ruses culminating in the delivery of dummy bombs to their alleged targets.

Federal investigators have been deployed in complex undercover stings for decades to battle a host of traditional enemies, from the Mafia and drug dealers to gun traffickers and spies. Its application in terror inquiries, however, is a more common recent strategy as the FBI confronts a growing, homegrown terror movement.

“All of this seems very unusual,” says Peter Fleury, an assistant federal public defender in Dallas.

Fleury says he had never encountered such tactics until this year, when he was appointed to help represent Hosam Smadi, 20, a Jordanian national snared in a plot to attack a downtown Dallas skyscraper with a bomb that, it turned out, was fake and had been assembled by the FBI.

“I had never seen it happen before,” Fleury says of the FBI’s extensive involvement. He says Smadi, ultimately sentenced to 24 years in prison, was a victim of entrapment.

“Left to his own devices, he wouldn’t have been able to pose a danger to anybody,” Fleury says.

Farhana Khera, executive director of the Muslim civil rights group Muslim Advocates, says the sting operations suggest the FBI could be wasting valuable resources on people who, without the FBI’s planning and technical help, may be incapable of little more than spouting unpopular political rhetoric.

“Some of these cases look and feel like entrapment,” Khera says. Entrapment occurs when police persuade a person to carry out a crime the suspect had no previous intention to commit.

“But for the government’s role in these cases,” she says, “the suspects may have been left with their own bravado. Law enforcement resources need to be focused on actual threats.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder defends the government’s tactics, saying they have been “critical” in neutralizing criminals for years.

“I make no apologies for how the FBI agents handled their work,” Holder told Khera’s group last week. “Those who characterize the FBI’s activities … as entrapment simply do not have their facts straight or do not have a full understanding of the law.”

Was it entrapment?

The FBI’s courtship of Mohamed Osman Mohamud in Portland — like that of Martinez in Baltimore — began online.

Government investigators intercepted a series of Mohamud’s e-mails to undisclosed contacts in Pakistan from August to December 2009, federal prosecutors and the FBI say in court documents.

The suspicious electronic communications, which allegedly contained “coded language” discussing Mohamud’s preparations for “violent jihad,” ultimately launched an inquiry that, as described in a 36-page federal criminal complaint, reads in part like a movie script.

It also set in motion a widening national debate — accelerated by last week’s arrest of Martinez in Baltimore —over whether the government pushed the suspects to do something they could not have done, and perhaps would not even have attempted, on their own.

“The question we’ll be looking into is the question of entrapment,” Steven Wax, chief federal public defender in Oregon, said after a hearing last month in which Mohamud pleaded not guilty to the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. “One of the issues that will be coming up is whether and how he was directed by government agents.”

In all, undercover FBI agents met with Mohamud seven times from July 30 to Nov. 26, when he was arrested after attempting to detonate a dummy explosive near a crowded public square. The court documents describe contacts including:

•Undercover FBI agents, posing as eager jihadists with connections to Mohamud’s contacts in Pakistan, arranged secret meetings at Portland-area hotels.

•There were discussions of possible targets before Mohamud settled on a Nov. 26 Christmas tree-lighting ceremony at the city’s Pioneer Square.

•A Nov. 4 dry run, just three weeks before the designated attack date, displayed the bonafides of undercover agents who arranged for the assembly and the detonation of a test explosive in rural Lincoln County, Ore.

•Agents posing as jihadists after the test explosion also helped Mohamud — dressed in a white robe, head-dress and camouflage jacket — prepare a “Sheik Osama-style” video in which Mohamud allegedly recites a rambling statement taking responsibility for the planned attack.

The extensive contacts, Wax has argued, raises the prospect that the alleged action “was instigated by government agents.”

“The government provided the money, the government provided the transportation, the government was involved in the meetings,” Wax told reporters after last month’s hearing.

The defense team also plans to delve into details surrounding the first meeting between Mohamud and the FBI — July 30 — when the suspect allegedly told an undercover agent that he wanted to become “operational but noted he did not know how and he would need training.”

Unlike other meetings and contacts with Mohamud, the July 30 conversation was not recorded “due to technical problems,” according to the court documents.

“There will be questions raised about that,” Wax says.

But Portland FBI chief Arthur Balizan says in a statement that Mohamud was “absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale.”

FBI agents offered Mohamud several chances to withdraw from the plot, the court documents say, and he pushed forward each time.

“I want whoever is attending that event to leave … either dead or injured,” Mohamud allegedly told agents.

The FBI’s lab

On the day Mohamud allegedly had selected to carry out the attack, he unknowingly was videotaped inspecting the handiwork of FBI technicians.

Stowed in the back of a white van were six 55-gallon drums, a coil of detonation cord, blasting caps and a gallon of “strong”-smelling diesel fuel, all arranged to look powerful vehicle bomb.

“Beautiful,” Mohamud allegedly declared — just moments before he unsuccessfully tried to detonate the phony device and was placed in handcuffs.

The elaborate props, says Don Borelli, a former assistant agent-in-charge of the FBI’s New York Division, often are integral parts of investigations that have targeted drug lords, spies and now, terrorists.

In the highly secretive espionage investigation of former FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Hanssenunmasked in 2001, for example, the FBI purchased a house across the street from the now-convicted spy’s house in Vienna, Va., and had an agent posing as a neighbor conduct constant surveillance.

The deception was designed to catch Hanssen turning over classified government documents, but agents did not actually pose as Russian spies. Hanssen later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.

In terror cases, Borelli says, the FBI’s Quantico, Va., laboratory serves as a studio where inert bombs and other devices are designed and assembled. The design and study of bomb-making has been an intense focus of investigators, especially since U.S. troops increasingly began encountering improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s almost like a movie set,” Borelli says. “They can manufacture anything.”

Borelli says the deception does not constitute entrapment.

“We are getting more (terror) cases that avail themselves to this type of investigation,” says the former counterterrorism agent, now vice president of a New York-based security firm.

He says federal prosecutors “like the technique” because the sting operations lend themselves to gathering potentially powerful audio and video evidence.

“We have to show in court absolutely that the intent of the subject was to follow through with the plan,” Borelli says. “We want them to go through all the steps, dialing the cellphone or pulling the trigger. As we’re doing so, we’re giving these guys options to back out. It’s not entrapment.”

In New York Wednesday, Abdul Kadir was sentenced to life in prison for plotting to bomb JFK International Airport. Early in that sting operation, which also involved an FBI informant, Kadir’s lawyers raised the prospect of entrapment.

The Center on Law and Security at New York University School of Law, which tracks federal terror prosecutions, reported in September that the entrapment defense has never been successful in a post 9/11 terror trial.

A ‘grinning’ suspect

In a Baltimore federal courtroom Monday, prosecutors again defended the tactics used by FBI agents in last week’s arrest of Martinez.

The investigation began in September, after an FBI informant noticed a series of threatening postings on Martinez’s Facebook account, according to federal court documents.

An FBI affidavit outlining the operation portrayed Martinez as so eager to lash out against the USA that he unsuccessfully sought to recruit three unidentified accomplices. He was arrested Dec. 8 after allegedly trying to detonate a fake car bomb outside the Catonsville, Md., recruiting station.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Manuelian said video recorded throughout the investigation shows the suspect “grinning” as he armed a vehicle bomb to attack the suburban military recruitment center.

“There is no indication of any remorse, any concern … that he is about to kill people,” Manuelian said before Martinez was ordered to jail pending trial.

Defense attorney Joseph Balter, like his counterpart in Portland, disagrees with the government’s assessment.

He characterized the plot in Monday’s court hearing as “the creation of the government.”

“There was nothing provided,” Balter said, “which showed that (Martinez) had any ability whatsoever to carry out any kind of plan.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

Nuke Simulation–fallout dangers

Naval Postgraduate School Center
Computer-simulated fallout over Los Angeles is projected at Operation Golden Phoenix’s command center, where county Health Director Jonathan Fielding, left, monitors possible effects.

L.A. dry run shows urban nuke attack ‘a survivable event’

By Steve Sternberg, USA TODAY
The plotters decided to trigger their bomb in Los Angeles during the morning rush, at a metro station a stone’s throw from Universal Studios and the set where Steven Spielberg filmed scenes from “War of the Worlds.”

This was no ordinary explosive. It was a 10-kiloton nuclear device packing roughly the destructive force of the Hiroshima bomb. A blast of that magnitude could engulf 50,000 to 150,000 people and reduce parts of L.A., Hollywood and Studio City — the historical heart of the movie industry — to radioactive rubble.

Al-Qaeda played no part in planning the July 28 attack. The conspirators were the leaders of a dozen state, local and federal agencies who were taking part in a simulated L.A. County security exercise code-named Operation Golden Phoenix. Their mission: to assure that if a terrorist does detonate a nuke in Los Angeles, first responders will be prepared to wade into the devastation and rescue survivors suffering from traumatic injuries, radiation sickness, shock and flash-blindness.

“This is a survivable event,” says Brendan Applegate, of the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Asymmetric Warfare, who helped design and carry out the exercise. “L.A. isn’t going to fall into the ocean and be gone forever. It will be a really bad day, but we need everyone to show up to work and save lives.”

Operation Golden Phoenix offers a rare public glimpse of the government’s behind-the-scenes effort to bolster national preparedness. Few places take the threat more seriously than Los Angeles and post-9/11 New York.

WHITE HOUSE: Nuclear blast victims would have to wait

“We’re working with surrounding states and counties on regional plans that address the threat of an IND (improvised nuclear device),” says Kelly McKinney, New York City’s Deputy Commissioner for Planning and Preparedness from the Office of Emergency Management.

For many people, nuclear weapons conjure up Cold War bomb shelters, civil defense drills and mutually assured destruction. That threat faded in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, says Irwin Redlener, ofColumbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness. The new nuclear threat, he says, is a terrorist blowing up an improvised bomb in a U.S. city.

National security adviser John Brennan said in April that nuclear weapons are the “ultimate and most prized goal of terrorist groups.” Brennan issued his assessment at President Obama’s Nuclear Summit, an effort to rally world leaders to lock down loose nukes and shrink the odds that terrorists can launch what Obama called the “single biggest threat to U.S. security.”

In 2008, Congress asked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create accurate computer models of nuclear detonations in U.S. cities, to help the cities draw up response plans. DHS went further, creating block-by-block analyses of possible blast and fallout patterns in six “primary target” cities — L.A., New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Houston and Chicago.

In November, McKinney says, DHS provided state and local emergency response agencies across the USA with another preparedness tool. The 40-page guide, Nuclear Detonation Preparedness: Communicating in the Immediate Aftermath, carries fill-in-the-blank messages authorities can use to guide a frightened populace if a blast should occur.

“Shelter in place. That’s the single biggest message,” says Jonathan Fielding, L.A. County health director. “That’s the best way to save lives and prevent radiation-related illnesses. It runs counter to your basic instinct to get away and reunite with family members. If their kids are in school or in day care, that’s where they should stay,” he says.

Stay indoors. Wait for news.

The good news is that the greatest danger passes in six to 24 hours as fallout’s radioactivity dwindles, says health physicist Brooke Buddemeier, of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Buddemeier led the study of nuclear blasts in the nation’s six target cities for DHS. He drew on data from 1,000 Cold War nuclear tests and sketchy reconstructions of the impact of the A-bombs dropped Japan.

Buddemeier’s mantra: Stay in, stay safe. Wait for instructions. “You can’t outrun a fallout cloud,” Buddemeier says, “and fatalities from fallout are 100% preventable.”

Without any shelter for 24 hours, he says, 285,000 people caught in the L.A. blast would develop radiation sickness or die. Just getting into a wood-frame house could save 160,000 people. Adequate shelter in a shallow basement or a two- or three-story building could save 240,000 of the 285,000; the rest would get sick but survive. “If you can get into an underground parking garage or the core of an office building, you’d have no significant exposure at all,” he says.

In the fictional Golden Phoenix scenario, intelligence agencies have reported that domestic extremists with ties to al-Qaeda have obtained weapons-grade uranium and are planning to set off a device. The possible targets include Seattle, San Francisco, L.A., Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. In response to the threat, remote radiation sensors have been deployed throughout the USA. After the L.A. blast, detectors pick up a second nuke in Washington, D.C.; it is detonated but fails to explode.

It is hard to imagine a more potent symbol of terror than a nuclear detonation. Bystanders miles away would witness a 100-mph fireball shooting five miles into the sky. Sun-surface heat, hyperexplosive pressures and 900-mph winds would level buildings for half a mile. Between 50,000 and 100,000 people would vanish in smoke and flame. Flash-blind drivers 10 miles away would crash, blocking evacuation routes. Fallout would rain down for hundreds of miles, according to the White House’s Planning Guidance for Response to a Nuclear Detonation,posted on the Internet in June.

’9/11 on steroids’

“A nuclear attack would be like 9/11 on steroids,” says Anne Norwood of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Biosecurity, an expert on the mental health impact of disasters. “You’re never prepared psychologically. … It would be a challenging moment in world history.”

It would be hard to overstate the consequences, especially if a target is Washington, says Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“When we talk about resiliency, we’re not talking about how to be resilient against a flood,” he says. “It’s a question of how do we, as a nation, preserve constitutional government if an event like this occurs.”

The government would be preoccupied with so many tasks — identifying the culprit; tracking the effects of the blast; securing government buildings; ushering critical personnel to safe locations; amassing drugs and supplies — that federal help won’t arrive for 24 to 72 hours, the White House guidance says.

“Don’t bother to dial 911,” says John Fernandes, director of L.A. County’s division of emergency management. “Most likely you’re not going to have 911. The cell towers are going down.”

In all likelihood, with local fire departments and hospitals crippled, “the first response will be neighbors helping neighbors,” FEMA’s Fugate says.

In response to the L.A. blast, more than a dozen local, state and federal agencies activate emergency operations centers. An anchor for the fictional Exercise News Network breaks into the drive-time broadcast: “I’m Will Kohlschreiber… following up on our lead story. … Just after 7:30 a.m. Pacific Time, a large explosion rocked the Los Angeles area. The effects of the blast (have) … thrown Southern California into chaos.”

Personal preparedness is critical, because most regions of the U.S. are unprepared for a terrorist nuclear attack, emergency response experts say. “The reality is that we’re extremely vulnerable to the impact and consequences of nuclear terrorism in ways that shouldn’t be the case nine years after 9/11, says Redlener, author of Americans at Risk: Why We’re Not Prepared for Megadisasters and What We Can Do Now.

Redlener notes that an analysis of where New Yorkers would go in the wake of a nuclear detonation indicated that as many as 5 million or 6 million people would “scatter randomly through at least eight states, into relatively small communities that would be confronted with thousands of injured, sick, terrified people who had been evacuated in the face of great danger and anxiety.”

Applegate, the Golden Phoenix planner, says the exercise confirmed what emergency response workers knew at the start: Southern California and its neighboring states need a regional plan for dealing with the emergency. Michael Cline, Virginia’s emergency response coordinator, says the National Capital Region lacks a regional plan for dealing with a nuclear blast, though state and local agencies include nuclear readiness as part of an all-hazard preparedness program.

After the Golden Phoenix explosion, emergency managers in operations centers throughout Southern California track fallout billowing across video screens. In a command center called the “white cell,” exercise manager Applegate and his team play overwhelmed authorities who are trying, and often failing, to help. Some callers get busy signals. Others are told that desperately needed supplies were destroyed in the blast — or that they’re being held in reserve “in case another bomb goes off,” Applegate says. Perhaps the most wrenching question of all: Should first responders risk excess radiation to save more lives? Or should they save themselves?

Nuclear proliferation experts are divided on terrorists’ odds of success. Most classify a terrorist strike as a “low probability, high consequence” event.

“The probability in my view is so low that it’s not worth spending a lot of money to deal with it,” says John Muellerof Ohio State University, author of Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al-Qaeda. Mueller says it’s highly unlikely that terrorists could get enough highly enriched uranium, build a bomb, sneak it into the USA and trigger it without getting caught.

Some evidence suggests otherwise. The 9/11 Commission reported in 2004 that al-Qaeda has been trying to “acquire or make” nuclear weapons for a decade. The International Atomic Energy Agency has logged 421 reports of lost or stolen nuclear materials from member states. The U.S. has lost at least 11 nuclear weapons, according to Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Given these reports, Rick Nelson, an intelligence expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, holds a different view. “I think in my lifetime I’ll see the detonation of a nuclear device. I do,” he says.

If the plotters succeed, FEMA’s Fugate says, those caught in the aftermath can make a big difference. “Survivors aren’t victims,” he says. “They’re rescuers.”

No Act Of Rebellion Is Wasted

No Act Of Rebellion Is Wasted

By Chris Hedges

TruthDig.com

I stood with hundreds of thousands of rebellious Czechoslovakians in 1989 on a cold winter night in Prague’s Wenceslas Square as the singer Marta Kubišová approached the balcony of the Melantrich building. Kubišová had been banished from the airwaves in 1968 after the Soviet invasion for her anthem of defiance, “Prayer for Marta.” Her entire catalog, including more than 200 singles, had been confiscated and destroyed by the state. She had disappeared from public view. Her voice that night suddenly flooded the square. Pressing around me were throngs of students, most of whom had not been born when she vanished. They began to sing the words of the anthem. There were tears running down their faces. It was then that I understood the power of rebellion. It was then that I knew that no act of rebellion, however futile it appears in the moment, is wasted. It was then that I knew that the Communist regime was finished.

“The people will once again decide their own fate,” the crowd sang in unison with Kubišová.

I had reported on the fall of East Germany before I arrived in Prague. I would leave Czechoslovakia to cover the bloody overthrow of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu. The collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe was a lesson about the long, hard road of peaceful defiance that makes profound social change possible. The rebellion in Prague, as in East Germany, was not led by the mandarins in the political class but by marginalized artists, writers, clerics, activists and intellectuals such as Vaclav Havel, whom we met with most nights during the upheavals in Prague in the Magic Lantern Theater. These activists, no matter how bleak things appeared, had kept alive the possibility of justice and freedom. Their stances and protests, which took place over 40 years of Communist rule, turned them into figures of ridicule, or saw the state seek to erase them from national consciousness. They were dismissed by the pundits who controlled the airwaves as cranks, agents of foreign powers, fascists or misguided and irrelevant dreamers.

I spent a day during the Velvet Revolution with several elderly professors who had been expelled from the Romance language department at Charles University for denouncing the Soviet invasion. Their careers, like the careers of thousands of professors, teachers, artists, social workers, government employees and journalists in our own universities during the Communist witch hunts, were destroyed. After the Soviet invasion, the professors had been shipped to a remote part of Bohemia where they were forced to work on a road construction crew. They shoveled tar and graded roadbeds. And as they worked they dedicated each day to one of the languages in which they all were fluent—Latin, Greek, Italian, French, Spanish or German. They argued and fought over their interpretations of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Goethe, Proust and Cervantes. They remained intellectually and morally alive. Kubišova, who had been the most popular recording star in the country, was by then reduced to working for a factory that assembled toys. The playwright Havel was in and out of jail.

The long, long road of sacrifice, tears and suffering that led to the collapse of these regimes stretched back decades. Those who made change possible were those who had discarded all notions of the practical. They did not try to reform the Communist Party. They did not attempt to work within the system. They did not even know what, if anything, their protests would accomplish. But through it all they held fast to moral imperatives. They did so because these values were right and just. They expected no reward for their virtue; indeed they got none. They were marginalized and persecuted. And yet these poets, playwrights, actors, singers and writers finally triumphed over state and military power. They drew the good to the good. They triumphed because, however cowed and broken the masses around them appeared, their message of defiance did not go unheard. It did not go unseen. The steady drumbeat of rebellion constantly exposed the dead hand of authority and the rot and corruption of the state.

The walls of Prague were covered that chilly winter with posters depicting Jan Palach. Palach, a university student, set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square on Jan. 16, 1969, in the middle of the day to protest the crushing of the country’s democracy movement. He died of his burns three days later. The state swiftly attempted to erase his act from national memory. There was no mention of it on state media. A funeral march by university students was broken up by police. Palach’s gravesite, which became a shrine, saw the Communist authorities exhume his body, cremate his remains and ship them to his mother with the provision that his ashes could not be placed in a cemetery. But it did not work. His defiance remained a rallying cry. His sacrifice spurred the students in the winter of 1989 to act. Prague’s Red Army Square, shortly after I left for Bucharest, was renamed Palach Square. Ten thousand people went to the dedication.

We, like those who opposed the long night of communism, no longer have any mechanisms within the formal structures of power that will protect or advance our rights. We too have undergone a coup d’état carried out not by the stone-faced leaders of a monolithic Communist Party but by the corporate state. We too have our designated pariahs, whether Ralph Nader or Noam Chomksy, and huge black holes of state-sponsored historical amnesia to make us ignore the militant movements, rebels and radical ideas that advanced our democracy. We opened up our society to ordinary people not because we deified the wisdom of the Founding Fathers or the sanctity of the Constitution. We opened it up because of communist, socialist and anarchist leaders like Big Bill Haywood and his militant unionists in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

We may feel, in the face of the ruthless corporate destruction of our nation, our culture, and our ecosystem, powerless and weak. But we are not. We have a power that terrifies the corporate state. Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up or how heavily it is censored by a media that caters to the needs and profits of corporations, chips away at corporate power. Any act of rebellion keeps alive the embers for larger movements that follow us. It passes on another narrative. It will, as the rot of the state consumes itself, attract wider and wider numbers. Perhaps this will not happen in our lifetimes. But if we persist we will keep this possibility alive.

If we do not, it will die.

All energy directed toward reforming political and state structures is useless. All efforts to push through a “progressive” agenda within the corridors of power are naive. Trust in the reformation of our corporate state reflects a failure to recognize that those who govern, including Barack Obama, are as deaf to public demands and suffering as those in the old Communist regimes. We cannot rely on any systems of power, including the pillars of the liberal establishment—the press, liberal religious institutions, universities, labor, culture and the Democratic Party. They have been weakened to the point of anemia or work directly for the corporations that dominate our existence. We can rely now on only ourselves, on each other.

Go to Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, at 10 a.m. Dec. 16. Join dozens of military veterans, myself, Daniel Ellsberg, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern, Dr. Margaret Flowers and many others who will make visible a hope the corporate state does not want you to see, hear or participate in. Don’t be discouraged if it is not a large crowd. Don’t let your friends or colleagues talk you into believing it is useless. Don’t be seduced by the sophisticated public relations campaigns disseminated by the mass media, the state or the Democratic Party. Don’t, if you decide to carry out civil disobedience, be cowed by the police. Hope and justice live when people, even in tiny numbers, stand up and fight for them.

There is in our sorrow—for who cannot be profoundly sorrowful?—finally a balm that leads to wisdom and, if not joy, then a strange, transcendent happiness. To stand in a park on a cold December morning, to defy that which we must defy, to do this with others, brings us solace, and perhaps even peace. We will not find this if we allow ourselves to be disabled. We will not find this alone. As long as a few of us rebel it will always remain possible to defeat a system of centralized, corporate power that is as criminal and heartless as those I watched tumble into the ash bin of history in Eastern Europe.

Chris Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “Death of the Liberal Class.” You can find out more about the Washington protest atwww.stopthesewars.org

Copyright © 2010 Truthdig, L.L.C.

veteran-led civil resistance at the White House Dec. 16.

LOGISTICS FOR DEC 16TH ACTION IN DC

Real Hope is about doing somethingHere is an update on the veteran-led civil resistance at the White House Dec. 16.

1. Wednesday, Dec. 15:Evening gathering at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church 1525 Newton St. NW (corner of 16th and Newton Streets), where we will go over plans for the next day’s action. People can begin arriving at St. Stephen’s by 5 pm and Food Not Bombs will provide a simple vegetarian meal that evening. Daniel Ellsberg and others who will be joining us on Thursday as well as some of the organizers will speak. People can sleep at St. Stephen’s that night (bring sleeping bags) and also after 9:30 PM on Thursday night if necessary.

2. Thursday, Dec. 16: Brief motivational rally at 10 am in Lafayette Park (near the White House) with speakers: Daniel Ellsberg (of Pentagon Papers fame), subject of the documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America; Brian Becker, National Coordinator, ANSWER coalition; Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan, Peace of the Action; Ray McGovern, retired CIA officer and former U.S. Army Intelligence officer; Mike Ferner, president, Veterans For Peace; Diane Wilson, environmental activist and author of An Unreasonable Woman; Debra Sweet, Director, World Can’t Wait; Mike Prysner, Iraq vet, cofounder of March Forward!, Medea Benjamin, co-founder Code Pink and others.  (more updates to follow)

From there we will do a silent vigil march to the White House (route to be determined) to take our stand for peace. You don’t have to bring signs – we’ll provide them so we can have a uniform look. At the White House, many of us will do nonviolent civil resistance, the key word being nonviolent. We want peace but we need to demand it in a dignified, determined and peaceful way. We expect everybody to observe nonviolent guidelines that will be handed out at St. Stephen’s the night before and at the rally. There will be a legal support team and legal observers on hand for the civil resistance.

3. A limited quantity of heavy duty, hooded sweatshirts (design attached) will be available at St. Stephen’s on Wednesday night. The price is $25.

Visit our website at www.stopthesewars.org or on facebook join our group “Take A Stand for Peace”!

See you in DC.

 

Local VFP Supported Actions:

St. Louis, MO - Chapter 61.. Thursday, December 16, Meet on the east side of Thomas Eagleton building @ noon.

.. Woody
NW IN -STOP THESE WARS! Thursday, December 16, Noon-1PM,Congressman Pete Visclosky’s local office,7895 Broadway,Merrillville, Indiana 46410,office number (219) 795-1844
Salt Lake City, Utah – Chapter 118.. Solidarity Protest December 16, 2010 Federal Building 125 S. State 10:00 a.m. sponsored by Wasatch Coalition for Peace and Justice and Healthy Planet Mobilization Committee in Salt Lake City, Utah. Contact Dayne Goodwin daynegoodwin@gmail.com 801-364-0667.
San Francisco, CA – Bay Area VFP..Thurs. Dec. 16, 12noon, New Federal Building, 7th & Mission Sts., SF.  Among the speakers will be Medal of Honor winner Charlie Liteky. Local endorsers: Veterans for Peace-Bay Area, AIM West, ANSWER Coalition, Code Pink, Courage to Resist, Unitarian Universalists for Peace, March Forward!, Peace Workers, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, World Can’t Wait
Saratoga Springs, NY..Chapter 147 -Thursday, Dec. 16, End the Wars candlelight vigil, corner in front of the downtown Saratoga Springs Post Office from 5:00 pm ’till 6:00-6:30 pm.  Please bring candles or flashlights.  See you there…Michael McGraw

Grants Pass, OR..Chapter 156 – Peace vigil in front of the Josephine County Court House, 500 NW 6th Street at 3:00 PM on December 16, 2010.  Contact Daniel Guy 541-301-4546

Des Moines, IA..Chapter 161- Thursday Dec 16, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m, Nollen Plaza, downtown followed by visits to Senator’s Harkin and Grassley’s DM Offices.  Contact Gil Landolt, 515 333-2180, peacevet@hotmail.com

Boston, MA..Chapter 9 – Brown bag lunch protest at 12:30 pm at the offices of John Kerry and Scott Brown in support of the D.C. action on Dec. 16. This is being organized by the Justice with Peace Coalition which is made up of all the peace groups in the Boston area.

New York City, NY..Chapter 34 – Rally at Times Square Recruiting Station 5PM – Civil Disobedience @ 6PM

Bellingham, WA..Chapter 111 -  Thursday, Dec 16th – Chapter members and local supporters are planning to do some freeway blogging starting at the time the civil resistance takes place in DC (time TBA). Chapter 111 banners and more will be displayed on overpasses through Bellingham. Contact Bill 671-4462 or Victoria 738-8462 for details.  Friday, Dec 17th – Follow-up vigil at the Federal Building on the corner of Magnolia and Cornwall in Bellingham, WA from 4 to 5pm.  Wear VFP garb.

Astoria, OR - A vigil in support of the VFP Washington, DC action on Thursday, December 16, at 5:30 PM, at the Astoria Post Office @ 8th and Commercial Streets.

 

“Unknown forces” trying to derail the opening of the embassy in Turkmenistan

“Unknown forces” trying to derail the opening of the embassy in Turkmenistan

Michael Falco,
Alexander Goldenshteyn

A source in state institutions Hebrew-speaking newspapers reported that the Turkmen authorities reportedly decided to “derail” the opening of the Embassy of Israel. According to Acting Foreign Ministry director general, just those who disseminate such information, are interested not prevent the opening of the Embassy …

As it became known portal IzRus, Tuesday, 14 December, journalists at least two major Hebrew-speaking media were obtained from state agencies about the fact that the Turkmen authorities for the second time “refuse” to issue accreditation to the Israeli Ambassador in this country. The fact that the parties have agreed to open representative office in Ashgabat, the Israeli portal IzRus first reported in May last year. In September, Ambassador to Turkmenistan, was appointed a former legal residents of the Mossad in the CIS Reuven Dinel. In December, Israel has officially submitted documents on its accreditation in this Central Asian republic.

However, in early June 2009, 12 days after the publicity of the Israeli Foreign Ministry official announcement about opening an embassy in Ashgabat, on this occasion was made by Chief of General Staff of Iran Hassan Firuzabadi. He urged Turkmen authorities to prevent the opening of the Israeli embassy. The general said that its main task is to prepare the alleged “subversives against Iran.” “We are taking all measures to limit the influence of Zionists in the neighboring states of Iran, in particular, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan”, – said Firuzabadi. Of even greater concern has caused Tehran’s intention to appoint an ambassador to Ashgabat, former representative of the “Mossad” in the CIS.According to competent sources in Jerusalem, the Iranians are so “tense” on this occasion that the issue was even raised by them during the visit of President Ahmadinejad to Turkmenistan in January 2010.

As a result, in February-March this year, it became clear that Dinel not receive accreditation from the Turkmen authorities. They chose not formally reject his candidacy, but simply did not respond to a request by the Israelis about this. As a result, in August this year the post of ambassador in Ashgabat, was appointed a career diplomat and orientalist Education Haim Koren (in turn, Reuven Dinel in November he was appointed ambassador to Ukraine).

And now the source of one of the state structures of Hebrew-speaking journalists said that Ashgabat does not provide accreditation and Haim Koren. Thus called into question the very opening of the Israeli Embassy in Ashgabat. It is possible that “sensational” publications on the subject will appear in several national publications before the end of the week.

To find out whether there were in Jerusalem, some “signals” on this occasion by the Turkmen authorities, and generally at what stage the process of opening the embassy, the portal IzRus turned to acting Foreign Ministry Director General Pinhas Avivi, which, inter alia, in charge of relations with Central Asian countries.

It turned out he was aware that a source in the state structures disseminates information about “disrupting” the opening of the embassy in Ashgabat. But this information, according to Aviv, is untrue. Open Embassy – no easy task and time-consuming. A lot of questions need to coordinate with local authorities and various agencies, including the security services – said our source. - Recently, in Astana, I had a meeting with Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan, and they gave me to understand that in Ashgabat appreciate the friendship with Israel and that we are on the right track. I do not know who now has decided to complicate our dealings with Turkmenistan. But the opening of the embassy – it’s budget.Perhaps the one who leaked the information, wants to move the budget to another place?And there is no problem with the ambassador, it is purely one of us, a professional, I do not know about any problems with its accreditation. Moreover, we are now waiting for visas to visit Ashgabat to address some administrative issues. Turkomans themselves have so far been set up pozitivnoi helped us in everything. I do not know who has the interest spread deliberately false information. By the way, to me, as responsible for this region, none of the journalists did not apply. “

The youth chanted “Russia for Russians!” and raised the right arms in Nazi salutes

[The Neo-Soviet Union is on the verge of fast becoming the "Neo-Nazi Union."  The breakdown of Soviet borders let loose a flow of economic refugees who have further destabilized the already destabilized former Soviet space.  Those of us here in the former American Imperial state may also come to consider the break-up of the former Soviet Union as the "greatest catastrophe of the Twentieth Century" before it is all over.]

Moscow arrests 1,000 in bid to stave off ethnic riots

Russian police officers detain a protestor in central Moscow

Russian police officers detain a protestor in central Moscow

MOSCOW – Moscow police arrested more than 1,000 youths Wednesday in a massive security sweep aimed at staving off another ethnic riot erupting following the deadly shooting of a football fan by a Muslim suspect.

AFP reporters at the central Moscow Kievsky train station — the site at which the big clash was reportedly being scheduled through the Internet — saw dozens of young men and girls as young as 13 being led away in handcuffs by helmeted riot police.

The youth chanted “Russia for Russians!” and raised the right arms in Nazi salutes as arrests continued throughout the expansive central Moscow square into the night hours.

Police said the city-wide operation involved 3,000 officers and resulted in the arrest of more than 1,000 people and seizure of everything from stun guns to knives and other small arms.

The police also sealed off portions of Red Square and checked the documents of tens of thousands of people as they rushed through major commute points with holiday shopping bags and children in tow.

“Do I look like a thug to you,” one elderly man who left his papers at home shouted at the television cameras as he was led away handcuffed by the police.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin huddled with his most senior security officers in a bid to organise a response to the sudden security crisis as small fights flared across the city centre despite the overwhelming presence of the police.

Similar incidents were also reported in Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg as organised members of the far right descended on a major square that stands in the heart of the city amid modern shops and busy metro stations.

The police there reported making more than 60 arrests.

Rumours of Wednesday’s clashes spread across the Russian Internet following a weekend riot outside the Kremlin involving some 5,000 football fans and elements of the far right.

Saturday’s unsanctioned rally was called to protest the police’s handling of the suspected shooting of a Moscow football fan by youths from the violence-wracked North Caucasus.

Gangs of Muslims were reported to be planning a counter-rally at Kievsky and a major Russian nationalist movement called on its supporters to come armed to the site.

“Trust only yourself and those close to you,” a Twitter feed used by Russia’s far right instructed its followers as the hour of the big street battle approached.

“Do not panic and remove your women, children and the elderly from the streets,” the message added. “Victory is ours!”

Saturday’s racism-tinged demonstration and ensuing tensions have exposed the many problems confronting Russia one week after it was awarded the right to host the 2018 World Cup.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned that such riots threatened “the stability of the state.”

Resentment has been rising in Moscow about the number of people from Russia’s south and the Central Asian republics working in the city’s open-air markets and construction sites.

The city administration has been under pressure to limit the number of migrants and give these jobs to ethnic Russians — despite the miserly wages involved.

Medvedev unexpectedly added his voice to the debate by urging the country’s trade unions to make sure that the hiring of outsiders “does not hurt our citizens.”

- AFP /ls